The term “dressmaker” conjures up intriguing, dreamy thoughts for me – and maybe for you, too. I’ve always liked the connotation of it – obviously a female craftsperson, skilled with a needle and working with patterns, creating clothing for women and children. It is a term which spans decades, even centuries, in its relevancy (in the 18th century the term “mantua maker” was interchangeable with “dressmaker” and often the preferred term.) I have two 19th-century trade signs hanging in my sewing room, both for Dressmaking & Millinery, and simply their presence gives me inspiration.
When compared to “fashion designer”, a “dressmaker” might seem to some a bit provincial or less exciting or less creative…
Well, think again. There is a wonderful entry on “The dressmaker” in a small book entitled 101 Things I Learned in Fashion School (available at Barnes and Noble, where I found my copy).
“Dressmakers differ from fashion designers in that they do not design wholly new fashions, but copy or adjust the fashions of the day [or yesterday! my addition….]. Often they add flourishes such as ruffles, flounces, covered buttons, spaghetti straps, and ribbon trims. Today, such highly feminized, applied details are still referred to as dressmaker details [my emphasis] whether or not created by a dressmaker….”
The list of possible dressmaker details is a long one, and includes such additional things as choice of fabric, buttonhole treatment, combining two or more patterns (for example, a blouse from one pattern and skirt from another), topstitching, linings, etc. Hopefully, you can deduce that the possibilities are almost endless, infinitely creative, and require an excellent understanding of fashion design and purpose to be successful.
Here is an example of my own added Dressmaker Detail. I made this evening muff as part of my merchandise for a recent fine crafts boutique/fair. I made it up in black silk velvet, with a kelly green silk lining. Made according to the pattern (circa 1959) it was pretty, but not as elegant or eye-catching as I had hoped.
So – I added this constructed bow, which I made out of the green silk – a dressmaker detail which (I think) turns it from nice to “wow”.
Dressmaker + Details =
Absolutely what makes sewing so enjoyable.