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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 It was horribly out of date by then, but they still existed.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.