Things I Hoard: Modes & Travaux

If memory serves me, this French language publication began in the 1920s or slightly earlier, and is still in publication. It features fashion, knitting and embroidery, and many of the ones I have from the 30s still have an included iron on transfer sheet with embroidery designs. As part of my learning curve with digitization methods, I’ve been playing around with one from the 1930s with some gorgeous designs by Maggy-Rouff, Molyneux and Lelong in it. It’s gorgeous, as most illustrated fashion magazines of the era seem to be. (I think I like illustration better than photography in my fashion mags, even though the illustrations definitely seduce me into sewing things that aren’t going to flatter my body but look great in theory on a drawn person whose waist is roughly 12″ around and who stands at least 7′ tall.)

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Another thing I love about these old publications is the window they provide into the day to day life of their era. We tend to think of the past as if it were so different, but all the advertising in these speaks to the same things we worry about today–wrinkles, our weight, our hair color, that ever elusive glamor we want for ourselves. Unlike some of my friends who tend to think that technology is revolutionizing our consciousness, etc etc, I tend to think that the human heart stays mostly the same. We all worry about the same things, we all need the same intangible things from each other, whether it’s 1700 or 2015. But outside of the context of one’s era, certain things do seem bizarre…like whatever this beauty treatment ad is offering (if radio-actifs means what I think it does, omg, way to redefine youthful glow):

You, too, can own your very own beauty ball gag.
You, too, can own your very own beauty ball gag.

Another thing I can’t get enough of is old lingerie advertisements and design.

bra ad corset ad

So pretty! So I managed to digitize it all and have it not be distorted, overly blurry or overly contrasted–if you’d like the entire pdf, I’m making it available for free download for a day or two 🙂 enjoy!

modes travaux – 1932 nov 1

Free Vintage Inspiration: 20s Era Dennison Halloween and Party Booklets

I have a thing for vintage costume catalogs. I just love the idea of people having galas and dressing up to socialize; there just isn’t enough of that these days.

bowiedance
Still waiting on my invite.
No, seriously, guys. Give me the poisoned peach.
No, seriously, guys. Give me the poisoned peach.
Still waiting. Why are there no creepy masquerade balls in my life!??
Still waiting. Why are there no creepy masquerade balls with David Bowie as the musical entertainment in my life!??

It is interesting, though, how some people bemoan contemporary Halloween as merely an excuse for people to wear skimpy things and get attention. But old catalogs I see seem to allow for more skin and more leeway in terms of socially acceptable dress (women in PANTS in the 20s?!) even back in the early 20th century. The issue of dress and pervasive sexuality in our culture is a complicated one, but I have a feeling that even when people barely even showed calves, those calves were probably viewed with the same sexual fervor that, hmm, say, Kim Kardashian’s implanted butt is today. I tend to think that human drives and fears and aspirations and perversions remain largely unchanged through history, though we tend to look toward the past as if those people were completely different than we are–and toward the future generation as morally worse than us, change as bad, social mores as crumbling. And yet we as a civilization have managed to not yet fall apart after millennia of supposedly worsening moral depravity. Hopefully some of our biases have been stripped away in terms of gender and race over the last hundred years, but I think sometimes we as a culture collectively pat ourselves on the back far too soon–as if we’ve fixed those complicated social justice problems. (Arguments about the irrelevance of feminism in our time now that it has “completed its goals” come to mind. Ha. HA! Or cultural appropriation and fashion, the outrage over the Redskins being asked to change their mascot to, you know, maybe not a highly offensive caricature.) But…rants make me tired these days. In the echo chamber of social media, the world is flooded with loudly broadcast opinions. We have maybe enough of that. But not enough of Dennison’s ephemera!!

Apparently Dennison put out these sweet little booklets starting in the late 1900s or early 1910s, most of which are now stupid expensive collectibles or reprint editions. But archive.org has three of them! They are mostly full of household decorating tips, party planning and crafts, etc, but there are some amazing illustrations and costumes in them too!

Exhibit A: Dennison’s Bogie Book from 192o. It can be downloaded (here).


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Exhibit B: Dennison’s Gala Book, 1922, can be downloaded (here).

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Exhibit C: Dennison’s Party Book, 1922, can be downloaded (here) Admittedly I am unclear on the difference between a gala and a party…probably a matter of scale/formality?

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That guy’s hat looks like something out of Eyes Wide Shut. Creepy.

partybook partybook1b

Woman’s Institute Sewing Books Editions and More Vintage Library: Designing by Draping, 1936

I feel this maniacal compulsion to make myself expert on all things Woman’s Institute. To shout its wonders to the world. To missionize. Because holy freakin crap do I love these books. And today, discovering minor differences between editions, I was positively mad with book lust. (See: The 9th Gate. It’s what my life would be if I were glamorous, rich, important and in accidental league/sex thrall with the devil. So not like my life at all except for salivating over old books and caressing them lovingly, creepily, way too much for normal people to find comfortable.) There’s a scene where Johnny Depp starts examining illustrations for tiny differences all wide eyed behind his big glasses–that is me, today.

9thgate

The most fascinating example of this was the lingerie and underwear instruction books and booklets. I have three different versions–a two part paperback booklet set, and two hardback volumes printed in Britain. I assumed they’d have the same content, but it turns out they are all different! One features Edwardian type lingerie (corset covers, brassieres, knickers), one of the undated booklets features 20s era lingerie, and the final one contains 1930s more contemporary styles. It’s a fascinating transformation and I find it so interesting that around the era of suffrage, the silhouette was loose, unrestricted and free.

At least one other book has multiple versions with completely different designs–“Draping and Designing with Scissors and Cloth” (1920s version, later renamed “Designing by Draping”), “Designing by Draping” (1928) and Designing by Draping” (1936). This one is extremely rare, though reproductions are available. (Which I refuse, utterly, to buy. I know that the sellers of these are probably just hoarders like myself trying to fund their addictions, which I respect, but I require a facsimile reproduction or nothing. My compulsions demand the satisfaction of vintage page design, typeface, the exquisite yellowing of pages. And if the cover features any kind of crappily rendered, computer-drafting looking piece of crap line drawing for a book FULL of exquisite period illustrations then, um, NO.) And the Woman’s Institute books are all exquisitely designed–except, it seems, the 1936 version, which is available in PDF, for free, courtesy of the lacouturieredimanche blog (here). The illustrations have a different feel, and the text is typewritten…??? The book is genuinely a production of the Woman’s Institute, as the logo/name printing on the cover looks right, and the subject matter and instruction is definitely their kind of book, but maybe it was a very limited run not meant for wide dissemination or it was produced during the era when they were winding down their correspondence lessons. Not sure. But it’s fascinating. (Did I mention the designs are frickin’ amazing? This is my favorite era to date–the collision of art deco and the coming 40s power suit trend. Love love love.)

designingbydraping1 designingbydraping2 designingbydraping3 designingbydraping4So where was I? Oh, yes. I want to devote vast amounts of time, energy and money toward becoming an expert about something that no one else but me is really that interested in. So kind of like being a philosophy major all over again. Except more people seem to care about vintage sewing and if I want to sew for customers I could, maybe, perhaps, make a decent living at it without suicidiality and/or having to confront daily the silences of the vast empty spaces. Even writing, which I also wasted years of my life and thousands of dollars in formal education for, isn’t a pleasureable existence for me, mining one’s own psyche for arbitrary meaning and all that. My happiness moments have been working with my hands at a craft, baking pies at 7am in a restaurant, staining houses in the middle of the woods, etc. There is such a pleasure in craft work–tangible, puzzle like problems and cultivating a specific skill set seeking mastery even though you know you will never fully get it. (If you’ve never seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Netflix that shit STAT.) *lost in swoony reverie*

My hoard of books is amassing at a ridiculous rate. I’ve happily sort of stalled on amassing sewing machines, though my recent trip to the backwoods of cell-service-black-hole-of-despair Missouri to take Ray White’s AMAZING sewing machine repair course has me dangerously close to backsliding on that. Over the course of his class, somehow I went from being a girl with a hobby to a girl with a dream of her own sewing machine/historical fashions business. That’s some heavy shit, that is.

So for now I’ll have to wait (the old day job beckons) to scribble some annotated bibliographies, which is sort of one of the greatest pleasures of human existence. And to sit waiting by my front door eagerly awaiting the arrival of the mailman (who knows me and my obsessions so well that he actually gave me an old Kenmore–thank god he’s a patient sweetheart, because a lesser person might resent all the things he has had to lug to my house. When I joked about being a hoarder, I think he believed me.) ALSO: in bouncy bouncy news, I just won what looks to be the abbreviated version (shorter books) of the 12 vol. Isabel Conover dressmaking set circa 1921! More on that very soon!

Vintage Sewing Library: Free Isabel Conover Books Online

Old sewing books are a weakness for me; when the original is not available or is too expensive, I can usually content myself with an ebook. When this ebook is sold by a seller who scanned the material him/herself, I am perfectly okay with paying them their asking price for the time and effort put into digitizing the info. I also sympathize with their obsessive, hoardy nature and their love of the vintage; we are probably similar creatures. But I am decidedly NOT okay with shifty, shitty booksellers who find material on sites that offer it for free (University of Wisconsin has a great archive, archive.org, etc) and then present it as their own “item they have seen value in and brought back for our customers.” What really, really pisses me off is when I spend $8 on an ebook of a super rare book from a bookseller overseas which turns out to be taken from the University of Wisconsin site. So I could have downloaded it for free, but instead I paid someone $8 to be a shady shit. The seller even offered me a discounted rate, still upward of $40, to buy a hard copy reprint of the same book. Jerks.

So today I find myself hunting for Isabel Conover books and see that the same shady shit bookseller is offering ebook versions of her stuff (let’s just say they’re based in Delhi, India). So I KNOW it’s on the internet somewhere, because said shady bookseller isn’t actually going to bother with scanning something themselves to offer valuable information back to the world, they’re just going to steal someone else’s contribution to humanity. GAH.

So because screw them here are all the links I have found while looking for Isabel Conover materials. She had a dressmaking course in two versions (a longer, 12 volume, 1200+ page version which I did not win a heated bidding war for on ebay, and an abbreviated multivolume version) and a Dressmaking Made Easy book out during the 1910s-20s, so the designs are very lovely Edwardian and art deco designs. Which I’ve been crazy about in the last few weeks. (My sewing obsessions flit wildly from decade to decade as I get a broader sense of my own style, the lines I like, the detailing that appeals to me, what flatters and what does not. See: HBO’s Mildred Pierce as case study in what to sew and what not to sew. Kate Winslet’s costuming=vintage but dowdy and unflattering, as befitting her character. Rachel Evan Wood=sizzling, flattering vintage that makes me want to lose 10lbs and wear a epic shit ton of satin. More on this later, I’m sure, as that movie has me in a style swoon marveling at the perfect clothes of one of the coldest women I’ve ever seen on film.) Anyway, links:

Archive.org has one volume (Lesson 12) (Men’s Clothes and Index) of the complete dressmaking course available for free (here).

Antique Pattern Library (a fabulous free resource for lots of arts and crafts; I love their calligraphy books too) has six volumes of the abbreviated booklet version:

Lesson 1: Introduction (here)

Lesson 2: How to Make Aprons and House Dresses (here)

Lesson 3: How to Make Underwear (here)

Lesson 4: How to Make Infants Clothes (here)

Lesson 5: How to Make Blouses (here)

Lesson 11: How to Make Coats (here)

Archive.org also has her entire 160pg book, Dressmaking Made Easy, available (here) for free.  Incidentally, it was part of a “Made Easy” series which also included Entertaining, Dancing, Etiquette, Grammar, Spelling, and Tricks and Magic Made Easy, all available on the archive.org site for anyone interested in the cultural atmosphere of the era. 🙂

Happy reading!

Vintage Sewing Library: Elizabeth Blakely’s Practical System for Drafting. And Dracula.

So I recently considered bidding on a hard copy version of Elizabeth Blakely’s The Practical System for Drafting Ladies’ and Children’s Clothing from, oh, 1907 or so. It went for a higher price than I was willing to pay because, well, we hoarders gotta practice some kind of selectivity once in awhile if we wanna have money for sewing with cotton bag pamphlets.

Much to my satisfaction, it’s available on archive.org for free. Both volumes! Part 1 is (here) and part 2 is (here). What’s that you say? Yawn. Edwardian/turn of the century fashion just isn’t your thing?

Then clearly you: a) did not grow up in the 90s wanting to be Mina Harker or b) you need a visual refresher romp through Eiko Ishioka’s swoonworthy interpretation of the era to remind you of its glorious kinkified potential. Apparently a huge part of the film budget went to elaborate costume design; the idea was that the clothing should tell a story in itself. Let me just put these right here:

Meet our heroine / dream version of our prettier, better dressed self.
Meet our heroine / dream version of our prettier, better dressed self.
Meet her bestie, another woman who we wouldn't mind changing places / wardrobes with.
Meet her bestie, another woman who we wouldn’t mind changing places / wardrobes with.
Girl meets exquisitely pleated dress.
Girl meets exquisitely pleated seafoam colored dress.
Power dressing circa 1890.
Power dressing circa 1890.
But let's not forget about Lucy, our lady in the streets/freak in the sheets who has the BEST lingerie collection in the British empire.
But let’s not forget about Lucy, our lady in the streets/freak in the sheets who has the BEST lingerie collection in the British empire.
Work it, girl.
Work it, girl.Behold the power of embroidery. BEHOLD.
Poor Keanu is the most vanilla boring character in this movie. But I'd rock his look.
Poor Keanu is the most vanilla boring character in this movie. But I’d rock his look.
Enter the prince. *Swoon*
Enter the prince. *Swoon*
Some version of this scenario happens in 97% of my sexual fantasies.
Some version of this scenario happens in 97% of my sexual fantasies.
Blah blah blah our clothes should have 3,000 babies.
Blah blah blah our clothes should have 3,000 babies.
And I kind of forget the rest of the movie after this point. Denouement. Redemption and shit. Let's just pretend it ends here, yes?
And I kind of forget the rest of the movie after this point. Denouement. Redemption and shit. Let’s just pretend it ends here, yes?

I think me and my Mrs. Blakely text need a cold shower.

Iconography: Lauren Bacall “The Look” Exhibition at FIT

The museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology is doing a swoon worthy exhibition of Lauren Bacall’s personal collection of pieces. She donated over 700 pieces to them over the years, and this is a selection that is guaranteed to induce salivation. My personal favorites:

Lauren_Bacall_68.143.6_20101013_01_450This glorious Norman Norell piece, designed with subway travel in mind. Cool and casual on the outside to get you where you’re going without drawing attention, with the vavavoom sequins and shimmer sheath dress beneath. I love the champagne color. Also a big fan of the era’s tendency to match jacket linings to the main garment.

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And this 1968 Christian Dior silk jersey and ostrich feather piece of evening dress wonderment. Could I pull this off? Incredibly doubtful. Could I sew on ostrich feathers? Also incredibly doubtful. But faux fur sleeve accents to add that Scarlett O’Hara flair to a otherwise minimalistic black top? Now that’s within reach. Gotta work on my resting bitch face, though.

There is a digital version of the exhibit on FIT’s website (here) with tons of information and photos. Amazing, of course, I wish there was a bit more on her menswear pieces and earlier style, but that’s just my unfaltering love of the power suit speaking.