Hand washing vintage clothing and lingerie, modern lingerie, and delicate clothing


In my previous posting, CLOTHING CARE FOR WASHABLE HANDMADE AND VINTAGE CLOTHING, PART 2, I presented screen shots from the 1930 book Paris Frocks at Home. The instructions in this chapter of the book present useful pointers for hand washing the lightweight, delicate garments coming into vogue as the 1930s started. It was no longer necessary to use a scrub board, harsh soaps and very hot water. The new way to wash garments made from lightweight fabrics was by ‘tubbing’ them. This meant washing by hand using a mild soap and warm water. The clothes were gently moved through the water to let the suds work through the garment. Then the garments soaked for a few minutes before rinsing. I have adapted some of these techniques to my own manner of handwashing delicate lingerie, vintage lingerie, handmade clothing and delicate clothing. They have worked very well for me. Perhaps there are some aspects of the washing routine in the previous posting and this one that will prove useful to you.

Examples of what I handwash

Examples of lingerie and garments I hand wash.

In these photos are examples of hand washables. From left to right: a vintage 1960s cotton half slip; a modern pull over with handbeading and sequins at the neckline; an underwire, uplift bra; panty girdle; pantyhose.

How to protect delicate clothing and lingerie

Mesh laundry bags protect delicate clothes during the wash cycle in a washing machine. The clothing can remain in the mesh bag during the drying cycle, too. I use mesh laundry bags for hand washing, too. They protect my pantyhose and stockings from snagging. They protect the embroidery on a panty girdle from snagging or fraying due to a hook on a bra in the laundry tub. Beading on a garment is also protected from pulling caused by another garment in the wash tub.

In the photo on the right are the garments shown in the previous section. The pantyhose and stockings go in the smallest bag. Two white slips are in the largest bag. The pink top with beaded neckline is in the medium sized mesh bag.

What you need to hand wash your vintage and delicate clothing and lingerie

First, a very gentle and effective laundry soap is necessary. Shop for one that works with cold water. A fabric softener is optional. I use a brand made for sensitive skin. It is very mild and leaves the clothing soft and smooth. Use of a softener also makes the clothes and lingerie easier to iron.

I have a collapsible wash tub. It saves space when not in use. For drying I chose a bamboo clothes dryer. Plastic or steel is also good. The important thing is to let the rack dry out before folding and storing. It pays to clean it off at least once a month with soap and water. This will prevent the growth of black mildew which can rub off and stain what you hang on the rack.

Hand washing and drying

Make sure to have white, lint free bath towels available. White cotton kitchen towels that are clean and unstained can also be used. I have some cotton towels that I reserve only for use when hand washing.

I wash colored clothes and lingerie in one soaking. Whites are washed separately. They are soaked in the soapy water for 10 minutes. All items remain in their mesh laundry bags. They are rinsed and then soaked in fabric softener for 5 minutes. The water is drained off and the mesh laundry bags remain in the sink for a few minutes.

Each mesh bag is placed on a white, cotton dish towel and rolled up. The excess water is squeezed out. The laundered clothing and lingerie is then hung on the drying rack. I place a towel underneath the rack. It is rare that a lot of water drips off since the excess was squeezed out before. As suggested in Paris Frocks at Home, I use an electric fan placed in front of the drying rack to dry the clothes and lingerie off. I usually leave the fan on high for 20-30 minutes.

After this, I might place the rack in the living room near the door to the balcony. On a sunny day everything dries nicely with the benefit of the sunshine. Once dry, the cotton slip is ready for ironing. In the next posting I’ll offer some tips from ironing clothes based on vintage sewing books and my own experiences.

Clothing Care for Washable Handmade and Vintage Clothing


Many vintage sewing books have chapters devoted to the hand laundering and pressing of delicate and handmade clothing. Detailed instructions also include how to block wo0len sweaters, pre-shrink wools, and prepare silks for ironing.

Paris Frocks At Home was published by the Butterick Publishing Company in 1930. It, too, includes instructions on how to hand wash lingerie and clothing the seamstress makes. The wonder of it all fills the chapter as the authors praise the lightweight fabrics and simple lines of the fashions of that time. Even laundering was simplified. What we call handwashing or hand laundering is termed “tubbing” in the book. This is just another way to describe washing delicate clothes in a wash basin or separate tub.

Part of the section about ironing follows the one about tubbing. More to come in the next posting.

I hope you enjoy this excerpt. After sharing excerpts on pressing from Paris Frocks At Home, I will detail my own approach to laundering and care of washable vintage and handmade clothing. I am making the information from Paris Frocks at Home available for its historical value and as a way to compare clothing care in 1930 with clothing care in 2023.

Paris Frocks At Home: Tubbing you clothes

To be continued.

Clothing Care & Storage


Proper storage and care for our vintage and handmade clothing prolongs the life of the garment for the future.  An investment in the materials and accessories to achieve this goal are well worth it.  I will share some of my own tips on how to provide the care your clothes need before being put in the closet.

Essentials for storage of vintage and handmade clothing

By handmade, I mean clothing the sewista makes for themself.  A garment made from a pattern drafted by the sewista or purchased from a designer, along with fabric and notions, represents a substantial investment of time and money.  Therefore, the right hangers and garment storage essentials should be considered part of that investment.

Padded hangers are a must for all garments.  So are skirt and slacks hangers.  Some padded hangers include skirt hangers.  This is a must when you have to economize on space in a small closet.

I have found that many padded hangers sold on Amazon as suitable for blouses are at times too wide.  They are better suited to coats or suit jackets.  A padded hanger with a slightly shorter width works better for blouses.  There will be less of the hanger extending into the sleeve.

More expensive padded hangers include satin buttons sewn at each end.  The buttons act as a way to keep the garment from slipping off.  It is a nice feature but not essential. 

Acid free tissue paper is a must.  You can use it to fill out the neckline and chest area of the blouse, dress or jacket.  Insert some inside sleeves to prevent wrinkling.

Cedar wood chips or balls are a natural moth deterrent.  Buy a bag and place one or two balls at the bottom of the garment bag.  You can also buy a small drawstring bag to hold the cedar chips or balls.  Place the bag over the hanger before zipping the garment bag closed.

Avoid using plastic garment bags that do not breathe.  The ideal garment bag is made of unbleached muslin.  These are very expensive but worth the investment for a very special garment.  There are also garment bags made of synthetic materials that breathe.  They do not cost as much and are an economical choice for an everyday garment.  Here, too, you can use some cedar chips to keep moths away.  You can also buy a larger drawstring bag to hold any special accessories you use specifically with that garment, such as a piece of costume jewelry, a hairband or pair of gloves, stockings, etc.

Skirt hangers can leave marks on the waistband of slacks or skirts.  I create a cushion out of a white, 100% cotton kitchen towel by folding it a few times.  I place it over the waistband.  Then I place the skirt or slacks into the clips on the hanger.  This prevents any marks or indenting from the clips.

Draped Princess Bodice and Flared Skirt Jumper 1950s Style


I always wanted a princess seamed dress or overblouse. Now that I have fulfilled the realization of my idea I have to say that it did not fulfill all my expectations. It did turn into a good learning experience about fit, style lines and individual body shapes.

Photos of the Jumper

Background of the pattern

The pattern was based on the Misses Size 8 sloper developed using the Precision Draping technique created by Nellie Weymouth Link. The technique is detailed in a reprint of the 1947 book through Amazon and other booksellers online.

I altered the pattern after fitting the toile on myself and making adjustments.

Expectations vs. Reality

Originally I envisioned the princess seam over my bustline to be very flattering. Once it was finished I did not care for the look on myself.

I have sloping shoulders. This causes the apex of my bustline to be lower than a standard size. The result is that the princess seam curves a bit lower, emphasizing both my bustline and narrow, sloping shoulders. I straightened the curve on the pattern, but that did not make much difference.

I offer this experience as a way for others to learn what makes the most flattering fit for their own body type.

I love the flared skirt of the jumper, the neckline and the armholes. If I were to make this again I would use a vertical dart below the bust or perhaps two French darts in the side seam of the bodice front.

Sewing Techniques

The jumper is made from 100% cotton chambray I ordered from Mood Fabrics. The underlining is cotton batiste.

I underlined the bodice. The skirt was underlined from waist to a few inches below the waistline. I wanted the fabric to have less transparency. The underlining also served as an anchor to the zipper.

Hidden Zipper: A 1960s Couture Technique

I used the instructions for the hidden zipper sewing technique detailed in Couture Sewing by Claire Shaeffer.

The zipper must be sewn to garment pieces that are underlined. This is because the finished seam is anchored to the underlining with catch stitches or fell stitches.

The resulting zipper is a little like an invisible zipper but less rigid.

Seam Finishes

I cut the seams wider than usual because the fabric frayed. Edges were pinked and zig-zagged for durability.

Other Finishes

The all-in-one facing and hemline were finished with Wright’s Flexi-Lace. I used the Flexi-Lace for the waistline stay, too.

Dressmaker’s Library:  Drawing the Fashion Figure for Body Positivity


The standard croquis favored in fashion illustration is an elongated, slender figure that can be 8, 10 or 12 heads high.  However, this style of croquis is not a modern model of beauty.  It has come and gone with variations throughout the 20th century and into the current time.

Fashion designer Erte favored an elongated figure upon which to draw his extravagant designs worn by high society women and actresses on stage during the late 1910s.  The boyish, angular fashion figure of the 1920s gave way to the willowy, softly curving fashion croquis of the 1930s.  Come the 1940s and 1950s the feminine form filled out and there were some artists writing and illustrating their own books showing students, aspiring illustrators and hobbyists how to draw male and female figures more reflective of the everyday body shapes .

In this posting I share screen shots of three fashion illustration books that I hope put the subject of body positivity and fashion illustration into a historical perspective.

My purpose is to set forth a balanced perspective not only in books that provide croquis to trace over.  I also want to make more widely known books that show you how to draw a body positive croquis in a step-by-step approach.  All croquis are based upon preliminary drawings consisting of ovals, rectangles, cylinders, circles and wedge shapes.  With practice you can gain even a rudimentary ability and in time you will be able to do quick sketches.  The key is to practice and let your hand movements flow without fear or worry. Enjoy the process and discover what is waiting to be expressed.

It is good to know how to draw croquis of different sizes and styles.  This diversifies your skillset and helps connect you as a dressmaker to a broader sense of proportion based on different sizes.

The style of croquis you use should be the one that pleases you and best expresses the idea you are working on.

Fashion Illustration 1920-1950
Techniques and Examples
by Walter T. Foster

Foster’s book offers detailed diagrams for figures and clothing of the period from 1920s to 1950s.  This is one of my favorite books for fashion illustration because the figure changes with each decade.  Male and female figures are given and detailed.

Drawing the Head and Figure
by Jack Hamm

This book was published in 1963.  The croquis and technique used will help you draw figures in tune with the current call to create more realistic renderings of female body shapes.  The technique used in the book will provide looks that work well with retro styles of the 1940s and 1950s.  Examples are also give for drawing the male figure.

Gertie’s New Fashion Sketchbook
by Gretchen Hirsch

The premise of Gertie’s book is a good one.  Gertie’s body positive croquis are intended to represent the a more realistic body upon which clothes can be sketched. The croquis are smaller than most standard sized croquis.  The upper and lower torsos are each two heads high with the length of each head being about 3/8 to 1/2 inch high. Each page has two to three croquis in different poses (front, back and side views).

The drawback is how faint the croquis are on each page. This is not a book of figures to trace over. Rather these are figures to draw on.  Each page is perforated and meant to be torn out and drawn over.  Because the figures are so very lightly printed I’d recommend using the pages over a light box.  Otherwise a very bright desk lamp is needed to ensure you draw the lines as best as possible.

Gertie’s croquis remind me of the ones Jack Hamm drew, only his are bolder and easier to render if photocopies are made and then traced over.

New Precision Draping Project: Pencil skirt and blouse with ruffled collar

More practice in Precision Draping.  Half-toile of pattern made from tissue paper drape.  First fitting.  Sleeve made through flat patternmaking.  Ruffled collar made off of the drape through flat patternmaking. Facing and buttonhole extension to be added.  To be paired with a pencil skirt drafted from a pattern created with instructions from the 60s.  

Style influences are from the clothes my Mom and the neighborhood women wore when I was growing up in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn.

Spring Vacation 2022: Shopping and Styling Fun


I’m on vacation from work this week. I decided to stay home and immerse myself in all my beloved hobbies and activities. I have not gone clothes shopping at a bricks-and-mortar location since before Lockdown of Spring 2020. I decided it is about time that changed.

There is a lovely boutique on Wood Avenue in Linden, New jersey called New Image. All during Lockdown 2020 I would go for walks and look at the window arrangements of clothes and accessories. Everything is so pleasing and in good taste. Things worked out this week and the shop was open when I went out. I usually get off work after New Image closes for the day, so it took some time for me to get there.

Shopping Experience

The store is well laid out with accessories and shoes featured near the outfits they would complement. There is lots of room to move around and many mirrors. The overall feeling is boutique like yet personal. There is no crowding in the store.

Merchandise cannot be returned so you have to make sure you try your selections on before buying. I found two tops on sale that came to a total of $25. They are perfect for dressing up the denim skirt I draped and sewed during Lockdown of 2020.

New Image Boutique is located at 116 N. Wood Avenue, Linden, New Jersey 07036. Telephone 973-803-6242.

My New Pullover Tops from New Image

This stiped top is from Orange Kiss. It is stretchy and comfortable. It is a size M and fits me just right with a little extra room to move in. I usually wear a Medium in stretch tops.

The polka dot top is from dianabelleNY and is labelled a size S. It fits me very well without being tight around the body or binding at the neck.

These are perfect for dressing up my denim skirt.

Accessories, Shoes and Stockings/Pantyhose

There are times I do not find my bare legs attractive with an outfit. The matter of choosing to wear stockings or pantyhose depends on personal preferences and the climate. During the summer I do not wear them but at other times of the year I think they look very sexy. They also hide bruises and imperfections. Dark stockings also add a youthful look.

The shoes I paired with these two looks are: 1. a pair of fabric square toed ballet flats from Bob’s Skeecher’s and 2. a pair of black pumps by Jaklyn Smith.

My late Mom left me her costume jewelry and collectibles which I treasure. The three gold tone charm bracelets were sold by Avon during the 1980s or early 1990s. I paired the hearts charm bracelet with the we’re in the money charm bracelet since I liked the idea of mixing up love (hearts) with symbols of wealth like diamond rings, yachts and gold bars.

My Finished Looks

I am very happy with the resulting looks and hope this gives you some ideas for styling your own denim skirts.

Denim skirt with grey toned pantyhose, black ballet flats, seashell gold tone charm bracelet and striped pullover by Orange Kiss.
Denim skirt with black toned pantyhose, polkadot pullover by dianabelleNY, gold toned charm bracelets, and pumps by Jaklyn Smith.

Draping in tissue paper, part 1

New work in progress…I am taking up the challenge to drape in tissue paper.  During WWII there was rationing of consumer goods including fabrics like cotton and silk.  To conserve resources for the war effort, fashion schools and books about patternmaking taught students how to drape in tissue paper instead of muslin.  The technique was used by author Nellie Weymouth Links in her 1947 book “Precision Draping”.  I taught myself the method during Lockdown 2020 except at the time I used muslin.  I think it is time I learned how to do it in tissue paper.  If I am successful, I will save a lot of money!  The new project is a blouse with a blouse yoke.  The kind of blouse yoke I will make is for the lower part of the blouse.  It is described in Claire Schaeffer’s “Couture Sewing Techniques”.  The pattern is derived from a skirt pattern.  The yoke holds the upper part of the blouse neatly in place and fits smoothly under the skirt.  I will post a screen shot of the sketch and half toile when completed..

Photos of work in progress

First pattern of bodice and blouse yoke draped in tissue paper.
“Preccision Draping” by Nellie Weymouth Link
Photo of blouse with blouse yoke. From “Couture Sewing Techniques” by Claire Schaeffer.
Misses Size 4 Wolf dress form in my work area.