Penafore 1941


My daughter and I made this penafore dress from a pattern dated 1941. The pattern itself was fascinating. There were no printed details on the tissue and each piece was already precisely cut out at the factory. A letter was punched out in the corner of each pattern piece for identification. We had to double check the directions for the seam allowence. We’re glad we did, because it was 1/2 inch, instead of today’s 5/8’s.

Today patterns are printed out on giant pieces of tissue, with various sizes overlapping. The styles and directions are fairly simple, probably designed more for the home hobbiest than the serious seamstress.

Another noticeable difference between this 66 year old pattern and today’s, is the button closures down the back. Modern styles usually have the zipper closure. That made us wonder about when the zipper was invented and when it was finally used in women’s fashion. The zipper,which dates back to the the mid-1800’s, with  various developments and improvements, finally made it’s way into the garment industry in the 1920’s and 30’s.

“The zipper slowly became popular for children’s clothing and men’s trousers in the 1920s and 1930s. In the early 1930s the haute couture designer Elsa Schiaparelli featured zippers in her avant-garde gowns, helping it to become acceptable in women’s clothing. In 1934, Tadao Yoshida founded a company called San-S Shokai in downtown Tokyo. Later, this company would change its name to YKK and become the world’s largest manufacturer of zippers and fastening products. By World War II, the zipper had become widely used in Europe and North America, and after the war quickly spread through the rest of the world.

Clergy in the 1920s and 1930s described zippers as allowing one to take one’s clothes off too quickly, thus hastening illicit sexual activity. Clothing with zippers was seen as inappropriate to be worn by women because of this fact, and was not fully adopted until the late 1950s.” (wiki)

So that might help to explain why we made seven buttonholes down the back and sewed on the seven recycled buttons in their proper places. A girl should be safe in this dress from sexual temptations!


About SeamQueen

Seamstress, Sewist, Artist, Fashionista, Quilter, Upcycler, Textile Obsessed!
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