Monday, August 15, 2011

Shirtmaking--It's More Difficult Than You Might Imagine--& Some Gender Thoughts

I have a full pattern for what I am calling The 40s Blouse (for lack of a better name)!  Do you know how many pieces go into a men's-style tailored shirt?  A lot!  Is the answer!  I've got a back body, front body, collar, facing, yoke, and sleeve.  (I hit a bit of a roadblock when I ran out of fabric for the outer yoke--whoops--next time I will definitely buy more than a yard and a half!)

The thing is, I started this project without any real idea how a women's tailored blouse is put together.  The RTW shirts that Dear Partner and I own haven't been very helpful, since we shop at the decidedly low end of the spectrum and our clothes take all kinds of labor-saving shortcuts that (David Page Coffin claims) are big no-nos in bespoke tailoring.  I decided to construct mine much like a men's casual shirt--without a collar stand--which my Reader's Digest guide says is done with a facing.  What?

Next I turned to Peter's sewalong over at Male Pattern Boldness, hoping for some clarification.  Ah-hah!  A picture of the facing in question!  I'll be constructing the blouse based mostly on common sense and Peter's tips (thanks Peter!), so here's hoping I don't screw it up.


One further note: in my search for information on constructing what my mid-century dressmaking texts call a 'man-tailored' blouse, I stumbled across this forum.  It's called Cutter and Tailor, and it bills itself as a discussion board for professional tailors--you have to submit a CV to be certified as a professional tailor and allowed to post in some areas of the board.  I took a few moments away from my pattern drafting to browse, and wow is it different from the female-dominated home sewists' community (that I've seen, anyway).

Not only must you apply for professionals' status, you're also required to complete and document a 'beginner's project' (skirt or trousers) before you're allowed to discuss or ask questions about advanced projects like coatmaking.  There's a certain amount of hostility built into that kind of system--a sense that information is valued more highly than relationships.  The very nature of the discussion board format, moreover, demands that certain topics be kept to certain threads and discourages digression or idle conversation--as opposed to, say, a system of loosely linked blogs held together by voluntary association, where information is shared freely (if inefficiently, with plenty of neighborly chitchat) and issues of seniority are handled more subtly.  You see the same divide in fan communities, between male-dominated forum communities on the one hand and female-dominated Livejournal circles on the other.

I'm not trying to say one system is better than another--the Cutter and Tailor forum has an incredible density of useful information, and I appreciate not having to search through multiple sets of user-generated tags to find what I'm looking for.  But if such a forum had been the first sewing resource I stumbled across when I started trying to take my sewing to the next level (lo these many months ago), I don't know if I would have kept going.  The forum system tends to discourage not just beginners but all non-professionals--and, in fact, seems designed to do so.

Conversely, once you've 'proven yourself' you have a built-in audience--whereas over here on Blogger I could be a dressmaker to the stars and still wind up blathering into the open air.

Thoughts?  Experiences?  Any secret professional tailors in the audience?  There's a whole other conversation to be had about the historical divide between dressmaking and tailoring--but, as I said at the beginning of this sentence, that's a whole other conversation.

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