In a recent fishing expedition through interlibrary loan offerings I came across a fascinating title, The American Gentlewoman: Mannish Tailored Fashions. It lives up to its name. The author, (or “sponsor” as listed on the title page) was Sam Regal, a man with many tailoring books to his credit. This particular volume, over fifty pages long, is divided into two parts. In the first are drawn images along with pattern cutting guides. The second half contains drawings of tailored fashions but without instructions.
In the first part of the book, I identified two patterns most likely aimed at older women. How do I know? First I relied on product descriptions. The authors identified the coat above as having “slenderizing lines for the conservatively dressed woman.” Conservative is a key word reserved for the older crowd.
The suit above was also called a “conservative model.”
The size ranges offered for these outfits, the coat with a bust size of 40” and the suit a bust size of 42”, further convinced me I was right. While not all older women have larger breasts, and not all those with larger breasts are old, that connection was a common one in the 1940s.
Take a look at the pattern guidelines for the coat above. I suppose someone could make a paper pattern out of those instructions, but I doubt I could do it without any accuracy. The intended audience appears to be highly trained tailors and dressmakers.
The second half of the volume is a bit of a puzzle. All the drawings, mainly for suits, are numbered but there are no cutting guides and no information about where to get the patterns. That’s a shame, because I would love to know more about the size range for the two pairs of pants on offer, one with peg legs and one much wider. The wide legged version is right back in style.