Fashion improvisation in the 1940’s SPATS

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The Fashion of SPATS – in 1941

This adaptable stylish shoe article in a French fashion publication has prompted me to share this idea from 194. The illustrations are self-explanatory and the patterns are a rare find, they are useful and show a classic elegance to add to feminine shoe. Ladies were so clever in improvising many fashion they owned in the 1940’s, making their own finishing touches individual using fabric panels of velvet for suits, dresses skirts and hats.   Cutting up jackets to make waistcoats,  and children’s clothes were a popular mode. News spread fast on how to achieve something really professional and smart, it came from many publications – one in particular was Marie Clare 1941, Paris.   Pages on Feminine thrifty fashion ideas for the times, became most popular features.  Many tips on home Tailoring appeared too giving detailed instructions in photo’s and text.  Another feature given was if you only had one dress, how to give it multiple accessories to wear which could totally change it’s style.

 SHOES  to SPATS for a new revamp.

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Hot Trend – on how to immediately update one pair of your favourite shoes from your wardrobe, especially if it needs a classic 1940’s original look.  The pattern is adaptable for most shoe types using a wide range of fabrics from, cotton, brocade, linen, denim and even leather or suede off cuts.  Probably velvet for the evening shoes would be a good choice.  Adding embroidery, beading, buttons, ribbons, you name it and it’s possible. Reinforced iron on stiffening to finer fabrics could come in useful too. The patterns are just readable with exact shapes to follow if remaking a new pattern.   Try cutting out one first to get the fit right in any material you may have, adjust to fit your shoe. The original shapes are very clever simply designed for a plain black court shoe, with a heel. Traditionally Spats covered the ankle so these shoe examples may be a little short, but could easily be cut slightly higher to cover this.

Shoe blog pic 2 Pour les Jours ensoleilles 3

Strong contrasting colours would look outstanding, using white as a classic idea to fit any fashions, or why not have a set to match every outfit you have.  How many of us can afford a new pair of shoes for every situation, or event these days.    The article implied – For one pair of shoes this pattern gives variety for many different outfit  combinations.

Avec une tenue un peu sport Avec une tenue un peu sport Spats are a past trend never entirely departed.  Two tone shoes are elegant. Pour le Ville Pour le Ville 4


The history of shoe spats is given here.   These knitted leggings/spats were an  attractive pattern and easily knitted. The lower part up to the ankle length could be worn as spats and the leg part would be leggings or gaiters.  The pattern was given in the book La Mode Ilustree in French. (1864).  Unfortunately I cannot read French knitting patterns- but this is so clear the stitches could be adapted.  It looks like a 2 stitch rib for the foot and top with maybe a softer yarn in stripes for the leg part.  Let me know if anyone makes this! 


``kitted Leggings/Spats 1864


Spats became worn during the 19th century through to the 20th century mainly for practical reasons by men. Described as a shoe and ankle covering for the purpose of protection from weather, walking on rough ground, water and muddy areas. The military uniform included spats when they were in battle, or on the march, also for when on parade. They were practical for wearing outdoors as well as some sports. The name Spats is shortened from “spatterdashes”. We can relate to the name splash more easily now. Ladies saw the elegant men in uniform and copied details from their garments along with spats and leggings that covered the top of the shoe, could be called gaiters, in which case they came higher up the leg.  In the mid 1900’s it was recorded in the publication La Mode Illustree – France that ladies knitted many complex shaped spats/leggings to keep warm on the cold streets of Paris. I have found such a pair printed in this publication which I will add upon finding the right volume and page.  I believe it gave the actual pattern, and a delightful illustration. America (20th century), led the way for the famous white spats worn to symbolize wealth, elegance and to add a hint of being an extrovert. The mobsters of New York are recorded in many great films – e.g. Spats Colombo, in “Some like it hot” is a fine example of wearing such glamerous accessories. Across the U.K. & Europe the fashion took hold quickly spreading to guess who – Ladies footwear!. Now a famous Vintage Style that has notoriety again.  Vintage talks focus on what’s new for modern ladies shoes?  Do shoes change much?  Revitalize Spats trends in every wardrobe!  Amazing fabrics can be seen for spats in the cities of London, Italy and New York now. Short rubber boots are a wonderful addition when designed incorporating spats. (See our Links category  to buy boots styled like spats). My research has found these four stunning photo’s showing the pattern as well. A small size but possible to enlarge and reproduce again. A fantastic revamp for old boots for the winter, using these attachments, which easily fix under the sole and by laces, or little buttons on the top. I have not yet tried out these designs, so anyone who does, please contact us with your success stories. The pattern instruction is given in French for each shoe shape design.


Not forgetting HATS, another easy thing to change are the accessories  such as  scarfs, bows, jewellery and feathers.  In 1941 the fashion artist: Rene Gruau drew five hat views which  are all popular today.   The were perfect for the styles of the era and are designed by some of the top Parisienne hat designers.   Rose Valois. Legroux Sours  &  Caroline Reboux.

HATS  1941  Blog 5  2   The black bowler looks as though it has lots of rushed netting falling at the back and the sides.  This model is effective and suits many garments. HATS  1941  Blog 5  1 HATS  1941  Blog 5  1 Four beautiful images from the Artist  Rene Gruau, showing them set at the right angles on the head to be seen from every view.

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