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:
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