Friday, April 20, 2018

1950s Cocktail Dresses

Most agree cocktail dresses reached their height in the 1950s. After the end of World War II, a surge in the popularity of "at-home" cocktail parties created the need for women to have a short dress suitable for more formal occasions - in essence, a short version of an evening gown. Dior is said to have first coined the phrase "cocktail dress" in the late 1940s. 

French designers released cocktail-specific dresses. Less expensive ready-to-wear dresses were eagerly embraced by American women. A great many sewing patterns for cocktail dresses were also produced in the 1950s. High fashion was now available to everyone.

Cocktail parties helped define women's roles as wives and hostesses. They were also a means to promote or further their husband's career.

The beauty of most 1950s cocktail dresses is the design of pleating, ruching, folds and gathers. 

There are two main cocktail dress styles: the bouffant skirt dress and the sheath dress. The full skirted dresses were always worn with a petticoat or two. The sheath dresses were slim around the body. The hourglass silhouette of both styles required the wearing of bullet bras, waist-cinchers, corselets and girdles.

By the mid-1960s, formal dress for cocktail parties began to give way to more casual attire. By the late 60s - 1970s, hostesses wore a "hostess dress" - a full length dress with a simpler design than those of the 1950s. Hostess dresses are sometimes called patio dresses as cocktail parties moved outdoors.

The Pattern Patter Team on etsy offers a large variety of cocktail dress patterns. 

Row One: 
McCall's 4357 @ BluetreeSewingStudio
Vogue 199 @ ViennasGrace
McCall's 3781 @ Redcurlzs
McCall's 6044 @ CloesCloset

Row Two
Vogue 4218 @ VintagePatternStore
Vogue 1881 @ VogueVixens
Butterick 7648 @ TheTinThimble
McCall's 3827 @ ThePatternSource

Row Three
Butterick 6095 @ FindCraftyPatterns
Butterick 5557 @ PurplePlaidPenguin
Modes Royale 1883 @ kinseysue
McCall's 4417 @ honeymoonbus

Row Four
Vogue 4963 @ sewbettyanddot
Butterick 5557 @ retroactivefuture
Modes Royale 1749 @ stitchingbynumbers
Advance 110 @ SewAsItWasPatterns

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sewing Tips for New Sewers - It's National Sewing Month!

September is National Sewing Month! Can't sew, you say?

It can be disheartening to be a beginner at anything. Your eyes and taste are far above your skill set. You want that killer bombshell cocktail dress. For beginners, many patterns are too difficult. Recognize that your ability is limited but will improve.

Nowadays we have the internet where many blogs, tutorials and sew-alongs are available.  Pattern companies also offer help - the last time I was at a pattern store, I noticed the Simplicity help sign. To start with, pick a simple project, such as a pillow. Back when girls had to take Home Ec, their project was an apron. Both are easy to make and you don't need a pattern.

Make it your goal to learn at least one new skill with your projects. If your pillow seams are not straight, practice again.  Each completed project will give you confidence to add a new skill. It can be discouraging at first. If you find yourself in over your head, don't give up. The old adage "practice makes perfect" truly does apply. You need to be realistic and accept some failures.

Use those failures as a stepping stone to your goal - that bombshell dress! Until you reach that level, select "Easy-to-Sew" patterns. Bear in mind that many, if not most, vintage patterns assumed our grandmothers and great-grandmothers knew how to sew and to sew well. Beginning about 1950 - 1960, companies began to include more simplified instructions with more diagrams. Also, a great many vintage patterns are made of pre-cut, plain tissue with letters or piece names punched into each piece. This can be overwhelming to new sewer. Add this goal to your list.

I overhead an excellent tip at an estate sale recently. A mother and her teenage daughter were browsing the sewing items and the mom reached for a large bag of sewing notions. She turned to her daughter, who had an armload of fabric, and told her that she should use some of the zippers and oddly cut pieces of fabric as practice. What a thrifty idea - bags of sewing notions and fabric (usually not vintage) are easy to find at sales as well as at thrift stores and are generally low priced.

Fabric panels are often easy to sew. At back to school time, many early childhood teachers buy school-themed fabric and make chair covers for their students. These covers are rectangles and again, require no pattern. Seasonal panels are also available. Make a door decoration, wall hanging, banner or holiday pillow. As your skill improves, graduate to other panels. Christmas panels are already out at Hobby Lobby. Most of these contain easy to follow directions.

By taking incremental steps, you can teach yourself to sew. Think of it as going to school - you build on prior knowledge as you pass through the grades. Remember to use the vast resources of the internet to help you if you have no seamstress to call upon.

The Pattern Patter Team on offers a wide variety of patterns for beginners to experienced sewers.

Here is a small sampling of the many Easy-to-Sew patterns offered by our Professional Pattern Sellers. All of the patterns we offer have been checked for completeness so you may shop with confidence.

To see more information about these patterns, please click on the shop name below the collage.

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HeathersSewingStoreWitsEndDesigns; VogueVixens; sandritocat

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