Friday, April 29, 2016

Fashion Library: Most Loved Vintage Sewing Books

When people who sew get together, it's likely that one of these books is part of that gathering. Assembled here are probably the best loved sewing books, trusted for their depth, organization, and clear, concise instruction.

This set of four books was chosen for it's range, appeal to all skill levels, and quality of illustration and visuals. These are also new enough to be valid with current sewing machines and most modern textiles. Learning to refer to a quality resource such as these will make any sewing project go more smoothly and with more professional results.

"Why a sewing book? Can't I just use the pattern instructions?" Pattern companies don't include detailed instructions with sewing patterns. While they may suggest a process for construction or what to do first, second and third, they assume the person sewing knows how to sew each technique mentioned. Having a sewing manual will give you step-by-step help when using a sewing pattern.

"Can't I just go online and find the answer there?" Online resources vary from professional educators sharing online with their students, to first time users offering flawed and incomplete advice. Books have editors who make sure that the content is correct. This will save you from wading through the inaccurate technical advice online, and provide a consistent method of sewing.

If you learned to sew in the late 1960's through the 1980's,  you no doubt own one or both of these books. The Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (upper right) is probably the best book on techniques ever published, and while it continues to be edited and published today, it is the older editions, crammed with clearly detailed drawing that make it an all time favorite, first published in 1976. Those early editions include a good chapter on men's tailoring as well as all the basics, including pages on textiles. More recent versions leave out many techniques in favor of big colored photos and simple 'how to' projects. Both costumers and fashion students rely on this hefty book for it's endless coverage of nearly every technique imaginable.

Less comprehensive, The Vogue Sewing Book, (lower left)was designed for more advanced dress making projects, and was known for it's 'couture' techniques. The back end also covers men's tailoring, and the front sections are devoted to showing alterations, style tips and fabric glossary. The first edition was published in 1970.

These two sewing manuals are more recent publications. The Vogue/Butterick: Step-by-Step Guide to Sewing Techniques (left) was first published in 1989, and carries on the tradition of step-by-step illustrations to guide the sewist through specific techniques. The drawings are large, clear and have simple descriptions. Unique to book organization, the processes are arranged alphabetically, rather than by method or topic. This publication has had several editions, sometimes with name changes, but it is worth seeking one out, even the oldest ones like this.

Singer: Sewing Step-by-Step (upper right) was an innovative publication in its day, due to the inclusion of many fine tuned photos, rather than drawings or diagrams, that illustrated the sewing techniques. Published in 1990, it was part of a huge project under the Singer name to produce a wide range of step-by-step books on a many sewing topics. You will often find other books from this series, and all are worth owning.

Content for this Step-by-Step tries to cover alot of territory, so it is not a deep study of sewing, more a good companion for the newer sewist. Topics such as: activewear, tailoring and heirloom sewing are included. For those new to sewing, the photos are a big help, and answer many questions that a drawing might not. A large portion of the book is dedicated to home decorating projects, a good move on their part because this was becoming the newest trend in home sewing. So if you are also seeking some tips for curtains, drapes, and bed coverings, this publication may be helpful.

While it's impossible to specify only four great sewing books, I will put these up as four of the best sewing books published since 1970. Why 1970? That was probably the 'Golden Era' of home sewing. Using domestic sewing machines that were available with zig-zag and could sew knits, it was possible to create nearly anything desired. These sewing books were introduced into classrooms, workshops and sat on nearly every living room bookcase, and all four have value today for current sewing projects.

Do I have other books that I like to use? Yes, of course. I find that the pre-1970 sewing texts have a charm and provide insight into techniques we don't use often today, but might if we knew more about them.  As for new books, I have used some, especially those published by the major textbook companies that are worth owning as well.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

1930's Evening Gown: Grecian Drapery in Mint Chiffon

1930's evening dress, green

In the late 1930's the softer silhouette retained a Grecian style for many evening style.  This gown is probably a silk charmeuse.  It gathers up the center front into a narrow placket and skirt fullness is released at the end of that placket.  The draped sleeves have a bit of fullness to give her shoulders fashionable width.

I don't have the date or source, this picture is from an undated fashion scrapbook.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Vintage Bridal & Cocktail: Cashmere Sweaters from Pringles

Pringle sweaters
Cashmere and Pringle sweaters are a great combination that is getting harder to find. The weight and texture has made them a favorite knit and it's become impossible to pass up a vintage cashmere while cruising a good estate sale.

One delightful fashion trend is wearing embellished cardigan sweaters over bridal gowns and cocktail dresses for parties, wedding receptions and chilly dinner venues.  With this in mind, I post this in the spring, for any bride or wedding guest looking for a unique cover up this season.

beaded sweater
Pringles have a great video from an exhibit on the famous sweater: "From Hawick to Hollywood: the Women who wore Pringle". This looks at mid-century Pringle knits and Hawick, Scotland where Pringle is made. Wallace Shaw, who designed for Pringle between 1972 and 1978 shares his impressions about Pringle during that time.

The gorgeous sweaters shown here are all from the video that you can find HERE.

beaded sweaters
Don't these luxurious beaded cashmere cardis make you want seek out one of Pringles embellished sweaters? I know I do!

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Victorian Tailor: Costume & Fashion Library

Vintage menswear tailoring, especially Victorian which is so popular right now, has always been short on reference books to use as guides while re-creating that period look. It is essential to build a shelf of titles to choose from and refer to, rather than hoping only one text will do the job. "The Victorian Tailor" covers this subject with some detail. I find the pattern drafts sufficient, and the original period illustrations helpful.

When used along with books such as Norah Waugh's "Cut of Men's Clothes" and a true tailoring book, this title would be very helpful to use when taking on the task of teaching yourself to create Victorian men's apparel.

In designing costumes and fashion, a working knowledge and understanding of men's historical apparel is essential, since it influences both fashion and costume design.  The information here would also make this book a great reference when looking for inspiration or design details.

This book is currently available in my shop.

The Victorian Tailor: An Introduction to Period Tailoring Paperback
Jason Maclochlainn
Soft bound, 160 pages / St. Martin's Griffin, March 15, 2011 / ISBN-10: 0312642334 , ISBN-13: 978-0312642334

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

1950's Shelf Bust Dress: Miss Hollywood Jr.

One of the most popular styles of the 1950's is the draped bodice known as the "shelf bust".  It is nearly daring, a bit outrageous, and always eye-catching. Many styles are draped, pleated or gathered.  Some have shoulder straps, others have halter necklines.  This creates the "sweetheart" neckline too.

This dress is from my California collection. The dress itself is a heavy, crisp black faille, with the same fabric used for the shelf bust. Its late 1940's or early 1950's, the flange hip pockets help to balance out this imposing shelf bust and collar in white. The belt is mine, the original belt was probably self covered in the same black fabric.

The label says it is "A Filmland Creation" by "Miss Hollywood". I"m guessing if you wear it, you will get discovered, or in the very least mistaken for Jane Russell or Marilyn's cousin, new in town and ready to be cast in a leading roll.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Peggy Hamilton: 1920's Hollywood Socialite and Los Angeles Fashion Icon

The 1920's in Hollywood and Los Angeles was a boom town era, complete with dramatic socialites and actresses wearing the latest fashions to wild parties in massive mansions and ballrooms. Peggy Hamilton (Mae Bedloe Armstrong: 1892 – 1984)) first made her mark in Hollywood as a costume designer for well-known company, Triangle films. Her name as an actress was mentioned as early as 1916. Peggy began her fashion career in New York, but she followed the move to new Hollywood with Triangle Studios soon after that.

Hollywood connections remained strong throughout her career, allowing her to feature such starlets as Gloria Swanson, Myrna Loy, Norma Shearer Delores Del Rio, Joan Crawford, Betty Davis and Greta Garbo during her career as a journalist and marketing maven. She became a well known socialite personality who made the promotion of fashion and costume in the newly developing Los Angeles and Hollywood region her mission.

Between 1921 and 1934 she wrote a well-read fashion column for the Los Angeles Times featuring countless fashion photos of starlets and herself wearing fashions and costumes that originated locally. Fashion shows featuring well known film costumers along with ready to wear fashions were her specialty. Later she would launch a radio program on fashion that ran from 1929 to 1933.

There are now online collections of the many photos she featured that were taken from 1927 to 1933. Several well known photographers such as Bachrach are listed, along with fashions by top Hollywood designers Adrian, Howard Greer and Travis Banton, among others.

Peggy Hamilton is probably best remembered for her efforts to create a fashion ‘brand’ for Los Angeles/Hollywood, using the phrase that Los Angeles was the “Paris of America”. Much of the Parisian connection was probably due to her love of Marie Antoinette, whose bed she was said to own. Costumed in the style of Marie Antoinette, she was often photographed in full period costume for her Los Angeles Times column.

Her many promotional events are well documented. One particular socialite costume was worn at the 1923 extravaganza to promote the opening of the new Crystal Ballroom in the Biltmore Hotel, where she appeared in a gown that featured architectural detail from that ornate room (the gown is now on display at the hotel). In 1933 she would promote the LA Olympics of 1932, as “Queen of the Olympias of the Mythical Olympia”.

We are fortunate to now have many of the photos taken of Peggy, actresses and events that were featured in her Los Angeles Times column, along with related photos. While copyright regulations don’t allow for inclusion here, this collection is a valuable resource for fashions during her era. Hamilton's display dress was brought to my attention by a featured article in, "The Biltmore Girl" by Hadley Meares

References and More Reading:

Online Archive of California (OAC): Peggy Hamilton Adams Papers

UCLA:the ADAMS (Peggy Hamilton) papers

Hollywood Before Glamour:Peggy Hamilton, Queen of Filmland Fashion chapter from the book on Hamilton.

The Biltmore Girl: by Hadley Meares, April 14, 2016, LA Curbed

The ink drawing of fashion designs were created in Los Angeles during this era, I included them both as an example of the work Montgomery sought to promote, and because permission for using the photos online are not easily attained.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Color Trends for Vintage: Summer 2016

Current color trends for Summer 2016, as forecast by Pantone show tones that appear in wearable vintage fashions. By grouping a few vintage fashions into the color groups for summer, it's easy to see how fashions from the past can keep up with current trends.

In this first slide, Green Flash is the title that Pantone gives this bright, clear green. It has a 60's or 70's vibe and can be found in many prints from that era.

Buttercup is another saturate tone, showing up from the 50's on as a popular color for summer.

Rose Quartz and Peach Echo are often found together in prints with a vibrant summer look, especially in abstract 60's psychedelic patterns. Rose Quartz brings a more romantic style, seen here in lace.

Lilac Gray is a cool tone, one that we often find in late 70's and early 80's fashions.

Snorkle Blue brings a blue that appears like a Royal Blue, with a warm vibe that is perfect in summer vintage.  The items in the slides above are all from the Pintucks collection: past, present and future. If you see something you like, just ask, it may be available.

You can find more on the Pantone color group HERE.

Friday, March 11, 2016

1958 Sack Back Dress

The Sack Back dress spent a brief moment in time on the 1950s fashion scene. While couture silhouettes flirted with this silhouette earlier that decade, it wasn't until 1958 that the general public gave this style a try. Clearly it was a departure from the ongoing hour glass silhouettes that had continued for a decade. It was time for something new, and maybe a draped back might be it.


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