What’s Old is New Again

This morning I made a quick run to my local “sewing & craft” store for a couple of small things. Generally I am not over in the jewelry making and paper crafting area but I needed some small cardboard gift boxes to ship a jewelry order. I’d run out and really didn’t feel like ordering another gross! While there I stumbled across this interesting item – with a sign about how it is the “latest innovative tool” for a variety of paper crafting hobbies.

Description from the website ” The Typecast Retro Typewriter by We R Memory Keepers is the perfect retro typewriter for the modern maker. Quickly add journaling to layouts, cards, and other crafting projects. This typewriter is built to last as it is made with top quality internal metal mechanics. When not in use, it serves as an attractive and unique home décor piece. A large selection of colored inks and coordinating typecast paper accessories are available (sold separately). “

In taking a look online (don’t you love Google?) I not only found the description in the caption above but a couple of videos. From those videos I see that it is essentially a manual typewriter and those “colors sold separately” are good old style reel to reel ribbons impregnated with ink. The one in the video had black on the top and red on the bottom. Now who remembers those? And manual? Even my typewriter from college was electric! Just saw it in a storage cupboard the other day and was wondering why I was still hanging on to it. Guess this could be a reason.

I’m not bashing or making fun of those who might use this product. However, as it retails for nearly $170 if I were in the market I might haunt a few garage sales or thrift stores first! But it did start me thinking. Thinking about all of the things that at one time were considered essentially obsolete.

Like the corset for example. The arrival of the bra and girdle signaled the end of the corset industry, or so many thought. A few artisans remained to craft pieces for period piece movies and tv shows but other than that who wanted to wear a corset? Fast forward to today. While corset manufacturing may not be the widespread industry it once was, there is plenty of demand for corsets. To the extent that there are several sites online that sell a wide variety of styles at quite reasonable prices. Then there are the artisans. Redthreaded (@redthreaded) is one that I’ve followed for many years now, collaborated with, and who made a specialty piece for my daughter in law to wear with her late 1800s style wedding dress. You can find more about Redthreaded at redthreaded.com.

1880s era style gown made in candlelight Duchess satin and beaded Alencon laces has a paneled skirt, bustle drape, and off the shoulder bodice that closes in the back. Underpinnings include a corset by Redthreaded, lobster tail collapsible bustle, and lace edged petticoat. As part of the techniques used the interior of the hem was edged in a wide velvet ribbon to make cleaning easier. (@snowleopardcreations)

If you are a fan of Project Runway then you know one of the final 3 is a skilled corset maker who incorporated some form of corset into practically everything he made – sometimes as interior pieces to a garment’s structure and at other times as accessory pieces or accents. Yes, women are wearing corsets again. Not every day but for a special occasion, cosplay, as re-enactors at various historical locations, and so forth. In fact some people just find it fun to create and wear historic garments while visiting places around the world. One of these that I follow online is Dames a la Mode (@damesalamode). While a jewelry maker specializing in 18th & 19th century reproduction pieces, she is also a devotee of historic fashion and often posts photos of her and like minded friends in full period regalia at various places around the world. Recent postings have included a trip to Europe including Venice and an event at Colonial Williamsburg. All of which points to a resurgence of the “obsolete” corset. By the way you can find her work online at http://www.etsy.com/shop/damesalamode.

However, those corsets are being worn UNDER something and that something is historic garments. Which is one of my specialties. In addition to the wedding gown pictured above I created my own gown for the wedding. I’m also creating and shipping historic reproduction items for clients and theatrical productions on a regular basis. One of the big differences in making these pieces today compared to 100 years ago or more is the way we are making them. Yes, for those who want (and are willing to pay for) totally hand sewn bespoke pieces that can be done. But more usually a combination of machine and handwork is used incorporating historic approaches such as backing a hem with velvet ribbon. One of the more ingenious and practical “tricks” I’ve uncovered in my research is a “housewives tuck” in the back bodice of a mid 1800s gown. Skirts were extremely full while the bodice of gowns tended to be more fitted. When thinking of this era we often visualize the very fitted ballgown. But this technique was used in the more every day dress. The tuck was placed at the center back just at the waistline seam. It allowed the dress to be let out or taken in as needed while simply adjusting the fullness at the skirt back as sizing changed due to any variety of reasons. Below is a photo from a client in a dress of this type.

And that brings us back to my initial thought of the day – how much that was old and obsolete is being seen and used again. Another time we might explore the resurgence of fashion and home decor from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. But for now…take a look around and see what you’re enjoying from “days of old”!