1979: Cutting a Fashionable Fit: Dressmakers’ Drafting Systems in the United States

Hold the phone and shut the door!!!!

Cutting a Fashionable Fit: Dressmakers’ Drafting Systems in the United States

Kidwell, Claudia B.
DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.5479/si.00810258.42.1
Date: 1979


This book!!! I have had very old very worn photocopies of this book since I was at university and it’s here! In full! In high res and low res!!!! Get it now, seriously if you have any interest in costuming this is a must have!

I cannot believe it’s genuinely distributed, the pdf turned up in a google search so I tracked back to the full credit and OMG!

So I was looking in general for cutting systems as I love them. They give a much better insight into how different eras accomodated different body shapes than anything else. Drafting books are good but these show the impact of changing a measure on other points of measure.

And now there is another book I’d love to track down:

The Female Economy: The Millinery and Dressmaking Trades, 1860-1930
Wendy Gamber
University of Illinois Press, 1997 – Business & Economics – 300 pages

This is a very different take on the effect these systems had on those working in garment making. In truth it’s the same sort of reasoning behind tailor’s manuals being restricted initially, or throughout, I haven’t read all manuals just many!

It includes pages of cutting machines at a size it would be possible to recreate.

The Maude Russell system of garment cutting; text book ..
by Russell, Maude (Westerman), Mrs., 1885- [from old catalog]
Published 1917
I love these! Currently hunting down older versions as they are more helpful for me as someone doing earlier work, but these kinds of adjustable templates are reasonably common. But this is very nice because it may be possible to print out your own and transfer to card.

Also of interest is this book from the 1870s
Guide to dressmaking
by Symonds, J. Henry, pub. [from old catalog]
Published 1876
Topics Dressmaking, Garment cutting. [from old catalog]

This does feel like a reprint, but the details on trimmings and stitching and assembly is exactly what I really want. I mean in conjunction with a fitting system! This really is an incredibly good guide and it’s free!

The National garment cutter
by Goldsberry, Doran & Nelson. [from old catalog]
Published 1884

The national garment cutter book of diagrams. Goldsberry & Doran, proprietors ..
by Goldsberry & Doran, Chicago. [from old catalog]
Published 1888
Topics Garment cutting. [from old catalog], Dressmaking

Two editions by the same company. Very easy to understand and each includes a yoked kilted (pleated) skirt of the kind worn in Bram SToker’s Dracula, and seen in Patterns of Fashion 2. I use the principle a heck of a lot in my skirts to allow for an agressive or subtle train.

Perhaps the most recognised drafting machine is the McDowell.

Publication number US342216 A
Publication type Grant
Publication date 18 May 1886
Filing date 30 Jul 1885
Inventors Albert Mcdowell

Anyway, I am now happily thinking of ways to recreate these in a stable material.