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Gretchen Hirsch
Vintage-Inspired Dressmaking

Session One - June 11-17, 2017

Course Description
Join Gretchen "Gertie" Hirsch to make the perfect vintage-inspired dress! Using Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book as a guidebook, participants will spend five days making a one-of-a-kind, perfectly fitting, and flattering frock. We’ll start with making a bodice muslin to address any fit issues. Special attention will be paid to adjustments for bust size, torso length, shoulders, and armholes. Once the fit is perfected, participants will learn how to transfer these adjustments back to their paper pattern. Then comes cutting and construction. Topics covered will include:

  • Working with prints, plaids, and stripes
  • Best techniques for cutting and marking your fabric
  • Sewing darts and princess seams
  • Strapless dress construction (boning, waist stays, and underlining)
  • Lining your dress
  • Setting in sleeves
  • Hem and seam finishes
  • Inserting a lapped zipper
  • Hand stitches for a couture finish

Participants will communicate via email with Gretchen prior to the class to discuss the dress style they’d like to make, fabric choices, preparing the pattern, and to address any special supplies needed for your particular dress project.

Artist's Biography
Gretchen “Gertie” Hirsch is a passionate home seamstress, a sought-after sewing teacher, and the creator of one of the web’s most popular sewing blogs: Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing. The blog began as a way for readers to follow Hirsch’s progress as she stitched all 14 fashions from the iconic 1950s sewing book Vogue’s New Book for Better Sewing (a Julie & Julia–esque experiment for the modern sewist). It quickly became a place for Hirsch to share tutorials and lively posts about sewing as it relates to fashion history, pop culture, body image, and gender.

Gretchen is now the author of four sewing books, including Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book and Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing. Gretchen is the designer of Patterns by Gertie, a line of retro sewing patterns with Butterick, as well as the Gertie fabric line, sold at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores. She lives in Beacon, New York with her two favorite creatures, Henry and Hattie.

Artist's Statement
I’m a blogger, dressmaker, feminist, vintage fashion enthusiast, and sewing nerd. I’d love to say that watching classic black-and-white movies and researching fashion movements like Dior’s post-war New Look cultivated my interest in vintage fashion. But the truth is that it had more to do with cult classics from my youth like Grease, Cry Baby, and Dirty Dancing. Thankfully, Wanda Woodward and Baby Houseman led me straight to an obsession with harder stuff like Dior and Balenciaga.

I have vivid sewing memories from my childhood: picking out sewing patterns with my mom, learning how to wind a bobbin, making potholders. When I came back to sewing in my mid-twenties, it was because I didn’t have the body type, time, or resources to cultivate the vintage wardrobe of my dreams. I wanted to be able to look at a vintage dress and then recreate it exactly . . . but in my size and in a totally different color. Armed with the entire back issue library of Threads Magazine and a growing collection of vintage sewing books and patterns, I began to devote all my free time to dressmaking. I started to have vivid dreams about inserting a hand-picked zipper or cutting lengths of steel boning for a strapless bodice. At this point, I think the internet saved me from becoming a complete obsessive recluse.

When I started Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing in 2009, I simply intended it to be a place to record my sewing efforts and progress. I was surprised to find a steadily growing virtual community who was also interested in learning as much about garment sewing as possible, but even more surprised at the conversations that followed: What does it mean to be a modern day feminist who wants to reclaim styles of the ‘50s? How can sewing our own clothes contribute to a body-positive movement? And what would be the perfect pattern to recreate Baby’s pink chiffon dance dress from Dirty Dancing? My posts started to reflect my thoughts not just on garment construction, but also on sexual politics, body image, pop culture, and fashion history.

I think the most important thing I do now is to connect my fellow sewing obsessives with resources: patterns, fabric, and books. Recreating vintage fashion shouldn’t be rarefied or inaccessible, but something that anyone can learn about. I fully believe that making a dress by hand can improve every aspect of one’s sense of well-being, while also connecting us to previous generations and our own creativity.

Supply List
*Note: please consult Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book for any additional specialty supplies you may need for your chosen style, like steel boning for strapless dresses.

  • 3-5 yards of muslin, dress fabric and lining fabric, depending on which dress style is chosen.
  • Zipper to match dress fabric
  • Thread to match dress fabric
  • Copy of Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book
  • Paper to trace pattern (you should have traced the pattern before class)

Sewing supplies:

  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing machine needles in a size appropriate for your fabric
  • Pins
  • cutting shears
  • paper scissors
  • tracing wheel
  • dressmakers tracing paper
  • 2 x 18” clear gridded ruler
  • patternmaking paper
  • marking chalk

Website: Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing

Begin your application process now!

Gretchen Hirsch

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