Saturday, 2 December 2017

Style 3371

It must be nice to be a sewing blogger - no need to think up a clevver name for one's post. Readers of sewing blogs don't want that. They just want one pun in the name of the blog, and after that, stick to the practicalities of the exercise and give each post the name of the pattern used.

We had a minor heatwave in Melbourne last week and the week before so I made two new dresses from an old fave, Style 3371, pictured

I think I got it at Savers Greensborough. I'm a fan of Style patterns from the 70s and 80s and whenever I see one I buy it, no matter whether or not I like it at the time. They are usually great simple designs, flattering to the body and nice to wear, and intelligently cut. And - this is unheard of - the finished garments actually look like the fashion drawings on the envelopes. The company seems to have gone out of business some time in the 80s. I almost never see people in the sewing blogosphere working with one of these. They only ever come up for sale with Australian and NZ traders, so perhaps it was a purely Australasian concern. I've got a suspicion that collecting Style patterns might be a little like collecting Pearson's of Chesterfield ceramics: an interest so niche as to be symptomatic of a deeper and more pathological attachment to a certain aesthetic that was around in my childhood than simple nostalgia for household goods of past times. (Another reason I liked the Patrick Pound exhibition at NGV Australia so much was that it featured such a lot of brown 1970s pottery, of not Hornsea or Arabia Ruska varieties, and I always feel a bit better about everything when I come across people who also are not ashamed of liking brown pottery.)

It's fun to make and wear a garment designed in and for a moment that's long past. Do enough of this and you learn quite a bit about how they understood women's bodies differently to us. It comes across in the construction quite as much as in the wearing. The dress in this envelope, for instance, has a self-lined bodice with no structural materials anywhere in it - no interfacing, no seam tape, nothing at all to stabilise those lines except the way they hug so close to the torso. The centre front and centre back skirt panels are gathered and full, but the side panel, which wraps from front to back, isn't, and there are no side seams. So there is no widening at the side hip, it drops straight down - again, the body asserts its line there, without concealment, in a way that is both incredibly comfortable to wear and also challenging if, like most women, despite your expensive* elitist postmodern feminist cultural marxist education, you can't entirely shake your insecurities about your body's imperfections. A dress like this looks so simple and that's not an illusion, it really is. But it's conceived out of a very sophisticated understanding of how to cut a garment. The life and energy of the garment isn't in the seams, where a lesser pattern maker would assume it to be (because the edges of the pieces and seamlines where you join them is where you do the work) rather it's in the mobile areas of woven cloth between the seams, shifting and changing as it's draped around the person. I often read sewing bloggers saying that some indie pattern or other that they've just sewn up is 'well drafted', by which they seem to mean that the notches actually match and there is a roughly similar linear measurement around the armhole and the sleeve head. That is not enough to warrant calling something well designed, that's just basic necessity. Good design addresses other considerations. Whether the dress gives and moulds to your shape, or whether it resists, and as in Soviet Russia, dress moulds you, depends very much on what materials you use and how they behave against the skin.

I made the first one in a delicious black linen milled in Lithuania. That's it on the kitchen floor before I cut it. I've had this for ages. That's four metres, enough for 2-3 garments depending on what they are. I usually just buy two metres of a fabric and the four metres reflected the unusual niceness of this linen. I don't remember buying it, but I probably touched it and thought, I want to be dressed in this beautiful stuff every day. It is very solid but also very springy and flexible, so it doesn't crush as much as lighter weight linen tends to do.  The fibres are very smooth so it's glossy and it won't go fuzzy with wear. Brilliant stuff and I have plenty left over for something else.

The down side of nice flexible linen is that it frays like an absolute bastard so edges soon become yuck and messy while you handle the pieces and sew them together. If you sew you will know how amazingly satisfying it is to be sewing with pieces of ratty frayed-edge stuff and to suddenly reach the point when all of those edges are enclosed

So here is the dress. See it does look just like the envelope drawing! It's a nice dress for a hot hot day, which this was (also I had had about three hours sleep the night before so don't look too closely at the skin under my eyes please). In her novels set in London, Doris Lessing takes every chance she can to dress her heroines in linen on hot days, explaining as she does that English-born people have no idea how to dress in the heat. Must say I agree with her

So the linen dress created a problem for me in that I didn't want to take it off. So then I made another, this time in a stiff African wax print cotton with a very loud design. I had ten metres of this: most wax prints come in precut lengths. Again, there's plenty left over, I don't know what I'll do with it now though. (Maybe a tablecloth? Unless you want me to make you something?) This dress softened dramatically after about three outings, to the point where the bodice is quite loose.

Golly it's hard to take a useable photograph of yourself wearing something you've made. Respect to the people who do this all the time. I only included this last picture because I thought I should preserve a shot of my arm vagina for the bewilderment of posterity.

Anyway, sewing is fun and everyone should be forced to make their own clothes. By the police.

*expensive education = HECS debt of $38,000, finally paid off in 2014.

1 comment:

JahTeh said...

I have 3 patterns only, so easy to adjust to expanding girth and surprisingly Mother at the nursing home can still advise on sewing. I sent all her patterns to the Op shop before I knew about ebay and how much I could have sold them for.