Parlez vous français?

Unfortunately I do not – yet.

It is undeniable that French is the universal language of fine sewing.  I have found myself often going to my copy of The Vogue Sewing Book (copyright 1970 by Vogue Patterns, New York, New York) to check translations and pronunciations of certain French fashion terms in the list at the back of the book.

A few weeks ago I picked up a paperbound copy of this Vogue Sewing Book from 1963:

Notice the price on this paperback book: $1.00!

I was intrigued by the teasers on the front, such as “High Fashion Sewing with Professional Skill”, “Profiles of Europe’s Great Designers” and especially by “How to Become America’s Best-Dressed Woman.” (I figured that was one tutorial I did not want to miss!)  What I didn’t know was that the final page of this book is a “Glossary of French Fashion and Sewing Terms.”

One page – full of information…

I just assumed that this list would be the same as the one in the hardbound book I already owned.  Not so!  While there is certainly some crossover of terms (such as the common ones:  au courant, boutique, couturier and couturiere, chic, haute couture, vendeuse, volant, etc.), other terms appear on only one list, such as amincir (1963 book, meaning “to make thin, look slender”), gens du monde (1963 book, meaning “people of fashionable society”), and chemise (1970 book, meaning “blouse or style with manshirt details”).  At least one term is two variations on the same meaning – and very much in our vocabulary today:  confectionne (1963 book, meaning “ready-to-wear”) and prêt a porter (1970 book, meaning “ready to wear”, but with this addition: “more current than ‘confection’”).

I like to think that I began my “French lessons” last summer, when I purchased this silk neck scarf from a vendor at The Vintage Fashion and Textile Show in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.  (I blogged about this fun day with my daughter back in January):

French for beginners!

Of course, this scarf has its own share of fashion and sewing terms featured on it:

It’s quite appropriate that the needle and the hand are side by side.

A stylish green dress.

A diamond and a fan to complete your outfit!

I guess I must be attracted to alphabet-related textiles –  like this one, which I purchased online from Britex last Fall:

A lustrous crepe de chine.

The tell-tale selvedge edge.

A design by the house (“chez” in French!) of Marcel Guillemin, Paris, it very subtly spells out that name in the letters.  I have two yards of this beautiful fabric, and I keep seeing it as the lining in a Chanel-type jacket…

It is plans like this and some of those beautiful French fashion/sewing terms that help to inspire me to become a better dressmaker.  Something else, too, is inspiring me to dare to think of myself as being my own “couturiere”: my enrollment and active participation in The Couture Dress, on online Craftsy course taught by Susan Khalje.   I am currently working on my muslin (also known as “toile”) for my version of the class-suggested “fourreau” (fitted or semi-fitted, sheath-like dress).   I may not be thinking in French yet, but I am definitely dreaming in it!


Filed under Scarves, sewing in silk, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s

2 responses to “Parlez vous français?

  1. That French glossary is wonderful – I love that it includes the pronunciations! Very helpful!

    And I love your scarf with words and sketches! It’s pretty enough to frame. =)

  2. It’s a fun scarf, for sure! I love tying it onto my handbag, or for a touch of color at my neck… but it would look great framed, too!

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