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"It does not give you conspicuous, ephemeral extremes [..] You can absolutely rely on the styles given you in Butterick Patterns"
September 16, 2012 9:40 AM   Subscribe

The New Dressmaker; With complete and fully illustrated instructions on every point connected with sewing, dressmaking and tailoring, from the actual stitches to the cutting, making, altering, mending, and cleaning of clothes for ladies, misses, girls, children, infants, men and boys; The Butterick Publishing Co., 1921; 168 p. illus.

"Compared to the elaborate trimmings of the 'awful Eighties' and even the whalebone and crinolines of later date, the extreme simplicity of the dresses of to-day has reduced the work of dressmaking to its lowest possible terms."

Downloadble PDFs provided by 'The Human Ecology Collection'; University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
posted by applemeat (12 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's always fun to see how things were done long ago - thanks for the post. Although the sewing machine is mentioned in the chapter on equipment, it seems like most of the methods are intended for hand sewing. Maybe this is an updated edition of an earlier book?

After a century or so of sewing predominantly by machine, the garment industry has developed a lot of techniques that replace the huge amount of handwork shown in this book. It takes practice to get skilled at machine-based techniques too, but once you've got the hang of them they're so much faster and arguably better - machine stitching is stronger than most hand stitching.

One thing I really liked was the book's insistence that you can't cut corners (so to speak). Modern sewing patterns don't give much detail in the instructions, I think because they want to make everything to seem FAST! and EASY! Lengthy instructions look overwhelming and difficult, so modern sewers are left to hunt down information on best practices on their own, then figure out which ones to apply in which situations. Which can lead to frustration and failure, but by that time you've bought the pattern so the marketing tactic worked. The book gave a lot of guidance on what methods to use where, and while most of them are obsolete it's still nice to see an emphasis on skill and high-quality workmanship. (Not so nice to assume that women have nothing better to do with their time, but that's another discussion.)
posted by Quietgal at 10:47 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heh, I own the sequel, Art of Dressmaking, published in 1927. It's a great reference.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 11:20 AM on September 16, 2012


Thank you for this treasure. It deserves a place on the e-bookshelf with the prized The Encyclopedia of Needlework by Therese de Dillmont.
posted by Anitanola at 12:13 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Modern patterns are a VAST improvement over what came before...I've seen some Victorian and earlier patterns, and they are a NIGHTMARE! In order to save on printing costs, they would print all of the pattern pieces on one sheet, all overlapping (for u to trace off yourself)...they look like a big tangle of coathangers, and are just as hard to untangle...esp considering how many parts and pieces those garments used to have...
posted by sexyrobot at 12:19 PM on September 16, 2012


I thank all of you for bringing these two resources into my life!
posted by Galadhwen at 12:31 PM on September 16, 2012


Last week I was looking around a fabric store with my girlfriend and couldn't believe that the company that made most of the patterns and accessories had the gall to call themselves Simplicity.
posted by sourwookie at 2:10 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


sexyrobot, there are pattern magazines (Burda, Mannequin, Ottobre) who do this still. But, they're at least color coded so they're not so hard to figure out (and I assume today's clothes have fewer pieces.)
posted by vespabelle at 2:31 PM on September 16, 2012


I find it sad that on page 72, pregnant women are warned that if they allow themselves to become depressed or "morbid," they might ruin the physical condition, character, and disposition of their fetus. And they need to be sure to make their condition as unnoticeable as possible.
posted by jfwlucy at 2:57 PM on September 16, 2012


Just like my 1957 copy of the Good Housekeeping cookbook with its "When He Carves" chapter and its crumbled-potato-chips-on-top casserole recipes and its unparalleled baking section, this book would be about 90% useful and relevant to anyone who wanted to use it today.
posted by orange swan at 3:24 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


crumbled-potato-chips-on-top casserole recipes
I don't know-I think crumbled potato chips on top make anything taste better...
posted by Isadorady at 4:14 PM on September 16, 2012


On page 53, preceding the instructions for sailor suits:

"Almost invariably, the small boy and girl, if given any voice in the choosing of their clothes, will select the suit that looks most like a uniform."

really? Because I'm no parent, but seem to recall wanting to wear things that no one else would be wearing. And, if I could get away with it, a cape.
posted by squasha at 7:35 PM on September 16, 2012


(though I suppose the cape is *sort of* a uniform...for superheroes.)
posted by squasha at 7:36 PM on September 16, 2012


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