Remodeling Clothes

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, May 17, 1911: I am busy these days ripping tucks out of my skirts. They are inclined to be just a trifle too short. My right forefinger is getting so sore. Wonder if it will prove another runaround. 

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I wonder why the skirts didn’t fit right. Had Grandma gained a little weight?—or maybe styles were a little longer than they’d been the previous spring? A hundred years ago clothes were worn until they wore out, yet they remained stylish because they were regularly remade.

Today we buy new clothes each season in the latest colors and styles. Our closets are stuffed to the gills with seldom worn clothes from last year and the year before.

I’m annoyed with myself when I buy a new brown pencil skirt because my navy pleated skirt is hopelessly out of style—yet I won’t be caught dead wearing the pleated skirt. Sometimes I long for the good old days when clothes were regularly remodeled (though I’m all thumbs when it comes to sewing).

A book published by the Butterick Company in 1911 called The Dressmaker: A Complete Book on All Matters Connected with Sewing and Dressmaking from the Simplest Stitches to the Cutting, Making, Altering, Mending and Caring for the Clothes has a chapter on remodeling clothes:

Nothing accumulates so fast in every household as half-worn clothing, and the dead capital that it represents is apt to make the thoughtful ones draw a deep breath.  . .

One ought, at the very beginning of each season, to set to work to take a critical survey of last year’s wardrobe. It is the easiest way to find out exactly what new clothes are needed and exactly how far one can go with the old ones. Coats, suits, and dresses that are still in sound physical condition, but which have grown out of style, should be remade. The remodeling of a pair of sleeves, the recutting of a skirt, will almost always give a new lease of life to a suit.

Decide first what clothes are worth remaking. When the materials are badly worn it is hardly worth while going to any amount of trouble in the way of renovations. But when the material is sound and whole it is little short of criminal not to take advantage of the possibilities. . . .

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