Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life

Library of Dressmaking from the Interwar Period Part 4


This month I’m delving into the chapter entitled “Upkeep of Clothing” in the Women’s Institute library of dressmaking volume. I’m now quite used to the judgemental tone of this book. I definitely feel like a lesser mortal because of my “slovenly ways”. But if I’m going to be judged, I may as well judge myself without reserve and this month I’ve decided to make myself a checklist to compare myself to the “ideal homemaker” in the book.


The list consists of the suggestions in the book for the proper care of clothing. I’m giving myself a score between 0 and 5, with the highest score awarded when I’ve made an exemplary effort in that area and 0 when I’ve made absolutely none.

Clothes hangers

Here’s the checklist. Do you score any better than me?

Number Description Comments Score
1 Are clothes hung up in the wardrobe? I’m not too good at keeping my clothes in the wardrobe. I have a massive pile of clothes heaped up on the chair beside my bed and another pile on top of the case carrying my extra duvet. I blame the yo-yo British summers where I often have to change what I’m wearing each day to suit the weather and keep on leaving clothes I’ve worn only once on the chair. 1
2 Do I have enough hangers? Yes I do. They are nearly all wooden and I have even covered one myself. I even possess skirt hangers. Perhaps I could improve by sewing some skirt hooks into my me-made skirts. Anyway, I’m going to give myself a high mark on this. 4.5
3 Is there enough space in the wardrobe so clothes can hang properly Absolutely not. My clothes are way to squashed in and I often need to iron clothes when they come out of the wardrobe as they have got crumpled in there. I really need a big tidy up in there. 2
4 Are moth treatments used? Yes, I have some cedar wood little squares that I put in drawers and some cedar hangings that can be put on the clothes hangers. I’m not sure they are doing their job well though – I spotted lots of eggs in my woollens drawer. I gave the blocks in the woollens drawer a bit of a sand paper the other day and aired the clothes – scarves, gloves and hats. I’ll give myself a middle-range score for this, as I did tackle the woollens drawer, but really need to do the same in the wardrobe. 3
5 Do I air my clothes frequently? Actually, no, but this book is converting me on this score. It has lots of benefits including preventing discoloration, discouraging moths and preventing mould. 0
6 Do I make sure others in the house tidy their clothes away? Mr Steely is a very organised person and he doesn’t have too many clothes. Master Steely is the complete opposite, being very adept at mess, but I think we may have trained him well, as he hangs his coat up and any muddy football gear is shed near the washing machine. 4.5
7 Are my socks darned? Actually, I have darned a couple of pairs of socks this year. I still haven’t made myself any socks yet, and haven’t bought any in about 3 years, so I have to be very careful with those I do use. I still have some more to darn though. 3
8 Am I up to date with other mending jobs? No, I have a pile of these – including a crotch seem on my grey trousers which needs stitching up again. And yep, those cardigans with the holes in them. Enough said, this work is a priority! 0
9 Are my shoes and boots repaired at the heel? I don’t have many pairs of shoes or boots that can be repaired in this way, but I did get my grey boots repaired recently. I wonder if it is possible to get a whole rubber sole replaced? 2
10 Do I store shoes so that they keep their shape? Well, I don’t use shoe-trees or tissue, so I don’t think I score too well on this front! 0
11 Do I have a well-stocked mending basket? Well, I guess I do have a good sewing kit. Specifically, for mending I do have some darning wool for my socks, but no darner. 4
Wearing clothes responsibly and upkeep
12 Do I roll down tights to put them? Is there any other way to put on tights? 5
13 Do I pull off gloves gently? Yes, generally I do. I think this advice is really for leather gloves and yes I do treat those with care. 5
14 Do I take care to make sure shoes don’t get wet? This is clearly written by someone who doesn’t live in the South West of the UK. I would never venture out the house at all, if I only went out when rain wasn’t forecast. I do have a hierarchy of shoes though and I don’t wear the “best” ones in the rain unless caught unawares. Wet shoes should be dried slowly to prevent cracking, according to the book. I always make sure the shoes are never near a radiator and I leave them to dry without wearing them for a few days. 4
15 Do I polish my shoes? Occasionally – I probably could take better care of them. 1
16 Do I remove stains and spots promptly? Yes I do. I’m usually quite upset when I spill something on my clothes, so I generally try to remove it as soon as possible. 5

My total is 44 out of a possible 80 points. My challenge for the next couple of months is to try to improve on my score and I shall start with organising the wardrobe properly and doing my mending jobs.

Author: steelyseamstress

Sewing a new wardrobe

3 thoughts on “Library of Dressmaking from the Interwar Period Part 4

  1. Really interesting post.
    I score well on some things – I’m a keen darner & mender with a well stocked basket including a lovely mushroom. I score very badly on storage – I’ve got a basket with clothes that were only worn for an hour or two – pointless really as they are usually so dusty & crumpled when they are pulled out, that they need a wash…

  2. This is really interesting! Moths are my big thing, but then months go by when I don’ t effectively look after my things. And as for the girls shoes, you an tell it is almost the end of the school year by looking at their shoes, urgh! I like this list ALLOT and need to take note.

    • Yes, it has been useful for me going through this too. I may even give myself an extra point. I managed to sew name labels onto uniform items for next year and mend my grey trousers – result!

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