Facebook Email Pinterest Twitter X Instagram Tiktok Icon YouTube Icon Headphones Icon Favorite Navigation Search Icon Forum Search Icon Main Search Icon Close Icon Video Play Icon Indicator Arrow Icon Close Icon Hamburger/Search Icon Plus Icon Arrow Down Icon Video Guide Icon Article Guide Icon Modal Close Icon Guide Search Icon

Conversational Threads

Vintage garments

GailAnn | Posted in Talk With Us on

I’ve been on a kind of a “rant” about clothing (lack of) styles, manufacturing conditions, countries of origin, inferior fabric, and poor-quality workmenship, recently.

It occurs to me that maybe I just don’t understand.

Perhaps Threads could explain why fashion from an earlier day, was able to sustain the higher standard of quality in goods and workmanship than is available today?

Certainly families had much less money, per family member, in the clothing budgets of, say, 1938, to spend, than a comparable family would have in 2008.



  1. sewchris703 | | #1

    Your last sentence says it all, imo.  Clothing was made well because it was expected to last since styles didn't change as often.  Also laundring has changed.  The wringer washers and gas/electric dryers are very bad on fabrics and cause them to wear out  faster.  And we wash our clothes more often and don't follow the washing instructions on the clothing.  Clothes were spot cleaned, brushed, and aired between washings.  We also have gotten into the habit of having to have new clothes for every occasion instead of just a few clothes that we took care of because that's all we had.  Underwear and socks were washed nightly by hand to be worn again the next day.  Outer clothing were protected by aprons and smocks by adults as well as children.   Instead of discarded, clothing was recycled, remade, and handed down.


    1. User avater
      JunkQueen | | #2

      sewchris -- well said. We are a throw-away society. Not just clothing, either. And, as you said, we crave quantity as opposed to quality. Your comments about how people care (don't??) for their clothing is spot on. Why take care of something that will be tossed at the end of the season? Boggles my mind.

      1. GailAnn | | #5

        Dear JunkQueen:

        How does all of this square with the current movement to "Live Greenly"?  Gail

        1. User avater
          JunkQueen | | #7

          GailAnn, of course, it does not square at all. It pains me to see the waste. As my dear departed mother, a young housewife and mother during the Great Depression and WWII (with five children born over a 22-year-span) was wont to say, "Easy come, easy go."

          Edited 5/17/2008 3:52 pm ET by JunkQueen

    2. GailAnn | | #4

      Sewchris703 --

      Oh, I remember it well.

      I was probably 30 years old, before I had more than 3 sets of underware, one to wear, one to wash, one for Sunday and special occasions.  Whenever I could have a new set, it replaced the Sunday one, which in turn replaced the more worn of wash or wear.

      I STILL wash my underware out by hand, but NOT every night, anymore.

      Also I recall that we wore "dress shields" in the lower armhole of anything wool or silk, and those were also washed out at night with the "undies".  Gail

      Edited 5/17/2008 12:35 pm ET by GailAnn

    3. mainestitcher | | #8

      Your answer is spot-on! One very enlightening,and humorous book, (unfortunately out of print) is "In One Era and Out the Other" by the late Sam Levenson. His stories were of growing up in an ethnically diverse neighborhood during the thirties and forties. I do remember there was a passage about his mother re-using one garment several times: its last two incarnations were bloomers for his older sister's gym class, and finally underwear for him. Maybe it was on this forum? someone commented that her French exchange student arrived for a semester in the US with only one large suitcase - and a small collection of clothes to see her through every occasion in it.I worked for a dry cleaner for a year or so. One of his frustrations was that some very inexpensive clothing didn't clean very well. We wondered if it was intentional on the part of the manufacturer - not that customers would be required to buy new, but that the styles changed so quickly, the drive to have more stuff so great, clothing had become disposable.I amazed now, working in a specialty store, how very much is spent on prom and wedding dresses that will never be worn again. And I bite my tongue whenever someone says that everyone has to have two jobs these days, when I think of the things we have now that we didn't have growing up.

      1. sewchris703 | | #9

        Garments are now also labeled dry clean only when they don't need to be because the manufacturer is afraid of lawsuits if the customer doesn't follow the washing instructions.


  2. BernaWeaves | | #3

    While I agree with everything that has already been said, keep in mind that what's in the vintage stores IS the nice stuff that was taken care of and cleaned and probably not worn all that often.

    There were cheaply made items in the past that didn't last, and they were used as rags and then thrown away years ago. 

    The same occurs today.  I've hung onto my really nice stuff even if I don't wear it anymore; and recycled, given away, used as rags, or tossed the old crappy stuff.


    1. GailAnn | | #6

      Dear BernaWeaves ==

      I've noticed a lot of clothing in the second hand shops are in the smaller sizes. 

      Thus I always assumed ladies wore their sizes 18, 20, and 22's, while dieting into their 6, 8, 10's.  Went on a shopping spree, spent more than their typical clothing budget on the luxury of small sizes which they wore for a few months prior to regaining the extra pounds and returning to the well worn 18, 20, 22's.  Gail

      1. BernaWeaves | | #10

        Gail Ann:

        Interestly enough, in old clothes, I wear a 14 to 16.  In today's clothes, I wear a 4 or 6.  They're the same size, just numbered differently.  I think the reason there are so many small sizes in vintage stores, is that they were the ones that didn't sell, or were worn once and then outgrown.

        My grandmother and mother would also recycle clothing.

        My grandmother would make a white cotton or linen shift every year.  The following year she would dye it yellow (to hide the underarm stains or any food that had been dropped).  The next year she would dye it green, and the following year she would dye it black.  She had a rotating group of dresses that always looked new.

        My mother would take her old dresses and make dresses for me out of them.  She'd reuse the closures (as they were already nicely put in, and just cut the garment down to fit me.



        1. autumn | | #11

          I was born during the Depression.  One thing I remember very clearly was that when a pair of shoes became too short, my mother would have the local shoe repairman cut out the toes. Then I wore them as sandals. I wore hand-me-downs from a cousin. The good school clothes lasted because as soon as I got home from school I was told, "Go change your clothes." My grandmother made many of my clothes, and they always looked nice.  Now I have clothes and shoes that I've had for 15 yrs. or more, and they are nowhere near wearing out. If you are careful about how you put them on and off they won't get stretched out or torn. I cringe when I see my granddaughter take off a T-shirt by pulling her arms out of the sleeves first and stretching them to the max. Men especially seem to like taking T-shirts off by grabbing the back of the neck and yanking. They wear out at the back but no place else.  

        2. GailAnn | | #12

          Loved the idea about dying summer dresses!  What a wonderful idea.  Gail

        3. sewchris703 | | #13

          I've remade the same nightgown 4 times.  The original had a stretch lace bodice and ankle length cotton batiste skirt.  The 2nd incarnation, I made a new lace bodice in a different style.  The 3rd incarnation, I ditched the bodice and made a knee length gown with machine heriloom stitches on the yoke.  Currently, the nightgown is a bias cut thigh length slip gown with eyelet lace trim.  When the fabric totally wears out, I use the 8" lace trim that is on the hem to put on the next nightgown's first incarnation.   


This post is archived.

Threads Insider

Get instant access to hundreds of videos, tutorials, projects, and more.

Start Your Free Trial

Already an Insider? Log in

Conversational Threads

Recent Posts and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |

Threads Insider Exclusives

View All
View All