I listed a series of sewing books from 1926 on Etsy over the past few months, called A Modern Course in Home Sewing and Dressmaking. They are available as downloads, and are a fascinating look into the mid 1920s era of sewing and styling techniques. They incorporate hand and machine sewing, and cover everything from seams, to fabric choices, to trims, to construction. I posted the last one today, and it covers silhouettes and style. I thought I’d share some of the ideas found.
They call them Leonardo’s Five Laws of Decoration.
Decoration exists to make more beautiful the object decorated, and not to exploit itself. (I think Coco Chanel took this concept when she said to look in the mirror before going out the door and remove one thing, so as not to overdo it.)
The first premise of decorative treatment is a crying need for decoration on the part of the thing to be decorated. (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.)
Decoration should follow the structural lines of the thing decorated and add an appearance of strength. (Don’t weaken the design by trying to go outside the lines.)
Decoration should not interfere with the proper function of the object decorated. (This is especially important in sewing. Don’t try to use chiffon when the pattern calls for cotton, or the garment won’t function as designed.)
Decorations should be consistent in technique, material, scale, color and texture with the object decorated and with each other. (Don’t mix apples and oranges.)
Keep in mind that these principles work just as well for home decor as they do for sewing. I think it’s a great little short course in taste. What would you add to the list?
I don’t know if you remember, but I mentioned McCall 4882 in a former post about 1920s designer patterns from McCall. Well, waddya know, I found the Model by Jenny of Paris in my stash! Truthfully, I had the pattern for some time, but thought the envelope was long gone. Look what happens when one actually tidies:
I am so excited, because this is something of a rare find, much less in factory folds AND in a bust size 34 which, for some, is a wearable size. How cool is that?
Jenny of Paris is quoted in 1929 (the year after this pattern was printed) as saying, “I not only believe but actually preach the creed that it is vitally necessary for the modern woman to be as lovely and charming as is possible for her to be, and accordingly I design.” She goes on to say that the suffrage movement took as long as it did because of the way the women dressed, including stiff collars and flat shoes, and then says that chivalry in men also had dropped because of the way women chose to clothe themselves. Miss Jenny took her fashion SERIOUSLY. She says that women in fiction were only admired if they were not dowdy (she obviously didn’t read Pride and Prejudice), and that men will never woo a woman unless she is fashionable.
Jenny said to choose your clothing carefully, regardless of your budget. She favored carefully selected black dresses, and liked velvet trim as an accessory. She strongly disliked the robe de style, first saying women didn’t take the time to choose a frock that favored them, and second, saying basically that she didn’t understand why women would dress in a style from the past when the entire future of fashion was in front of them. She was also not a fan of fads, though she would toss in a trendy item or two like a bustle, in each collection, just to keep people interested.
She mentions that she prefers natural waistlines, though she would drop them occasionally. This jacket is a case in point. Though it doesn’t officially have a dropped waist, it gives the illusion of one with the lower placement of buttons and belt. The jacket itself really has no waistline, as the silhouette is straight. Miss Jenny knew how to design something that was on trend, without compromising her ideals.
Side note, I just finished Season One of Making the Cut on Amazon Prime. I have mixed feelings about it. I find Heidi Klum to be insufferably narcissistic, and actually have to fast forward the little Heidi and Tim segments — I love Tim Gunn, but Heidi is such an attention hound I just cannot. Plus, I would much rather see the design process or even the business side of things instead of seeing Heidi dance half naked at the Moulin Rouge, or fence with Tim. The insights the designers give to how the fashion business works is really interesting, and of course the fashion is wonderful. Miss Jenny’s idea of designing on trend without losing herself and loving black reminded me of Esther on MtC. ***SPOILER ALERT*** Esther, without a doubt, was a FAR superior designer to Jonny, but I think that the judges probably chose the right winner, since she was unlikely to veer from her black color palette. Jonny, however, should’ve been booted at least a couple of episodes prior, since he couldn’t finish without help from other designers, but the judges didn’t see that. I must say too that the judges should have listened to Naomi, as she gave the best insights, and was obviously frustrated by Heidi running over her all the time. I would’ve been surprised if she had come back for season 2, but I miss her. She was a good judge. And for those who think that the judges were rough on the designers: these were not rookie designers. All of these people had their own lines coming in. They know the business is tough. I think the judges were just being truthful and direct, though I could do without the “have you changed your mind” schtick from Heidi. UGH. I really don’t like her. And I hate myself for starting Season 2, but that’s life. I just love fashion.
This is a new thing for me. I came across a pattern from 1916, for a crocheted garter purse. Interesting. I’ve seen garter guns and garter flasks, but an actual purse is new to me.
I found a 1914 article that talks about the “new fad” of garter purses. It mentions it as an alternate to carrying a bag, and different from the custom of tucking one’s cash into one’s stockings — inconvenient and rather scandalous when you need to pull out money in public. The article mentions that they were made in suede, in bright colors like emerald and violet, and consisted of a series of flat pocketbooks attached to a strap, then carefully strapped to one’s leg.
Going back further, a 1905 article talks about how unhygienic putting money into your stocking is, and states that a banking house of the time offered female patrons garter purses, which led to them being made at home. Here is the illustration of the garter purse (left) and the “old way” of putting money into one’s stocking (right):
The one the bank offered ladies had a steel band to hold it in place. Homemade ones had elastic straps, which was considered safer “in the case of a fall or robbery.” Garter purses were advertised as Christmas gifts between girlfriends, and were even sold with powder and powder puffs in two sections, with another section for money to be kept.
The earliest article about garter purses mentions stocking that were made with a chamois pocket to keep valuables in as the first type of garter purse. It wondered if the fad would catch on. It seems to have morphed into the 1905 styles mentioned above, and were commonly used to carry keys, money and valuables. Men tended to marvel at women’s ability to remove money from their garter purses unnoticed. This is because women wore them with slashed skirts and would simply make an excuse to remove themselves momentarily, slip out of sight and get their money out, then return seconds later, cash in hand. Women know how the magic works, don’t we?
A later article from 1920 mentions the unfortunate Mrs. E.M. Lied, who went shopping in Kansas City with her jewels tucked into her garter purse. She arrived home to find that she had unfortunately put the purse on upside down and her jewels had been lost, to the tune of $5000. Lost were a three inch diamond brooch, a platinum lavalliere with three diamond pendants, a fancy dinner ring set with diamonds and Oriental sapphires, and three diamond rings. That’s over $65,000 in value today. Methinks that Mrs. Lied likely took to her bed after this.
It also appears that garter purses did not keep women from being robbed, as bandits grew wise to the fad and would pat women down for them and grab them during a robbery. Moral of the story: don’t carry your valuables with you. Another alternative is a belt wallet, where the wallet attaches inside the belt and rests against your belly, but as for me, I just leave my stuff at home.
I found this letter inside a 1920’s children’s pattern and my curiosity was piqued, never having heard of a hair pillow. I went on a researching quest, and found that they are just as you might think — pillows full of hair.
A 1917 newspaper touts the better choice of a hair pillow versus a feather pillow. Reasons: feathers get hot and sticky, the smell, and who knows how many generations of your family have slept using that very same feather pillow. Hair pillows were considered cooler, causing less sweat on the back of the head and neck (remember, there was no air conditioning during this time). The article states that they are quite comfortable, once you get used to them, and they are softer as well.
A 1962 article to a home advice column questioned what to do with a hair pillow that became matted after it was run through a washing machine. The answer? Take the hair out, wash and detangle, and stuff it back in.
Seems like we’ve used just about everything to lay our heads on, but this is one I’d never heard of. The cost in 1917 for a 12X14″ pillow was about $1.25 according to the letter. The newspaper mentions that they were similar or only slightly higher in cost than feathers. So if you have some hair lying around that you can’t donate to Locks of Love, consider making a hair pillow and letting me know how it works for you. I’m curious, but not that curious.