Upcycling Clothes in 1946

April is Earth month and before it ends for the year 2020, I would love to share a vintage sewing book with you.  The New Encyclopedia of Modern Sewing, circa 1946.  There is no author, but it is “Edited by Frances Blondin”. It’s Published by Wm. H. Wise and Co., Inc. “Through special arrangement made with The National Needlecraft Bureau, Inc.”  I didn’t know that bureau existed! Worth some research, maybe? Sewing and textile historians, can you chime in? IMG_8818

It was written in 1946, just after the world was beginning to recover from World War II, and on the home front American women heroically managed their lives. Although America was not as decimated as Europe, it still had to recover from shortages, military casualties and other problems that wars bring.

In 2020 terms, the sewers of 1946 were being “sustainable”.  FYI, I found this book (among others) back in 1992 in a musty old used book store in Billings, Montana, run by an equally musty old gentleman who seemed amazed that he was finally getting rid of those old sewing books piled up under a table.

There were four editions printed – all in 1946, so it must be a good seller.  Chapter 9 is titled “Repeat Performance”; a great title for an upcycling, refashioning chapter! The images below are from that chapter.

Image 1 shows two young girls in beachwear made from their Dad’s shirts. B1 3

The striped bathing suit on the right was presumably made with a commercial pattern; the white shirt on the left is described this way:  “Two of his (Dad’s) white shirts make this year’s favorite beach coat, … the cholo.” What?? Of course I went straight to my handy Google app, as one does, and looked for “cholo”; the only descriptions I found were ethnically derogatory which I won’t write in this post. What am I missing??       Style note: The white shirt has a ruffle just under the button tab which may not be obvious in the photo.

Images 2 and 3 show these cuties sporting more finery made from Dad’s shirts.  IMG_8829IMG_8830

While upcycling button down shirts has been elevated to an art form in 2020, I love these ideas from 74 years ago. It’s a tiny snapshot of daily life in another era.

Images 4 and 5 show what one can do with Dad’s suit, white flannels or overcoat. Today’s dad spends his time in khakis, but I do wish he wore white flannels on occasion.IMG_8831IMG_8832

So, what happens to the fabric in your stash when all you want to do is refashion older clothes?  Last I heard we must let the fabric speak.    Check out what I wrote about it back in 2016.  Its a fun post.

Be safe, my friends. This (pandemic) too shall pass.



2 thoughts on “Upcycling Clothes in 1946

  1. In THOSE days, dad had to have some worn-out items first to benefit the rest of the family…
    In these days (at least when stores are open), we have ABUNDANT options to up-cycle from thrift stores.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally agree. Which means that dad wore his shirt day in and day out until 1946 when the collar frayed. Which would date his particular shirt to …. 1940??
      Today, it’s a matter of boredom with the shirt. Or maybe “decluttering” his closet. Just a thought


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