An Engineered Novelty Print, 1950s

Click to enlarge


What you are seeing above is one of two halves of a print that was designed to be made into a circle skirt.  Circle skirts were a huge fad in the 1950s and into the early years of the 1960s, and there are dozens and dozens of prints to be found.  Many are an all over print that the sewer cut the skirt from in regular fashion.  Some were border prints that were designed to be made into gathered or pleated versions of the skirt.  One could even buy pre-printed pie wedges that were sewn together to form the skirt.

But this is the first time I’d ever seen an actual half circle printed onto the fabric.  I got this from another collector who I found through Facebook, of all places.  I’ve finally found a use for Facebook – finding stuff to buy.

I know I don’t have to explain why this print had to be in my collection.  The ski theme combined with a passion for novelty prints made it easy to set up a deal for this print.

According to the other collector, she got this fabric from a seller in the United Kingdom.  I already thought that the print had a certain European look to it.

What made this really interesting was that one of the two pieces was stamped with the rectangle you see above.  For the life of me I could not figure out what language this was, but sharper eyes at the Vintage Fashion Guild pointed out that this was actually in English.

____________AND WASHING

SDC is the Society of Dyers and Colourists, which is a British group that dates back to the nineteenth century.  That knowledge does not help date the fabric, but it does mean that it was made in the UK.

UPDATED, (but still open to interpretation!):


Unlike the printed wedge-shaped skirt pieces that were made in the United States, there are no instructions printed on this fabric.  It is possible that it came with instructions on paper, but if so, they have been lost.

Novelty prints are having a bit of a moment in the vintage world.  I started buying travel themed skirts about twelve years ago, and I never paid more than $35 for one.  Now they are bringing three or more times that, and there are many collectors who are always looking for the rarer and more desirable designs.  High on the list are two skirts that were licensed from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp.  Both skirts were of the printed wedge variety.

Also highly desired are skirts made from fabrics designed by artist Saul Steinberg.  There prints are not signed, but all are stamped  “A Regulated Cotton – Never Misbehaves” in the selvage.

Of course, being highly desirable means that these prints are now being reproduced.  The Lady and the Tramp print is being made as a border print, and at least two companies are making clothes from modern adaptations of Saul Steinberg fabrics.

To see examples of the printed wedge fabrics and to see vintage catalog pages of novelty prints, there is a great Facebook media set.

I had planned to turn the fabric into a skirt, but now that I have it I think it is more interesting as fabric panels.


Filed under Collecting, Novelty Prints

21 responses to “An Engineered Novelty Print, 1950s

  1. Wow! This is spectacular! And if I were to see this in a shop it would instantly remind me of you!

    The Lady and the Tram/Si and Am skirts have gone sky high lately. And really? It’s being reproduced?? Where!? I need one!!


  2. kherbaugh

    How wonderful. I knew about border prints but I have never seen a circle skirt printed. Its along the idea of 18th and 19th century clothing that was imported to America as yardage that was already embroidered and ready to be cut up and sewn.


  3. What a fantastic print–and so you! I especially love the simplicity of the white print on blue. Fantastic find!


  4. Uh oh, I just love this! Those sweet and lively sketches rendered in white on an icy blue background are perfect. Thanks for sharing this. I am really surprised it came from the UK – maybe I’ll find another! My guess at the date would be 1950s judging by the graphic style and the fact the figures appear to be wearing stretch ski pants.


  5. As an avid skier, I love that fabric. I just saw some of the Saul Steinberg fabric at an exhibit–that an the Modern Masters were fantastic in person.


  6. I don’t think it says “color fastness”, as in the UK that would have been spelt “colour”. There isn’t room for that many letters. I think it says something like “Warranted dyed to [ 8 SI ?] & SDC standards of fastness to …. and washing.”

    I would interpret the bit I put in square brackets as some other standard. Maybe some expert will come along to clarify it further.


  7. I think the unknown bit which I thought was an 8 is probably a B. I’ve found that the BSI is the British Standards Institution. So it probably says “appropriate BSI & SDC standards”.


  8. Fascinating! It would be great to make circle skirts with a panel design like this. I love the theme too.


  9. Christina

    Great print! I think the design could be either English or European – French or Italian and from the late 1950’s. There is a figure wearing a men’s flat cap which was fashionable then. I would agree that the stamp label reads 8 as a SDC classification for fastness.


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