CLOTHES FROM BYGONE days aren't only antique items to hang in a closet; they are pieces of history that can continue to adorn the wearer. They're well made, and their very age imparts style. Longevity counts.
But old clothes in good condition can cost big bucks, especially the popular Victorian and Edwardian white cottons and slinky, bias-cut '30s gowns. And it would seem that only the very tiniest of our ancestors bequeathed their clothes to a future generation; finding a bejeweled '20s cocktail dress that fits a healthy '80s body is a Grail-level quest.
It is a fairly simple task for a dressmaker of average skill to stitch up some neo-vintage clothes. The only problem is that old-fashioned patterns are not widely available (the patterns, like the clothes, are now collectible). Folkwear, a company that had printed some wonderful vintage and ethnic styles, is now out of business. Many current Vogue, Butterick, McCall's and Simplicity patterns can be altered--if one is adept at that sort of thing--and old clothes can be copied, traced line for line using lightweight interfacing material as the pattern fabric. This sounds more difficult than it is, but for the novice clothes copier, I strongly advise first making that most dreaded of all sewing chores, a muslin "trial" garment; this gives the sewer a preview, one that can be inexpensively altered until it's right. The alterations on the muslin garment are transferred to the interfacing-fabric pattern pieces, which are then ready for the fabric.