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January 12

More Mail: Better Dressmaking by Ruth Wyeth Spears

As you may have gathered from a prior post of mine, I love getting mail.  Well, I came home from work today to find another package waiting for me at my door.  I don’t know how, but I completely forgot about this book I ordered from amazon during my holiday break.

It’s the Better Dressmaking book by Ruth Wyeth Spears.  Unfortunatly, I can’t remember on who’s blog I first heard about this book, but I was inspired to hunt down a copy for myself.  The blogger basically said ‘why try to use a modern sewing book to make a vintage dress, instead why not use a book written during that era to address all of the techniques that would be used?’  This just makes a ton of sense to me.  I’m not saying that you can’t find all the tips and techniques in a newer sewing book to make a vintage article of clothing, but what better resource than a vintage book to sew up a vintage dress, to make it just like it would have been made back in the day. 

To backtrack a bit now:  Before Christmas, I was searching around online for a resource that guides you through using a vintage belt kit, and I really could find one.  There were no images of a step-by-step guide to using it, and I really wanted to make it like it would have been in the 50’s.  I found plenty of people talking about them, and describing how to use it to make the belt, but no images.  Being a research analyst, I really know how to dig in google and other sites, so I’m pretty confident that if I can’t find it, other people can’t find it. 

It may be some information that more advanced seamstresses take forgranted and don’t think to post it up for us newbies or perhaps its not relevant information anymore since ‘they’ stopped making these little belt kits.  Either way, I would find it very useful to have a tutorial on this topic since I’m in the process of making a 50’s wrap dress that needs a narrow belt.

So to come back to ‘Better Dressmaking’, guess what book descibes how to make 3 different kinds of belts with three different types of stabilizers?!  Yes, people that’s right total  *SCORE*

I started reading “Better Dressmaking’ on my way into work this morning and was expecting to find it really dated/funny since it was published in 1943.  Much to my surprise, I haven’t found anything really outlandish yet.  A few of the topics aren’t as relevant to me personally, for instance there’s a decent section that addresses designing a wardrobe based around colors that work with your hair and eye color and skintone.  I haven’t taken any of these things into account when I shop for fabrics, but its getting me to think that perhaps I should be…  I usually buy fabrics that inspire me or ones that I find are just simply pretty.

In the first chapter, this is an except from the book that I really love, and I don’t think it’s a dated idea for whatever craft you lean towards whether it be sewing, woodworking, or even fixing automobiles. 

“If you have never thought of sewing as a craft at all; if your approach has been through necessity, and your only thought about it has been economy; take a fresh start right now.  Accumulate, little by little, good equiptment, and have a place to keep it.  Cultivate and awareness of fashions that are coming in and going out.  Let all well-made clothes, seen anywhere, be a challenge to your own skill.  Take a tip from the man who makes a hobby of a craft.  Be enthusiastic.  Be curious about ways and means of getting effects.  Be a little vain about your skills.  Be competitive.  Make friends who share your interests.  Organize a club for the exchange of ideas and mutual aid.  Have your heroes or heroines among the professionals of your craft.  Crow a bit over your successes and destory the evidence of failure quickly.  Call you working corner your own, and show it off to your friends.”

I’m not sure if I agree about ‘crowing about my successes’ or ‘being competitive’ but I think it would be alright if done in moderation and taste.  I certainly will be posting up my successes on the blog, but I won’t be neccessarily *crowing* about it.  I don’t intend to destory evidence of my failures either; I intend to post up my mistakes so that I can learn about what happened and to also help others from making the same mistakes.

Below I leave, I wanted to leave you with a few shots of the book…

There’s a section about working with your body type.  Since I’m a pear, apparently I should not be wearing ‘narrow chest effects’. (Thanks Sabrina for helping me fix my typo!)  

This section of the book talks about how to combine different materials and make many outfits out of one mail piece.  How cute is the lower right outfit with the floral blouse?!  And the one right above it with a white jacket reminds me of the vintage travel outfits the ladies wore back in the day.

Most people know how to do this mitered corner, but take a look at these scroll effects.  No wonder why vintage clothes were so cute.  I can’t wait to try this technique out on a wool circle skirt.

I also love this little sewing room.  Everything is clean and orderly, with a place for everything: 2 mirrors on the closet doors, tailors hams up top, tucked away ironing board, oil cloth for table protection.  Ruth has thought of it all!

Stay tuned, peeps.  I’m planning on writing up my first tutorial about how to work with a vintage belt kit.

  1. Sabrina / Mar 9 2012

    Hi,
    What a great quote from the beginning of the book!
    Sabrina
    P. S. It says you should _not_ be wearing narrow chest effects.

    • Liz / Mar 9 2012

      Thanks so much Sabrina! I made the change. I guess that chnage makes sense. To not wear small chest effects would probably help keep a pear shape more in proportion. I think when I was typing it I was thinking that small chest effects would draw the eye to that area more instead of the pear-ness bottom half.

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