Thursday, June 25, 2009

the things that wow me.

I just ran across a blouse in costume storage that just floored me. It's a peach crepe silk blouse with shell buttons. It has a tiny label sewed onto the inside of the front left side seam. It simply says "Julius Garfinckle & Co. Washington D.C." The entire blouse is sewn by hand. The workmanship is gorgeous and very clean, the stitches miniscule, the details immaculate. The buttonholes are hand-stitched in 1/16 inch buttonhole stitches so regular you could set your watch to them. It's kind of wrinkled and there is a little place in the shoulder under the collar where it is starting to fray, but you know right when you see it that it's something special. It's obviously a couture blouse, and you start to wonder who owned it and how it ended up here, in costume storage for a school. I wonder who made it, how long it took to do. Did they like their work? When was this thing made? It doesn't speak it's era to me the way a hoopskirt or a frockcoat would. But that's the way with couture items; they are meant to last a lifetime, perhaps several, with their simple elegance and understated detail. The closer you stand to them, the more you see and the more you appreciate, but the further back you are, the more it looks like any other peach blouse. You can stand out to the people who know you, but to the rest of the world you are part of the background, just there like everyone else. Looking at it, I want to make one. I have made blouses before, but not with this much handwork. Not with 1/8 inch wide french seams. Not with row upon row of tiny little pintucks in the front and back. Not with that really neat self-trim of two rows of bias-cut tubing attached with hemstitching. I can do each one of those things, but I haven't put them together yet into one garment. And not having done it makes me wonder if I can and have it look this good. So I suppose I must try, and hope for the best.

How odd a feeling it is to be awed and humbled by a simple blouse.