I Found the Old McCall Building!

I spend a good amount of time in my day job as an architectural historian using old photos to help tell the stories of historic buildings and the people who lived, worked or otherwise spent time in them. So one day I took on a personal project and searched for sewing-related images.

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You know what first clued me in to searching for photos of the old McCall Building? I was about to head into Mood when I happened to spot faded “ghost signs” across 37th Street. See them in the photo above? Windows have since been punched into this side wall, but at one time the sign was very hard to miss. Scroll to the very end of this post to see what the building looked like over a century ago.

So, yep, at one time, McCall’s was right in the thick of things in the Garment District!

All photos and captions are from the Museum of the City of New York‘s digital collection. These were taken by the Byron Company in 1913.

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Battle of the Sewing Machines, The Musical


Okay, here’s an oldie but goodie that I just randomly dug up and had to share. What the heck? There’s all kinds of amazingness happening here! I feel like it’s the sewing version of the Beatles movie Yellow Submarine. It dates to 1875 and is actually a piece of music composed by one F. Hyde.

The army of Remington sewing machines is clearly winning this battle. See all the little sewing machines being shot out of that cannon like musical notes? The assault seems to be on Elias Howe (“Howe slow we go on!!!”), Singer, and anything else old timey.

You can read the little random phrases on the Library of Congress website. And if you’re near a piano, play us this piece, why don’tcha? 🙂

P.S. Just wanted to note that I forgot to mention in last week’s Charmbie post that I shortened the Cambie bodice by 1/2″ so that it hits at my natural waist. I’ve updated the post to reflect that, and wanted to make you aware in case it helps you! Working on a springtime Colette Chantilly next…

A Sewing Room Valentine


Just happened to be looking through old photos on the Museum of the City of New York‘s website and came across this amazing sewing room! Had to share. Photos taken by Samuel H. Gottscho on February 14, 1936. Aw, the perfect Valentine’s Day gift!

The caption on each photo reads, “Good Housekeeping Studio, 57th Street and Eighth Avenue. Sewing Room.” A mere two blocks away from Central Park – think of the sewing photo opportunities!

Is this not such a cozy looking space? There’s even a chair for hand sewing while listening to a little Glenn Miller on the radio.


Love this one with the ironing board conveniently placed next to the sewing machine. And at just the right height too. You can sew a seam and then, without even getting up, turn and press that seam open.

I’m guessing that piece under the windows is for pattern storage (those file looking things at the bottom)? It also holds a pressing board for sleeves! But where’s the place for my fabric stash? 😉

The cutting table. Wow. I’d love to have that. Looks like a bodice is being prepped for cutting. And on the lower right-hand corner, the clamped tool that looks like a pencil sharpener…is that one of those thingies that pink your seams? I’ve seen them on eBay, I think.

Just look at that huge mirror for checking out how your garment is turning out as you’re sewing along. Wowser.

And did you notice the pin-it contraption for hems in all three photos? It’s on the floor next to the side table. This photo also shows some fabric shears at the lower-right corner – all ready for some fabric cutting!

This is a small space, but pretty luxurious for New York City standards. I can see myself being very happy here. Very happy, indeed.

My only question: where do I sign?

Nina Leen’s Glimpse Into LIFE

Have you seen these incredible photos by photographer Nina Leen? They’re part of the LIFE photo archive available through Google. Leen starting working for LIFE in 1945 and was one of the first female photographers at the magazine. A friend introduced me to her and her work, and I picked out some of my favorites to share with you today!

First, I just love the photo above. There’s something kind of dream-like about it, I guess. The pose as well as the dress with the shoes and headband are all so cute – enough to intrigue a couple of fellas rowing boats even! Everything about it makes me want to be there. Doesn’t the model kind of remind you of Casey from Elegant Musings?

The page where this is posted (click on each photo to go to the source) notes that this is Washington Square Park, which certainly isn’t so! T’is actually taken by “The Lake” in Central Park. The Beresford – the grand apartment building just above the model’s head – is a clear giveaway, situated quite happily on Central Park West between 81st and 82nd Streets since 1929. 🙂

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