Monday, May 14, 2012

How Long Should Clothing Last?

If you were reading my blog last week, you may recall this post about caring for your clothing.I wrote that post because I feel that my laundry routine needs to change in order to better care for my clothing. You also know that I have yet to decide upon a new laundry plan to ensure the survival of all my clothing, not just survival of the fittest. So, today, I though we'd talk about the lifespan of clothing. How long should clothing last?

Obviously, the type and purpose of clothing is going to be the leading factor in determining the life of clothes. A cocktail dress, assuming it doesn't go out of style, will have a much longer life than a basic t-shirt.

I am so tired of purchasing clothing from the store, only to have it fall apart a few washes later. I expect my clothing to last more than one season. I don't want disposable clothing!

For basic items that are worn on a regular basis, such as white camisoles that I like to layer , I expect these to last a minimum of one year. Do I always get a year out of them? Sadly, no. The longest lasting one I have was purchased at Eddie Bauer on clearance, but I have not been able to track down anymore. How long should a basic camisole last?

Next up is sweaters and cardigans, which I purchase mainly at thrift stores. These items seem to have a very short life span for me, despite gently washing them and always laying flat to dry. I wish I could afford to dry clean all my sweaters and never have to wash them in water. I think that a sweater or cardigan should last at least two or three years. I only have one black cardigan, a Cable and Gauge brand purchased at Ross, that has made it to the three year mark. I think I need to start washing all sweaters and cardigans by hand with Woolite perhaps.

Jeans are the next item on the list. While jeans seem to be a popular wardrobe splurge item, I will admit that I buy jeans from two places only: the thrift store and the clearance rack at Ann Taylor Loft. I never pay more than $20 for a pair of jeans. I have two major problems with jeans. Either the color fades too quickly, or they become worn on the legs where my thighs touch when walking. Jeans normally have a life span of about 18 months with me, though I have one pair of DKNY brand that are still going strong after 4 years. Ideally, I wish jeans would last for 3 to 4 years, but I don't know how to deal with the worn between the legs dilemma.

Next is regular, everyday tops and blouses, both woven and knit. This is a huge problem area and seems to be the most impacted by the disposable fashion mantra! Have you seen how thin t-shirts now seem to be? You're lucky to get five to ten wearings out of some of these! Knit tops seem to pick and pill almost instantaneously, which is unacceptable. I am lucky to get 4 to 6 months from a basic top before the worn effect starts to take over. I think a top or blouse should last 1 to 2 years, depending on how much it is worn.

Now lets talk about jackets. While it seems that RTW jackets are still of a decent quality, they still don't top the quality you'll find in vintage. The biggest problem with jackets, both vintage and new, is weak seams in the lining. It seems that shoddy sewing causes these week seams in new jackets, and in vintage jackets, years of perspiration weaken the underarm seams of the lining. A jacket should last at least 3 to 5 years, preferably more.

Next up is a rather tricky category: dresses.  Depending on the type of dress the lifespan varies greatly. A cocktail or party dress that worn just once a year will probably stay nice until it either goes out of style, or you get pregnant or hit menopause ( whichever life stage you're in) and it no longer fits. However, things like sundresses aren't going to last as long, particularly knit sundresses which a prone to picking and pilling. I think a basic, casual dress should last at least 3 years, where a dressier church or professional dress should last 5 years and onward.

Lastly, I will talk about coats. I greatly prefer vintage coats to modern ones. For me, a coat should last at least 10 years. Unfortunately, just like modern RTW jackets, the linings are pitifully thin in most coats and the seams are weak. I'm sure you can still buy a decent coat if you're willing to shell out a few hundred bucks, but alas I am not.

So, readers, I want to hear from you! Are you as bothered as I am about the lifespan of RTW clothing? How long do you expect your clothes to last?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Desr McCalls, We Need To Chat

That's right. I have a beef with the McCalls pattern company. Actually, I suspect that many of you have the same beef with them as well. Perhaps we should all band together and picket their headquarters, or start a petition on Well, I suppose I should tell you what has me so up in arms if I expect all of you to jump on the bandwagon with me.

So, here it goes. I want McCalls to reproduce their vintage patterns like Vogue and Butterick! Are you listening McCalls? I am rather positive there is a market for this. In my opinion, McCalls had some of the best designs in the 40s and 50s with great details and awesome draping. While, as longtime readers know, I have accumulated a stockpile of patterns, I truly don't have that many 40s McCalls. I do buy up every pre-80s pattern found at estate sales that I can get my selfish little hands on, but I am limited to what I find at sales.

Furthermore, I would like to propose that in addition to simply reproducing wonderful vintage designs, that the sewing public would be allowed to vote on which designs they'd like to be able to purchase. Now, for you skeptics among us, allow me to offer you some visual evidence as to why my pleas and demands should be answered.

Just take a moment and let the sheer awesomeness of this dress sink in. The high neckline and lowered back are perfect details. Ad how I wish I could find fabric that looks like the drawing. I nominate this pattern to be the first that McCalls recreates. Source

Next up in my visual argument is McCalls 8509, a fantastic "peeling petal" dress that has quite a few requests under the wanted section on the Pattern Wiki. I am positive that sewists would buy this pattern if it were offered for sale once again. Source

Isn't this one of the most lovely dresses you've ever seen? A late 40s, floor length, sweetheart neckline gown makes my heart beat a little bit faster. I would sew this up even if I had no where else to wear it but Wal-Mart. Source

How perfect would this cute little swimsuit be for summer? As someone who is a truly whiter shade of pale, a bathing suit that provides a bit more coverage for my pasty white skin is perfect. This suit would look cute and covers, without looking as if I shopped i the Alfred Dunner section. Please re-release this McCalls. Pretty please? Source

Now, how about this number? I could see this made up in a dressier fabric for night time, or a lighter fabric for an elegant sundress. And that sweet little bow is the icing on the cake. Source

This pattern would designed by the talented Pauline Trigere. Since I am not a lawyer I don't know what legalities would be involved in reproducing a "designer" pattern, but how I wish they would remake this one. Take a closer look at the drawing of the dress in white on the envelope, as it depicts the deep V shape of the back bodice. Source

Lastly, we have pictorial evidence that McCalls had some of the most interesting draping of all the pattern companies. While this pattern would surely be out of my current skill range, I'd buy a copy just to swoon at those envelope illustrations. Wouldn't you? Source

Truthfully, I could spend all day surfing the Pattern Wiki and finding patterns I'd love to be reproduced. To be quite honest, given the current vintage craze and Mad Men phenomena, I don't understand why McCalls hasn't started a vintage repro line.

So, readers, would you buy McCalls pattern is they released some vintage designs? Do you have pattern in particular you'd like to see reproduced? Tall me all about it!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Are Kwik Sew Patterns Worth the Price?

Wow! Two posts in two days has not happened for quite some time on my blog. Since I still haven't decided on a new definitive laundry plan, per yesterday's post, I thought that today we'd talk about patterns. Specifically, I want to talk about Kwik Sew patterns. In general, as you can see from reading this blog, I'm a big four girl. While men might have their sports leagues with "the big ten" or "the big twelve", sewing women get " the big four". The big two is actually a more accurate representation of the pattern companies though, as Butterick, McCalls, and Vogue are all owned by the same parent company.

It seems as of late, another business merger in the pattern world has happened. Kwik Sew now seems to be owned by the corporation that owns Butterick, McCalls, and Vogue. Apparently, the switch of Kwik Sew from white card stock paper to regular tissue paper coincided with this merger. There also happens to be a rather lengthy thread about the subject on Pattern Review, which can be found here.

Personally, I have never purchases a Kwik Sew for three and a half reasons. First is simply a matter of geographic location. There simply aren't any stores in a reasonable vicinity that sell the patterns. The second reason is the price. Kwik Sews are a bit pricey when you are used to buying at one and two dollar pattern sales. Thirdly, I don't trace patterns and the thick card stock would have been a pain in the you know what if I tired to pin it to fabric. The last reason, which is a half reason if you will, is that while there were a handful of cute designs, I found most to be uninspiring and dated. Despite those reasons, the transition to the BMV family has made we wonder if I should reconsider Kwik Sew?

While there are a number of dated patterns that seem to remain in the line, Kwik Sew also seems to have some fresher styles coming out as well. Secondly, if one is a member of BMV, they are now having Kwik Sew sales where the price is around $6. Now, $6 for a pattern isn't cheap in my opinion, but it's not outrageous either. The downfall is that one must be a member of BMV, which I believe runs about $15 or $20 a year.

Looking at the website, it seems that Kwik Sew trumps the other companies when it comes to their selection of swimwear and lingerie patterns. There are also an adorable shorts patterns, and some cute dresses as well. So, readers, do yous sew with Kwik Sew? If you do sew with them, what makes you like them?  Are you a member of Club BMV? I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Caring For Your Dearly Beloved Clothing

Hello my lovely readers! Before we delve into today's post, a fascinating insight into laundry, I thought I'd give you two quick updates. I am still out of town, so there will be no finished object posts yet. Also, I failed to mention in my previous posts, I did decide to get some of my locks chopped off before I went out of town. I cut of 6 inches to be exact, but I am fairly positive that at least an inch has grown back already. I do love how much lighter and cooler it is though!

Now, let's move on to the exciting stuff, shall we? Today, I want to talk about caring for your clothes. We all wash and dry our clothes. And, if you're over 35 or failed to fall prey to the current younger generations ( my generations) mindset, then you most likely iron your clothes as well. And, at least once or twice a year, we probably all take something to the dry cleaners. But there is so much more to caring for your clothes than slapping them in a washer and scorching them in the dryer. Of course there is the washing, either by hand or machine, drying with either a dryer, a clothesline, or anywhere you can find to hang them if you're like me, and then there is the ironing and starching to look crisp and clean. Caring for your clothes also can include mending and repairs, like sewing on a button or reenforcing a seam.

The amount time, patience, and work required to wash and maintain ones clothes has decreased significantly with the advent of technology. Even though laundry isn't a task that I dread, I am assured that if I had to wash my dresses with a washboard, I would most certainly dread it. Furthermore, while ironing is a domestic task that I enjoy, I'd probably wear wrinkled clothes if I had to use a heavy iron that needed to be heated on a wood stove. It can easy to forget how simple our domestic tasks have become compared to the work they once required.

In general, I have developed a bit of a laundry habit, so to speak. I usually wash most of my clothes in the washer, with cold water, and fabric softener ( and I have one of those washers you still have to "listen" for the rinse water to come in). After washing them, I usually run them through the no heat, air dry cycle on the dryer once. Then, anything I deem "good" clothes get hung on a hanger to dry. Good clothes are defined as anything I would wear in public, with the exception of undies, socks, and basic cotton camisoles, and kitchen aprons. Next in my current laundry care routine is vintage clothes. For the most part, I take anything from around 1975 or earlier to the dry cleaner, with the exception of polyester dresses.. I also take anything that is wool, lined coats and jackets ( unless they're super casual and cotton), and silk to the dry cleaners. Lastly, in my laundry routine is handmade clothing. Sometimes I put this in the wash, and line dry like the other "good" clothes, but I have a few pieces that I do hand wash.

Lately, however, I have been feeling as if my laundry routine could use a makeover. There needs to be more hand washing and more items needs to be dried while lying flat. It seems that as the quality of the fabric in RTW goes does, a subject for another post, that I need to become more conscious of how I wash my clothes if I want them to last. About two months ago I picked up some cute knit tops for summer, made in the USA to boot, and after a mere handful of washes, and never a stint in the dryer with heat, that the fabric is already looking worn and picked. Even if these were not expensive, I expect at least one meager season from my clothes!

Since this post is already a bit lengthy, and given the fact that I have not solidified my new laundry plan as of yet, I am going to divide this post into a few parts. Today, readers, I'd love to hear about your laundry routine. Also, do you have any tips for me to keep RTW from disintegrating before one season is over?How much time do you spend per week on the upkeep of your clothing? How much time is too much time? Chime on in!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Inspiration From Barbie?

Do you ever find sewing inspiration in the oddest of places? It seems, lately, that I cannot get enough of the vintage outfits that Barbie donned in her glory days. Now, outside of my childhood dolls days, I cannot say that I have ever been a huge Barbie fan, or more truthfully, a fan at all. Though I do thoroughly enjoy hoarding stockpiles of stuff that will never help me in the event of a catastrophe, Barbie just seems to have never entered my hoarding radar. Just for the record, I have no problem with Barbie, and I don't believe she is destroying the female youth with an unrealistic ideal of beauty and perfection. For the sake of this post, however, we'll keep it on a light and fun level and talk only about Barbies clothes. Deal?

I do remember playing with Barbie dolls in my youth, circa 1994. More specifically, I remember dressing Barbie in the most fashionable, read awful, 90s clothing that I could procure as 4 year old. Stirrup pants for Barbie, anyone? These are not, thankfully, the clothes that I am referring to when I say I want to recreate some of Barbies looks for myself.  I want to make life size versions of some of Barbie best, and most fashionable, ensembles she ever donned.

First up, we have an outfit which seems to be known as "Roman Holiday". According to my very amateur research, Mattel released this outfit around 1959. According to the seller of this Ebay auction, which is the source of the picture below, the Roman Holiday outfit is the holy grail of outfit for collectors.The auction is currently at a bit over $1200!

What isn't to love about this outfit? A navy skirt with a red and white striped bodice, a matching coat, a lovely white belt, white clutch, a sweet red bow for your hair,  and a fabulous pair of navy heels to top off the outfit. If you click on the link above, you'll see additional pictures of the outfit, which also features a back metal zipper for the dress. If memory serves me correctly, in the 90s, all my Barbie clothes had velcro backs, instead of nice zippers.

Next up, we have this lovely red velvet 60's evening coat. The Barbie sized version of this will only set you back a respectable $10, if no one else bids against you. Doesn't every woman dream of owning a rich, luxurious red velvet evening coat to don for the most special occasions. I genuinely enjoy overdressing for Christmas, and this coat would make quite a statement. Don't you think?

 Now, how about a lovely nightgown and matching satin robe for me, er for Barbie? This lovely set features a teal colored nightgown with a matching, adorned robe for Barbie to gallivant around the house in. This outfit would be so much prettier, and much more feminine, than the generally hideous elastic waist, flannel PJ pants which seem to have invaded.

Lastly, we have these seven absolutely amazing sheath dresses. Right click seems to be disabled, or at least not working for me, on the picture, so you'll have to follow my link. ( It goes to an Ebay auction, and I promise it's worth a click.) After seeing all those dresses neatly lined up like seven glamorous ducks in a row, I have an urge to turn the dining room upside down and whip up some sheath dresses.The addition of the bows on Barbies versions make them all the more spectacular.

In closing, do you ever find inspiration from odd sources? Ever looked to Barbie for some sewing mojo kick starter? Would you create a life size version of any of the outfits I've shown? I'd love to hear your thoughts!