In My Mailbox- A Package from Tilly and a Weimar “Burda”

I’m getting all kinds of cool stuff in the mail lately.  First- this package arrived today and as soon as I saw the Royal Mail postmark, I knew it had to be from Tilly!  She was my swap partner in the Summer Sewing Swap 2012 hosted by Kestrel at Kestrel Finds and Makes– thanks for organizing, Kestrel!  I tore into the package like a badger on a honeycomb and found these lovelies inside!  Thank you so much, Tilly!  Your package is set to go out this week.  I can’t wait to see what Tilly makes with what I sent her.

Now I need to figure out the best possible use for this gorgeous Liberty cotton Tilly sent.  I made a blouse from a blue and white print last year and LOVED wearing it.  Sadly, she has since died.  I could be boring and make another button-up-the-back lantern sleeve blouse like the first one, or…

This German sewing magazine from 1934 also recently turned up in my mailbox.  I say “turned up” because I’m not very pleased with the Australian Post at the moment, so whenever something appears when it should I count myself fortunate.  I’m fascinated by the combination of austerity and glamor found so often in 30’s fashions.  Maybe it’s historical perspective or the vast ocean of novels I read, but to me the 30’s in Germany seem especially rareified.  The clothes, however, are perfectly accessible:

I always draw inspiration from primary source material that others post or archive digitally and I’d like to start scanning/photographing sewing magazines in my possession as a way to balance the universe.  All the photos today are quite large, you can click for a closer view.  These are four sensible suits with trim silhouettes, nothing special at first glance.  But check out the skirt panels and shaping!  The strong T shape on the third from the left stays popular through the next decade.  I’m really digging the collar on the far right, and the pale brown jacket.

These cuts might require a little more stylistic finesse to work in a modern wardrobe, but they’re not too obnoxious…

These dresses are so 30’s!  I love them, but I have yet to figure out how to pull off one of these 30’s type dresses without looking like an extra from Poirot.

More smart suits.  I like the variety represented by these styles, no two elements are repeated exactly, but re-translated.  I like that.  A double-breasted jacket with one row of buttons and trim lapels at an acute angle might suit one figure better than a double breasted jacket with two lines of buttons and a more exaggerated collar-line.  Personally, I like the look of the last one…

Some day I’d love to need a coat like this, just for the joy of fashioning one… But it’s a very silly waste of time in my climate.

Separates!  At last- something that might work with the blue and white Liberty cotton!  I like to look at 30’s dress and suit illustrations, but I like to make and wear 30’s separates.  They fit very easily into modern wardrobes, even for those of us who don’t tend to stunt dress.  How “Deco” is that second blouse down?  I’m dying to see what it would look like make up and worn.

This is a look at the shape of the pattern pieces for those blouses, and the schematic drawings.  The sewing magazine is in terrific shape for its age, it came complete with this hot mess:

Two pages.  The second one is twice this size.  Front and back.  I stood back and tried to pick out a few pattern pieces.  Modern Burda magazine pattern sheets used to make me break out in hives until I realized I could pick out the pattern lines like some kind of Magic Eye puzzle.

This pattern sheet did not play along, I couldn’t pick out the shapes of any pieces easily.

I’m also thinking about these two blouses from the cover.  I’m not sure if the ruffled one would work with such a dainty print, but I think the bow-buttoned-collar one just might. I can wear a dark blue or bright red bow on days I feel dramatic, and on non-dramatic days it’s just a little button tab detail on my otherwise plain blouse…

While we’re visiting Weimar Germany, do check out Cabaret Berlin.  I found it the other day, it’s a blog devoted to the study and preservation of Weimar Berlin culture.  I believe the blogger also offers detailed and colorful walks of Berlin.  I wish I could go, he looks like an amazing guide.

(Vintage) Sewists- Do you have a “strictly vintage” wardrobe and a “normal” wardrobe, or do you tend to mix pieces?  Do your “vintage” styles see as much wear as “regular” clothes?  How do you make vintage style work in the modern world?

All this week I’m writing about the things that inspire me the most lately.  Japanese craft books, Harajuku designers and bloggers, and pulpy Ladies’ comics.  Then I’ll get back to writing about sewing.  I swear…


  1. the fabric does look beautiful. I can’t wait to see what fabulous thing you’ll create :-)

    PS.: if you need any assistance with the German, let me know, I might be able to help you

    • Thanks, Giggles! :) I’m sure it would be interesting to read, but I’m not sure if I’ll go there. The print is so pretty, so evocative. I keep thinking of chocolate and fairy tales when I look at it…

    • I know, right? They’re really something. I doubt I’ll use them, but it’s really cool to know they’re there. Maybe I’ll be a masochist and trace off one of those darling little jackets.. ;)

  2. oh wow! very nice “schnittmuster” :-)
    and at the right time – i´m just looking around for autumn-suit-inspirations.
    well – the thirties in germany were a time of looking forward after the global economic crisis in the twenties.
    my granddad lived in the berlin of the 20/30s, he often talked about to me. exciting time……

    • Yes, I’ve been reading Ischerwood lately… Very interesting and exciting times indeed! I really, really want to visit Berlin.

      • Unfortunately there is not much left of the built before the war – not only because of the bombardment, because of the modern mania for building. and of course the atmosphere is nothing there anymore. only folklore for tourists ……
        thats why i left this city for living in the woods.
        clothing technically: never use bougt patterns – I make my own, very modern (a bit of japanese style and my own technic) and use vintage or vintage looking fabric. and with the proportions and styling it looks some kind of oldfashioned but not like a costume.

  3. That pattern tracing page is a hot mess!! But if anyone can decipher it, you can! Those are beautiful designs; I really like the 30’s clothes aesthetic too. :)

  4. My wardrobe does a little bit of everything-vintage, modern and some combination of the two. If I’m having a day at home or if I’m going to work, I usually dress modern but sometimes jazz it up with a retro hairstyle but my fun time wardrobe is mostly vintage/retro. I also mix and match pieces too. Mostly I just wear whatever I feel like. :)

    • I hear that! :) I also have some pieces that are made completely from a vintage pattern (no tinkering on my part!) and they come out looking like a perfectly normal/modern piece of clothing… I think it’s mostly in the fabric, how well something “translates.”

  5. It’s pretty sweet that you have all those patterns, even if the pattern sheet it a little bit of a mess! Can’t wait to read about Harajuku and pulp comics!

    • I do really treasure vintage pattern mags… I want to get my hands on some more from this time/place…

      Harajuku and pulp comics… Highschool me would roll her eyes and say “Way to never grow up, Steph…”

  6. Oh, the illustrations are lovely! The pattern sheet looks like something mapped out by those who believe in ley lines — just about as decipherable. At least you have some illustrations of pattern shapes so you can self-draft. I agree with you that 1930s women’s fashions are timeless for women who are shaped like women. They take a bit more fabric than 1940s war-austerity looks, but not much more!

    • Yeah, when I was photographing it Stephen made some joke about it being an escape map for the third reicht…

      Yes- I really have no intention to trace off the patterns, but the drawings are *perfect* to use as a drafting guide.

  7. Oh, it’s “Ros” in blue! I love that print. I have some in my stash that’s a cherry red colour. Can’t wait to see what you decide to wear it as!

  8. So fun! I love 30s styles, there are so many interesting quirks—though I admit I do have a hard time visualizing a lot of them as wearable in a modern context. That being said, a fair number of 70s patterns have a lot of 30s elements, too, and I usually find 70s styles pretty wearable, or at least translatable…

    I really love the right-hand blouse from the cover, as well, although I think it would work best with a soft and drapy fabric rather than a crisper one—not sure which your cotton is.

    I don’t have a whole lot of purely vintage looks—most of my stuff is “vintage inspired” or has a quirky twist of some kind. It can be fun to pair a retro blouse with modern skinny jeans, or vice versa. Skirt length and fullness are also factor in wearability, as are the fabrics. Some things I love but end up just feeling too formal for everyday.

    Good luck with the pattern sheet… it is truly terrifying!

    • Yes… It irritates me to no end when I’m wearing something with a late 30’s/early 40’s cut and someone tells me how much they love my “Retro 70’s look”… But I just nod and smile… The decades do share a lot of the same cuts, etc..

      You don’t think it would work for a crisper fabric? The lawn is kinda-crisp, kinda-drapey. There’s no draped elements on the blouse except the bow…

      Yes- too formal for everyday. That’s it precisely, isn’t it?

  9. Why wouldn’t you want to look like a Poirot extra ;-)? We’ve been watching the BBC series on Netflix, and the costumer did an awesome job, and the extras do not only look period but their personalities are reflected in the way they dress.

    I am third-generation Berliner (well, I live the US now), and the 30s designs do remind me of my great-grandmother. Please let me know if you would like anything translated ! For me German 30s/40s retro appeal does not work quite as well as UK or US, mainly because of the bad political associations with the time period. Thank you for posting so many detailed pictures!

    • Well… I like to dress kind of crazy sometimes, but I think when you look too “out of place” with your surroundings, it builds a wall between you and other people. There’s nothing at all wrong with looking like a Poirot extra, but I don’t want my clothes to wear me… So to speak… I like Poirot! :)

      Thanks for the offer! I might translate it, but I doubt it. I bought the mag for the history and for the wordless interaction of the cloth.. :)

      • I think I know what you mean, about not wanting to being worn by the clothes. I like seeing your updated versions inspired by older designs (I am looking forward to your ‘sexy fleece’ jacket). Certain skirt lengths and cuts look very nice, but the tend to make me look 60 years older than I am (and boho stuff making me look like a real farm worker/ milk maid).

  10. I think that Australia Post and Canadian Post are cut from the same cloth. It took nearly 2 weeks for a standard sized letter to make it from the Yukon to Winnipeg, and that’s only one of many problems I’ve had with them over the years. A friend of mine received a post card that was ripped in half and stuffed into a baggie. At least they put both pieces in a baggie, instead of just sending on the half with the address and stamp…

    The fabric looks lovely and I love the blouses that you’re considering, but ye gods that pattern sheet!! I’m going cross-eyed just looking at it from here! Good luck.

    • HAHHAhaa! Ripped in half and stuck in a baggie! With no explanation note, nothing? Too funny…

      I really don’t think I’m going to wrangle with that pattern sheet. It’d take far longer to trace it and alter it than to just draft one up…

  11. I’ve just my head (eyes) around Burda modern pattern sheets – emmh good luck with that one! Fabulous style though – long and slimming – just what I like. Show me something fab!

  12. Your vintage mag looks gorgeous!
    I’ve sown some stuff with German patterns from the 40s and 50s, and yes, they are a mess. I took the first few pattern sheets to a copy shop and had them scanned on a huge scanner which helped a lot, but now I don’t need that anymore. But then, I am German and used to modern Burda pattern sheets.
    I’d love to see something from the Praktische Damen- und Kindermode!

  13. I had an anxiety attack looking at those pattern pieces! At first I thought it was a road map to some horribly conjested, crowded city! You’d have to find the pieces you want, trace it out, then alter them to fit and do it all while reading German! Nope, that will never make it to my “I should try that once in my life” list.

    • Hehehe. No, I’m not going to do any of that.. It’s nice that the magazine still has the pattern sheet but not necessary.. And for German… Well… When you can pretty much sew most things you don’t look at the instruction sheet anyway right? And I have some German-speaking friends here and offline if I do get stuck…

  14. Oh my word…that’s a challenge and a half! I do see some of those lovely skirts in a linen for your climate and wool for mine! With more casual tops they’d be beautiful. And the blouse on the front cover would look amazing with wide legged trousers. I’m becoming a wide leg convert!
    My husband has been to Berlin and loves it. He was actually there the night the wall came down. Definitely a story for the grandchildren. We hope to visit in the next year or so, although obviously it’s just a very short plane ride for us. A tad further for you!

    • Yes, I think you’re right!

      Oh do go to Berlin! And take the walking tour. It really does look fantastic. :) I was a very small child when the wall came down, I remember my parents standing in front of the TV laughing and hugging and telling me that Germany was free. Maybe that’s how my daughter will remember the fall of Tripoli.

      • I hope she does. It’s astonishing the things we recall and which mark our lives, both big and small.

  15. That pattern sheet is craziness! I know folks (including me) were bummed when Burda started cramming more patterns onto less sheets around a year ago, but that takes the absolute cake. It’s like looking at a German engineering brain–love it. The double-breasted jackets are gorgeous.

  16. Oh yay! I’m so glad the package arrived. Hope you enjoy it – I had fun choosing the goodies.

    Crikey, that pattern is CRAZY!! Surely it’s a practical joke??

    As for your final question, personally I prefer mixing vintage or vintage-inspired pieces with modern styles. On the one hand because I don’t like to look too “costume”-y, on the other hand because vintage is for life!

  17. I’d just frame pictures from that mag if the pattern pages are impossible to read. But maybe have a go with different coloured pens tracing along a single line at a time and see if you can identify some!
    Good luck

  18. Pingback: Plans for 2013 Pt 1- 3 Hours Past and Cake and a Survey! « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  19. OMG I loooooove 30s outfits (yes, the love was largely inspired by Poirot, ha!) Can’t wait to see the skirt pattern you’ve created based on this inspiration. I hope it has a non-tea length variation because I’m already petite as it is, so anything that causes further visual shortness tends to be ruled out! (OK, this doesn’t overly stop me if it’s workable enough … I have a peasant skirt that stops just above midcalf on me, however, it’s a lovely floaty pink cotton or else it would have been long gone.)

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