Monday, May 2, 2011

Book Review: Blueprints of Fashion

Blueprints of Fashion: Home Sewing Patterns of the 1940s

by Wade Laboissonniere
2009 Revised 2nd Edition
Schiffer Publishing

Ever wonder where the seemingly simple task of sewing begins?  Who were the major players in this industry?  And how did they shape the fashion choices that we, as homemakers, have available to us?  

Long before you sit at your machine with fabric in hand, hundreds of people are involved in getting you to that point.  This book gives a clear and concise history of the industy.  Beginning with information on the earliest pattern companies and their marketing goals to reach every housewife in America, this book goes on to cover the trade publications available to retail stores, the pattern company promotions, and the differences in packaging. 

Patterns themselves have evolved quite a lot over the years.  Innovations that we take for granted, such as an instruction sheet, printed pieces and sizing info, was not included in the early years.  Several smaller companies were bought out by the major players of McCalls, Simplicity and Butterick, each vying for its share of the market.  

Vogue was established early on as a premier company, charging $1.00 each for patterns throughout the 1930s while others were selling for 15 cents (unprinted) and 25 cents (printed).  Vogue marketed its image as the couture line, including a speciality label with each pattern sold.

By 1944, it is estimated that 82% of American women were sewing for their families.  This was a huge market that, though very much restricted by the War rationing, could be tapped into for homefront relief efforts as well.  

The book devotes an entire chapter to the iconic style of the 1940s, a reflection of both war rationing and garment industry restrictions.  This was a period when women began to wear work clothes that didn't include a skirt and heels!

Of course, the best feature of Blueprints of Fashion is the 110 pages of pattern illustrations.  Full-color photos of not only women's dresses, blouses and skirts, but also bridal, men's, children's and home decor. 
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in 1940s vintage fashion.  Be you a sewer or historian, this is an excellent reference source to give you a solid feel for the decade that stood out with a strengh and determination all its own.

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