On a whim I drifted out one lunchtime to the weird charity shop near work. Occasionally I find nice things in there. This week I struck really lucky.
This 1965 pattern by Simonetta of Italy is a one-Piece Sleeveless dress with bias-cut, loose waistcoat effect in front creates a two-piece look. Half belt controls slight ease at back. On the internet this pattern is available for about £30.
You may remember my post on Fabiani. “Simonetta” was Mrs Fabiani. Apparently Simonetta was one of the best known names in American fashion after the second world war, due to relentless promotion by American Vogue and Bergdorf Goodman. She was already a well known designer before her (second) marriage to Alberto Fabiani, launching just after the war in 1946, during which she had been imprisoned for her anti-fascist activities. She wrote;
“To understand how difficult it was to open a maison de couture and have a show with 14 models just after the liberation of Rome by the Allies, one must remember the general situation at that time. Materials and trimmings were very scarce. The most surprising and common materials had to be used to make the extraordinary collection—dish cloths, gardeners’ aprons, butlers’ uniforms, strings and ribbons, and everything that could be found on the market.”
The dish cloth collection! Gardener’s aprons! How exciting that must have been. Fairly soon Simonetta was dressing Audrey Hepburn, Lauren Bacall and Jackie Kennedy. Here is an interesting blog post from Small Earth Vintage.
She also produced lots of patterns for Vogue and Spadea during the 1960s. All these dresses are rather plain but so nice with just one key feature. They sum up a youthful elegance, perfectly fitted to the 1960s. The simple lines often belied rather complex techniques of achieving shape and structure with couture techniques.
But it wasn’t the pattern I bought, it was the dress!
It is made from a reasonable quality pink linen, and is underlined with a synthetic pink lining. It has a metal zip. I realised from the label that it was a Vogue Couturier design (the labels were given away with the patterns). But it was the sheer work that had gone into the dress that convinced me that it was a 1960s VC. It has an underbodice to allow a close fit and make the bodice sit very slightly proud, imitating a waist-coat. It has a waist stay too. The seams are finished with edge stitching. The colour is quite hard to photograph. It really is halfway between pink and peach.
At the time I didn’t know who the designer was but the sewing techniques were so definitively from the 1960s I tried it on (over my clothes – this shop is so scruffy it doesn’t have a changing room). At £5 I thought it was worth taking home for a wash. It does smell a bit fusty!
I searched images of Vogue Couturier patterns from the 1960s and quickly found the images. It was easy to spot the dress due to the cross bust dart and the waist-coat detail.
In terms of size it seems to fit me although the bust darts are not ideally placed and I had to move the buttons on the back belt to pull it in a little. This makes me think it was made up as a standard size vintage 12 (bust 34″). I find the armhole facing a little on the bulky side and the shoulders just a tiny bit wide for me. But it is a lovely dress and I am delighted with my £5 investment. I feel I really got a bit of handmade couture history.