Thursday, August 2, 2007

Vintage Musings

Marji posted about vintage projects July 23 and issued the following challenge:

So I'm going to challenge you, what do you still have hanging around that
you created years ago - pics, actual patterns, actual garments? Do you have
a fabulous collection of knitwear designs from decades ago? Show us.

I like vintage clothes and have since I was in grad school, during the first wave of vintage. Ahhh, to live in Florida when retirees moving south were getting rid of fabulous 1940s and 1950s wear! I had friends who made great money picking through South Florida thrift and charity shops for excellent swag, then turning around at selling it to the students at UF. Those were the days--good stuff could be had relatively cheaply. I wasn't doing a lot of sewing then but I had several cool beaded outfits that I liked to wear out clubbing.

But lately, I'm of 2 minds re: vintage. I love all the vintage garments I'm seeing on various blogs like Hungry Zombie Couture and Pins and Needles, not to mention Erin's inspirational pattern shots on A Dress a Day. But I'd feel like I was in a costume if I wore them myself. Maybe my time for full-out vintage looks is over.

Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of pictures of myself in outfits back in the day. I remember at least 3 dresses I made for high school dances in the mid 1970's:

  • There was a chiffon and crepe print halter dress I made for the junior prom. The chiffon was white with purple flowers printed on it. The crepe was plain white. Both polyester of course. The chiffon was an overlayer that also formed a capelet attached to the halter's neckline.

  • Homecoming senior year was a long sleeved black Qiana dress with large art deco flowers. I'm not sure, I think it was empire waisted but cut narrow and a bit low cut for high school.

  • And the senior prom dress was a Gunne Sax knockoff--they were the rage! Mine was yellow cotton with yards of white crochet-look lace. I liked it so much better than the drab tea stained shaded of the real Gunne Sax dresses from the store. I remember I wore white patent leather platform sandals with that one, and my date wore a matching yellow and black tuxedo. Don't laugh, it was cool to dress that way back in 1976!

I know these photos must still exist someplace, probably at the 2 family houses in Louisville. I'll ask my sister and brother to take a look around for them sometime when they have a chance. David still lives at my parents' house (nothing has changed) and Ellen inherited my grandparents' house from my uncle when he passed away. Both places have been in the family a long long time. The actual patterns are probably long gone though, and my mom's notebooks from her sewing classes in the 1940s. Too bad.

Anyway, back to me and my early sewing days. I actually used 2 machines, my mom's White (a tank from the 1950s that had its own cabinet) and my grandma's Singer (a "portable" black enamel tank with a bentwood case). I still have the Singer.

I remember being pretty fearless in my sewing. Of course it helps that I could run up a pattern right out of the envelope. Plus I didn't know I was supposed to be intimidated by fabric and patterns. So I'd try almost anything. I'm sure there were a lot of mistakes, but I was oblivious. I wore my clothes and loved them--the jeans, the embroidered cowboy shirts, the tunic tops, halters, sundresses, "baggies" with cuffs, shirt dresses, and on and on. My parents would almost always finance my fabric purchases, more so than my RTW trips to Stewarts, Bacons, and Levy Brothers. There was a fabric shop (creatively named "The Fabric Shop") located within walking distance at the local shopping center, which made it easy to buy fabric in the afternoon, sew it that evening, and wear it to school the next day.

Actually, the 2 most vintage things I have at my house are quilts that were made by my mom's paternal grandmother, who worked as a professional seamstress for a time.

This one is a doll quilt. Based on the bubblegum pink color and my mom's birthdate, I'd peg it at mid-1930s. I'm planning to have it framed one of these days for display in the sewing room. I think the doilies are from around the same period. I don't know their provenance, but I know my maternal grandmother had them at her home. They're teeny tiny gauge crochet and I want to frame them up too.

This one is for a regular bed. It's handstitched and made from scraps of men's shirtings, but was meant to be a utility quilt, not a "company" quilt. That's Ghost checking things out. Basically there are squares of plain muslin crazy quilted with the shirtings, joined together and hand quilted with a fan stitch. According to an appraisal I had done, the fabrics date from the 1910's.

Strangely, I don't have any quilts from my paternal grandmother, who lived in Appalachia and quilted all of the time. This is probably because she made them to sell, like a lot of the mountain ladies did. She also had a lot of children (13) and grandchildren(?) and the family quilts probably all went to the daughters (My dad received a shotgun when she passed. No, I'm not kidding).

Like a lot of us, I've been acquiring vintage patterns. Most of them have come from my ASG sewing sisters (meaning free or near free). Maybe I'll sew some of them up in spite of my misgivings, maybe not, does it really matter? Anyway, I've already gone on and on about my early days of sewing so I'll post more about that collection another time.

1 comment:

Diane said...

Hi, I just recently discovered your blog by linking from the Sharon sews blog. I sew and like reading about and seeing what others are sewing. I love your blog! In reading your older posts, I noticed you grew up in Louisville and went to the senior prom in 1976. I also grew up in Louisville and still live here. I graduated in 1977. I was wondering what high school you went to? I went to Durrett (remember the Demons? LOL!) I just thought it would be too funny if we grew up in the same area of town or went to the same school since we are about the same age.