Thursday, October 17, 2013

Simplicity Fashion Inspiration (Sewing Patterns ads 1947-1948)

Good morning!

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling like I've been in a slump! Work days, after all the magic of special event and vacation planning, are feeling a little more grey and gloomy than they've been pre-wedding, and I have got to haul myself out of these doldrums in the best way I know how-- overdressing! I was thinking, the other morning, that when I started working here at the library, I had a certain drawer of my chifferobe that was set aside for "work clothes". You know, a black pair of Express Editors pants, two or three skirts, and a succession of those stretch knit wrap shirts and dresses that make up what most people in my age group consider "business casual" attire. Geometric patterns, polka dots, solids, but all in very simple, boring shapes. No shade meant to those wearing the self same as they read this-- it's just that clothes are such a major part of my self-expression that it didn't make good sense to mask that creative outlet with "I want to look like everybody else" work staples, especially when I'm at work more than I'm at home or out with friends!

I'm ready for work! Is work ready for me?
Since sometime in the first year of my tenure here, when I realized the dress code technically only forbade hats, blue jeans, and t-shirts, I've since become a die-hard advocate of wearing everything-you-would-wear-anywhere-else to work. Minus all-over sequins. Even though they're my favorite, they're actually not daytime-appropriate (RuPaul Drag Race alum Willem had the definitive word to say on this, it's in one of these videos). Anything else, though-- wild seventies' op art collar shirts in eyeblinding polyester, flirty black headwraps, forties' day dresses, bolo is too blamed short to spend it in stretch knit nothingness or boring sweaters. So when I came across these late forties' illustration for must-have-fall clothes, you bet my little heart skipped a tiny, welcome beat! This is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for to sprinkle a dash of inspiration over my closet. Let's take a look:

Now, remember that I just found that brown coat the other day with the fur trimming? I've been thinking about the difficulty of wearing brown when 90% of my accessories are a grounding-black (need to tone down an all-over pattern of neon paisley flower power? Add a black belt, black necklace, black bolero, and black tights. VoilĂ , instant fix), but here the issue is solved with all-black accessories. What really gets me about the look on the left is the black kerchief at the neck. I always worry about looking like my (dear, but not necessarily fashion forward) grandma in her plastic rain bonnet when I don any kind of accessories to a pre-existing full-length coat, but look how chic this is! Also, I have a slew of hats that are not getting proper attention being displayed in my home rather than on my egg-shaped head, and both of these looks make me think twice about that. I might not be able to wear a full on feather topper at the desk at work, but nothing's stopping me from coming and going in one! Look at that huge brooch, too.

Both these outfits are stellar for the little peplum on the jacket and the full skirt. I've noticed throughout the resurrection of this "new look" fifties' detail in modern times that the peplum is often paired with a skin tight, almost tube-skirt...this is whatever the opposite of flattering is on me with my pear shaped self (Hideous? Horrific? Something else starting with an "h"? Ain't no call for it!). I love grabbing a jacket or a top with this little flared detail and wearing them over circle skirts, because doesn't it add that dash of femininity to it! Also, we need to bring back, once and for all, the "classy" leopard print. Look at the little leopard print muff and collar on the lady in red! The sidebar offered more tips for wearing this look with different neck accessories and a different skirt:
One of the things that always amazes me in old home ec texts or sewing texts are the "take three basic outfits, use them interchangeably to create dozens of outfits"! While I have serious wardrobe staples (a black pencil skirt and this slim black, be-shoulderpadded bolero are my favorite-favorites right now), I have trouble wearing the same thing more than once in a week. Personally, I'd rather have fifty $3-$15 vintage dresses and accessorize them however than three, $100 really good pieces, but I know that just makes me less classy than I should be (hoarder materialism, I bow at your feet). A lot of that mindset comes from the quality of clothes I can get for practically nothing in estate sale and flea market transactions. My $5 dress may actually be of higher quality than a $50 garment I could get at a department store, and since I am nowhere near being able to afford actual luxury good clothing, it makes better sense for my to stick with my cheap-but-good-quality second hand clothes. What're your thoughts on that front?

Notice how the model on the left wears a red and white polka dot print dress, white gloves, white hat, and black shoes! The black shoes are brought in by the black flower detail on her hat. Ah! The little touches! I'm a big fan of that green gown at top, too, especially with the leafy little fascinator.
This dress may be my favorite simply based on the little squiggly print. Doesn't it look fresh as paint. And those red accessories, from the tiny waist cinching belt to the little basket-buckety purse! According to the sidebar, this ensemble has a secret...the skirt and bolero fall away to reveal a playsuit! I am way too long torso'd to think about a playsuit, but as a dress, I am a huge supporter of this look.

Last but not least, a set of co-ed like clothing ideas. How exciting is the dramatic, matador-waisted skirt and the western-y ruffled yoke of the black and white model at left? Of the color ensembles, I'm most impressed by the matching shawl to the green and yellow skirt and turtleneck outfit. That or the red white and black of the girl second from the right. I can't choose, I love 'em all!

What do you think? Do you wear "different" clothes to work than you do in your everyday life? What kind of clothes do you favor in your on-or-off day wardrobe? Any current inspiration for fall looks? Let's talk!

That's all for today, but I'll see you tomorrow for Photo Friday! Have a great Thursday. Til then!


  1. honestly - i have no "normal" clothes!
    in times i worked outside my home i was wearing the same looks as in my freetime - but only sturdy/washable garments, not the really precious vintage/selfsewed things. they are reserved for occasions where i can not get dirty or scratch the fabric on raw shop furniture.
    love all the outfits you picked - the late 40´s american style is so clean and elegant and casual at the same time :-)

    1. Haha, me too! And I'm careful with my more fragile pieces, too, but give me something sturdy and wacky, and by Godfrey, I'm wearing it to work! I also love this late forties''s chic without being stuffy!

  2. I am absolutely with you on the hoarder materialism. More is more, for real. Plus, $100 for an outfit seems like a massive commitment to me *and* you have to make that commitment at the store, before you've taken it home, dated it, tried it out in your life, etc. Sometimes the thing you bought for $100 is great in theory but it just doesn't work in practice. And sometimes the insanely patterned homemade 1970s dress you thought would just be a fun one time thing actually fits and works better for everyday life (and set you back a whole 10 cents!). Where clothing is concerned, I like options. But not too many either! My constant conundrum right there.

    I also really just hate spending money on clothing basics. $10 for a non-concert tshirt? No way! $10 for a ball-length crinoline petticoat (for a ballgown I do not yet have)? Yes, please! I love fun, quirky, bordering on obnoxious clothing and since it makes me so happy, I wear it all the time. It's what feels good and right for me, and when I feel good I can just concentrate on doing whatever job I need to do instead of feeling uncomfortable and constantly adjusting my clothing.

    My current inspiration is Halloween - all the fun clothing and colourful vintage gloves come out at the thrift stores and they're so cheap! It's my favourite time to buy clothes. And always 1930s screwball comedies and Mae West!

    I feel like your style is perfectly in keeping with your inspiration (and totally work-appropriate too!), which is so very swell!

    1. Oh, I'm so glad you agree, no joke! And I am just the same with "Look, this crinoline would have been MUCH more expensive when it was made. And Target wants me to pay WHAT for that faux fur shrug? [insert any price tag over $10] I think NOT!" And I've been finding goldmines on the costume racks, too! It's like they knew we were coming. :)

  3. I really enjoy your blog, but I DO wish you'd stop running yourself down! Listen to yourself: "huge/egg-shaped head" "pear-shaped body" 'impossibly long torso". And not just this post, but others as well! STOP, please! I always get this mental picture of a Roswell space alien, but when I look at your picture i see a perfectly good-looking woman whose head doesn't look very big AT ALL! (and that widows'peak is enviable!)

    FYI, this request is coming from another big-head, full-hipped, long torsoed person who doesn't bother with vintage because things almost never fit and it's TOO FRUSTRATING to see all those wonderful clothes and to be "shut out forever" due to "size issues" !

    1. Haha, I guess I do sound kind of critical of myself when you put it that way!! :) I like to think of La Crawford and her wide hip/ wide shoulder problem, solved by creating the silhouette of the forties', the extreme shoulderpad...if she can look like a million dollars cash by finding the right wardrobe piece, so can the rest of us! I promise to lay off the gas pedal on self deprecation, it really can sound like I'm a hand wringer about these things!



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