People have been asking why the cutoff date for the Historical Sew Fortnightly is 1938, and I realised that while we discussed it in comments, and I’ve mentioned it in posts, I’ve never directly addressed why I picked 1938 as the cutoff date.
The short answer is because it is 75 years ago, but that was really just a convenient bonus.
The long answer is that I wanted to pick a date before which garments would really look distinctly different from what we wear today, and in which the sewing techniques used to make them would be distinctly different from modern sewing techniques. I also really wanted to make myself sew historical garments for my work, not vintage-historical which I could wear in an everyday context.
When I first conceived the idea of the Historical Sew Fortnightly I set the cuttoff date at pre-1920. The reasoning behind the 1920 cutoff was that anything after 1920 could easily be used in an everyday modern wardrobe, and I really did want this to focus on really historical stuff – partly because it is more different and special, and partly because people (me) are more likely to cheat historical accuracy on something for everyday wear.
I wanted to keep the date early because there are already many venues on the internet for showing off ‘vintage’ sewing, whereas forums for really historical sewing are much rarer.
However, there was such an outcry about 1920 being too early (or late?) that I agreed to move it later. As an alternative date I settled on 1938, because post-1938 is the modern era, both in sewing and in world affairs.
1938 is the start of WWII (depending, of course, on where you were in the world), and sewing techniques start to change hugely post 1938. Pre-1938(ish) many of the techniques that are used are quite foreign to modern seamstresses. Post 1938, and especially post 1948, the way clothes are assembled, and the techniques used, are much more similar to those used today.
For me the HSF was meant to push us to try new techniques, to research more, and to sew as a historical seamstress – post 1938 doesn’t give enough scope for that. I also got my first degree in International Relations, and in political science we speak of WWII as the transition to the ‘modern era’ of politics (though now there is also the ‘post 9/11’ era of politics).
Being slightly obsessive about organization and logic, I also like the symmetry of 75 years, a modern era of politics/world affairs, and a modern era of sewing.
While I like the symmetry, four challenges in to the Historical Sew Fortnightly I’m already a teeny-tiny bit sad about the compromise. I’ve already sewn one 1930s garment, and have four more planned for upcoming challenges (and, considering we are only at Challenge #9, that’s a pretty high percentage). These garments are great, because I have and will worn them, and have events to wear them too (Art Deco Weekend), but I know if it was pre-1920 I would have sewn much earlier garments.
My compromise with myself is that I will enter the post-1920s outfits as ‘soft’ easy entries into the HSF and try to sew something more historical (but fairly simple) as well for each entry where I do a post-1920 garment – so for Stripes I’ll be doing a 1934 dress, and an 1880s overskirt, and for Peasants & Pioneers I hope to do a 1930s peasant blouse and an 18th century linen petticoat. We’ll see if I can accomplish all this!
My compromise to the people who wish that I had set the date later than 1938 – as late as 1960 even, is that I have opened an album on Facebook for stuff that you have sewn and want to show off but that doesn’t qualify for a challenge.
So that was my thought process. How do you feel about the 1938 date? What would you call ‘historical’ sewing?