Tag Archives: 1940s

Long term project No 2 – My 40ies winter coat

Now, let’s see what I got for you today…


A long time ago, back in 2011, I bought some sewing patterns while being on a study trip to Dresden.


One of the was this 40ies pattern with different projects in “traditional dress”-style.


Popular belief thinks that these traditional dresses once were the festive costumes of peasants, but the traditional dress as we know today is majorly a 19th century invention, based on traditional and simple peasant costume, but entirely constructed. The ‘why’ can be discussed rather controversely. You can call it a longing for tradition and history, an attempt to picture the past and the “good old times”, you can see the construction of a national identity, maybe of something called patriotism.
Well, nobody needs to have studied politics to guess that all these reasons made traditional dress a very popular style in Nazi-Germany. These costumes helped to form an image of the german nation, the rural life and peasants as the fundament of the nation’s unity and strength. To make this clear: I still have issues using this pattern, because apart from “normal” fashion, that could be political, but didn’t have to, this “traditional”-style was without a doubt used in a propagandistic and therefore very political way.

Being born German, having Grand-Parents who had to live under this regime, who suffered from and survived the war, the last thing I want is to romanticize this time and you will never hear me utter a word like “I love the 40ies” or me speaking of WWII-reenactment. I like 30ies and 40ies fashion, internationally seen, because aside from regional differences you can observe the same cuts and styles in pretty much the whole western world. I work with german patterns because I lived in (and still close to) Germany, so these are the patterns most easily accessible for me.

And one last note before we come to the project itself: I don’t like the other patterns of this set very much, so I don’t think I will be tempted to sew myself a 40ies-dirndl-style-dress in the nearer or farer future. And I try to convince myself that the woman who owned this pattern in the 1940ies didn’t like much of them, either: The marks on the pattern sheet show, the only garment that had ever been made from this sheet (or let’s say that left marks of its creation, surely I can’t say if other patterns were traced without a small ridged wheel) was the spencer, the jacket in the far right. And that isn’t very dirndl-like at all, in my opinion.

The reason why I bought this pattern (apart from its very low price) is the pattern second from the left, the coat. I already planned to sew it right after having bought the pattern and when I went to my hometown later in 2011 I went to the fabric store I used to work at and bought fabric for this project. An anthracite coat fabric, not made from wool, but from cotton, burgundy bias binding and matching lining.


Because it was already late autumn I didn’t manage to finish the coat to wear this 2011-winter season. In 2012 I spent the autumn months in France and came back home only in mid-december, to late to be motivated to finish this project.  In autumn 2013 we moved and there wasn’t much time for sewing at all. But it brought the project back to my mind and because I really didn’t want to have it lying unfinished in my fabric-cupboard another summer, I forced myself to finally end this in early 2014.


The coat was one of my first attemps to use historical patterns and I made all the mistakes I could make. Even with modern pattern, sizing often tends to be too large. Today I know that this gets even worse with vintage patterns, but I didn’t know back then, so I cut the fabric according to the 88cm-bust-circumference without any alterations. I closed the seams in the front and attached the bias binding by hand. Only after having closed all the other seams to form the corpus I saw, the coat was far too large.


I managed to make it a little bit smaller shifting the side- and shoulder-seams as well as the seams in the centre back. Still it was far too wide, I had to add the diagonal darts in the back you can see in the photo above. What is really missing is an adjustment in the front. Only thing I was able to do there, was to cut back the front edges a tiny little bit, but because of the applied bias binding I had to leave the pricess seams as they were. Of course all those adjustments made the seam allowances very bulky and they were a pain even beforehand. The fabric floats very nicely, but at the same time it is kind of stiff, so I had to hand bast all the seam allowances to make them lie flat.


The armholes were a little too large after all the adjustments, but the sleeves themselves were just massive and very wide. The puff sleeves looked ridiculous and I had to remove a lot of fabric from the width of the sleeve itself as well as from the sleeve cap.
This fabric fringes horribly and I had to undo the sleeves three times and still the left one looks terrible.


Now, if these were all the problems I had faced, it would have been ok. I still longed to finally wear the coat and loved the colours as well as the pattern.
But the hem looks terribly crumpled, I re-did it a couple of times, the stitches still show and ironing just made it worse. The collar isn’t very flat either, normally I wear the coat with a large scarf so that the collar is hidden.


The worst flaw I only saw in this photos. The waist flounce isn’t on the same height left and right. When I looked at the pictures I was like “no, it only looks like this, can’t be”, but in fact, it is even worse when looking at myself in the mirror wearing it.


Surprisingly enough, the lining made no problems at all. You can see a button sewn onto the facing, it’s my spare one.
The buttons were another disappointment. During the two years it took me sewing it, I bought two different sets of buttons, both burgundy coloured, they both looked terrible when pinned on. So I used this ones I still had in my stash. They do not function at all, but hide the press fasteners beneath, I really didn’t want to sew buttonholes into this fabric.

DSC_1807 (2)

I am still a little unsure what to do. The coat is somehow wearable, but I know I can do better and I know that this proof of my sewing skills is not what I want to be judged by. Additionally, it does nothing for me. It makes me look way larger than I actually am, the waist is not as accented as I would have liked it to be. So it really doesn’t improve my  figure at all. This winter I will wear it, but it is nearly over, I can’t say if this coat will live another season. I planned to sew a matching hat, having a little leftover from the fabric as well as from the bias binding, but what for if I will never wear it because I don’t like the coat?

DSC_1811b(cap: Globus, brooch: H&M, scarf: heirloom/my grandaunts, gloves: flea market, shoes: pointer)

Now, I would love to hear your opinions, I’m off, love,



HSF Challenge #4: Under it all – A 1941 (slip) dress

As I already said, life kept me busy during the last weeks and even if I had time to sew, often enough I wasn’t in the mood for it.
As the due date for this challenge approached I decided to force myself to make it, though the project I had had in mind first wasn’t realizable anymore in such a short time.

I had no cut-out-and-set-to-work-pattern for anything undergarment-related (but  a Laughing Moon corset pattern but that would have been a little too much in such a short time) and one of my least loved steps while sewing is tracing the pattern.
So I searched for a pattern, that would need only a minimum of effort to prepare, but still be something I wanted to make. I quickly decided to try a Lutterloh-pattern, my first. Not only because enlarging patterns seems to be more fun than drafting them all on your own and second because I already own two Lutterloh-books, but I haven’t realized a single garment from neither of them. An undergarment seemed to be a good project to get to know how this system works.

For all of you who don’t know Lutterloh-patterns: The patterns are miniature sized and need to be enlarged. To enlarge them, you need a special scale that is part of every Lutterloh-book you buy. Most of the old books miss this scale, but it is fairly easy to make one yourself, copying the one in the book. This scale is attached to a standard measuring tape, a tack is punched through the scale, the exact position is determined by your body measurements, and pinned to a mark in the middle of the pattern, the pattern lying on a large sheet of paper. Dots and numbers tell you, where to turn the measuring tape to and how long the distances have to be. Like this you get a series of dots, when connecting these, you come up with an enlarged pattern, fitted to your size.
But the system is very basic. There are no markings, no hints what to fit where, no darts, no information about closure etc. Additionally, these are still historical patterns, so you will have to face the same fitting issues as with other vintage patterns.
If you want to try the system without bying a book (the old ones are pretty expensive), here you can find instructions and some patterns from 1941 issue (the same I own). Note: this is a german system, so are the instructions 😉 And this website tells you to pay attention to the printed size of the patterns, you really don’t have to. The patterns are enlarged radially, all you need is a non-distorted copy so the angles between the different marks are correct. I copied my card because I didn’t want to pierce through the old paper and doubled its size. This changes nothing in the ratio of the numbers, in my opinion it even makes you result more accurate, because the farther away the marks from your tack are, the less inaccuracy will result in the position of the new dots.
And to all american readers: this patterns are without seam allowances.

The project I chose is fairly simple. A slip dress consisting only of two cut parts, front and back (the left one):



I already own multiple slips in light shades, so when I stumbled upon a black cotton batiste during the search for a fabric, I decided to use this. The fabric was in fact a leftover from a skirt. It had a scalloped embroidered edge, but was 140cm in width, so I had plenty of fabric left after having turned the 55cm next to the embroidery into a skirt, already years ago.
Yes, cotton batiste isn’t the perfect fabric to use for a slip but 1st) I can still wear it with a satin half slip if it really won’t work and 2nd) I intend to wear it not only as a slip dress, but also as a dres to wear at home or maybe even as a nightgown in summer.

Again, I shortened the pattern significantly, not only to fit me, but also to make it fit onto the fabric. Because my original embroidered skirt had been to wide I had cut away some fabric at one side, leaving me with one single repeat of the embroidery pattern still in my stash. Knowing that I will never again find a project with a similarly well matching fabric to use this, I decided to apply it as a decoration to the neckline (to prevent it from being too stiff I cut away the fabric underneath after having applied the embroidery). The rest of the neckline, as well as the straps I faced with a white cotton ribbon in a similar way Gertie described on her blog only days later (really, I had already finished it when I saw her post appear).


The positions of the upright darts (in the front as well as in the back)  were marked in the pattern, but without scale, so I had to figure out the exact placement and the size myself. There is only one way for me to do things like this: dress my dressform, pin the darts, sew it, try it on. Most of the time, it works 🙂
This time I had to realize, that the fit was still far from being good and that I needed additional bust darts, after having added these I was content.


Because of my limited amount of fabric I had cut the back in two parts, leaving me with a seam in the centre back. I used this to add a zipper in the waist, otherwise I couldn’t have made my darts so close-fitting while still being able to take the dress off, you see it ends between my shoulder blades.

An interesting side fact: Last year I was able to wear a toile, made from an 18th century robe à l’anglaise, preserved in the Bavarian National Museum in Munich. First I thought it was too small, but when I forced my back in a very upright position and pulled my shoulders backwards, it fit! That showed me, how different posture 200 years ago was compared to today. Now, when wearing this I have the same effect. Left the gaping straps when standing as I usually do, right when standing more upright.














The Challenge: #4 Under it all

Fabric: black cotton batiste with white machine embroidery

Pattern: Lutterloh “Der Goldene Schnitt”

Year: 1941

Notions: thread, white cotton ribbon, nylon zipper

How historically accurate is it? The pattern is historical, the fabric is plausible. That’s it. It is shortened (but ends right below the knee, so not too short for 1940ies fashion), the machine embroidery isn’t authentic at all, neither is the nylon zipper nor its placement in the centre back.

First worn:  today

Total cost: The fabric cost me 5€/m 5 years ago, I bought two metres and made the skirt as well as the slip from it. The ribbon? No idea, was in one of my sewing baskets I bought at the flea market, same applies to the embroidery on the hem, 0,50€ for the zipper. The Lutterloh-book cost me around 40€, but there are plenty of patterns in it.

Getrödelt, gefunden, gefreut #4

As each month, SwinginCat is hosting “Getrödelt, gefunden, gefreut” at her blog “Beswingtes Allerlei”. Thank you so much for this series!

I haven’t been to one single flea market in november. First because I was pretty busy, second because it is cold (ok, that doesn’t keep me from going normally) and third because I was stunned discovering what loads of stuff I have while moving. Buying antique patterns on sundays and working the rest of the week is fine, but this doesn’t give you any chance to work with the things you purchased. So I decided to reduce my fleamarket-sundays and increase my sewing-sundays, let’s see how long I will be able to stick to it. 🙂

I’m not sure if I mentioned it, in november I spent a whole week in Gotha, a city in Thüringen/Germany. We visited Schloss Friedenstein, a rather unimpressive baroque castle from the outside, but with an amazing interiour and a lovely textile collection in storage, which we (some fellow art historians and students along with our professor) were able to see and examine.

And there I found, what is to become this month’s find:

maybe the trained eye is already able to discern some characteristic features?

On one of the evenings I went to an antique book shop, as I always do when finding the time to do so. Having dicovered the shelf with handcrafting and decorative arts I was first a little disappointed, because nothing was really interesting. But directly next to the shelf I found a whole stack of pattern magazines, some in great, other in deplorable condition.
The seller refused to say what he asked for one magazine, but forced me to give him a prize for the whole lot. I, knowing what those magazines can cost today and knowing that I wasn’t willing to spend this amount of money that one evening, declined to make an offer. So he did, unfortunately one that I wasn’t able to resist.

The lot consists of 19 Beyer pattern magazines, dating mostly from 1938 to 1942, there is  each from 1937 and 1944. Instructions and patterns are almost completely included (only one magazine misses one of the pattern sheets).

Included in the stack were some other things as well: A 1939 zipper promotion (all those little arrows point to where they used the zippers on the garments)…

…some fragments of other handcrafting magazines (and a cover of another Beyer issue), two pattern sheets of now lost Vobach-magazines and lots of so-called “Abplättmuster”. These are patterns, mostly for embroidery, printed in a special blue ink, that can be ironed onto fabric. So you don’t need to transfer the pattern by drawing, but simply by ironing. Some of those patterns are Vobach ones as well, but the majority belongs to the Beyer-magazines. Because those patterns had to be ordered mostly seperately, they are not dated, but only marked with a number. I am pretty sure that those numbers will match many of the ones given in the magazines.

On the one hand I think we are all aware of the fact, that those magazines are a product of their time. On the other hand they had a life afterwards and they still have. This becomes very obvious when looking at the patterns that have been used. They where traced onto old newspapers, sometimes years after publishing (as today, I still use my 1990ies patterns). In the 1937 issue I found a 3rd Reich newspaper from 1939 right next to a socialist one from 1950. We don’t know if the owner changed between those two dates or if it was the same person, but it is quite interesting that the older pattern wasn’t thrown away as well as those are both mute witnesses of two very different totalitarian regimes, used in a completely unpolitical way after they had fulfilled their original purpose.

And something a little more funny to end: I don’t know if you, but I happen to stumble across patterns that I own printed in a Burda-magazine and that are also available as a single pattern, published afterwards. While looking at all those patterns in the Beyer-magazines, every now and then I had the feeling, that I had already seen that particular pattern elsewhere. First I thought “well, it is similar to another one” or “maybe you saw it earlier when flipping through the pages”. But then I found one pattern of that I was very sure that I had already seen it, even made it.

Does somebody remember that dress I wrote about in august 2012?

I made it using a 1940ies pattern-booklet I had bought in Dresden in 2011.
Yes, and it seems as if Beyer didn’t do different than Burda does today, that is republishing patterns:

I wish you all a very beautiful 1st advent sunday!



No Sans-Culotte anymore

It must have been three years ago, my father and I went to an Antique shop in the neighbouring village.

While my father digged his way through old electric stuff and ended up finding a sowjet metal construction kit, I asked the owner if he had anything related to handcrafting. He showed me some Chinese cross-stitch-booklets from the early 20th century and three brown book-like things.

I remember that two of them contained fashion and sewing stuff, the third one predominantly recipes. I wasn’t really convinced about them, but loved the Chinese-Embroidery-booklets. It was all in a whole stack of paper, magazines and stuff the owner had purchased only some days ago. Now, my father found some other things, I did as well and in the end my father asked the owner to offer us a good price for all of it, even though I had no idea what “all” really meant. The owner did, my father accepted and he gave me the complete batch of things to carry, Chinese Patterns, weird brown books, lots of water colour paper and some 1960ies issues of different magazines. Well, he wanted to get rid of them, I thought I can still throw it away later so I took it with me. At home I took a closer look at the brown books, the two with fashion and sewing instructions I stored with my patterns, the one with the recipes went onto my cook book shelf.
I can remember that I wasn’t really impressed by the patterns I had seen, back then I was wearing lots of modern clothing and was only interested in the 1950ies, my Rockabilly- phase. The brown recipe-Book was in fact a collection of magazine-clippings from the 60ies and 70ies with a knitting pattern or fashion drawings every now and then (but only because it was on the back of a recipe). I love to flip through the pages and surprise myself and my boyfriend with some weird 70ies dinner every few months (as I did after making these photos, Vol-au-Vents with mushroom filling and poached eggs, and no, I didn’t manage to make proper poached eggs 🙂 ).

Funny side fact: I found four languages in this collection: German, French, English and one recipe is in Italian.

I always imagined the other two brown books must contain the same sort of things, only with a stress on fashion, so I paid hardly any interest on them.

Only a few months ago I remembered them on a quiet and rainy evening and went through them again. Struth had I been wrong! Those were complete volumes of crafting magazines from 1942 and 1944. I was stunned, shocked by how much my taste and judgement had changed in that short time, I mean, I was close to leave them in that shop, unbelieveable.

The majority of the patterns are instructions for knitting and crocheting. There are many pictures of sewn dresses, but the patterns had to be ordered and didn’t come with the issues. But nontheless, they are so beautiful and such a great source of inspiration.

But! They do contain a small number of sewing projects. Most of them are things like bags, toys or simple children’s patterns, but some very few ‘real’ patterns are in them, too.

Of course there aren’t printed in their original size, but need to be enlarged. Already shortly after I re-discovered the magazines I copied the pattern for this pair of culottes (Frau und Mode. Beilage zum “Blatt für Alle”, 14. Februar 1942). I am not a big fan of working with paper in general (so I am always glad when the work with the actual pattern is done and I can start with the fabric), but I prefer drawing patterns much more to tracing them.

As a fabric I chose this rather coarse linen I bought at Ikea (I bought it already some years ago when it was still available in this light green I used and a light shade of pink). The pattern seems to be made for an autumn outfit and suggests a waterproof cloth lined with a woolen plaid for the cape and one of the fabrics for the culottes. That’s why I didn’t want to use a thin fabric and I am quite happy with the linen. And additionally it is so neutral, you might call it a cake-project, at least I would. In my opinion it doesn’t look that “vintage-y” at first glance, my boyfriend said he wouldn’t call it vintage or 40ies, but old-fashioned and square. Thank you, darling 😉

The pattern is quite spartan, as I assume most patterns of this type are. There is no piece for the belt given, I simply measured the waist size I ended up with after sewing everything together and made my own, as told in the instructions. It’s a little weird: This pattern is intended for 100cm hip size and I had to cut away approximately 4cm off each seam to fit it to my hips (that is 16cm less circumference!), but the waist  size was nearly perfect, I only reduced it by 2cm, so 0,5cm off each seam. Strange proportions.

(feel free to use it, the measurements are given in Centimetres)

Edit: Because I was told the pattern can’t be copied because of some missing measurements on the left side, here are all the measurements that I was able to read. Not readable is the final length of the back piece, I used the length from the front piece and it worked. The length of the inner leg seam can be fitted to the one you end up with after copying the front piece or can be more or less calculated (69,5 (length of the front piece) – 31 (I’m sorry, it is not clear in the drawing, but compared to the measurements of the front pieces, the 10cm have to be part of the 31cm, so it should read 21 + 10 in the drawing) –  ~2 (I can’t read it, but it is visible, that there is a slight curve upwards, like there is on the front piece, I didn’t manage to draw it) = 36,5cm).
Neither visible is, if the edge of the inner leg runs down vertically or in a slight angle like the front seam does. I think I made it vertically and it worked.

I love the style of the pockets, that seam going from the belt to the hem. When sewing the two cut pieces together, they overlap approximately 7cm (you can see the dashed line in the pattern). I am not quite sure if that was the intended size of the pockets, that would mean it would have been scarcely enough to store a handkerchief in them. I added pocket pouches, using an old fabric I had once used to line a waistcoat with it. I am not quite sure what material it is.

Because I was a little frightened the pockets would be the weak spot and at risk of ripping someday at the belt, I decided to add belt loops with a pointed end and placed them directly above the pocket opening. The idea came to my mind because Tasha made similar belt hoops on a skirt in April. In the back I placed them above the darts (you can’t really tell from the photos, I’m sorry)

The pleats are sewn close up to a certain point, I think it is visible in the photos. It is quite weird, because they form kind of a triangle with the crotch seam. Below the seam they are only ironed, maybe I will try to secure them with an additional seam, but I ran out of thread while hemming the legs, so this would mean I would have to buy new thread, I don’t know if it is worth it.

It is closed with a zipper in the side seam, the belt closes with a hook and a crocheted loop.

As always I had to shorten the legs. And for the first time in my life I used a skirt marker for it.  A few weeks ago I found a skirt marker to attach to a doorframe on a fleamarket, it works pretty well.

I have been wanting to photograph it for weeks, but somehow never managed. So I finally did it today, after having been on the move the whole day in a boiling city (after some beautiful rain on Monday the heat is back!). So my styling is improvised and I am looking really tired on some of the photos. Because my boyfriend hates this and thinks it is old-fashioned, I decided to wear the full package, with cravat and laced shoes. I was kind of shocked, because, somehow, it doesn’t look as bad as I imagined it to be, does it?

(blouse: Tommy Hilfiger, cravat and belt: family heirloom, from my grandaunt, shoes: Dosenbach/Deichmann)

I already wore it on our tour to Kandersteg a few weeks ago, styled very simple with a T-Shirt and canvas shoes.

crumpled after a long day of walking.

(shirt: I am by Manor, belt: family heirloom, from my grandaunt, socks: Six, shoes: Pointer)

Yes, I am very pleased with the result. It is not something to wear every day, but it is practical. Made from a more elegant fabric I can really imagine it to wear as a skirt substitute in every day life.  I hope you like it as well.

See you soon, love