Thursday, July 1, 2010

Has Anyone Seen My Mojo?????

I had surgery on June 18th (nothing dire) and I can't believe how wiped out I have been ever since. So many thing are beyond my energy level: working, sewing, blogging, emailing, or reading. For a while there, I was concerned that my blackout on communication or any other human interaction was a symptom of laziness or selfishness or both, but now that I am coming out of my funk, I finally realized: I am profoundly exhausted. I didn't get it until now; sort of like you don't realize how bad a relationship is until you get out of it and then you look back and say to yourself, "Wow. That really sucked."

And because I have felt like hammered sh*t, I haven't sewed a stitch since VickiW's quilting birthday extravaganza. Until today. I made Mother some eyeglass cases, which I made in the simplest way possible:

Kinda pitiful, aren't they? I even used an old placemat I made years ago, so I didn't even have to fool with quilting some fabrics together. I just cut the placemat into 5.5 by 6.5 inch pieces, folded them lenghwise, sewed one side and the bottom, and turned them inside out. That was about all I could manage, and she is happy with them.

Fortunately, during my convalescence I had a book Anne got me for my birthday from the Victoria & Albert Museum during her last trip to our London office. Here's a link to the book. I poured over it for hours:
Horrockses Fashions made the-have-to-have dresses in Great Britain from 1946 to the late 50's and they are just my style. (No, I don't know how to pronounce "Horrockses" either.) When Mother and I were in London last August, we saw one of the Horrockses dresses in the V&A and she took a photo:

This is a pretty typical Horrockses dress. Bright, clear colors of all cotton, with a simple fitted bodice and a full skirt. They were all the rage in Great Britain post WWII and everyone wore them, from Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) right down to the office girls who saved their shillings to buy just one. While they weren't horribly expensive, post-war Britain was pretty austere, and for a young lady who worked as a teacher or nurse, they were seen as well worth scrimping for.
The book itself isn't particularly well written, and the author focuses mostly on the Horrockses' business model and marketing techniques, repeating herself often. The best part of the book for me were the photos showing the dresses and the young women wearing them, clearly thrilled with their acquisitions. Horrockses had it's own cotton mill that produced the fabric, and some girls who couldn't afford to buy the dresses bought the fabric and then sewed their own, like Beth Hartley who provided a photo for the book taken in 1955 that shows her wearing her handmade rendition of a Horrockses dress, and she says that every time she wore it, she thought she was the "bees knees". : )
I would have preferred more information on the dresses themselves: how were they constructed, what sewing techniques were used that gave Horrockses their reputation for a quality product, and how many yards of fabric were used for those skirts?
A lot of the dresses were sundresses or strapless dresses paired with a bolero jacket. Here is a typical dress from the book:
You can see that the insert photo is the same dress that Mother took the photo of in the V&A.
Here's another. A lot of the fabrics used had a stripe motif:

The one thing I was able to do while I laid in bed was imagine my own Horrockses dress, surfing the web incessantly looking for the perfect fabric. I've decided to make a sundress, using the bodice from a pattern I have used several times before, and pair it with an impossibly voluminous skirt, which will require gathering yards and yards of fabric. Whether I can attach such a skirt to a bodice with a 28 inch waist remains to be seen. And I have a bolero pattern from a vintage Advance pattern I have used before (but I only made the dress, not the bolero). And I finally found a vintage inspired fabric from Windham Fabrics that I think will work! But when this will all actually happen is dependent on that missing mojo. If you happen to see it, send it my way.


gwensews said...

I love the green strapless with bolero. You've been sewing in your head, which is inspiring. Feel better soon!

Mary said...

I love pictures too and some of the books I buy are just for the quilts not the writing or patterns.

I can definitely see you wearing one of these dresses!

I hope that you are feeling somewhat better. I hate those times that I'm too tired to do anything so I relate in a small way.....

Becky in VA said...

Horrockses dresses are definitely you. The blue and white one would look beautiful on you - but I'm looking forward to seeing the one you're planning to make.

Rest and enjoy your recovery and stay inside - the heat is enough to zap anyone's mojo. Keep cool.

Summerset said...

Don't beat yourself up - recovery from surgery isn't all physical and it just takes a while to get back to being "yourself". Meanwhile, you got a fabulous book to look at - I am drooling over those dresses. I have to admit, I saw some crab fabric at Jo-ann's the other day and thought of you!

Aimee Marieee said...

I hope you get your energy and full health back very very soon! Thank you for the book recommendation!

Stef said...

I know this post is very old but I came across your blog while researching McCalls 6123, which I bought today.

I am also a fan of Horrockses fashion, and on the website of the V&A there is a downloadble pattern for :

This is the link to the pattern:

Horrockses' mill was in a Northern town called Preston, where I lived when I first moved over here. I am going to a wedding there in the summer and that dress is in the top three of things I might wear. Both because it's beautiful, and because it'd be nice to acknowledge the local heritage.

KimP said...

Thanks, Stef, it is great to hear from you, even on an old post! I am so interested in Preston, now that you have identified where the mill was - and if you make that dress, send me a link to a photo of you in it!