Yet more vintage drafting books

no_italian_monobuttNote: links to the preceding entries in this series -this being the fifth entry- appear at close. This will be the last because I can’t tell (beyond the Italian book) whether these entries are of any interest. Also, I’m pouting a bit that visitors didn’t seem to be as fond of the Union Special book as I was. Wah.

Before I tell you about today’s books, I wish to bring your attention to the jeans and jeans shorts drafts in the Italian book (page 111-113 of the pdf ). Keeping in mind the last copyright date is 2004, mono-butt is not in evidence here so I retain hopes of seeing jeans like this again in my lifetime.  Preferably on me. Alternatively, I’d settle for having a butt like that but Santa has yet to bring me one in spite of repeated requests.

Amended 2/28/11: It seems this book has been removed from the archives site. As I mentioned previously, I thought that might happen.

One thing to keep in mind with these books is that the titles are so long that they are often cut short. Unfortunately, you may not know the specific content of a book unless you download it to read the title page. One example is a book by Daniel Ryan titled on the LOC page as Human Proportions in Growth Being the Complete Measurement of the Human Body. However, a closer examination (aforementioned download and reading the title page) shows the the tail end of the title was omitted. The omission was “for Every Age and Size During the Years of Juvenile Growth”. So what we really have here is a children’s drafting and proportions book. Maybe not the first but certainly one of them and definitely the most accessible of the earliest ones. Since children’s growth isn’t as dynamic as modern adult growth, the age of this text is not as important as you’d think. This could be an important work. I hope some of you will download this one and let me know what you think of it as you have time to go through it.

sleeve_scye_mirror_imageThe modern designer: A Work Showing the Natural Way of Producing Garments that Are Perfectly Balanced (copyright 1900) is definitely worth a download if you’re interested in knowing how to draft sleeves according to the shape of the armhole (pg. 20) with radial grades following on the next page. I don’t know if the illustration at right is clear enough but the armhole shape lies next to the sleeve shape and is a near mirror image (!). Not saying it’s 100% and to take it to the bank but there’s bound to be some cues here.

planes_of_measureI don’t know that the Parisian ladies’ tailoring system for designing, pattern cutting, fitting and making waists, skirts, dresses, suits and all outer garments; a means of self education and a guide for educational instruction in trade schools and domestic science institutions (1917) really is Parisian but it is interesting.  Diagrams in this archaic process of drafting are not strictly aligned (justified) to an x-y grid as  we do today but all lines are curved within the grid. I think most old school pattern makers will agree this is more accurate. The book’s strength lies in showing where the points of measure really lie on a finished pattern (pg 21 etc), at right being a sample illustration. These days, technicians (I’m obviously using that term loosely) measure garment attributes along even vertical and horizontal lines.

The American garment cutter for women’s garments (1913) may be of interest if you’re a sizing historian. Documented within are measures showing women’s hips as much as 6″ larger than their busts (pg 9-11). I also like the supplied proportional width and height charts on pages 10 and 11.

In the vein of drafting specifically for manufacturing is Short methods; a Treatise on Cutting, Designing & Manufacturing Men’s Clothing (1911). I wasn’t aware there was such a book and rather than wax eloquent about it (pout_on/ it’s not as though anyone appreciated my Union Special book review! /pout_off), leave it for you to determine its suitability for your library. Mention is made of grading systems, markers, time-keeping -even a cutting ticket- with no aspiration or presumption of custom tailoring. Few books (especially of this vintage) ever list grade rules or guidelines for them but this one does (pg 76).  As with many of these books, there is no table of contents in the front matter but this one has an “index” that provides the same function (pg 125).

Today’s last title is The Tailors’ Director, containing an Important Discovery for Fitting the Human Shape by Anatomical Principles, Including Regimentals, Gentlemen’s Dress, Frock, Shooting and Over Coats [snipped because yes, there is still more to this title]. This book -copyright 1833- is funny because its author (John Jackson) is a akin to a verbal energizer bunny, devoting no less 15% of his page count criticizing other tailor-authors. He accuses them of being plagiarists and enumerates reasons why the powers that be deliberately spread “absurdities and impracticable theories” before he deigns to enlighten his reader.  If you haven’t figured it out by now, humility is in short supply. Says author John Jackson:

The Author is fully sensible of the critical situation in which he places himself, by attempting to detect false Hypotheses, and venturing to correct and improve the popular Systems of others who are patronized by Tailors of established reputation; but the chief motive in this arduous undertaking being directed towards general improvement, the Trade will no doubt appreciate his industry and acknowledge his application, who has combined utility with simplicity.

I hope this series was as fun for you as it was for me.

Grading minutiae
The Grammar of Garment Cutting
Free! Italian pattern drafting book
Manual of Work Garment Manufacture

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  1. Lisa Brazus says:

    Thank you Kathleen!!! I have been going to download heaven. Now I just need another 24 hours in the day to study them all. I have enjoyed all of your postes on the series. Dont’ get pouty I am sure others are busy reading and will send postes later. You rock

  2. Tess says:

    Thanks for this series. I am literally using the Italian pattern book right now! I love discovering resources online that make me so grateful I am making clothes in the day of the internet. I really appreciate you sharing them and I look forward to checking them all out!

  3. phoebe grant says:

    I’m as guilty as the next person, Kathleen, as I hungrily follow up all your links but neglect to acknowledge the effort you put in on our behalf.

    Please don’t give up. I’d miss your kindness.

  4. Deanna Bartee says:

    I’m new to your site….The only reason I haven’t mentioned my appreciation of the Union Special Book is that I’m catching up on the other posts available…Then I plan to study it closely. I’m also a patternmaker so the book mentioned today about Parisian Ladies Tailoring will also get very close scrutiny…!!!!

  5. Matthew Pius says:

    Kathleen, don’t feel unappreciated. Everyone is too busy following all the links! :- ) Personally, I can not stop laughing at the sketches in the Italian book. Yes, there’s no mono-butt, but those women remind me of comic-books. Most of the necklines come down to the solar plexus. And then there’s the “camicia elegante” whose neckline seems to come down almost to the navel. Not that the men are any less hilarious. Most of them look like they used porn stars for models. And maybe they did!
    I will have to make time to check out the men’s clothing book from 1911, though.

  6. Christine says:

    I have been following and downloading these books. The Italian one cracked me up, the illustrations were so…..tawdry.

  7. Arria says:

    The links are greatly appreciated. I have been in download heaven. I will be buying paper this evening so I can print them all.

  8. Quincunx says:

    No kiddin’. This is a bonanza of reading and is sparing my husband constant nagging re: whether or not my physical book order has arrived yet. He would thank you if he knew. ;)

    Makes me wonder, though, which of the current crop of sewing books will survive the decades and crop up in whatever mutation of the library system serves the future reader. . .

  9. celeste says:

    i’m also busily following the links, and reading and searching through on other intresting topics available though the archives like embroidery, and knitting…….

  10. Ecstatic to see and download the Union Special Book!! Thank you for all your book posts! I think some of the glory may have been scooped in the comments section of the preceding day’s entry. I couldn’t wait a day, what a find!

  11. SRB says:

    This is my first visit to your very interesting, information-filled blog and website. Thank you for your generous offering of so much expertise.

    Just a note: While most of the books to which this post links have been contributed for scanning by the Library of Congress, they are actually made available for free download by Internet Archive.

    Internet Archive is a non-profit organization–separate from Library of Congress or any other governmental agency–that provides access to millions of books, videos, and documents that are free of copyright. Some of the scanning is supported by personal donations, public or private grants, some through volunteers.

    I’d like to see credit given to Internet Archive and all the people who work so hard to provide this amazing resource at

  12. Cheryl Designs says:

    I LOVE this series…truly…. Haven’t had a chance to check in lately…. Unfortunately..NOT because alteration business is BOOMING :( This is my usual SLOW period in Dec/Jan. Thus, the time of year I try to RELAX alittle and catch-up on my home projects. I LAUGHED out loud at the MARVELOUS BUTT in those jeans. I have been cursed with tiny/flat butt since the day I was BORN. I am now 53 and still the owner of a tiny-NO-BUTT. But…compared to ALL of the other women my age I know..I GLADLY ACCEPT my little self. I WILL get the time to check all of these downloads in the next two weeks. THANK YOU very much and HAPPY NEW YEAR :) Best wishes from Cheryl

  13. Paul says:

    Where I am presently located, I am having a great deal of difficulty getting to the website. Maybe you can give us another link to how you got to the list of available books? My connection in China is very poor, so I am getting “timed out”. Thanks.
    By the way, I would be very interested in the Union Special book if I could download it. So no “wahs” please.

  14. Paul says:

    Mono butt seems to be quite common here. My wife is very much unlike most Chinese women, so she has a lot of difficulty finding pants that actually fit her properly in the butt. I am drafting her a pants pattern that we have made for her. In my humble opinion I do not think the patterns for jeans/pants are taking into account the crotch length (front to back) and crotch depth properly; as well as the ease. What do you think is the primary reason for the mono-butt appearance? I remember the superbly fitting ladies pants from the 1950’s through 1960’s period; the ones with the zip on the left side seam or in the back seam; the style that seemed to “lift and separate”.

  15. Kathleen says:

    SRB: thanks for providing the background details. I’ll amend this entry to make note of your comments.

    Paul: I’m sorry, I have no ready solution. Perhaps you could try clicking on the “Read Online” option which will take you to the Internet Archive site SRB mentioned. Maybe the download from there is faster? If I could figure out a way to break up the US pdf into sections, I could email those to you. Actually, would sending you the file directly work? I can do that.

    Re: monobutt. Follow the link I left for the whole sordid tale. Be sure to read the comments!

  16. Quincunx says:

    Paul, for general web surfing you might want to investigate settings or software for “lower latency” or “lower ping”. So far the software recommendations I’ve gotten have all been dedicated to playing online games (priorities, eh?) but they certainly do help the Southeast Asian connections not get disconnected from U.S. sites all the time. These older books’ scans are tiny, though, so if you can supply an email address with some spare storage, I would be happy to download them and send them along. (Unless you can’t connect _or_ download large files because your connection is being throttled due to overuse, in which case I can only sympathize.)

    These certainly aren’t homogenized cuts like the modern sewing books; there’s darts and curves every-which-where. Was there this awesome variety we lost along the way or are some of these authors just outlying kooks whose work managed to survive the decades? They couldn’t have planned for the internet, and given some of the marketing hype on exclusivity, some of them didn’t even plan for their books to enter any library.

  17. Denise Woodson Ofria says:

    As I begin a Spring semester fashion design and patternmaking class, these references are as precious as rubies. I echo Phoebe Grant’s post. I love these!

  18. JustGail says:

    I’m not sure if I should say “thanks!” for the heads-up on these books or not. I’ll be spending entirely too much time reading them (and probably not understanding quite a bit) and looking for more books. Not only on sewing, but also on knitting, crochet, embroidery, etc.

    Hmmmm, let’s see – clean house vs. read some wonderful old books. I think the answer is simple – THANKS for the books!

  19. ClareInStitches says:

    Oh dear, Kathleen, talk about ROFLOL; the Italian illustrations are a hoot. The Riding Pants, pages 115/6 nearly had me falling off my chair. Have you noticed, though, the nasty folds the pants all have at centre front crotch? Don’t think I want those even to avoid mono-butt!

    Thanks for your inspired research and posting.

  20. Lisa Blank says:

    Catching up on old posts…

    Did you notice that the Parisian Ladies diagram shows a center front with some shape rather than being cut on the straight of grain? We don’t see those anymore, as you’ve pointed out elsewhere on the blog.

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