A Book Review: Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

The following is a review of Gertie Sews Vintage Casual by Gretchen Hirsch.  I was not sponsored or otherwise enticed to buy this book.  In fact, I struggled to find many reviews of it before I pressed “Buy it Now”.

I bought this book in the hope that it would kick-start my flagging sew-jo.
Has it?
I am afraid not. (No, I did not sew a skirt this weekend.)
There are lots of things I really like about it.
It is full of good sewing and pattern-drafting advice to help you make well-finished clothes that fit.
The concept chimes perfectly with my idea of how I want to dress in the workplace:
“everyday retro”…”luxurious comfortable wardrobe basics”, based on “The American Look” of the 1940’s and 1950’s.
The line drawings are lovely.  Reminiscent of the drawings on vintage pattern envelopes, they make me want that dress.  I want to be that girl.

But the photographs of finished garments?  Eeugh.  No.
It took me a long time to figure out what was putting me off.
Gertie and her pals are good-looking gals with plenty of pizzazz and attitude.  I love their hair, their make up, their tattoos, their style.  But in those garments?  Frumpy.
And if a 20-something girl with pink hair and tattoos looks old-fashioned and dowdy in that skirt / top combo, what hope is there for a greying middle-aged woman?

I think part of the problem may be that they are photographed square-on, against a single-coloured background.  There is no context.  It is too flat, two-dimensional, stark.  If I don’t like the fabric Gertie has chosen, it is hard to see beyond it.
I am such a sucker for aspirational bookcase backgrounds – stick her in a library and I might like this sweater.
I tried to ignore the photographs and focus on the drawings.

Ooh!  A cobbler’s apron!  That’s exactly what I need!
But it is not in the book.

OK, try again… 40’s style wide legged pants!    Um… not exactly.  You take the basic cigarette pant pattern and add 2 inches either side of the original seam lines, straight down to the hem.  Um, no.
That would be fine as a quick-fix fancy-dress costume design, but as anyone who has made vintage-pattern trousers can tell you, the crotch rise is entirely different in a wide-legged style (low slung) from a cigarette pant (high slung).  And the accompanying photograph confirms my fear – ugly, granny trousers, clinging in all the wrong places.

I wanted to love this book, I really did, but right now it is making me feel sad.
It sets out to provide the home-sewer with the basic patterns to create an entire vintage-casual wardrobe, in “modern sizes”, with instructions to alter the fit to suit your own body shape.  But the “modern sizes” are definitely not my size.  I would have to redraft every single pattern, because the proportions are so far away from my own.
This probably means there are a lot of very happy curvy stitchers out there, praising Gertie for her “updating” of previously unattainable vintage styles.  But I would have to cut a size 2 bust, 6 waist, and 3 hip (if 3 even existed) instead of just picking up an original pattern from 1948 that fits me exactly.  Why would I bother?

So for several weeks now I have been lamenting my over-sized waist.  No, I was not thinking my bust and hips were too small, I was thinking my waist was too big.  And that is depressing and dysmorphic and just plain wrong!
Fat and frumpy.  That’s how this book made me feel.
And that’s not a good selling point.

By far the best-looking patterns are the ones for knit fabrics.  There is a sweetheart-neck tee just like the one they sell at Collectif.  And there is a waist-length “sweater” made out of knit fabric which I would wear, if I could source suitable fabric (problem).  But there is nothing in here I am sufficiently excited about to get out my pattern-drafting tools.

Would I recommend this book to others?
I do think that if you are a curvy gal who likes a retro-looking garment and are keen to engage in drafting your own patterns, this could a good buy.
But if you want “the real thing” and have vintage proportions like me (1948 and 1968 are my golden years!) you might be better off buying original patterns from Etsy and keeping this on your coffee table.