Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wartime Wednesday: Making your Own Clothes

Wartime Wednesday:  Making your Own Clothes

I once lost the button on a pair of pants, but my sewing skills are so abysmal I ended up using a decorative lapel pin in place of the button. The last thing I had made for myself was a poorly executed blouse in 9th grade Home Ec., so I didn’t keep needles or thread in the house. To be fair, to make the repair I would have had to go to the store and purchase the items, only to be left with a huge spool of thread I would never need again. Seemed like a waste, and the solution I came up with was fast and easy.

My mom made all our clothes while we were growing up, and I have a friend who is a professional seamstress. Meanwhile, I still can’t sew.

Several times a month, I conduct speaking engagements about a variety of World War II topics, and as part of the event I wear one of two costumes that I had made from vintage patterns. The first is from Vogue and is for a jumpsuit that was worn as a uniform for the Women’s Land Army and some factories. The other is a Hollywood brand pattern and is for a day dress.

A fascinating discovery my seamstress friend and I made is that the craft of sewing has changed over the years. Some supplies had different names in the 40s such as the zipper that was called a slide closure. And techniques have also changed. When I was in school, we were taught to sew seams “right side together.” Simple enough, right? Apparently, that approach was developed later. The dress pattern I purchased advised the seamstress to create the skirt and top separately, rolling the seams and then connecting them. What?

The tissue paper pieces of the Vogue pattern are also vastly different than pieces sold now. Modern patterns are imprinted with indications for seams, darts, and button holes. The vintage pattern pieces are blank with small holes punched in various locations to indicate sizing, and small triangle cutouts to indicate darts. Talk about confusing.

But as usual the government set out to help its citizens and issued helpful films. Sewing Simple Seams is from 1947, but there were plenty other movies created during the war.

The more I learn about what women did to provide for themselves and their families, the more in awe I am.   

1 comment:

  1. I too sew a lot, almost exclusively from vintage patterns from 1920-1960s. In fact most of the characters in my novels sew, or learn to sew (The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress revolves around a handmade dress). Most of the time vintage clothing is too expensive and for swing dancing (which I do), too brittle.

    At first I found the old pattern daunting, but I like how fitted they are compared to today's multi-sized blocky patterns.

    Keep on with the vintage patterns. I think you'll love 'em. Great post. Thanks for sharing your sewing experience!