Mme Trois FontainesDecember 11, 2015
I wanted to give you a little peek at a dressmaking book from 1933. Mme Jeanne Trois Fontaines, Principal of the Paris Academy of Dressmaking on Old Bond St, London was so flooded with students enquiring if she offered a home course of study that she was obliged to write this book – simply called “Dressmaking”.
Mme Trois Fontaines Principal of the Paris Academy of Dressmaking
In the first half of the 20th Century, a lot of people did make clothes at home, many more than do so now. Paper patterns were often given away in women’s magazines, and you could buy ready-made paper patterns printed on tissue paper as you do now. Many women would have had quite accomplished dressmaking skills. But possibly not as accomplished as Mme Trois Fontaines would like.
Mme Trois Fontaines – Helpful
Mme Trois Fontaines is quite stern, though willing to be helpful to those without the benefit of her rigorous training and strength of mind. Despite the fact that “There are are a great number of people who find it difficult to apply the necessary concentration when attempting to acquire any particular instruction in book or correspondence form” she has considered throughout those unfortunates who have “never before had the opportunity of a proper training and who could not be expected to assume the technique without a complete realisation of the main groundwork”.
Of course, Mme Trois Fontaines (a made up piece of French glamour of a name if ever I saw one) protests too much, and the instructions are absolutely fiendish, even for someone with some dress making and pattern cutting skills.
Mme Trois Fontaines – Dressmaking
The book is in the form of instructions on how to measure for clothes, how to fit to people of different shapes and sizes – for example, someone who is of Small Bust and Large Across Back, or suffers a Stooped Back, and some drawing of patterns for specific designs. You would need to scale up and change these drawings according to the instructions and the measurements you have taken, something that would require immaculate drafting skills and a head for mathematics.
For a random example, under the subheading “You Always Do the Back First” we are directed:
Measure 1”upwards from point A and call that point B. Trace a line from Neck point C though point B, and mark the length of Sleeve point D (Length Sleeve 15”). Now take half the width of Sleeve (Sleeve 14” / 2=7”) and trace a line at Right Angles, point G. Join this up to Underarm seam with another line at Right Angles (point F) and complete with a curve of about 1 1/2”. That finishes the Back.
Mme Trois Fontaines – with colour plates
These are sometimes accompanied by very lovely colour plates or drawings of the enticing dresses you will be creating. Sometimes you get nothing at all by way of illustration. They are a very typical thirties shape, influenced by designers such as Madeline Vionnet and screen sirens in flowing, draping gowns. They are very elegant, often cut on the bias or with a bias cut panel or ruffle, mid calf length with a fitted bodice along with fitted sleeves. i have often gazed at the delicate green evening dress and thought, maybe… Then looked at the instructions and thought then again, maybe not.