Gynametry

I learned to do something useful today and luckily, you’re the beneficiary of my largesse. Wowee. Miracle has been saying it’s easy to make pdf docs and sure enough, she’s right. Remember all those books I photographed page by page at the Library of Congress? I hadn’t realized I could make pdfs from jpegs. Anyway, I made one. Of that Gynametry book by Mrs.Coleman, published in 1887. Her method illustrates drafting based on one’s wrist measure.

I stand corrected. Further examination reveals that Gynametry (topic heading) is defined in this manner:

Is a science which relates to the outside measurement of the human body on geometrical principles

So. There you have it. Mrs. Coleman elaborates:

I have ascertained by careful attention, that one part of the body is in proportion to the other throughout the entire structure; that every muscle is a curve, and every joint is a circle; and that for these reasons it is necessary only to use one measure to obtain a circle, and that another, or but one measure is required to obtain the size of the various parts, and consequently of the entire body.

[I think; Mrs. Coleman, does like using commas, and semicolons; while avoiding necessary placement of the same.]

To reduce this method to practice, I have devised the diagram represented in Figure 1, which is explained as follows, and can be easily understood by the letters of reference marked thereon.

One is then instructed to measure the wrist, between the joint and hand. Here’s a chart following these instructions.

So, if you want to draft a pattern based on one’s wrist measure, you’ll have to download the pdf.

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7 comments

  1. j. says:

    I have to say, without hesitation, that this is utterly fascinating; and I am so glad, that you took the time to go to the LoC; and grateful, that you are sharing this information with the rest of us.

  2. Susan Whelan says:

    Fascinating! What an interesting piece of social history, complete with many of the reasons why I’m so grateful to have been born in 1950 rather than 1850. My dear grandmother was born in London in 1887. She was expelled (!) from school at the age of fifteen for saying, “Mind, please,” to a nun who was blocking the gateway as she left the school grounds one day. She went to work within the week, apprenticed to a Court dressmaker. (A Court dressmaker’s business consisted entirely of creating gowns for women to wear when they were being presented to the King and Queen; at that time, Edward VII and Queen Mary. There were strict rules about court dress, including decolleté, length of train, suitable fabrics, even type and number of hair ornaments and jewellery.) I wonder if she ever tried to draw a pattern based on Mrs. Coleman’s system.

    Totally OT, I notice that Mrs. Coleman utilizes the S-curve in the shoulder seam, a refinement I have seen recommended by some home sewing mavens to feminize the shoulder of a tailored garment. Kathleen, have you seen this curve before, or has anyone tried it in a garment of their own construction? I can’t imagine production sewers have the time to incorporate it today.

    Great post, Kathleen. Thank you.

  3. Kathleen says:

    Totally OT, I notice that Mrs. Coleman utilizes the S-curve in the shoulder seam, a refinement I have seen recommended by some home sewing mavens to feminize the shoulder of a tailored garment. Kathleen, have you seen this curve before, or has anyone tried it in a garment of their own construction?

    [Susan is referring to the shoulder line of the draft on page 22]

    I’ve noticed the curve many times (in costuming and archaic drafts) but I’ve never tried it myself. I’ll have to remember to try it next time.

    On a related note, notice the CF line (same page) is not vertical. Vertical divisional points on the body, I think are something that was integrated and popularized with mass production. Now, it’s so ubiquitous, everybody thinks our bodies really look like that.

  4. teijo says:

    A careful reading shows that Mrs. Coleman requires not just the wrist, but also at least a confirmation of the waist, back and front measurements, and an evaluation of whether the shoulders are sloped or square.

    If anyone is interested, I made a spreadsheet file that uses the formulae on pages ten to eighteen to calculate some values. For the next few days it can be downloaded from the following
    URLs:

    ftp://ftp.tc-c.com/pub/eraseme.xls (Microsoft)
    ftp://ftp.tc-c.com/pub/eraseme.sxc (Open Office)

    Since this method uses body proportions rather than comparison charts, the units entered into the sheet can be millimeters, inches, “sun” or whatever other unit one prefers to use. To play, just fill in the boxes on page 1…

    It would be interesting to know out how the results compare with real life figures. However, they are not always true body measurements, but sometimes (e.g. in case of the bust) drafting units, so the only way to try this out would be to actually draft a pattern based on the instructions.

    While there are parts that are clearly incomplete (e.g. the “order” category is only mentioned in passing) and it is unclear how the more extreme “class”, “order” and “position” categories would interact, the instructions do as a whole do seem complete enough that with a bit of scripting effort a cad program could probably draft a pattern based on them…

  5. I downloaded the book. Wow, it’s fascinating. I measured my wrist at 61/4″ and thats the distance from my waist to my hip. Pretty cool, I think it works. Now I can see why I always have to alter pattern bottoms. I used to think it was because my hip was smaller than the pattern made up but I know now that it’s a combination of having a smaller hip and it being higher than the standard 7″ on my patterns. Now let’s hope I remember to make the change before cutting.

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