Friday, February 10, 2012

Talk Back Thursday

Image credit: Moma advertising agency, as found here.  (Follow the link to see more delightful images like this one!)  

Thank you so much to Wendy, Lynne, Becky, Carla, Katherine, Linda, Gwen, Patsijean, Elaina and Mary for talking back to my confession last week!  I confessed that I don't have any experience sewing vintage patterns and asked for input - pros and cons, advice, etc.  

One topic that came up - and inspired my image selection above - is what exactly counts as "vintage"?    As Patsijean pointed out, it can be quite disconcerting to learn that the clothes you wore as an adult are now labeled "vintage" !  

Well, I looked it up in the most comprehensive collection of unassailable wisdom on the internet - Wikipedia - and discovered that some random person believes that clothing between 1920 and 1960 is "vintage" and clothing before 1920 is "antique".  ("citation needed")  

Other websites say that anything 20 years old or older is "vintage".  This is going to bum out Ana, who is in her mid-20s and still considers herself young.  ;)

So, do the commenters sew vintage?  Well, we had our fairly typical spread of answers.  We had 2 "No" votes, 4 "Some, but not much" votes and 2 resounding "Yes!" votes.  Can't spread much more evenly than that!  

Oh, we also have a bit of a celebrity in our midst!  Lynne used to sew historical costuming in Hollywood!  How cool is that?  Lynne - can you tell us any of the shows that include some of your work?  

Regarding the folks with vintage sewing experience - what time frame are we talking about?  Well, again we got a good range - everything from turn of the (last) century up through the 1970's.  While not everyone reported this, several people find themselves drawn to clothing styles from their own teenage and young adult years - whenever that was.

The "why not" answers were pretty straightforward: 
  • Modern patterns fit better - whether that be fit to the body or fit to the person's style (or both).  
  • Vintage patterns can date you.  
  • Already has enough modern patterns waiting to be sewn up - doesn't need to start a collection of vintage patterns!  ;)

There was an interesting "no, but..." group.  A couple of folks reported that they don't sew vintage patterns, but they regularly "borrow" vintage details and incorporate them into their modern patterns.  

The "why yes?" answers were generally what you would expect - love the styles and the illustrations!  Elaina pointed out that fashion really cycles, so that what was once "old-fashioned" and "out-dated" will come around and be in-style again someday.  She also believes that vintage patterns were flat-drafted more accurately, so that even if the instructions are spottier, they come together better.  

And that brings up the instructions - the main difference called out between current and vintage patterns.  Five people weighed in and all pretty much agreed - the instructions and markings are different from what we have get on modern patterns.  

Most said that the instructions are more sparse - although Wendy said that they can be more sparse in some areas and more detailed in others.  

It makes sense - no pattern can explain every single detail - every pattern assumes that the reader has a certain basic knowledge of the sewing techniques that are common at that time in history.  So vintage patterns will assume a different knowledge base on the reader's part than we are accustomed to (or that the typical seamstress of today is likely to have...)

Others also called out the markings as different.  The vintage patterns that Katherine has used, for example, mark everything (grain lines, match points, etc.) with holes.  She reported that it's very helpful to have a key to know how to interpret those holes.  

Linda may have pointed out the most important bit of knowledge that you need to deal with vintage patterns - order of construction.  I am already experiencing this issue with the one pattern that I printed for Mattie from the pattern making software.  I've sewn 2 versions and found that using a different order of construction on the 2nd version was a big improvement on how easily it came together and how nice it looks on the inside...  

A second big topic was (body) fit - although there were differing opinions on this.  Wendy, for example, finds that she needs to make the same adjustments on her vintage patterns as on her modern patterns, to get a fit she likes.  Lynne, on the other hand, has found that the fit can be very different - with smaller armholes, less ease in the bodice and the shoulder seams laying differently on the body.  

I imagine that these different experiences may arise because Wendy's vintage patterns are from a different era than Lynne's vintage patterns.  After all, the commenters were addressing patterns from anywhere between 1901 and the 1970s!  

So, I had expected discussion of the instructions and the fit, but a couple of people brought up another significant consideration - the fabric!  Lynne pointed out that historical garments were created from very high quality fabrics, which are not easily replicated.  And Elaina explained that the textiles available 100 years ago were different from the ones available today - vintage patterns were designed to work with vintage fabrics.  So, adopting them to work with modern fabrics can yield unexpected challenges.  

Along these lines, Patsijean tells a story of making a smoking jacket for her husband and the "fun" of hand-stitching a poly lining!  (Check out her whole story here - it's really interesting.)  

Finally, Elaina, who loves vintage patterns, brought up one more challenge - giving a vintage pattern enough of a modern take to make sure that your garment doesn't look like a costume.  This is why sewing is both a skill AND an art!  :)

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to tell me about your experiences and your thoughts on vintage sewing!  :)

PS - don't worry, it's actually Friday!  ;)