Monday, 23 July 2012

Sew 1938 - Je m'habille avec rien

Anyone set for the beach this week might fancy dressing in a couple of large knotted "peasant hankies" (or bandanas to you and me) in the manner of this 1938 Marie Claire magazine fashion article.
Currently have one of my scarf sewing projects in production - I am trying to make some 40s camiknickers from instructions in a little booklet, something has gone wrong because the garment at present would fit someone with a 30" bust and 60" hips.  But the bias cutting is lovely, so few measurement adjustments obviously needed & will report back soon!

Friday, 20 July 2012

(Nearly) the oldest profession ...

The first second hand clothing I can remember buying was at jumble sales back in the 60s.  My Nan was a member of various local women's groups (WI, Wife & Home, etc) and I would join her at village rummage sales to look for dressing up clothes and (sadly) garments I could cut up for craft projects and to make clothes for my dolls.  I still have fragments of a 1920s lace patchwork top which was ruined to make clothing for dolls and to use making peg dolls.  Oh well.  In my teens - those heady hippy days of the 70s - I would wear vintage clothing along with my tiered gypsy skirts.  I particularly rememember stitching a dress with ever increasing circles of ruffles out of a huge quanity of Laura Ashley fabric - I would imagine the bottom tier could have circumnavigated the Royal Albert Hall with little problem.

However it wasn't until c2003 that I first turned to vintage clothing as a means of earning some money.  It all started by accident.  We were moving house and leaving London, and I simply had to get rid of some textiles before packing began so I turned to ebay.  The resulting sales were a pleasant surprise and I soon decided to try to deal in second hand & vintage clothing & textiles.  It hasn't always been easy; there have been spells of office temping & summer school & evening class teaching to help me through; but this time round, here in deepest greenest rural Lincolnshire, I have been trading full time for nearly two years.

I always find the social & historical aspects of fashion fascinating.  Yesterday I was reading one of my favourite more scholarly books about vintage fashion - Old Clothes, New Looks - and I realised I am part of a long tradition of women who earned their living trading in clothing and textiles.  From the rigattiere of 15th century Florence; through the brogers or pledge women from the country towns of 16th and 17th century England who bought and sold clothing and textiles from house to house in Chester, Oxford, Leicester, Shrewsbury, etc; and not forgetting the fripieres from France, we have all appreciated clothing and textiles not only for their intrinsic beauty or interest but for the economic advantage they have afforded us.

Before the widespread manufacturing of textile products in the industrial revolution, textile goods were scarce and produced by skilled needlewomen - heaven help the man without a wife to stitch and manage his household linens! - and as such were valued and used to their utmost capacity.

Here in the West, for the wealthy, choosing vintage textiles and clothing is not a necessity.  There has always been a tradition of wealthy and educated Europeans wearing exotic and vintage clothing as a sign of sophistication and eclectisism.  Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in Paris of the 30s created an explosion in the vogue for exotic Eastern costumes. 

The hippy trends of the late 60s and 70s saw individuals sourcing clothing from outside of the mainstream fashion industry.  Which neatly takes me full circle to my own teens in those fairisle cardis and checked Viyella blouses I bought from jumble sales.  Then of course in the 80s, Adam Ant wore costumes inspired by vintage military wear. Don't even get me started on the rest of the New Romantics ...  Plus ca change....


Monday, 9 July 2012

Apres-midi with Cecile and Rosy Cava

Home after a sodden, soggy Swinderby where I didn't even dare take 95% of my stock out of the car for fear of ruining the textiles and jewellery.  After a homecoming journey which took double the time of the outgoing one due to roadworks, unloading some soaking wet stand tablecloths which were put out more in defiance than hope, chucking both them and my wet-to-the-knees trousers in the wash, refuge taken reading my most recently delivered vintage 30s book (edited once more by the elegantly named Cecile David), and breaking into the emergency rosy cava .... cheers!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Glass Onion Vintage Textile Gallery and Art Deco Frock

Last Saturday saw me attending the Glass Onion vintage kilo sale in Hackney, trusty Ikea supersize blue bags to the ready (that is, the bags that convert into small tents in an emergency).  I told hubbie I was absolutely, positively certain that I wouldn't buy any more than 3 to 4 kilos.  Upon arrival, we were issued with a huge clear plastic sack and then let loose in a cavernous warehouse to make our way along several hundred meters of clothes rails.  As usual, it was the textiles that drew me to them rather than the garments per se, and after 30 minutes or so, I decided I should have a preliminary weigh in of my bag in the manner of a prize boxer preparing for the fray.  9.4 kilos!!  I decided that was ridiculous, so I went back into a quiet corner and had a rummage through the bag and managed to shed 3.1 kg.  Would that it were so easy!

Anyway, unusually and thankfully last Sunday the sun was shining, so although I was totally knackered (these days, thoughts of my 20 plus years working in the City fill me with sheer amazement that I ever managed it), I steeled my rubber gloves, as it were, and had a major vintage washing morning.  Put my brand new rotary clothes line to good use - the old one had gone to the great scrapheap in the sky, having collapsed the last time I did 4 machine loads of vintage laundry ... (Note to husbands the world over: standing there saying, "You put too much on it", is a guaranteed way of provoking rather loud shouting & heavy stamping from your wife as she scrabbles around the patio trying to gather up a jumble-sale's-worth of clothing before it gets dirty again.)

Above is the detail of a lovely Deco striped summer frock, beautifully made, sadly with quite a bit of moth damage but still giving lots of textile for reworking.  Below are some more textile swatches from my 6.3 kilos of shopping! and another view of the Deco frock - feels like a silk rayon twill, beautiful colours. Hope you're all well and surviving the deluge. x

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