Readers, I spent hours today working on my 1939 McCall's dress but I'm still not finished. This day dress -- which is lovely but hardly exceptional for its era-- has proven to be a major time suck, and I haven't put in the side zipper, hemmed it, made the belt, or finished the cuffs yet.
I wonder: were clothing patterns more complicated back then or does it just depend on the pattern? I mean, McCall's 3338 seems pretty straightforward: no lining, no boning, no drapery. But that gathered plastron, dickie-like thingy is challenging, especially because in addition to all the even shirring around it, it has to fit perfectly at the neck and lap, shirt-like, right side over left.
I think I did a pretty good job, especially as it's cut on the bias and the plaid actually lines up. It's interfaced with the same stiff cotton I muslined the dress with last week.
After I made the buttonholes I remembered I had some vintage covered-button-making kits, so I decided to try making covered buttons. They weren't very hard to make and I think they look elegant.
The kit I used is by Prym (which I believe is British) and you basically just cut a circle of fabric, stretch it over the front, and pull the edges over the sharp little teeth on the back (wetting the fabric helps a bit). Then you snap the back piece on and you're done!
The pattern also calls for a matching fabric belt but I wasn't sure about the buckle. I tried a vintage black plastic buckle first but it looked too pilgrim (according to Michael). I also had a covered-buckle kit, so I figured, why not? The result wasn't bad at all (same principle as the covered button) but ultimately the whole thing looked too matchy-matchy, what with the covered buttons and all.
I tried a red vintage buckle (which also allows the belt to be slightly wider) and liked it better, but I'm still on the fence and may just wait until I have a better idea of shoes, hats, etc. I could also go with a solid belt, I suppose. It's a lot of plaid, right?
But back to the topic at hand: Do you think sewing patterns were more complicated during the heyday of home sewing, the Thirties, Forties, and Fifties? If yes, does this reflect a) a higher skill level on the part of home sewers back then, or b) fashions that required more tailoring and fabrics that were less forgiving (i.e., no spandex)?
While there are certainly exceptions, I think most home sewing patterns I see today have fewer frills, reflecting a more minimalistic, less ornamental aesthetic. A few random examples pulled from Vogue:
|Vogue 1336, Sandra Betzina pattern|
|Vogue 1336, Sandra Betzina pattern|
Still, just like yesteryear, seams have to be finished, hems sewn, linings inserted (much more common today than seventy years ago, when dress linings were rare), etc. I've only sewn a handful of contemporary patterns myself -- Burdas most recently which, thanks to instructions that bordered on the incomprehensible, were hardly a walk in the park. Of course, one's skill level comes into play too: the more experience you have the less likely you are to be thrown by a particular technique or detail.
Still, I wonder if a generalization can be made about the skill level required by most of today's patterns.
If you sew (or have sewn) both vintage and modern patterns, do you find older patterns to be consistently more complex, less complex, or about the same?
Given that there are so many shortcuts available to home sewers today -- everything from fusible web to invisible zippers to home sergers -- is sewing just less effort than it was in an earlier era, regardless of how the pattern is drafted?
What do you think?