“Paris Frocks At Home” is one of the sewing books I’ve used during the preliminary phase of the 1930s Sew-along with Norma. It was published by The Butterick Publishing Company in 1930. The value of this book lies in the details and the illustrations. We see all the elements of what is now considered the essence of Depression Era styles: godets, long hemlines, fluttery capelets, as well as interesting collar and neckline treatments. Included in the book are several reproductions of pattern layout and sewing instruction sheets from Butterick Patterns. Although these are small in the book, the pages can be scanned and enlarged . The results are the complete sewing details for one or two of the Butterick styles use in the book. I have also found that taking photos using the zoom capabilities on my camera also made clear the details in the small illustrations of the instruction sheets. This alone made the book worth the purchase price. These details have been very useful for the creation of my own 1930s influenced dress.
The styles chosen for the book may have been used in conjunction with these patterns since the book would enhance the learn as you go approach. The explanations for each technique covered are clear and simple. This is slightly deceptive for a beginner since some of the methods of finishing a garment using bias binding are more for an intermediate level seamstress. The book seems geared towards the homes ewer who had a good understanding of cutting, basting, and basic alterations. Intermediate techniques are covered but not in great detail.
The instructions for creating butterfly bows and different kind of neckline ties are brief but the illustrations show that their creation can be done by an experienced person. I’ve included scans at the end of this posting to get you started on your own adventures into these feminine necklines using bows and capelet collars.
The book ends with a guide on how to launder clothes by hand. Much emphasis is placed on letting the clothes soak in the soap suds. There is much repetition of the delicate nature of the synthetic and natural fibers used to create the lightweight garments women were wearing as the 1930s began. The reader is urged to stop wringing and scrubbing her clothes so much. It was better to swish the clothes around in a wash basin and let the garment soak so the dirt would float out of the fibers. There seems to have been a conscious effort to educate women on how to keep their clothes longer. Scrub boards and vinegar rinses weakened fibers while gentle laundering kept the fibers looking and behaving better for much longer.
The attention a housewife was expected to pay to the hand laundering of fine woolens, silks and rayons was, if I take this book as the norm, very burdensome. Stain removal treatments included a combination of steam from a kettle, peroxide and oxalic acid crystals. Maybe some home seamstresses took their interest in fibers, fabrics and clothing to this level but how widespread it was is hard to say. What I did get from this chapter was a reminder of how much my own Mom knew about hand washing clothes. She taught me many of the ways to launder lingerie, sleepwear and special occasion wear in a manner similar to what is described in this chapter. The washing machine was used for sheets, towels, children’s clothing but never for finer clothing or lingerie. Since she was born during the Great Depression these laundering techniques were in use at that time. They are similar to what she learned and then passed on to me.
This chapter on the laundering of one’s delicate Paris inspired frocks includes recommendations to turn on the electric fan when some fabrics are almost dry so that the air from the fan can finish up the job of dyring. One was supposed to shake the garment every so often so the fibers would not become shriveled or flattened as in the case of wool.
After reading this chapter I am even more grateful for all the wonderful fiber blends we have today that wash easily and do not require heavy ironing or fussing to look good.
Some Collar and Neckline Treatments from “Paris Frocks At Home”