This week’s installment of Saturday Sartorial Cinema is an approximately 18 minute 1948 film called “Pattern for Smartness” by Simplicity Pattern Company. I chose this one because it is not only amusing, it can be educational for anyone stuck at home and attempting to learn to sew clothing for the first time.
The educational parts are interspersed with a story about Betty and Johnny, which involves some delightfully hokey dialogue, such as, “Johnny, be careful, you’ll tear my pattern!” Betty, of course, has been transformed from a slumpy, frumpy dresser with bad skin to a charming young thing, thanks to her Home Economics Course.
What You Can Expect to See and Learn While Watching
- Topics taught in a home economics course of the period.
- The concept of clothing colors suited to particular complexions.
- Behind the scenes at Simplicity Patterns: rendering artists, drapers, forming layout diagrams.
- How to read the back of your pattern to determine the amount of fabric you need, in the form of a poem! (Please do not write on your vintage patterns.)
- The tissue-fitting method. (Not recommended with original vintage pattern pieces due to fragility.)
- A list of basic sewing equipment.
- How to use the grainline to layout your pattern piece.
- The appropriate way to pin and cut a pattern. (To preserve your own vintage patterns, we recommend tracing them off, not cutting from the original.)
- How to do tailor’s tacks to transfer pattern markings.
- Stay-stitching, basting, and gathering.
- Sewing and pressing darts.
- Marking the right hem length.
- A fashion show of garments made from Simplicity patterns.
Food for Thought After Viewing
- “Paris, New York, Hollywood, art museums, historical costumes, world events, life today; these are the sources from which comes inspiration for the fashion designer!” – do you think these still influence fashion today? What new influences exist?
- The use of clothes to create figure illusions. I particularly like that Johnny relates this to the principles he learns in architecture. The attempted standardization in the 20th century of what constituted good clothing design, by adopting principles from the art world, is a topic covered extensively in one of my favorite books, The Lost Art of Dress by Lynda Przybyszewski.
- The concept of being a designer for yourself, by making your own clothes.
- “Don’t you know the most professionally looking clothes are the handmade ones?” – why do you think attitudes have changed?
- Dressmaking as a means of express your identity.
- Has anyone ever seen a template like the one on the table that they are using to figure out the layout? (@6:04)
- Using the fashion show as a fundraiser to support the basketball team.
I suspect Betty’s blouse is from Simplicity 2127 (1947), but I don’t have a guess as to her skirt (although based on the styling of the rest of the outfits in the video, it may be in the same colors as the illustration).
The giant pattern which becomes Betty’s red dress is Simplicity 1827 (est. 1946), which is not currently listed in the Vintage Patterns Wiki or CoPA, and appears to be pretty rare.
In the fashion show, the first outfit is a white dress with a red jacket. I couldn’t find the pattern from which the dress was made, however, it has a distinct narrow double breasted front which was a popular feature in other patterns in 1946 (such as in Simplicity 1764). I believe the jacket is likely Simplicity 1854 (1947).
The next pair of outfits are a green “three-button” suit, and a plaid skirt with “turtleneck blouse”. I suspect the blouse could be Simplicity 1403 (1945). The suit and skirt are dark and hard to see the details, but the skirt could be Simplicity 1575 (1946) or the skirt from the jacket pattern above. I have no guesses as to the suit.
Next is a jumper which is Simplicity 2098 (1947), and a “chemise dress” with “shoulder scarf” from Simplicity 2148 (est. 1947).
I was unable to find the pattern for the “middy dress”, with short or long sleeves and collar option, as well as the pattern for the beige dress after them.
The play suit, with skirt (which buttons on to the shorts buttons!) that converts to cape , is from Simplicity 1980 (1947).
The fashion show ends, of course, with an “old-fashioned” evening dress, Simplicity 1983 (est. 1947).