Thursday, November 15, 2018

Found Online: "Voice of Fashion" (1897)

Are you a home sewer who enjoys reproducing Victorian fashions?  In that case you might find Voice of Fashion, available courtesy of the Internet Archive, to be a useful resource.


The Voice of Fashion was a quarterly publication that presented the latest fashions for women and girls—along patterns for scaling up drafting.  It was produced by the same firm that produced "The Diamond Garment Cutter" (some editions of which are also available on the Internet Archive).

The instructions are a bit sparse by modern standards, so I wouldn't recommend this magazine for a beginner!

Two issues are available online.  The first is from Fall 1897 (illustrated here by page 10, depicting a "ladies afternoon or evening toilet".  And below, from Winter 1897, a "ladies visiting toilet".

Monday, November 12, 2018

"Orlon" Advertisements (1962)

The postwar period was the golden age of man-made fibres.   For a time they were not only seen as being convenient, but classy as well.  With new synthetics coming on the market every day, manufacturers were anxious to promote their fashionable qualities.  In 1962 Du Pont commissioned fashion illustrator Tod Draz to do these stylish advertisements for their acrylic fibre trademarked "Orlon".

"Orlon inspires new Tweed Tones for autumn"—knitted suit with contrasting raised ribbing.  Created by Playfair in pure Orlon.

An "essentially simple overpull" (overpull?) knitted in Orlon by Allen Solly and available from Aertex.  "Wash it and wear it, wear it and wash it—ORLON will keep it in shape."

Lightweight cricket sweater with a skirt in the same stitch.  "Knitted in pure ORLON acrylic fibre by SUSAN SMALL".

"A washable version of that versatile favourite, the jersey two-piece".  In 70% Orlon with wool by Duala.

"Washable midi-suit" by Peggy Page, made "of double jersey, 70 percent ORLON with wool".  Available for around 9 guineas from John Barker at Kensington "and good stores everywhere".

Sunday, November 4, 2018

"Home Fashions" (June 1914)

This very early issue of Home Fashions (only the third published) has 48 pages of vintage ads and fashions for home dressmakers.  Let's take a look and see what conventional dressers were wearing during the last days before the First World War.

The front cover is foxed, and appears to have some mold damage, but the details of our young tennis player's costume are still clearly visible.  And how active and modern she looks!  Her blouse (the free pattern that originally came with the magazine) is open at the throat and the armholes are cut with enough ease to allow her plenty of movement.  The skirt, plain except for a few buttons near the hem, reveals the wearer's ankles and a fair bit of one shin.

This is a sports costume, but outfits like this could easily be worn for other activities.  The blouse and skirt combo would become a staple in many a war worker's wardrobe in years to come.

For more formal occasions, we have the dresses on the back.  The model in the centre is a "young girl"—or in more modern terms, a teenager.  (You can tell she's not yet an adult by the fact that her hair is down, and her skirt is slightly shorter than the ones worn by the women flanking her.)  They are wearing skirts that descend to the instep, but their costumes are noticeably lighter and more streamlined than those that would have been worn even a few years earlier.

In other words, we have already left the Edwardian era behind and are heading straight towards the 1920s!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

"Wake's" Catalogue (Summer 1939-1940)

There is a new way to buy clothes—clothes that always look smart and expensive—and that is the "Wake's Mail Orders" way.
Following the example set by mail order fashion houses of America, the firm of Wake's Mail Orders has designed and printed a most delightful and intriguing catalogue, reproducing from actual photography 1938's choicest styles, fabrics and ideas.  What with beautiful colour printing, and samples of materials attached, the thrill of city shopping is brought to the country home.  Because all their garments are produced under the direction of their overseas buyers, in their own workrooms, and are sent direct to the purchasers, the prices at which they are offered are claimed to be remarkably low.  Other factors which contributed to bring about this happy position are that no big city rents have to be met by the firm, there are no sales people's salaries, no laybys, no credits, no discounts, and no window displays.
(From Weekly Times (Melbourne) Saturday 21 May 1938) 

I haven't been able to find a copy of that first "Wake's" catalogue, but I do own a copy published a year later.  So since a picture paints a thousand words, let's see what was available to the woman shopper in the Southern summer of 1939-40:

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

"Elle" (1951) and "Shocking Life" by Elsa Schiaparelli

The 23 Juillet 1951 issue of Elle featured a blouse from Boutique de Schiaparelli on its cover:

The Schiaparelli Boutique opened in 1935:
The Schiap Boutique, the very first of its kind, has since been copied not only by all the great Paris couturiers but the idea has spread all over the world, especially in Italy. 
It became instantaneously famous because of the formula of 'ready to be taken away immediately'.  There were useful and amusing gadgets afire with youth.  There were evening sweaters, skirts, blouses and accessories previously scorned by the haute couture.
(From Shocking Life: The Autobiography of Elsa Schiaparelli)
Shocking Life is the unconventional autobiography of an unconventional woman.  It's full of  anecdotes and stories (including a rather hectic account of Schiaparelli's wartime adventures!)  On the flip side Shocking Life is a bit lacking in dates and details—so you mostly get Schiaparelli's impressions of events, not the whens, wheres and whys they happened.  (Schiaparelli also has a rather confusing habit of dropping in and out of the third person in the course of her narrative, typically referring to herself as 'Schiap'!)

 Because of this, it's not the best book to read if you're looking for an insider's view of the fashion industry.  However, it does contain plenty about Schiaparelli's approach to fashion, including her account of creating her original trompe l'oeil jumper, and descriptions of  her disagreements with the Chambre syndicale de la haute couture parisienne.  (Surprisingly, she agreed with her arch-rival Chanel about the positive benefits of being copied, and the futility of trying to prevent design piracy.) On the whole this is a fast-paced and entertaining read, if not a deep and analytical piece of writing.

Shocking Life: The Autobiography of Elsa Schiaparelli
ISBN: 9781851775156
V&A Publications, 2007
First published by J.M. Dent & Sons in 1954

Thursday, October 18, 2018

"Dress Over Pants" from Roaman's catalog (1970)

A couple of months ago I posted an entry describing how I either love or hate 1970s fashions.  Well, I think it is time I posted a picture of one of the fashions I hate:

"Dress over pants" sets—a truly deplorable (but fortunately short-lived) fashion of the early seventies that made the wearers' look as if they'd put all their clothes on at once in a fit of indecisiveness.  

To be fair the entire fashion era was indecisive, especially for those who were neither young nor groovy.  Pants were only just becoming acceptable for women's wear in many situations, and there were still places—workplaces, churches, restaurants—where they were not allowed.  This is clearly an attempt at compromise, albeit an unsuccessful one!

Skirts were another area of contention, with women caught between the mini-skirt (unflattering to older legs) and manufacturers trying to push the calf-length "midi".  Evelyn Roaman nails it in the introduction to this catalogue:

I know you are wondering about the new lengths, and I hope my opinion may be of help.
I am confident that most Roaman's customers this season will want to wear their daytime dresses at or slightly below the knee.  This may be an inch or two longer than you wore them before, so we're cutting our garments accordingly. 
Wherever possible we are providing ample hems... to shorten or lengthen... so you can have it your own way.  And ... your own way is right! 
Many younger women will wear shorter lengths.  Many, of all ages, will want "midi"," down to the mid-calf—especially smart for coats, and many skirts.  Mix the long and short in one look (split level) or in "layers", or wear both separately (as in this catalog). 
This season you can choose, and be right, with the length that suits you best,

A far cry from the era when skirt lengths were dictated by designers!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

"War on Waste!" McCall Style News, 1944


"McCall 1064.  Here's a pattern especially designed for restyling the tops of your "tired" dresses with new contrast fabric for the popular "two-tone" effect"!  If you have a dress whose skirt is still good, but whose top is outmoded, faded under the arms, split or faded across the shoulders, you can restyle it with this smart pattern.  Pattern includes two complete master patterns for blouse fronts and backs, from which you can cut any any of the yokes or lower waist sections shown."

"Restyling"—a nearly forgotten art in the era of fast fashion!  During World War II thrift was both patriotic and necessary on the "Home Front".