Monday, September 29, 2008

Vintage Patterns....And Why They Dont Turn out

I subscribe and sometimes comment on Sew Retro. I think its a fabulous blog because its all about people using and making things out of vintage/retro patterns. And I think its fascinating how these garments turn out.

Long ago, in a Galaxy far, far away, I recall racks and racks of vintage house dresses in every conceivable size and style. I remember when the vintage stores on Broadway had little stores with walls draped with vintage velvet and lace dresses. I remember going to my favorite long gone boutique and buying a burgundy rayon velvet dress from the 40's for $40. That was a lot of money back then - but it was for a first date kind of thing with my future ex husband.

That wouldn't happen today. The closest you could come to would be Torso Vintage around these parts. And the prices are phenomenally high. And Ive never seen a dress there that beat the one I purchased long ago.

But I digress. What I wanted to talk about is how I see a lot of postings about how the dresses/skirts/suits........don't turn out like the illustrations on the pattern packages.

What made me think back on all the dresses I used to find so easily is that many of them were handmade and probably looked like shit on the wearer. Women sewed a hellofalot more back in the day before mass production in China, and probably were a lot poorer - think the FIRST depression - or had home ec training. (does anyone even know what that is anymore?)

My favorite late 80's - early 90's look was a vintage house dress and army boots. That's kinda still around, and coming back strong soon, but instead of the vintage knock off dresses, I was wearing the crumbling vintage dresses with that great jersey and aged cotton that is hard to find anymore. And the dresses were all handmade and ill fitting.

Part of the reason that outfits don't look like the pattern illustration is of course, the artists rendering of the style. Their job is to make the pattern sellable. Often the illustration is an exaggeration. And just like today, the body proportions are not correct.

Also, we forget that these garments were meant to be worn with the undergarments of the day. Those full skirts in the pattern need a crinoline or two and a girdle. Maybe a cone bra. They wont look the same without them.

Also, the pattern often has to be manipulated to look like the illustration. If you are not a size 0 like the pattern shows, you have to somehow turn that pattern into a size whatever you are and make it look right. Sleeves might have to be made wider or lengthened. Skirt fullness added, darts moved, bodices lengthened.

And all this requires a little skill that many a new modern sewer doesn't have.

So people get disappointed and give up. And that's a shame. But it takes patience to learn skills. And time. Mock ups should be made of the pattern first.

Right now, I'm making some vintage suit mock ups for a friend and then we will work out the details and the fit problems first. It takes time. Time = money. This is why it isn't cheap to make good clothes. But if you take your time to think things through and learn from the mistakes made along the way and take risks and do your historical research of the garment style you are making.......success will eventually be yours.

Sewing isn't easy.


Anonymous said...

I came across your blog via one of the Belly Dance related forums on tribe a few months ago (delurking).

Just wanted to say I love seeing your creations and reading your commentaries. Gorgeous works of art!

cinderelly said...

yes, i have tried several of the vintage patterns, and they definately need a muslin first, and even then, they just turn out weird. (i blame it on the big macs!) we are all shaped differently now, and like you said, we don't wear girdles anymore either!