Sunday, April 9, 2017

Making Your First Dress - A Lesson from 1927


I just keep finding things inside of my Woman's Institute lesson books! This time I was looking through Dressmaking - Perfection in Details and this flyer was tucked in the back.
It was most likely included in the mail order coursework as part of the Dressmaking Program.

It mentions a few commercial patterns that one could purchase to make these looks including Ladies' Home Journal 5146, Butterick 1390, Butterick 1561, Pictorial Review 4006, and Ladies' Home Journal 5503.

Enjoy!








Oh, and in other news, look what I just finished!

#3069 Slip Pattern

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Next Level Nerd - McCall Sewing Pattern Dating and Collecting Resources

Collecting sewing patterns can be a really fun (and expensive) past-time. One of the most fun aspects of this can be hunting down more information about a particular pattern. This can be done a few ways but the best way to find out more about a pattern is to find publications from the pattern company and see if they feature your pattern.

I found this McCall 1738 doll pattern in a 1929 McCall Quarterly. A few days later, I found the French Boudoir doll the pattern was made for at an estate sale! Pattern Nerd heaven!

In addition to printing monthly Style News flyers handed out free at dry goods and department stores, some companies also printed quarterlies that were available for purchase, as well as counter catalogs to have on display in stores.

Some companies also had their own monthly magazines in which patterns were advertised along with novel installments, home decor and homemaking articles, and news. Other companies partnered with magazines already in publication to advertise their pattern in the fashion section.

This post will focus on the types of pattern advertising used by McCall Patterns.




Counter catalogs could be found in stores at the pattern counter, much like they are today. They were often 100-600 pages of fashion eye candy. These are extremely rare and highly sought after as many were simply thrown out every few months.

McCall Catalogue of Complete Designs July, 1930.

The sister catalogue to this was the McCall Complete Catalog of Designs, also to be found at the pattern counter, but featuring needlework and accessories. These for some reason are easier to find and are worth 1/10th of what regular counter catalogs go for.

McCall Quarterly Winter, 1925.


McCall Quarterly was an average of 60-100 pages in length and had the distinction of advertising patterns that were based on couture designers - these names often didn't make it printed in the catalogs or on the pattern itself, likely to save on licensing fees. These were published from approximately 1920 to 1931.
You can find reproductions of some of these for download here.

McCall Fashion Book Mid-Winter 1932-33


In 1932, McCall Quarterly was renamed McCall Fashion Book and was published quarterly and sometimes bi-monthly as such until the late 1930s.



McCall Style News was created monthly by McCall and a template was sent out to department stores that carried the patterns to be printed at their own expense and given gratis to customers. These will often have the store name printed at the bottom. I have seen these as early as 1924 and as late as the 1970s.

McCall's November, 1928.

McCall's November, 1928.
McCall's Magazine started out in 1873 and was Originally Called The Queen. In 1897 it became McCall's Magazine - The Queen of Fashion and was later shortened to just McCall's.
Published monthly, it is a little utilized pattern dating resource, but a really great one! These often included fashion pages illustrated in mostly color, about 4-14 pages worth! In the 1920s McCall Magazines, couture designer names are often mentioned with the designs - this is my favorite way to find out if a pattern was designer or not. I even found out from a 1928 magazine that one of the patterns in my collection was a House of Worth design!

Page from 1925 Autumn McCall Needlework

McCall Needlework was published starting in the early 1920s and was often bi-monthly. While McCall Quarterly focused on clothing and accessories, vintage McCall Needlework focused on patterns for embroidery, pillows, aprons, hats, gloves, toys, curtains, smocking, needlepoint, cross stitch to name a few.

Other pattern research resources you might find useful:

How about you? What is your favorite method for researching and dating sewing patterns?

PS. New in pattern happenings this week: The Vintage Pattern Nerds Facebook Group has opened its own Facebook Pattern Selling Group. Vintage Pattern Nerd Boutique is a great place buy or sell rare patterns without fees and commissions so stop by and check it out!

Happy sewing,


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Making a Kimono Sleeve Dress from the Woman's Institute

This morning I was gently riffling through my Woman's Institute book collection and inside a copy of Dress Construction and Finishing I found the coolest little booklet!

It was meant to come along with actual fabric dress pieces sent to the student to sew, and then return for examination! Can you just image getting a dress in the mail, already cut, just waiting to be sewn together? How fun!

For those of you unfamiliar with it, the Woman's Institute was a dressmaking and millinery instruction school that operated mainly by correspondence.

You can read all about their courses and book in a few different publications including Dressmaking Made Easy, Home Study Courses, and What the Woman's Institute Means to Me.

For your enjoyment, here is the lesson booklet in its entirety.


You can make a dress similar to this by using a straight-line one-piece dress pattern.











Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sew Expensive... Vogue Couturier 535


To continue the train of thought a bit from our last post, we have another expensive luxury pattern selling for a good deal of money.
Not long ago, Vogue 535 sold at auction for $168.49.



Though high, this is really the going average for late 40's early 50's Couturier patterns with any character. By character, I'm referring to patterns with interesting or unusual details. Note the high collar, asymmetrical button closures and dramatic sweeping lines of the tunic in the illustration above. The more details like these, the more complicated it is to sew, the higher the interest and value to collectors.

In our last post, we saw a 1930's Vogue Couturier pattern sell for $360.
Over the last few years of tracking the selling prices of these, it seems that they follow a price trend by decade.

Vogue 862 available here.

On average, 1930's Vogue Couturier patterns sell for between $200-$380.
1940's-1950's Vogue Couturier patterns sell for between $100-$200.
1960's/ 1970's Vogue Couturier patterns sell for between $40-$200. This is also interestingly the decade that Vogue chose to start advertising the couture designer responsible for the patterns, with patterns by Dior, Chanel, and Givenchy fetching the highest prices.
These averages are dependent on a few things. These are auction selling prices. Buy it now prices found from pattern sellers on Etsy and other websites might vary on the mood/ experience/ clientele of the pattern seller.
Also keep in mind the evening gown patterns will be quite a bit higher than these averages.

Vogue 2971 available here.
If you've got one of these in your collection, be sure to check and see if it has all of its instructions. These patterns often had two separate instruction sheets with the cutting layout often on another sheet entirely. If you only have one sheet, make sure that it has both cutting and sewing instructions on it.

Another thing to keep in mind is that while some of these patterns can be found with "Vogue Couturier" cloth labels inside - a pattern is considered complete without it. The cloth label was not automatically included in each pattern - one had to request them at the pattern counter when purchasing and many buyers simply didn't bother with them.

How about you? Do you have any Couturier patterns in your collection? Did you get a great deal on them? Find them at a thrift shop? Pay dearly for them from another collector?

Happy sewing,



Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sew Expensive... Vogue Couturier 232



My dears, this lovely pattern was expensive, naturally.



Just a few days ago, Vogue 232 sold for a shocking $360.

As we've discussed before, there are a lot of reasons that a pattern can go this high or higher, and the value of this one was a combination of two things.
Vogue Couturier patterns are always going to be more valuable than plain old Vogue, owing to their association with actual couture designers (though the designer isn't mentioned in couturier patterns from the 30's like they are in those from the 60's.)
This pattern is from the 1930's and I can count on one hand the number of Vogue Couturier from this decade I've seen for sale in the last year. The highest that I can remember went for just under $400.

Now, unusually for our Sew Expensive posts, I just happen to know the lucky winner of this auction. No, its not me. This particular collector who will remain anonymous is my Pattern Friend. My Pattern Friend and I met a long time back over a Facebook discussion of another rare pattern. We got to talking and realized that we had very similar collecting tastes. We talk patterns quite often and this one came up in conversation.
When I asked her if she cared to comment on why this pattern had such a draw to her, she simply replied "Even a sundress is stylish."

This made me giggle a little because, really, each collector's pattern taste is so unique. Sure there are the sought after, universally acknowledged "high value" patterns, and then there are others that quite honestly have a "Je ne sais quoi" to each individual. Something in it speaks to us, makes us fall a little in love, and perhaps do foolish things to acquire the object of our desire.

Here are a few other Vogue Couturier from the 1930's for your enjoyment....
Vogue 204

Vogue 225 Circa 1933.

Vogue 100. Blurry I know but had to be included anyways.
Vogue 205
Vogue 211 Circa 1933.
How about you, my dears? Do you have any Vogue Couturier patterns in your collection? Have you learned anything interesting about them that you'd like to share with the class? I have just one of these. One... and one will have to be enough. They go too high at auction for me to allow myself to fall in love. Anything more than a brief affair for me and it will all end in tears...

Friday, March 10, 2017

Sew Expensive... A Sewing Machine Memorabilia Sign


As many of you know, my usual Sew Expensive posts nearly always feature sewing patterns but today, I just couldn't resist sharing a sign with you!

Thats right, a simple sign, but an oh-so-darn-lovely one...
Recently on eBay, an enamel advertising sign for Wheeler and Wilsons Sewing Machine Company sold on eBay for a stunning $394.99!
At a rather impressive 14 x 24 inches, it was no small sign in a charming shade of deep cobalt blue with white decorative script.


I was watching avidly and I have to say, I had no idea that it would go so high.

How about you? Do you have a favorite piece of sewing-related memorabilia in your collection?
Mine would definitely be the catalog in the previous blog post...either that or the antique sewing machine cabinet currently doubling as a rather ornate bar in my dining room!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Some McCall Catalog Love from 1930...

My dears, I have another catalog from my collection to share with you today.
This time it is the April, 1930 McCall Counter Catalog and boy, is it a beauty! These little gems are scarce as hen's teeth these days and finding one that hasn't been partially cut up for paper dolls (yes, that has happened, twice.) is a treat.

So without further ado...




I have one of these on the left available as a reproduction pattern here.





And I have the top right pattern available as a reproduction here.









I have the one on the right available as a reproduction pattern, too!