An Unwitting Cutter???

"Hey there folks.
My name is Dixie,
and I'
well I have been...
um...a cutter."

I recently read a post called "Be Ye a Cutter?" at the Lady's Repository Museum. Scroll down to April 9th post. Rachel Kinnison is in one of my groups. I enjoy reading her blog and seeing her creations. Rachel Kinnison is a dollmaker, but is also passionate about antique clothing - passionate enough to start a repository museum to preserve antique clothing. In her April 9th post she warns about cutting up old antique garments to use in crafts. I quote Rachel:
"I beg of you, plead with you all, to not allow this horrible fad to continue- history is beinglost forever, and once lost, can NEVER be replaced. Do NOT buy from sellers or doll makers who specifically cut up otherwise perfectly good clothing to use in their crafts."
Even though I feel a bit reproached after reading it, this is a good topic for discussion among those of us who make antique inspired creations. I love old things, and my love of old things is actually how I came to be a dollmaker. I have some garments in my studio that I bought to cut, out of ignorance. But that is Rachael's point - to look at the garment and think "Is this irreplaceable?" "Is this history?"

For the most part what I buy are old antique slips with some holes in them or an old white fine dress that someone cut down the back a long time ago. Probably a child playing dress-up. My cousins and I used to have great fun wearing our aunt's old formal dresses for play. There was a particular turquoise strapless tulle gown that looked ravishing on the red-headed cousins. I'm not sure if the dress with the slit in the back and the holey petticoats I own have historical significance or not. But what if that very pair of breezy bloomers that I want to cut was worn by.....Madame X? Or my great-great grandmother? If I knew the person or were related to her I probably wouldn leave them as they are. Probably I should go sign all my underwear for posterity now ;-)

Rachael stated, "Do NOT buy from sellers or doll makers who specifically cut up otherwise perfectly good clothing to use in their crafts."

I understand why she's saying this. But how is a buyer to know, really? And is this reproaching hundreds of years of craftspeople and a tradition to reduce, reuse, recycle? Perhaps that's her point, though. We have so little left in terms of very, very old clothing precisely because of the "use it up" philosophy of our Pilgrim/Puritan forebears. They couldn't afford to preserve items. They turned dresses into aprons, aprons into doll dresses, jackets and pants into rugs, etc. A Yankee tradition, it is, and even supported by the government in the 1940's...

Well, it's all food for thought....


Rachael Kinnison said...

Dixie! I am SO PROUD of you! This is EXACTLY what I wanted to happen with my post~ to plant a seed of question, before one cuts! It is so very true~ in this day and age when we have so many reproduction textiles~ not only prints but dress farbics and trims as well, I feel it a crime to cut otherwise INTACT early CLOTHING. I am adding the phrase "NO antique clothing has been cut or destroyed in my dollmaking" to all my future listings here on the internet, so that folks who dont 'know' me, can be absolutely sure of that fact!
xoxoxo rachael

Christopher Hillman said...

Pardon my extreme ignorance but this cries to me of the "comic book baggie" school of thought where everything is sealed in impenetrable acid-free bags and locked away for eternity.

As someone with a pile of moldy comics in my basement, I have to ask: What is the charter of your museum? Where is the board of directors or benefactors who pay for the place to properly preserve these relics?

We consume these old things. If there is an immediate use for an item which would otherwise be ruined by un-use, why not put it to work?

It is true that old and rare things have value, but not everything is "Superman #1". And even having such a wonderful and rare item does not mean that you are doing anything with it other than "having" it. Maybe Superman #1 should not be cut up for paper dolls, but what of Superman #412?

This has me thinking I should go and make something with my old comic books which someone might be able to enjoy rather than leave them to time and entropy. The end result is the same, corruption and decay - why not let them be enjoyed before they are put in the trash?

Another thought, what are we creating now to be passed on to the people 100 years from now? There are a lot of people who would like a 1940's leather bomber jacket, but who wants a 1980s "Members Only" jacket? MC Hammer pants? Cut, Cut, Cut away... otherwise is to deny the obvious. I can feel a lot more nostalgic about a doll with a Members Only jacket than actually wearing the 30 year old real thing.

Maureen said...

I don't work much with cloth little lone vintage cloth.
I just finished a painting incorporating very old stamps in. A good friend of mine went crazy because he is a stamp collector and said I probably ruined the value of the stamps. But then he quickly admitted that the stamps I used would be seen and he wondered what good his collection was when it was always hidden away in a book.

"Do not let what you cannot do
keep you from doing what you can do."

John Wooden