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.
I love this pattern and your dress!
Wow what a find! And good eye….I’m glad you found it. Hopefully it fits good enough to wear.
Looks smashing on you. Enjoy!
You surprised the heck out of me when you made the jump from pattern to dress–what a find!
Lucky you, wonderful find in your size and colour!
Lovely dress and in your colour too!
Oh wow! What a find! It’s such a gorgeous style and your perfect colour too. I would love that pattern, looks like it would be an incredible little black dress.
What lovely luck! My mother had this pattern but sadly it must have been given or thrown away in a house move in the 80’s when it would have been considered unfashionably dated. £30? That would be almost ZAR 600 in Cape Town, where I live. Ouch! BTW, I love your blog – intelligent and thoughtful. Thank you for your commitment to it.
And thank you for your very kind comment Bridget. I know quite a few people read the blog now and that is very exciting for me. Hearing from people like you intensifies my commitment and helps me understand my “audience”. Do write to me if you have any interesting questions or insights. I wonder what it is like in Cape Town in terms of fashion and style.
The Stars were in perfect alignment when you chanced upon this, it had your name on it for sure, it’s so ‘you’, well spotted.
This post took a very surprising turn! What a lovely find.
What a find. I love using vintage patterns, the cuts are so interesting. The colour is a good one too. whats the fabric? It could possibly be worth steaming well and leaving on a dress form for a day or so as if its been in storage for a while, the fabric could be sitting a bit stiff – fantastic find and it looks great on you
What a find! And in your colour too, the sewing gods are happy it seems.
What a wonderful find, and quite right that a dress like this should find itself such an appreciative new owner. Might you consider a hat to go with the outfit?
I’m really enjoy reading your blog, it’s making me see dressmaking afresh. I love the idea of ‘sewing with a plan’, I think that could be just the focus I need. Thanks for the on-going inspiration.
Hello Michelle! thank you for your very kind comment. I might consider making a hat (or two). It is easier if you have some of the same fabric from an outfit. My hat making adventure has only just begun!
Awesome score. The minute I saw the pattern I totally recognized your aesthetic. To find that garment is amazing.
Nice to hear from you Bunny. I trust all is well with you, my dear.
How exciting, some things are just meant to be. Something so loving made, deserves to be appreciated and worn. Fab dress, fab colour and for you.
Neat! Will you wear it, or is it more something to have as an inspiration piece? I think you tend to wear more pink pink than peach pink, but I could be wrong. I have a couple of vintage dresses that I wear occasionally but they are just worn enough that once a year is enough (though I love having them in my closet!).
Oh my goodness I just read the linked article only to find that the most interesting thing about the already very interesting Simonetta is that she sold her business in the early 1970s to move to India and devote herself to spirituality and lepers! What happened to Fabiani?
I love the pattern and the dress. I noticed the low heel pumps in the pattern picture. In the past, shoes were designed to be worn with the heel level not on an angle like shoes made in the past 35 or more years. I can’t wear heels where the whole foot is angled to the toe, it cripples me. I have only one pair of pumps from the 6-s left and they are yellow. I have been reduced to flats for 30 years now. That pattern envelope made me nostalgic. So sad. Young women today don’t know that there used to be a modicum of wearability in stylish shoes. I do miss those days.
Thanks Karen for your interesting reflections. I feel the same about these shoes and wish that we could buy similar styles today. I wrote a blog post on this very subject!
What a fantastic find – and how nice that the dress has gone to such a good home. I’m sure it’s original owner would be very happy.
Such a marvellous find and just a perfect colour for you!
I own this pattern and now, after seeing your find, I really, really want to make it! I have often wondered if “homemade” Vogue designer dresses end up in second-hand shops. I guess they do!
I hope you do make it Karen. I know you will do it justice.
What a lucky lady! I’ve found some amazing things in charity shops over the years.