Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mid-1950s Hair-Dos

Let's look at cute hair today! Every face deserves a becoming hair-do, and I wish my hair would look as wonderful as this beauty. :) The following charming coifs are from 1955.


A Hair-Do for Short Hair

If you have short hair, this might be the 'do for you! Front hair is swept away from temples, then brushed forward in side wings.

The back fits the head smoothly and has just a hint of wave.

 A Hair-Do for Medium to Long Hair

If your hair is medium length or somewhat longer, this hair-do has some wave for body and manageability.

The back can be brushed to fold smoothly under or fluffed into curls.

Home Sewing Tips from the 1920s - Fitting the Frock for the Stout Figure

Okay, for any of you who have "bulges", Ruth explains how to ensure that your figure too can have long, loose lines. 1920s fashion may have favored the slender or "average" figure, but Ruth finds a way for those with less-than-ideal figures to "look inches taller and pounds thinner".  Sound familiar? It's the goal of many women throughout the decades!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Originator Sketch - Spring 1946 - Fringe & Pleating Accents

From the Spring 1946 "Originator" (Volume V) is this design inspiration for trimming with fringe and pleating.

For myself, I like the pleating more than the fringe. The 3/4-length sleeves of the jacket are rather chic with their French buttoned cuffs.

The Background

The Originator is a rare series of booklets that describes itself as providing "unique fashion hints, modern trends, and ideas with variations smartly and practically applied." Fashion editor for this volume is Florence Hort.

The company (Originator Publishing Company) was based in New York and began in the fall of 1945, lasting until the early 1950s. It provided current fashion sketches and prided itself on forecasting fashion trends and being a handbook of new ideas. The company did go on to publish sewing patterns, which are even rarer than the booklets.

That is all I know, and this is the only volume that I own, but I am happy to share! :)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Miss Lillian's Postcards - Vintage Tweets from the 1900s: Miss Lillian Has a Job!

Postcard 011

Sender: Miss Tillie Lange
Addressee: Miss Lillian McQuire [sic], c/o Luyties Hom. Phar., Laclede & Vanderventer Ave, City
Postmark: St Louis, MO
Date: March 27, 1907
Image: Teacher's College, St Louis, MO
Thank you very 
much for [the] pretty card.
I remain,
Miss Tillie Lange
3545 Nebraska Av

Looking very brand new, the Teacher's College began offering in-service education for St. Louis white teachers as early as 1906.

The Teacher's College

The Teacher's College building is still standing and in use (but no longer a school) in St Louis, and is listed on the National Historic Register. Here are two images of the building I snagged from Google Maps  (which is located at 1517 S Theresa Ave in St Louis).

Working at Luyties Homeopathic Pharmacy

Equally interesting is that the post card is addressed to Miss Lillian not at home but at a work address!  Now, Lillian was born in 1882, so she is about 24 (almost 25) at this time. Since she has not married, it is interesting that she is working at Luyties Homeopathic Pharmacy, at the intersection of Laclede and Vanderventer Avenues (just across from St Louis University today). Perhaps she was a clerk?

Below is the building at intersection of Laclede and Vanderventer Avenues (aside from a public storage building and St Louis University grounds), and it was built in 1896! Called the Gerhart Block, it is also on the National Register of Historic Places. So this is most likely a place that Miss Lillian either worked in, or (if the building she worked in has since been demolished) she saw every work day at this point in her life.

Miss Tillie Lanage

And with this postcard, we meet Miss Tillie Lange, who sounds quite formal in her thank you. She must be a relatively new acquaintance, because she misspells Miss Lillian's last name. Since she provided her address, I looked it up too on Google Maps, and found this charming home. It was built in 1897!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Home Sewing Tips from the 1920s - Choosing a Dress for a Tall Slim Figure

In an earlier post, Ruth Wyeth Spears tackled the challenges of a person with a full figure when wearing the new slim lines. In this post, Ruth addresses the tall, thin figure, a type that also needs careful dressing choices. I wouldn't have thought it necessary, but as usual, Ruth makes her points clearly! The bottom line? Avoid the "gaunt" look by softening the joints and bones.

So pay close attention, those of you who are skinny - aim for soft lines that produce grace and rhythm. :)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

1920s Foundation Garments - The Tunic Dress Foundation Slip

Think "skirt to be worn with a tunic-length top" and you have the essence of the 1920s tunic-dress foundation slip. This type of foundation slip is needed for what is called a tunic dress (tunic dress example). The slip top is a modification of the camisole top, while the slip bottom is a wide band of the dress fabric deep enough to prevent the upper part of the foundation slip from showing when worn.

To create a tunic-dress foundation slip, start with a plain slip pattern with a camisole top. Take in excess fullness at the hip line with darts (as at a in the image below). Use French seams under the arms and finish the neckline with lace edging. Cut the slip at the length the dress fabric is to be attached. Sew the dress fabric to slip and hem. Voila! You have a tunic-dress foundation slip.

And this concludes my series on 1920s foundation garments! I hope you found it informative and useful. :)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Home Sewing Tips from the 1920s - A Lovely Frock with Draping

In this tip, Ruth describes a marvelous technique of artfully adding graceful panels and an elegant draped band ("girdle") at the hips to add beauty to a plain slip-over frock. As always, yardage and detailed, illustrated instructions are provided and make this look simple. Love it!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Vintage Ads - Cleaning with Art Deco Style

Wonderful Bon Ami! I use it myself, although it no longer comes in the very cool Art Deco container displayed in this 1934 advertisement. I  marvel at how well dressed the homemaker is in this ad, just to clean the tub. A little fancier than what I wear when I clean the bathroom - lol!

Cheap! Cheap!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Home Sewing Tips from the 1920s - The Rippling Hemline

In this tip for home sewers in the 1920s, Ruth Wyeth Spears tackles the subject of "rippling hemlines". She refers to the "new figured materials", by which I do believe she means what we would call a print fabric (rather than a solid color fabric). Along with suggestions of various methods, Ruth illustrates how to best hem these curved edges.

Ruth always provides such fine illustrations to accompany the explanation.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Vintage Advertisements - 1950s Sunburn Cream

Have you managed to keep cool and out of the sun this summer? Sunburn or no, this gal has fabulous "pin-up girl" looks. I just hope that "Gypsy Cream" really worked to provide sunburn relief. ;)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Miss Lillian's Postcards: Vintage Tweets from the 1900s - A Christmas Postcard

Postcard 010

Sender: Stella
Addressee: Miss Lillian Maguire, 3004 Vine Grove Av, City
Postmark: St Louis, MO
Date: December 25, 1906
Image: Painting of two boats
Message: [This is a "picture post" with no message, but the sender is Stella, who signs on the front of the postcard "Stella 12/25/06"]

Here is a "Christmas in July" post! :) And it is from someone new to us, "Stella". A friend? Someone in her family? I am guessing a friend, based on no facts whatsoever. ;)

This painting of boats in a harbor (and a dark painting at that) seems rather an odd choice for a Christmas image. The Christmas greeting partly obscures the artist's signature, so I've no idea who the artist is.

Note how the postcard is stamped at 1 AM on December 25! Perhaps Stella dropped it off at the post office on her way to midnight Christmas services. The post office had to have someone there working - how else could it be stamped with that time and date? I wonder when it was delivered. Do you think it was delivered on Christmas Day? I don't know if workers got regular holidays in 1906 like they do now. It is also possible that the meter was set for the first hour of Christmas and was simply stamped earlier.

Also note her use of the word "City" instead of writing out St Louis, MO. This was a common way to indicate the address remained within the city limits where the postcard (or letter) was posted. This remained a common thing to do even into the 1960s and 1970s. I can remember my mother sending and receiving mail with "City" instead of "Seattle" after the street address.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Home Sewing Tips from the 1920s - When Your Figure Is Not Ideal For Beltless Frocks

Back in the 1920s, women with curves were challenged by the slim styles of the day. Nice to know, yes? In this tip, Ruth Wyeth Spears tackles this topic, illustrating the problems and offering one possible solution.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

1920s Foundation Garments - Coat Dress Foundation Slip

What makes a coat-dress foundation slip different from the other foundation slips (plain and tunic-dress) is the creation of sections of the slip using the dress material that can be viewed purposefully or inadvertently. The coat-dress foundation slip (illustrated below) is created for use with a coat dress that opens at the side front. By using dress fabric in a band at the bottom and up the side opening, it ensures that the skirt, when swinging open, does not show a contrasting material. Likewise, a vestee of the dress material is attached at the neckline so that it reveals the same fabric at the neckline.

When sewing a coat-dress foundation slip, start with the plain foundation slip (the small figure on the right). Outline the sections for the dress material on the plain slip pattern and then trace to other paper to create a pattern. The lower band replaces the slip lower section so seam allowances need to be added. But the vestee forms an additional layer on the foundation slip, attaching with snaps.

The coat-dress foundation slip can have a round neckline, a square neckline, even a camisole neckline, as needed. As always, adjust the slip to fit the requirements of the coat-dress.

Friday, July 18, 2014

1930s Techniques for Keeping Chic in the Heat

The essence of summer chic and charm (let alone luxurious langour), is crispness, coolness, and feminine freshness. How's that alliteration for you? ;)

To keep cool, look cool, and feel cool,  wear fresh organdie dresses and cool, scented lingerie. This (and all the usual advice, and the image above) comes from a 1934 Pictorial Review article on keeping cool and feminine in the heat of summer. The usual advice includes: keep makeup light, use a light face cream, take care of your eyes (rest, use sunglasses, eye cream), massage the feet.

I found especially interesting two "new gadgets" mentioned, that made taking showers possible that did not muss up your carefully waved hair:
  • A spray attachment  that fits around your shoulders  and lets your head rise above the spray
  • An oiled silk shower hood that fits over your head without mussing your hair; it's transparent so you can see the spray through the silk, and eliminates the "agony of trying to fit a rubber cap over your carefully done tresses".
Can you visualize these? There were no images in the magazine article. I laugh when I think of each one. A spray attachment on your shoulders? :D The silk shower hood sounded harmless until it mentions seeing through the transparent hood. Are they saying it covers the face?? I understand now why these products did not survive the test of time. LOL!

I do love that illustration - so dreamy! :)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Miss Lillian's Postcards: Vintage Tweets from the 1900s - A "Friend Me" Request?

Postcard 009

Sender: Howard Wm. McGuire
Addressee: Miss Lillian M. Maguire, 3004 Vine Grove Ave, St Louis, MO
Postmark: Philadelphia, PA.
Date: September 25, 1906
Image: Valley Green, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, PA
Message: [written on the postcard front]

I got your name from Ed Clegg.
PLEASE EXCHANGE 3035 E St. Phila  Howard Wm McGuire

Valley Green Inn is still operating in the Fairmount Park of Philadelphia, and still looking the same (impressive!) as in this postcard - beautiful location, and a great place to visit. :)


But we have a mystery here! Who is Howard William McGuire? He knows Ed Clegg, who knows Lillian. Who is Ed Clegg? Does Howard think that he and Lillian might be related, since their last names are virtually the same? This looks very much like the vintage postcard equivalent of the Facebook request "Please friend me", coming from a friend of a friend. Or is there some other meaning behind it? Do you think Lillian responded? We will never know.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Home Sewing Tips from the 1920s - A Short Cape to Match Your Frock!

This beautiful short cape looks easy to make using Ruth's clear instructions. And if you hesitate at cutting the half circle, just refer to Ruth Wyeth Spears' tip for cutting a circle from a square (and illustrated by me!) scaling it up as needed.

I love the tall stand collar and ribbon tie closing. Would you trim it with braid or bias binding? I guess it would depend on your choice of fabric. Happy sewing!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

1920s Foundation Garments - The Plain Foundation Slip

The plain foundation slip is really an elongation of the built-up waist lining, with pleats added at the sides over the hips for ease. When putting together your 1920s wardrobe, keep in mind that the plain foundation slip takes just under 3 yards for the average figure! Choose a firm but smooth fabric. If the dress fabric is sheer, a slip of the dress material is preferable.

The following image illustrates a typical 1920s plain foundation slip. This kind of slip can be made with a camisole top if the dress in which it is to be used requires it.

The upper part of the slip is fitted in the same manner as the built-up waist lining, with fitting in any excess waistline fullness by deepening the side seams.  French seams are used in the side seams from the armholes to the hips, which then release into pleats to the hemline. Stitch across the top of each pleat  (as shown) to secure the pleats. Armholes and neckline should be finished with narrow seams.

And that's it! With the exception of the side pleats, the plain foundation slip looks very similar to slips of later decades. Next in this series will be the coat-dress foundation slip!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Vintage Ads - 1930s Beauty Secret of Chewing Gum!

Did you ever think of chewing gum as a beauty secret? Evidently this was one of the ploys to get you to purchase gum in 1934 (the date of this advertisement). The secret? "The chewing helps keep facial muscles supple and young and chin line youthful".

There just might be something to this assertion. You never know! =)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Miss Lillian's Postcards: Vintage Tweets from the 1900s - Christine in Pawtucket, Rhode Island

Postcard 008

Sender: Christine B. Follett
Addressee: Miss Lillian Maguire, 3004 Vine Grove Ave., St Louis, MO
Postmark: Pawtucket, R.I.
Date: September 14, 1906
Image: Division St. Bridge, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
Message: [This is a "picture post" with no message, but the sender is Christine, who sent previous postcards. Compare the handwriting, and you will see that it matches. Christine signs on the From lines "C. B. Follett, Pawt. R.I."]

Whereas before we only had Christine's first name, we know now that she is Christine B. Follett. The question we are left with is, is she still on vacation? This is the second postcard from Rhode Island from her on this trip. Was Pawtucket her final destination? Was this perhaps a honeymoon trip, ending in her new hometown? This is all speculation on my part! Perhaps this was her last stop before returning to St Louis.

The Division St. Bridge is still standing and in use in Pawtucket, RI, btw.  Here is an image grabbed from Google Maps.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Care of Vintage Clothing: The Lost Art of Ironing

In this day of permanent press and knit fabrics that rarely wrinkle, the use of the iron is almost obsolete. But the skill of ironing was once an important one that young girls learned from their mothers. I was one of those girls! 

With the interest in both buying vintage clothing and sewing using vintage patterns, a look at the art of ironing as it was experienced in decades past seems worthy of a review. 

When I was very young, ironing did not simply "just happen" in the sense that it can be done today (from the dryer to the ironing board to the closet). In decades long past, ironing took more planning. Using images from an article "Iron without Ire" in a 1939 edition of Home Arts magazine, I will describe the steps involved. And I can tell you, the methods described here stayed pretty much the same well into the 1960s, at least until "permanent press" fabrics and the steam iron became the standard. I speak from personal experience! 

Step 1: Starch garments that need it. 

To get a crisp finish you needed starch. In fact, dry cleaning establishments sometimes will still ask if starching is required for cotton or linen shirts (to add stiffness to men's shirts, for example; and it is the collar and cuffs that are really the parts that need the starch). Today you can still buy spray starch, but way back in the day you had to mix powdered starch (cornstarch will do) with water, and then spray or sprinkle on the clothing.

Step 2: Dampen the garments and roll in a towel

 This is a critical step! This step is what steam irons today have eliminated. I can still remember watching my older sisters and mother sprinkling clothes and wrapping them in a towel (and I did it myself). Usually a sprinkling head or stopper was put on top of a pop bottle - it worked great. Usually the clothes had to be sprinkled and wrapped at least several hours or a day before they were ready to be ironed.

You have to remember that most clothes were line-dried until the advent of the automatic dryer. So clothes were dry and stiff. In order to iron them, making them just the littlest bit damp made the ironing so much more effective. Drying a damp item with a hot dry iron was the equivalent of applying steam.

Step 3: Iron the garments with the hand iron

I don't think we ever sat at the ironing board, we always stood. I don't know whether that was a preference or a matter of the ironing board not being adjustable. In any case, the ironing board always came to a rounded point (the end from which you ironed). The ironing board should be padded and covered.

The order in which you ironed a garment was and still is important. Iron in this order (as applicable, depending on the garment):
  1. Collar
  2. Sleeves
  3. Back yokes
  4. Front yokes
  5. Front side to back to other front side
  6. Skirt (iron from the hem to the waistband)
For pants, iron the waistband, then iron one leg at a time. Fold the leg to match the inseam to the outseam, then press. Press a crisp or soft seam (center front and back) as desired.

If you are serious about learning how to iron, there are YouTube videos that illustrate the techniques, so be sure to check them out.

Step 3 - Alternate: Iron with a flatplate ironer or iron mangle

This is the supremely perfect instrument for ironing sheets, tablecloths, towels, and other linens. Can you imagine ironing your sheets? We never owned one when I was growing up. We did have a neighbor, however, who did. One day she actually showed me how to use it and let me iron an item! It was a manual feed and I thought it was exotic and very cool!

And that's my story on ironing. :)

Friday, July 11, 2014

History of Sewing: 1920s Foundation Garments - Foundation Slips

It's time to return to my series on 1920s foundation garments, and examine the remaining type of foundation garment, the foundation slip. Along with camisoles, the slip is perhaps the most enduring of foundation garments. There are three categories of foundation slips:
  • Plain foundation slip (look familiar?)
  • Coat-dress foundation slip
  • Tunic-dress foundation slip

 Plain foundation slip

The foundation slip offers protection to the dress, or serves as a foundation to which some part of the dress may be attached (similar to the waist linings). Slips eliminate any unsightly break at the waistline under a dress of sheer material, and can intensify the color of the sheer dress.

In the 1920s (and beyond), the preferred slip was made of silk or rayon (rather than cotton, for example), which provides smoothness so the dress slips over them easily, and prevents the slip from crowding up over the knees. Some things don't change, eh?

In my next posts on this topic, I will provide more details about each foundation slip type. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Miss Lillian's Postcards: Vintage Tweets from the 1900s - Living in Victorian-Edwardian St Louis MO

What did 3004 Vine Grove Avenue in St Louis, Missouri, look like when Lillian and her family lived there in 1906? I was curious about this, so I used Google Earth to investigate.

Here is the building that currently sits at 3004 Vine Grove Avenue in St. Louis, Missouri. And when I researched this house on real estate sites, it turns out it was built in 1892. So this is definitely the house Miss Lillian is living in at the beginning of our journey through her postcards! It consists of 1350 square feet (not too big, not too small). And since it was built in 1892, it is only 14 years old, so relatively new for the Maguire family.

The house is situated in the Greater Ville neighborhood, and is not too far from many St. Louis attractions. To guess what this house might have looked like on the inside, I searched on the Internet for Victorian and Edwardian home floor plans, and found this, which has similarities:

You can find this on the PBS site for Life in a 1900 House (which was a very cool series, by the way!).

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Eye Candy - "Golden" 1950s Knit Dress Advertisement

From 1951, this advertisement for a knit button-down sheath features such inspiring style. Too bad we can't send in the coupon for the pattern! The ad declares "Whip it up in a matter of hours. Wear it and love it for seasons on end." I don't know about knitting it up in a few hours, but it would be lovely to wear!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Home Sewing Tips from the 1920s - Corsage of Ribbon Violets

A charming nosegay of violets are yours with little effort if you try this tip from Ruth Wyeth Spears and the 1920s. It's as simple as violet-hued ribbon and yellow embroidery thread for the flowers and fine wire for the stems! It is interesting to note that Ruth suggests wrapping the stems in tin foil (aluminum foil), but feel free to use the covering of your choice!


Monday, July 7, 2014

Miss Lillian's Postcards: Vintage Tweets from the 1900s - Gibson Girl Bride

Postcard 007

Collected by Miss Lillian probably for the simple beauty of the picture, this postcard is title "The Old Clock on the Stairs" and features the art of W. L. Taylor. The artwork has a copyright of 1903 and is identified on the address side of the postcard as "W. L. Taylor Series, Subject 2".

The title seems rather secondary (yes, there is a clock on the staircase), since the bride is clearly the object of the painting. But search for this artist on the Internet, and you will learn that he was a very popular artist of this era, and that this painting was popularly paired with a poem ("The Old Clock on the Stairs" ) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. This particular painting was most likely part of a series the artist painted for The Ladies' Home Journal that were paired with poetry. Such interesting history! As stated in an biography of W. L. Taylor, postcards and prints of his work, as well as full-color reproductions carefully torn from the pages of the Journal, adorned homes throughout the country and throughout the world.

Looking at the bride's costume, her gown is truly gorgeous. I love the rows of horizontal tucks on the gathered skirt, the ribbon and lace on the bodice, the empire waist, the puffy sleeves. Not to mention that luminous, long and wispy veil - light as a feather. Note the flower girl behind her. I think that her empire-waisted dress and flared skirt looks very 1970s. Timeless fashion, indeed! :D

Since it lacks a message, we can assume that Lillian either purchased this for herself or someone gave it to her.

Home Sewing Tips from the 1920s - Sewing Frocks with Style

The essence of this tip from Ruth Wyeth Spears is planning the designs of your own frocks - before you sew. This is a very interesting tip from Ruth, one that speaks to your inner creative designer self. At first, I felt that the differences between illustration A and illustration B were so subtle that it was like those "what is different between these two pictures" sort of puzzle. LOL! But read her article carefully, and you will see where the differences are. And you have to admit, the final embellished frock is lovely.

Count on Miss Ruth to inspire confidence as she points the way to style!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Miss Lillian's Postcards: Vintage Tweets from the 1900s - Christine in Rhode Island

Postcard 006

Sender: Christine
Addressee: Miss Lillian Maguire, 3004 Vine Grove St., St Louis, MO
Postmark: Warren, R.I.
Date: September 7, 1906
Image: South Main Street, Warren, Rhode Island
Message: [This is a "picture post" with no message, but the sender dates and signs the postcard front. Note that the postcard was postmarked at its point of origination in New York, as well as at its destination in St. Louis. Also note that each postmark include the time (!) as well as the date. So it left NY at 11:30 AM on 8/6/06 and arrived in St Louis at 6 PM on 8/7/06 - that is pretty decent delivery speed. :)]

Missing most of the trees but still very recognizable, here is South Main Street, Warren RI today as seen using the street view of Google Earth: