Modern pattern companies have started putting so much more time and and space into their directions. It’s so wonderful to have each step explained with corresponding blog posts, sew-a-longs, and lots of examples to peruse on Instagram. However, recently I found myself in need of an ensemble in the style of the 1910s. Between the centennial of World War One and the Women’s Suffrage Movement historical sewing has been on the rise. But where do you turn for appropriate patterns? No Cashmerette or Seamwork will do in this case!!!
Because I was dressing for accuracy and a specific year (1918), sourcing a pattern was a touch tough. People love to make the frothy pre-WWI garments, but serviceable wools and sailor collars are a little less in step with our current fashion. This meant that I ended up purchasing two patterns based on originals late 1910s patterns. For a shirt I turned to Wearing History’s Elsie Blouse which fits busts 32-48″ and for a skirt I used The Vintage Pattern Lending Library’s Ladies 1918 Two-Piece Skirt which is a one size only – 32″ waist.
Oh my goodness, can you even imagine the directions that came with 1910s patterns? Think Great British Baking Show technical challenge equivalent directions. Things like Step 1: Sew skirt. Step 2: Attach waistband. I nearly fell over in my chair. I’ve been sewing quite a long time, but I’d never seen directions so brief. And 1910s is all about tricky closures so its hard to tell where things open!
Why am I prattling on about this? Because we are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit. Just like those bakers on television, we all have a ton of base knowledge, but with modern patterns we rarely have to use our instincts. However, faced with extremely limited directions I had to suck it up and figure it out.
If you’ve made a blouse, you can make any blouse! Collars, cuffs, etc are mostly the same and seam ripping is always an option. The Elsie Blouse collar was nearly the same as a collar from an Ottobre magazine pattern I’d made recently. Referring to similar patterns for their directions is totally a legitimate source. So are You Tube sewing videos and basic sewing pattern books. For my historical project, I’m positive I didn’t do everything ‘correctly’, but does it matter? I think not. If you are happy with the end result, why dwell on the imperfections?
So while I’m glad for modern patterns with all their support, it felt really great to trust myself and sew by intuition instead. I think you could do it too! Have you every tested your skills?