Mannish Tailored Fashions for the Older Set

The American Gentlewoman: Mannish Tailored Fashions, 1943. Click to enlarge

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5 Responses to Mannish Tailored Fashions for the Older Set

  1. J Smith says:

    Interesting styles. I like the coats and trousers. The draft (set of instructions) for the coat looks pretty standard. Without having taken classes, I couldn’t have followed it, but online, there seem to be a fair number of pattern making autodidacts.

    It’s possible that the designs in the second half are derived from the foundation styles presented in the first half. For example, the skirts could be adapted from the basic skirt draft and one way to create a women’s slacks sloper is to start with a well-fitting women’s skirt sloper.

  2. Susan says:

    These styles are so short (and fashionable) that they don’t scream “old lady” to me. I would love to have such trim ankles!

  3. Lizzie says:

    Both pairs of pants are really nifty!

  4. Susan says:

    Since reading this and the following post about fashion advice for elders, I keep remembering an artist friend in her mid-seventies. She had retired from a career that required suits and high heels, and her love of color and inventiveness made her a star at an art gallery where we both exhibited. She usually wore huge, colorful glasses frames, and a constantly changing short hairdo — sometimes bright red, sometimes blonde or white and spiky — but always short. Her adult son once asked her, “Why do old women cut their hair like men?”
    “Because I can!” she told him. “Men don’t spend hours doing their hair every day. Why should I? I have better things do do with my time.” I do miss her….

  5. Abbey says:

    I suspect you could order models in the second part already sewn because I’ve seen American Gentle Woman pamphlets where there are descriptions of the fabric used.

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