Book Review: Vintage Lingerie, Historical Patterns & Techniques by Jill Salen
Beautiful, fine silk lingerie items are one of those things which we consider to be the sort of luxury we would rarely - if ever - buy for ourselves due to the sometimes eye wateringly expensive price. As sewists, we can often look at garments in shops and say “i can make that” (for a fraction of the cost), and so we can too with lingerie - even the type you see in high end shops such as Agent Provocateur and Coco de Mer. Finding commercial lingerie patterns in the styles and shapes of yesteryear however, is difficult if not impossible but Jill Salen, a professional costumer of some renown and with a special interest in historical underwear, has come to the rescue!
This book contains no less than 30 well chosen, historically accurate patterns taken from museum collections. From the 1850’s to the 1970‘s some items could even be customised as outer wear for today, and some, though vintage, have as classic as shape yesterday as they do today. All are thoroughly inspirational and beautiful.
Each item in the book has 3 or 4 pages dedicated to it - at least one full page colour photograph alongside a description including relevant dates, fabrics used, measurements, embellishments, and historical notes. The pattern then follows, scaled down on squared graph paper which is easy to scale up to the size of the original garment. These scale drawings include the pattern pieces with balance marks and also fine embellishment details and diagrams for things which may be hard to follow from just the photograph - ie: different types of stitching, closures, edgings, facings and attachments.
This book is not aimed at beginners. It is assumed that people accessing these patterns, are used to sewing garments together, fairly confident at using scale patterns and comfortable with working intuitively from brief instructions to make something fit a modern body - though it is recommended by the author to first to make a garment to scale and find somebody to fit the garment so that they way it works can be observed as it would have been intended. A basic knowledge of pattern cutting would be useful though not essential.
That said, for the less confident, there are 2 full projects included in the book. which give a list of materials required, plus detailed step by step instructions on how to make each item - a black net brassier from 1930 which looks remarkably modern and risque, and a very cleverly patterned 1905 petticoat designed to give maximum ‘swish’ and embellished with pretty ribbon and layers of lace.
There are notes in the back of the book which include brief instructions on how the scaled patterns are used followed by more detailed notes on various hand sewing techniques commonly used in vintage lingerie, such as making button loops, scallop edging, attaching hooks and eyes, fagotting and making broderie anglaise details, to name but a few.
In summary, this is another excellent and inspirational book by Jill Salen (her first was dedicated entirely to corsetry). Along with the individual patterns and beautiful pictures, there is a wealth of information on how and where different fabrics and other materials were used in lingerie, and all of this knowledge can be applied to different projects whether for underwear, corsetry or dressmaking, and ofcourse there is also a list of suppliers, extensive further reading, list of useful website resources and a very handy glossary.
copyright, Sew Curvy Corsetry, originally published at The Sewing Directory