I have a small but growing collection of vintage sewing books. I treasure them not just because they showcase wonderful techniques that are less common today, but also because they give a glimpse back into the daily lives and skills of everyday women. I thought it would be nice to share some of these books with you.
The Art of Dressmaking was published by Butterick in 1927, and is aimed at both the “successful” home seamstress, and the beginner.
The first page says:
“It is not a book of current styles – those you will find in Delineator and the Butterick Quarterly – but it has been prepared with the hope that it will be useful and helpful all the time whenever and wherever clothes are being made.”
When the author wrote that, I doubt she imagined someone reading it and still gleaning hints and advice over 80 years into the future. It is really hard for me to believe sometimes how little garment sewing has changed in the last century. Nearly all of the advice given in this book would be useful to a home sewer today.
The illustrations are just gorgeous, showing lithe, deco women elegantly picking fabric and creating flowing garments.
I especially love these images of completely shapeless clothing being “fitted” on a narrow, androgynous body. It looks so simple! But of course the clothing of that decade was rich in detail if rather uniform in silhouette.
I do wonder what a woman naturally shaped like me would have thought looking at illustrations like this, and trying to apply them to her own sewing. The thin, 1920s ideal figure is so exaggerated here that it’s rather strange to my modern eyes. I suppose in the context of that decade though, it would have just seemed modern and chic, if not totally realistic.
The book covers a large range of topics, and seems a good introductory text. Chapters include everything from selecting a style and fabric to cutting to various seams and trimmings. There are even sections on maternity wear and men’s clothing. Above you can see wonderfully illustrated instructions for creating a welt pocket.
I’ll be sharing several more vintage sewing books over time, stay tuned!