Sunday, 10 February 2019

Vogue's Guide to Practical Dressmaking

The book Vogue Sewing does not have a place on my bookshelf. This is because it actually lives on my worktable, within easy reach whenever I need to check something. It's my first port of call for any sewing queries, so when I saw its 1932 predecessor for sale, of course I wanted to see what it was like.

That cover! So 1930s

Despite the description on the cover, I would say that the guide is aimed more at the beginner than the expert. However given the publication date of 1932, it may have had a large audience of women taking up dressmaking for the first time. "Pick up your needle if you are interested in economy" is the sub-heading of the section titled, "Why learn to sew?".

The guide packs a lot of information into its 62 pages, and finds space for some advertisements as well. Unsurprisingly, the advertisers are also recommended in the editorial copy!

Index at the back

In an era when pattern instructions were brief (even on Vogue patterns), a book like this would have been invaluable to a novice dressmaker. So many things which I was taught by my mum, such as how to set in a sleeve, are clearly explained.

Sleeve details

For the modern sewist using vintage patterns, it also provides useful information on techniques which were common at the time, but have fallen out of use since.

Facings and collars

On my hatmaking courses I have heard people talk about the Very, Very Strict School of Millinery, and this guide could be described as the Very Strict School of Dressmaking. There are stern warnings about buying less fabric than specified, or failing to follow instructions, and the section, "Why learn to sew?" states firmly:
". . . rules are made to be followed religiously. Short cuts and makeshifts are what give to many home-made dresses their home-made look."

Naturally, Vogue patterns are the only patterns mentioned ("a dress made from a Vogue Pattern never disappoints you"), but in a tacit admission that readers may use other patterns, with sketchier instructions, there is a section on the order of work for different types of garment.

The order of work for a frock without set-in sleeves

Another indication of the times comes in the advertisements. There are two full-page ads for manufacturers of synthetic, 'artifical' fabrics.

You can see some Ferguson fabrics here

Celanese was made from cellulose (plant fibre)

Also sold as a 'silk substitute' at that time was Sylko thread. Clearly shade names hadn't been introduced in 1932.

Shade numbers only

Although the guide's section on fastenings makes reference to the "Lightning Zipp fastener", the word 'zip' or 'zipper' doesn't appear anywhere in the advertisement -  I wonder if it was covered by a patent at the time?

Wonderful illustration though

Amid all of this 1930s artwork, the advertisement for the French Bust Company looks very dated: by about 20 years, judging from the boy's suit.

Probably not going for a deliberately 'retro' feel

Ferguson Fabrics closed in 1949. British Celanese, now part of Celanese, still exists but no longer makes fabric. Sylko is now the brand name for Coats' machine embroidery thread. Lightning Fasteners (Birmingham) became part of Optilon, who do still make zips. And the French Bust Company went, presumably, bust (sorry). Of the advertisers featured, the only ones still trading in the same form 87 years later are Vogue Patterns, and the firm featured on the back cover of the guide.

A familiar name at last!

No comments:

Post a Comment