Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Clothes, sewing and value

For a blog about vintage sewing I realise there hasn't been much sewing on here...ahem.  I have to admit, that instead I've been, well, SEWING! Obsessively and to the exclusion of many other things in my life (such as housework and eating).

Clearly things cannot go on like this. And perhaps they won't. But for now, the creative buzz I get and the amount I learn from every piece is just so valuable to me. I was reading over some of Gertie's old posts recently when I came across one she titled 'Why I sew', including how dreaming of sewing projects keeps her awake at night...um, I know how that feels. I am an olympic sleeper but when I'm in the middle of a project I can slap that alarm on and leap out of bed an hour early just to get some stitching in before work.

It appears that I am not crazy and also I am not the only one. Many of Gertie's readers cited the ability to self-determine their wardrobe as a key factor in why they sew, and how disappointed they are with much of what's available RTW. I would have to agree that it's very liberating to be free from needing to buy whatever is offered by chain stores and the like. However I also think it has given me a great appreciation for what some RTW collections CAN achieve for the price they ask, now that I know how hard it is to create certain finishes and pieces.

Take this morning, I saw a girl in a cute black and tan striped T-shirt with a large black sequinned love heart in the middle. It looked adorable. I don't know what she paid for it, but I do know that I couldn't replicate that sequinned love heart in a month of sundays! Maybe I'm exaggerating, but what I mean is, if someone's charging $50-60 for that T-shirt, I think that's pretty reasonable given how long it would take to sew on those sequins. Now, whoever did sew on those sequins probably didn't do it by hand and almost certainly didn't get paid enough for their skill, but that's another issue.

I just want to say, some clothes should probably cost more than they do.We can thank mass manufacturing for making clothes more affordable. Sewing has given me a lot more respect for the clothes I see in stores, but I'm glad I can now make my own too.

One label that I definitely think is worth its price is Melbourne designer Anna Thomas, check out her SS12 campaign. I love her ladylike styling and luxe finishes. I was especially chuffed to see a stunning black linen sheath dress with green bias trim...is there anything bias binding can't improve?

I would also love to own the entire Jigsaw Australia Spring 2012 collection (except the hems are too short for me!). Love the linen dress with scallop trim, and the liberty-print dress with triangle back cut-out. I used to find their items a little expensive, but now when I look at their finishes and fabrics sometimes I wonder how they manage to make it for that price.

Oh, and I promise to get some actual photos of sewing up here soon!

Monday, September 17, 2012

How to shop for vintage clothing, continued...

So let's re-cap, what do we need for a successful vinage shopping trip? Take a look back at the first post I made on this topic. Ready for more? Ok, let's go...

5. Inspect carefully for marks and stains. Don’t expect perfection, as these clothes are 60+ years old now. You will pay more for ‘dead stock’ (items with the tags still on and never worn, sometimes called ‘NOS’ - new old stock). Finding a mark isn’t the end of the world, but consider if the item can be hand-washed, dry-cleaned or covered up with an accessory.

6. Check carefully for wear and tear. Think of your own wardrobe – your evening wear probably gets worn once a year for only a few hours; your daywear on the other hand may get worn and laundered multiple times in a fortnight. The only way to preserve a worn-out dress is not to wear it much, so weigh that up against how much is being asked for it.

7. Talk to your vintage seller and get to know her. Good vintage sellers will be honest with you and they care about the homes their pieces go to. If something doesn’t fit well, and alteration is not an option, they’ll usually be honest rather than just try to make a sale. And a conversation about your mutual passions and particular sartorial desires can often result in a special something being brought out from a cabinet or back room.

8. Footwear is important too. When vintage shopping you’ll need something you can walk all day in, but to really get the most out of trying on vintage styles you must have heels. Carry a pair of neutral-coloured heels with you. Black or beige will go with most outfits and give you a more accurate reading of the look you’ll achieve.

9. Price. What is vintage fashion worth, and how do you evaluate a piece? The answer is as varied as a piece’s age, rarity, source, profit-margin, uniqueness, market value – I could go on. Knowledge is your best tool, and studying the market online on sites like Etsy is a helpful indicator. Some sellers are willing to bargain, especially if you buy more than one piece. Just remember that every piece is unique. When you compare vintage items to similar high quality pieces made today, they are still exceptionally good value.

Is there anything you'd add to this list?

The Love Vintage summer vintage fair was on in Sydney last weekend, and Melbourne is coming up in October. Arm yourself with a tape measure, some high heels and an eye for a bargain, then get out there and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

How to shop for vintage clothing

I wanted to share with you some tips on vintage shopping that I have gathered over the years, I confess this post got so long that I’ll be posting it in two parts!

First, the incomparable Joan Holloway. Just because my blog needs a picture of her. She's a woman who knows how to show off her advantages and dress for her figure - a great role model to think of when shopping for vintage clothing.

Before stretch fabrics existed it was even more important to dress to suit your figure than it is now – nothing would fit otherwise! And you may have found the same frustrations when shopping for vintage clothing today.

Studying vintage sewing patterns and sizing has helped me to understand better the change in proportion over the decades and how it's really the ratio between bust-waist-hip that dictates the look of that time. 1950s dresses typically have a 10” difference between bust and waist. The 1920s silhouette was flat-chested and boyish. The good part is that with the benefit of hindsight and a love of vintage, you now get to pick and choose what suits you best. 
Here’s my advice to ensure a pleasant and fruitful vintage shopping trip.

The Elevator Girl’s Top Tips for Shopping Vintage

1. Measure your bust, waist and hip (while wearing the correct underwear, see point 4 below). Take these measurements with you when you shop.
2. Take a tape measure with you on your shopping trip. Not all vintage sellers provide sizes or waist measurements on their sale tags, and even if they do it may not be exactly accurate.
3. A 1-2” difference in any of those measurements is not a disaster. Sometimes alterations are possible, and while I don’t condone upcycling such as hacking off deep hems, small alterations can be done and indeed were often planned for in the construction of the garment.
4. I can’t stress enough how important period-specific undergarments are to the overall fit. Wearing vintage style underwear on your shopping trip will give a much more positive result when you try on your dream dress.