Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Book Review: Vintage Lingerie

Here's what's on the nightstand*.

I think one of my post-leather jacket projects will be a kimono robe and some coordinated pjs and/or lingerie. I really want to sew up the one vintage pattern in my stash in the near future - a 1940's McCall's slip pattern. So, I bought this book for inspiration and practical knowledge and to expand my options.

The book is beautifully photographed, featuring loads of vintage lingerie from museum collections. A few pages are devoted to each set or piece, talking about how and when it was worn, what it was typically made from, who (age/class) wore it, etc. It is very inspiring in that regard. Some of the pieces are absolutely stunning and I really love thumbing through this book - it's rich in the fantasy and inspiration department.

The patterns are definitely not for beginners. They are basically small graphed drawings that you have to enlarge by hand or copier, and then add seam allowances, etc. The grid needs to be enlarged to 1'x1' squares, but the book doesn't specify what percentage to enlarge by (I have one book that tells you to enlarge by say 400% so there is no guess work and you can use a photocopier). The patterns only come in the size of the actual garment, so there would be grading involved too.

There are two patterns at the back of the book - a 1930's mesh brassiere (bralet by todays standards) and a 1905 long half slip - that come with step-by-step instructions. But aside from those, there are just a few pages of general techniques for the whole rest of the book. Sewing any of the other patterns would require a lot more of an investment in terms of figuring out how to construct them and add the embellishments (lace, trim, hand embroidery) which is what is so lovely about many of these piece. That said, this would not be insurmountable for an experienced and confident sewist with a grasp of lingerie construction. Plus some patterns (Pantaloons (bloomers), tap pants and bralettes) would be much easier than others (a boned corset that doesn't mention how many and where the bones go).

Every time I flip through this book I want to sew something from it. But I think what is likely to prevent me from sewing anything in the near future is that these are not vintage-style patterns; they are patterns for actual vintage lingerie. Silhouettes have changed over the years and women's figures have changed, too. So, many of these garments won't really fit the way I would come to expect/want from my lingerie (ie: '50's pointy busts, 20's/30's flattened busts...) But for those who want actual historic lingerie, this is indeed a goldmine of opportunities. 

Anyway, this will probably be an inspirational book for me for the foreseeable future rather than a practical one. But it definitely gets the thumbs up from me on that count. It really is fun to read about the different pieces and their histories and to ooh and ahh at all the pretties.

* Sorry for the lack of pictures. There aren't any pictures from inside the book on any on line book seller sites and taking pictures with my camera didn't work out so well. Oh well. 


Sherry said...

Here on the other side of the world I have this book on my nightstand too! I got it out of the library last week and it is so good I was thinking of doing a review as well! There is so many things I'd love to make - particularly the blue 1930's drawn threadwork slip on page 46!

Clio said...

That slip caught my eye, too, and isn't really one of the more challenging projects I think. I'm just not sure it would work with my shape. *Sigh*