tiistai 4. maaliskuuta 2014

Girls' 1920s dress pattern

My local library has had a "Retro Library" exhibition for a while now, documenting the history of the library in different decades. Most recently they've landed in the 1930s and 1920s. One day I stopped to look at the books and all the treasures they had pulled out from their archives and browsed through a 1927 bound volume of Kotiliesi (transl. "the home stove", or "the hearth") which is the very first women's magazine published in Finland. It was first published in 1922 and it's still going strong. I suppose it's a bit like Women's Own or Good Housekeeping, with articles about home, food, life in general, children, marriage, decorating your house, sewing and needlework patterns and a Q&A column (which I found fascinating...).
The 1927 volume had some sewing patterns and I thought to translate them and post them here, in case anyone's interested. NOTE! I have not tested these patterns and cannot vouch for their reliability or anything. I have simply translated the original article and included the pictures.

I think I will ask the library staff if they have other bound volumes of the same magazine from the 1920s and do a series of any nice sewing patterns I can find.

Here's the first one!

(Written for Kotiliesi 1927 by Mary Ollonquist)

All the girls attending public schools also receive sewing and needlecraft instruction and and for such girls, especially if they are of the senior classes, sewing a simple summer dress is not an overwhelming task. On the other hand, girls attending secondary schools often do not receive any kind of needlecraft education and for them sewing an entire summer dress might feel so difficult that they do not dare to undertake it on their own.
I have sometimes arranged courses for young school girls with no needlecraft education and I have noticed that they are very enthusiastic about sewing and with a little guidance and instructions they have been able to produce the prettiest aprons, summer dresses etc. for themselves and even for their sisters. Sewing projects have provided pleasant pastime after the school term has ended, not to mention the economy and the savings that are made with not having to pay someone else for the sewing.

Two dresses one can make with the pattern provided below. The skirts are almost shockingly short, aren't they? Anyway, these two might well be the most stylish school girls ever.

In this article we have enclosed drawn miniature sewing patterns with which one can make girls’ dresses no. 1 and 2. The patterns can easily be enlarged on white rectangular sheets of paper by marking on them all the necessary points according to the indicated measurements and then drawing the joining lines. It is best to draw all the pieces on separate sheets of paper even though they are shown to be drawn very close together or even overlapping to save space. The numbers by the lines always mean the distance between the two closest end points. The patterns are sized for 10 to 12-year-olds. When the patterns have been drawn and cut from paper they have to be compared to the measurements of the individual before cutting the dress fabric.

All the pattern pieces are to be placed leghtwise and vertically on the fabric. When thin fabric such as muslin, chintz etc. is used the skirt piece must be gathered. When stiffer fabrics are used the skirt piece is pleated. If one wants to have a fuller gathered or pleated skirt piece, the skirt piece attached to the back bodice piece must be cut as wide as the front skirt piece. If the sleeve is made long it is cut according to the pattern, for a short sleeve cut the sleeve for example as the dotted line on the sleeve pattern indicates. Both the bodice and the skirt pieces are cut with the fabric folded in two so that the dotted lines marked on the patterns are aligned with the fold on the fabric. For these dresses you will need two full dress lengths for the short sleeved dress and two full dress lengths and the sleeve length for the long sleeved dress.

The pattern pieces for a summer dress for a 10 to 12-year-old. On the right there is a little drawing showing how the pattern pieces are to be assembled.

When starting the sewing the different bodice pieces are first basted together, and also the side seams of the skirt. The skirt is gathered or pleated and pinned on the bodice. The sleeve seam is basted and then the dress is tried on. This is not easy to do alone, so it is good to ask mother or some other older person to help. While sewing it is a good idea to use some old summer dress (for example made by a professional seamstress) as a model to see what sort of seams are used in different places and how for example the neckline and the cuffs are finished.  Examining such a dress helps also in other sewing conundrums which might prove to be too difficult for a beginner seamstress to solve on her own.

When girls take up such a project they often become so enthusiastic about it that they would want to finish the garment right away. Careful and all around neat work is the main thing in making a summer dress – and no girl who has just begun their summer holiday is in such a hurry that she could not finish properly the work she has begun. Therefore all the sewing thread ends must be invisibly fastened off, seams whipped in such a manner that they will not fray after the dress is washed. All the coloured trims must be absolutely straight-edged and equally wide, the fastenings securely attached etc. There are plenty of requirements but actually they are all included in the one requirement that was mentioned above: that of doing a careful job. For it is not very nice having to sew the dress again after it has been first washed – and that has to be done if for example the thread ends are not inserted in the seams.

A couple of words for mothers. Buy your daughters some very cheap summer fabric such as chintz, lyster or other similar fabric and let them try to sew a dress. If the first version does not turn out to be too good, the second try is sure to be better. The price of this education will not then be too expensive and it will surely mean more to awaken the child’s abilities and hone her understanding that one can well manage these kinds of tasks on one’s own.

Next pattern will be a 1920s swimming costume :)

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