mail order 1769: thoughts on using really old patterns with no directions

by puu

in 1930s,Blouses

honest-to-goodness, one of my first vintage pattern purchases. call it one of the first 10. there’s so much to love here, from the classic skirt to that gorgeous top with the ties to the little capelet. what really captured my fancy? the idea of styling it with little slouchy socks and loafers. weird, right?

i traced the pattern. poorly, because like so many vintage patterns, the directions are almost nonexistent and i didn’t quite understand the way the pattern might fit together. the pattern has 3/8″ seam allowances, and that threw me off. it has an interesting center strip of fabric that seems to serve no purpose other than being decorative going down the front, and no directions on where, when or how to attach it during construction. the ties for the bow offer no guidance on whether they should be faced, finished with bias tape or given a narrow hem.

i attached the center stripe incorrectly and ended up with 2″ extra ease on each side, even though i had made a muslin. i was incredibly confused and actually had someone re-fit it for me so that i wouldn’t cry and leave it on the UFO pile. also, the back ripped after a few wearings–probably because it didn’t appreciate my lack of reinforcement on the slight dip in the center back of the blouse. hence, this (as worn and styled today, not my original construction of 18 months ago):

i think it’s pretty fun:

other variations have followed. somehow, though, i can’t quite fix the fitting issues i have on this blouse. i always need to add an extra take-in on the side seams, almost like an extra dart, as you can see here, where i forgot to add them in my joy of being finished:

but you can also see how much i have perfected my construction and finishing of the blouse–look at how nice those ties tie.

and i’ve finally started to embrace that center stripe and have some fun with it.

meanwhile, you can see i have yet to style it with the long, thin skirt, slouchy socks and loafers.  maybe this year…

full post at puu’s door of time.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Lauren October 22, 2011 at 6:52 pm

I think it looks awesome! I especially love the last one.
Yeah, sometimes those 30s and earlier patterns are tricky- especially the mail order ones, imo. It might as well just say “sew together” ;)

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Katherine October 23, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Hahah, yes….

Step 1. Cut out pattern pieces
Step 2. Construct garment

I have punched things (all inanimate) because of directions like that. One of the things I really appreciate about Oliver+S patterns is the directions give you a little “this is going to sound wrong and you’ll want to do it a different way, but just go with it for now” pep talk at certain points. I cause myself endless frustration by failing to read all the way through and thinking “What? NO! I know a better way!” only to discover three steps later that my way is completely incompatible with what has to happen next.

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LBC October 24, 2011 at 11:00 am

I’ve only ever had one minor issue, and I think that whoever wrote the instructions deliberately skipped that part because there was no neat way to do it (there was a conflict between an internal facing and an external piece of trim. Long story, not very interesting). Other than that, I mostly use unprinted patterns. I actually find modern, printed, patterns sort of cluttered and confusing now. Unless a pattern is particularly complex, though, as long as I read through everything first so I don’t try to take a shortcut that ends up shooting me in the foot, I’ve really never had a problem.

The blouse looks fine from here. Could the problem be one of expectation rather than fit? 1930′s clothing was intended to fit very differently from modern clothing, so it may not feel “right” even if it fits as it was meant to.

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