Thursday, December 17, 2009

A 40s Precursor to the Walk-Away Dress?

Isn't this dress pattern from 1945 interesting? I found the image in the book Blueprints of Fashion: Home Sewing Patterns of the 1940s, and it looked awfully . . . familiar. Then I realized that the fundamental structure of it is almost the same as the Walk-Away Dress, which I posted about here. (I also admitted to being a little lukewarm about the potential hospital gown vibe of the Walk-Away shape.)

The 1945 pattern is kind of cool, I think. Is has an neat little collar and I like the waistline darts that radiate outwards. (Click the top image to see it full-size.) Interestingly, the dress was designed by a high school student named Lola Brooks (great name, huh?). She won the Chicago Tribune Teen-Age Fashion Competition and her pattern was produced by Beauty Patterns, a mystery company that I've seen a few other mentions of from the 1940s.

The reason I was so fascinated by the 1945 pattern is that it kind of diminishes the mystique of the Walk-Away Dress of 1952 (above). According to the Butterick Company history, their "simple yet flattering" Walk-Away Dress so took the world by storm that they had to halt production of all their other patterns until backorders for the Walk-Away could be fulfilled. (I admit, I've always been a little skeptical of that story. The intrepid journalist in me would just like a source other than Butterick to confirm it.)

You see plenty of other variations of this kind of wrap-around dress later in pattern history:




I'd always assumed these patterns were all based on the Walk-Away Dress of 1952, which supposedly was a pioneer in the movement of the ultra-simple wrap around dress. But the 1945 design above refutes that notion to a certain extent. Had this kind of dress actually been popular with home seamstresses in the 40s? Obviously, the Walk-Away is the one that stuck in our cultural history, but I wonder who truly first invented this kind of design? Who knows - perhaps a 20s version will turn up at some point. I can certainly see the wrap design blending seamlessly into a drop-waist flapper silhouette. Isn't it interesting how this simple composition could really work itself into any decade?

What do you all think? Do you like the 40s design above? Or could you do without this sort of dress all together?

38 comments:

  1. I actually like the 40's version better than the popular 1950's one.

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  2. The Jiffy pattern--it is-60s? I love it! And the last Butterick pattern in your queue--I had something similiar. There are still patterns for wrap-style pants and skirts, probably all evolvoing from the walk-away dress.

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  3. LOVE the 1940s version. Also the Jiffy patterns version, but I can't do empire waists.


    Hadn't thought much about alterations to my walk-away but I can certainly see myself using these pics as alteration ideas.

    Wonder if simply reducing the volume of the skirt will solve the issue of the back neckline creeping to the front?

    Oh, just remembered, I have the little girls version of the last one. I think it's marked as a dress and beach cover-up.

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  4. That last Butterick pattern is amazing, I want it!

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  5. I do like the B6015 pattern, View A. Made up in the right black and white fabric it could create a very elegant dress for special occasions.

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  6. I love 'em all. Boy, Gretchen, you are quite the fashion sleuth/historian! Great finds!

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  7. I think these are all really cool, but how wearable are they? That last one really appeals to my mod leanings, but it looks like it would need constant adjustment so that it wouldn't fall off. Maybe if I were so lucky to have that pattern in my stash it could be a swimsuit coverup...

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  8. I love the concept, and imagine that it would allow women who were put off by zips and buttons to feel comfortable making something they could happily wear. I'm a big fan of the jiffy dress too and I love the way the first one looks in the illustration. I'd be interested to see how they would look on a pear shape..

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  9. I love the 40's version and the Jiffy version. I think I actually like the Jiffy a little better. I am still undecided as to whether or not I even like the walkaway dress.

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  10. I like the silhouette of the '40s dress the best. Is it just me or does it look like the model is giving the talk-to-the-hand gesture like an insolent teenager? I think it adds more dimension to the term "walk-away dress".

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  11. I like the full skirt version. I was all set to make the Butterick version of the Walk Away dress with a reversible silk fabric (love the picture and the concept) until I read this post: http://blog.mammamadedesigns.com/archive/2008/05/24/sewing-butterick-4790---a-complete-waste-of-time.aspx

    Can someone tell me if they have had a good experience with wearing the pattern?

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  12. I really like the 40's one and the one right after the walkaway. The 40's one looks so feminine and I love how the one after the walkaway is just less obviously a wrap...and that it's secured by buttons so a stiff breeze won't expose you. I'm still not sold on the sleeve on the walkaway. It just doesn't look terribly flattering.

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  13. Anonymous, there are a lot of responses about personal experiences with the walk-away on my earlier post that I linked to above.

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  15. I have an entire book of vintage flapper dresses that are all made in the same manner. Check it out on amazon...
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1934268666/ref=oss_T15_product.

    Super simple to make although I must admit I haven't actually made one yet :)

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  16. The one-hour-dress which Amanda mentions above is not a wrap around though it is a relatively patternless make. I made one for Halloween and it took me A LOT longer than 1 hour.

    As for who came up with the wrap around style of dress...well now...shouldn't we be giving Ancient Greece that title...?

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  17. Ooh, thanks for that link, Amanda!

    Rueby, good point about the ancient Greeks. But I meant sewing pattern-wise and who first marketed the idea to the home sewing market. :) But that would be pretty cool if someone found an ancient Greek sewing pattern!

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  18. There is also an Advance sewing pattern that is very similar to the walk-away dress and came out simultaneously (6144, 1952) so I've always assumed that the concept was floating around before 1952 and Butterick....I was thinking that it might have been something from RTW of the era, or something that evolved out of those apron/housedress garments that often wrap. This 40s one is the first "dressy" one I've seen, definitely!

    One note on the Walk-away -- the original pattern is not a full circle, it's a half-circle. No idea why they changed it in the most recent reissue! (the late 90s reissue is also a half-circle). I would definitely not make it as a circle skirt. Then again, I've had the pattern for years and still haven't made it so...what do I know?

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  19. I adore the silhouette of the 40s version--how cool! (Which translates into: must figure out about making one someday... lol) I've seen variations on the idea of a wrap garment in patterns prior to hugely popular 50s version (which frankly--not to offend anyone--just leaves me lukewarm. I really don't care too much for it.). I know the patterns I have seen for similar styles have been mail orders/newspaper patterns; none of the major pattern companies were exploiting this idea in the 40s. Which is odd, considering how much of an emphasis on practicality there was at that point in fashion.

    I like the one you posted for several reasons; the fact that it's from the 40s is a big draw for me. But I love the silhouette too--and that it's begging to be made in a pretty rayon or light silk. Plus, what girl could resist the marketing line: "drapes to the figure like a dream"?

    Totally different garment, but I thought you might find this interesting. Here's a mid 40s pattern for a blouse that operates on a similar principle:

    http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b145/iconisms/simplicity_1867.jpg

    ♥ Casey
    blog | elegantmusings.com

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  20. I definitely prefer the '40s version to the walkaway dress. It has much better sleeves, and I like the fact that the skirt has more of a sarong feel than a "hospital gown" feel. It is clearly designed to use drapy fabrics, which I think is much more appropriate for a wrap dress. I find it intersting that it uses considerably less fabric than the walkaway dress, as well -- there's only one layer to that skirt!

    I certainly don't think that all of the patterns for wrap pants and skirts all evolved from the walk-away dress, like gwensews thinks. This 1945 pattern is a great example. Also, I have a pair of traditional Indian wrap pants that I am certain can't be traced back to the walk-away dress. I think wrap skirts, and possibly even Butterick 4699, above have their origins in the traditional sarong, ad I think that wrapping around is really a totally different construction concept than wrapping over (or under, for pants) your body.

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  21. I'm with previous commentors who like the 40's and Jiffy versions better than the "walkaway" (which appears suitable only for very slim figures). As for that last Butterick one --- OMG, I'm quite sure I remember seeing that in pattern catalogs when I was learning to sew in HomeEc class in grade school. I was intrigued by the simple-clever design, although it looks like the kind of garment that would be horribly unflattering on absolutely everyone.

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  22. I should also mention that I think the extra fabric required to wrap the skirt modestly is probably the reason that it wasn't popular in the 40's, espoecially in places like Britain that continues rationing.

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  23. Very interesting. Could I have the pattern number for the Jiffy one? I'm pretty sure I saw this SOMEWHERE but can't recall.


    Here's one with a collar :

    http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=36466676&ref=cat1_gallery_6 (with collar)

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  24. I like the 40s one, and I own a few early 40s wrap dress patterns that I have made up and they don't look like hospital gowns I promise! they are some of my favorite summer frocks.

    Also, I have a swirl (brand) dress that is equally amazing. I adore wrap dresses!

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  25. Oh Gertie, I'd love to know more about the second-to-last pattern, the Jiffy one. It looks like a great maternity dress.

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  26. The Butterick 4699 pattern is one (or very like the one) that my mother made for me and my sister in late 60's or early 70's. We called it "the 3-holed dress." I think there were a couple variations (wine red corduroy with gold rick-rack is working its way thru the jungle of memory).

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  27. Great historical review of a pattern and its offspring through the decades!
    The only comment I ever read about the WAD that stuck in my brain is that the lack of side seams makes the fronts (?) ride up and one ends up tugging on the skirt for modesty's sake. Hmmmm. Sounds like the sides need some buttons to hold them together, at least.

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  28. I like the 1945 and the B6836 versions of the walk away dress.

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  29. Just found your blog and am very excited about the vintage sewing! I like the 6015 pattern best, with the full skirt, but love the silhouette in general.

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  30. Someone mentioned a similar concept in pants - here's a pic: http://www.etsy.com/view_transaction.php?transaction_id=20583800

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  31. Gertie, cool post, I have some of those, I have always been interested in walkaways and other versions, those were popular among my grandmother and her generation. I also have this one:http://www.etsy.com/view_transaction.php?transaction_id=17109650, if you can pull it up. Walkaways and other wraps were popular housedresses. In Goodfellas, Henry's mom even has a Swirl style dress on, similar to my favorite Simplicity from 1952. The 1945 version you posted is my favorite. Looks like a modified apron and could be really easy to draft, with a muslin.

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  32. I think I may have seen some 1930's or even 20's "house dresses" that are a similar wrap-around design, but now I have to go look through my stuff to make sure I didn't just dream that.

    I love the wrap-around style, and have a great 1960's pattern that I use for summer dresses; very easy to make, easy to wear!

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  33. There are lots more variations on that dress. I have:
    - Simplicity 3967 (1952, sweetheart neckline, pointed midriff panel, bust gathers)

    - Butterick 3221 (1970's "Wrap and Go" dress

    I also have the Jiffy "Mod" one pictured above (Simplicity 8125, 1968/1969). It's the only one I have actually made and it was a practially unwearable disaster due to creeping and shifting. It was so bad I haven't been motivated to try the others in my stash. Although I wonder if the bodice details on S3967 would solve the creeping problems...

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  34. I'm trying to collect as many of these as I can lay my hands on. Here's one from Advance, perhaps early 50s?

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nnaloh/4221577876/

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  35. Ooh how interesting - love pattern history! I'm a big fan of wrap dresses in general, so I like them all! :)

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  36. Hi Gertie, I found an easy wrap blouse variation in a 1950s german magazine recently. Maybe it´s of interest for you.
    You can find pictures in my blog
    http://www.zuzsastyle.com/?p=1479

    Anyway, I read your article with lots of fun! Zuzsa

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  37. oh my God! My mom had that red wrap around dress Jiffy pattern. Wish I could remember the fabric she made it in.

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Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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