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Shirtwaist Dress - Diner Waitress, Lucy Candy Maker, and More - #134

History/Background

The idea for this pattern started when I found a complete Angelica waitress uniform for sale online.It was unusual because all three pieces were present: dress, apron, and headpiece. Even more charming was that the name tag was still present: “Miss Root”. And much to my shock the Angelica catalog showing the uniform was also for sale in a separate auction. I was lucky enough to purchase them all and therefore could place the uniform accurately within a year or two. The catalog was dated September of 1951 though the dress may have been made a few years earlier or later.



To see the entire Angelica catalog, go here: https://www.pinterest.com/LaughingMoonMer/angelica-catalog-1951/

I began copying the uniform and at the same time poured over the catalog. I don’t know if 1951 was a high point for uniforms but every one in the catalog was worthy of admiration. I have put the entire catalog up on Pinterest. I decided to copy another uniform and I picked my favorite. I liked its big areas of contrast colors. I did not know then how famous this uniform was. More about that later.

To see the whole catalog go to https://www.pinterest.com/LaughingMoonMer/angelica-catalog-1951/


As I worked with the uniform, I made several copies in muslin to check my progress. It became apparent the basic style of the dress was a shirtwaist dress, a common style during the period. Looking through catalogs and pictures online I noticed the sleeve style dated the dress to approximately 1939 to perhaps 1952, though by 1952 it was much less common. It was then I realized this dress, with different necklines, was sort of a universal style, worn in everyday life as well as civilian uniforms.Thus, the many different views and styles for different genres created with the same pattern. I will add that the term “shirtwaist dress” is a repetitive term for me. I was born in 1951, the same year as the catalog was published, and I wore many shirtwaist dresses. The last one I wore was one at my graduation from 8th grade in the year 1964.All the girls wore matching ones, though of different colors. It was required by the loony Principal otherwise you can bet I wound not have. It was horribly out of date by then, but they still existed. The term then was “shirtwaist” and the fact it was a dress was assumed. The term shirtwaist was left over from the turn of the last century. A “waist” was a separate top from a skirt (we would now call it a blouse) and “shirt” referred to the manly shirt collar neckline. The current term for a dress of this type of dress is apparently “Fit and Flare”.


Some History of the Wartime Years.

This type of dress was very common during WWII. In 1942 the USA Wartime Production Board issued standards. One standard was for dresses. This dress meets those daytime dress standards for a size 16. A size 16 then had a bust of 34 inches which is roughly a size 12 in today's sewing patterns. Following is a chart explaining the WPB guidelines.


Though clothing was never rationed in the USA judicious use was encouraged. Clothing was rationed in the UK starting in June 1, 1941. There were also standards for clothing. The British Board of Trade would allow the mark of CC41 (CC-Civilian Clothing) to clothing that met these standards. This clothing was called Utility Clothing.This pattern can be used to make a utility dress following the standards of minimal fabric use, no unnecessary buttons, fancy trimming, unnecessary stitching, and decorative pockets or pleats without function. Some of these restrictions continued well after the war.

As well as utility dresses, many other types of dresses can be made with this pattern. I will discuss the different versions and where they came from. There are so many versions I have given them nicknames instead of calling them View A, B, etc.


The first is called “Scoopneck”. It has the flared skirt and long sleeves. The neck is rounded but it also existed as a square neck. This type of dress was extremely popular throughout the period. It was often worn with a dicky underneath, or some other type of neck decoration. At the time people did not have as much clothing as we do now and the idea of making the same dress look different with accessories was very attractive. You will find many vintage patterns for making these dress accessories as well as finding the vintage accessories themselves for sale. The fashion of wearing a dicky under a dress was popular well into the 1950s. You can see this fashion worn by Lucille Ball in her TV series “I Love Lucy”. There is another version of this dress called "Kitty Foyle" and is meant to be used to wear all the various collars and cuffs popular at the time.

Next is “Nurse”. It has the A-skirt, shirt collar, and short sleeves. This version is not meant to be a military uniform as those uniforms were very specific and different. I purchased several vintage nurse dresses and copied some of their design elements, including the wing cuffs, patch pockets, and wide belt. I have not studied nurse uniforms in detail, but I believe the uniform you wore depended on where you worked and the rules of the specific hospital. So, this is a rather generic vintage nurse uniform which could be worn at any number of hospitals or Doctor’s offices. If you don't want to make your own cap you can get almost any nurse cap you might want at www.Kayscaps.com.

“Diner” It is the same dress I purchased. The uniform was available in three other colors besides the original yellow: Aqua, Grey, and Navy.


“Goth Girl” This has the A-skirt, long shirt collar, and long sleeves. This dress is inspired by the cartoons drawn by Charles Addams of the character Wednesday. It is not strictly correct as the cartoon Wednesday wears an A-line dress and this pattern has a separate bodice and skirt. It is a style that is still popular. The photo is of Jennifer Laurence wearing a somewhat similar dress.

Now we come to the two related uniforms called “Chocolate Factory” and “Waitress”. This is made with A-Skirt, short sleeve, inserted pocket, and pointed collar. This is the uniform I liked the most from the Angelica Catalog. Sometime in the process of looking at the catalog, copying “Waitress”, and watching “I Love Lucy” to see their wardrobes, I realized something. The uniform on page 21 of the 1951 Angelica catalog might be the same dress worn in the “I Love Lucy” Job Switching episode made in 1952. The same uniform is worn by Lucy, Ethel, the supervisor, and the other candy maker. Let me make it clear right here I am not an “I Love Lucy” historian or anything close to it. However, there are a few things that make me think this might be true. First, according to those who have studied and written about the show, Desilu Studios did not have a wardrobe department. Ms. Ball had her own designer at different times but not all the clothing was especially made for the actors.Therefore, I think there is a good chance the uniforms worn in that segment were purchased and not specially made for them. If you look at the supervisor, she is wearing the bandette headpiece for this uniform.This is a detail unlikely to be invented by a stylist for the actors.

Another important point is that this pattern, #134, the uniform worn in “Job Switching”, and the uniform in the catalog are not the same design. The uniform in the catalog and the uniforms worn in the segment are princess line dresses. You can see this if you take a good look at the dress worn by Ethel. She is not wearing the belt and you can see the princess lines. So, I have taken some design license by making this version as a shirtwaist instead of a princess line.

As long as I am speculating, I also think that the original color of the dresses was not pink and burgundy as the colorized version depicts. First, it seems to me the contrast in the original black and white is too great. Also, the uniforms in the catalog are distinctly different from each other in the color of the collars. The tan and brown uniform in the catalog has the same contrast as the uniforms in the episode, while the other dresses are different. If you look at the point of the collars the other dresses, aqua and blue, the points are in the contrast color while the tan uniform has the points in the main color of the dress. Further, if the dresses worn in the segment are Angelica, the company did not make that uniform in pink. Also, the pink, which they call “Rose”, they used for uniforms was more of a medium coral or salmon, not light pink. I think it is possible the original color of the uniforms might have been tan and brown.Perhaps the colorizers thought tan was too boring and punched it up with pink. I could be completely wrong, but it is fun to speculate.

In any case, the dresses in this pattern for “Chocolate Factory” and “Waitress” are the same except for the collar points. The layouts are different, however. The “Chocolate Factory” has the belt, Chef Hat, no apron, and the collar point in the main color. “Waitress” has the Apron, belt, and Bandette and the collar point in the contrast color.“Bandette” is the word Angelica uses for the headpiece in the catalog.

Please note the mannequin in the photo of "Chocolate Factory" is wearing a licensed (C) "I Love Lucy" wig, available on costume sites. To see the entire catalog, go here: https://www.pinterest.com/LaughingMoonMer/angelica-catalog-1951/

Notice the version on the far left, both the large and small drawings at the bottom.



“Housewife/Rockabilly” This dress has the flared skirt, long shirt or spread collar, and short sleeves.The inspiration for this version is another dress worn by Lucille Ball in “I Love Lucy”. It is not an exact copy but made in navy polka dot with a white collar and cuffs, I think it evokes her style. Made with specialty print cherry fabric, red and black contrast collar, cuffs and wide belt, it looks a bit like Rockabilly style. Rockabilly takes some design elements from the early 50s and puts a modern spin on them. Both photos feature a copyright "I Love Lucy" wig. The wig is available on many costume sites.

There are two other versions depicted in the Flat Illustrations, “Kitty Foyle” and “Sailor”.They also have yardage requirements listed in the pattern. However, the layouts themselves are not in the printed pattern. These and other layouts for other versions are available for free as downloads on the website www.lafnmoon.com. I had to make the difficult decision which layouts would be included in the printed version. If they all were included the instructions would be physically too large. Following are some versions that can be made from this pattern and instructions, but the layouts must be downloaded with the purchase of the pattern.

“Kitty Foyle” This dress has the A-skirt, long sleeves, and V-neck with no collar. In the period, along with using dickies (false shirts with no sleeves-collar and shirt front only), it was popular to use appliques and separate collars and cuffs to make your dress serve for different occasions with different accessories. This dress can be dressed up with a sequin applique for a night out. Or change it up with one of the many types of collar accessories which are available in patterns or as actual vintage items. Kitty Foyle” was a book published in 1939 that caused a sensation. If you want to see this fashion for yourself, I would recommend watching the movie made from the book “Kitty Foyle” made in 1940 starring Ginger Rogers. While making the movie, the makers discovered that putting a white collar next to their ingenues face improved the lighting of it. It was different enough that it started a fashion. A “Kitty Foyle” dress was a dark dress with white collar, cuffs, and perhaps buttons.

“Sailor” This dress has the A-skirt, long sleeves, and the sailor collar. Nautical themed civilian clothing has a long popular history from the Victorian era to now. Any time the social event might be near water or have anything to do with boats, nautical style was appropriate. Additionally, during wars military influence flowed over into general civilian wear as a show of support for the troops. WWI and WWII had many civilian examples of the sailor and other military styles in dresses, hats, and other garments. Gentle reminder: Unless participating in a reenactment with accurate military uniforms, it is considered very bad manners to use real (or reproduction) military insignia on civilian clothing. “Sweetheart” jewelry or generic military theme buttons or patches are entirely appropriate.

"Polka Dot" This dress has short sleeves, plain cuff, A-Line skirt, and Pointed collar. The belt pattern pieces have been made into a tie for the waist. This is not a proper Minnie Mouse (C) dress, but anytime I see large white polka dots on a bright red ground I think of her. So I have added a licensed Minine Mouse (C) Vintage Flower Hat headpiece. The ears are made by www.elope.com. To see more samples of this dress go to: https://www.pinterest.com/LaughingMoonMer/laughing-moon-shirtwaist-dress-134/

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