For Hila: Vintage Sewing Techniques for making a coat

Hey there!  Hila, here are the tips from the vintage booklet “Tailoring” published 1945 by The Spool Cotton Company.

I’ve never seen instructions like the ones given here.  I think these are more labor intensive since the interlining is considered a separate layer from the fashion fabric.  “Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing” has a simpler process:  the interlining and fashion fabric are basted together and then cut and treated as one layer.  The only thing these instructions have in common is that the back interlining piece will not have the pleat the way the lining does and has the back seam abutted. This is how I learned to do it and it works very well.

Still, it’s very educational to see how clothing was constructed in the past.  It helps understand how techniques are always evolving.


The Dressmaker’s Library: “Illustrating Fashion: Concept to Creation”

When I’m between sewing projects I love to sketch.  There is something very satisfying to seeing an idea given expression on paper.  It also helps when I go fabric or notion shopping because I can show the salesperson what I’m making or want to make.

If you want to learn how to sketch be assured that no previous drawing skills are needed.  The key to success is to find a book that takes you through the process step by step and provides detailed instructions.  “Illustrating Fashion:  Concept to Creation” by Stephen Stipelman is an excellent book.

The cutting method .

Stipleman shows you how to draw a standard 10-heads croquis.  Before moving on to drawing garments he spends several chapters explaining how to understand such concepts as the balance line of the figure and the center line of the garment.  Much attention is devoted to the poses and sense of movement needed in the figure.

One of the most helpful exercises for a beginner is in the chapter where the cutting method is explained.  Here the croquis is treated like a paper doll.  The arms and legs are cut and taped into different positions as shown in the illustration above.  Tracing paper is then put over the figures and a new figure is drawn.  Stipelman emphasizes giving the figure an attitude and stance.  His illustrations are always accompanied by good descriptions.

There is no substitute for attending a class and getting feedback from an experienced teacher.  But if that’s not possible you don’t have to wait.  I recommend you seek out this book and study the lessons.  You will not be disappointed.  I had no real drawing skills prior to beginning the lessons in this book but can now sketch my ideas.  I have a long way to go but I am seeing results.

Here are three of my recent practice sketches using examples from the chapter on how to draw skirts.

What I love about this book is that eventually you can move on to sketching in your own style.  Since my interest in fashion extends to Barbie dolls I do see some of that in my own sketches.  If you decide to develop this talent you’ll be amazed at what is inside of you waiting to express itself.

The Dressmaker’s Library: “Fashion Illustration 1920-1950”

“Fashion Illustration 1920-1950 Techniques and Examples” by Walter T. Foster is a valuable addition to any dressmaker’s library. The value lies in the book being a visual reference on several levels. First, there are the fashions of the decades beautifully and simply drawn. Then there are the body types for each decade showing what was considered the ideal figure for the time.

Fashion figure of the  late 1920s.

Fashion figure of the 1930s.

The slender, linear look of the 1920s gave way to the curvy sensual look of the 1930s.  The tubular silhouette was replaced by one in which fabrics were cut to flow over the body.  There was an emphasis on movement with flares, godets and flounces.

Fashion figure of the 1940s.

By the 1940s the figure is fuller and curvier. The reader will gain insight into how a woman’s body was envisioned by the illustrators and designers of the 1920s through the 1950s. Even though these illustrations represent the ideal of these decades they speak to the reader on many levels. I learned that I prefer the overall look of the 1940s since the inspiration comes from a woman who is living an active life and looks like she has a healthy body weight and outlook on life.

Foster provides some basics to start a croquis (rough sketch of the fashion figure) but does not go much further than that. There are no graded lessons taking the reader through an organized series of exercises. If you already know how to sketch then you might be able to get more out of this book. There are many examples of first sketches compared to finished sketches. For someone with experience these will provide all you need to recreate similar fashion illustrations.

There is a brief treatment of how to draw children. The section on drawing the male fashion figure is treated in the same manner as the female fashion figure. There are some guidelines with the rest of the presentation consisting of many sketches.

“Fashion Illustration 1920-1950 Techniques and Examples” is published by Dover and is available for $12.95. I got mine new from Amazon