Butterick 1915 Fashions (and thoughts on trying to KonMari myself out of being a hoarder).

I’ve officially started cleaning out my sewing room / having a full blown not-quite-midlife decluttering crisis and ebay-ing some of my old collected treasures. It’s funny the way my compulsions come full circle given enough time. About five years ago, I was interested in minimalism and simple living and trying to clear out my possessions to have time and space for what mattered most to me. Then I got interested in sewing ephemera and collecting sewing machines, and somehow my sewing room / sanctuary space became overrun with treasures.

Some of this is Asperger’s related, or to put it in non-identity-label terms, my learning style. When I become interested in something, it becomes obsessive, and I learn by immersing myself completely in the subject. I have enjoyed the process immensely, and pattern catalogs and sewing manuals and correspondence courses appeal to so many of my interests – visual art, graphic design, antiques, cultural history, gender history, material culture, crafting – that collecting them has engaged me as little else has.

But now, the cycle of my interests is shifting back to simplicity, and with a new baby and a desire to really move into patternmaking as an action and not just a study, I find that owning all of these delicate historical things is not providing me the same pleasure that hunting and studying it initially did. We don’t have enough room for me to store these things anymore, really. The sheer volume of kids toys we’ve accumulated with one kiddo who shares my hoarder tendencies is unbelievable, so with two, there’s just not room for boxes of books.

And what I want has changed. I want a crafting room or studio space that I can share with my kids without the worry that they might accidentally get ink on some antique irreplaceable thing that I paid a huge amount of money for. (Not to mention life in tornado alley makes a girl a bit nervous about all those 19th century leaflets upstairs when the sirens go off and we all pile in the basement.) I’d rather use the money from selling them to buy fabrics and art materials to engage with. So I’m finding new homes for some of the treasures I’ve accumulated over the years.

I keep reading Marie Kondo and hoping it will stick. There’s a passage in The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up that I keep coming back to:

When you come across something that you cannot part with, think carefully about its true purpose in your life. You’ll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role. By acknowledging their contribution and letting them go with gratitude, you will be able to truly put the things you own, and your life, in order. In the end, all that will remain are the things that you really treasure. To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.

Most of the things I’ve collected have served their purpose in my life, in that they’ve provided an education and a great deal of inspiration. I scan and reproduce some of my favorites as a history nerd / design passion project, so have the ability to return to the information they contain. So I think I’m ready to clear out the physical bulk and work toward having space and materials to put what they’ve taught me to use in making new designs, doing my own sketches, writing about what I’ve learned about fashion history.

So, if you are a collector of fashion ephemera, feel free to watch my ebay (here). I have so many things to clear out over the next few months. I’ll try to post about some of the things I send back out into the world as I go through the process, because some of the designs and information in them is really fantastic.

I put up a Butterick catalog from 1915 this weekend that has some fantastic illustrations and unique details in it that I figured I’d share here, just as fashion inspiration. I love the influence of the kimono on this era (and have been very into researching kimono inspired garments lately) that started with Poiret a few years earlier but can still be seen in the girdles and sashes and surplice necklines.

 

Some of these designs and silhouettes seem very dated but even the dated designs have details that could be incorporated to give personality to contemporary designs or simple garments. Others, though, if they were done in contemporary colors and fabrics and with a modern hairstyle, you’d never know they were hundred year old designs. The dress with a deep neckline, a sash and the midsection, and the ruffle detail low on the sleeve and skirt would be gorgeous in a light chiffon outer layer and a satin sash in the same color for subtlety or a bright contrasting one for drama, something like cream chiffon with a scarlet sash and maybe some scarlet ribbon detailing at the neckline.

Fashion magazines always appeal to my inner 15 year old art nerd, too. The way these illustrations are done is both pretty and illustrative in a way some eras aren’t. Personally, I like this better than some of the line drawing qualities of illustration in the 1920s and the harsher femininity sometimes illustrated in the 1930s. It’s interesting, too, because these illustrations seem to depict female faces as they would look with heavy cosmetic applications, though women would probably still have tried to keep their makeup applications looking very natural at this point in history, using maybe just a face powder, light rouge, eyebrow pencil, and a tonic on lashes.

The shift of silhouette from the heavily corseted, tiny waistline of the first decade of the 1900s is fascinating. From what I understand this was probably partly due to the popularity of Titanic era designs by Poiret, Fortuny, and others that were inspired by other cultures with a more natural silhouette, but also due to necessity as World War I changed everyone’s lives so dramatically from 1914 onward, changing the daily activities of women, causing material shortages such that designs had to use less fabric, and so many other changes.

The corsets and undergarments really deserve an in-depth post of their own, so more on that later.

Happy Sunday!

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Belated 2017 Roundup / Obligatory Rambles About Lifegoals and Resolve

2017 was … intense, macrocosmically and microcosmically. But it’s been ever upward and onward, and rounding up the things I created over the last year really makes me feel pretty great about how far my lingerie making and sewing skills have progressed. I also feel a sense of accomplishment about trying fabric design!

So here’s a sampling of my sewn work over the last year, all self-drafted:

 

And here are some of the fabric designs I printed using Spoonflower (shameless self promotion, my shop is here):

It’s somehow cheering to see it all in one place. It’s easy to think of all I’d hoped to accomplish and did not; it’s harder to realize how far I’ve actually come.

My biggest goal for 2018 are to finally open up an etsy shop for handmade lingerie, and I’m moving toward being able to do that probably within the next week or two. Lots of samples sewn and processes mastered and materials hoarded toward that end.  Still to do: photos to take, copy to write, listings to create. I’d like to offer patterns and design more fabrics to use in my collections as well. It may seem unrelated, but for me this is inextricably connected to my more personal urge to declutter and simplify and work towards realizing the more minimalist approach to living I’ve always wanted. To me, clearing the physical clutter is tied to clearing the psychological hesitation to focus on what I really want to be doing with my time.  I went around my house taking pictures to have a “before” state to see what progress I can make and have a nice list of TED talks to work through for inspiration. But mostly I hope to be able to declutter enough to actually sew in my sewing room instead of just piling it full of sewing-related junk.

Here’s hoping. 🙂

Hoarding and Gloom. Or: I Need Some Chocolate, Stat.

Hoarding things makes me feel weird. Like existentially sad pondering my own mortality weird. I have all these great collections that are scribbled full of women’s names and these mother sized and daughter sized patterns that have scribbled notes about cancer fundraisers on the envelopes. I have things that I know someone tucked away because she deemed them worth keeping for the duration of her life, and then were passed on. It’s the same kind of discomfort that keeps me away from estate sales. To me that’s the saddest thought–of someone without family members willing to take her treasures and think of her now and then while enjoying them. Humans are these strange attention machines, meaning-making creatures filtering that take in all this influence and cultural symbolism that makes an individual taste and personality. Then that aesthetic (along with that individual’s neuroses and instinct) becomes this drive that curates and assemble these possessions, especially in the industrialized, advertising soaked West where we affirm these ideas about ourselves and our aspirations by purchasing. They become a kind of expression in themselves of the curatorial eye that gathered them. Seeing them dissipated and hawked on ebay by people who don’t know a thing about them is just…sad to me. I hope someday that my hoarded things aren’t shuffled through by strangers hoping to make a profit. I have a big family. I hope some distant cousin will get use out of my books and sewing machines, that maybe my kiddo will hang on to the handcrank I hope he’ll remember fondly one day being allowed to “sew with mommy” on.

My interest in home economics and domestic arts is fraught with sentiment, I guess. There’s a scene in True Blood after Sookie’s grandma dies where she’s sort of numb and disassociated from her grief until someone tries to eat the leftover pie in the fridge that her Gran had made. She screams at her to put it down, and later, almost ritualistically, she sits at the table alone, sobbing and finishing every last bite of the pecan pie. That scene was the most powerful for me in the whole gloriously costumed, pretty people laden Southern goth extravaganza that was True Blood. But then, I’m the kind of girl who still keeps a cigar box full of useless dried up pens that my dad used to write with. His handwriting was almost calligraphic, and he sat down to write like some people sit down to a tea ceremony; but he was just like that. Chopping wood, sharpening knives, too. Somewhere I have a bag of his old clothes that I couldn’t bear to throw away. I may be 80 before I ever end up making a quilt out of it, but I hope one day I do, and that someone I love enjoys it long after me, too.

There must be some kind of gene that sentimental hoarders share, because this doesn’t seem an odd sentiment among crafters. I wonder if there is some neurological idiosyncracy there that we share. I have this pipe dream of going all minimalist and paring my life down but the minute I start to think about cleaning out something I can conjure up all these memories of associated things and can’t discard it. And yet I don’t keep scrapbooks; why would I need to, when shuffling through a box and its smells and textures evoke more than a picture ever would.

tl;dr: Sorry, boyfriend, you trip over sewing machines when you go to do the laundry bc your girlfriend is a hopeless sentimentalist. The end.