How to Draw Dress Designs


A new find at! A textbook for use in trade or technical schools, from the library of the New York State College of Agriculture at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. It was published in 1912 in New York. The title is Industrial drawing for girls; design principles applied to dress, the author, Edith Cary Hammond. Application of Design Principles to Dress begins on page 53. The dress form was used as the model and dress designs were drawn.

A text like this may have been used in classes at the Manhattan Trade School for Girls. Here is a video from of footage from classes at that school in 1911.


An interesting article by Paul Lukas, How the Manhattan Trade School prepared a generation of New York women for the workplace, about the school records that were rescued from the dumpster.

Paul Lukas’ blog about his research on the school records and other found objects

Image of a drawing class at Manhattan Trade School for Girls

Happy New Year 2018

Looking back one hundred years ago to January 1, 1918.


skating suit

The black disk in the model’s left hand may be a muff. Another article from Jan. 1918, “When you go skating”,  by Rita Stuyvestant, explains how to make a turban, a tam, and a muff from an old velvet skirt which would complement the skating suit.

skating suit 2

The illustration of the skating suit jacket with its long line, lowered pockets and wide belted waist, calls to mind the uniform of the US Army Red Cross nurses of the Great War. One such photo is of Clara D. Noyes, R. N. a leader of the American Red Cross. The book, Clara D. Noyes, R.N.: Life of a Global Nursing Leader, was written by her great great nephew, Roger L. Noyes and it’s evident in his writing that it was “a true labor of love”. He inherited his great great aunt’s desk and began to research her life. He did not know much about her; his first find was her one page bio at a nursing history site. I’ve found the book very helpful in understanding my own family’s history  because Miss Noyes was born in the late 1860’s about the same year as my great aunt, an accomplished dressmaker. Genealogy research is always a deeper experience than we first expect it to be. It enriches our study to learn about the events that shaped a generation–the wars; the Great Epidemic of 1918-1919; the discrimination in employment and education; that so profoundly shaped the lives of our ancestors.


January 1918. Winter Coats and Rough Weather Skirts. Muted colors of warm grey and brown, similar to the skating suit’s mustard colored homespun and with its heavy grey accents for collar, cuffs, pocket, and hat. Full length and 3/4 length coats in tweeds and muted colors of warm grey and brown, plain blue and black. Coats are belted with large collars.

coats 1918



Happy New Year News!

new year

A long awaited book, Pattern Drafting and Grading, Women’s and Misses’ Garment Design by Michael Rohr, is now online at The 1961 edition includes styles popular in the 1950’s and early Sixties. On the second and third pages are a nice set of 1/4″ scale dress and sleeve foundation patterns which can be used to test out the designs. The styles are created as changes are made to the foundation patterns. For instance, the front and back bodice and the sleeve are manipulated in order to create a kimono style bodice.

I was very happy to see that parts of Mayer Rohr’s earlier editions were included in the 1961 edition beginning on about page 54. Mayer Rohr’s system of drafting used a slightly different process of measurements than those found at the beginning of Michael Rohr’s 1961 edition. Both of Mayer Rohr’s parents were tailors, his mother was a ladies’ tailor, and he continued in the family tradition. His first occupation was as a Cloak Cutter which included overcoats. He later became an educator, an author and a publisher. Mayer Rohr was born in 1888 and was in his early twenties about the time the garment industry started in earnest in New York City in 1905. The introduction to his circa 1935 edition of Pattern Drafting states that it was written for students as well as workers employed in the garment industry. At this time, and really since about 1915,  there were public schools in NYC such as the Textile Evening School and the Central Needle Trades Evening School which endeavored to supply the garment manufacturing industry with well trained employees.

There are many interesting and useful patterns in this book. There is the hip length 1/4″ scale set of patterns for the front, back and sleeve on the last page. A pattern for a jacket and coat foundation showing how it is drafted from the bodice foundation on page 50. A neck and armhole guide on the last page and instructions on its use on page 48. Other useful instructions include: How to make shoulder pads, page 64. Jacket and coat shoulder pads, page 117. Cardigan jacket, page 119. Kimono sleeve, with and without gusset, page 92. Undergarment drafting, page 141.

Here is the link to the book:

Pattern Drafting And Grading By Michael Rohr, 1961

Another lovely book used in the New York school system in 1950 was Applied pattern designing, illustrated; based on the patternmaking methods of Abram Mayer. (Developed and written by Herbert Mayer; technical assistance in compiling the text by Allyne Bane. Illustrated by Eleanor Harrington and Eve Stockhold.) This book, online at, shows how to drape and fit the dress form (or model) in order to produce foundation patterns which can then be manipulated into a desired design. Abraham Mayer was born about 1880 and was also employed as a Ladies’ Tailor before he became a designer. I believe Allyne Bane, who provided technical assistance, was studying at Columbia for her Master’s at the time. She later became a university professor and author of several wonderfully detailed books about dressmaking and tailoring.

Applied pattern designing, illustrated; based on the patternmaking methods of Abram Mayer.

I hope we all have a great new year full of many happy discoveries!

[Woman in dark dress holding up baby] circa 1915 by William Leroy Jacobs, 1869-1917

Digital Access to Libraries for Educational Research


A model in an Ebony Fashion Fair show photographed by Guy Crowder. The image from  California State University, Northridge is not dated but may be from the 70’s or 80’s. I found the image by following links and searching for topics that interest me in a recently published article from the New York Public Library, “Manufacturing Impact: Why We Digitize” by Josh Hadro.

It’s very important the public have access to images and other source material from more recent decades. They are more likely to reflect the diversity of cultures in the US.

As the article suggests, an image can lead to further research. I found an audio article from NPR and a video from CBS that brought the black and white photo to life for me. It helped me remember.

The Ebony Fashion Fair: Changing History On The Catwalk

CBS video


Rights on the image:

This work is made available exclusively for educational purposes such as research or instruction. Copyrights for unpublished materials have been transferred to the California State University, Northridge. Literary rights, including copyright for published works held by the creator(s) or their heirs may apply.

Kimono style blouses 1915-1928


The kimono or Magyar style blouse has sleeves cut in one with the bodice. Some have long sleeves and some short. Some have two patterns, the front and the back, joined along both the top of the shoulder seam and the side seam/underarm seam. Others are cut in one piece so there is no seam along the shoulder line. The blouse is held together by a long side/underarm seam on either side.

Long sleeve styles will pose a challenge to cut unless the fabric is wide enough for the length of the sleeve. A possible solution might be found in the 1915 illustration above where longer flared sleeves with decorative bands are attached to the basic short sleeve kimono bodice.

Three blouses from 1915, all may be kimono style. The shoulder bands on the right and left models could conceal shoulder gathers. The neckline on the center model may have been cut out into a low square and material added to fill up the neckline.


An ad from 1922 showing the sleeve lengthening technique on the top left model. Various trimmings, bodice insertions, and banding at the low waist add personality to the kimono shape.



From 1928 London, an elegant afternoon dress in two materials.


Also from 1928 a breezy afternoon dress with matching short sleeved kimono jacket. This style might be cut in one piece.


In my next post I will discuss an interesting college textbook from 1917 that goes in depth about the challenges of drafting and draping the kimono style. I’ve also found a few illustrations of this ageless style that date between 1930-1950. Many thanks to EmilyAnn for her kimono draping presentation at

Haute Couture book and video


Haute Couture, an out of print book, by Richard Martin and Harold Koda (1995) is online at

“This is a survey of the history of haute couture, from the formation of the House of Worth in mid-19th-century Paris to the major designers of the present day.

It contains beautiful color photos of the couture garments design by the following houses: Balenciaga, Chanell, Dior, Jacques Fath, Gianfranco Fere, Hubert de Givenchy, Aliz Gres, Jacques Griffe, Christian Lacroix, Carl Lagerfeld, Jeanne Lanvin, Patou, Poiret, Saint Laurent, Schiaparelli, Ungaro, Versace, Madeleine Vionnet & the House of Worth.

The book focuses on the highly skilled crafts that are essential to the production of haute couture. Separate chapters examine tailoring techniques and finishes, weaving, draping, and the intricate decoration produced by embroiderers, feather-makers, and other craftspeople on whom couturiers rely for the execution of their ideas.”

A BBC video goes inside The Secret World of Haute Couture



1960-1969 fashion illustration from Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Chiffon dress with allover sequins on weskit” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1960 – 1969.

More about the history of the Creators Studio of Seventh Ave., NYC

“André and Creators Studios were Seventh Avenue fashion businesses that marketed their designs to clothing manufacturers by subscription. In the mid-1970s Pearl Alexander Lipman, André’s co-owner and designer since the 1930s, retired, and the company’s design drawings were sold to Creators Studios. The collection consists of reproductions of designs — some vibrantly hand-colored — produced and distributed by the two companies between 1937 and 1972.”


Hat styles, 1931

hat 1

A selection of ads and copy from 1931 newspapers describing the latest styles from Parisian milliners.

“Not in years has there been such a variation in hat styles. Most important and unusual is the complete showing of faces which fashion decrees for this year. Whether turban, beret, or cloche, modistes insist upon revealing the profile. To achieve this, hats are set back on the head, exposing the forehead, the hair softly arranged at the front and sides to form a decorative frame. Perfect grooming of the head was never more necessary than it will be this season. Trimmings are more varied than last season, also, small feather fancies, ribbon treatments in a wide assortment of materials, weaves, and color combinations, and flowers are only a few of the accessories which will adorn the latest dictates in millinery.”

hats 4



hats 3

The ad from the Spring of 1931 continues: “Hats this spring have become distinctly impertinent. They choose once more to assert themselves as individuals—so distinct are they in shape, so different in type, so recherché, as far as trimming, material, color, or the combination of all three are concerned.”

“The spirited, sharp-witted tricorn, so provocative with its contradictory over-the-right-eye, behind-the-left-ear movements, has no doubt at all about its noble origins and coming success in newest incarnations, feeling equal to any situation in the afternoon.

The wide-brimmed capeline, smoothly balanced on its round, shallow crown, feels itself an aristocrat, knowing that, worn on the right woman, it is prepared for the most formal tea-parties or for the races.

The rustic straw, with its romantic undulating brim and tiny bunch of flowers, is devoted to youth and beauty and can be worn in town or out of town, on sunny afternoon, and the straw-and-ostrich combination is highly conscious of its dashing smartness as glimpsed through a motor on the way to a formal luncheon or tea.

hats 7



The ingenuously upward-lifted cloche and the more subtly feminine toque take their cues—so far as sophistication and formality are concerned—from the way in which they are trimmed.

hats 6

“Our time has come,” whisper the stiff straws and the felts, feeling themselves real hats, again. “Our time remains,” answer the draped jersey turbans and caps of pliable straws. The runabout evening toque and the feather-encircled evening coiffure are rivals for favor.”


“Flowers are as good as feathers—not so new nor so piquant, perhaps, but so becoming. Agnes, who brought them back into our lives, still keeps faithful to them and now makes a toque of white chiffon violets. Patou cleverly finds an excuse to soften the asperity of his “Cocktail Party” Panama tricorn with three pink organdie camellias. Mado introduces what one might call an amusing cache nuque, of white velvet violets, under a broad black picot brim. Nowadays, flowers seem to have a “behind the ear” destination. Reboux says spring in the refreshing language of field flowers and finds such combinations as yellow, grey, and brown; golden-yellow and blue; red, white, and green; navy-blue, yellows and other blues. These flower-trimmed rustic straws evoke visions of summer fields, haystacks, soft lawns, and carry you away on the wings of the dreamed-of summer holidays, in the midst of busy Paris.”

These next two hats may be pliable straw.