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A proper trouser

Bestway woman's trouser sewing pattern 1942

Shelf Appeal can’t get over the disappointment of today’s trousers. All those jeggings, jeans and just plain awful palazzo pants in cheap ‘bright’ nylon fabrics. Jeggings are just tights by another name. Jeans are only nice in dark denim or on James Dean. Palazzo pants were designed for lounging on your cruise ship, otherwise all that fabric is a hazard, and should never be made in anything less than silk.

The women’s trouser to please was designed in the late 1930s and came into its own in the Second World War. This Bestway pattern from around 1942 is for those sorts of trousers, or to name them properly: ‘ladies’ slacks.’ These were based upon men’s trousers. Yet fitted to the woman’s waist (small pleats at the front, darts at the back), generous over the hips, seemly across the gusset area and with pockets. Ahh, pockets.

These were trousers for doing stuff in. If we believe the propaganda, women were digging for victory in trousers like this. Certainly they were stepping into areas of once traditionally male employment in trousers like this.

The top looks to be a simple knit jumper, probably home knitted. Tucked in at the waist for a neat silhouette. The trousers would be made (in the 1940s) in any material to be found. But you can betcha it wouldn’t two-way stretch, whatever it was.

Liberty’s blouses

leaflet advertising Liberty's blouses and smocks

Shelf Appeal has never liked Summer. It is undignified. Far too much bunting related gaiety, outdoorsy organized activity and heat. Nothing for it but to dodge from one spot of shade to the next and dream of Autumn. Sartorially speaking, nothing one wears seems to stay smart in the sun.

This early 1940s leaflet advertising Liberty’s blouses and smocks (and isn’t ‘smock’ an underused word?) makes me feel cooler just looking at it. There is nothing I don’t like about this cover. The typeface. The illustration. Her red lipstick that picks out the red flower on the Sunbeam washing crape Sonja blouse that matches the red skirt that matches the red painted fingernails that match the (surely grosgrain) ribbon on her wide straw hat. And whilst she has very slightly flushed cheeks, it is plain to see she is in no way overheated.

The blouses inside this leaflet have charming names. The Nita ‘note the cute pockets’, the Stella and the Daphne ‘dainty georgette Blouse with elastic gauging’ give way to the Bettine. The smocks answer to Utility, Puck ‘most attractive for house wear’ and Tulip, a ‘three-quarter length Smock in “Golden Bird” silk. Beautifully hand-smocked and scalloped.’

The women in the colour illustrations have very slight lavender tones in their hair, politely suggesting these are blouses and smocks for the mature woman. All the blouses are available in long and short sleeve versions. Most button up high or tie off before any hint of cleavage. The prints are restrained and tasteful in that Liberty way.

This is Summer dressing with dignity and to delight.

Up my street

Up My Street by Louise Lockhart

It is always nice to see people following their passion. Design for Today is a new imprint making very nice things indeed and making them with passion. First off the press was a Bawden and Ravilious Brick House by Alice Pattullo, full of detail for the spotter and aesthetic presence for the collector. Next is this Up My Street concertina book by Louise Lockhart AKA The Printed Peanut. Louise has many nice illustrations in her catalogue but this is for sure my new favourite.

Drawing or engraving shops harks back to 19th century trade cards engraved with an illustration of the establishment in question. Often with crinolined ladies mooching in front of nice big Georgian glass windows before going in to purchase. Through to 1938 and Eric Ravilous’s High Street, the most wanted item on many a book & illustration fetishist’s list. Including mine.

Up My Street nods and winks to the shops in those older works. But it has it’s own story to tell. From the David Hockney-esque chap at the beginning of the street, past the (handy) Ironmongers, the Monte Carlo café serving ice cream to a stripy-jumpered customer, stopping to gaze in the sweet shop window, collect washing and to pat the dog in the Launderette and finally dodging pigeons outside the Bakers to get cakes for tea. On the reverse are the shopkeepers themselves, rosy cheeked and accompanied by odes to their trades.

So much thought and love and Printed in England care has gone in to this production. Design For Today suggests you can read this as a book, put it on the mantelpiece or frame it up. I am putting mine on the shelf.

The stationer’s shop


Illustrations of shops and shopping pull me in like a magnet. Historical ones. New ones. I like them in a book especially.

The Ladybird book Shopping with Mother was opened here previously. It was one of my favorite books as a child. It still is. And other books have since followed like the cheap (and questionably reproduced) version of High Street by Ravilious, as well as more learned tomes on the history of shops and shopping. And those local history gems, full of snapshots and postcards someone has collected up of local shops and street scenes. Like Going up Town: Shopping in Oldham.

My Book of Shops is a mathematics book, dressed up as a picture book, disguised as a book on shops. I love the cover. It shows Tom and Betty and Mack the dog arriving on the shopping scene. On their right a most intriguing looking toyshop offers up its wares, over there a teashop beckons. And everyone has a basket. But the more exciting page is The Stationer’s Shop with everything from satchels, purses and pencils to Gloy glue, best rubbers and paper labels similar to the ones I just wrote about on this very blog. And a rather handsome stationer behind the counter.

The book is written by the duo Hume, E.G. & Wheeler, E.C and has illustrations by Cicely Steed – who has a respectable back catalogue but on whom no information can be found by me. This is, apparently the 4th book in the Kingsway picture arithmetics series, authored by the two initial-loving authors. There was a My Book of Sums, My picture Book of Sums and a Second Book of Sums. Presumably by the 4th they had decided pictures and a story might liven up interest. It looks to be a 1950s book, perhaps a reprint. The book is quite specific in its instructions: ‘You must have a box of cardboard money to help you work out the bills. If you haven’t any cardboard money, you could easily make some out of brown paper, thin cardboard and silver paint.’

There is no doubt in my mind The Stationer’s Shop stocked all three.

Friends in high (book) places have helped to date this book a little better. In the above stationery shop image, to the left of the proprietor, is a distinctively-coloured set of books for 6d. Apparently these are likely to be Penguin books: fiction in orange, biographies in dark blue, drama in red and Pelicans in light blue. This dates the imagery (and at a push the book too) to between 1937 and 1942 when the price of said Pelicans crept up to 9d.

My book of Shops 1950s arithmetic book

Friends in Denmark

Denmark travel leaflet 1957

As Shelf Appeal contemplates yet another trip to Copenhagen, travel research becomes important. Most pre-trip research is undertaken online these days. But in 1957 they were explaining how to ‘Meet four million friends in Denmark’, and how could you refuse an offer like that?

This leaflet cover uses the fuzzy-felt school of graphics. One I am very fond of. It is even signed: Jyt Jerslev. But, and this is no surprise, there is nothing much to be found online about the artist or the history of felt picture making or even the history of felt. And it is such a nice fabric, felt. The Scandinavian felt clog or slipper might be a common sighting in interiors magazines these days but the provenance of the stuff is pretty much a cold trail.

The tone of this leaflet, like the smiling cover stars, is decidedly upbeat. It quotes the Daily Telegraph on Denmark: ‘Comfort and good food at low cost. You will have abundant fun in Denmark and oh! The Danes are so overwhelmingly kind and friendly’. It’s all about the flowers, stripy clothes (early Marimekko, surely?), arguments over small dogs. And a big old welcome.

The centre spread of the leaflet consists of photographs of suitably bucolic scenery, ye olde buildings and lots more smiling children and youth. Presumably some of your four million new friends?

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