If you don’t sew, you don’t know… ask Pauline Trigere

Last week, I watched as a 1940s “goddess dress” pattern jumped almost $130 in the last ten seconds of an eBay auction. “A lot to pay for a pattern” one friend remarked, when I recounted the thrill of just watching “the jump” transpire. I wasn’t bidding, just interested in knowing what it would sell for. The dress was McCalls 4499, a floor length evening gown with drapery over the bust and a plunging neckline.

From my perspective, there are patterns, and there are patterns. Ultimately, there are two things which can determine the value of a pattern: 1) market demand, that is what the market demonstrates it will pay; and 2) appreciation by the individual, whether it is to admire as a collectable or use. To an individual, a particular pattern may have a value that cannot easily be quantified in dollars in cents, it can actually be priceless.

In terms of use, whilst they are all made out of tissue paper, sometimes perforated and sometimes printed, a Vogue Couturier or Paris Original pattern isn’t going to be likely to rely on an elastic waist and a one size fits all approach. The instructions are going to have a certain level of detail, in line with a certain standard, there is an assumption about the level of skill required and there are usually small but effective couturier details.

Popping into Laura Ashley in Canberra, an occassion dress made in China (and I hate to say it, but usually from inferior fabrics) will set one back at least $180…. a fabulous pattern by one of the world’s great couturier’s in the 1950’s such as Schiaparelli may (with luck) be picked up at about that price on auction sites like eBay. A pattern always has the implicit potential to create a dozen like dresses, if you absolutely wanted to. The owner is limited only be motivation and skill. A finished dress is worn and depreciates. A pattern can be used and (in the eyes of a collector), appreciates.

Not to labour the point too heavily, but if, for example,  you collected Pauline Trigere patterns and one surfaced you had never seen before, your decision to bid at an auction might be tempered with the knowledge that you might never have the opportunity to buy the pattern again and that without it, your collection could be considered less complete. You might spend years looking for the same pattern. The tissue paper is no longer just tissue paper- it becomes a kind of holy grail.

Today’s pattern of the day, is McCalls 6031… a Pauline Trigere wiggle or cocktail dress with a bolero from the 1960s.

McCalls 6031, a sleeveless dress in two lengths... I am not fanatical about Trigere but I appreciate her designs.

The Wedding Guest dress is coming along, I have sewn all of the front panels together. That might not sound like a lot, but each panel was first basted. Some books will say, that unless you are a very experienced or a professional seamstress, you should baste first. My advice, particularly now having had a taste of working with satin, is THERE IS NO SHAME IN BASTING. It doesn’t mean your skills are b-grade because you can’t just whip it up under a machine. What I found was that even with the basting, the weight of the fabric (and the potential for it to snag on about anything) required much care in feeding it beneath the needle. The basting helped a great deal to stabilise the fabric pieces, and thus to ensure the alignment was always even and that I didn’t end up with a crazy, jigsaw puzzle hem.

“Wish me luck!” I would say to my husband every time I approached the machine. So yes, the front panels are done and that feels like an accomplishment!

I am still simultaneously working on the bodice and admittedly I find the instructions a bit hard to decode. No, its not Vogue Couturier, its McCalls. I am also considering stay stitching the entire top of the skirt once all of the panels are assembled, due to the weight of the fabric and the potential of the satin to loose its shape. I know a lot of other full skirt patterns recommend some hanging time (few days to a week) on a dressmaker’s dummy prior to hemming, I am assuming something similar would be required for satin, (anybody out there know)??

What I have learnt thus far in my current sewing endeavour is that if you want to sew with satin, and invest the effort, probably best to go with a dress with lots of glamorous drapery to really show off its magnificent sheen and beauty. …Why not a 1940s goddess dress?

2 thoughts on “If you don’t sew, you don’t know… ask Pauline Trigere

  1. I’d hang it for at least a week. I hang everything now. One dress I didn’t hang I hemmed. A couple of months later I put it on and noticed it had dropped. I had to re-hem it!

    As for patterns being priceless I have to say I get this. A while ago I searched through a few thousand patterns on etsy to find a few 1940s patterns. I paid more for them than you pay for a new pattern. Some people may not understand I know but they were so unique, as you say, they seemed priceless. (Pics here: http://thescroobiouspip.com/2011/08/07/1940s-pattern-hunting/)

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