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‘Martí’s Method’: Pattern Making in 1929


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front cover for web-1

Take a look at this little gem. It’s a book about pattern cutting, published in Barcelona in 1929, entitled ‘Corte Parisien Sistema Martí’, in other words ‘Martí’s Parisian Cutting System’ by Doña Martí de Missé. At this point, I must point out that nowhere after the front cover is there anymore mention of ‘Parisien’! I’m predisposed to think that this word was added at the publisher’s insistence, in a bid to raise sales by aligning the book with the trends of the day, a bit like adding ‘Organic’ on something today!   

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If our translations of 1920’s Spanish into 2000’s English are at all accurate, the fascinating content goes a little something like this: On the first page, the book sets out its intentions to lay down methods for cutting patterns through the direct application of your body measurements, which in turn can be transformed into infinite pattern possibilities.  Immediately after this statement of intent, Señora Martí goes on to state that she has created the ‘irrefutable base’ upon which the professionals have focussed their methodology of teaching pattern cutting. Bold claims indeed!  

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She then goes to further expand upon the evolution of pattern cutting up to 1929, which she breaks down into four disciplines. The first is ‘Corte Intuitivo’, which appears to translate as ‘intuitively’ draping fabric directly onto the body of the client; a method described by Martí as difficult and annoying and requiring much practise to master. To relieve the client of the annoyance of having to standing up for far too long that resulted from ‘Corte  Intuitivo’, Modistas (fashion designers) developed ‘Corte Libre’, ‘Free Cutting’. This method used a mannequin or cutting by eye, tracing the clients without making measurements and then perfecting the garments at the fitting.

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Señora Martí clearly had no truck with the third pattern cutting method ‘Corte Geometrico Proportional’ (by now I’m sure you can guess, ‘Proportional Geometric Cutting!). Although she concedes that this method of creating a 2D plan traced with the clients measurements is ‘an improvement on the old methods’, she criticises the tweaking which then takes place by applying prediscribed calculations and equations pertaining to the proportions of the shape of the body. Her scorn of this method is enraged by the calculations which are based on averages, which she wisely notes, don’t exist. In fact she perceptively furthers to state that fashion itself obliges women vary the proportions of their form and shape. She delivers the final nail to this method’s coffin by venturing that intelligent pattern cutters had already renounced these limited and antiquated rules.

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And so we come upon her fourth, and clearly beloved method, ‘Corte Mathematico’, the method Martí claims evidently appears to be exact and perfect, by logically excluding the proportional variant of the ‘Corte Geometrico Proportional’. ‘Mathematical Cutting’ contains nothing but direct measurements from the person to the pattern. Martí clearly had some form of epiphany when discovering this method, as she has based her own teachings upon it.

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“Since fashion became popular [!] women have felt a need, as a complement to their intellectual and artistic culture, to be familiar with the art of creating their own garments, and when women truly entered into this terrain, commercial patterns surged forth”. I must add where all these historical pearls were discovered. This book belongs to my flatmate, who was given as a gift from his friend who had, in fact, found it on the street, where it had been left for the rubbish collection!

As and when I uncover further nuggets of ‘Martí Method’ wisdom, you’ll be the first to know.

Zoe Edwards   —  

Comments 9


This book is awesome! I love vintage books… They’re so much more detailed and challenging than a lot of books nowadays.


Thanks for sharing! How I’d love to get my hands on this beautiful book! (From what I see on the first page you’ve scanned, 1920s Spanish is no different from current Spanish.) The literal translation of corte is “cut” but the meaning in this context is “method of fashioning a garment.”

“Corte y confección” translates to dressmaking or tailoring depending on the context.

The first two methods you described are draping and the last two are flat pattern making.

Doña Marti’s authoritative tone notwithstanding, there really are only two ways to make garments like these: you can drape or you can draft. Still, I’d love to hear her stern advice and see more of the illustrations!


I think I love the tiles below the book as much as the book! There’s just something about the detailed drawings in a book like that. Thanks for sharing!

Drop Stitches Not Bombs

Thanks for sharing this gorgeous book – I too look forward to more Martí wisdom! I’d like to agree with Rose about the setting of your photos; my boyfriend lived in Spain for a couple of years, and I was enchanted by the tiles every time I visited him, so these brought back many happy memories!


clf, to add to your comment:

It sounds like Doña Marti is further dividing the flat pattern method into two levels. The first sounds to me like custom-made clothing, i.e. created with a person’s measurements but using pre-determined sizing rules. The second sounds more like what we might call bespoke (for men) or couture (for women), because they are created completely from the client’s measurements and proportions.

(I know “bespoke” and “couture” aren’t interchangeable, but they both seem applicable to what Doña Marti is describing.)

Totally fascinating! I wonder if this allusion to couture is where the “Parisien” in the title comes from?


A beautiful book. Why, oh why, aren’t they like that now. Treasure it!! thanks for sharing. I must rush off to my little vintage gems and peek inside.


Oh wow–what a treasure! (I’m so glad it was rescued from a dubious fate!) I love the coat in the last picture; the collar is particularly stunning.

I cannot wait to read more of your posts, Zoe! :)


Hi Sarai!
I was revisiting your older entries, and when I found this one my heart just stop! My Aunt Alicia, back in 1972 went to “corte y confeccion” school in Venezuela and graduated from the Marti School!!!! My mom has several books from Mrs. Marti and I’m just waiting to get them in summer (my mom comes for vacations yipeee!!!). I also have a graduation day picture and a ring that belong to my aunt Alicia.
When I get the books I’ll let you know.
Raquel from Florida

P.S. I cannot wait for your new patterns!!!


You are lucky if you own a book like that. In the 1990’s I bought in a technical book shop in australia, the system of making the ‘blocks’ for pattern drafting and is very very simple without the complicated construcction of Mrs. Marti’s patterns. Anyone who owns such jewels of the past glories of elegant garments and the elegance of women of past generations should be very happy.

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