Thursday, August 31, 2017

#anAWWyear - August 1947: Fabric designs

When I decided to write four blog posts a month for my #anAWWyear project, I was very clear that I wanted one to be focused on recipes, one on craft, and one on fashion. I was less certain what the fourth each month would be, wanting to have one free to focus on a particular topic or theme which emerged from reading that month.  For August, I've chosen to look at some fabric designs which caught my eye.

Some of them could have been included in the fashion post, as they are part of the Fashion Parades. But they were more interesting as fabric to me. This top and trousers set from the beach fashion feature uses a striking large print, made up of fish and sea plants.

Cheerful beach fashion fabric
Australian Women's Weekly, Aug 2 1947, p11
This dress by French designer Carven gains most of its impact from the design of the fabric in the skirt and how it is manipulated.
Evening gown by Carven
Australian Women's Weekly, Aug 9 1947, p5
The way the striped squares are brought together and anchored with a matching fabric tie makes what is actually a  straightforward skirt silhouette look far more dramatic.

The next fabric is from an advertisement. The most frequent style of fabric advertisements which actually feature fabric designs (as opposed to promoting the strengths of the fabric type or brand in general) tend to be one which shows small amounts of several designs. One which shows focuses on one design is more unusual, such as this Grafton Anti-Shrink advertisement.
This advertisement shows a large repeat of 'Green Belt'.
Australian Women's Weekly, Aug 30 1937, p6
The copy makes it clear what this fabric design is meant to evoke:
Let's forget convention, says Grafton, and cover some of our Anti-Shrink with designs
of things that people are talking about. For one thing, we're talking about our new
homes, and town planning schemes with green belts of trees around the houses. So
here's a Grafton Anti-Shrink with our dream houses and trees and flowers in lovely 
floating colors . . . And now you know why we call it "Green Belt". 

There is also a short but interesting look at some Australian designed fabrics being featured at an exhibition, featuring both dress and furnishing fabrics from some very well known Australian artists. As well as the discussion of the designs themselves, I found the talk of compensation very interesting. The managing director of the fabric company said that because it wasn't possible "to put a commercial price on the design of a man like Dobell or Drysdale... artists working with
us receive a royalty on every yard sold of a textile bearing their design.The Prices Commissioner has approved this arrangement. We make no down-payment for the design. The artist shares with us the gamble that his creation will sell."

I would wear something in Sheila Gray's 'Cross Section', the design being held at centre
Australian Women's Weekly, Aug 30 1947, p43
Australian Women's Weekly, Aug 30 1947, p44
This brings me to the end of the first month of my #anAWWyear. Are you enjoying it? I certainly am, and am looking forward to sharing September with you!

Monday, August 21, 2017

#anAWWyear - August 1947 Food: Eggless Apple Cake and more

I have long had an interest in the history of domestic technology and food, and indeed have written on the history of food as part of an Australian Christmas. As a result I ended up looking at and absolutely adoring many 19th and early 20th century recipe books and household advice manuals. (Project Gutenberg has a great selection to get you started for free - I will do a post reviewing some of my favourites from there soon.)  I have recipe types which I particularly look for because I like them - I adore 'themed' menu plans and I'm always looking for cake and cookie recipes. There are also those I search out because of the 'wtf' factor - the many, many ways in which the word 'salad' is abused probably tops my list. I've been looking forward to the recipe side of this challenge.

Recipes in the Australian Women's Weekly come in three main categories - the featured recipes in each issue, the recipes sent in by readers for prize consideration, and recipes which feature in advertisements. The format of many Kraft advertisements from this year was an 'advertorial' style recipe column which gives recipes, general cooking advice and some household tips - all linking back to Kraft products. The one in the August 2nd issue is giving fish recipes for a 'couponless' meal plan, a reminder that there was still food rationing in force in 1947. I was particularly struck by the recipe for Mock Mushroom soup, as that seems like a strange thing to mock up.
I cannot imagine being so desperate for vague taste of mushroom that I would serve this.
Still, never say never. Australian Women's Weekly, Aug 2 1947, p12.
Rationing also gives us recipes from readers to get around the need for particular ingredients, such as this reader-submitted recipe for Eggless Apple Cake.

Didn't win the first prize at the time, but it was the best of the issue's recipes from my point of view.
Australian Women's Weekly, Aug 9 1947, p54.
This produces a lovely, delicately spiced chocolate apple cake.

Delicious cake, ready to be eaten with afternoon tea. 
 Notes for the recipe as written: while the recipe says to cream the butter and sugar, the amounts given just don't 'cream' together as one is used to in other recipes. No matter how long I mixed, it stayed quite grainy and separate and I was convinced I'd either misread the recipe (did it in fact say 3/4 cup of sugar? Maybe 1/4 cup? something else entirely?) or the original recipe was wrong. But once the warm apple pulp is mixed in everything dissolves and melts in anyway. (Which I didn't sieve, btw. I just smushed it up in the saucepan. I got the cup from 4 apples with some left over.)
The apple cake before icing.
It also says to cover it in 'warm' chocolate icing - icing can be a very personal preference. I used a glaze style (sifted icing sugar and cocoa with some boiling water). A heavier buttercream might be too much!
After adding the glaze. 
Because this recipe is already excluding eggs, and only has the one tablespoon of butter, I decided to try to make a vegan version (for the Tuesday night gaming group, one of whom is vegan). I substituted one tablespoon of vegetable oil (I used sunflower but I know many vegan recipes suggest canola) and reduced the sugar to 1/2 cup and it worked beautifully. The texture was a tiny bit denser, which I'd expect with an oil substitution, but hardly noticeable.

Sadly not all food can be awesome cake. I also tried out two savoury recipes.
The first was another reader recipe, this time one that won the first prize for that week - Savory Steak Snacks.  You make a savoury mince mix up into balls, make a cheese pastry, and combine into cute parcels which are baked. In theory anyway.
Less than cute snacks.
The pastry tasted great. I enjoyed the meat, but my husband didn't, and the three year old ate a small amount of cheese pastry with enjoyment but entirely refused to even try the centre. If I were going to try these again I'd chill the pastry for a while before rolling it out, and make sure it was thinner and even. I'd also make the mince into smaller balls.

The next recipe I tried I didn't even attempt to serve to the men in my life - I made it as lunch for myself on a work day when my son is at preschool. 'Creamed Eggs and Celery' was one of the magazine's own recipes for a feature titled Speedy Luncheons. 
Australian Women's Weekly, Aug 9 1947, p53
It is meant to be a luncheon dish for guests (the recipe as written serves 4-5) so I obviously reduced all the quantities.

It was tasty (the smooth white sauce and hard boiled egg contrasting nicely with the softened yet still substantial celery and red capsicum and the crunchy toast), and I can see how it would be a perfectly pleasant, warm lunch meal but I don't think it will enter my regular go-to solo lunches.

There were easily half a dozen other recipes I could have tried, but I had to limit myself in anticipation of September!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

#anAWWyear - August 1947: Make your own "Vagabond Bag and Beret " and more

Vintage issues of magazines such as the Australian Women's Weekly contain great free instructions and patterns for all kinds of crafts, usually homewares or items of clothing and accessories. Each month I'll be showing a few that are available and also making one or more - preferably ones which can also use up stash, as that is a goal of mine for 2017.  

August 1947 contains only a few craft projects.  For knitters, there is a Knitted Box Coat  which is "made with a firm stitch which gives it tailored lines and makes it suitable for sports wear, for the office, or home". It is written to fit a 34-35" bust. 
Australian Women's Weekly, Aug 9 1947  p51.
There is also a rather neat convertible sewing apron/bag - wear it while you craft, and then it becomes a project bag. The subhead suggests it would make a lovely gift. The fabric is all cut as sized rectangles, and as the different sections - inside pocket, waistband, etc - could easily be made from contrast fabric it might be a useful way to use up some fat quarters and scraps.

Australian Women's Weekly, Aug 23 1947, p53. 
The craft project I chose to make this month was this cute beret and bag set
Why yes, my spring wardrobe does need some variety.
Australian Women's Weekly,  Aug 9 1947, p49.
The picture illustrating the instructions wasn't very clear but the vibe was enough to make me want to try.  The copy was full of how fresh and wonderful this pair was, and promised me that the bag would leave me with a hand free.  The instructions said they could be made in felt or fabric, and as I had a length of green felt in the stash I went with that. I am still not sure what makes this a 'Vagabond' bag, as sadly my online search results were made difficult by the bag brand of that name. 

The bag is made from a long rectangle, with pleats added in the short sides. 
My pleat pinned, waiting to be tacked down.
In order to actually get this done (and as the felt wouldn't fray) I decided to hand sew it all so I could do it during times when I was at the park/watching TV/etc and wouldn't need to rely on my increasingly rare time on the sewing machine. 
Once the pleats are in place, the rectangle is folded so the pleated sides are together at the top, and you sew 9 ½ inches up each side. I would recommend slightly less, as Miss 1947 may have had a more slender arm. At that measurement I couldn't easily push the bag all the way to my elbow. It also would restrict the size of what you can put in the bag, as unless I am very much misinterpreting the instructions the only way in and out are through the side holes. 
Sewing up the side seams.
The top is finished with another strip of felt with studs added. I had a minor crisis here, as while attaching one stud the die decided to get so stuck to the stud it would not come off. I had to cut it away and sew together two pieces each with two studs. As a result it looks slightly unbalanced, but I don't mind too much. Much better than it would look with a big silver die base in the centre. 
The finished vagabond bag.
The beret instructions are typical of patterns of this era when they aren't just rectangles - a basic labelled diagram that is not at all in scale. The beret is a high halo style designed to be worn back on the head, and has two felt bows decorating the side. The instructions, once the pieces are cut out, are very simple. It suggested adding a stiffening, but as my felt was solid I decided that applied if one was using other fabric, and ignored it. Perhaps my halo would be crisper if I had not.
The finished beret. 

The inside of the beret's band is finished with petersham ribbon to stop it stetching out. 
Interior view showing petersham ribbon (and a close up of one of the bows)
And in action: 
The bag is designed to hang off your forearm, as shown here.

The beret sits at the back of the head. 

Ready to step out. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

#anAWWyear: August 1947 - Fashion, Jewellery and early Capsule Wardrobe advice

I'm kicking off my journey of a year through the Australian Women's Weekly with a tour through the fashion pages of August 1947.
Chic matching beret and jacket on the cover of Aug 23 1947

This month is dominated by French fashions, as the Women's Weekly was promoting their French Fashion Parades. While the parades were running twice daily in Sydney for the first half of August before moving on to Melbourne and Adelaide, showcasing over "100 frocks suitable for any occasion", the magazine was presenting pages of the frocks and shoes and jewellery for their readers.

My stand-out favourite outfit is this stunning wool suit by Robert Piguet -the details of the drape of the jacket are a little lost in the photograph but the curve of the jacket edge and the way the lapels sit pleases me greatly.
Gorgeous wool suit from the AWW French Fashion Parade
Australian Women's Weekly, Aug 9 1947, p5
Then at the other extreme of formality is this casual yachting outfit  with cute shorts, a belt "with pouches for powder, handkerchief and cigarettes" and those shoulders! I am very tempted to see what shorts with the "impudent notes" of rounded hips look like on me, as my hips are my proportionally smallest part. The original ensemble features a white and burnt orange striped top with green shorts.
Yachting costume, Australian Women's Weekly, Aug 2 1947, p11
The jewellery shown here was designed to accompany the fashions from the "great dress houses of Paris" and heavily features beads and pearls. I think the single strand tied into a bow high on the neck is rather charming, although I try to avoid such high necks myself.  I'd be far more likely to wear the two strands brought together in a large cluster just below the collarbone in the other picture below. 
Just two of the jewellery fashions on this page.
Australian Women's Weekly, Aug 9 1947, p21

As well as the more aspirational fashions from overseas, every issue of the AWW contains details of more achievable frocks and patterns which can be ordered through their fashion service. Some of the August highlights for me include this scalloped neckline dress, which looks amazing but would, let's be honest, be nerve-wracking and/or tedious to sew. Those scallops would take ages to sew accurately, and with the prominence around the neck and on the short sleeves you would definitely notice any flaws.
Dress featuring scallops from the Fashion Patterns service
Australian Women's Weekly, Aug 16 1947, p30
There is also this "Rita" frock which looks striking and more original than many such offerings, but I slightly worry one would end up looking like puzzle pieces.
Rita Frock from the Australian Women's Weekly, Aug 2 1947, p30
The advertisements this month didn't yield much fashion that I coveted, but there was one sketch of a coat in an Australian Wool Board advertisement that caught my eye

Australian Women's Weekly, Aug 30 1947, p17

Recently I've been doing a lot of reading and thinking about a capsule wardrobe (verdict: has been very useful in narrowing down what I want my style to be, but I am no closer to implementing it) so I was interested to see some advice in Dress Sense by Betty Keep to a reader asking about basic rules to help her make sure she had things to actually wear from her 'plenty of clothes'.  The response is very simple capsule wardrobe advice
The way to organise your clothes life is to buy only clothes that do harmonise. 
You should plan not only for the moment, but for the season ahead.
Never buy any garment without thinking "Have I the necessary accessories, or can I afford new ones?" 
Always select a basic color and be sure it is becoming. 
Lastly, take into consideration whether the greater part of your life is spent out-of-doors, in an office, or at home, and plan the biggest part of your wardrobe for that purpose.

Which, sadly, means that both the chic wool suit and the yachting outfit really shouldn't be making an appearance in my life any time soon!