Thursday, June 12, 2014

Suits and Dresses and Playsuits, Oh My! (Women's Home Companion, 1947)

Good morning!

I survived my headache yesterday (doctor! Get me three Advils, two cans of Sprite Zero, a serving of Whole Foods pizza, a darkened room and a book on tape about serial killers, stat!), and have lived to tell the tale of the 1947 dresses that I meant to tell you yesterday! I'm really getting into these Woman's Home Companion bound volumes. Started in 1873, the magazine only ran until 1957, so 1947 is coming right up at the end of its eighty-four year publication history. What keeps me interested in the magazine is its strict adherence to a few subject guidelines. If I'm to take this magazine as any example, the modern woman of 1947 wants to know about a couple of things and ONLY those things. Which are:

  • Meals, menus, recipes, new food products
  • Social ills and current hot topics (everything from cancer to juvenile reform schools to abortion, not kidding)
  • Movies and move stars (I am not complaining at all, but so many full page, hysterical ads for upcoming movies) annnnnd:
  • Fashion! (Turn to the LEFT) Fashion! (Turn to the right)...
I am really into the Spring issues of 1947, which show you some of the new fashions in illustrated versions of Butterick sewing patterns as well as photographs. I don't know if the colors are representative of "on point" fashion (because, think about it, as the maker of your own clothes, the sky would be the limit as to the color selection), but I'm crazy about them anyway! Let's take a look:

Why thank you little spring sparrow, for bringing me the coordinating jacket that goes with my dress! How thoughtful of you! Whimsy touches like this in old fashion spreads trump exotic, unapproachable Amazons for me EVERY. TIME. Notice the strong, Joan-would-be-proud shoulder padding here and the draped, bell-like sleeves, combined with that hat, those dear little slingbacks, shortie gloves (which you should know about when to wear, thanks to the guide from another issue), and that JACKET, ugh, I hope everyone who made this pattern made it in that same fiery red.

In a similar bi-chromatic color scheme:

Do you see how the back of the first dress goes into a built in cape? I love thinking about seamstresses (then and now, really!) being able to bring edgy style to their street clothes simply by dint of their being able to make the clothes that would cost us non-sewing-fashion-girls four times as much in a store. I was surprised in Bright Star, a Jane Campion movie about doomed-to-die-young John Keats and his romance with a teenage Fanny Brawne (sign me uuuuuuup), at how much flak the Brawne character, a gifted seamstress, drew for her outrageous-for-the-time ruffles, bonnets, and bows of her own design and construction. It's not exactly like a woman could distinguish herself for just anything back then, so why would success in a gender approved activity, which she had mastered to the point of selling her ruffles to mode-chasing neighbors, make her such a hot topic of discussion? I could see a similar girl to Fanny in the late forties', who could make a Singer machine really sing, being the talk of her small town for her Hollywood inspired ensembles like the dresses above, but dang, if you get really good at something, why not at least have tangible evidences of your talent like these?

I digress. Also, I want both of these dresses above (how do you like that probably-velvet black notched collar on the jacket of the second one) as well as the one below:

How about that proto-Mamie-pink, plus ANOTHER CAPE BESTILLMYHEART, and mid length black gloves/matching two tone hat to boot?

Here, the colors change to a summery moss green but none of the drama is lost:

SAY YES TO THIS DRESS, PEOPLE. The large green floral print with that triangle cutout at the neck is nice, but  I'm really looking at the one on the right with that bow, those elbow length bell sleeves, and please tell me it's reversible to boot. AAAH.

This bird, I'd be like "Thanks for the structured jacket, but can you go back and bring me one of the dresses from the last panel instead? No T, no shade; I just prefer the other ones".

And here's the photograph from this grouping. See? Aren't you glad they went with those cute little illustrations instead for the most part? This outfit in color might have been more interesting but I'll take the other ones over sepia tone in this case.

In this issue, the month before, more spring flings with fashion. Take a look at some of the sweeter, less "Auntie Mame" ensembles in this spread:

What is interesting to me in a lot of these photos are the tailored details on each dress. One thing that really turns me off department stores and the like is how every single silhouette is a) super predictable, b)dull as dishwater in that predictability. I never noticed it so much as when I worked for Old Navy for a couple months straight out of college (caveat: I would still shop there, in spite of it all, for solid basic pieces if they would EVER, EVER, EVER design dresses and shirts for people over 5'3'' you ever notice how short their clothes run?). That summer was the summer of the trapeze top, and honest-to-God everything in the store was that maternity-like snug in the bosom, tent-like in the rest of the dress/shirt/tunic. Which looked good on a very specific sort of person, but on this small chested, small waisted pear shaped gal? GAH. And as far as delightful details, you're lucky if you get a single extra button at the cuff, and forget drop-waist detailed stitching or anything that might draw the eye to the structure of the top, because, hey, that would have taken ten more minutes on the sewing machine, and no. However, as these are targeted towards people making their own clothes, notice how each design has something that might make the girls at your bridge club on Tuesday night ooh and aw and your proficiency with a needle. "Is that another pocket?" "IS IT EVER," I would crow as the proud maker of the garment on the left, maybe even produce an unexpected handkerchief or handful of change as a flourish.

Takeaway lesson from this: I NEED TO LEARN HOW TO SEW, OMG.

While the quartet of dresses above nice, I am losing my mind over these DIRECTLY ON POINT fashion wise playsuits. Ooooh, whee! Lemme get a hand on these! And, uh, also, the washboard abs to pair them with! (J/k, you know I ain't got no shame, I would wear these as I am now in a heartbeat)

And these beautiful two-piece playsuits here:

Well! Wasn't that a lot of fashion for just four little pages? You can see the originals here with the commentary (if you right-click "open in a new tab", then click on the image, you can see it full size in another tab, how about that?) :

April 1947:

March 1947:

All right, time for you to talk-- which is your favorite? Which do you wish you could wear right now? Do you or anyone in your family make your own clothes? What's the niftiest little tailoring detail you've noticed lately? Spill! :)

That's all for today, but I'll see you back here tomorrow for Photo Friday! Have a great Thursday; til then!


  1. I love these illustrations! I think the acid-green floral is my favorite. Well, and the playsuits, too. Want.

    1. The pink caped one! All of them! I MUST learn to sew.



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