Tuesday, June 14, 2011

More dress patterns

This is a kind of part two of my previous Laughing Duck Vintage post. I bought a whole lot of Weigel's paper patterns a few months ago for my sis, but in the end, she didn't want them...so I have put them up for sale.The packets look a bit worse for wear, the scanner seemed to pick up marks that I can hardly see.There are a few varmint nibbles, but the patterns are in good nick.

I had never heard of Weigel's before this (because I am from Adelaide??) and was delighted by the story of Madame Weigel. It is wonderful to discover about the lives of Australian women, we often just hear about the men in history.

Madame Weigel was born in Poland and travelled to the US where she worked as a designer for McCalls. She married and came to Melbourne on her honeymoon and stayed.

By her own account, after many requests from friends who admired her dress sense Johanna Weigel started to cut patterns from her own clothes and give them away. The easy-to-follow instructions for measuring, cutting and sewing made the patterns popular and their increasing success led her and Oscar to start their fashion business in 1877 in premises in Lennox Street, Richmond. They imported all their printing machines and tissue paper and soon established offices in central Melbourne and Sydney and agencies throughout Australia and New Zealand.

In 1880 they started Weigel's Journal of Fashion, a monthly subscription journal that claimed to be the first fashion magazine to be designed, published and printed in Australia. It included illustrated fashion articles, housekeeping hints and serialized fiction. The impact of her patterns and journal on women and their families, particularly in country areas, was considerable. Miles Franklin later wrote that her mother was a regular subscriber to the Journal:
It was an 'elegancy' to which she clung through the leanest lean years . . . Mother always dressed herself and us by Madame W's paper patterns . . . Madame Weigel was to me a figure of legend as Mrs Beeton or 'The Ingoldsby Legends'.
What impressed me most about the woman is the legacy that she left after her death in 1940. Amongst other beneficiaries she left the residue of her estate  to the employees of Madame Weigel Pty Ltd, which continued until at least the 1960s. On the death of the last surviving employee in 1972 the final distribution of her estate was made to five hospitals named in her will.

How generous is that! I assume that money helped people keep their jobs, and kept an Australian  iconic business going.

I particularly love this little frock. It came with the receipt for the fabric, 1 yard of nylon and 2 yards of lace dated 31 October, 1957. It somehow makes it very real and personal. I imagine so many little scenarios, a special party frock for a daughter, or maybe it was made for a wedding in a country hall.

 My web stalking has found this great  pic of Madame Weigel's magazine.
Pic here at Poppalina

If you would like to make the koala tea cosy, which is way cute, click here for the pattern, It is considered to be in the public domain, and therefore OK to publish.

Here are a couple of good links to her story, Poppalina was as curious as I (But in 2006! Geez get with the programme Nick!) and this biography.

Sorry about the long post  guys, I am tying to make them short and sweet, but then I start researching...


  1. Very interesting post! The patterns are just lovely.

  2. I love a long (interesting! unlike mine) post...I think it is just so cool that Madame Weigel left a legacy to her employees. I like finding out about stuff (especially Australian stuff) so keep them coming Nick

    ps love those trousers in pattern 1532...very Katherine Hepburn.

  3. oh I love Madame Weigel knitting books... especially the one you posted the photo of.. I often have the odd one for sale in my eBay Store. I have never had much luck selling the sewing patterns tho. I just dont have the patience to check and count all the pieces !!

  4. Love reading historical stuff so enjoyable to me.



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