On padding and a new suit

I’ve been thinking about Schiaparelli jackets because I’ve been working on a new suit, heavily inspired by those elegant late 1930’s Schiaparelli jackets with interesting buttons. My old favourite jacket, a taupe wool blend twill affair with oak leaf leather appliqués, made about four years ago, has been getting an awful lot of use, needs a new lining and is beginning to look and feel rather well-loved by now. It’s not anywhere near worn out, but I wanted a new one, in a rougher, tweedier fabric with less showy details. Continue reading “On padding and a new suit”

Well, what do you know.

1910's suitI bought a late 1910’s suit this week. I KNOW! It fits me, too, and I am not tiny. It has a few moth bites, so I have to learn how to mend them properly by weaving self-fabric fibres into the holes. The skirt is too large at the waist, which also calls for some adjustments. In fact, I think the skirt is a later addition to an older jacket, perhaps a replacement for a worn-out older skirt. The fabrics match closely, but are not the same, and while both jacket and skirt are constructed in a way that is very typical of pre-1920’s garments, the skirt strikes me as a little on the short side even for the very late 1910’s. I’m 163 cm tall; that would not really have been taller than average for a Swedish woman even around WWI, and the hem looks like the original one to me. Perhaps the jacket was made in the early or mid-1910’s with a longer skirt, and a new skirt, matched to the jacket as well as possible, added five or ten years later with the new shorter length of the early 1920’s.

Who knows? It’s a fantastic suit, regardless. Quite sharp, very plain and rather masculine-looking in cut and details, without any embellishment. The jacket has a lapel buttonhole, that’s it, no other details that are not functional. Even the buttons are plain self-fabric covered ones, and this level of stark utilitarianism in a suit clearly made for a woman is a little out of the common way – even very plain ladies’ suits of the era tend to have a little bit of something somewhere. It makes me think of Tatlin’s constructivist suit, which differs from ordinary suits of the era mainly through its radical simplicity; it makes away with all the vestigial and decorative details of a traditional suit.

This one isn’t that radical or different, but it is very androgynous. I’m blown away by how good the straight silhouette actually looks on me. I am one of those women who tend to feel that I need a defined waist to look good, but this suit forces me to re-evaluate that idea. It has no defined waist, but I think it looks great on me. I’m trying to avoid the dreaded F-word here, flattering is nearly always shorthand for slimming, and I don’t subscribe to the idea that looking good equals looking as thin as possible. But, you know, it’s a straight silhouette that doesn’t read as boxy or shapeless, which they very easily do on a body like mine, and I don’t think I have looked as physically androgynous as I do in this thing since before I hit puberty. I like that. That’s some sorcery-level cutting, too, and I will most certainly try to take a pattern from the jacket.

Close-ups, interior photos and nerdy discussion of construction details another day.

 

On working with old drafting systems

I’ve been making a few 1900’s and 1910’s style garments in the last year and a half, as I mentioned the other day. So far I have produced three fairly casual, sporty daytime outfits, one that aims at around 1895-1905 and two mid- to late 1910’s outfits. Most of my opportunities to wear them are outdoorsy daytime events in the summer season, so the emphasis on sportswear makes sense to me. I also happen to love old-fashioned sportswear; the kind worn while engaging in pleasant activities like crocquet, biking, hiking, picknicking and spectator sports. At some point I will start working on an evening ensemble too, and perhaps some slightly more formal daywear. But I work so much better to deadlines, and at present I don’t have any events on the horizon to which I could reasonably wear a 1910’s evening gown.

So I took the opportunity to try out a few elderly systems of pattern drafting. There were a lot of them on the market in the early 1900’s, it seems. Perhaps the growing importance of ready-to-wear clothing had something to do with that, creating both a whole new range of fit issues and a decline in customers for small-scale businesses. They are aimed both at professionals and home sewers, and many of them are now in the public domain and available for free download if you would like to try it. Archive.org has several. So far I have made garments based on drafts from Professor Saul Schorr’s The American Designer and Cutter, published in 1915, and Professor Isidor Rosenfeld’s The Practical Designer series from 1918. Continue reading “On working with old drafting systems”

Robe à l’Anglaise, quickly

I’ve been dipping my toes in the 18th century lately, starting with with a simple plaid pierrot jacket, petticoat and all the necessary underthings and accessories about a year and a half ago. I have several friends who do 18th century re-enactment, which is, in all honesty, one of the main reasons I started making things for it. I love hanging out in other eras with my friends, and I want to be able to tag along on the 18th century stuff. Also, I love trying out drafting and construction techniques that are new to me. Making historical clothes is even more fun than wearing them.

So when Isis of Isis’ Wardrobe asked if I wanted to come along to an 18th century picnic in the heatwave Sweden is enjoying right now, I did some quick and extremely optimistic mental calculations and decided that I could probably produce a plain 1780’s robe à l’Anglaise in a cooler cotton fabric from my stash in two evenings. I could, as it turns out, mainly thanks to the really excellent patterns Isis gave me and helped me fit the last time around. The jacket pattern fits very well over the 1780’s corset I made for the first ensemble, and I simply used it as it is, attaching the skirt instead of the tails of the jacket. Continue reading “Robe à l’Anglaise, quickly”