Obsessed with Embellishment

Sunday, October 15, 2006


This vest belonged to my grandmother, Adele Vestcyk (1904-1997), and she made it, we think, between 1920 and 1930. I think it dates from the early 1920's – the size is small, about a size 6, and less than a B cup. My grandmother was busty as a grown woman, so I suspect she made this while still a teenager. At the time she danced in a Polish folk dancing troupe and this was part of her costume. The style itself is a pretty standard example of a Polish petal edge woman’s vest, very common since about the middle of the 19th century. Here is an example of a modern one made in Morawica and Olszanica in the region near Krakow:




The modern ones are very heavily embellished, which might seem like too much of a good thing, but I really love them!

As you can see, my grandmother's is much simpler, and there are a few things that make it a little different; the paprika color of the cotton velvet is unusual, and while the embroidery is simple, it’s still well executed, and it has a lot of charm. I suspect she embroidered the vest, without at hoop, after she made it up. The embroidery thread is untwisted silk floss and the lining is apple green cotton sateen (the photo makes it look more blue-ish than it really is.)



There are five pairs of Bakelite lacing rings; four are ivory, and the top pair is a Jadeite green - I have no idea why the top set is a different color, and it’s a mystery as to what type of cord she used to lace the vest. Traditional Polish vests of this type are usually black, with the embellishment in traditional folk colors of red, yellow, blue and green – the colors of this vest remind me much more of the fashionable colors of Jazz Age America.

The metallic trim is really neat: it’s tarnished after all these years, but I think it may have originally been a bright copper color, and I think the fiber in the middle is silk floss. The little bow shape is not at all a European motif; I think she must have added that herself. If you look closely you can see her hand stitching.



My mother gave this to me after my grandmother passed away, so I don't remember hearing anything about it until I received it. It’s in my sewing room, and I really enjoy having her spirit with me when I sew.

9 Comments:

Blogger Mary Beth said...

How precious, Phyllis.

2:00 AM  
Blogger Els said...

Phyllis thanks for telling about this little treasure from your grandmother. You inherited the embellishing genes from her.

7:55 AM  
Blogger Gigi said...

What a wonderful family heirloom! How lucky you are to have it.

8:37 AM  
Anonymous kelly said...

What a lovely post. It's so nice that you shared this.

1:50 PM  
Blogger Summerset said...

What a treasure and inspiration to have in your sewing room. All that hand work is just lovely.

4:16 PM  
Anonymous Nina said...

Phyllis - that is so cool! My grandmother taught me to embroider and I treasure those memories as well as the items I've inherited. Doesn't stuff like this make you wonder about your sewing "genealogy"? I've been wondering if my grandmother sewed all her own clothes, etc. Wished I'd asked those questions while she was still around.

7:32 PM  
Blogger Gorgeous Things said...

Phyllis, that is so beautiful! Now we know where you inherited your love (and ability!) for embellishment.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Georgene said...

What a lovely way for you grandmother to watch over you.

2:47 AM  
Blogger Lisette said...

Phyllis, Your grandmother's vest is beautiful. I'm lucky enough to have some pieces my great-grandmother made, mostly crocheted linen lace that I love.

1:26 PM  

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