Now, let’s see what I got for you today…
A long time ago, back in 2011, I bought some sewing patterns while being on a study trip to Dresden.
One of the was this 40ies pattern with different projects in “traditional dress”-style.
Popular belief thinks that these traditional dresses once were the festive costumes of peasants, but the traditional dress as we know today is majorly a 19th century invention, based on traditional and simple peasant costume, but entirely constructed. The ‘why’ can be discussed rather controversely. You can call it a longing for tradition and history, an attempt to picture the past and the “good old times”, you can see the construction of a national identity, maybe of something called patriotism.
Well, nobody needs to have studied politics to guess that all these reasons made traditional dress a very popular style in Nazi-Germany. These costumes helped to form an image of the german nation, the rural life and peasants as the fundament of the nation’s unity and strength. To make this clear: I still have issues using this pattern, because apart from “normal” fashion, that could be political, but didn’t have to, this “traditional”-style was without a doubt used in a propagandistic and therefore very political way.
Being born German, having Grand-Parents who had to live under this regime, who suffered from and survived the war, the last thing I want is to romanticize this time and you will never hear me utter a word like “I love the 40ies” or me speaking of WWII-reenactment. I like 30ies and 40ies fashion, internationally seen, because aside from regional differences you can observe the same cuts and styles in pretty much the whole western world. I work with german patterns because I lived in (and still close to) Germany, so these are the patterns most easily accessible for me.
And one last note before we come to the project itself: I don’t like the other patterns of this set very much, so I don’t think I will be tempted to sew myself a 40ies-dirndl-style-dress in the nearer or farer future. And I try to convince myself that the woman who owned this pattern in the 1940ies didn’t like much of them, either: The marks on the pattern sheet show, the only garment that had ever been made from this sheet (or let’s say that left marks of its creation, surely I can’t say if other patterns were traced without a small ridged wheel) was the spencer, the jacket in the far right. And that isn’t very dirndl-like at all, in my opinion.
The reason why I bought this pattern (apart from its very low price) is the pattern second from the left, the coat. I already planned to sew it right after having bought the pattern and when I went to my hometown later in 2011 I went to the fabric store I used to work at and bought fabric for this project. An anthracite coat fabric, not made from wool, but from cotton, burgundy bias binding and matching lining.
Because it was already late autumn I didn’t manage to finish the coat to wear this 2011-winter season. In 2012 I spent the autumn months in France and came back home only in mid-december, to late to be motivated to finish this project. In autumn 2013 we moved and there wasn’t much time for sewing at all. But it brought the project back to my mind and because I really didn’t want to have it lying unfinished in my fabric-cupboard another summer, I forced myself to finally end this in early 2014.
The coat was one of my first attemps to use historical patterns and I made all the mistakes I could make. Even with modern pattern, sizing often tends to be too large. Today I know that this gets even worse with vintage patterns, but I didn’t know back then, so I cut the fabric according to the 88cm-bust-circumference without any alterations. I closed the seams in the front and attached the bias binding by hand. Only after having closed all the other seams to form the corpus I saw, the coat was far too large.
I managed to make it a little bit smaller shifting the side- and shoulder-seams as well as the seams in the centre back. Still it was far too wide, I had to add the diagonal darts in the back you can see in the photo above. What is really missing is an adjustment in the front. Only thing I was able to do there, was to cut back the front edges a tiny little bit, but because of the applied bias binding I had to leave the pricess seams as they were. Of course all those adjustments made the seam allowances very bulky and they were a pain even beforehand. The fabric floats very nicely, but at the same time it is kind of stiff, so I had to hand bast all the seam allowances to make them lie flat.
The armholes were a little too large after all the adjustments, but the sleeves themselves were just massive and very wide. The puff sleeves looked ridiculous and I had to remove a lot of fabric from the width of the sleeve itself as well as from the sleeve cap.
This fabric fringes horribly and I had to undo the sleeves three times and still the left one looks terrible.
Now, if these were all the problems I had faced, it would have been ok. I still longed to finally wear the coat and loved the colours as well as the pattern.
But the hem looks terribly crumpled, I re-did it a couple of times, the stitches still show and ironing just made it worse. The collar isn’t very flat either, normally I wear the coat with a large scarf so that the collar is hidden.
The worst flaw I only saw in this photos. The waist flounce isn’t on the same height left and right. When I looked at the pictures I was like “no, it only looks like this, can’t be”, but in fact, it is even worse when looking at myself in the mirror wearing it.
Surprisingly enough, the lining made no problems at all. You can see a button sewn onto the facing, it’s my spare one.
The buttons were another disappointment. During the two years it took me sewing it, I bought two different sets of buttons, both burgundy coloured, they both looked terrible when pinned on. So I used this ones I still had in my stash. They do not function at all, but hide the press fasteners beneath, I really didn’t want to sew buttonholes into this fabric.
I am still a little unsure what to do. The coat is somehow wearable, but I know I can do better and I know that this proof of my sewing skills is not what I want to be judged by. Additionally, it does nothing for me. It makes me look way larger than I actually am, the waist is not as accented as I would have liked it to be. So it really doesn’t improve my figure at all. This winter I will wear it, but it is nearly over, I can’t say if this coat will live another season. I planned to sew a matching hat, having a little leftover from the fabric as well as from the bias binding, but what for if I will never wear it because I don’t like the coat?
Now, I would love to hear your opinions, I’m off, love,