Whether through necessity because of a lack of finances or fabric rations, women back in the day made it a habit of altering the clothing they already had to make it feel fresh and new again. To me, this is a lost art! How many times, before discovering vintage, did I throw out a garment because it got a hole in it? How many vintage pieces do we overlook because of fading or discoloration, relegating it to the dreaded "as is" pile? Well, no longer! This month I will be going through the steps of a major make do and mend project, and I'll be sharing what I learn with all of you! I'll also have a couple smaller ones as well. Hopefully they'll inspire you to refresh the items you have in your wardrobe already, too!
I'm going to show you the garment I'm going to majorly alter in a post coming soon, but today I want to talk about the kinds of alterations that were common in the first half of the 20th century. Women used lots of creativity to adjust sizing, cover up repairs, and bring new personality to old garments. Here are some actual vintage garments showing the ways women embraced "make do and mend":
They crocheted, knitted, and sewed new cuffs, collars, trims, and hats to accessorize plain dresses. (Source)
This dress shows how women took dresses and added bits to match new trends. The photo shows the woman on the right wearing the dress in the 20s, and sometime in the 30s she added a cape to fit the new, more feminine silhouette. Isn't it cool to see a garment on its original owner?! (Learn more about the garment on the University of Georgia Historic Clothing & Textile FB page. Photo credit for dress picture: Charity Calvin)
They also made accessories out of old items. This lady took old shoe laces and made floral corsages out of them! (Tutorial here!)
GASP, they even cut new garments out of old ones! Heaven forbid! (Source)
Here's a video highlighting some other ways women revamped their clothing. The robe made of scraps is my favorite!
I think we vintage wearers live with this idea that women bought new clothes to follow all of the latest trends. While I'm sure many wealthy ladies did just that, the vast majority of women, especially in the 30s and 40s, were digging in their grandma's attic to find clothes to re-do! They reused beaded bits from old 20s dresses, the trims from their grandma's Victorian clothes, and added waistlines back to their flapper dresses when the 30s came around. While I'm not a huge proponent of the idea that we should alter all the vintage... we should use these skills to save vintage that might otherwise be thrown away, unwearable, or homely looking due to aging.
Not to mention, there are no holds barred when it comes to altering the pieces we've sewn from scratch! I know I've made several projects that just don't work anymore, and I'd love to give them some updates. These classic make do and mend tips can help us learn to be content with the items we have while unleashing the creativity!
What garment(s) just isn't working in your wardrobe right now that could be revived with a little creativity? What is your favorite vintage make do and mend solution you've seen on a garment?