After a long break, I'm getting back to a tour through my vintage fashion library shelves with one of my personal favorites.
The Complete Book of Sewing: Dressmaking and Sewing For the Home Made Easy by Constance Talbot, 1943 original edition.
A how-to sewing book is a basic helpful reference, where you can get a better understanding of zippers and facings and the difference between ruching and shirring. There are a lot of them around and you can usually take your pick of several "how-to-sew" books on the bookshelves at your local thrift store. Most of them are perfectly practical and useful, and well illustrated. But this one is something special IMHO. You’ll get the basics with chapters on seams, darts and pleats, hems and facings, and so on.
But this book has sooo much more, a veritable time capsule of women’s lives in the early 40s. Firstly, there are multiple illustrations on every page; most of them line drawings with color accents but also some black & white photos. Because the book was published in 1943, they show in copious detail how women of that era dressed and lived down to the most minute detail.
There’s a chapter on Underwear for All the Family where you can learn how to make “luxury underwear” as well as robes from blankets. The chapter on Accessories and Gifts has simple patterns for evening bags, belts, and a turban as well as advice on how to change your accessories to reflect the seasons.
There’s an entire chapter on Caring for Clothes and another on The Fine Art of Mending – if you ever wanted to know how to darn stocking or repair your girdle, you’ll find advice here. My favorite chapter is probably the one called Restyling—Remodeling—Remaking. These were the WW2 years, the years of rationing, and many of the housewives this book was written for knew how to Make Do after the Depression years. So here, you learn how to make two new dresses from three old ones by combining parts, how to turn worn cuffs and collars in men’s shirts, how to turn a dress with underarm rips and worn neckline into a sleeveless vee-neck jumper.
Or you can make like Scarlett O’Hara and make a button front jumper, a summer dirndl skirt or a “practical and smart looking housecoat” from old curtains, tablecloths or bedspreads.
There is so much to love about this book. I have barely scratched the surface.