Friday, 4 November 2011

Simplicity Autumn/Winter 1958

So back in July we had a group flick through my copy of the 1958 Spring/Summer Simplicity catalogue. Back in July, my main (sewing) concern seemed to be whether or not my arse is too big for playsuits. Four months later, the season where I wear all my clothes at once is fast approaching. Each Autumn (AKA, Fall) I endeavour that this approaching Winter will be the one where I figure out how to dress warmly AND stylishly. And then I get so cold that I pile everything on top of each other again and jettison that all sense of style as usual until April. Now we are in Autumn, and so far I flatter myself that I've been dressing most cohesively (for me) and with a retro flavour whilst out and about. Can even a scrap of this continue into Winter? Let's see how sexy home-sewers in 1958 rocked the chilly-season and look for clues of how to implement awesome retro elements whilst keeping toasty...

Let's start with a closer look at the incredible coat pictured on the front cover. I'm not entirely convinced by the starched trapeze-line of the coat's skirt part, but the gathered bust (who knew that was possible in thick wool?!), Peter Pan collar, grown-on 3/4 sleeves, self-covered buttons and self-bow detail and all making me feel a little faint. Those are basically all my favourite garment details, and here they are all piled on to the same garment. Yet somehow it doesn't look too cluttered or over-designed. Maybes this means I can be a bit more adventurous when conjuring up style ideas for potential garments. Maybes more is actually more!

Want. Want. Want. Want. etc etc... If you can look past the inherent sexism, racism, homophobia and the rest of it, the 1950's really were the days, weren't they?! When buttons like those pictured above were available in every city. As these illustrated laydeez are showing us, simple fuss-free garments provide the perfect canvas for successful fancy button-usage. I have a some fantastic buttons of this ilk in my stash, but I tend to have only one or maybe three of any kind. Need to spend some time figuring out how I can incorporate them into garments. Has anyone designed and made a garment, the initial starting point of which was the buttons, rather than the fabric or the pattern? I may try that as an experiment.

Confession time: I regularly, and for many years, have had a recurring day-dream about waking up in the 1950's and immediately go fabric shopping and get seriously decent quantities of incredible prints in their wild colours before time made them fade. But then I freak myself out with the possibility that, having bought the fabric, I am unable to leave the 1950's and get stuck there. The day-dream always stops at this point, but I guess I would go and try to convince my nan and grandad to let me live with them, and hang out with my mum even though she's only eight. Anyway, the fabric of this coat would definately be in the pile I'd buy. I'm surprised to see a coat in such a print actually: I thought that type of print would be reserved for furnishings, or cotton day dresses. Outerwear really doesn't need to be plain and boring. That double collar is a thing of wonder too, isn't it? Makes my mind reel with construction questions!

I know I spent a fair bit of time perving over boxy little jackets such as this whilst checking out the Spring/Summer catalogue, but this is such a beaut, it needed to be included in the Autumn/Winter highlights. I've long been a fan of the simple patch pocket, I added them onto my yellow jacket and my more recent Captain jacket, but I don't recall adding buttons to them as well. The gold buttons are a bit like my Captain jacket's though, aren't they?

This lovely lady is teaching us that you can go out on the razzle whilst keeping relatively warm. Who needs heaps of exposed flesh to look attractive? A well-fitting bodice in lovely fabric with a couple of well-considered details (like the self-bow here, how many have we seen in this catalogue now?) and accessories, and you can look really special. This dress above is inspiring me to try making a wiggle dress with 3/4 sleeves (like Evie's) and bow detail (like Casey's). Not that I need another 'going out' dress, but maybes if the right fabric comes along. I'd like to think I'd wear such a dress in the daytime, but I know that would never happen.

Um, HOW hot is that silver fox she's hanging with?! Agh! I can hardly take it. He's like Roger Stirling and Don Draper all rolled into one. Mmmm.... Oh wait, there's a dress in this picture too! Oh, and it has an amazing scallop neckline, elegant grown-on sleeves and a well-propertioned contrast bow detail. No wonder he's sticking around.

One thing I noticed about this catalogue is how many of the designs have features like Peter Pan collars and statement bows that many people today might consider trends for younger women and girls, but are worn by grown women in these images (as indicated my the dashing gentlemen accompanying them, who are definately not their dads!). I find that really interesting. So many of the styles prescribed for teenagers and 'sub-teens' during the 1950's effectively made them look like mini-adults. Yet here there is almost the reverse. Another thing is, it doesn't look properly cold in these images does it?! Did women really wear 3/4 sleeved coats and little gloves with inches of bare wrist-flesh during the coldest months? And fine sheer tights? Did they stay indoors between November and April? I wish I had that option, I'd get an awful lot of sewing done!

12 comments:

Hearth said...

I seem to remember my mother mentioning that pants were only allowed at school when the weather went below freezing, and even then weren't encouraged....

christine said...

i'm totally in love with the last two dresses! thanks for sharing these. they are totally inspiring!

Dora said...

My mom wore miniskirts with sheer hose in the winter in the late sixties/early seventies, in freezing, snowy Bucharest. She says they wore what they thought they had to, like most women do always. She remembers walking with friends once and one of the girls actually peeing herself in the middle of the street, they were so cold. Charming feminine fashions, huh?

Dora said...

My mom wore miniskirts with sheer hose in the winter in the late sixties/early seventies, in freezing, snowy Bucharest. She says they wore what they thought they had to, like most women do always. She remembers walking with friends once and one of the girls actually peeing herself in the middle of the street, they were so cold. Charming feminine fashions, huh?

Xenia Kathryn said...

I might have to take the 1970s route to staying warm during the winter. Lots of turtlenecks beneath cute pinafores, wide-leg trousers (great for lining with flannel or wearing with warm boots underneath) and feminine blazers.

A gorgeous, long coat never hurt anyone though :) These are lovely! That print on the coat in the photo of the girl and artist? Incredible!

Have you ever considered trying "DIY December", or something like "Me Made May" during the colder months? It'd be an interesting (and trickier) challenge!

Tanit-Isis said...

I also love the details of that first coat (although I have to admit, nothing with 3/4 sleeves is even remotely practical in what I call winter---not unless you want to lose skin). And I love your 50s daydream, including how it ends! ;)

I achieve moments of winter style glory, and it's easier now that I have an awesome winter coat, but it's still hit or miss. And when it hits the temperatures where your eyelashes frost up, well, there's just something not terribly stylish about that look regardless what else you're wearing...

Another Sewing Scientist said...

Yeah, I find it hard to believe that anyone in Canada ever wore 3/4 length sleeves in winter. This is our idea of sexy winter outerwear:
http://kanuk.ca/fr/01_femmes/01_09_longs.html

BTW, I have a reoccuring dream with variations that I call my "treasure finding dream". It's usually finding something amazing hidden in someplace I've never noticed before, and sometimes it's fabric. You know you're a sewing nerd when.....

MrsC said...

Love the clothes but I luaghed out loud at the poses! Those silly splayed stances! That first coat is deeevine. I love how it is cut just a little fitting before it flares out. Easy enough to extend the sleeves!
it does all seem a bit much here though, where we are in late spring and the weather is starting to warm up considerably. and I'm hauling light cottons and linens out of my stash to make up...

Roisin Muldoon said...

Those dresses! I agree with Mrs C about the poses though, how hilarious!

Hillary said...

Ha yeah, the whole exposed forearm flesh midwinter is so charming for home sewists in Spain and California, but for you and me, I think we can rock all these looks with woolly tights and elbow gloves for daily life- and I think the adrenaline or endorphins or whatever take the place of woolly tights layers at extra special events anyway, like when silver fox drives us to symphony in his car with seat warmers.

Buttons. As a child I had a prized button collection from my seamstress grandmother & mother's castoffs; I gave them all names and backstories. The tupperware containing them was found in my mother's house a few years ago and I've been trying to incorporate them into things subtly. But they're mostly singles, so slow going. Good fun though.

I think the only garment I made buttons-up was my black wool pin-dot CP Parfait- with these wonderful vintage buttons- that was a long time ago though. I have designed many more things in my head with buttons as starting point than I ever actually made, I'm afraid. But then that goes for everything.

Jess said...

I could feel myself forgetting to breath as I looked down these pictures, all of them I WANT!!!! Sigh my sewing skills have a long way to go . . . .

http://pinkindielondon.blogspot.com/

threadsquare said...

I have never known how to look stylish in winter. When I try, I freeze, or risk going ass over tits on the icy sidewalk. When I'm warm, toasty and can trudge safely, it's def not a sexy look. At all. Would only all the sidewalks be cleared of ice, salt, sand, snow, 3/4 sleeves and long gloves be practical, muffs not get dirty on the bus/train!

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