Sensible Sunday – Using Your Resources

Monkey Lesson 1 Cover

Today Ms. Conover covers how to use the resources at our fingertips that will help us make discerning choices when it comes to the current trends.  In 1922 your choices were pretty straightforward.  If you lived in a metropolitan area with access to high fashion you could browse the shops in person but this was not the case for most women.  The majority of women in 1922 still relied heavily on fashion magazines for their insight into the cutting edge of fashion.  Today we still have those glossy books of high fashion but we also have the addition of the internet and television and easy access, for most of us, to all ranges of department and specialty stores.

So will Ms. Conover’s wisdom still be applicable for us today? I think you will find that it is.

Do you get full value out of your fashion magazines?  Do they bring the style centers into your sewing room?  Do they talk to you and tell you that sleeves are too long, or three-quarter, or short this season;  that necks are oval, or boat shape, or perhaps square; that skirts are so long, or so wide?  Do they give you a list of the dresses that you can wear and those that are suited to Mrs. Somebody Else?

Now don’t blame your fashion magazines if they are not doing all of these things for you.  The information is there.  It is just a case that you haven’t digested it.

Study your magazines.

O.k.  Study our resources. I think that can still apply to us today.  We just have a few more resources to look at than the 1922 woman did.  And we have the added benefit of seeing these fashions on real live, moving breathing people.  Granted, these people may not look anything like you or I, but at least we can see real clothing on real people.  In 1922 fashion magazines were still printing drawn illustrations rather than photographs to promote their wares.

1920s McCalls catalog

1920s McCalls catalog

We all know that the dress that looks so beautiful in an illustration picture does not always look so beautiful on us!  So once we have all of our images of the latest seasons trends, then what?  What exactly should be be trying to study?

First, take the question of sleeves.  It isn’t necessary to read endless printed pages to find out what they are like, and what they are not like.  Run through the pages and look at just sleeves.  Make a mental note of what they are like.  You can’t take in everything about all the styles at one time, you know.

After you have mastered the sleeves, study the neck line.  Perhaps you will find there are two outlines that are equally stylish.

Then there is the question of the placing of the waistline.  It needs watching.  What it does one season it hardly ever repeats the next.  Look though all of your fashion magazines and make a study of just waistlines.

Ms. Conover goes on to instruct us to study all of the different aspects of fashion in this piece by piece approach that will eventually lead us to a clear picture and understanding of the defining elements of a current season.  She stresses again the need to look at not just the stylishness of a garment, but the suitability of the garment.  Her approach to clothing choices is very scientific.

If you want to select a style for yourself, it’s a good plan to mark the designs that suit your purpose and that will also be becoming to your type.  When you compare them, eliminating those that are not suitable for your purpose or appearance, it will be an easy matter to make a choice.

Now she starts to lead in to the part that becomes interesting to me.  Remember, this booklet is just the first of a twelve lesson series on dressmaking.  All of these fashion and etiquette tips are intended to teach the young seamstress how to develop tasteful and professional quality clothing.

Here is where making your dress yourself is going to help out. You can adapt the style to your purpose or to suit your individuality.  In fact, the placing of a waistline one inch lower, the shortening of a collar, or the lengthening of a tunic may be the difference between a becoming and an unbecoming frock.  If you make your own clothes, you will have stylish clothes, prettier clothes – clothes that suit your individuality.

The thing that got me hooked on sewing from day one.  The ability to express my individuality through clothing and the desire to help others do the same thing.

 The Perfect Nose had an excellent suggestion after last week’s article.  I am writing these articles from my own personal collection of Ms. Conover’s dressmaking series, but this series is available to any of you that would like to read the complete work (or part of, not all 12 lessons are available).  This series was originally published in 1921 and is now in the public domain.  If you would like to study this more in depth you can read directly from the source yourself without my commentary 🙂  My version was released in 1922 so it may be slightly different from what you find here, but it should be very similar.  You can download the entire first lesson in either Adobe or PDF format.  You can also download the 1922 version here, but I am not entirely sure if it includes all 12 lessons or not.


2 thoughts on “Sensible Sunday – Using Your Resources

  1. yes sage advice indeed. i taught myself to sew when as a teenager i couldn’t buy off-the-rack clothes. now i am a landscape architect and i still make most of my (and my partner’s clothes.) i have patterns that i know work well for us and i buy retro/vintage fabric and so we have one-offs. i wish i could make shoes because then i’d really be self-sufficient! i’ll enjoy reading ms. conover’s dress making series…thanks!

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