Friday, October 18, 2013

Australian Home Journal mystery from the 1930s

Dear readers,

Today I have an exciting project to announce. A wonderful museum here in my city has a small collection of Australian Home Journal magazines. For those not acquainted, the AHJ was a women's magazine and sewing pattern service.

Each issue contained 3 or 4 free patterns, and also illustrations of many other designs that you could write away and buy the pattern for. I have a few AHJ patterns in original postal envelopes and sometimes I get a kick out of tracking down the issue it came from and the original illustration. It's fun to imagine a lady of the past flicking through the magazine and deciding that this is the one - the very dress that she just needs to have this season!

So now to the mystery. My dear friends at the museum's library have a mystery pack of free patterns from an issue of the AHJ from 1931, but they don't have the magazine. The patterns were unprinted, just folded tissue with some perforated holes. It says it contains 4 frocks including a child's dress. I know from experience that often they made three different designs from just one or two pieces, and the instructions in the magazine would tell you how to alter the piece for each design, or to draft certain pieces yourself, like facings etc. They were certainly assuming a level of dressmaking knowledge that not many people have anymore! Without any illustrations or instructions, I couldn't help wondering what these pieces were meant to become.

So I suggested to my friends that if they would be kind enough to lend me the pieces, I would document my process of discovering what the dresses look like. I have already tried to find an issue of the magazine, but no major Australian library holds it. I hope that through publicising my project, someone may produce a copy from their grandmother's attic. But in the meantime, using just what images I can find of designs of that era (and my own knowledge of how patterns work), I'm going to attempt to put together at least one dress from the pieces I have.

Could it be something like this perhaps?

Hope you can join along and see where this takes me!


  1. Hi, How did you go with your project? I collect these magazines:

    1. Dear Lorri...I never even started I'm sorry to say - I had two babies and moved house twice instead! Life can take some crazy turns. I still hope one day I'll manage it. Great to find a collector, do you have any from the 1930s? They are rare as hen's teeth, but I hope someone will dig them out of an attic one day and they'll appear on eBay...

    2. I had a look through my collection but the earliest I have is from 1936... I do hope you will pick this up again now that you are back, I am curious to see what they will look like!