Tag Archives: 1950s dress

Grandma’s Swirl Dresses

In your mind’s eye, I’ll bet you’re imagining a beautiful Victorian dress or a lacy Edwardian gown.  That would be my great-grandma’s dress and sadly, no one saved any of her old dresses.   Nope.  I’m talking about my grandma’s dresses from the 1950s.

For whatever reason – and honestly, I’m not really sure when I got 3 of them – I have 5 of my grandmother’s dresses.  Two of them are fairly recent vintage – one is a 70s formal dress and the other an 80s “church” dress that I will probably only look at and enjoy my memories.   The other three, I wear.

These three are from the 1950’s and two of them are very similarly styled “Swirl” wrap dresses.  The third is a shirt dress – it’s a bit smaller (ok, the reality is that it is less forgiving of my waist size. Ugh).   I don’t remember Grandma wearing the shirt dress, but I do remember the wrap dresses.

Searching the few old photographs I have of Grandma in the 1950, 1960s, and 1970s (after the 70s, she fell prey to double-knit pantsuits), there are none of her wearing one of these dresses.  But in my mind’s eye, I can see her plain as day.  I practically lived at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, particularly during the summer.  These were Grandma’s “housedresses”.  I suppose that is why, whenever it was that I saw them – probably during the sad days when we cleaned 70 years worth of memories out of the old house – I kept them.

Swirl Pastel Floral Sun Dress

Swirl Pastel Floral Sun Dress

Fast forward to about 3 years ago.  There is a tiny little closet in one room of our house and I keep my personal vintage clothing there.  Grandma’s dresses were also in there but I had never tried to wear them.  Frankly, I just figured … well you know what happens when food becomes a hobby … yeah … well, I just figured I couldn’t get my big toe in them.  But looking at them, I realized they were wrap dresses and maybe … just maaaybe … and they DID fit!  Well close enough, anyway.  LOL

So, I’ve worn them quite often since and always receive compliments, despite the fact that pink and pastels are NOT my color.

A common feature of 1950s Swirl dresses is the large patch pockets.  Grandma’s pocket would ALWAYS have a hankie or two tucked into one of those pockets.  Today, I find these pockets are superb for my glasses and cell phone.

This summer, when I put on the floral one, I noticed a big gap in the back.  The dresses fasten only at the back of the neck with a button and then wrap and tie in the front.  I’d never had the gap before!  OH NO.  Too much food.  Curses!

But wait.  Some hand-stitching had come loose where she had taken a tuck in on each side at the waistband in the back.  So Grandma had the same problem!  Somehow, that tuck – that I realized was on both dresses – made me feel so close to her.  Here I am, about the same age as she was when I remember her wearing them and we must be just about the same size and build.

Pink Swirl Sundress

Pink Swirl Sundress

When I first started wearing the dresses, I thought I “should” let the hem back down.   Grandma had shortened them and I remember being taller than her but then, we all shrink with age.  So, before the next time I wear these sweet memories I’ll return the hemline to where Grandma thought it should be … correct for US.   And as I sit here now, re-stitching those tucks into place and following Grandma’s stitches that guide me the way they used to and remembering how she taught me to take tiny stitches that wouldn’t show on the front of the fabric it’s almost like being in a time machine.

May you all find the entrance to your own time machine.   It is precious.

Fascinated by a Nelly Don dress

Welcome to my blog!  (How’s that for cliché?)  Like beginning a presentation, I always have trouble with the opening.  I’m fine once I get going.  In fact, just TRY to shut me up!  LOL

1950s Blue Floal Nelly Don Dress

1950s Blue Floal Nelly Don Dress

A dress inspired me this morning.  Isn’t that fabulous?  I always like to do a little extra research for my descriptions when I add anything to the websites, especially when there is a label or an interesting feature or history.  I’ve had other Nelly Don dresses, but this one just has that Pitty-Pat Factor.  I love it.  I would wear it in a second, but it will take longer than a second to return to my pre-marital, pre-motherhood weight and shape.  Liposuction, here I come!

The style is just adorable with the wide waist, cap sleeves, and pleated skirt.  One of my favorites.  But it’s the F A B R I C that really caught my attention:  a dark, royal blue with black sort of amoebas and bright pink, green, white, and gray spring flowers scattered throughout.  They stand out so –  almost starkly.  It’s very striking and THEN it fastens at the center front with small rhinestone buttons.

So I did a little research about Nelly Don dresses.  In an archive of Time Magazine, there is an article entitled, “Nellie’s Big Night” dated Monday, October 18, 1948 that gives a brief overview of her success story. (An interesting side note – did the original article misspell “Nellie” throughout the article, or is it a transcription error?)  A documentary book and film “A Stitch in Time” that was made, I believe, by a nephew reveals that, besides having started the “largest dress manufacturing company in the world” she was actually kidnapped and refused to pay the ransom!    It has been stated that her company made 75 million dresses between 1916 and 1978.  Check out the Nelly Don website!

It fascinates me to learn about the lives of women like Coco Chanel and Nelly Donnelly who were successful business women with multi-million dollar businesses at time when most women were happy housewives (or not so happy).  Yep, we’ve come a long way!

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