Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Classic Techniques (V1): Introduction

1. Introduction to the Classic Techniques
Enduring Styles: Understated and Adaptable

 The introduction discusses fashion and what constitutes a classic look.

Fashion changes constantly reflecting the mercurial nature of society. One can look at a style and name the decade it comes from as it captures the zeitgeist of the time.

I think that is true.  If you look closely, popular culture bears this out.  The clothing on the television series Madmen and Boardwalk Empire not only reveal the culture and spirit of the times they portray but they also inform and inspires today's designers such as Michael Kors and Marc Jacobs.
Michael Kors from
Marc Jacobs from

Broad popular social movements, prosperity, rebelliousness against the government's prohibition and the liberation from the corset informed the fashions of the day in the 1920's where licentiousness and gaity were reflected in film and literature.  Despite the suffragette's fight for the right to vote, women were still very much kept dependent, unable to open bank accounts without their husband's signature and despite the "It Girl" Clara Bow's bobbed hair popularity, the Mary Pickford/Lillian Gish ideal was still popular (long ringlets) depicting women's beauty in appearing like a young girl.
Clara Bow from

Lillian Gish from

The television series Mad Men reflects the early 1960's in which women, while not corseted, are quite tightly upholstered in girdles and brassieres.  Society's fashion and beauty ideals looked to the elegance of  Jacqueline Kennedy and the vulnerable sexiness of Marilyn Monroe.  The series displays the changes that occur as the country appears to transition from a childhood to a more cynical and limit-testing adolescence after the assassination of President Kennedy.  The girdles come off, the hemlines rise as they did in the 1920's and women demand more equal rights.  In a journey of independence from Sex and The Single Girl to The Feminine Mystique half the population wakes up and their clothes reflect this awakening.

Jackie Kennedy from

Marilyn Monroe from

Back to the book... The signature of a  Classic is the quality of  having permanence of shape and proportion that have endured over time.

What makes a Classic design?
1. Simplicity and adaptability.
2. Excellence in cut and proportion to maintain an essential shape.
3. Conservative color-- neutrals--black, white, grey, beige, navy.
4. Fabric--quality; inconspicuous and soft.  Think flannel, gabardine, plain weaves, thick weaves, jersey knits.  Subdued textures and pattern: herringbone, small check, subdued polka dot, pinstripes.

The Mother of the Classic Look in Modern Fashion:  Coco Chanel.   Her signatures looks were synonymous with comfort, function and minimal decorative touches.  Read more about her here:

Coco Chanel from

She made tanning popular too, which might also make her the Melanoma Momma as well.

Roots of the classic clothing are found in antiquities-- the skirt, the shirt/chemise, the tunic/sheath--over the years these basic garments were reinvented over and over again.

Evolution of the tunic from Ancient Egypt to Today.,,,,

    Simple designs demand quality of materials and construction to achieve a classic garment, one that stands out; that makes the difference between fashion from "just clothes." There are subtle differences in design and construction the maker institutes that causes the wearer to emphasize their best qualities and downplay unflattering features.  They make adjustments in hem, pleats or neckline that give the efffect of elegance rather than dumpiness.

    The ingredients for producing a classic garment are:
    1. The design of the pattern.
    2. Fabric thickness and texture.
    3. Fabric pattern and print scale and color.
    4. Quality of construction.

    While we might feel that our control extends only to #4-- quality of construction; the home sewer truly has control of it all.  In the fashion world, there are many people who work as a team to produce a collection. There is the designer who creates a design, hands it to a patternmaker who drapes or fabricates a pattern based upon the interpretation of the design.  There there is a sewer who zips a muslin together puts it on the fit model which is inspected once again by the designer who may make changes and that is repeated to their satisfaction until the final pattern is agreed upon.  The samples are made, it is shown by salesmen or showcase and orders are made, it is graded and then cut, then stitched by machine operators, sent to be pressed and then sent to the retail stores.

    Here we are, one person in our sewing room. There are hundreds of pattern designs available for our selection.  We have infinite and unlimited ability to make changes to these patterns.  We choose what fiber and type fabric to use, what colors, what prints, what reinforcement materials.  Then we fit our fit model-- whether is ourselves, our children or maybe even a customer.  We do the cutting, marking, sewing, pressing and the decorative details.  We choose the buttons, the zipper, the braid, the embroidery, what buttonhole type.  So yes, you are a one woman industry.

    While many people are intimidated by sewing, it is really probably easier than they think. Sewing is very logical.  Every elements of constructing a garment has a rationale that is easy to determine.  Darts clearly function to attractively fit fabric over the curves of a body.    For example, the armscye in which the shoulder is eased and the underarm curves are trimmed allow for the free movement of your arms and shoulders.  The logic of sewing construction in relation to movement and form makes fitting understandable as you work backward from which seam is causing an issue once you determine what that seam is supposed to accomplish.

    This first volume provides explanation of classic techniques that are used with every garment from setting a zipper, sewing a successful curved seam, to setting a waistband.

    The classic shapes include with variations: The Blouse/Dress; the Skirt, the Pant and the Coat/Dress/Jacket.

    Photo credits: Michael Kors design photp
    Marc Jacobs image
    Clara Bow photo
     Lillian Gish photo
    Jackie Kennedy pic
    Marilyn Monroe photo
    Coco Chanel photo
    Egyptian tunic
    Blue tunic
    lace 1800s dress
    1920's dress
    pink sheath dress

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