Clothing Coupons and Ball Gowns

Having looked at some skimpy beach clothing in the previous post, here is something smart and formal for the evening from the 1940s:

Blog August 17 1940s clothing coupn dress

But what do we know about the 1940s?  Clothes rationing with coupons only ended in May 1949.  HM the Queen (Princess Elizabeth as she then was) got round this for her wedding as the government gave her another 200 coupons to buy the silk.

If you were not a royal princess?  Make it yourself!

Blog August 17 clothing coupon packet back

So the home dressmaker can use as much material as she likes, as long as she can lay her hands on it – cue Scarlett O’Hara’s velvet curtains, otherwise it is back to clothing coupons to buy the silk, just the same as Princess Elizabeth.

I do like the way we have a picture of a wholly unnecessary full skirted gown and then Vogue tells us it is a bargain as it is not a seasonal style so “they retain their style and attractiveness until they are literally worn out”.  How many parties can a girl go to in the same dress, I wonder?



Anyone for tennis?

In Wimbledon fortnight I have played no tennis but, in the heat, been flicking through my 1930s French fashion magazines.  From Le Record de la Mode June 1933:Blog July 17 tennis outfits

From left to right we have a Manteau de Tennis in lainage blanc a boutonnage double (rather hot for Wimbledon, I think), a Complet de tennis en shantung (I wonder if that is washable?) and finally ‘la tenue ideale pour le tennis’, a Robe en toile blanche (I reckon you could actually play in that one).

In case tennis isn’t your thing, how about a spot of golf from the cover of Modes et Traveaux February 1933, outfit by Molyneaux?

Blog July 17 golfing outfit

Or, for Scotland, shooting with Le Jardin des Modes, Groupe des Publications Conde Nast (still going strong with Vogue) from 15th August 1930:

Blog July 17 shooting outfit

Puffballs (does my bum look big in this?)

Blog June 17 Balenciaga puffball dress drawing

Here’s a sketch from the second floor of the V&A’s Balenciaga exhibition.  On the ‘big bum’ issue I’d say ‘No’ because the puffball is so big the wearer’s bum get’s lost.

The second floor of the exhibition was about the influences of Balenciaga on later designers.  This sketch was twinned with a Hussein Chalayan dress with a quote from Mr C on Mr B “I think the masters of the 60s were amazing…Like old Balenciaga…in a way we’re just…regurgitating what they’ve done.”

And the twinned dress?

Blog June 17 Husseyn Chalayan puffball 1

The bum view:

Blog June 17 Hussain Chalayan puffball 2

One encouraging thing is the description for the Chalayan dress says “designed 2000, made 2011” so a mere eleven years to complete it – there may be hope for some of my projects yet.

Next question, given the format of the blog.  Do I have a paper dress pattern of something similar?

Er…on this one, no.

How to curve a collar, fifties style

As a change from a pattern, here is a natty fifties bolero from my vintage clothes collection.  It’s part of a two-piece although these days I favour the patterned jacket over a plain dress rather than busy floral on top of busy floral.

Blog June 17 Curved collar 1

And a close-up of the collar:

Blog June 17 Curved collar 2

I think this curve would make a super finish on the blue and white “air hostess” pattern in the previous post.  How is it done?  The good thing about owning a piece of vintage rather than taking a photo of Mr Balenciaga’s behind glass walls in the V & A is that I can unceremoniously turn it inside out – a lot simpler than the x-rays used by the V & A.

Solution – a piece of boning, of the sort used to ‘keep up’ strapless dresses:

Blog June 17 curved collar 4

A much simpler sewing fix than the lovely tools in front of Mr Balenciaga’s suit in the previous post, but effective for a light summer cotton jacket – and it has stood the test of time since the nice curve is still going strong about 60 years later.

oh, and whilst I’m turning the jacket inside out, I love the label as well:

Blog June 17 curved collar 3

A Balenciaga suit

The Balenciaga exhibition at the V & A was focussing on construction, so when we get to an elegant wool suit it is shown off with tailoring tools

Balenciaga Suit 1and the all-important side view:

Blog June 17 Balenciaga suit 2

According to the talk I went to, the V & A has a healthy selection of Balenciaga as Cecil Beaton was a big fan, and somehow or other, he dragooned people into donating clothes to the V & A.  For those women lacking a society photographer and a Paris couturier, there is always a trusty sewing pattern.  Two interesting features of this suit are the curved seam across the front, and that rather large but controlled collar.

Here’s a 60s pattern which mimics the curved seam:

Balenciaga suit pattern 2

And another item from the 60s, with a decently large collar:

Balenciaga suit style 1

This looks a bit air-hostessy in the blue and white, I think.  But done in that soft tweed Mr Balenciaga was using, it would be an altogether different kettle of fish.



This slowly twirling pink dress is one of the first exhibits at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Balenciaga exhibition.  I went on members’ day with the addition of a talk by the exhibition curator.  The exhibition team were keen to put construction detail at the forefront of the exhibition.  So, behind the Lady in Pink there is an X-ray photo showing her corset (I wonder what the original wearer would have thought of that).

Alongside her is a calico toile – not an original one from the Balenciaga house, but one made by students on the pattern cutting MA at London College of Fashion.

Blog May 17 Balenciaga calico

The students made copies of the dresses with a great deal of measuring, and according to the lecture were fascinated by the number of darts, as darts are rather out of fashion at the moment (let’s all keep manufacturing costs down and probably make things out of stretch fabric whilst we’re at it) as well as the generous seam allowances that allow for alterations in a bespoke garment.

What do I think of it?  Certainly unusual.  In the V&A’s exhibition of Alexander McQueen last year there was a quote from him that it is a good habit to design from the side – it is easy to make a front and back look good, but most people will have an oblique angle on what you are wearing, so it needs to look good from the side as well.  Going left to right I would say this dress is a winner front and back, and in the first side photo, but the fourth photo manages to catch a rather unflattering angle on the front of the dress.  I’d like to see a model walking in it before I gave it an unqualified seal of approval.

For good measure here is the line drawing from the House:

Blog May 17 Balenciaga drawing of pink dress