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Some Advice From the Past, And a Little More From Now | Manolo for the Big Girl

Some Advice From the Past, And a Little More From Now

For a good many years I’ve been fascinated with fashion. Not just fashion here and now, but in the past and in many places. I can tell you all about Queen Victoria’s wedding lace…and will if I’m not tackled and stopped. Court dress to peasant garb, Medieval to modern, I’ve got sources, opinions, and, well, basically I’m a textile junkie and I wouldn’t trade my addiction for anything.

One thing I dearly love is reading old texts about fashion and sewing. One can learn a lot about the times from reading these treatises. Every now and again, one runs across a paragraph or two that strikes home as indelible truth. And then one far more often runs across funny comments that remind us just how far we’ve come in learning how to see and appreciate our bodies.

Here’s the advice given to ‘stout ladies’ on how to dress themselves in a 1926 sewing manual I found online:

The woman who is stout should remember that solid colors always draw less attention to stoutness than checked, flowered and horizontally striped materials. She should wear over-blouses with her suit skirts instead of tucked-in waists, and they should be the same color as the suit itself. Her dresses should be made without waistlines, and the belts should always be narrow and tacked slightly lower than where the waist-line really should be.

Yep. Be shapeless. Be patternless. That was the advice across the board to all ‘stout’ women.

I think it’s a good idea to celebrate the fact that we’ve reached a point where we are now able to find fabulous, flattering, fitted clothes in our sizes. In fact, in honor of just how wrong that long-ago advice is, I intend to wear something form-fitting and fun today. Now were did I put that paisley wrap dress….

13 Responses to “Some Advice From the Past, And a Little More From Now”

  1. kooly October 6, 2007 at 9:07 pm #

    Have you seen this blog:
    http://www.dressaday.com/dressaday.html

    Vintage patterns and the resulting creations.

    Also, I highly recommend the “Secret Lives of Dresses” stories. A photo of a vintage dress and a short story about the wearer of said dress. These are awesome. The author has a gift!

  2. Twistie October 7, 2007 at 2:06 am #

    Kooly, you are my new best friend! Thanks for pointing that one out to me. Awesome doesn’t begin to describe it!

  3. the unfashionista October 7, 2007 at 5:45 pm #

    As I was growing up, my mother always encouraged me to wear prints because they would be more “distracting” and therefore more flattering.
    It wasn’t great advice, and my mom has terrible/weird fashion sense, but she never said, “black is more slimming” when I was choosing colors.

  4. saidee October 7, 2007 at 9:21 pm #

    Erin at dressaday featured 3 fabulous tiered Spring dresses straight from the Fashion Week tents and cautioned her readers NOT

  5. saidee October 7, 2007 at 9:29 pm #

    OOPS…here’s the rest:

    cautioned her readers NOT to tell her they couldn’t possible wear that style dress with tiers starting almost from the shoulders because it would make them look FAT. Her question for us was what would the rest of our lives be like if we never ever worried about that again, focusing rather on how our clothes make us feel. One of those luscious tiered dresses would be so twirly and fun to wear, who cares about the rest of the world????

    Bless Erin for this! and for all the dresses…

  6. fillyjonk-knitter October 9, 2007 at 5:37 pm #

    As I’ve begun more regularly taking pictures of myself (mainly to show of “finished knit objects” on my blog), I’ve come to the realization that the “plain, dark colors” rule for bigger women is often a lie.

    Looking over some of my recent photos, I’ve realized I look my best in clear, light colors – even pastels. They don’t “add pounds” like the old saw goes. And if I’m happier in a pale-yellow top instead of a plain, severe navy blue shirtwaist, I WILL look better – because I’ll be smiling and my complexion will be flattered. And small patterned fabrics look good on me. And small jewelry seems to suit me better than the “big, chunky” pieces often recommended for bigger girls.

    And it helps for me to have a waistline. And Empire stuff looks okay on me. And princess seams look fantastic.

    Everyone is different and “blanket rules” do no good.

    I would actually recommend that the ladies try this out (if they haven’t already): get your digital camera and have a friend (or set the camera on “timer” if you have one) take pictures of you in a variety of outfits – against the SAME background and in similar poses, at similar distances from the camera. It’s kind of eye-opening and I find it actually gives me a better idea of how I look – for some reason – than looking in the mirror does. (There have been times I’ve looked at photos of myself and thought, Dang, I look good there, when I didn’t notice looking particularly good in the mirror)

    Do tall women get this kind of junk told to them (“Don’t wear polka dots dear, it will make you look like a giraffe”)? Or very slender women?

  7. Twistie October 9, 2007 at 8:00 pm #

    fillyjonk-knitter, that’s great advice. Sometimes it is easier to see things when you’re looking at a photo rather than a reflection. And you’re so right about color! If you wear a color that’s dark simply because you think it’s ‘slimming’ without considering whether it’s flattering, then you won’t look your best. If you choose the color you look best in, what people remember later is your face and your demeanour, not your dress size.

    And yes, short women, tall women, thin women…we all get told lots of silly advice that may sound good on paper, but doesn’t work in reality for a large percentage of us. For instance, I was always told that as a petite it was important that I keep my jewelry very tiny. Even when I was quite slender, that just didn’t work on me. My personality and bone structure both demanded bigger jewelry to look right. I tended to concentrate once upon a time on the advice for the petite, since that was me, but the same articles usually had equally strong advice for other builds, and I’m sure it was about as much use.

    saidee, I think that is excellent advice for us all: concentrate on feeling fabulous. A good, critical eye for whether something is actually flattering is important, but most of us do look our best when we feel our best. Why? Because we’re glowing from the inside. And that’s when we get noticed for us rather than for our clothes.

  8. Retro Fashion October 12, 2007 at 6:02 pm #

    All the old stuff I wore as a child is coming back. Kinda scary and makes you feel old, but it looks great most of the time.

  9. Victoria Secret Fashion Show October 20, 2007 at 1:46 pm #

    Thanks for the info about Manolo for the Big Girl!!

  10. Roya November 8, 2008 at 4:27 am #

    This advice is actually pretty goodd for twenties clothing (the time the book as written) from about 1910 to the early thirties any girl with any flesh at all was in trouble. Even skinny girl’s with big bosoms. The whole period was obsessed with eliminating natural female shape, you should look at the underwear.

    All of fashion was for the anorexic then and no matter how bad it is now, we are better off.