TOC men women && children babies MEN A man's wardrobe is simple; he wears pretty much the same clothes all the time. Instead of making his dressy clothes less comfortable, with fewer pockets, and those pockets in unexpected places, he wears the same garments, but more expensive, and harder to clean. Women would be well advised to imitate this. A man's basic outfit is shoes, socks, pants, and shirt, with optional vest and jacket. He usually wears underpants -- briefs, shorts, or longjohns -- and in cold weather may wear an undershirt. Unless actually on the beach, the American male strips very little in hot weather. He may remove the shirt -- thereby exposing himself to a serious sunburn, usually -- but rarely removes his shoes, and only a few so much as change into sandals. Those who do wear sandals often wear them all winter, for the male sees sandals as casual wear, rather than as hot-weather wear. A man's bathing suit is a pair of underpants, with the fly removed and a small pocket for keys added. Aside from underwear and pajamas, the bathing suit is the only nether garment for men in which pockets vary from the standard other than by adding more. The standard pants pockets for men are two side seam pockets, with optional watch pocket on the right, and two hip pockets. The hip pockets are usually welt pockets, but are patch pockets on jeans, overalls, coveralls, and some casual wear. Non-denim work pants always have welt pockets or flap pockets -- a welt pocket closed with a button-down flap. Denim work pants are likely to have a hammer loop on the left. The bibs of bib overalls are fully occupied with pockets, always including one or more pencil pockets. Usually, it is one big patch pocket stitched into sections. Above the waist, men's fashions have been marked by a migration of underwear to outerwear. "Shirt" is the same word as "short" and "skirt"; the "cote" was more like the shirt of today, and a "shirt" was an undercote. To this day, shirts worn with fine hand-tailored suits have no pockets -- and they always have long sleeves, lest the skin touch the expensive, hard-to-clean fabric of the ceremonial coat. Less-formal shirts may have short or long sleeves; the man who uses his hands usually prefers short sleeves. There is often a patch pocket on the left breast, and sometimes there are two breast pockets. Tropical shirts, consciously made as substitutes for the coat, have two breast pockets and two more near the hem, like the pockets on a smock. Since the T-shirt was underwear in living memory, is developing as a unisex garment, and is often printed to order, most remain without pockets -- but the "pocket tee" is the kind you are most likely to find when you shop for a plain T-shirt to wear with work pants, and when a tee is commissioned as a uniform, the logo is sometimes printed or embroidered on a pocket. (It is curious to note that ornamental designs are nearly always on the front, except when the design on the back echos or answers the design on the front, but the word "security" is always on the back.) The standard breast pocket on a coat is on the right, and in the lining. There are two pockets in the side seams or in the "hand warmer" position. Pockets in jackets are open, or closed with a zipper. Pockets in a suit coat are likely to close with a flap that does not button down. In formal clothes, the pockets are likely to be concealed, in sports clothes they may be patch pockets or zipper pockets. The male does not recognize lounge wear; he lounges in underwear or nightwear. Of underwear, the less said the better -- the presentation of suitable nightwear may lure him out of it. In cold weather, he may consent to change into sweats or a jogging suit. Evening wear for a male consists of slippers and a long shirt, called a nightshirt, or slippers, pants, shirt, and a long coat, otherwise known as pajamas and a robe. He may wear only the bottoms of the pajamas. The most comfortable pajamas for sleeping are tight-fitting knit, like long underwear. A nightshirt (or nightgown) isn't comfortable unless you plop down on your back and don't move before morning, but it's much more convenient than pajamas for, as the old joke runs, hanging on the bedpost in case of fire. The male wardrobe doesn't offer great scope for sewing skills. (Perhaps that is why we refer to the art as "dressmaking".) Unless his size or shape is unusual, he can buy clothes that fit him perfectly without even trying them on. Ready-to-wear work clothes and underwear are cheap, durable, and easy to find, and the male prefers work clothes exactly like the ready-to-wear outfits the rest of the team is wearing. The business suit, as part of its ceremonial function, requires specialized skills only a full-time tailor or dedicated hobbyist can afford the time to acquire. With four or more pockets, a split waistband, and a fly placket, pants are time-consuming to make, and even fussy dressers are often perfectly happy with ready-to-wear pants. Shirts, on the other hand, are fun to make, and your needlework skills show a great deal more than they would on pants -- on pants, skills show only when not up to snuff. If the male in question likes fine shirts, you can save quite a lot of money -- or, more precisely, dress much, much better than your budget would otherwise allow. But fine shirts are fine sewing, which is beyond the scope of this book. (Ask your librarian for books on shirtmaking. David Coffin's book is excellent.) Which brings us down to nightwear, which is easy to make and hard to find. It may well take less time to make a nightshirt than to shop for one, even given the current difficulty in finding suitable cloth. Enough undyed silk twill to make a pair of pajamas costs less than polyester ready-to-wear pajamas. And in nightwear, you can get away with embroidery, appliqu‚, bold prints, and bright colors. WOMEN On the other hand, women's pants are more rewarding to sew than women's shirts. A woman's shirt is more complicated than a man's shirt if you want it to fit properly, and if you don't mind bad fit, ready-to-wear will do fine. Where a loose and sloppy shirt is often comfortable and sometimes the height of fashion, ill-fitting pants are always uncomfortable and ugly. Not to mention that the pockets in women's ready-to-wear clothes vary all over the lot, and are often missing altogether. Many a woman who isn't particularly interested in needlework has taken up sewing just so she can find her pockets. You can spend as much time in the stores as it would take to make a pair of pants, and still come home with nothing, or with an act of desperation. Custom-fitted clothes wear longer, and you don't need as many changes. And you won't need to buy dirty-work clothes at all, because your shabby dress pants will be comfortable and washable. The best pants for women are the modified broadfalls discussed in "GARMENTS: pants", because the waist can be adjusted four full inches, so they always fit comfortably whether you are hungry or stuffed, whether you let your shirt hang out or tuck it in -- women's broadfalls can even accommodate the first few months of pregnancy. For many women, a waistband that can be let out or taken in while you are wearing it is a dire necessity. An elastic waistband on anything more substantial than underpants has to be very tight, whereas a non-stretch waistband can leave room for your clenched fist and still hold up your pants -- or your skirt. *Anything* that hangs from a waistband can be made on the broadfall principle. The adjustment works at least as well on skirts as on pants, but how useful the pockets are depends on the fullness of the skirt. A full pleated skirt can camoflage your lunch *and* your knitting, a closely-fitted straight skirt is doing well to hide a shopping list. (If pockets would show through the skirt, you can make single-layer wings instead, and at least get the adjustability.) Dresses and skirts should be reserved for the extremely formal and the extremely informal -- party dresses, business suits, nightgowns, nightshirts, bathrobes. If you are trying to keep your wardrobe to a minimum, a blouse and matching skirt is more versatile than a dress. A black skirt can be made suitable for almost any occasion if you have a blouse of the same fabric and a contrasting shirt. If you go to very few parties, but some are in the summer and some are in the winter, you can make a sleeveless or short-sleeved dress and a long-sleeved bolero or jacket. The same trick works for making a business suit that's a party dress in the area hidden by the jacket. I prefer ankle-length party dresses. Partly it's that when I wear a skirt, I wear a *skirt*, partly because it allows me to choose my stockings for comfort -- thick wool tights in winter, knee hose in summer, garter belts *never*. A nightgown isn't comfortable for sleeping, but is excellent for popping on when you get up in the middle of the night, as you can get into it more quickly than a robe or duster. (At least one open-all-the-way-to-the-hem garment should be on hand in case of illness, injury, or fluffy hairdo.) For slopping around in the summer, you can't beat a loose, 100%-plant-fiber nightgown. Choose a fabric heavy enough to turn the sun (and heavy enough to keep anyone from noticing that panties and a bra are all that is under it), and pretty enough that you can call the nightgown something else -- "float", "muumuu", "sun dress", "popover", "caftan", "smock", "house dress", "Shirt dress", "T-dress", "tank dress", "polo dress", "shift", "shift dress", "chemise", -- I call them "daygowns". Pick a style that stands out from your body -- the "A-Lines" of the sixties were good at this. If you wear the gown outdoors, it should have sleeves to keep the sun off your shoulders; the sleeves should be gathered or flared, to let in lots of air. My poncho shirts are good this way -- they have sleeves that bell enormously, so that they have little contact with the arms even though they shade them past the elbow. (The trailing tails make this style of sleeve unsuitable for wear in the kitchen, unless the sleeves are very short.) If you have to do physical labor in the heat, another approach is to wear close-fitting cotton knit, and use a laundry sprinkler or plant mister to keep it wet. If there is any breeze at all, wet cotton is quite cold, and also soaks heat out of your skin easily. A wet shirt usually suffices -- which is lucky, as wet pants are uncomfortable and wet skirts are useless. In the interest of modesty, a daygown should reach below your knees when you are standing still, and in the interest of safety, it should never be long enough to entangle your feet. Our ancestors tucked their skirts into their apron strings when they were working, but tying a string around your waist would defeat the whole purpose of wearing a daygown. There are other ways to hitch up a skirt, such as tabs and buttons, but it is better to make the gown clear the ground comfortably in the first place. Don't wear long and flowing garments in the presence of sources of ignition. If you are into re-enactments, make your dresses of very heavy fabric (preferably wool), make your man build your cooking fire, and keep buckets of water handy. Our ancestors cooked in those outfits, but they also burned to death appallingly often. Except for the business suit, nobody can tell whether or not a woman's clothes need dry cleaning just by looking at them. Therefore, you should never sew dry-clean-only fabric unless you are making a tailored business suit. Even then, you may find that you can get away with an un-structured jacket. (All depends on current fashion, and where you work. For ceremonial use, it need only *look* hard to clean.) Underpants aren't difficult to make, but are often cheap to buy. Bras are complicated to sew, and fussy to fit, but it may be difficult to buy anything that fits in a fabric you can stand. You should also consider the possibility that you don't need a bra -- if you don't have any area where your skin is doubled against itself, it may be that a tight cotton vest to protect your nipples is all you need. Slips, undershirts, and underskirts are a tempting target for hand sewing, as you can engage in all sorts of frills and ornamentation no matter how tailored your style is. Consider putting sleeves into your slips; this is much more comfortable than separate underarm shields. Now that we no longer need them to hold our stockings up, girdles, corsets, and stays should be reserved for treating medical conditions. If you need a "foundation garment" to look dressed up, design clothes that suit your natural shape. On the other hand, a properly-fitted linen corset can be more comfortable than a bra. (Set the words "properly fitted" in forty-point red type. Then make it blink. Corsets gotta fit.) Working trousers should be plain and dark. (Summer trousers can be made of light-colored linen.) When creating a work of art, you can cut every pattern piece into a dozen smaller pieces, and cut each of these hundreds of pieces from a different fabric, but if you reach into your closet with your eyes closed and grab a shirt and pants of two different prints, you are going to feel somewhat ill the next time you walk by a full-length mirror. Getting dressed for work should not be a long, drawn-out artistic endeavor! Make your everyday pants capable of being worn with *any* shirt, and save the bright colors and conspicuous patterns for your shirts. CHILDREN At many stages in their development, children have a desperate need to dress exactly like their peers. Even when they want something "different", it must be different in exactly the same way that all their friends are different. You should, therefore, allow anything that isn't actually harmful. But remember that children (particularly adolescents) also have a desperate need to shock their parents, as a necessary part of growing up and becoming separate persons. If you are shocked and horrified when Junior comes home with a fake tattoo, he won't be obliged to get a real one. If you make him wait until he's out of your sight to put his hat on backward, he won't need to wear his undershorts over his pants. Disapproval must be dispensed delicately, so that you don't discourage the child from something that he really needs. Like everything else, you need enough, but not too much, and in exactly the right place. Your goal is to allow your child to say "Yeah, mine too" when the other children say "My parents are such *nerds*!" I never succeeded in sneaking out of my little bed in the middle of the night without waking my mother, but it's probably a good idea to make toddler's pajamas tight fitting, of knit stretched to fit. That way whatever mischief they get into while their parents are asleep, they won't be trailing their sleeves in it. Whether for day or for night, don't use anything that is capable of melting to make small children's clothes, as melted fabric sticks to the skin and may convert a trivial burn into a ghastly injury. Don't trust a name or a label with your child's life; test a sample of the fabric you intend to use by holding it near a candle flame. (Use tongs in case it flunks.) When sewing for children, be particularly careful about washing fabric before use, as children are more likely to develop allergies than adults are, and they are more sensitive to any irritating toxins that fibers may have accumulated during manufacture and shipping. A little girl should never wear a skirt unless she is under the immediate supervision of her mother, or some other authority who can be trusted to keep her upright at all times. If the current fashion requires dresses in school or at other times when she can't reasonably be expected to remain unnaturally sedate without respite, make a pair of slacks or shorts to match every dress. BABIES If it's clean, dry, isn't scratchy, and doesn't keep his thumb out of his mouth, a baby doesn't care *what* he wears. Indulge yourself, it won't last. Bear in mind that a baby won't get much wear out of any one garment, and pace yourself. Never allow fabric that has never been washed to touch a baby. It is the fashion now for re-usable diapers to be made on the pattern of disposables. The old style that were cut off the bolt with pinking shears and not even hemmed are much better; since they open out flat in the laundry, they are easier to get thoroughly clean, and they dry much faster than diapers that are sewn into thick wads. It does take lots of practice to be able to pin a flat piece of cloth into a stable pair of pants, but you are going to get more practice than you know what to do with, and your first efforts will be on a baby who doesn't crawl around or even roll over. Since the diaper is folded to fit at every wearing, you don't have to keep buying replacements as the child grows, and the child never has to wear a diaper that's too tight. If you have a second baby while the first is still in diapers, hand down the older baby's thin, soft diapers to the new baby, and buy thick new diapers for the older baby. EOF