Tag Archives: simplicity

Sewing Brochures from 1961 and 1962

I recently received a group of early 1960s pattern company brochures from friend Rebecca.  How did she know I’d want these?  Am I that transparent?  I certainly hope so.

They all date from June, 1961 to January of 1962, and are from Simplicity, Vogue, McCall’s, and Advance.  As much as I love a great vintage Vogue or Bazaar magazine, these little newsprint treasures reveal much more about what the “average” American woman was wearing.

When I started sewing for myself in the late 1960s, I could not wait until the latest editions of the pattern brochures arrived at the pattern counter.  I would spend hours carefully planning my next sewing project.  Maybe it’s partly due to that fond memory that I have such a weakness for these.

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Here are the play options from Simplicity for June, 1961.  The bathing suit in the middle is what was considered a bikini in 1961.  The playsuit of the right with the skirt cover up is also described as a bathing suit.

Pointed hem top patterns for all the women in the family.  Actually, I’ve seen this hem on men’s things as well.  And it makes me want to sew some chevroned stripes.  McCall’s, June 1961.

A note about that hat: I have several examples of this bucket-shaped hat in my collection, but none are nearly as exaggerated as these.

From the same McCall’s brochure is a grouping of swimwear, including a bathing/play suit very similar to the Simplicity one, right down to the skirt.  This bathing suit with matching skirt really was a great idea.  It also shows how swimwear can often be dated by imagining a skirt over the trunks.  Fashion does extend to swimwear.

The January 1962 issue of McCall’s Fashion Digest shows several examples of that most marvelous early Sixties wardrobe staple – the dress and jacket ensemble.  The beige example with the fantastic neckline was from designer Hannah Troy.  And note how similar the pink print dress is to the bathing suit and skirt in the previous picture.


The more high fashion home sewer also had the choice of a designer look from Europe.  These dress and jacket ensembles were designed by Guy Laroche, Ronald Paterson, Jacques Griffe, and Gres.  These were more than just a little more complicated that the designs in McCall’s and Simplicity.

The Vogue Young Fashionables line was quite fashion forward.  January, 1962.

These designs from Advance are labeled “Sew Easy”, but I can see several techniques that might give even an intermediate sewer fits.

And finally, could there be any other looks that sum up 1962 better than these four?  On the left we have three streamlined dresses and suits that have the Jackie Kennedy look bared down to the essentials.  And on the right, the ever popular shirtwaist, though with a slightly less full skirt than just a year or two before.


Filed under Collecting, Sewing

Simplicity 4945 in Liberty Tana Lawn

I’ve been doing quite a bit of sewing lately, and have a new project to show off.   Back in the early spring when Waechter’s Fine Fabrics announced they were closing, I scurried over to take advantage of their sale and to stock up on some fine fabrics.  Among my purchases was this Tana lawn novelty print of London and the surrounding countryside.  I’d been looking at it lovingly ever since it arrived at the shop, and I knew this was my chance to buy it, and at 25% off.

My plan was to make a skirt, and I already had the pattern pieces out when it occurred to me that what I really needed was a light, cool, cotton blouse.  I went through my collection of patterns and came up with Simplicity 4954 which is from the early 1960s.  I’d made the top before out of seersucker, and it is a favorite – easy to wear, cool and comfortable.

The colors are much truer in this photo, as the top one was taken in low light with my cell phone camera.  The colors are nice and clear, with shades of blue on a white background.

Although the pattern calls for a button at the neckline, I haven’t used one.  It just seems less fussy without it.

I really love designs where the sleeve is cut with the bodice or, as in this case, with the yoke.  It’s a design element seen often in the early to mid 1960s.

From the time I decided to make this top to the minute I finished the hem was about three hours.  That is a very fast project for me, especially since I used French seams (and faux French seams) throughout.  I did save a lot of time by doing all the finishing on the machine.  And because I’d made the pattern before I did not need to do a muslin trial.

And here is the finished project, in a too dark photo.

This is my third garment that I’ve made using Liberty’s Tana lawn, and it is simply a dream to sew.  It’s tightly woven so even though I used French seams, this fabric also does well when simply finishing using pinking shears.

I’ve been trying to add a few prints into my wardrobe of solid blue, black, white and red.  My idea of a print is a nice mariner’s stripe, or for winter, a wool plaid.  Even though I love vintage novelty prints and actually collect them, I only have one example in my own closet.   Maybe it’s time to change that.

I wore it for the first time this weekend, and it performed beautifully.  It stayed crisp and cool and was perfect for a hot summer day.  My silly self-portrait makes me look as if I have a halo, but my friends and family can assure you that is a bit misleading!

Edited to show a better photo of me and the blouse.


Filed under Novelty Prints, Sewing

Simplicity 4945 – Early 1960s Separates

It’s been quite a while since I have written a sewing post.  It’s not that I have not been sewing, it’s just that much of my winter was consumed in finishing a dress that took forever to make.   I probably would have abandoned the project, but I had been sharing my progress on it with my sister throughout her illness, and she enjoyed watching it shape up so much that I felt like I owed it to her to actually finish it.  I’ll share it in a later post.

I bought the pattern above for the pants, but after watching the Great British Sewing Bee I decided to do one of the challenges and make a blouse.  On the show the sewers had six hours to make their blouse, but they had to use a silky fabric.  I went with an easier to manage fabric, a cotton seersucker.  There is actually more contrast in the stripes than shows in my photos.

I’m not a big fan of “fast sewing.”  Some time ago I ran across several blogs where the challenge was to make so many garments in a month, and it just added up to a lot of clothes that I suspected would never be worn.  I’ve never been a fast sewer, as I love the calming effect of slowly working through a design.  And I’ve learned that it is better to take the time to pin and baste and do it right the first time.

So even though my pattern was relatively simple, it took the entire six hours for me to finish.  Actually, it took a little more as I hand-hemmed the sleeves and hem, but if I were really on a deadline, I could have machine-finished them in a few minutes.

I decided to give my blouse a bit more shape, so I altered the side seams to make the waist more narrow.  I also added vents at the side hem.  I had planned to put in the button, but I wore it without it and liked it, so now I’ll probably not bother.

I really like the way the sleeves are cut in one piece with the bodice yoke.  And it was very easy to do and was faster than set-in sleeves.  Not only that, but there is more mobility in the sleeve, due I suppose, to them being on the bias.

Next, I’m thinking about tackling the pants, which may take some time.  Pants are easy to sew, but hard to fit.  Wish me luck!


Filed under Sewing

The 1960s Surfer Shirt

In the mid 1960s we called this the surfer shirt, and it was all the rage in my little town. No matter that we were six hours from the nearest ocean, and none of us had ever been anywhere near a surf board.  We were under the influence of the Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello beach movies of the day, and the Beach Boys were as strong as ever.    I think my older brother had these shirts in every color and in several madras plaids, and I had a couple of plaid ones myself.

I found this pattern and thought how much fun it would be to just run one up for old times sake.  I already had some vintage cotton chambray and red bias binding, thanks to my proclivity toward fabric hoarding, so I was in business.  The shirt was just as easy to make as it looks, with only four pieces.  It did take some time, as I put the bias on by hand, and did the buttonholes by hand, and did flat-felled seams so there are no raw edges.

In looking for images for this post, I tried looking on-line, but all the photos for surfer shirt came up as either Hawaiian shirts or tee shirts with a surfer dude printed on the front.  So I went to my stack of vintage catalogs.  In a 1964 Montgomery Ward, I did find one of these referred to as “surfer style” but most were called “regatta shirts.”  The same was true in a 1966 JC Penney big book.  I’m very sure we never used the term “regatta” to refer to these shirt or anything else for that matter!  And in one listing it was called a “henley” which I always think of as being made of jersey.

So I’ll stick with surfer shirt, though I do not surf, and won’t see an ocean until October.  It’s still a cool, casual shirt, just right for the hot days ahead.

I used to see these all the time in thrift stores, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t run across one in several years.  Surely not all the Baby Boomers have cleaned out all the closets at the parents’ homes already!

A few catalog examples:

Madras  regatta shirts with appropriate slacks and sweaters, 1966 JC Penney

“Henley collar” shirt, 1965 Montgomery Wards

“Surfer style” 1965 Montgomery Wards

“Racy Regatta Styles” 1966 JC Penney

I’m sure you are are clamoring for a look at the finished product.  So here I am, in the back yard, standing on the beginnings of a new rock patio.  Funny how the photo in which I’m not paying attention to the photographer ends up being the best of the lot.  A model, I am not!


Filed under Sewing, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

Latest Sewing Project

When I bought this great camping print several weeks ago, I had no idea of what I was going to do with it.  A little bit of a novelty print goes a long way on anyone over the age of eight, so I decided to cut the cuteness factor by mixing it with a Black Watch plaid.  The result is what I’m calling the picnic skirt, because even though it’s a camping themed fabric, the skirt is just perfect for picnics off the Blue Ridge Parkway, sitting at a scenic overlook with lunch spread across a cheery tablecloth.

Can you tell I’m ready for summer?

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Filed under Sewing