Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Foundations of Fashion, and the Reality of the Figure

Does anyone besides me remember when the department stores referred to lingerie as "foundations"? That was the name for everyday undergarments, and it was carefully chosen as part of the selling point...you had to have the right "foundation" to show each particular dress off to its best advantage.

I'm wondering if a modern slip can really work under a vintage dress. (Opinions, anybody?) I started looking at vintage slip patterns and at vintage slips, thinking about what style of slip(s) I might try under the dresses I plan on making.

There's a really wonderful collection of patterns at So Vintage Patterns, but here are some that I found at other places, like The Blue Gardenia, Grandma's House, and sacratomato's store on etsy.

When I make up Butterick B4513, a re-released pattern from 1957 (below), I'm wondering what it will look like without crinolines.

These slips (below) almost look like they are hiding crinolines. Is that part of the pattern, or are they assuming that you already have your own crinolines to wear under these slips, after you make them?

Of course, all of this is complicated by the information I have to go on, namely these artistically rendered women on the pattern envelopes. These pattern illustrations can be confusing; as anyone who looks at the waist size of these women can attest, no REAL person has that figure. It's sometimes hard to tell fact from fantasy with these things.

I'm noticing that, at least with these slip patterns, the 1940's women look more naturalistic. The women on 1930's pattern envelopes tend to look very slim and tall, with no hips at all. And these 1950's women look like somebody bound them in a corset at birth!

For you vintage gals out there, what's your experience with the expectations set by the illustrations? What's your experience with "foundations" under these dresses from a bygone age? It will be interesting to see the reality, after enjoying the fantasy!


  1. My expectation is (depending on the era) that there are bullet bras, corsets and crinolines under there! I find that very few lingere patterns have the crinoline included, so I bought a separate pattern (actually a current costume one) and made small modifications to it to get the effect I wanted. There's a few posts on Sew Retro that show the difference, with and without the crinoline which you might be interested in :)

  2. Thanks, DeVille! Sounds like I know what I'll be doing tomorrow evening! Sew Retro, here I come!

  3. Yes, all those 50's wasp waisted ladies are using corsets or waist cinchers of some kind. And they really work! Those garments can still be found sometimes in thrift stores and antique markets.

    Petticoats like this:
    are really very simple to make even without patterns. And they really make a difference! I usually use stiff voile (or other similar sheer but stiff fabric), because it's washable (unlike tulle), and does not cling to the persons stockings (unlike tulle), but looks nice enought beeing sheer and all that, and has plenty of color options, plus it's cheap. :) I determine the desired lenght, divide that in three. The first layer (waist part) is cut about 10 inches longer than hip measurement (can be more if wanted). The second layer is usually twice as long (and I sometimes make two layers), gathered and sewed on the lower part of the waist part. The third part is (usually) again twice as long as the second part, gathered and at least one layer is sewn to each layer of the second part. I sometimes add some lace to finish the edge too.

    Wow, that was confusing! ;) Maybe I'll just post a tutorial with pictures later this week...

  4. Wow, Una, thanks for the tips, especially the one about using voile instead of tulle! I wouldn't have thought about the problem with tulle sticking to your stockings.

    Ooh, a tutorial would be so incredibly helpful to this newbie...


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