In the Military Style

So often we hear that imitation is merely a form of admiration, yet many times one does not feel like such is the case.  One only feels plagiarized, copycatted, or even misappropriated (when it comes to culture).  However, no matter how cliché, it is a very true that imitation is a form of respect when it comes to my own military-inspired style, especially when that involves either camouflage or anything related to WWII.  In this case, my post’s outfit includes both!  In honor of Veterans Day, and to find a way to express through fashion the admiration, appreciation, and respect I have for those who have served and are currently serving to protect all that we hold near and dear, I’m joining in – just a little – on their military style.

I am weirdly very preferential when it comes to camouflage and military greens.  Everything in either department all looks really good to my eyes but I do have favorites.  Wide and blotchy disruptive patterned camouflage in darker earth tones is my failing, hence why this pullover sweatshirt totally makes me giddy!  Along this vein, my true military favorite camouflage preferences are ones that are of a similar pattern – the 1942 WWII United States “Frog Skin” mottling and the 1937 dotted German “Platanenmuster” variations for vintage examples in my highest esteem, and the 1990s era “Central Europe Camouflage” of France, the “Desert Camouflage Uniform” of the USA, and even the “Soldier 2000” of the South African National Defense Force all following in second place.

Part of the reason for my pickiness probably has to do with my dad’s job (referred to here at the end of this blog post) but also I love a camouflage for how it can work for our local environment to make one blend right in and be ‘hidden in plain sight’.  At every WWII reenactment we’ve attended in our home state, the Germans are the ones hardest to sight when they’re sneaking up to ambush and a camo which succeeds that well impresses me.  Perhaps 90’s era camouflage gets to my heart because of memories.  My dad was working so much overtime during that decade to support our military as a government employee with a specialized job and my mom and I were going to events – me in a homemade “Betsy Ross” costume – to give our service men and women the encouragement and civilian support they needed in our own way.  I even was on the nightly news for such an event when I was 10!

My pants are the best of the best – they are true vintage WWII mens’ military bottoms!  My pair have a production date of 1947 stamped on the label, so they are a post-war production of the war-time style.  The label says they are cotton sateen, but I have ever seen such a study version of such a material.  They are super sturdy thanks to being as thick as a heavy wool yet extremely soft, well broken in (by now, they should be), and a joy to wear.  If they were not almost 80 years old I would want to wear them all the time.  The WWII military green colors are my favorite anyway.  Their olive greens are not overly dusty or are too dark.  A soldier would not like to hear this but I dare call the colors ‘pretty’.  Yes, this is one of my more eclectic outfit combinations – a little bit of modern paired with a truer vintage than anything I could make, also indeed a military style in more ways than one, as I said!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Two one-yard cuts of all-cotton knits for both the sleeves and the printed main body, fully lined in a lightweight polyester interlock jersey.  The cuffs and bottom band, as well as the neckline, are a heavyweight poly knit leftover from making this 60’s dress.

PATTERN:  Simplicity #1317, a year 2014 pattern

NOTIONS:  As this is a knit no interfacing was needed, just thread.  The decorative add-on studs were something I’ve had on hand for a few years, saving for the right project.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This only took me 3 hours to make and it was finished on November 8, 2018

THE INSIDES:  all cleanly serged (overlocked)

TOTAL COST:  The fabrics for this sweatshirt had been bought several years ago when the now defunct Hancock Fabrics was going out of business so it was really discounted…also part of the reason I had to make this on two small remnant cuts (I could not go back and buy any more).  The poly knit lining was a new purchase from my local JoAnn store.  The studs were from Hobby Lobby for a few bucks.  All supplies counted together, this sweatshirt probably cost me just about $20.  Pretty good deal, huh?!

Making the actual sweatshirt was a breeze.  It is so versatile – the velvet one on the cover compared to the more casual ones and the one with the fringe all show that this top can be anything you want it to be.  Two small remnant cuts were all I needed, don’t forget!  I took a bit more time on my sweatshirt to line it, but this could easily be a one afternoon ‘have it ready in under a few hours’ project.  Even better, all the reviews I saw online when considering this pattern looked so very good.  This is really a no-fail pattern…I would think even if you sew this badly it would still look great, I dare to assume.  A sweatshirt is such a chilly weather staple item, and with everything this pattern has going for it there is no reason to buy a RTW one.  I can’t wait to use this pattern again.

The only thing I did consistently notice was that the sizing seemed to run between true to size and a little small for most people, and I feel this is true.  I wanted a loose and relaxing fit for my camouflage version and I found just that by going up one whole size, so the fit much be right on.  There are two neckline options and I went for the more closed, rounded neck of the two.  I like that the neckline is close enough the keep me cozy yet open enough to not sense I am confined in it like most RTW sweatshirts.  I like when my collar bone is exposed and I can show off a neckline if I want or wear a turtleneck under this if I really want to layer up…all perfect with this.  Even the width and fit of the cuffs and bottom band are perfect, not too tight but loose enough to be comfortable.  This is an awesome pattern for a modern one, and this is coming from someone who primarily works with vintage designs and half expects to be disappointed by new ones!

I fully lined the sweatshirt for extra warmth, comfort, and a nicer appearance to the outer cotton knit.  I have used a similar all cotton knit for several projects now, and by now know the best way to go beyond my half-hearted hate of that material with the perfect pairing of a secondary fabric.  100% cotton knit is very finicky to sew, doesn’t drape well on its own, and has the tendency to be sticky”, both to itself and other fabrics and lingerie like Velcro fastening tape.  Pairing that knit with its opposite – a slinky poly jersey – is like a match made in heaven.  The two materials stick together, but the poly makes the cotton act and feel better than it is on its own.  Besides, a little extra ‘oomph’ in the seams actually makes the cotton easier to stitch together.  Check out how well such a pairing worked for this dress!  Now you know my hot tip, an insider’s secret.  You’re welcome.

Oh, how I love what I did to jazz up the neckline, if I do say so myself!  I love the look of studs but didn’t want the commitment of the true metal kind that cut through the fabric they sit upon.  A cotton knit like what I used ravels easily and acquires holes effortlessly, even from stitching.  I could not count on my fabric to stay together through washings with regular studs added so I used these plastic sew-on kind that I had been hoarding for the last several years.  They can also be considered as ‘sew-on stones’ or ‘backless buttons’.  They are frequently found in the button section of the fabric stores, after all.  I was tempted to go full bling and use all of them up but I spaced out half of what I had to strategically stitch down in place how you see them in my pictures.  Sadly, in most lighting they blend in a bit too well put they are a low key shine that I wanted to let my top’s camouflage take center stage.  Only in the glowing, golden hour of a late autumn sunset do the studs show off.

It is very important to be yourself yet remember to respect others.  I think forgetting such is where all sorts of problems stem from…be it wars or hurt relationships, sadness or anger, selfish politics or the whole slew of ill events and feelings which can happen in life.  This also applies to my pet peeve and the main enemy of truly original artists out there – plagiarism, copycatting, the stealing of ideas, and especially doing such for profit.  Closely related is the approbation of a culture, a certain way of life, or mode of dressing out of laziness to pursue greater understanding.  Not meaning to get too heavy here on the heels of Remembrance Day in honor of all the beloved veterans who have been taken from us, but I just wanted to clarify my military style is not at all meant to be a knock off of what the best humans our world has to offer wear in their official duties.  Let freedom ring, but also let kindness prevail.  Remember to thank a veteran, today and at any other time.  Let all people know they are respected and appreciated by what you do and say before they can no longer hear you.  So I’ll just post here about my love for camouflage out my awe and respect for the success and ingenuity of the brave military who need to wear a bit of ingeniously patterned cover to save their lives.  More power to them!  I want in a piece of that awesomeness and bravery if I do say so myself.

Persistence of Fashion

Even with my complaints in the last post about fitting my recently changed size, I still do happily fit in many of my old me-made items.  Not to brag, but not everybody can say that they fit in things back from 20 years ago, much less have them still wearable today in both condition and aesthetics!  I luckily liked to make rather classic pieces that still work with my style of today.  This post’s outfit is a prime example.  A skirt I sewed 20 years back combines with a 50’s style blouse I have been meaning to make since I first dove into vintage in 2010 to give me an outfit that perfectly defines my unified past and present outlook on my fashion.  Add on a little self-made flower sewn down to a hair comb and I am a contented little maker!

Andrea Venier of Recycrom has said, “One of the big problems is that today we don’t expect to wear something for a very long time.”  (The Italian Recycrom from Officina+39 is a revolutionary sustainable dyeing solution made of 100% recycled clothing, fibrous material, and textile scraps.)  Boy, Andrea has not met the likes of me.  There is a specific comfort level to wearing items that are old favorites, and for me, when they also happen to be handmade…all the better.  Sure they are made in ways I would not do today.  However, it is nice to keep these reminders of my progress especially when they are still wearable for me.  All it takes is a little something new to renew my excitement for an older me-made, and I feel like I have a fresh ideas and bright possibilities again.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The skirt is rayon challis and the top is polyester shantung

PATTERNS:  For the skirt, I used McCall’s #8796 from 1997, while the top is Simplicity #4047, a 1950’s era ensemble released in 2006

NOTIONS:  Nothing unusual – a zipper for the side, thread, and interfacing for the neck facing is all that is needed for the blouse, while the skirt required thread and elastic.  Simple, really!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The skirt was indeed a two hour project from what I remember back to 1998, and the top took me about 8 to 10 hours and finished March 17, 2018.

THE INSIDES:  My skirt has overlocked (serged) edges with a hem covered in hem tape and the blouse has bias bound seams.

TOTAL COST:  I have no idea.  You’re talking about fabrics out of my mom’s stash from over half my lifetime ago.  It’s all as good as free to me.

Let’s talk about the patterns first.  I’ll start with my favorite out of the two.  My skirt is from an old standby pattern, literally made into a two dozen varieties between 1998 and 2004 when I began filling my wardrobe with handmade, comfortable, classy, yet easy-to-make separates.  This particular rayon floral one was one of my first attempts.  I had made a paper copy of the whole pattern at my nearby office store because I was using it so much.  The slim, two-piece ‘View A’ I had used as a base for add-on details, a draft for lining other skirts and dresses, or just by itself.  The full, four-paneled ‘View C’ was the version I used the most, especially when using rayon or a lightweight poly print, while the in-between breadth of ‘View B’ was great for stiffer materials like cotton.  As the cover states, this really is a two hour skirt.  It took me 30 minutes to cut the pieces out of 3 yards for ‘View C’, and 15 minutes to cut out of two yards for the slim ‘View A’.  The elastic waist is easy to do and provides a nice waistband that doesn’t roll, thankfully!  The rest of the skirt is simple, long, straight lines, however, the wide, bias-influenced hemline takes up most of the rest of the two hours.  The simple pieces taught me how to successfully work with the bias grain as a beginner at the concept.  This pattern has a gold-medal in my estimation, amongst my substantial stash.

The blouse’s pattern offers such a wonderful variety for building a great basic 50’s wardrobe. Give me the most for my money, in my opinion!  This blouse is a very chic anchor to the ensemble.  I told you (a few posts back, here) I wasn’t done with the color blue and peplums, anyway! However, it frustrates me that I cannot authentically date this pattern, like most of the other vintage re-issues, by finding its original.  The iconic actress Lauren Bacall had a very similar blouse in the 1957 movie “Designing Woman”.  That year is a popular date for many of the 50’s reprints, so I’m guessing the styles are from mid to late in the decade.  They do have #4047 still as an on-demand custom print-out (link to that here), so Simplicity must realize how good this pattern is, too, although finding an old out-of-print copy would probably be a cheaper option.

Sizing ran small for my blouse, and I do wish I had went up in size. After all, working with a tight, unforgiving woven like poly shantung leaves me no room for a big meal of a body sizing change.  Oh well, it was really much easier to make than it appears and poly shantung is not as precious as its silk cousin so it’s no big loss if I need to make another down the road.  The blouse pattern has a long back bodice I wish I had shortened, but otherwise came together beautifully, with good instructions and wonderful details.  There were no mistakes or hiccups encountered with the blouse.  It was whipped up with no alterations and fits as you see it.

Oh, how I wish I knew the name for the kind of neckline which is on this blouse!  I love it, along with the box pleats coming from the shoulder!  It is so unique and beautiful the way it all frames the face.  The curving and angles made the neckline by far the trickiest part of the top.  It’s not hard to do, I just had to be thorough with marking points and seam allowances before I could be precise with my sewing.  There are two ¼” wide darts along the back neckline to help bring it up to sitting above the base of the neck, like a collarless collar.  Then the sides of the front neckline bow out on the side to square out at the bottom, so there is lots of clipping and trimming of seams involved.  I never could get the darn shantung to not be puckered at the corners.  Deep down, I will always hate anything polyester.  Yet, the fabric looks pretty enough and only I will ever probably notice such “failings” so it is and easy success.

The skirt is very true to size but then again working with bias cut skirts with elastic waists is naturally going to be forgiving…the reason why I am still wearing them all these years!  Many times I even went down a size for the skirts to cut down on the excess material that needs to be gathered at the waistline (what I did for this version; see picture below), but also because I sometimes just added darts and only back elastic to make my skirts smoother fitting over the tummy.

Length measurements for the skirts can be deceiving, however, because of the sweeping hem fullness and bias grain.  My advice is to go long and try it on to decide.  Let hemming be the last thing you do after letting a skirt like this hang for at least 24 hours.  I learned the hard way with this rayon floral skirt.  Circle skirts or those cut on the bias, even if they are on a dress, change their hemline once the grain hangs down on a completed garment for a day.  I remember I was in a hurry to finish this skirt, and I immediately hemmed it as soon as it was together.  By the time I wore it, the hem was embarrassingly wonky, which was obvious because the original length was down to my ankle.  Even back then I hated unpicking as much as I do today, so I merely recut a new, slightly shorter yet straighter hem.  It was hard!  The fabric was always shifting and I got to a “good enough” attitude and used hem tape to cover the skinny hem edge.  Straight grain hem tape is not ideal for a curving hem, so I found out.  It is necessary to ease in the fullness of one edge.  Ah, you sew and learn.  You’d never guess the ‘oopsies’ I made with this, would you?!  The day these pictures were taken, it was windy so my skirt might still seem uneven, nevertheless.  Twenty years later, my sewing “mistakes” are still happening (but decreasing), and I’m still learning.  Just so long as my projects turn out just as successfully and are enjoyed as much as this skirt, I am happy.

My hair flower was a last minute creation to complete my outfit by utilizing some of the few scraps leftover.  I cut a pointed-end oblong piece on the bias, single layer, about 10 inches in length, about 7 inches at the middle where it is widest.  If you think of how a kid would draw the playing ball to the American game of football, that is what my piece looked like.  That was folded in half along its length, wrong sides in together, and loosely stitched along the curved raw edge.  The loose stitches are ties off at one end and brought in tight, and the piece is curled into itself, jellyroll style.  The raw ends are stitched together and covered with some fake plastic leaves after sewing it to a small hair comb.  I want to make every last remnant count for something so they might as well help me accessorize!

No matter how fast styles change, and how quickly clothing is given away before it has reached the end of its wear, fashion of the past decades is persistent and has a way of coming back around again.  I feel like the 90’s was the last of the good quality ready-to-wear that is part of the reason why the label of ‘vintage’ is synonymous with lasting style.  Now that we have had a few decades of cheap tees, under $30 dresses, and poor-quality clothing made in third world countries (paying them an un-livable wage) can we just go back to making garments that are worth wearing and keeping for even a fraction of how long I enjoy my wardrobe?  I mean the fashions of the 90’s is subtly coming back, and older vintage styles are comfortably mainstream, so I don’t know why wearing what one has for longer is such a hard concept for the masses.  Then again, what might be better for the world is not necessarily the first thought in the face of a flashy bargain…or good for the pocketbooks of big business.  I realize I might be “preaching to the choir” here, however, this is my site to write down not just my sewing process, but also my thoughts and the passion which goes into every outfit I share here.

Look for more of my old reiterations of this skirt pattern to show up in future posts.  I am still going through my past makes and constantly finding new ways to style them with my even newer makes!  As for my blouse, this might not get a whole lot of wear in shantung, and I might not fit in it before I wear it enough to satisfy me, I’ll figure out something for it when that time comes.  Until then, I feel so special in this set!  I am stubborn about what I want to wear.  I like things that make me feel good and confident enough to be myself.  Yes, that does include things that are not necessarily new or up to date…and I’m quite okay with that.  If you have something made years back but you are still proud of it, please do share!

Tribulations of the 400th

Sometimes the easy patterns really throw me for a loop and make a sewing project surprisingly, mystifyingly challenging.  It’s when I least expect it, of course, and it never makes sense why.  The added pressure of reaching a milestone number for such a project probably didn’t help, too.  This post’s vintage dress was unexpectedly a tough one to reach nicely wearable status as my 400th project since 2012.  I had our last vacation of the summer as my motive and encouragement to power through and finish it, at least.  I do love a new me-made item whenever we take a trip and this bold little tropical hottie is here to show off her grand day out for fun in the sun.

Back in the late summer of that year of 2012, I started sewing again in earnest after a few years’ break and started keeping a log of all the projects I was making both for myself and others.  Mind you this by no means counts the paid-for commissions that I do on the side (which you don’t see) and the countless projects I have been creating before 2012 since my first lessons at seven years of age.  Most of the logged projects do appear on my blog eventually.  Even still, 400 is the last big milestone before I hit the grand number of 500 in the future!  Meanwhile, I have a lovely success story to share here and some wearable proof to my dedication to sewing all these years.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a Hawaiian printed rayon challis

PATTERN:  McCall #5918, year 1944

NOTIONS:  all I needed was thread, a zipper, and a set of shoulder pads

TIME TO COMPLETE:  It was finished on August 22, 2019 after about 30 plus hours of effort put into the dress.

THE INSIDES:  A mix of French and overlocked (serged) seam finishing

TOTAL COST:  This fabric has been in my stash for so long I’m counting it as free, but I know it came from what used to be Hancock Fabrics many years back.  I always got the best deals from them so it probably cost me less than $15 for sure.

The dress pattern has an interesting story to it which I’ll explain first.  Back when I posted about making my mid-1930s lingerie set (post here) I found a random sleeve piece from a completely unrelated pattern with a date about a decade later in the mid-40’s.  It is a very clever self-faced cap sleeve I imitated when refashioning my nightgown (see it here).  Finally sighting the counterpart cover image had me speechless at its amazing details.  I posted about that mystery homeless sleeve tissue piece (here) and the kind seamstress Eszter at “Em Originals” let me know she had an original of the pattern that matched it. We exchanged pattern copies as a trade and now I have the whole dress!  Oh, the wonders of the global reach that the internet makes possible…

It was tough to feel out what fabric to match with the pattern, though.  I wanted something that screams daring and exotic and warm temps.  However, I also realized the lack of complicated seams would be perfect for a bigger print.  Letting go of this hibiscus blue-toned Hawaiian inspired rayon from my long time stash was quite hard to do, however.  It is such a saturated coloring in a print you don’t find but in vintage fabric.  Yet, I felt it was a perfect pairing.  Yes, the rayon provides great draping for the bias grain action and the neither the dress nor the design overwhelm each other, just as I had hoped.  Great fabric is meant for more than just ogling and petting while stuffed in a stash.  I think it deserves to be made into something to enjoy being both worn and appreciated no matter the risk!

The center front bodice completely carries this whole dress with it.  It is such a smart feature because it is not just for aesthetics but actually a really smart way to shape the bodice without a single dart necessary.  It made for a very interesting pattern piece that was good for my technical brain to see and understand.  The bottom of the V neckline ends at a casing that opens up the middle of the bodice.  There are ties that run through the casing and, when tied together, forms a little open spot that is so racy for the 40’s but low-key enough I don’t feel exposed.  The bust gets shaped from the center out this way in the best way possible, especially since the center casing is cut across the bias grain.  At the pattern stage, the front has the casing veer off away from the bodice so it ends up on different grain than the main body.  A double-fold, self-facing to finish the edges is included, too.  This one little detail more than makes up for the simplicity of the rest of the dress and was not as hard to make as it might sound.  I have seen this same kind of detail used on sleeves before (see here) so now that I understand how it works you might just see me try this on other garments in the future!

I had to dramatically grade up to make the pattern wearable for me, adding just over four inches.  While I was at it, I slightly tweaked the pattern.  To avoid breaking up the print even further and simplify the design even more, I joined the bodice and the skirt sections for a waist free back half.  The front has a skirt with the center seam cut on the straight grain to save room on pattern layout.  The darts to the back half met at the waistline anyway so I just turned them into one-piece “cat-eye” (also called “fish-eye”) darts on either side of the long, vertical center seam.  Changing the grainline in the skirt pieces works in favor of the dress I believe because there is now a bias which wraps around my hips for a wonderful shape and subtle flare at the hem.  I lengthened the dress as well to a ‘not very proper for war-time’ longer midi length because I personally liked how it adds to the silhouette.  A mid-length dress is more versatile and makes the most of the slinky rayon!

The main difficulty and frustrations with this dress primarily had to do with a new self-realization stemming from finding out that I had made a dress which was impossibly too small for me in certain areas…and I had absolutely no extra fabric to fill in for my oversight.  Cutting out this dress on just under two yards of fabric – even if it was 60” width – was extreme pattern Tetris.  A few inch wide scraps were all I had left.  I love being so efficient at using fabric but that means I have to be perfect with my cutting.

I do believe a third of my fitting problems with this dress might have been from tweaking the pattern the way I did.  The other third is probably from a dress designed with a very slim skirt – surmised afterwards both from the rather straight lines on the pattern and looking at the cover illustration (those two ladies have absolutely no hips whatsoever).  The last third of this dress’ issues originated from the frequent ill health I have been experiencing this year.  I only realized by making this 400th project that some of my body’s sizing has changed.  My proportions are slightly different now than what I have been for a good number of years.  My body had changed but the sizing I was drafting onto my patterns had not yet caught up because I didn’t know any better.  This kind of thing is never a pleasant pill to swallow and has been very demoralizing.  This 400th make was tough in more way than one.

Somewhere in the back of my consciousness, I had wondering why some of my garments had been fitting me differently just lately.  I’m sure it is the kind of thing only someone like me would ever notice, because I am merely talking about a few inches more in difference, particularly over my hips.  Even still, I hate having to spend my extra time tailoring my garments to accommodate illness aftereffects I don’t want but have no control over at the moment.  Yet, at the same time, I am extremely thankful that I can even do such a thing to ‘save’ my clothes in the first place.  Ready-made and store bought items with their overlocked insides do not provide the leeway for extra room that ¾” or 5/8” uncut seam allowances can give.  This is why I prefer time-honored finishing techniques over using a serger.  Taking out both side seams as well as the center back seam all the way out to ¼” from the waist line down gave me just what I needed for the perfect fit to happily have a wearable dress.

A large part of the success to sewing, I do believe, is all wrapped up in the tricky knowledge of how to fit and adapt clothing.  Granted, getting to that point of a perfect fit was literal hell for me – I hate unpicking, especially when I originally made lovely French finishing inside, like I did for this tropical dress.  This is why the bottom half of the seams to my dress are unfortunately overlocked along their edges…I know, I just preached against it, but I was tired, down in spirits, and desperate.  A French finish on tiny seams is not something I wanted to take time for on what was supposed to be an easy-to-make project.  I was running out of time to finish the dress before the trip, too.  Nevertheless, as disappointed as I am with how this dress came together and failing in my ‘normal’ standards of quality, this dress is a joy to wear.

The colors make me happy, and can pair with so many combinations.  I chose aqua and turquoise accessories for these pictures, but light blue items really soften the tone and navy blends in.  Black heels and a fancy necklace with simple earrings brings this dress up to evening wear standards.  Better yet, the comfort on this is first rate.  It feels like I never took off my nightgown.  I realize, now that I have been sick for an extended time, I find myself tending more towards easy-wear vintage pieces.  Sure, I still love my tailored pieces with cinched waists and perfect darts that require me to wear my old-style lingerie to keep a perfect form and stature.  Yet, something as ‘throw-on-and-go’ as this dress is priceless.  Great details are not neglected, though, thanks to the never failing wonder of fantastic vintage designs.  It’s no wonder I make my own clothes, because I have no idea where to find anything comparable in ready-to-wear, even if such a thing is out there.

Peplum on the Backside

I love it when modern patterns imitate vintage styles.  It’s always so interesting and offers the best of both worlds.  I have a handful of favorite designers from today, but precious few actually come out with patterns of their lovely ideas.  Luckily, the wonderful Rachel Comey offers her designs through Vogue, and I adore her slightly vintage style aesthetic.

This dress is one straight out of the 1940s!  It totally feeds my obsession with peplums, my late summer penchant for the color blue, and my love of fine details.  It is such a cottony soft, pastel treat on the senses combined with a swirl-worthy dress which is so comfy I really don’t sense that I am as dressed up as I appear.   What a win-win…vintage made modern – all the ease of casual attire paired with the appearance of being classy.  This is me-made clothing at its best!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a printed, sheer, batiste all-cotton lined in a combo of cotton blend broadcloth for the main body and a poly remnant for the peplum

PATTERN:  Vogue #1209, a Rachel Comey pattern from 2010

NOTIONS:  All I needed was lots of thread, and a zipper with a bit of interfacing.  There was nothing but the basics needed for this beauty!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Sewing this dress actually only took me about 6 hours to sew after spending several hours to adjust the pattern before cutting it out.  It was finished on July 25, 2018.

THE INSIDES:  All raw edges are covered up by the full lining

TOTAL COST:  This dress cost me less than $10

Making this dress had been something I wanted to do ever since the pattern first came out.  Yes, sometimes my favorite projects in my sewing queue keep being pushed back again and again sadly, but that just makes them such a relief and enjoyment to wear when they are finally finished!

I had to do a bunch of extra figuring to do any adjustments on this complex design.  I changed up the bottom half of the dress the most drastically.  Firstly, I wanted the dress knee length, but that included re-configuring the peplum to match.  Yet, I also wanted the back peplum to be more 1940s waterfall style (similar to this vintage original featured in Threads magazine) and trickle down to meet the side seam at a much lower point.  I eliminated the center seam to the peplum, as well, for a better drape on the bias.  All of this wasn’t too tricky but it did take a clear head, much forethought, and make for a much bigger pattern piece which required a lot more fabric than the back numbers called for.  Luckily, I had about 5 or 6 yards of my chosen fabric (only because it was on deep clearance…so cheap yet super soft I couldn’t leave any behind) so I felt comfortable doing any alterations.  This doesn’t always happen so well.  Usually I have pre-bought a very specific amount and expect to layout the pattern pieces economically so there is not always room for such license with a design.  This was a fun change!

Going further with the top half of the dress, I also slightly raised the back dip of the V neckline, which meant tweaking the gathers and extending the tab that covers them.  Also, because my body size had changed since I bought the pattern (2010 was before I gave birth to our son), I had a size that was too small and I had to grade up a bit.  Oh, not to forget, everything I changed to the fit and the styling of the skirt and peplum had to be likewise translated over to the full body lining as well.  Ugh.  With all these adjustments, though, I really don’t think the dress looks obviously that much different that the cover original and that is just what I wanted.  I was aiming for a slightly more vintage tweak, yet still adhering to Rachel Comey’s design that attracted me to the pattern in the first place.  As I said, above, it’s the best of both worlds, and all in a soft cotton.  Who knew cotton could be so elegant and fluttery?  I didn’t.  This dress is a winner.

Part of what helps my version of this dress work, I believe, is an interesting situation I concocted with the lining.  Cotton on cotton tends to be ‘sticky’ as I call it, clinging together like Velcro because of the soft, brushed touch to it.  So, I chose the full body lining to be in a half cotton-half polyester blend broadcloth.  The little bit of man-made in the broadcloth really keeps the two layers apart quite nicely.  The nude, skin-toned tan color of the lining keeps the outer printed fashion fabric from both obviously appearing lined as well as being as sheer as a tissue, which it was on its own.  The full body lining really gives the dress its shape because it is a very basic design that counters the gathers and details going on with the outside, good side of the garment (besides nicely covering up all the inner seams).  Both layers to my dress being cotton makes for a breathable dress even though it is not the lightest weight.  What I discovered is that the lining is the first to absorb my sweat on a hot day and generally keeps the outer fashion fabric to the dress appearing so cool and pristine in any heat.  What a sneaky little way to pull off being chic in any weather!  Ladies just ‘glisten’ and not sweat anyway, right?!

Part two of the lining trickery has to do with the back peplum.  I sensed that a tiny hem along the bottom edge of the peplum just wasn’t going to work.  Besides, as I mentioned in the paragraph above, the paisley fabric was sheer and being a lightweight cotton would not drape properly on its own.  It needed to be fully lined.  More of the cotton-poly broadcloth I used to line the body would weigh the peplum down and make the dress too heavy.  So I reached for a scrap I had on hand of a nude-tan color, all-poly, cling-free lining which was luckily in the exact same nude tan color as my broadcloth.  Hooray for saving remnants and knowing what you have (thanks to organizational drawers)!  This lightweight and silky poly was the perfect solution for a soft peplum that hangs softly, becomes a weightless addition to its dress, and has a pretty – yet not flashy and distracting – underside.  I kind of did feel badly (silly, really, I know) for adding a bit of man-made to this lovely cotton frock, but I figure that’s the beauty and attraction striving towards the will-o’-the-wisp ‘perfect’ garment.  One piece of clothing that is engineered to be well thought out, like a finely crafted machine, yet soft enough to recognize and reflect the lovely human being inside of it is worth pounds of store offered, low quality, fast fashion.

The finishing touches I added included little ribbon lingerie straps on the inside of the shoulders.  With such a wide neckline, the snap-closing straps connect the shoulders of the dress to my bra straps for a dress that stays put on my body.  Of course, with the center front and center back having practically the most detailing on the dress, that meant there is a side seam zipper, very much like the traditional 1940s garment.  It is only slightly awkward because of all the material to the skirt, but with the wide neckline this dress is still easier to put on than those WWII ones.

So, I’ll ask for you…am I done with peplums yet? Not at all.  (See my other peplum projects here – a long post WWII one, a shorter 40’s blouse version, a front peplum dress, a pleated hip peplum 50’s style dress, and one on a modern asymmetric top)  Ever since there was one amazing vintage peplum dress that got away from me, this ‘bug’ in my system will take a while to work its way out.  Am I done with blue tones this year’s late summer sewing?  Nope.  Sorry, I’m not sorry.  Maybe it’s the way blue is cool to my eyes and mind, or perhaps it’s the way I feel blue is a versatile transitional color, matching with tan, grey, and other fall tones.  Either way, I now finally have yet a long awaited project to enjoy wearing for years to come, and yet another interpretation of how blue is one of my ways to get ready – mentally and tactility – for cooler weather.  Of course, my opposite hemisphere is looking forward to warmer weather, at this point, so hopefully my wistfulness at our fading season is your inspiration!

Collage of Vintage Scarf and Handkerchief Ideas

This a fun and different follow-up from my last post about the one yard 1940s top which calls for an oversized scarf as an optional material source.   Scarves – and handkerchiefs – have been used towards making something to wear for decades, but sadly it seems to out of favor today.  As I have a plethora of scarves on hand, and always see so many hankies and scarves for sale at vintage shops and antique stores, I think being creative with these little pieces from the past are not just an old fashioned ‘thing’ but can actually look quite cute and be useful!  Modern fat quarters would I believe do just the thing as well.  They are a similar size after all.  Quilters listen up – your fat quarter stash can become much of what is shown below if you want to switch over the apparel sewing!

Enjoy the following inspiration and eye candy.

Here is yet another 1940s pattern for a blouse that is made from an all-around border small scarf, fat quarter, or hankie for view 3…or remnants when it comes to view 4.  It is Hollywood #1523 pattern.

McCall #1525’s outfits are also made from multiple small hankies or scarves.  The full ensemble – dress, purse, and hat – takes 6 squares, I believe.  The hankies used make it look quite quaint, but out of modern printed fat quarters I think this would look quite fetching and fun!

Mena at “Make This Look” on Instagram posted a super cute and very much a regular shirtdress or skirt that is also made of hankies.  This could totally be much more coordinated and aesthetically pleasing if one went for using modern fat quarters to piece these outfits together.  This pattern is my favorite but I have no idea what its number is, so this will be hard to find.

One of the easiest and frequent way to use scarves with no sewing or alteration needed is to turn a scarf into a halter top.  This method of scarf tying has been popular since the early 30’s when it began during the rise of the resort-leisure and sportswear fashions that spawned beach pajamas.  It can be done with just a necklace and a safety pin needed.  First you fold the large scarf into a big triangle.  The folded edge goes around your waist.  Lay it over the front of you and tie the two ends at the lower back waist.  The two raw ends that make the third corner of the triangle go over your necklace and are pinned in place so that you easily end up with a cute sleeveless and backless halter.  The neckline corner of the scarf can be over or under the necklace and the pin can be seen or not seen (your choice).  I love it as an easy bikini top cover-up, and depending how you style or accessorize it, this simple halter can look 30’s vintage, 70’s retro, or modern.

The most amazing and hard to believe inspiration of scarf and hankie fashions is this old late 1930s “British Movietone News” clip – watch it yourself here.  It shows you how to fold and otherwise tie yourself in the “latest seaside fashions”.  I love the hilarious commentary, “It is difficult to imagine blowing your nose in anything as smart as this!”  The coat made of four scarves is the thing I would like to try to most.

There is another video from 1921 (seen here) that shows two hankies being turned into a brassiere (screenshot at left).  Granted, the final result looks very homemade and unattractive to modern eyes, but we must be thankful.  The modern divided cup bra had its origins – as the legend goes – from an everyday woman experimenting with two hankies.  At right is an early 30’s Kestos style bra made from a delicate embroidered hanky that is much lovelier to look at.

Such a bra like this is not only easy to whip up and very modernly appropriate, but I can attest that they are very comfortable.  The 1920’s bra I had posted about here called for hankies (but I used cotton scraps) and the book where my pattern came from, “Vintage Lingerie” by Jill Salen, has several other patterns that call for a clean square of fabric originally meant for your nose.

The most popular item of clothing that I see made from oversized scarves in the 1920s seems to be hankie-hem (uneven hem) dresses as well as caftans.  However, the great designer known for her work on the bias grainline Madeleine Vionnet made her famous “scarf dress” around 1919-1920, copied by many for years after.  It is made of four large square pieces of fabric which give you four “flaps” (or jabots I think is the official term) on each side of your body, a deep V neck on the front and back, with twisted shoulder straps and a sash to tie it all together.

There is a free and simple tutorial here on “We Sew Retro” and they claim it makes a dress in only 20 minutes when you start with four large square 1 meter pre-hemmed scarves.  You can try out a popular 1920s style from a famous designer in under half of an hour?  Yes, please, this is on my plan-to-make queue.

I have only two 1 meter scarves on hand and so I did a little experimenting on my own.  Firstly, I sewed the two of them into a 1920s inspired pop-over caftan.  There are two vertical seams along the sides to give me a subtle shape and only two small stitches at the shoulders to keep it on me.  Many original 1920’s caftans were actually made with specially printed or woven oriental textiles, or even long rectangular scarves.

Not content with only one use for my two matching scarves, I unpicked the few seams my caftan had to be back to “the drawing board” as the phrase goes.  I tied the two scarves into becoming a skirt.  Firstly I started by covering up my front half and tying the scarf in a tiny knot at my center back waist.  Then I repeated the same thing starting from the back to the front.  Just like the halter top above, this would make the cutest swim cover up…which is how I was actually wearing it here.  It shows just enough of a sexy leg flash in the wind or in movement, but I think is not obviously as much of a thrown-together item to wear as it really is!  This one was entirely my idea.

Besides the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s inspiration it seems the 1970s was the next big decade for re-using scarves.  I did find several scarf and hankie printed fabric dresses in the 1960s, as if the era liked the idea but not the real thing and so only used fabric versions.  The hippie era and the Bohemian chic caused eclectic styles and re-fashioning to become popular.  Many designers made scarf dresses and paisley hankie print garments in the 1970s and the smaller brands and sewing companies followed with their own copies.

Although I never thought of such fashions as becoming widely popular or mainstream, they must have had their impact because several Design houses have re-hashed the trend in the last two years.  Strikingly similar to this LaVetta dress of the early 70’s, Gucci brand just came out with a scarf kaftan this spring 2019 (both pictured below).  Everything old becomes new again if you wait long enough.

Dolce & Gabbana preceded them in 2018 with a handful of scarf sourced fashion such as this dress.  Oh my…if I had that many pure silk scarves I really don’t think that is what I would do with them.  Nevertheless, the look is fun and colorful (but it’s almost $5,000)!  It reminds me of this Oscar de la Renta “Patchwork-Effect Floral-Print Silk-Chiffon Dress” from pre-fall 2019 or this poncho- style Oscar de la Renta blouse that looks like pretty quilters’ fat quarters or old table linen remnants sewn together.  *Sigh*  If only high fashion could be so sustainable that a dress or blouse like that would really be made out of scraps and not just printed to imitate such a practice.  I’ll have to try some knock-off versions for myself sometime because I both don’t have $3,000 to spare and goodness knows I have enough scraps to try!

Inspiration I have found on Pinterest that is not marketed as vintage is mostly either for neckwear or headwear.  Of course, scarves were immensely popular for heads, necks, and belts in the 1940s and 30’s…it’s nothing new, but still so cute and useful!  However, I did see some modern scarf ideas that did gain my main interest.  This asymmetric wrap top that employs one buckle clasp is to die for!  Sadly, I cannot find the source to credit it (lack of source information is only one of the reasons Pinterest aggravates me) but this one is quite inventive and chic.  Also, this – one of the many dresses at the shop “CreatedByMK” on Etsy (which also sells so many lovely scarves) – is so beautiful, versatile, and much more wearable than most tie or wrap on scarf garments.  This style should be easy to replicate, adaptable to many body shapes, and very complimentary in a very swishy and feminine way.  Compared to my earlier skirt idea, this particular scarf skirt is stunning, so completely blowing me away.  I love the way the corners come together at the waist so beautifully.  People are so smart.

Ugh, I need to find a cheap stash of scarves and have an immediate go at many of these ideas, now that I posted about them!!  Which ones are your favorites?  Do you think you will be trying anything here out for yourself?  There is more over on my related Pinterest board “Turning a Scarf into Something Wearable” here, if you fancy a trip down the rabbit hole with me.  P.S. There’s the coolest tutorial for cute little satin scarf do-it-yourself shorts over there!