Inside Regina’s Sewing Desk, part 2
In a continuation of Regina’s sewing artifacts, this post explores the more technical elements. Regina’s sewing is well documented, with stories of curtains, dresses, and the like popping up in The Habit of Being. She left behind an extensive collection of scraps, half-finished projects, and well-loved patterns. Her sewing artifacts are separated between the two distinct styles in the house―her own classic yet unique taste, and Flannery’s personal spin on the styles of the day. Of the surviving remnants of Regina’s projects, one can gather an idea of her style. The textiles marked as Regina’s are brighter and more complex in color, showing weaving patterns and varied materials. Flannery’s choices, on the other hand, tend towards dark blues and simple designs of polka dots and geometry.
This type of pattern is called a Turkish tile, due to its resemblance to historical paintings from the Ottoman Empire. Similar designs can be found on ceramic artifacts and in historic buildings throughout the region. In the postwar period, American textile manufacturers began to expand their design options, taking inspiration from other cultures’ aesthetics. A fabric like this offered a taste of international fashion to an otherwise isolated spot in rural Georgia.
This fabric is reminiscent of a handmade cross-stitch. Its design is loud, far from the muted tones and simple patterns common in the 1950s. While it is unclear whether Regina ever finished a design with this pattern, or what she intended to use it for, its inclusion among her fabric collection is interesting for such a practical woman.
This pattern is also atypical for the fashions of the 1950s. Preeminent colors were more understated, relying on muted browns and pastels rather than anything so complexly saturated. However, the use of bright colors (necessitating a large amount of dye) is typical of the postwar excess period. The nature motif of leaves also reflects a common print in fabrics of the time, many being inspired by the natural world.
In keeping with the highly saturated and complex patterns of Regina’s other fabrics, this floral paisley pattern is visually similar to the Turkish tile piece. The brighter reds and deeper blues suggest an more tempered sense of fashion, removed from the splashiness of the ‘60s.
These miscellaneous cords were also included among the collection of fabric. It is unclear what their intended purposes were, but the dark and neutral colors are typical for clothing colors of the period. A few of the assorted patterns include illustrations with similar materials as belts or accents.
This fabric is quintessentially Flannery. Its neutral dark blue is fitting, both for the period and for Flannery’s own muted sense of style. Like the blocky blue curtains in her bedroom, it represents a less conventionally feminine taste, while still being in keeping with expectations for a young Catholic woman in the south. It has a sales tag from Rich’s, marking it as 2 3/8 yards for $.75.
While a bit livelier than the other fabrics ascribed to Flannery, this pattern is still geometric and regular. Its medium gray and deep red are easy to complement or gather into a dress or skirt. The pattern is mature and refined, while still expressing a bright personality.
These two fabrics complement each other, and represent similar aspects of 1950s fashion. The deep red was a popular choice for adult women of the era, and a similar color can be seen in the white polka-dot fabric. Patterns like this became more widespread in the 1960s, as they allowed for individuality without breaking norms.
This light blue detailing was likely intended for a spring or summer dress. The floral pattern is similar to Flannery’s other fabrics, showcasing a personality and love of neutral colors while shying away from overtly feminine materials. As part of a larger project, it would have accented a darker fabric or complemented another pastel, like the light orange silk found among Flannery’s collection.
Regina had a large collection of patterns. It is easy to glean an understanding of her fashion sense, and the trends of the 1950s, from these assorted projects. She owned many skirt and dress patterns, all modestly falling at or below the knee. Many had wide skirts, indicative of the postwar abundance of fabric and the popular silhouette of the period. Matching sets were common, as were easily adjustable sleeve and skirt lengths. Other common pieces were bed jackets (short-sleeved jackets to be worn on cooler nights), capes, and two-piece dresses. The illustrations of the patterns themselves spoke to the fashions that were in vogue―tight updos, simple jewelry, high heels. Additionally, the standardization of the patterns themselves points to a larger industry that necessitated uniform product design. Each pattern has the same components: design packet that lists its components, an instructional sheet for the user to follow, and each separate piece of the pattern.