The title of this post is a partial quote from the book “The Pink Suit”. Here’s more of the quote to put it in context:
“Cut. Trim. Baste. Tuck. Pin. Trim. Stitch. That was what most people thought sewing was about, but they were wrong. It was really about perfection. Each stitch must be exactly like the one before it; each must be so small that it seems part of the fabric. A ribbon is sewn into the waist of a skirt to help keep the blouse in place. Zippers are placed on the side, for comfort, or in the back, to emphasize the elegance of a line. Each tuck and pleat carefully disguises any flaw in the wearing or the wearer – small breasts, uneven hips, thick waists, and, of course, waning youth.”
The character is talking about haute couture sewing as practiced in the very high fashion ateliers.
But let’s take the idea of perfection into our own everyday sewing. I personally think these are murky waters for us home sewing enthusiasts. Therefore, I would love to see your views, so comment away! Here are my thoughts, which tend to agree with both arguments – and enter into said murky waters.
PERFECTION IN SEWING
(Image from “Chanel” a catalogue published in conjunction with 2005 Chanel Retrospective at the Met in New York.)
On a certain level, this is why we sew – you know, that design/fit/fabric/trim correlation which becomes obvious when you just cannot take your eyes away from the item. When the stars align, it’s magic. And perfection. The haute couture ateliers come to mind, and rightly so. Image of a Chanel jacket, circa 1960, above.
The perfection seeking home sewers want to find it in the humblest of items; consider the very high popularity of classes and patterns which teach you how to create a perfect T-shirt! I love that!
Of course, these very same sewing enthusiasts are taking classes by Claire Shaffer and Susan Khalje to learn about haute couture techniques, and creating the perfect dress and the classic Chanel-style jacket.
Should there be perfection in inner construction? Does it matter? Unless I’m making something to be worn, say, in a couple of hours, I strive for perfection in inside finishing; not always achieving it, but I strive for it nonetheless. So, yes for pro-perfection.
And, the art of quilting. There is no inner construction in quilting, therefore perfection has to be obvious everywhere. I have seen, and been floored by, quilt exhibits at the International Quilt Festival each year in Houston. Quilts that won $10,000 were perfect in design and execution.
SEWING IS NOT ABOUT PERFECTION
(I snapped this image from my copy of Threads magazine issue #107)
The gotta wear it tomorrow concept in sewing comes into play here. It cannot be perfect, but presentable enough to get me through an event, and I need it soon. For those of us who are committed to the completely self-made wardrobe, this issue can come up. You’re in danger of being left with an empty closet, a worn out wardrobe where nothing seems to be suitable for the event – and you need something new, pronto.
A side of imperfect sewing is manifest in designer Brooke DeLorme’s imperfectly perfect work – 12 years ago! In the article she wrote about her own design aesthetic in Threads magazine #107 where she admits that art and philosophy come before her actual design. Where is Brooke now? Her line now consists of lingerie and loungewear, sustainably manufactured in Portland, Maine. I would have loved to see Brooke’s aesthetic develop in the high fashion arena. Her concepts were new back in 2003. The sewing and design of each piece was intuitive, imperfect and unhurried. A lot of this aesthetic is seen now, but I thought it was innovative then. And I liked it! I’m giving points to the imperfect perfection of Brooke’s aesthetic from 2003.
Now, an imperfect sewing concept enters into murky waters; the judging of Project Runway. (Groan) In episode 4, a competing designer, Blake, created a badly constructed gown, but he had incorporated some never-before-seen design elements. He won. Wait, what?? He won at the expense of other designers whose entries, great designs all, were perfectly sewn – it was even obvious on the TV screen.
Enter a forgotten twist: the sewer’s skill level. The beginner should strive for but not insist upon perfection in sewing. What should sewing teachers stress for the very beginner? Is a crooked seam acceptable, or do you make the student rip it apart and re-do it? Or do you point out the mistake and take a promise to do better next time? Sewing teachers, chime in here.
Happy National Sewing Month to all my readers! For me, every month is sewing month……..
May the gods of sewing perfection bless you, always.