I've always — and I mean always — loved the styles and silhouettes from the 1950s and 1960s. And when I was but a lass in the 80s, discarded clothing from those eras was still plentiful and mostly cheap to get in vintage stores, thrift stores, and yard sales. How I miss Purple Heart, Mr. Peabody's, and Flashback, in Houston, Dressed to Kill in Austin, Garage in Berlin, Alice Underground in New York. All gone now.
At some point, I acquired a vintage pattern at Flashback. It was for a full slip and printed in the early 1950s (I still have it). I made a slip out of electric blue pima cotton and wore it under a black voile Nelly Don dress. Then about 1988, someone gave me a pattern for a mini-dress from about 1967 and I made it out of purple and green polkadot print cotton. I found a bunch of old patterns at Family Thrift in Austin around that same time. Then, I bought a bunch more at an estate sale from two, never-married sisters on Dancy Street (as well as an armload of 1950s dresses).
I'm not sure what happened after that. I think something called eBay came on the scene, and even in its early days, you could pick up a lot of old patterns for less than a dollar each. I have a lot of vintage patterns now. They're not all amazing designs, but I love them just the same. Used to be, I got a lot of funny looks when I said I collected old sewing patterns. Not anymore!
This year at sewing camp with Sandra Betzina, I've got even more company than usual in Vintageland.
This is Lyn, and she's saying, "Oh, I'm only folding my lining!" She's one of my best buds from sewing camp over the years and a veteran of the Betzina week. She loves 1940s silhouettes best, but is making an Eva Dress pattern that's reprinted from a Claire McCardell design. Lyn has that fantastic gift of knowing exactly what looks good on her, and stays with it. Her dress, intended for a big event in the fall, will be made out of her beloved blue, and I know it's gonna be smashing as always.
This is Catherine, and she's making a 1960s sheath. Look how happy she is, and I would be, too, if I could make a dress straight out of the envelope! Catherine's learning fast how to take a flat pattern fantasy and turn it into three-dimensional fabulousness.
Here's Jenni. She's in high school. Before this class, she made a dress out of playing cards, another out of newspaper sheets, and an outfit out of Duck Brand duct tape. Jennie's Project Runway material all the way. She sews at lightning speed. She made a formal Vogue dress out of camo print twill (whereas most of us would have picked a boring satin-weave something or other) and plans to embellish it with faux jewels. Here she's working on a polka-dot dress that will have a chenilled bodice. Jenni told me that her favorite silhouette for women is the 1950s.
To Lyn's and Sandra's left, Alden of BurdaStyle is busy tracing off a new copy of her vintage Advance pattern, which she told me was rescued from the trash somewhere in Brooklyn. She, too, is an unapologetic lover of straight up vintage styles.
She bought these great buttons from "the button lady," who comes every sewing camp and sells us unique buttons of every description. While she and fellow BurdaStyle co-worker Carol were out today on company business, I snapped this photo of her pattern and buttons.
In previous years, most of of my fellow students have been interested in everything from tailoring to jeans, but never vintage patterns, so it's been good fun to meet these shirtwaisted sisters from another mother this year!