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I was flipping through my big old McCall’s pattern catalogue from 1957 again, and was struck by the abundance of garments sewn with a white contrast collar. I, as you may know, adore a white contrast collar. And although I’m not a fashion expert, it seems to me that the white contrast collar has never really gone out of style.

That being said, there may be some incarnations of the white collar that you’re not so eager to revisit. Mmm, thank you Ali MacGraw and Simplicity for this excellent exercise in repurposing old placemats:

Needless to say, I prefer 1957’s take on the white collar to 1985’s. What struck me most was the variety of lovely and innovative uses of the white collar. Sure, there are the expected sailor collars and demure Peter Pan styles:

But it’s also used in so many other delightful ways:

The white collar is put to especially good use in portrait necklines and shawl collars:

After seeing this one, how could you not want a perfect sheath in yellow polka dot with a pristine, white, clavicle-displaying collar?

But my absolute favorite is the classic white on black with enough gumption to stand away from the body just a bit:

Incidentally, don’t you find it rather amazing that those two dresses are from the same pattern? Today’s patterns often show a more formal version and a more casual version, but these looks are just so completely different. Love it!

Have you employed a white contrast collar in any of your garments?  How so and what kind? Who wants to get started on a new dress with a gorgeous white collar right now??

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Whew!  It’s been a busy couple of days here at Chez Selfish with little time to sew, and I’ve been making some sloooow progress on a McCall 6305 blouse in navy poplin. I’m kind of lukewarm on the poet sleeves so far- they feel a little bit current-day Meryl Streep or Diane Keaton- pretty and elegant, but a little lacking in edge, and maybe not really my look:

Anyway, seeing as how sewing progress has slowed to a near halt, I thought I’d look for something else to show you, namely these two enormous vintage pattern catalogues that I purchased a few years back. You know, the kind you flip through at Jo-ann, but back from the days long before Jo-ann. They’re McCall August 1957 and Simplicity 1959 volumes (did they really put these things out monthly back then??):

I love looking through these, especially the McCall’s one, as 1956-1958 are some of my favorite years for fashion. Flipping through them, I notice a number of neat trends that I don’t see much these days but that might just be due for a resurrection. I thought I’d share a couple of these with you- who knows? Maybe you’ll be inspired to add one to your list.

For today, I’m featuring the short cape, which was a staple judging by the 1957 McCall book, for both day and evening wear. It appears this little garment was even more popular than the bolero, which is what I usually think of when I picture a light layer over a 1950s dress. (All of the capes pictured are from the McCall book):

Although the short cape is often included with a dress pattern that has a full or semi-full skirt option, the cape is almost always shown with a straight skirted dress, which balances the flare and keep it sleek.

And I especially love the examples in which the short cape is actually integrated into the design of the whole ensemble, such as in this outfit, in which the pleats of the dress are repeated on the cape- how much more interesting and pulled together this looks than it would have with a plain cape!

Or this outfit, in which the cape physically buttons onto the straps of the dress, making for a cute open look, while keeping the cape on the shoulders. This would be so easy to make and add to your sheath dress:

Even very simple short capes add elegance and sophistication:

And check this out- the short cape worn over a jacket! Who would have thought? That’s almost like wearing two jackets! And yet, so much cooler- if I’m not mistaken, the cape actually slips under the collar of the jacket and then attaches right onto the jacket buttons. Oooh, I love brilliant sewing engineering!

I think this trend of the 50s may be due for a revival. In the last few years, we’ve already seen the resurgence of capes in general, usually hitting at the hip or longer and filling the role of light- to mid-weight outerwear. (Actually, now that I think about it, Burda 8/2009 did feature a short version of a cape- it was cute!) The short cape seems like it could fill a somewhat different role, and could also be worn by women who aren’t built like trees. What do you think?  Are you interested in seeing this one come back? Weigh in!

Also, let me know if you found this interesting- there are a lot of other nifty vintage trends in my pattern books that I’d be happy to show you as well :)

About this blog

The Selfish Seamstress loves to design and sew garments, but only if she gets to keep them. I'm Elaine, known in the online sewing world as elainemay, and welcome to my selfish sewing blog.

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