Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Vintage Garment Case Study #1: Brown & Black Gingham

I often find myself in almost a no-man's land when it comes to my love of the clothes of the 1950s and 1960s. Women older than I am often share no such fondness, and women younger than I am often just don't get it — the reference means nothing to them.

But since I was a tot, I have been a fan of the post-war shirtwaist style. This dress, which I may have acquired about 8 or 9 years ago in a New Year's Eve buying frenzy at the Citywide Garage Sale, typifies many construction details I love and that would never be used in a factory today.
The first thing you notice is the bias-cut front button placket, applied to the center front (as opposed to being enclosed in a fold in the front facing, which would be a much more labor-saving method). Look, the button holes are worked on a diagonal!! You could try this on one of your own garments, and use covered buttons, too, like this dress. You could even get the buttons professionally done for a smart look.

As with the Gump Dress, the waist seam is stablized with tape, in this case, rayon seam binding. Clothing was expensive when this dress was made. Clothing was supposed to last.

I think this fabric may be a cotton blend, judging from the absence of bad wrinkles, but I wouldn't know for sure unless I did a burn test. It has a marvelous fit (which would be better if I laid off the blue cheese). There's something on the collar, however (hellooo, applique?) and the left sleeve is faded from closet or shop wear (helloo, cardigan?). This dress used to have a belt, probably a self-fabric belt, but it's long gone now.

Another detail is the snap-in sleeve heads, secured with twill tape, and removable for washing the dress.Too bad there's only one left.

The front skirt has four waist pleats and is joined to a typical two-dart bodice; the back has three gores and is joined to a back bodice that has two small waist pleats handling the dart control. The fact that the back and front are not just cookie cutter, mirror images of each other is another great style choice that would not be repeated in an everyday garment today. It felt wonderful when I put this dress on.

The label inside the back facing reads, "Atlas of Houston," which I think probably was the boutique the dress came from.

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