Practical Luxury: W. Mury’s Dressmaking Illustrations

Vogue's Book of Practical Dressmaking

My 1926 copy of Vogue’s Book of Practical Dressmaking has endpapers charmingly illustrated by W. Mury. They’re a great example of aspirational marketing in that they situate the dressmaking process in a world of wealth and leisure. The illustrations show the elegant dressmaker beginning by consulting her copy of Vogue magazine before her trip into town:

I. Consulting Vogue - Vogue's Book of Practical Dressmaking, 1926

II. Going to Town - Vogue's Book of Practical Dressmaking, 1926

Madame’s driver waits outside with the car during her visit to a department store. In the Vogue department, sales attendants measure her and show her the latest patterns and Vogue-approved fabrics:

III. Going Shopping - Vogue's Book of Practical Dressmaking, 1926

IV. In the Vogue Department - Vogue's Book of Practical Dressmaking, 1926

V. Choosing the Pattern - Vogue's Book of Practical Dressmaking, 1926

VI. Selecting a Vogue-Indorsed Fabric - Vogue's Book of Practical Dressmaking, 1926

Back at home she cuts, sews, and finishes her new dress, which sets her “apart from the crowd”:

VII. Cuttig Out The Frock - Vogue's Book of Practical Dressmaking, 1926

VIII. Sewing - Vogue's Book of Practical Dressmaking, 1926

IX. Trying On - Vogue's Book of Practical Dressmaking, 1926

X. Finishing - Vogue's Book of Practical Dressmaking, 1926

XI. Apart from the Crowd - Vogue's Book of Practical Dressmaking, 1926

Mury’s illustrated sequence presents sewing as a leisure activity: guided by Vogue’s fashion authority, the chic young woman sews for pleasure. It’s interesting how, with the increasing availability of ready-made women’s wear, the sewing industry took to promoting itself by appealing to the desire for leisure and social status. Even if a car and driver weren’t in the budget, you could still sew from a Vogue pattern.

2 thoughts on “Practical Luxury: W. Mury’s Dressmaking Illustrations

  1. Thanks for this posting – have just been reading The Hare with Amber Eyes – includes portrait of a great grandmother who was one of the last great European fashionistas of the fin de siècle. All her dressmaking was, of course, done for her – 3 or more costume changes a day with a specialized lady’s maid. This Vogue book shows a social transition – you have to make your own clothes, do your own designing – with Vogues help as substitute for personal tailor- but you still play the social role of a lady who arrives at functions in a chauffeur driven car, and catches the public eye with a cutting edge persona.

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