June 15, 2013


Recently, I was lucky enough to find several issues of the sewing magazine Bella for sale at a quite reasonable price. A total of 19 magazines, all from 1950 and 1951.
Like Marion and Gracieuse, Bella was a Dutch sewing magazine. I know its publication started earlier than Marion's (which must have had it's first issue in 1948, judging from the continuous numbering on the 1950's ones) because I've bought two issues from 1942 before. I don't know when the publication of Bella started and neither when Gracieuse's stopped, so those two may have overlapped as well.
The great thing about Bella, compared to all other vintage sewing magazines I know, is that all the patterns were included on tracing sheets. Just one size per design (other sizes could be obtained by mail order) and they obviously felt that 'real' women's sizes started at a bust circumference of 92, but still. 

Like Gracieuse, Bella also contained a short fashion report, knitting and craft patterns, a story and even a recipe. However, it's focus is very much on sewing.

The following images are from July 1 (the magazines appeared twice per month) 1951:

This is the fashion report, which has lovely photographs of garments which were made either is RTW or in couture at the time. These are meant to inspire and they are the only pictures of clothes in the entire magazine which don't come with patterns.

Then, there's some intricate crafting stuff. And slip and nightwear patterns. I kind of like the pyjama (unbelted, obviously) and the slip on the left (which is unfortunately for a bust circumference of 102...). 

Then, there are childrens' patterns. Like most magazines of the time, Bella assumes a woman will be sewing for her entire family, which, by the logic of all vintage sewing magazines, means women and children. 
The left page shows how one pattern can be adepted for various different looks. This is a returning feature in the magazine, although it's more often applied to a pattern for women.

Boys are not forgotten either. Those calf-length trousers were called "plus-four" in Dutch (which I think is French) but I have no idea what they were called in English.

Then, it's time for the ladies. I love the variaty and look at all the pocket options. My favorite is the first one on the right page: a slim skirt with some kind of stick-out pocket and a bodice with an integrated pelerine which forms the sleeves.

The next page is evening wear for those summer parties... Ah, when did we stop dressing up? 

And then, there are beachwear options. Each of these designs can be altered from some kind of beach version, to a city one. Not just sundresses with boleros or blouses on top, oh know. There's bathing suit with a buttoned skirt and a pelerine and what looks like a jumpsuit with an extra blouse.

And that's it for the sewing patterns. I didn't take pictures of the two remaining pages which contained the story, the recipe and a knitting pattern for baby clothes. I did think the back cover was kind of interesting though: not one but two craft projects. How to make a simple leather pencil case and how to crochet fine edges on a handkerchief.

I think it may be time for some more 1950's sewing...


  1. Interesting magazine. In American English the plus-fours are knickers. (Same as the word for ladies undies in British English). There's britches or breeches too, but I think that may be a slightly different style.

  2. Very cool images -- thank you for sharing them!

  3. Plus fours were called plus fours in the US as well as England because they were a specific style of knickers (four inches below the knee).