Skip to content

Bustling about

November 4, 2009


I’m sorry to have been a bit slow on adding new patterns to the store lately- partly because it’s been a busy couple of weeks, and partly because I was waiting till the postal strikes in the UK were over. (They don’t show any signs of being over  for good yet <rant deleted>. But patterns are still arriving safely at their destinations- they just may take a little bit longer than usual.) But now there’s a few new patterns up in the store.

Let’s talk a little about the one at the top of this post from 1948. What I find interesting about the 1940s is what I see as a bit of a Victorian revival- design elements like basque bodices, fitted little jackets with high collars and peplums reminiscent of Victorian riding habits. (I wonder if this was the knock on effect of movies like Gone with the Wind and The Mark of Zorro, although those are less bustle Victorian and more crinoline Victorian). Take a look at this croquis by Molyneux for a dress from 1949 below. This is not a historical fancy dress costume. (It does, however, remind me of a line in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral where Andie Macdowell seeks Hugh Grant’s opinion on a wedding dress similar to this. His response: “if you could find a little staff it would be great for looking after sheep”):

It was in the 1940s when dresses started to feature draped portions at the back or large bows to simulate a kind of Victorian bustle effect. I’ve always liked bustles (or the idea of them) but I guess they’re not very practical if you actually want to sit down. When I first saw the pattern at the top of this post I immediately thought “aha! front bustle”, although the pattern actually calls it a peplum. The peplum pattern piece is essentially an extension of the side skirt back pieces which drapes and ties at the front. I love the basque back to the bodice, that deep V waist, and the cunning way the bodice back darts flow on in a straight line into the seams in the skirt which flares out at the back. What a lot of technical talk! I guess all this would be more obvious if I show you line drawing on the back of the envelope and shape of the pattern pieces. Voila:

On a tangent, I know some vintage pattern sellers prefer not to show the back of a pattern in case that provides too much information, eg. the potential buyer might just go away and knock up the garment from the shape of the pieces on the packet. To which I say, if you can knock up something like this which fits from a packet line drawing then I am completely in awe and metaphorically take my hat off to you. There are those of us to whom the pattern design process is the fun bit- mentally drafting the pattern pieces and reverse engineering a garment, and the actual sewing itself is a lot less interesting. And then there are those of us who’d rather have all the pattern design all ready done for us and packed up in an envelope so we can devote our energies to enjoying the actual hands-on sewing, and the choosing of fabric and trims…

Which are you?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 4, 2009 7:44 pm

    The top pattern is very lovely. The rest is a bit too puffy for me, but the top one I would love to wear!

  2. November 4, 2009 11:18 pm

    I think it is important for sellers to show the pattern envelope back. The illustrations on the front invariably show the garment looking chic and becoming, a sort of fantasy best-scenario look. The back illustration shows how it is really constructed, where the darts and seams are, etc, which is probably more important when deciding whether something is worth making or not. I, too, would be in awe of someone who can whip up a pattern from the teeny tiny line drawings on the back.

  3. Nathalie permalink
    November 5, 2009 12:15 am

    I would love to be the former (able to look at a pattern and work out its design on the drawing board), but am definitely the latter. Grading up or down a few sizes is one thing, but re-creating an entire pattern like this one… life is simply too short! And leaving aside the time it would take, how many muslins would you have to go through before you got that bow to fall just right? I’d end up spending a small fortune in muslin!

  4. November 6, 2009 8:26 am

    You caught me there. I looked at the pictures before reading the text and thought “Great! We get the back with the pattern pieces (why do people never do that), and it is a fun one, the back extends to the front, ah, no, it is actually quite simple, I could make that.” Then I read the text.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: