Dress making

Vogue Pattern Book cover June / July 1957

Shelf Appeal often has dressmaking on the mind. Despite not sewing as much as I used to, I still love all sewing accouterment and any possible opportunity to use the word – or visit a – haberdashery. I watch the Great British Sewing Bee and wish it was me making the difficult Japanese skirt pattern. Those were always my favourite sewing projects, the Issey Miyake ones with twists and turns of seams to delight.

As the sun makes an appearance this summer (not as usual an occurrence as one might think) so dilemmas on dressing for just a few really hot days leave us wilting. To see this Vogue Pattern Book from June / July 1957, one would think dressing for the hot weather wasn’t an issue in the 1950s. This is a celebration of cotton dress dressing and of the status of dressmaking in former years. It is all so very classy.

The cover is a vision of summery style. What a corker of a dress. Gingham is ‘back’ this season but never quite as nicely back as in those 1950s cotton dresses: ‘To greet the summer – a pretty full-skirted dress with cool sleeveless bodice. Use lilac and white checked gingham by Barlow and Jones. From Harrods and Selfridges.’

Barlow and Jones was a Bolton textile manufacturer, so that’s an extra nice touch for the textile historians among us. This cover photo and the shoot inside are by Roger Prigent, a new (fashion photographer) name to me. As well as the cover shoot there are pages of lovely fashion illustrations in here: capri trousers, halterneck sun tops and even dressmaker hats, all drawn with an informal vigour.

It’s a lovely Vogue-ish bi-monthly publication, the pattern book. Pages on ‘Your Holiday Horizon’, ‘Delights of summer for the younger set’ or ‘Mrs Scarsdale advises on Fabric finishes.’ More extensively reported are ‘Delights of summer for Mrs Exeter – Vogue’s older woman.’ For Mrs Exeter ‘dresses play her lead’ at the Chelsea Flower Show and Wimbledon, whilst in relaxed countryside surroundings ‘she has discovered that shirts with denim slacks or shorts are invaluable for her favourite pastime of gardening.’

All of this just makes you want to crack out your sewing machine. Which is exactly the point.

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