1943 Overalls for My Little Man

Our son is now old enough to really understand exactly what mommy does in front of those stitching machines, so with a vintage pattern on hand he now can also share in my handmade goodness.  The overalls were quite easy and fun to make and I think (so does he) that they turned out so well!  Besides, I’m quite pleased to make something out of the ordinary, yet vintage, and supremely useful, all at the same time.

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My best reward ever is how he is so proud and happy to wear them!  “Mommy made them!” he loves to announce of his own accord to anyone he meets while wearing them.  He even asks to wear them, which will not be all that much longer because he’s growing tall and fast – cuffs to the pants’ hem might be in order at some point to extend their wearing.  It looks like, at this rate, he will probably be receiving another pair for summer made in denim from me…I don’t think he’ll mind at all and neither will I 😉

THE FACTS:  butterick-2744-year-1943-envelope-front-comp-w

FABRIC:  small wale 100% cotton corduroy in a dark, dusty forest green color and a 100% cotton tan printed corduroy

NOTIONS:  All I needed was thread, snaps, buttons, and hook and eyes – all of which I had on hand.

PATTERN:  Butterick #2744, year 1943

TIME TO COMPLETE:  These only took me about 6 hours to make – easy peasy. They were finished on March 2, 2016.

dsc_0120-comp-wTHE INSIDES:  all bias bound

TOTAL COST:  Zero!  I’ll explain.

Different vintage corduroys went into our son’s overalls.  Firstly, my Grandmother as given me her generous stash of corduroy in many solid colors.  I am almost certain she said it was originally intended for my dad and his sister when they were little.  Now some of that corduroy has went towards making something for her great-grandson.  That is where the solid green of the overalls is from.  The plane print corduroy is something hubby and I bought at a vintage market.  Our son is a huge fan of anything that goes (planes, trains, and automobiles) so we knew this was perfect for him even though it was only a small remnant piece, not a whole cut.  Thus, I incorporated a definite “boy” touch to his overalls, adding vintage to vintage, and accommodated our little man’s likes at the same time.  Whew.

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I must admit I was dubious going into this project because 1.)  I was using an original Butterick pattern which tends to have an unusual fit (normally generous sizing), and 2.)  the smaller the scale of clothes, often the harder and more fiddly they become (think of doll clothes).  As it turned out, the overalls weren’t as awkwardly small to make as expected since there weren’t any too small spots save for the straps over the shoulders.  It’s hard (hell actually) turning corduroy tubes inside out…it naturally wants to stick to itself like glue.  I also did experiment with the legs of this pattern to make my little guy his Halloween costume (posted here) and found out the width and length of the size then, and what I needed to change.  Muslins (also known as mock-ups) are something I hardly ever do, but between the pattern and sewing for someone new, I glad I knew how to make good fitting overalls for my boy’s final garment.

The sizing went by chest and age, but I thought height would be more important.  As our son is rather tall and skinny for his age, and the pattern seems to run short and wide so I added several inches to the bottom hem of the pants legs and a bit extra on the ends of the shoulder straps.  For the next pair of overalls, I will also add a bit more to widen the bib front, too.

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Our son cannot live without pockets, so luckily there are two patch pockets over the behind, however they take some getting used to on his part.  He sort of naturally expects the side placket closures to be pockets because that’s where modern pants normally have them.  I can’t help but laugh when he takes a money coin or toy or whatever he intends for his pocket and slips it in the side placket thinking it’s a pocket…the item falls right down his pants leg right to the ground with him completely mystified!  He also does seem to find the fake front pocket flaps a bit annoying.  I had to stitch those flaps down to avoid frustration because he kept playing with them, pulling at them, and generally expecting to find a pocket under them.  Sorry, dude, next time I’ll leave them off or make them really working pockets.  He is such a perfectionist just like myself sometimes.  I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as the saying goes.

dsc_0108-comp-wFor the closures, I don’t see how a potty trained child could deal with button closures all over as the pattern originally calls to make.  Buttons on the side, buttons on the bib/strap ends – really?!  I sewed large heavy duty snaps to attach the shoulder straps to the bib front with two fake non-working buttons sewn down for decoration.  Large sliding waistband-style hook-and-eyes close up the sides of the waist.  My little man completely understands how to work both hook-and-eyes and snaps on his own without assistance making life easier for me and giving him confidence in dressing himself.  I wonder how button closing worked for any mom who made this pattern and feel sorry for the mom and child who dealt with this…why buttons.  Would not hooks and snaps been used in the 40’s?  Anyway, a bit of hidden modern practicality is a great touch to updating some vintage garments.

All of us appreciate the fact that these overalls end the skinny man’s perennial problem of drooping drawers.  We as his parents like the absence of “plumber’s crack” our little guy sometimes has, and he himself likes not having to pull up his pants on a regular basis or hold up his drawers when he runs.  It’s not that we don’t buy him the right clothes…I’ve taken in the waist of many of his store bought pants.  When you’ve got no booty and no hips to hold your clothes on yourself…well, gravity takes its toll.  Overalls are the wonder solution.  Now I know why they are so widely seen in vintage, especially for children.  Overalls let them be free to do what they do best – run, move, play, and have a good time.

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Now that I’ve made these overalls, I feel like I have noticed a few thing about vintage 40’s children’s wear as a result of this project.  The pants are hilariously wide and baggy but they do make the overalls cute, not to mention easy to play in and so classic of the 1940’s.  I know crouch depths were low, waists were high, and leg widths were roomy for both men and women’s trousers of the 1940’s, but I guess a “mini-me” ideal carried the same trends into children’s wear, too.  I also find it interesting that the pattern is specifically co-ed – meant for both girls and boys.  I see this non-gender specific aim in clothing patterns primarily from both the 1940’s and early to mid-1950 era, mostly for designs which offer pants, jackets, shirts, hats, sleepwear, and overalls for those 5 and under.

This raises questions I’d never thought of before.  Was this merely a result of rationing – on the pattern company’s end and for the purchaser?  Why not the patterns from the 20s, 30s, or late 60’s and on (in these eras I see mostly only housecoat patterns being co-ed)?  I think it may have to do with the outlook of society at the time.  From a purely practical standpoint, boys and girls really don’t have much shaping differences to take into account under 5 years old…no more different than one child from another.  Choosing different fabric can totally customize the pattern but then again a young mom of 1943 would probably like to make a garment that would give her the most bang for the buck and time spent to make, something more than one child (if that was the case) could wear equally.  Interesting stuff to figure out!

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