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Jun 19, 2013

Those Fabulous Forties Suit Patterns!



Friends, if you love vintage patterns as I do, you probably have your own favorite category -- maybe it's Fifties cocktail dresses, WWII-era aprons, or Thirties lounging pajamas.   (Parenthetically, one of the fun things about Pinterest is seeing what other people are into, like Laura Mae's shoe fetish!)

My tastes change with the seasons, but my latest obsession is Forties women's suit patterns.  I love Forties women's suits, and if you want to see some lovely ones, check out my 1940's Suits Pinterest folder.  Stuff like this Gilbert Adrian creation:



Naturally, commercial sewing patterns tended to be a little less elaborate -- but only a little!  There are some smashing looks, and if my eyes hold out long enough, I might even whip up one for Cathy.  My favorite Forties women's suits have super-wide shoulders, nipped waists, and very narrow skirts.

Every pattern company offered some variation of the tailored suit, but McCall's are the most beautiful in my opinion (with Advance winning first-runner-up)Maybe it's just the pattern artwork.  Whatever happened to the days when the flowers on your hat matched your handbag?















 















The mid Forties is my favorite period.  By the late Forties/early Fifties suits, the silhouette changed considerably -- tinier waists, softer shoulders, wider hips -- what we tend to define as more "feminine" (inspired by Dior's "New Look").  Chacun son goût I always say.

Here's a little secret: most Forties suit patterns are still relatively affordable (less than $20), primarily (I suspect) because nobody wants to make them.   BTW, if you want to see some fabulous Forties suits (both his and hers), check out His Girl Friday.  The funniest film with the best tailoring ever.



There are still tailored suit patterns available today but, I don't know, something's missing: glamour, excitement, veils...



Readers, in closing, do you, too, have a thing for Forties suit patterns -- or Forties suits?

What's your idea of the best vintage pattern category EVER?

Have a great day, everybody!

30 comments:

  1. I'm with you!! I LOVE 40s (and 50s) suit patterns!! Of course any pattern from 1940 McCall is my crazy vintage pattern obsession :-)

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    1. Yes, we know, Debi, and we're staging an intervention any day now. ;)

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  2. i'm in love with vintage baby layette sewing patterns and baby wear embroidery transfer patterns pre 1970; i have about 50 layette patterns. The artwork is simply divine. You can see my layette sewing pattern collection here:http://www.flickr.com/photos/suziwong66/sets/72157629188031408/

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    1. Wow! I always wondered who bought those...

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    2. I also love vintage baby sewing patterns. I bought some patterns for toddlers from the 70's and 60's. One in particular is my favorite and easy to make. I rarely sew clothes, but have been making lots of this style dress. I am learning how to do button holes from this pattern.

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  3. 1940's suits are so elegant. My particular pattern fetish is 1950's halter necks! x

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    1. A friend of mine made her wedding dress from a halter neck vintage pattern. She just lengthened it. It looked lovely. Simple but she used an expensive fabric and elegant accessories.

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  4. I love them in theory, but alas my body shape and desire for loose fitting clothes wins out! I guess I'll just continue to admire the artwork and style from afar...way afar!:-)

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  5. I'm in law and collect (and sew and wear) suit patterns from the 50s to mid 60s. Though I have a few from the 40s too - just love those shoulders and clean jacket lines!

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  6. But what about Letty Lynton ... those clothes I adore!! I love His Girl Friday, but Letty Lynton and Joan Crawford as Letty Lynton is just devine! :)
    When I think of fabulous movie clothes, I think Letty Lynton.
    (Although I don't remember her wearing any suits ...)

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  7. I love the cut of mccalls 6069 & 6408 and the vogue special desing, I may draft a blazer similar to this in the future but all of them look so classy :)

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  8. I don't collect patterns of any kind. A nice person gave me a bunch of ugly 70s patterns that I finally threw out (hopefully some garbage scavenger rescued them). I don't need more clutter, especially as it is unlikely that any styles would fit right out of the package.

    Strictly in terms of style, I prefer prefer the Edwardian era and the 20s. The latter especially combines a level of surface detail and an easy silhouette that I find satisfying and wearable.

    I can see how some of the 1940s patterns could be translated for modern businesswomen, but think it would be easier to make torso slopers with waist and princess darts and work from there. A number of them don't have collars, which would make execution easier. Still, you'd need very decent tailoring skills.

    I love His Girl Friday, but I'd rather have Cary Grant's suits than Rosalind Russell's. They look a tad cartoonish. The Adrian suit is just silly. The model looks as if she'll sweep everything off the next table she passes by.

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  9. They all look fabulous in the retro illustrations. Of course, the photo illustrations of today are a tad more realistic. They all remind me of Mom. She never weighed more than 95 lbs.!

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  10. Yes! 1940s suits are my weakness! (Okay, I'll be honest: I love many suits from the 1930s and '50s, too.) And the McCall sketches are so evocative. They are my favorite pattern illustrations. Looking through my 1940s patterns I see I have examples from early, mid- and late '40s. I really go for the shoulder definition. Your saying that "nobody wants to make them" made me sit up and realize that I've made only one '40s jacket pattern--McCall 4065 from 1941, the "Misses' Mannish Jacket," but have made it four times. It's swell. I owe it to myself to sew my other '40s jacket patterns. They take work but are worth it.

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  11. I have the top mccall 6408 and a simplicity 2315 that's a dead ringer for your mccall 5601 both in a 34 bust. I have no plans to make them. I just wouldn't ever wear it.

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  12. nope, not a fan--they look very hard-edged and rigid to me. I prefer styles from the 1930s.

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  13. I'm almost drooling as I look over these pattern envelopes. They look so sophisticated. Not really perfect summer-wear (especially with a girdle), but lovely to look at. Personally, my pattern collection is a hodgepodge of random time-periods and styles. I'll say I'm open-minded when it comes to vintage patterns, since that sounds better than lacking a signature personal style.

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  14. I really like them, but that could be both because I have a ton of hats that would go very well with them (my favorite hat style) but also because they remind me of my grandmother, a very put-together woman. Personally I lean more toward the ones that have a defined waist, but that's probably because I have more of a typical 50's hourglass silhouette and without the nipped-in waist I can look kind of shapeless. That asymmetrical Vogue pattern (3rd from top) and the Hollywood pattern with the peplum bottom on the jacket are gorgeous.

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  15. Actually yes, but very few people can wear them. In movies they look great on the actresses, but in reality, and in many of my vintage photographs of the 40's they did not look that great on the average woman, and they were even slimmer than today. They seemed to favor the tall slender youthful woman. The clothing that I like, but is not wearable goes way, way back in time.

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  16. Oh 1940s McCall pattern how I adore thee!! Why, oh why why why, doesn't McCall release a line of Vintage patterns as well? I would do unspeakable things to have them release some of their patterns. As for my collecting, it is all over the place as I usually only buy thrifted and estate sale patterns. However, I do love 60s clothes, especially little Jackie O suits.

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  17. While the suits of the 1940s are gorgeous, they are not very friendly to a short woman with an hourglass-pear shape! *LOL*

    Although most people identify specific eras for fashions, reality is that many--particularly middle class and lower--women still wore various 1940s styles well into the 1950s. Suits were investment pieces and were updated with accessories and occasionally refashioned, when possible.


    Taja

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  18. I love the 40s suits! I really want to make one someday, and then I'll really feel like Nancy Drew. I think this was 1939, but I just finished The Mystery of the Tolling Bell, with this suit on the cover: http://newportvintagebooks.com/images/books/childrens/series_girls/ND23_TollingBell.jpg

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  19. I love 1940s suits more than anything, not only for their looks but for what they represented. They represented a newly recognized strength when, because so many men were away at war, women left their kitchens and went out into the world to do what needed to be done. We did it damned well. Those famous shoulders carried the weight of a nation! Then, within a few years of the end of The War, we let it all slip away. Back to the kitchen, sloping shoulders, poufy skirts, institutionalized domesticity; I could go on but it starts to make me angry.

    Getting back to fashion, hats matched gloves and handbags matched shoes most of the time.

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  20. Some of the jackets without lapels or with a little shawl collar look like jackets from the '90s or even later. I'm pretty sure there's a Vogue pattern with a jacket very similar to the McCall's 7550. The built in wearing ease is probably much different though. I like looking at vintage patterns from the '40s and '50s but I'm glad I don't have to wear them. Much, much, much too tight.

    As far as fashion eras go, I like the late '60s into the '70s. Not the polyester pants suits, (the horror!) but the workwear/ folkwear influenced styles. It was in the '70s that many more women shucked off their girdles and long-line bras for good because clothes in general had a more relaxed fit.

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  21. This post is kismet. I have spent the last month checking out suit patterns on ebay before finally deciding on a 50s McCalls pattern. http://www.etsy.com/listing/102619612/great-1957-mccalls-two-piece-suit-4388 Time to learn how to make buttonholes!
    By rights I probably have the "right" build for the 40s suit (think tall and skinny like Lauren Bacall rather than Liz Taylor or Sofia Loren) but I would rather less shoulders/more feminine to counter balance my height.

    I haven't seen His Girl Friday in years. Cary Grant was such a versatile actor, I love him in comedic roles.

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  22. love them, love them, love them

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  23. http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/his_girl_friday

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  24. I'm in love with Vogue 1019 and really want to make it soon, even it my body style (think pear shaped) won't necessarily work with it, I just love that look and the little bustle in the back of the jacket makes me so happy when looking at the pattern. Not sure what fabric I would try to use, however, maybe a heavy linen, rather than the gaberdine that's recommended. For sure it will be a muslin first, so once that's made, I'm hoping to have a better feel for the final fabric choice.

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  25. I love forties suits and wish I had a wardrobe of them. I do have a photo album full of pictures of my mother wearing them (including a very Lauren Bacall-ish checked suit with spectator pumps) when she was in her early 20s; she was neither tall nor thin but still looked gorgeous.

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  26. I love forties suits and have many photos of my mother wearing them (including a Lauren Bacall-ish checked number with spectator pumps) when she was in her early 20s. She was neither tall nor thin but looked gorgeous in suits.

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