January 28, 2013

From 1940

If you read Debi's blog you'll know all about her big project already: she has set herself the task of making every McCall's (back then "McCall") pattern from the year 1940. She introduces the project here and explains more about it here and here
I think it's a huge project for which I can't imagine summoning the focus and dedication. There are just too many other things I like to focus on whichever year in fashion history... but I'm really looking forward to following her progress.
Also, as a bit of a history geek, I always feel a bit weird discussing years, marked by major historical events, in terms of fashion. In the country I live in, World War II started, quite suddenly, in May 1940. Of course, McCall('s) was, and still is today, an American company, so that just wasn't the case for them.

As my little bit of encouragement to Debi, I thought I'd share some images from 1940 Libelle with all of you. It's a Dutch ladies' magazine which was first published in the mid-1930's and is still published today. I only have the first quarter from 1940 (although, for obvious reasons of history-geekiness, I'm really keen on finding the second quarter of the same year). Three months in which the Dutch, like the Americans, probably worried about the shadow of war looming in the distance, without really thinking it would effect them... 

These images are from the first week of the year. Although Debi focusses on designs with a copyright from 1940, this would still show the looks in which those McCall designs would be worn.

First up, there is a discussion of hats in the winter sale. And pretty extravagant ones at that. Obviously, these are designs from 1939, but after a drop in price in the new year, a lady might definately buy one of these to go with her new frock...

Then, dresses and suits are discussed. Although the article is about styles offered by Dutch manufacturers, it is illustrated with designs from Paris (which are, of course, the direct inspiration for those Dutch products). The text laments the short skirts and shows some relief at not seeing a lot of very wide shoulders. I am more used to fashion pictures from the 1950's so I consider the shoulders in both the dress and the two suits to be very prominent.

Magazines like this one would always offer sewing patterns which their readers could order at a small fee. These lovely dresses could be ordered throughout January 1940... I really like the one with the diagonal button closures.

Of course, there were knitting patterns as well. Sweaters with intricate intarsia patterns...

And cozy slippers. And some babies' and children's stuff as well, but I didn't take pictures of that.

Even at this early date, a bit of make-do-and-mend is already in evidence. Although in this case it's about re-using the good bits from a worn-out fur coat. Since fur was always really expensive, maybe it doesn't mean that much. These hats are really lovely though. Too bad the printed pattern pieces don't come with the scale clearly indicated (you could the full size pattern sent to you) or I might have tried out that one on the right in fabric and/or fake fur.

And there's also this pattern and discribtion on how to make a suede evening bag. 

And for those readers who would like to make their on clothes but don't feel quite confident about their skills, there is Libelle's sewing class: this instalment is about pleats.  

And that's all for the first week of January! 
If you like this post I may continue with the following weeks.


  1. I would love to see more of these. Coming from a family of purgers that didn't like to save anything, I'm always astounded that things like this can survive so intact over 70+ years. I assume that the magazine wasn't published during the war years?

  2. Fascinating, do please show more of these. I too like the dress with diagonal bodice fastening, (and am also pondering whether to try my hand at drafting the pleated back of the sewing class skirt!)