Vintage Patchwork, As Requested!

Okay, Jenna, here it is! Your favourite vintage wear from our motley past:

Genuine, sixties and seventies homegrown patchwork!

Nothing said, “I made it myself” like patchwork. It was a hippie icon that went mainstream in the seventies. We made little vests for our uniforms in Pioneer Girls (a Baptist organization for teens) from fake patchwork material. They weren’t regulation uniforms, but we looked rather smart marching in the Veterans’ Day parade in our brown and green and burnt orange vests and skirts, with brown berets and white gloves. This was about 1972, I think. I suspect that if we could glance back to that parade day, we would look like pixie escapees from the pumpkin patch.

something like this

My mother was opposed to denim patchwork. Too hippie-ish, perhaps, or just too country:

singer Tommy O'Day in a hip denim blazer

I longed for a denim patchwork skirt. Mom did not relent. There would be no cutting up good dungarees for that!

and a lot random piecing

I had classmates who took old jeans and turned them into skirts. The best were frayed on the edge, trodden down on the back hem, and were real tight across the hips. Cool girls wore their hair straight, parted in the middle, with little granny glasses and light pink lipstick. We wore Missoni style flame pattern tops, or white cotton peasant blouses. I was allowed jeans (decent Levis, or worse, J.C. Penney’s junior size no-fade denim slacks. Oh, horrors…) Still I wanted to make a skirt out of the Levis -but got a very firm “no.”

this is hardly trying

Denim is not the only possible patchwork material for cool clothes. There is real patchwork.

somewhere between prairie and hippie

I would definitely have worn this, although it looks like it was made from an old curtain and some neckties.

be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

This is bright, really bright, Yellow Submarine trippy bright. I bet someone sewed this by hand while headed for Haight Ashbury in the back of a cross-countrying VW micro-bus. No one could be unhappy wearing this skirt. It wouldn’t dare rain on this skirt. It is all sunshine and lollipops.

direct descendent of floursack skirts

I think the black and white lace-trimmed model is winsome. I would wear this as a petticoat now. It reminds me of the three sirens washing their clothes in the river in the movie “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?” Yes, a sort of indecent winsomeness.

Then patchwork clothes started to get mainstream. The one below was labelled “vintage hippie patchwork” but honestly – this mother-daughter duo is far from the flower child, free love kind of patchwork. They are posed in a very upscale countrified fake Victorian setting.

as if they are waiting for Santa Claus

The counter-culture always gets co-opted and ends up just so respectable.

9 thoughts on “Vintage Patchwork, As Requested!

  1. Magdalena,

    Whether or not this alludes to possible madness on my part, I’d wear it all!! yup; even a denham patchwork blazer, with like skirt and peasant blouse, topped with a dehnam and lace concoction of a headcovering!

    Oh man!! what’s happened to clothing nowadays!!

    the jean conversion into skirts is very popular among those who have ditched pants for skirts… it would have looked fantastic with a pair of paisley denham blue jeans I had in my late teens early 20’s when slim enough to fit into such!! these would have made a gorgeous patchwork jean skirt with varied plain denham pannels and eyelet trim, a peasant blouse and denham waistcoat (vest). worn with the obligatory tan Diana Ferara or Questra walking boots and little matching leather backpack! Oh man!! I’m there!!

    In the 90’s, quality new Zealand hippy brand Advantageous produced this type of gorgeous thing; I had a patchwork blazer/coat made of velvet, broacade, damask, silk etc pannels with sequened edging around the pannels, a pair of black baggy damask harem pants (that would have made a stunning skirt-conversion), drapy lacy edged tops, leather waistcoats, gorgeous ankle length velvet skirt and tunic sets for churchwear edged with little mirrors etc and the most stunning shawls I’ve ever been able to lay my hands on. This tied in with some of the classic 90’s modest styles that were timeless (only I grew a bit wide for them). Kocoa was another excellent brand whose long heavy cotton skirts were fantastic! then there were the hippy summer tie-died dresses worn with matching trousers underneath to give what the ladies in the shop called the ‘lady Di’ look. Sadly, the quality of a bit of this clothing wasn’t the best and it fell to bits far too quickly for my liking. In cut, the dresses were similar to a few of the ‘King’s Daughters’ dresses and ‘lillies apparrel’ dresses… Beautiful blouse collection also…all long since fallen apart or grown out of. I hope others gained some good Op Shop finds…

    I may wear Plainesque,’ but my heart will ALWAYS be long, peasant, even psycadelic country hippy.

    PS: your article on mens’ wear was priceless!! You’ve a Twain=like talent for observation and language. gorgeous!!

    • At uni, my roommate had a closet full of beautiful handmade Indian clothes with lots of embroidery and mirrors – she was Hindu, and her grandmother made them. The rest of us loved to see her dressed in all her finery.

  2. magdalena,

    At the risk of sounding like a complete nincompoop, what is a ‘pearly Queen’ name? and what’s a ‘pearly’?

    Re my late teens and 20’s clothing, besides its cut and detail, the textures were something to behold! Everything felt beautiful – so many different textures from buttery soft kid leathers and silks to crisp cotton, soft calico and the warmth of crushed velvet along with the trim and habberdashery details, nothing compares. I wish I could sew!

    • I thought you would know! Don’t they have pearlies in Australia? “Pearlies” are groups of people in London who raise money for charity, usually hospitals and agencies that care for the homeless or destitute. They dress up in denim trimmed with hundreds or thousands of pearl buttons and sing traditional pearly songs. These are people from the working classes of the city; the tradition dates back to the late 1800s. I’ll write more on pearlies as a charitable insitution in the future. They are the exact opposite of Plain, but all for fun and good causes.

  3. I must tell you Magdalena, that I truly like the patchwork clothing…especially the skirt.

    It is unique and beautiful!

    Again…a throw back – maybe. It shows clothing was creative before…


    • I liked and like still a lot of it. But I have to laugh at my teenaged obbession with making a jeans skirt and my mother’s adamant refusal to let me. That was part of the hippie ethos – that we would get away from the rigidity of commercial fashion, and choose for ourselves what we would make and wear. The concepts and trends just got sucked into the materialistic vortex, though. I will be making some pretty patchwotk petticoats for myself, and may make some aprons with patchwork bibs or pockets to sell.

  4. Magdalena,

    We don’t, as far as I know, have the ‘Pearly’ tradition in australia. It never made it down here; though it sounds wonderfully full of vitality as you’ve mentioned, all for a good cause.

  5. I love patchwork for its practicality – the using up of fabric scraps, or taking what is still good from otherwise worn or stained shirts or dresses, etc. The design and cutting up of NEW fabric for such projects never makes sense to me, though I do find all patchwork pretty! Much modern work is just too deliberate and matchy-matchy looking for me, seems inauthentic and false somehow. Not that I mean to fault the creativity of it and worthy occupation that such craftwork is!

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