Working with Ease Amounts in Commercial Patterns

The amount of ease in commercial sewing patterns can be a source of sizing confusion and fitting frustration. In this blog entry, I look at types of ease, industry standard amounts for different garment types, and actual ease amounts in a selection of corset, lingerie, and loose fitting commercial patterns from a range of eras. Click through to read more.

Ease amounts in commercial patterns are one of the eternally frustrating problems of contemporary sewing. The amount of ease included in designs seems to vary wildly from pattern to pattern, even from the same company, so that the home sewer finds her or himself needing to sew a muslin/toile for each pattern. It adds yet another layer of complication to the puzzle that is pattern size selection. But where does the confusion come from, exactly? I’m thinking there are a few main culprits: patterns drafted with ease amounts that don’t fit the actual garment type, inaccurate pattern photographs, and lack of finished garment measurements to give an objective way to analyze final fit. (For simplicity’s sake, I’m only going to consider patterns for woven fabrics at the moment.)

What exactly is ease?

It’s the amount of extra space added to a pattern in excess of actual body measurements to allow for movement and style. Wearing or fitting ease refers to a necessary small amount of space included in slopers and almost every pattern type (with the exception of corsets, some foundation garments, and stretch fabric patterns) that allow the wearer to breathe, sit, bend, and reach in the garment. This is usually around 2″ of additional space at the bust, 1″ at the waist, and 1.5″ at the hip, no matter what the pattern size.

Design ease is a more variable amount of space added to patterns to create different style types, create silhouettes, and to give movement to the garment. Design ease amounts are proportional and depend to some extent on the size of the garment, though there are general industry standards for different fits that are the approximately the same from pattern company to pattern company.

Ease Standards for Different Garment Types

Ease amounts and garment fit drawn to scale as a fashion flat.. Ease amounts in commercial patterns are a consistent source of fitting confusion and sewing frustration. For tips on understanding industry standard ease amounts and what is meant by different fits, click through for the full blog entry.
Ease amounts and garment fit shown to scale as a fashion flat..

There are about five different categories of fit that pattern companies generally use to describe their patterns. Though there is a lot of variation from garment style to garment style, and the top of the pattern may have one fit and the bottom have another, this can be helpful in understanding how much ease to expect the garment to have. The McCall website here offers a chart of ease amounts for various fits. This chart doesn’t differentiate between design and wearing ease, so my assumption is that this is the total amount added to the body measurement.

Close Fitting (includes 0-2 7/8 inches of design ease at the bust)
Fitted (includes 3-4 inches of design ease at the bust)
Semi Fitted (includes 4 1/8-5 inches of design ease at the bust)
Loose Fitting (includes 5 1/8-8 inches of design ease at the bust)
Very Loose (over 8 inches of design ease at the bust)

Slightly more design ease is added for garments that are layered on top of other garments, such as jackets and coats. The design ease included at the waist and hip varies depending on whether the garment has a waistband or where the garment hangs from the body.

There’s a great piece that goes more in depth on the subject (here), though I’m unsure about the exact design ease amounts it lists. (That chart matches the McCall chart, which I think includes wearing ease and design ease in its amounts, so the amounts of *design* ease added to body measurements are probably smaller than it describes.) It has some very helpful visual guides to what different fit styles look like on the body.

Wearing and design ease standards seem formulaic enough that it’s odd there’s so much inconsistency. So many people on sewing forums and doing pattern reviews describe problems with way too much ease for their size. So where does the confusion come in? Do pattern companies not stick to their described standards? Does grading add excessive ease for certain sizes? I examined a set of patterns to see how this works out for a few different garment fit types from different eras (because I have strange ideas about what constitutes a good time) and found a few issues I’ll examine in detail.

Grading Inconsistency and Wrong Ease Amounts for the Garment Type: Corset Patterns

Some of the problem may come from using the wrong pattern block or wrong design ease for the garment type, though this seems likely only for certain kinds of close-fitting garments like corsets and strapless bodices that require a very close fit to stay in place.

Butterick 4254 corset and stays pattern. Click through for a blog entry on garment ease and amounts in commercial patterns, including two contemporary corset patterns and issues with sizing and ease amount discrepancies.
Butterick 4254 corset and stays pattern.

I looked at Butterick 4254 View C, sizes 12, 14, and 16, which is a historically based late 19th century style corset with a front busk and a laced up back. At the bustline, the finished garment measurements printed on the pattern match the body exactly at the bust. At the waist, for size 12, the pattern matches the body exactly. For sizes 14 and 16, the pattern is 1/2 inch smaller than the waist. So for this particular pattern, there are two fit problems. First, the ease seems to vary irregularly by size at the waist, which is problematic for predicting fit. Second, the lacing gap for most corsets is usually about 2″, so if we add that, the final corset is not going to fit as a sewist would expect it to fit. If the sewist is wanting a garment that fits something like a Victorian corset, they’re going to be disappointed, because there’s no way a period garment included 2″ of ease, and a corset would have nipped in at least an inch or two at the waist as well. Sewists using this pattern on various boards usually recommend sizing down about two sizes, sometimes more, in order to get the fit that one would want in a corset.

I also looked at Butterick 5797, View A, sizes 12, 14, and 16. It’s described as a corset, close fitting, and labeled with “Making History” (though, alas, there’s no info on the specifics of that history included). This one closes with a zipper in front and has no lacing. I found that based on the final garment sizes given, at the bust there is a consistent 2″ of ease for all sizes. At the waist, for size 12 and 14, there is 2 1/2″ of ease, and for size 16, there is 3″ of ease. At the high hip, there was approximately 1 1/2″ for all sizes. For this pattern as with the other corset pattern, it isn’t going to fit like an actual corset at all, so a sewist expecting that is going to be disappointed, though they might suspect that from the zipper. (Without lacing to allow movement with breathing, the zero ease typical of a corset isn’t really desirable or comfortable). An argument could be made for having more design ease at the waist for larger sizes since design ease is proportional, but if that were the case, the ease amount should increase between size 12 and 14 by some increment as well, but a corset is usually expected to nip in at the waistline.

What’s frustrating is that two “historical” corset patterns from the same company seem to vary in the amount of ease they use for similar garments in a way that is not transparent. Even if you give them the benefit of the doubt on 4254 and pretend that 2″ that should be indicated for the lacing gap are part of the pattern ease, when you compare the two patterns, the ease amount doesn’t change in the same way between sizes, so how can you predict the fit accurately? If you know the best size for you in one pattern, that same size may not work in the other pattern. Looking at the pattern envelope raises another issue as well.

Is Pattern Envelope Photography Realistic?

The photo on the envelope of Butterick 5797 seems to fit the model as a contemporary corset might, if worn without the intention to nip the waist. But if the model were wearing the size indicated for her on the size chart, it’s very unlikely it would fit this way. If a strapless boned bodice had 2″ of ease at the bust, it probably wouldn’t stay in place. If the model’s garment had 2 1/2″-3″ of ease at the waist, it probably wouldn’t appear this form flattering on her.

My suspicion is that models on pattern envelopes almost never wear the sizes of the garment they would be told to select on the pattern envelope, and during the photo shoot, clothing is probably pinned with clips to flatter body curves and hang just right. The photos of this particular pattern look lovely, but what’s the point of great product photos that don’t accurately depict the fit of the product? It creates an expectation that’s going to be disappointed.

Ease Amounts in Commercial Patterns over Various Eras

1930s

I was curious about ease amounts and silhouettes in other commercial patterns and over different eras, so I looked at several more examples of different garment styles for the sake of comparison.

The oldest pattern I looked at was a dress from 1934 from Mabs Weekly, one of the fashion magazines of the era that often included a free pattern. This one would have been a fitted bodice style. I don’t have the original illustration of the garment, but the pattern is for a 36” bust. The final garment measurements weren’t listed on the pattern, so I measured the pieces themselves and subtracted the seam allowances to find the finished measurements. The finished measurement of the garment at the bustline is 39.5″, for 3.5″ total ease.

1940s Lingerie Pattern Ease

Advance 3067 slip pattern. Click through for a blog entry on garment ease and amounts in commercial patterns, including vintage and contemporary lingerie patterns and ease amount discrepancies.
Advance 3067 slip pattern.

I looked at another pattern, Advance 3067, for a slip from what I’d guess is the 40s from the envelope design and the lines. The slip doesn’t have a placket or closure and isn’t cut on the bias, so it’s close fitting but probably not as close to the body as some lingerie. (This image is borrowed from an Etsy listing here). I found that for a size listed as 32″ breast, the finished measurement (which I had to take from the pieces themselves) was 36″ after seam allowances were removed. At the waist, the garment had approximately 6.75″ of ease when darts and seam allowances were removed, which makes sense for a pullover style garment.

1950s Lingerie Pattern Ease

For this example, I examined a contemporary reissue of a 50’s era Simplicity bra pattern (Simplicity 4333). The contemporary version of the pattern is numbered 1426, and I looked at view C. *Represses rant about ugly contemporary pattern envelope design with all her might* But seriously, the 1980s wood stain exterior paint green of the Simplicity logo and the weird way the elements are balanced is just…no. NO.

There is some confusion with using the finished garment measurements in some reviews, as it’s unclear if the size represents the full bust. (My guess is probably yes, since that’s where the Simplicity site suggests measuring to select your pattern size. Personally, I think the high bust is the better starting point for accurate pattern selection, since it measures your frame rather than your breast fullness.) According to the size chart, the finished measurement matches the body measurement exactly at the bust.

Out of curiosity, I measured the pattern pieces for my likely size as well. For the size 12 pattern, the finished measurement is listed as 34″. But there is a button placket at the center back, and it’s unclear if those finished garment measurements include the amount that the band overlaps at the placket or not. I measured to the center line of that placket, essentially measuring the circumference of the garment when closed for wearing, and found that when seam allowances were removed, that size would actually be 33″, an inch smaller than the body, which isn’t going to be workable for a garment with no stretch. (Counting the overlap in the finished measurement would have given me a measurement of approximately 34 and 1/4″ full circumference.)

While there’s definitely some room for error on the part of my measuring, a lack of any ease for breathing and the lack of clarity in what the finished garment measurements actually mean are a problem. While the contemporary formulation of band size/cup size wasn’t being used in the ’50s, it seems odd to me that one of the Big 4 pattern companies couldn’t examine the pattern measurements and explain their sizing in a way that takes band size/cup size into account to better serve the needs of their current customers for the reissued version. If I could find the original pattern, I’d love to compare the ease standards and grading used in the original to the ones used in the reissue. I’m also curious how accurate the finished garment measurements printed on patterns usually are.

Contemporary Lingerie Pattern Ease

I looked at Vogue 8888 to get an idea of how much ease is used in contemporary lingerie pattern making as well. View A is a loose-fitting surplice robe. View C is a close fitting, bias cut pull over camisole. View F is a semi fitted pair of bias cut shorts.

What I found was that for the robe (View A), the bust included 6.5″ ease and the hip had 7.5″ of ease for all sizes. For the camisole, there was 3″ of ease at the bust for all sizes I checked, which might be just slightly above what the Big 4 ease charts describe as “close” fit by about 5/8″, but which makes sense given the lack of a closure and need to be able to pull it over the shoulders. For the shorts (View F), the hip had 3.5″ of ease. (I checked the actual pattern pieces for this view and found this measure to be accurate, too.) The waist had 8″ of ease, which, along with the stretch of the bias cut, would allow for them to be pulled over the hip without a placket or opening. These ease amounts aligned pretty accurately with the stated total ease amounts for the major pattern companies for different fits, and the ease amounts were the same for all sizes I looked at.

Contemporary Pattern Ease in Loose Fitting Garments

I looked at McCall 6649, a loose-fitting button up menswear style shirt in a B cup size, and found that the bust had 5 1/2″ of total ease, the waist had 6″ of total ease, and the hip had 6″ of total ease for all sizes I looked at (16, 18, and 20 for this pattern). So ease amounts were consistent, and matched the given ease chart amounts for a loose fit. I was curious, though, if the final garment actually fit as it’s depicted on the envelope or if it might be looser, especially at the waist. The model may be wearing a smaller size than the envelope would recommend for her body measurements, or it might be styled to be flattering, or maybe it’s just me.

I looked at one more “loose-fitting” pattern, the McCall 6465 loose tunic dress. For sizes 16, 18, and 20, ease amounts were consistent. It had 5.5″ of ease at the bust, 13.5″ of ease at the waist, and 8.5″ of ease at the hip. The ease amount at the waist seems large, but if the dress is pulled over either the shoulder or the hip, it would make sense for the narrowest part of the body to require more ease here. This one was a looser fit than the other pattern, so if a person was expecting “loose fit” to mean the same thing on both without pulling the patterns out to check the finished measurements, there might be some frustration with the results.

Conclusions

The patterns I looked at seemed mostly consistent with ease amounts described as “industry standard.” I can’t find much information on ease standards in ready to wear, so I’m curious how those industry standards are applied outside of patternmaking for home sewing.

If ease amounts in patterns are relatively standard, then where does the confusion and frustration come in? I’m thinking some of it is the stylized photography of pattern envelope photos. When we see a photo of a finished garment, there is a certain automatic assumption that the photo is more realistic than the highly stylized, exaggerated silhouettes of vintage pattern envelope fashion illustration. But the photos aren’t as realistic as they seem if the samples are potentially being selected to flatter the model and the garment rather than depicting the actual fit of the pattern if it were sewn to the model’s body size. This is compounded by the possibility that clothes are pinned in place or pinned closer to the body and that photo editing might be creating the illusion of closer waistlines or trimmer leg silhouettes than the garment really gives.

So what’s a sewist to do to avoid pulling her/his hair out? The best indicator of final fit is the finished garment measurements. You can check the total ease amount by subtracting actual body measurements on the measurement chart from the finished garment measurements printed on the tissue, if they’re present. If not, it’s worthwhile to measure the pieces at least at the bustline to get an idea of whether the fit the pattern is said to be is the fit you’re expecting, and the waist and hip measurements are helpful as well. If you have a sloper that you work with for pattern fitting, you can rotate the darts to the approximate position of the sewing pattern you’re comparing it to to see how much the additional space the sewing pattern has, and whether this works for you for the fit you’re seeking.

Finally, it’s a good idea to know what kind of ease you prefer in your garments, and a great way to do this is to measure ready to wear clothing you already have that fits the way you’re wanting your sewn garment to fit. For example, if you have a skirt that is just long enough and has the amount of ease you want in a close fit, measure its actual dimensions and compare with your body measurements to get an idea of what desirable fit is for you. I’m incredibly picky about how pants fit, so as soon as my pregnancy belly resumes a more semi-permanent, somewhat back to normal state, I will be measuring a few of my favorite pairs of jeans for exact inseam length, favorite boot cut flare amount, and crotch depth that is tight enough to give some curvy definition to my back end without being pinchy or uncomfortable. In my own patternmaking future, I hope to help with the ease confusion issue by listing final garment measurements clearly and offering consistent descriptions of fit or an explanation of the amount of ease so that, hopefully, the sewist can know what they are getting into without having to sew muslins of every pattern.

If you have frustrations with pattern fitting because of excess ease, I hope that this was helpful. Do you have any tips or strategies that help you to get consistent fitting results from commercial patterns? I’d love to hear them!

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There Will Be Blood; or, Amanda Works on Hand Sewing and other August Sewing Randomness

Often I find myself hesitant to post because I’m never satisfied with the work I’ve done and tend to not complete things as often as some sewers. Often I discover mid-project the shoulder slant isn’t right or the fit is off in some way that will prevent me from ever wearing the garment so in the fabric scrap pile it goes. But this month, I actually finished two things! Self drafted corsets, no less. They aren’t perfect, but I’m going to try not to look at my sewing that way from the point on…instead I’m going to appreciate everything I learned this month, and the skills I started to acquire while doing these projects…like inserting boning, adding eyelets, encasing boning channels, inserting a busk, cording, hand stitching, adding puller loops to a corset, etc…

201608-corset-1-front
An underbust/waist cincher in black shantung and cotton duck.
201608-corset-1-back
My first go at inserting eyelets.

I liked this corset and wore it for a full day to test the fit and how it behaved actually on my body. Since it didn’t have a busk and is somewhat long for my short torso, I found it a bit uncomfortable for some activity. My grandma helped me lace it up initially and since grandma was a very accomplished lacer of corsets back in the 50s when the ladies in her family took it to near tightlacing levels for an evening out, it was quite the study in masochism until I loosened it up a bit. Driving in it was absolutely miserable because it somehow seemed to be too long for comfort while at the same time riding up and compressing my rib cage to a degree that was miserable. I think part of the problem might be the ratio of my hip / waist / bust being what it is; without the valley of a significantly defined waist to rest it, if I didn’t have it cinched very tight it sort of drifted. I think a waist tape might help with this, and/or converting the corset to a proper underbust where the bust might help it stay in position.

So then I tried a shorter version:

img_0066

201608-corset-2
Puller loops for the win! These are the loops that look out of place above–most of the time the lace goes from one side to the other but to create a puller loop, go to the hole directly above where the cord last came through. Keep a lot of slack in the lacing here. Lace up the rest in the normal crossover pattern. Then when you’re lacing it up, you tie it at the top or bottom or wherever as usual, but you can pull the puller loops to tighten and then tie them off in a bow too. I found this made it much much easier to remove them too!

The shorter version is more comfortable but sort of wanders freely over my rectangular torso. Also the shorter version seems to give a much less satisfying line, since my proportions are what they are, and the corset seems to actually add a bit of girth even as it smooths the line of the torso. For me, the result wasn’t hourglassy; my ribs are too large for that figure flattery. The look is much more abrupt and I discovered when I squish in everything, it creates a nice squidgey little roll of displaced fat between my underbust and the top of the corset. Oof. I’m sure with practice and some habitual waist shaping these things would be less of an issue for me. (Also, I cut the bias binding far too narrow, so it’s a bit messy, but I found hand sewing the binding to be the most soothing activity ever. It’s what I do at school pickup time when I’m trying to quell my social awkwardness around my parent peers. Go ahead, mfers, ask me about my obsessive interest. I DARE you.)

On the uncompleted front, I tried a Renaissance era set of stays and also a set of 1810s-ish conical stays; they didn’t work out for me. (Large ribcage + small bust + large waist = bust fabric floppage and/or unflattering boob squishdown with nothing left to spill over like some heaving bosomed Jane Austen romantic-yet-snarky heroine.) But I learned so much!

cordingisfun
Cording is time and thread consuming but actually pretty magical. Same with handsewn eyelets. This is done here with plain old yarn and muslin for practice 🙂

Now I’m on to a simple pattern for a very simple corset with gores for shaping. It’s self drafted and it’s a crude trial run I’m giving myself full permission to make a mess of. It’s in cotton duck with a front busk and back lacing. I inserted a busk for the first time. I did a ton of hand sewing on it for practice, even though it’s terribly inefficient and I have torn the living sh*t out of my fingers in the process.

Super sewing tip–if you get blood on a garment you’re sewing, saliva does a fantastic job of removing it before it stains. Just spit on the spots and rub. Probably something to do with enzymes breaking down the blood. Also–beeswax is your friend. This is rapidly turning into my favorite thing to do.

handsewing

goredcorset1
Be it ever so humble, my hand stitching is starting to resemble a proper line.

Happy almost autumn…getting excited for the return of layered clothing!

Fitting Woes and Effin Slopers.

Grumpycat_meme1

I’ve sewn three slopers in the last two days. The only explanations I had left were a) I’m deformed b) I’m deformed and a terrible measurer or c) I’m deformed, a terrible measurer and I suck at digital drafting.

Let me show you why I am deformed. This is my dad:

dadbeingstatuesquelol

Don’t get me wrong, he was the best dad. He was funny and smart and so very, very kind. I miss him every single day, and credit him with what little patience and persistence I have. While my dad’s physique was quite the accomplishment, and while I am, of course, ever appreciative of the glorious blend of Arnold Schwarzenegger-isms and raw egg protein concoctions that comprised my childhood, THOSE BACK PROPORTIONS THOUGH. I inherited those lats, and I curse them every time I sew. (Alas I inherited neither his motivation to be super fit nor his abs, although I do okay–no sugar, healthy eating, etc. I just loathe any exercise that isn’t walking or dancing around my living room like Thom Yorke. Don’t do this barefoot; it’s a good way to break your foot. Ask me how I know this.) Also: my posture plagued my dad. He designed workouts to fix my forward shoulders, which back then I didn’t care about, being a stubborn kid who stooped mostly out of shyness. I still notice myself doing this when the social anxiety kicks in. The combination of broad man back I inherited from a long line of farmer strong brawler folk and my grunge era forward stoop means that fitting a bodice is a nightmare. NIGHTMARE. I also have pretty much no waistline and narrow hips, so that’s not fun when all my vintage patterns are drafted for someone who wore a girdle from age ten. I have been stubbornly fighting with the various pattern fitting possibilities since I began sewing. In the last few days, in a veritable paroxysm of determination, I have tried:

-a forward shoulder adjustment
-a round back adjustment
-a broad shoulder adjustment
-a sloped shoulder adjustment
-lowered armhole
-shoulder seam darts
-neck darts
-drafting a bodice block from my measurements using two different systems

It has been so incredibly frustrating. I can get a block to fit my torso, kind of, using these methods. But as soon as I add sleeves, my broad back renders any forward motion of my arms impossible. The fit is uncomfortable AF. So after the failure of attempt number 3, I broke out the duct tape dress form and tried draping again. I tried this in the past, but wasn’t very practiced, so my results weren’t the best and I sort of let it fall by the wayside. But this time, after all the math and all the frustration, it was easy as pie.

I was going about it all wrong. I’m not deformed; I just have a manbody. And I’m not even that bad at drafting, but all the formulas I was using were based on creating blocks for a much more stereotypically feminine form. The final blocks I came up via draping look way more like this:

mensvest

than anything even vaguely resembling this:

woman's sloper2

and I wonder how many other women with petite, larger waisted, broad backed figures are also making themselves crazy trying to make the formulas work for them when (it would seem) the basic proportions involved are wrong from the start. From now on for myself it’s all man-blocks. I actually had already gone this route for a few pairs of pants, hellbent on not risking the cameltoe look. They work great, actually. And since most of what I want to sew channels Lilith from Frasier and the tailored suit look, blocks designed for men with a slight bust adjustment might be far less of a headache for me.

If anyone else has been through the gauntlet of these particular fitting issues and knows of any solutions, I would *love* to hear about it! I’m also very curious about the theoretical differences in drafting for men vs women. It seems like the tailor / couturier-dressmaker traditions were historically quite separate industries, which I don’t fully understand the reasons for and will have to read up on.  But it seems like the basic methods of drafting should be universal, regardless of the figure? I’m also curious about how many people have fitting problems because of the standard male vs standard female figure used for drafting…

 

Oh, You Pretty Things: Poiret and the 1910s-20s

Sometimes I have to drown out the ugliness of the world with the beauty of human nature and human works. So this week there have been a lot of kitten videos, avoiding of facebook and beauty for its own sake. Just thought I’d share some of my current happy micro-obsession with Poiret, the art deco fashion illustration of the 20s, and the multiculturally inspired, out-with-the-corset elegance of the 10s. Many of these are Poiret designs, and many are Barbier illustrations.

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 Book Addiction: Constance Talbot and Mary Brooks Pickens

womansinstitutebooksby booksbw etsy

(image from Etsy shop BookBW)

My hoarding continues. I’m currently fiending on the old Domestic Arts and Sciences Institute books and found a few for decent prices on Ebay. I also discovered Constance Talbot’s The Complete Book of Sewing which, fortunately for us, was reprinted frequently and is relatively readily available on Amazon and used book sites for really low prices. It’s also available (here on archive.org) to borrow. You have to create an account but it takes all of three seconds and involves no spamming whatsoever.

Archive.org is a treasure trove. The Secrets of Distinctive Dress by Mary Brooks Pickens? They have it. For download. For FREE. (Pdf version here.) It’s part of the Domestic Arts series I’m trying to collect, and it’s a 280ish page gem of style advice and cosmetic tips from the period (1918). It’s like doing anthropology on your own culture. Bonus artifacts: the archive also has the Institute’s volumes on cookery, in case you want to cook a meal to match your period dress. Extra points for doing so on an open hearth. (Click here for the page links for all five volumes.)