so many dresses, they're coming out of the walls

Deborah Bowness

Many many thanks to Mary Beth (her superhero name is The Sewist) who sent me a link to this great wallpaper. I love trompe l'oeil. I love dresses (duh). So of course I love trompe l'oeil dress wallpaper. What's not to love?

This is kind of a sucky picture, so click on it to go to the artist's website. Her name is Deborah Bowness and she does all sorts of clever wallpapers, not just dresses. She also has trompe l'oeil (are you now also suspecting that I love not just the thing signified by the word trompe l'oeil, but the word itself?) book wallpaper, but I don't actually need that:

Erin's office

0 thoughts on “so many dresses, they're coming out of the walls

  1. I already have dresses hanging on every surface in my room. They’ve grown out of the closet and are taking over the room.Slightly off topic…can you talk about sizes? Why is it I am a size small or 4ish in new but often size 8 in vintage? Are today’s retailers trying to flatter us into buying clothes with a number?Also, are women larger today? So many vintage items are tiny in the shoulders and waist.


  2. I love looking at other people’s bookcases. I have to ask – are those Cat In The Hat stripes I see on the top shelf?The wallpaper is very interesting. I wonder how many houses have enough bare wall to accomodate something like that? Or perhaps it could be put on wardrobe doors. I also wonder if I could commission a tropical beach scene -with Captain Jack Sparrow lounging somewhere in the foreground?Esther A.


  3. Esther, that is, in fact, the lovely “America In So Many Words,” a book everyone should own. Cat in the Hat is upstairs, with the picture books. A big post on size & sizes is coming soon …


  4. Don’t feel entirely bad about the larger sizing today. Yes, some of it is we have gotten larger and taller. They also used to wear corsetry and slimming undergarments a lot more back then. Now I just want to know why all vintage dress waists hit me mid-rib.


  5. Esther A., I think that is wallpaper that people actually build walls expressly for. If I could afford to collect art I would definitely build a wall for that wallpaper.


  6. Su-ying, women’s size labeling has changed several times since commercial production of women’s clothing has become available. Back at the beginning of the 20th century, when Sears and its fellows were making mail-order clothing available, the manufacturers offered Misses sizes 12, 14, 16, 18 and 20. These were sized for the 12-, the 14-, the 16-, the 18- and the 20-year-old MISS. Yes, that’s right, the original size 12 Miss was a 12-year-old-girl. Then you had women’s sizes: 32, 34, 36, 38, etc.; those were based on women’s bust sizes. Those were sizes intended for adult women. There was a Stout size offered for heavy women, and a Misses Petite as an attempt for the short adult female. There was an enormous project in WWII which involved taking and averaging women’s sizes, which did affect manufactured clothing. There have been at least three major sanctioned pattern sizing shifts (I’ll print the dates when I can go home and check the facts); I say “sanctioned,” because amongst the vintage patterns I recently bought, I have a two size 18 patterns, only a couple of years apart, and their waist-hip ratios are different. Not just a shift in value, that is, the numbering of the sizes, with the old 16 becoming a 14 or a 12, but the shapes of the sizes. Christina, even if you’re not especially tall, you may be either long-waisted (which is actually “long through the midriff area”), or you may have a long bust point/large bust, which will raise where the dress sits on you – or you may have a bit of both. Most vintage dresses tend to be quite fitted, unlike a lot of the current dresses, so those variations are readily apparent in vintage dresses and jackets, and not so much so in modern dresses (especially the current crop of bias dresses). In addition to corsetry, or lack thereof, making a difference, posture makes a ferocious difference. If you are a youngster (i.e., anybody younger than me), and grew up as part of the computer generation, you probably carry your shoulders forward, and you probably also slouch (this is not an aspersion on your character, just an observation). I went shopping with my goddaughter; I’m usually reminding her constantly to stand up straight. We were at Urban Outfitters, and I tried on a jacket I loved. Alas, as often happens, it hiked up in the front, and was huge in the back, with a mass of wrinkles above the waist. My goddaughter tried it on, and it fit her perfectly. Yes, that’s right, the jacket was cut to fit an uncorsetted youngster who hunches over a keyboard. My mother, God bless her, made me stand up straight, with my shoulders back and down, and 99% of modern clothes do not fit me. Most of the time, I can count on having to hack out anywhere between 3″ and 5″ out of the back length of a commercial garment, OR a commercial pattern. And just to make things more entertaining, my front length is longer than the norm, so I have to lengthen the front, while I shorten the back. Posture changes where the neckline sits, whether or not you have to lower it in the front, raise it in the back, slash through the top of the shoulders, take deeper darts, change the pitch of the armholes, broaden or narrow the chest… it’s the fundamental reason for most fitting problems. If you were able to see a picture of your skeleton, you might have a better idea of the alterations you need to make. I know I will always have to lower a neckline 1/2″ in the front, and raise it 1/2″ in the back, because my neck pitches forward. I can see that I’ve actually straightened out the curve in my neck(not a good thing, BTW), by my hypererect posture. Your posture dictates where your flesh sits, as well; because of my posture (Stand up straight! Get your ribs out of your waist! Shoulders together! -thanks, Mom!) I have a very long midriff (in the front only), and a very short, very narrow back – which is a challenge, because I have very broad shoulders. How does that work, you ask? OK: Instead of someone looking like the letter T (shoulders basically straight across), I look like the letter D (or I would if you looked down at the top of my head). My back measures 13″ from scye to scye (that would be the little notch in the armhole in the back pattern piece – the squarish ones). That puts it around a size 6 pattern. On the other hand, my chest – not my bosom, my chest – measures 17 1/2 inches from scye to scye – the triangular notch in the front armhole. That puts it at something like a size 28 pattern – which I am not. But it has made me very, very conscious about How Things Fit.Back to your question. In part, retailers are certainly going to flatter us into buying clothes, if they can, but there’s also been additional data fed into the mix – there are taller, bigger-boned folks in America, and also quite a lot of smaller folks have been added to the mix as well, of Asian (Indian, Chinese, Korean, Laotian, Vietnamese, Japanese, etc.) and South American Indian descent, so the numbers have expanded on both sides of the Clothing Size spectrum. Go to Kathleen Fasanella’s blog for a professional pattern-maker’s discussion of why, in part, size numbering changes, and whether or not it’s vanity sizing. ( (Kathleen is my personal hero, and her blog is a MUST for anyone who wants to know about sewing.) Currently, patterns are all sized for B-cups; anybody who wears a different cup size will almost certainly have to make modifications to a commercial pattern before she can use it. Well, back in the ’70s, which is not that long ago, the average bra size was a 34B. Today the average bra size is a 36C – and there are plenty of 36Ds around so that that’s not an unusual size anymore. And that’s separate and apart from whether or not people weigh more these days; a number of women who’ve taught high school for a long time can tell you that where it might once have been very unusual to have a high school student over a C-cup, nowadays there are a lot of D-cups and over, courtesy of Nature and not Dow Chemical.


  7. Spot on Bella. Great wall papper. I love Kathleen’s site: fashion incubator I go there everyday. I have learned so much from that site.


  8. Erin, thank you for your kindness and your hospitality; and thank you, too, ladies. The fact that I come here and blather at length is a tribute to all of you, because it’s a pleasure to be here with you all. Erin makes coming here a little slice of electronic heaven. More than that, coming here feels like coming home.


  9. Thanks so much for the information bella! I just had the light bulb above the head “oh yeah!” moment. That explains why my more vintage dresses make me stand up taller and straighter and are unforgiving to slouching.


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