"Skirt with a Deep Band and Sleeves Cut In with the Bodice Popular for the Summer."

NYT article from 1910

Wendy has sent this link from the New York Times, a pdf of an article from 1910 about dresses for summer. (The picture is the image from the article.)

My favorite part was this:

Women are obstinate and persistent. If they like a fashion they have a tenacious way of hanging on to it, despite the fact that dressmakers and the shops insist upon telling them that the style is out.

I also liked the treatment of the "aeroplane skirt," which the author says the "majority of women" rebel against. It's not this airplane skirt, of course (which I also believe the majority of women rebel against); it seems to be an earlier term for a hobble skirt. Another NYT article says (about the aeroplane skirt):

If women want to run for Governor they ought to be able to run for a car. If they want to step into a President's chair they ought to be able to step into a motor. If they want to be legally free they shouldn't be sartorially shackled … they have chosen a trammeled figure and shackled ankles when they need most to have them free in the strenuous race for equality with the trousered sex.

Wendy reminds me that since the NYT has loosed its archive from the pay wall that there are many, many interesting fashion articles to be found therein … if you start looking around and find some good ones, feel free to send them to me! It's only pure force of will that keeps me from spending the next four hours looking for articles about Lily Daché and Ceil Chapman.

Q&A for Dress A Day


I get questions, oh boy do I get questions, and I should really answer more of them here. Maybe not the ones that read "i need that fabric 4 my prom dress and its saturday can u help me pleeeeeeze !!!?!", but more of the ones that are thoughtful, such as this one from Lynn:

Your blog is fun to read – am totally obsessed with vintage and quirky attire, patterns, fabrics and such as you publish each day. And so I want to make something to wear more than once for Halloween. Yet, my 40 hour per week day job is working among engineering types who are usually the most dismally, drably dressed humans on the planet. (Exception: a few bridge geeks who love local thrift stores – and keeping their money!)

Yet, since I work here one could successfully argue that my tendencies are also towards introversion and I have plenty of drab-colored basics in my closet. I don’t want to stick out very much. And since I work I have time constraints.

How would you select sewing projects (I can do about 6 or 8 projects per year) that would not stick too far out from the baggy denim and jersey uniforms that surround me? A drab jersey wiggle dress? Or perhaps a brightly patterned skirt with a drab denim jacket?

Your assistance is hugely appreciated! Probably lots more sewing wannabes are in the same predicament.

First off, thank you, Lynn, for the kind words …

Secondly, I wouldn't underestimate your co-workers. Even if they don't want to wear bright colors and interesting prints themselves, they may certainly appreciate them on others — much in the same way that I wear completely boring jewelry myself, but am always drawn to people who are wearing interesting pieces. Remember also, that if they're men, their clothing choices are artificially constrained — not everyone is as dedicated to finding fun shirts as Francis.

But to answer your question, I can't answer your question. Only you can answer your question. And this is how you do it. Spend some time online on one of the sewing pattern sites — BurdaStyle, or Sewingpatterns.com — or in the fabric store, looking through the patterns. Make a list of EVERY pattern that catches your eye, everything that you like. Don't do any editing. If you like a wedding dress and you've been married for twenty years, still put it down. If you like some elaborate Issey Miyake outfit where the difficulty level is marked as 'For Issey Miyake Only', put it down. If you like a pair of gauchos, even, put it down. (I think this is better done online, because you can bookmark the pages or even save the images you like to your desktop.)

Once you've made your looooong list, then you can go through it. If you're a beginner, put aside the complicated tailored suits — just for now. Maybe put aside that wedding dress. (DEFINITELY put aside the gauchos.) But try to look for commonalities in the patterns you chose. Do they all have raglan sleeves? Do they all have full skirts? Did all the illustrations you really show the garment in purple fabric? Try to jot down any similarities you see in the patterns you liked. (My list would look something like 'midriff band, full skirt, kimono sleeve, yellow, gingham, peter pan collar', etc.) Look for patterns on your list that have most of the features that you like, and that are at your sewing level. (Then go check Pattern Review to see if other people liked it!)

Then go look at your closet. You can't make a whole new wardrobe in 6-8 pieces a year (and you should assume a 10% failure rate, so one piece will just flat-out not work, and one will only mostly work). What can you sew that will go with clothes you already love? (If you don't love any of your clothes, you might want to read this post.) If you have lots of print skirts and plain tops, maybe a coordinating easy jacket in a solid color? If you have lots of plain trousers, why not try a tailored skirt or a print blouse? If you can't figure out what will "fit" — try a stand-alone dress.

I feel sewing is the most rewarding when you're making something you love AND will wear, so your goal is to find that sweet spot where a pattern calls to you AND it will fit into your wardrobe.

And Lynn, I know you said you don't want to 'stand out,' but take a minute to decide what you want more: anonymity, or happiness. If you really love bright green and want to make a bright green dress, just do it! I think you'll be surprised at how positive people's reactions will be. I wear the craziest stuff — you've all seen it — and the worst reaction I've gotten has been something like "I'm glad you wore that, dear … so few people would." Mostly people say things like "I wish I could wear that." (To which I always reply, "Of course you can!")

If you really don't want to stand out, pick drab colors but patterns with interesting details — pockets, nifty collars, fun seam lines — most people will only see the color, not the design elements. Or try some stealth fun with color: bright pocket linings or hem facings. (Even my plain skirts have print pocket linings. Life's too short to not have pockets full of fun.)

I know I gave lip service to separates up above, but really — try a dress. I think you'll be surprised at how fun they are to wear (especially the Duro) and the sense of accomplishment you'll get from finishing one.

So, to sum up: figure out what really really appeals to YOU, and then make it. Then you can make it work, I promise. Happiness in your clothes is the best accessory.

And good luck!

[picture is one of my Flickr favorites, by alexanderdrachmann]

New Fabric

"Hmm," I bet many of you were thinking. "Erin hasn't posted about fabric for a while. Is she perhaps sewing from her stash, or even (gasp) on the fabric wagon?"

Well, of course, the answer to that is No, and No. Part of this is not my fault: fabric -enabler Heather sent me this awesome collection from South Africa:

shwe shwe

I really love the border print:

shwe shwe

That's crying out to be a skirt with patch pockets, right?

There was also a moment of indulgence recently that resulted in this:

brown roses

I should have put something in the picture for scale. Say, something like MY HEAD, which is how big those roses are. Seriously. I really want to make a gorgeous evening dress out of this, something with brown velvet piping at the neck, and then I think: when do I have any good excuses to wear evening dresses? So maybe I'll make something very prim, a button-up shirtdress, very severe, so that I can have more chances to wear it. It's this gorgeous cotton sateen, just so heavy and silky …

I also am still waiting on the postal-strike catchup to give me some more Liberty babycord. Sigh.