Jenny La Fleur
The Era of Mrs. Vogue - Jenny La Fleur — LiveJournal
adventures in costuming
The Era of Mrs. Vogue

Many thanks to suededsilk for posting the link to a fun article "A Perfect Sewing Weekend" from the Selfish Seamstress.

I love suededsilk's point that nobody is really "Mrs. Vogue", so why are our sewing expectations sometimes based on a perfect ideal like this? It's like expecting to be Martha Stewart when we entertain or Carrie Bradshaw when we go clothes shopping. It's not real life.

Having said that... I actually related to a lot of the steps in this story. Is that bad? :P

I don't do hems by hand (unless it's absolutely necessary!) but I am meticulous about dry ironing patterns, steam ironing the garment as it takes shape, marking hems with a yardstick and chalk as shown in the story (with the help of Mom or B or course). I even like to double check that the grain is correct after I wash yardage (which on most fabrics from Joann’s is just an exercise in frustration!) and have been known to pull threads to find the grain line, ironically I did it just today on both a toile and some linen. I have to admit I don't do that on every project now, preferring to tear fabric, but Mom made me do it on everything when I first started sewing. She made me do a lot of tedious things like that in the beginning.

I guess that is really where all of that came from. My Mom was trained in the same era as this story and much of that basic training she passed on to me. It's amazing how much of it survived the years and both of our "bad habits" now that I think about it. I forget sometimes how lucky I am that while many of my costuming skills are self taught (like draping and pattern making) I was given a solid foundation in basic garment sewing by a talented home ect major who had been taught by equally talented home ect teachers. Such things are handy skills to be able to pull out when I need them.

Umm... Maybe I should teach a class on this stuff sometime at CosCol... "Random Garment Sewing Basics from the Era of Mrs. Vogue". Hee.

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25 comments | comment?
s0mmer From: s0mmer Date: May 21st, 2010 02:46 am (UTC) (link)
I too iron the pattern, press as I go, mark the hem (sometimes with string dipped in cornstarch stretched across doorway). I don't straighten the end grain because it wastes fabric! I like to choose which fiddly things I do, though, rather than blindly following directions.

I had to lol that so many others end up sewing in their underwear. I thought it was only me!
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: May 22nd, 2010 06:33 pm (UTC) (link)
Oh a cornstarched string across a doorway - clever! Yeah, I don't follow those steps on every project... it's nice to have them in my back pocket when I need them though.

I don't sew in my underwear but I am frequently to be found in my pjs!
gilded_garb From: gilded_garb Date: May 21st, 2010 03:24 am (UTC) (link)
I'd take that class! I honestly didn't know for many years that you were supposed to do crazy things like pressing seams or checking grain lines. The down side of being self taught...So much of my sewing is haphazard, it's vaguely embarrassing. My mother gave me a sewing machine 8 years ago, showed me how to straight stitch and reverse, and that was it. It was rather similar to my experience learning to drive a manual transmission. ;o)

jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: May 22nd, 2010 06:37 pm (UTC) (link)
Well I don't think you are alone... :> That is the way I am with things like draping, fitting and pattern drafting. I know I make lots of mistakes and make more work for myself because I don't really know what I'm doing. I've really been learning the limits of my abilities with these commissions!
msmcknittington From: msmcknittington Date: May 21st, 2010 03:43 am (UTC) (link)
I always sew hems by hand! My sewing machine does the most disgusting topstitching (OK, the fault might be on my part) and I don't like using the blind-hem foot.

I used to have someone else mark my hems for me, but then I got a dressmaker's dummy and a hem-marker and have never looked back. I can do it on my own now, and it is such a relief. I feel like such a goober having someone else mark my hem, because I end up trying to give directions while holding perfectly still.
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: May 22nd, 2010 06:38 pm (UTC) (link)
I used too... I've gotten very lazy in my old age with the hand sewn hems. :>
padawansguide From: padawansguide Date: May 21st, 2010 03:54 am (UTC) (link)
That's funny - I never bother with any of that stuff, but I always do hems by hand if I can help it. (Doesn't mean I like doing them though!)
padawansguide From: padawansguide Date: May 21st, 2010 04:22 am (UTC) (link)
Ok, just read the article - really cute.

And I do iron fabric. It's the only thing I actually do iron. I would never actually iron a shirt. Just fabric. ;-)
green_martha From: green_martha Date: May 21st, 2010 12:54 pm (UTC) (link)
Hah ! I'm not the only one ! (though I do occasionnally iron my work clothes, working retail does that to you...)
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: May 22nd, 2010 06:39 pm (UTC) (link)
I know - what irons are for regular clothes? I thought they were just for sewing! :P
unclrashid From: unclrashid Date: May 21st, 2010 05:17 am (UTC) (link)
I have pulled threads all the way across to ascertain the straight grain. But I do it grudgingly and only on slinky fabrics that also refuse to just tear on the grain.
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: May 22nd, 2010 06:40 pm (UTC) (link)
Yeah I don't do it on anything I can tear without too much stretching... life is too short right? :>
suededsilk From: suededsilk Date: May 21st, 2010 05:45 am (UTC) (link)
The power of advertising! :P It was a really enlightening blog post for me, actually, even though it was just supposed to be funny. After all, the original story wasn't an article - it was a (long, illustrated, possibly instructive) ad for Vogue patterns! Naturally, they wanted to present sewing a Vogue dress as an easy weekend project. I can see a '50s wife laughing her head off at the ad, just like we are today. But the advertising was what survived and became a common ideal...even though it wasn't necessarily the norm. That's my theory, anyway.

(The techniques she's using are's just that the techniques don't always go *smoothly* for most of us. :D)

I'm in the "religiously straighten the grain" camp too, because I think cutting pieces on the proper grain is essential. Tearing is easier, but I've been known to pull threads when that doesn't work. And I press everything like crazy - it *does* make a big difference!
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: May 22nd, 2010 06:43 pm (UTC) (link)
Yeah, I've learned the hard way to respect the grain!! If you diss it it plays very nasty indeed.

The single most important thing my Mom ever taught me about sewing was to press every step along the way. She said it was the differnce between a garment that looks like it was made at home and one that doesn't - it's really true. The iron it's a blessed thing!
tonyadmay From: tonyadmay Date: May 21st, 2010 01:32 pm (UTC) (link)
I think that "Mrs. Vogue" should be entered as a permanent addition to our unwritten terminology a la "WWKD." ;)
From: hohenstein Date: May 21st, 2010 06:16 pm (UTC) (link)

I think "Mrs Vogue" should be added to our terminology as the equivalent of Martha Stewart.

jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: May 22nd, 2010 06:44 pm (UTC) (link)
Seconded! :>
fancyfrocks From: fancyfrocks Date: May 21st, 2010 05:06 pm (UTC) (link)
Heck yes! I'd take that class from you!
I love that article.
From: hohenstein Date: May 21st, 2010 05:27 pm (UTC) (link)

I was extremely lucky to have been taught by 2 traditional tailors & a couture seamstress. I didn't realize for a long time that the techniques they taught their students were unusual in the current quickie "make it in an hour, e-z pattern" world. I think it finally hit me when I went through the instructions of a "very difficulT" rated Vogue pattern & mentally said "ok, cartridge pleats, customized fitting, interlining, etc, whats the problem, I do these all the time". Threads magazine, years ago, did an interesting comparison article on a commercial "retro" pattern. They had someone sew 2 identical dresses, one with the techniques that would have been used on that type of dress in the 1950s, including a waist tape & interlining; the other with the modern shortcut techniques in the re-issued pattern. They then compared the results point by point. The old-style techniques won hands down!

From: hohenstein Date: May 21st, 2010 06:14 pm (UTC) (link)

It just sort of dawned on me that Mrs. Vogue seems to have had a whole leisurely weekend for sewing (yes, I know its an ad, not real life). No children to take care of, no household chores to do; obviously Mrs. Vogue is so organized that she has gotten everything done during the week. Even though I'm a housewife & theoretically have all week to do the housework, I'm still doing things on the weekend. Sigh, I guess I would never have been featured as Mrs. Vogue...(besides, I have a figure that generally needs multiple muslins for fitting, no matter what company made the pattern).

chloeandrudy From: chloeandrudy Date: May 22nd, 2010 02:55 am (UTC) (link)
I do some of those, and not others. I'm bad about pressing fabric, have never pressed a pattern, but always press my seams. That got drilled into me in high school home economics class. I've never pulled a thread, but many times have torn off the end to get the straight of grain. Can't tell you how many times I bought fabric that had been cut crooked, and wasted part of the fabric because it was off.
My Mom used to be able to make me a dress in a day. I still pull my hair out trying to live up to that.
I think that would be a very instructive class. So many girls have grown up now that never had the benefit of home economics classes to learn to sew and cook. Very sad.
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: May 22nd, 2010 06:46 pm (UTC) (link)
It is sad, and one of the reasons sewing and taking care of a home are really becoming lost arts.
girliegirl32786 From: girliegirl32786 Date: May 22nd, 2010 03:01 am (UTC) (link)
I totally take that class too! Just to learn how to do things "right" even if I dont always end up doing them that way. ;)
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: May 22nd, 2010 06:49 pm (UTC) (link)
Exactly! Mom used to tell me, when she was teaching me all this stuff, you can do it the way you want when you've been sewing for a while but in the begining you will do it right. I used to roll my eyes and her but now I'm glad she did it that way!
From: ccsewing Date: May 25th, 2010 06:40 pm (UTC) (link)
I press seams too. Hems are usually blind-hemmer with modern garments, handsewn with historical reproductions. I haven't done the grain thingy with pulling the thread. I should try that next time I use a fabric that won't tear. I do always press the paper pattern pieces. I just can't stand wrinkly pattern pieces. I also do the layout the way the pattern says! Unless I'm trying to get the pattern pieces out of less fabric than it calls for. I wouldn't baste together a whole dress. I'd make a toile out of muslin, leaving off the sleeves. And I have hubby mark my hems for me. He's an engineer and a carpenter, so is very exacting in the marking.

Although the article is more of an advertisement, I really enjoyed the vintage charm of it. I know it doesn't reflect reality even for then, but wouldn't it be nice to have an entire uninterrupted weekend to sew?!
25 comments | comment?