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Vintage Inspiration

There’s always so much interest in the back cover of Threads Magazine that I thought I’d concentrate on the type of garments that are often pictured there. I’ve been teaching at the Vista, California studio of my friend Cindy Dahlin, who’s a patternmaker, a couture dressmaker, and a collector of vintage clothing. Here I’ll show you a few of the vintage treasures she has shared with us. Prepare to be inspired!

1. This blouse is simple and charming. It’s made from silk chiffon, fits nicely with a few tucks, and closes with a side zipper. What makes it special is the trim around the neck and down the front. The edges of the gathered strip of fabric have been finished with a tiny picot edge (done with a merrow machine, is my guess) – and the row of tiny buttons finishes it all off perfectly. Simple, yes, but just right. The delicacy of the trim suits the delicate nature of the blouse.

2. This silk blouse is a favorite of Cindy’s – every stitch is sewn by hand, from the tiny pintucks to the embroidery to the seams to the closure. The quality of the work is superb. The sleeves are contoured with horizontal pintucks at the elbow so that they curve, following the shape of the arm.

3. I love this silk tafeta flapper dress with its trompe l’oeil bow and its beaded tassels….

4. The skirt of another flapper dress is embellished with beads – the beads that decorate the baskets of flowers are sewn on, appropriately, in a basketweave pattern.

5. This embossed silk velvet cape has always fascinated me – the embossing is so beautifully done, and the pattern is enchanting. It’s quilted – by hand, of course – and padded with wool batting.

6. This is one…

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  1. just jane | | #1

    Thank you for the article Vintage Inspiration, the needle work those women did is beautiful, delicate and inspiring.
    I'm thankful someone preserves these garments also for the
    back covers of Threads magazine.

  2. gailete | | #2

    Thanks for sharing these lovely garments!

  3. Scarlett007 | | #3

    WOW!! What wonderful designs, thank YOU so much for sharing them with us!!**~~ How nice to see Threads featuring these and like minded stuff on their back cover, wonderful!

  4. oldetymeseamstress | | #4

    Thanks for sharing all these wonderful vintage garments! I love to see them on the back cover of Threads magazine.

    I was wondering if the "tiny picot edge" on the ruffles of the first blouse is what is known as a "picoted edge" in my vintage sewing books (1920s-1930s). The edge was done by a special hemstitching machine in a dressmakers shop or with an attachment to a home sewing machine. It was sewn in a straight line through two layers of fabric and then cut through the center. It was a popular dainty edge finish for lightweight fabrics that would receive no strain, such as the edge of a ruffle on a party dress.

  5. letson | | #5

    Beautiful garments. So glad they are being saved and shared with us on the back cover.

    Have been looking for vintage bed jacket patterns and other vintage lingerie. Those wonderful quilted silk and satin ones. Any ideas where to find such patterns ?

  6. mercin | | #6

    Thank you for sharing these lovely garments with us. Can you just imagine how long these garments took to construct? If only they could talk!!!

    I always check out the back cover of your magazine....I love to study the work!

  7. Muppet | | #7

    I absolutely love seeing this type of workmanship. Thank you for sharing!!

  8. User avater
    MessyONE | | #8


    I use vintage patterns a LOT. If you want the real thing and are a whiz at altering and re-engineering patterns, try:

    - Deb's Recycled Sewing Patterns
    - sew-retro.com
    - sovintagepatterns.com

    All you really have to do is Google "vintage sewing patterns" and there are literally hundreds of sites selling them. Some are more expensive than others, of course, because there are people who collect uncut/like-new patterns. If you find a pattern you like from one of the larger manufacturers and you want to find another size, just Google the pattern number (say, "Simplicity XXXX), and you'll find other sellers that have it.

    There are companies that do vintage reproductions of old(er) patterns as well. The three that I've bought from are:

    - folkwear.com
    - decadesofstyle.com
    - evadress.com

    The last two are excellent sources. Their patterns are clear, well printed on heavy paper (not tissue) and the ones I've made have come out perfectly. I haven't bought anything from the Folkwear people yet.

    I know how to DO all of that fine needlework, but I just can't sit still that long any more. My great-grandmother was able to embroider fabrics so that both sides looked identical. She taught me, but what a terrific amount of work. I can see why couture clothing is so expensive!

  9. 2rs | | #9

    It doesnt take me long to yeild to the need to look at the back cover of ANY Taunton magazine - Fine Woodworking, especially. Can never get enough detail info - thanks!

  10. Snikwas | | #10

    Thanks for these wonderful pictures.
    I have part of a trousseau made by a great aunt who was an excellent needlewoman. She was apparently going to get married & emigrate to Australia in the early 1920's, but her sister tragically died leaving her two young children aged 5+6 (their father was in the Royal Navy & away at sea), so she vowed to look after the children -my mother & her little brother, who both adored their aunt.

  11. sews4fun | | #11

    Love this article! As a collector of vintage clothing myself, I'm always happy to see a fellow "addict"
    I have a mourning suit I love but my velvet pieces are not in nearly the great shape as this cape!
    I never fail to be amazed at how tiny these garments are compared to todays modern sizes. I dont know how waist bands as small as these could fit anyone. But still, I love looking at them!

  12. User avater
    BarbaraSki | | #12

    These are beautiful garments and wonderfully made. It would have been very interesting to know approximately when these garments were made. The flapper dresses are easy, but I'd like to know the dates of the white Victorian blouse and the green dress.

    Thanks for sharing.

  13. floratrends | | #13

    I just LOVED your vintage posting!! Thank you for sharing this with your readers! All I can say is...More, please!! :o)

  14. cesca | | #14

    This is such a beautiful display. A book of these treasures should be made possible.

  15. drsmock93 | | #15

    Love this article, and Thread's presentation of vintage garments! I especially enjoy articles on the embellishment & construction technics used in vintage garments. The white shirt is fantastic. These heirloom sewing technics are taught by the Smocking Arts Guild of America, smocking.org, if you are interested in learning how to create a beauty like this. Sew Beautiful magazine runs frequent articles on heirloom sewing as well. Happy stitching, Linda

  16. AnnieLaurie | | #16

    I love every article I read in Threads, whether or not I'll ever use it. However, the back cover of Threads is always the first thing I read and study. I'm amazed, thrilled, overwhelmed, awed, inspired and, frankly, jealous of the skill that goes into every part of each garment shown. I even get out a magnifying glass sometimes to study the details. I'll never achieve such skill, but I'm an expert at enjoying them. AnnieLaurie

  17. SusanKhalje | | #17

    I'm so glad you're enjoying the garments in Cindy's collection - and trust me, this is the tip of the iceberg!!!
    Cindy says that the green dress dates from the 1860's, and the embroidered blouse is from the 1890's - 1900.

  18. AK_888 | | #18

    What lovely pieces. I love the poussette/ pintucking technique on the sleeves of the 'Gibson' blouse, with the insertion lace. The padded embroidery is also just stunning. Thanks for sharing these...

  19. Rabia | | #19

    Yes, I LOVE looking at "old details" on vintage clothing; so INSPIRING. The back of Threads is like "dessert" after reading everything inside; I always carefully dodge looking at it in my latest issue so as not to "ruin the surprise".

    I once saw a Victorian dress form in an antique shop; it was WEIRD because it was wider from front to back than from side to side! Of course it was for a woman with a corseted waist! But it did look VERY odd, almost grotesque, like looking at native people with stretched lips or necks! It was also very TINY; the woman whose it was looked like she was about 4'9"-5'.

  20. Rabia | | #20

    Oh, and while all these clothes are BEAUTIFUL, the handwork on that white blouse is to DIE FOR.

  21. SusanKhalje | | #21

    By the way, I asked Cindy how she thought that ruffle on the chiffon blouse had been finished - and she said it looked as if it had been hemstitched, then cut apart (as suggested above).

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