Category Archives: 1940s

early1930s

A Primer: 1930’s-1950’s Trousers & Pants For Women

One of the most desired, and often most misunderstood, articles in the vintage wardrobe are the trousers.

Today I’m going to delve a little bit into the basics of the transition of trousers from the 1930’s through the 1950s.  It’s a quick overview so I’m not touching on everything, but it will give you a good starting point!

- A Beginning -

Women and trousers.  It’s a love affair in modern times, but was it in the past?  Well, no- actually.  If you remember good ol’ Amelia Bloomer, she caused quite the scandal by sporting bifurcated garments in the Victorian era.  They called it “Dress Reform”.  It was a fad that wasn’t with the majority, but it did continue in some form or another.  Enter the 1890’s, and there’s bicycling bloomers for women.  Some daring women even start wearing trousers for riding. In the American West, and at places where there were adventures seeking new discovery, women wore pants with more frequency.  They even had a short-lived popularity during the Great War, when women helped out at home (much like they would again in WWII), but it was not widely accepted.

Enter the 1920’s and the “flapper”.  Pajamas are all the rage- in the boudoir and by the seaside.  Some daring women even started wearing men’s trousers.  Was it accepted by the majority?   Definitely not.  But they started gaining in popularity thanks to the seaside, the boudoir, and the new collegiate co-eds!

- The 1930’s -

The 1930’s is when we really see women in trousers get their stride. It was still not accepted by the majority in the early part of the 1930’s.  In fact, studios used to try to keep Kate Hepburn from wearing them between sets in Hollywood, because the photographers would snap her over the studio gates and it was still “shocking”.  But, really, the resorts and the young set, the Hollywood sirens, and the wealthy, are what caused the trousers to catch on.

They were not widely worn, but by the mid 1930’s it was acceptable for wear for sportswear.  They’re mostly seen on campus, at the resort, and in other places if you lived in the warmer climates like Southern California or Florida.  Cannes was a big place for wearing trousers.  How daring!

early1930s

The first half, we see very loosely fitted trousers.  The images above are from 1934.   The “rise” (that is, crotch length), was EXTREMELY low.  Think M.C. Hammer.  Seriously.  Sometimes down to your knees!  Notice here, these are mostly for sporty summer wear.  That is quite common in the 1930s. You don’t often see them “dressed up”, and if you do, it’s usually on the wealthy.

late1930sIn the second half of the 1930’s, trousers really start going crazy.  In 1939 it seemed everyone wanted them, and they were here to stay!  There were lounging ones, playing ones, work ones, beach ones, pajamas… and sometimes even dinner outfits.  The late 1930’s is playful, and trousers fit in perfectly with that ideal.  The image on left is from 1938, and the image on right from 1939.  Still notice, they have the very loose fit.  Trousers were NOT meant to hug your butt.  They really wanted them to fit like a skirt- skimming your hips and rear loosely, then falling to a low crotch, and splitting into a bifurcated garment.

early1940s

This image is from 1942, and this is what most of us think of when we think of vintage women’s trousers or pants.  They’re still for active wear, primarily.  You don’t often see them dressed up.  In some areas women were shunned if they wore pants.  In other areas (including California), they were more widely accepted and sometimes even worn to church- which shocked quite a few (or, so I read, in a 1939 Vogue magazine).

For your WWII impressions, you’ll want a look like these.  Are they suitable for every occasion?  No, if you want to be accurate. But for war work, home front work, gardening, the beach, or for collegiate looks they fit in great!  I wear them all the time in my day to day vintage inspired looks, because I’m honestly not trying to look like I’m out of a time machine- I just want to wear what I like.  But if accuracy is your thing, take heed and consider where you live and what your activity is if you want to wear vintage trousers for WWII impressions.

late1940s

The mid-late 1940’s were all about teen culture.  Swing music was here to stay, and fashion followed the teen trends.  Here we’ve got three girls wearing teen styles.  Women’s trousers for other age groups followed similar lines but were a bit more conservative in tone.  Notice we’re getting the narrower legs as we move to the late 1940’s.  I’m 33, and I’d totally wear all of these outfits, unashamedly.

Also, take note- it’s the first time we see jeans as we think of them now!  Previously, women would have slacks in similar lines to the trousers I pictured made in denim (think my Smooth Sailing trousers), but by the mid 1940’s women had their own version of jeans like the men wore.  Previously, most women would wear men’s jeans if they wanted dungarees.  If we can’t have it, we’ll wear our brother’s until you give up our own. Worked with trousers, and it worked with jeans :)

1950spants

Move into the 1950’s and things get slim.  Some trousers still followed the lines of the late 1940’s one on the far left, that I posted above, but most started getting really narrow legs.  We still don’t have the higher crotch point, like with modern pants (which you’ll notice if you look at the pictures above), but we started moving it a bit upward.   It’s the predecessor of the skinny jean- but mixed with the longer crotch length.  It’s an… interesting… fit ;)

- Let’s Get Technical -

So, what is “Sanforized”?  You may see this on a bunch of old catalog description, and sometimes even printed and woven on old labels.  It is NOT a fabric.  It is NOT a weave.  It’s a PROCESS.  It’s basically pre-shrinking your fabric by treating it.  Sometimes it’s done before sewing, sometimes it’s done after sewing.  This is still a widely used process in the textile industry on natural and cellulose based fibres.

What are “Mannish” or “Man-Tailored” slacks?  These terms were used interchangeably throughout the 1930’s and the 1940’s.  This just means they were a little more tailored- and usually followed the line of men’s trousers of the time.  Women’s trousers, however, almost always fastened up the side instead of the front until you get to the mid 1940s, and even then, it was most common for them to fasten at the side.  You do see them with front fastenings in some snapshots of the 1930’s, but these were usually actual men’s trousers, rather than women’s trousers.  Girls wore them.  Now, boys wear girl’s pants (kidding… kind of).  By the late 1950’s, you see front fastening, back fastening, and side fastening trousers.

What are Dungarees?  Dungarees and Jeans are basically the same thing.  It depends, really, on where you live.  Most people think of Dungarees or Jeans as the casual workwear trousers with topstitching details and pockets- the predecessor of today’s jeans or denim.  Denim is the weave of cotton that jeans or dungarees are made from.  It’s a twill weave and often thicker and sturdier than other twill weaves.  But Dungaree is also a fabric!  The difference between dungaree and denim is when they are dyed.  Dungaree fabric is dyed and then woven, and denim is woven and then dyed.

Now, let’s look at the Rise…

The easiest way to do this is through looking at vintage patterns and their pieces.

PATTERNS1

riseguide

PATTERNS2

Check that out!  See the blue line across the middle?  That shows where all other rises compare with 1930’s rise (crotch length).

Does that explain why your vintage trousers don’t hug your butt the way you expected?

So, long story short- don’t expect to sew from a vintage pattern, or buy original vintage trousers, and have them fit like modern pants.  There’s more to them than the length and leg width!

For a momentary little ad from me… this is why I took SO LONG drafting the Smooth Sailing trousers.  This was originally a pattern and now  can be pre-ordered as ready to wear clothing well.  I was very familiar with the problems of vintage trousers.  They just don’t fit in a way that’s comfortable and flattering to most modern women because of what we’re now accustomed to wearing and seeing.  Because of this, I drafted the Smooth Sailing trousers to be a mid-point between mid-1930’s and modern fit.  They’ve still got a longer crotch line and looser fit from the hip down than modern trousers, but they also don’t ride up your butt like a lot of trousers we see now.  And you can pre-order the Smooth Sailing trousers to help get my clothing line launched!

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And remember- all vintage trousers and pants were meant to fit at your natural waist.  For those who don’t know, that’s where the smallest part of your waist is, near your belly button.  When the 60’s came in we started getting low rise, but before that time, things hit higher.  Now, we call them “high waist”, but they really just sit at where your natural waist is.  We’ve just worn low rise pants for so long that most people have forgotten where the waist technically is located. :)

Want more vintage trouser inspiration?  Check out my Pinterest board for 1930s/40s Women in Trousers!

Do you have any questions about vintage trousers or pants? Let me know in the comments!

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Challenge #1 HSF ’14: Make do & Mend

(click images for full view)

First finished project of the year!  Admittedly, this was mostly finished, and I could have finished it yesterday, but instead I pulled it out after many months languishing in a plastic project bag because I knew it would meet the requirements for the first challenge of Historical Sew Fortnightly ’14

The Challenge: #1- Make Do And Mend

Fabric: Very high quality cotton.  This was a thrifted men’s shirt, so I did not need to do buttons or buttonholes!

Pattern: Simplicity 3551.  Used mostly for shape, which had to be adapted to the shape of the existing shirt.

Year: Early 1940’s (YAY for WWII era being permissable for the HSF this year!!!)

Notions: Interfacing.  Bias binding.

How historically accurate is it? Pretty accurate!  But, that being said, not too many sewing techniques that are available to the home sewer today weren’t available to industrial sewing in the 1940’s.  I did cut corners by using the button and buttonholes that were originally on this blouse, but the blouse itself was made from a cut apart men’s thrifted shirt, then cut to period from the blouse pattern.  I cut corners by sewing the bias tape facings by machine instead of by hand, but since I plan on wearing this a lot and machine washing it, I figured a this would be faster and more durable for laundering. They did this in the 1940’s, but most often on cheaper, factory made clothing.

Hours to complete: I’m guessing around 6-8.  I did cheater grade it to my size, but eyeballing it as I was cutting.

First worn: Not yet!

Total cost:  About $6 for the shirt.  The blouse pattern cost $15 (I know since it’s still got a sticker on the plastic sleeve), but this is my second time making it, so I think that means I should cut the cost in half, so that means the pattern cost me about $7.50, plus bias tape, thread, and interfacing which were in the stash.  So maybe about $14.50ish.

Free Vintage E-Pattern- Adorable Autumn Acorns Crocheted Border

Today I have a fun little freebie for you!

If your fingers have been itching to take up needlework again, here’s a cute little crocheted pattern from the late 1940s for a crocheted acorn border.  I’m sure they originally decorated things like household linens, hankies, etc,, but why not use them on a blouse, purse, or something to wear?  Maybe even a little hair accessory.

Have fun! If you make them up, please share photos!

Introducing the Newest Pattern! WWII Home Front Overalls

I’m happen to announce the latest pattern addition to Wearing History, which is now available for Pre-Order!

A perfect addition to your 1940s wardrobe, these WWII Home Front Overalls, Playsuit, and Trousers are both functional and fashionable!  Every WWII gal needed a pair of trousers or overalls when working toward Victory, and with this pattern you can make this vintage essential for your wardrobe!

This pattern features a lovely V neckline, straps that criss-cross at the back, a set in belt, and trousers with optional front pockets.  This can be worn over a blouse (blouse NOT included in this pattern, blouse pictured is from Smooth Sailing pattern), but the overalls hit high enough that you could wear them without a blouse, as in the late 1930’s “Farmerette” fashion, or as a playsuit with shorts.  The front of the pants have a tuck on each side, which is hidden when the pockets are used.  The tuck will be visible if no pockets are used.  If made without the top, these make excellent trousers, and when made in denim and with the pockets, they are great 1940’s jeans!

This pattern is a Wearing History Resto-Vival pattern based on an original period mail order pattern from the WWII era.  Unlike the other Resto-Vival patterns, which are follow the outline of original period pattern pieces, this pattern needed serious corrections in order to make the pattern fit together properly.   I have edited, corrected, and improved this pattern so you can be sure the pieces will go together as they should.  This pattern retains authentic period fit, including the lower crotch rise length that is different than the rise in today’s trousers.

This pattern includes pattern instructions based on on the original instructions.  Some notes have been added to the instructions to aid in construction.

 This pattern was originally available in Misses sizes 30″ bust to 40″ bust, but this pattern has been graded to expand the sizes to MISSES size 30″ bust through 46″ bust.  Larger sizes are based off the same misses size pattern and ARE NOT plus size.

This pattern is available in 3 sizes per packet.

 
This is the first Wearing History pattern that will be available as a mailed, printed pattern OR as a print-at-home E-pattern.  The expected release date is May 9th.

 

As a special promotion, until the pattern release date you can pre-order this pattern for $24!  That is a $6 discount off of the regular $30 price.

 

The e-pattern is not available for pre-order, but will be placed on the site on the release date for $9.99.

 

This pattern is an excellent match for the Victory Hats Pattern (which includes a factory worker cap to keep your hair in place for your Rosie factory worker impression) or the Smooth Sailing Pattern, which is the pattern for the blouse pictured here with the overalls and includes my top-rated WH original pattern for vintage trousers.  Remember, two patterns ship for the same price as one!  Patterns ordered with this pre-order will ship after the release date.

 

Thanks so much for supporting my little indie small business!  And if you love this new pattern don’t forget to share with your friends :)

The Etiquette of Good Grooming, 1940.

Today I’ve got a great page from the August 1940 issue of The Woman’s Home Companion.  This page gives a good peek back at etiquette of yesterday, complete with darling illustrations..  Today’s ladies might do well to keep it in mind, too, though I’m sure most of us are guilty of some of them!

Click on the image below to be taken to my Flickr stream for a larger image you can read.

 

1940s Bra Sample Photos!

It’s about time!  This was one of the first patterns I did as a “Resto-Vival”, back in 2010, and it’s finally time I actually sewed one up and took some photos!

At work recently, I had been given the task to create 1940s undergarments for stock (I’m currently working at a theatre), so I brought a printout of my handy dandy Wearing History digital bra pattern with me and set to work.

bra04

Although the original vintage pattern was stated a 32 (no up size), reviewers had said that this bra ran large.  I found this to be the case as well.  The dress form is 35″ around the bust and about a B cup, and it fit very well.  I have edited the item description to note this.

A few little things I did for decoration that weren’t called for in the original pattern were the topstitching details.  I found it easiest to finish the seams with a bias binding on the inside, so decided to go with contrast thread and use it as accents, and then continue the motif on the bottom piece of the cups.  I also added real bra straps (not of ribbon or fabric as called for in the original  and added a little bow at center front.  The original pattern called for bias binding around the edges but I went with a bias facing instead, making it 1/2″ shorter at top and bottom than it would have been with facing.

All in all, I don’t know why I procrastinated on making vintage bras for so long!  It went together super easy and very quickly.  I’ve actually got a pale pink one partially constructed already, and can see making more.  It’s funny leaving a pattern review of my own pattern, but there you have it!

If you want to try out your own version, you can purchase the digital download on my website for this 1940’s Brassiere Pattern.

Great Los Angeles Air Raid, 2013

Wow! It’s been about a month since this event! How did that happen?  Well, I’m a bit late, but here’s my favorite photos I took at an annual event in San Pedro, CA, at Fort MacArthur Military Museum.  This event is called The Great Los Angeles Air Raid and is a WWII themed dance and re-enactment that happens once a year, commemorating the time during WWII when they believed they spotted foreign aircraft over Los Angeles. Panic broke out, and in the end it was a weather balloon (or a UFO, depending on who you ask). You can read more about the real event here on Wikipedia.

This was my first time donning a real WWII uniform.  I was fortunate enough to come across an original British ambulance driver’s uniform. I guess you can tell where some of my heritage is from, as it fit me to a “t”!  We couldn’t find a helmet, and finding other parts of this uniform is proving somewhat impossible, so my husband and I made the hat to go with the jacket by looking at real WWII photos of women ambulance drivers.  I actually also have the matching overcoat, but for once this event was too warm to need it!  We all usually freeze at this event!

Here’s some photos of friends and I at the event.

Hope your week is going wonderfully!