Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Everything Old is New Again


Would you just look at this book cover? Isn't it a hoot?

If you have ever searched a sewing book on Amazon you know that at the bottom of the page are thumbnails suggesting other books you may like. Often these are way off the mark but other times these thumbnails make me aware of sewing books I  have never heard of. I then use those suggestions to order these books through my library. This one, The Illustrated Hassle Free Make Your Own Clothes Book by Joan Wiener and Sharon Rosenberg just came in through my inter library loan service.

Why would I review a sewing book from 1970? Mostly because it is positively hilarious. But I also have a point to make here. The book review:

I lived through this era. It was my teens and early twenties. It was the age of Aquarius, Woodstock, Janice Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. Gotta love the music! During this time I was sewing my brains out, prom gowns, winter coats, jackets and even my wedding gown. But while I was occasionally  attempting to sew a Vogue Couturier pattern ( loved Jean Patou), and I do mean attempt, others had a free-er, less inhibited approach to sewing and pattern making. Sound familiar and contemporary? Oh, yeah, I embroidered my jeans, wore Jessica McClintock hippie dresses and even sported those embarrassing bell bottoms. I see the slightest bell shapes to jeans today and I run like the world behind me is on fire. They didn't look good then and they don't look good now. But when you are young and impressionable you go with the flow. Peer pressure maybe? AC-DC? There is actually an entire chapter on "AC-DC" clothing. Huh?

                                                     Jessica McClintock Gunne Sax dress that was just like the one I had. So virginal! Mine was pink.

I can't tell you how funny and enjoyable I found this book. Let me pass along a few quotes for you. From the jacket blurb: "Men, Women, Brothers and Sisters, AC-DC, boys and girls, little kids, grannies and Aunt Lil too (you've been doing it wrong for years)-listen. There's no need to lock yourselves into fickle friends of transient and exploitive plastic fashions. WEAR WHAT YOU WANT! ...MAKE YOUR OWN CLOTHES! No kidding: inexpensive, comfortable, groovy to wear, simple to do for humans of all age, size sex and affiliation."  These sentences just reek Sixties and the lack of political correctness is refreshing. In the sixties it was "hassle free" and in the '010s it's "improvisational sewing".

More: "We don't use darts on tops because we don't use bras - they give your clothes a funny shape." Not sure if they mean the bra, the darts or both!

"What  this book won't help you do is make clothing that has stuff like darts." Today's version, " this book won't help you make clothes that fit".

What the book does is dis machine sewing but eventually acknowledges it goes faster so why not? I saw this exact same introduction to a contemporary book that came out some months back. It also dissed the machine, called it intimidating and unnecessary. And patterns? Both the old and new books  thought they were overwhelming and totally unnecessary. Seems the rejection of traditional sewing is far from a new creative vision when it comes to selling sewing books.

Here is a page from the book showing how to tie a tee shirt into something a bit more provocative:

And before Pinterest, no less! And here is a page from the book, "99 ways to cut, sew, trim & tie your t-shirt" by the Compai lifestyle bloggers:

Not much different!

So I am not actually reviewing these books. I wouldn't have either in my sewing library. I will say that the "hippie" book does offer some good information on hand stitching and using RTW garments to copy for patterns. While the technique may not be Kenneth King's it will get you there in a rougher sort of way. If you lived through the sixties, you will get a big kick out of reading it. It does document an interesting era of American history and the fashion worn at that time. And the tee shirt book, well you can only cut so much out of a tee shirt before it starts getting a bit slutty and by the time you get to #99 there some pretty slutty fashion happening. If you are into "festival" clothing, aka "hippie rehash", you  might get a kick out of that one. Just know these books are in your libraries and you don't have to actually spend money to get them. Read them for the fun of it, not out of any expectation of inspiration or excellence....Bunny

31 comments:

  1. "Run like the world behind you is on fire" You are a hoot, Bunny! We are of similar age. I love the "discovery" that there is nothing new under the sun.

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    1. Well, I have seen so much in the blogsphere lately about the newest sewing books out and how simple and off message they are. I agree but I wanted to show that this has been going on a long time and not just the result of the current resurgence of sewing.

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    2. I truly am happy to know that the "new trend" of shapeless, no detail, no fit garment patterns etc. being flogged on the internet are likely to go the way of the fashions of the Sixties. The one that really got to me was the popular blogger/facebooker who was so proud of the knit maxi skirt she made. In the tutorial she said, "You can hem yours if you want, I don't hem."

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    3. I think you got my point, Georgia!

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  2. Bell bottoms, fraying my jeans, Janis Joplin, and don't forget - our generation invented tie-dye :)

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    1. There is a section in the book on how to do tie dye. Just yesterday I looked at all the tie dye kits at JAs. Everything comes around.

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  3. Where IS my "like" button when I need it?! I love the part where the author says this book won't help you sew "stuff with darts". Don't get me wrong, I DO love a caftan but I can't wear that to work so darts are necessary -at least from 9 to 5.

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    1. Lots of caftan info in the book. I think that's the AC-DC stuff.

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  4. I look at it this way, books like this are what helped me along the way early on. So, I'm just grateful :) for them.

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    1. They often serve as a great introduction to sewing. Then, like everything else, we can stay at that level or move on, in this case, to the world of darts!

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  5. LOL! I used to have that book...

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  6. Not too long ago I found a copy of this book in my favorite used bookstore. Bought it immediately since I remember it from back then. Did you know that there's also the follow-up book: Son of Hassle Free Sewing?

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  7. I owned that book, back in the day, (though my sewing skills were even then already beyond what they were suggesting, and with my figure I never found darts,or bras, to be unnecessary!)

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  8. Just want to add I was ordering a game cam on Amazon a few minutes ago and popping up in those thumbnails were FOUR books, other than the one mentioned, for tieing teeshirts. They appear to all be contemporary. You can have the 108 ways, the 101, ways, etc. More to check out through the library!

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  9. That's just too funny!!! "Groovy to wear" - my favorite. LOL! I also love that the darts make the clothes look funny. Thanks for the laugh!

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  10. Thanks, Bunny, this is a hoot! I too lived through it. You've brought back some fun memories. And oh those pesky darts!

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  11. Are you dissing my Gunne Sax wedding dress? That went with the big floppy hat? :-) Purchased at Foxmoor. I'm pretty sure I wore it with my shoes purchased from Thom McAn. In other news, my daughter found a photo of me in a pair of hot pants I made circa 1972 and has requested a pair.

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    1. I would never dis your Gunne Sax dress. I loved mine and schlepped a lot of burgers to pay for it. I'm pretty sure it was sixty dollars and that was back then a huge sum of money for a high school kid to come up with. Today it looks like something women wear on those compounds in Texas.

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  12. I, too, lived through the era (and may have owned the book--just saying). You run from bell bottoms, for me it's "space dyed" yarn and that infernal "bubble knit"! Thanks for the memories.

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  13. Wouldn't it be great to have the same models pose again in those clothes to see how things have changed? I married in 71, wore hot pants but never managed to attend a love-in or music festival and kept my bra on. I miss Mama Cass and Janis Joplin!

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    1. I passed on the hot pants, just too much booty. but I did do a mean festival of over 300,000. Saw Sly and the Family Stone, lots more. I think we flew home in a Volkswagon.

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    2. "flew home in a Volkswagen" ! Didn't we all do that in those days?

      How many VW Beetles did you own?

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  14. Hilarious. I never feel old until I see something that reminds me of just how bizarre those times were: almost embarrassing! But very funny. When I think of the incredible Merivale & Mr John long dresses I used to wear in the city in daytime...

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  15. Too funny!
    Is that 'hippie rehash," or"hippie hash"?? ;)

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  16. Well, Bunny, that has to be the funniest post I've seen since I started following your blog. I laughed out loud.

    And the progression of the slutty t-shirts.

    Last year I while re-organizing my sewing cabinet, I came across a chunk of denim with a piece of embroidery from my bell-bottom days. I'd saved it all these years as I'd put so much effort into the design and work. What to do? It seems my age group has adopted the "Tilley Hat" and they all look the same. So with some fiddling I managed to hand sew it on to the front crown, denim and all, so now I know for sure which one is mine when we are out on paddling trips. Great memories too.

    Great non-reviews of these books. Do tell if you come across any more of this ilk. My era too. Thanks for posting these memories. P.S. I'm 68, married in 1969.

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  17. The high class hippie-style outfit that I created in that era was a pant suit made from a length of silk sari fabric. It was turquoise with a wide embroidered gold border. Since I was self-taught in the sewing department I had no clue about finishing seams of silk. The first time I wore it, all the seams pulled apart at the stress points. Since it was too shredded to be repaired, I never really had the opportunity to wear it in all it's sartorial splendor to any substantial event. What a lesson. Fortunately my mother worked in the store that sold these so the fabric wasn't that expensive for that experiment.

    Of course today, for reasons other than style, I wouldn't dream of either creating or wearing a garment like that. That was my first big sewing disaster, never to be forgotten.

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  18. I *ahem* might have owned that book. :::koffkoff:::

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  19. I will happily, and with no embarrassment, admit to owning first edition copies of Hassle-Free, and Son of Hassle-Free. AND I had to pull Hassle-Free out just last year, when my son wanted to dress as a Hendrix-era rocker for Halloween, and I, for the life of me, couldn't remember how we used to make straight-legged jeans into bellbottoms. I even had enough vintage floral ribbon with a velvet edge to run around the cuffs. Talk about DEEP stash! Love the non-review!

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