|Lesson 1 || |
EARLY PATTERNS AND FASHION PERIODICALS
Core texts to be read before the lesson:
- The earliest surviving published work on garment pattern construction is Juan de Alcega’s (1580) Libro De Geomatria Practia Y Trace (Book of the Practice of Tailoring and Marking Out). The purpose of this book was primarily to instruct tailors on the layout plan of men’s and women’s garments on cloth. Consider the reasons why the layout was so important.
- In 1850, the London-based monthly periodical The World of Fashion announced it was including the “first collections of patterns for fashionable dresses and millinery.” The patterns were one size only, and printed full-scale with a variety of designs superimposed onto each other. Many other magazines followed suit. Discuss and consider the impact of the fashion periodical and its influence on dressmaking both professionally and in the home.
- From the mid-nineteenth century, pullout sheets printed with overlaid patterns became prevalent in magazines, but skirt patterns were omitted. Reflect on why this was, considering the accepted skills of the maker.
Working in groups of four or five, find images that reflect the changing style of men’s and women’s clothing from the late sixteenth century up to the mid-nineteenth century. In addition, consider the different sorts of materials that were used to construct these garments.
What difference did it make to the tailor or professional dressmaker to have access to a ready-made block pattern?
Identify the two pattern drafting systems available at the end of the nineteenth century and discuss which one is still used today.
|Lesson 2 || |
THE INFLUENCE OF NEW TECHNOLOGY ON THE EMERGING PATTERN COMPANIES Core texts to be read before the lesson:
- The first mass-produced sewing machines were originally intended for use by tailors in a professional environment. Discuss why ordinary women immediately took to the appliance, causing an about-turn in the marketing strategy of the early makers of the sewing machine.
- In 1845, the U.S. made significant changes to its postal service. What impact did this have on the paper pattern companies?
- The growth of literacy rates, the cylinder printing press, and the introduction of paper made from wood pulp led to the creation of the tissue paper pattern. Which market were these tissue paper patterns aimed at, and why?
- How and why did these new technologies benefit the professional and home dressmaker?
By 1880, six major U.S. pattern companies had positioned themselves in the market. How did they advertise and gain favor among their customers? Select three of these companies and discuss by which unique means they promoted and grew their businesses.
|Lesson 3 || |
DIFFICULT TIMES: SHIFTING ECONOMIC CHANGES FOR THE PAPER PATTERN INDUSTRY Core texts to be read before the lesson:
- The U.S. entered into World War I in 1917. How did the pattern companies encourage and support women’s desire to participate in the war effort?
- What was the Hoover Apron? Why was it so popular?
- It has been assumed that pattern companies prospered during the American Depression of the 1930s; however, many of the companies did not fare well. To accommodate families’ lack of finances, what were some of the alternative ideas and patterns that the companies suggested and marketed?
- In 1927, James Shapiro founded the pattern company Simplicity. He promoted cheaper patterns and started the “3 Patterns for the Price of 1” range. What perception (though not necessarily true) did the company perpetuate and to some extent still does?
Access the Commercial Pattern Archive (CoPa) via Berg Fashion Library and examine the following two Butterick patterns (links below). Consider the similarities to the Hoover Apron. Working in groups of four, attempt to make one of the aprons (be inventive, using whatever materials are at hand—use plastic trash bags and adhesive tape if necessary). In response, reflect on how essential the activity of home garment construction was for the majority of women at this time.
|Lesson 4 || |
WORLD WAR II AND THE WAR EFFORT Core texts to be read before the lesson:
Review a number of apron patterns starting specifically with a 1953 McCall pattern (see CoPa archive).
- Betwen 1939 and 1940, the German army occupied most of Continental Europe. What effect did this have this have on American fashion? What was the experience of the American pattern companies?
- As soon as the U.S. entered the war, women were recruited for factory work. Who was “Rosie the Riveter”? Discuss the influence of the “We Can Do It” poster on women’s fashions and therefore the commercial pattern industry.
- In the U.S., in order to conserve scarce raw materials, the government urged the women of America to “use it up, wear it out, or do without.” Discuss similar campaigns in Europe. How did the pattern companies respond?
- The war ended in 1945, selling women the necessity of returning to homemaking as a priority. Which paper patterns in the CoPa archive epitomize this push?
Reflect on Figure 128, in A History of the Paper Pattern Industry: The Home Dressmaking Fashion Revolution, Joy Spanabel Emery, 2014, Berg Fashion Library. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/9781474223775/JEHISPPI0011
In groups of four, discuss the construction of the suit. Consider the expertise and skill needed to do this. In 1940, four million girls were enrolled in sewing classes across the U.S. (14,000 high schools offered over 10,000 sewing classes). How many free sewing classes are available to young people in your area? What effect has this had on the commercial pattern industry and mass production in the ready-to-wear clothing trade?
|Lesson 5 || |
NEW LOOKS AND NEW CHALLENGES Core texts to be read before the lesson:
- How did the pattern companies adjust their pattern styles to the sudden emergence of Christian Dior’s “New Look?”
- The pattern companies began to promote patterns designed by leading Parisian and American designers. Was this the beginning of the so-called “celebrity designer”?
- How did pattern companies respond to new challenges, including the acceptance of women in trousers and the emerging teen market?
- Major culture changes took place in the 1960s. A wide variety of styles, ranging from hot pants to bell-bottoms, appeared. African American designers created patterns for both Butterick and McCall. African American models were used. Discuss whether this reflected a cultural shift in society or merely another marketing strategy.
In 1950, German magazine Burda was published and began by including a pattern supplement. The magazine is still very popular among contemporary home dressmakers and is widely available. Compare and contrast the “overlay supplement pattern sheet” with that of a commercial tissue paper pattern. Write down your initial impressions and discuss the popularity and continuation of both methodologies.
|Lesson 6 || |
THE PAPER PATTERN, HOME DRESSMAKING, AND THE FUTURE Core texts to be read before the lesson:
- By the 1980s, pattern companies were beginning to struggle. Pattern sales began to slump. Discuss the factors that contributed to this decrease.
- Why did the pattern companies start placing a greater emphasis on marketing patterns for crafts and accessories?
- Vogue began to print a sewing skill rating on some of their patterns. What did this reflect?
- What effect has digital technology had on the paper pattern industry and home dressmaking as a whole?
- Discuss the future of home dressmaking. Is the paper pattern outmoded?
View the CoPa fashion content on the Berg Fashion Library, choose a time frame, and select one image that is particularly representative of everyday fashion for that era. Research and prepare a ten-minute presentation, with the image as the central focus of the talk. With reference to the image, discuss the cultural significance of commercial fashion pattern to the scholar of dress history, costume design, cultural studies, fashion, and textiles etc.