It’s way too fun to let myself give in to my strong tendency to do pretty dresses. With the weather turning chilly, I could use something different that isn’t quite so dressed up to keep me cozy. So, now that I’ve been recently realizing the beauty of 1940s casual wear, through the inspiration of actresses Gene Tierney, Ava Gardner, and Hayley Atwell (a.k.a. Agent Peggy Carter), I took two mid-40’s vintage original patterns from my stash to make my own downtime wear from the past. There is something a bit timeless, tasteful, and special about a set of “down-time” clothes made in vintage style that modern ready-to-wear cannot have. The 1940s can make wearing a man’s style look so ladylike!
1946 is the magic year for my blouse. Not only is it the year for the pattern of my blouse, but it is also the year of my inspiration. Gene Tierney wears a lovely flannel shirt in her Noir movie “Leave Her to Heaven”. Once I’d seen this movie, it has tendency to uncomfortably stay in back of my mind and the fashions are equally memorable in a better way. Luckily this movie was specially made in color (a rather special practice for the times) and I was so happy to find a plaid in a shockingly close color scheme. Ava Gardner also wore a nice flannel blouse in her gritty part in another 1946 movie “The Killers”, as also did Paulette Goddard in the 1948 movie “Hazard”, though as both films are in black and white I don’t know the true colors. You can visit my Pinterest page for “Ladies Lumberjack Blouses in the 1940’s” to see pictures of all movie inspiration mentioned for this blouse, as well as others, too.
Both actresses Tierney and Atwell wore perfectly fitting bifurcated bottoms in colors, as did Marvel’s television heroine Peggy Carter. They all put the “class” into “classic”. Peggy wears such wonderful trousers during the exercising of her duties on the job, and although the inspiration garment came from her Season Two (year 1947), she is often stuck in the past. Thus I feel using a pattern from an earlier date (1943) suits appropriately. My spin on feminine menswear from the 40’s is completed with nail polish (Cover Girl XL nail gel in “rotund raspberry”), red lipstick (Cover Girl Continuous Color in “vintage wine”), my sole Bakelite bracelet, and a simple ponytail!
FABRIC: BLOUSE – 100% cotton flannel, with cotton batiste scraps for lining the shoulder placket; PANTS – a mid-weight denim, 60% cotton, 36% polyester, and 4% stretch.
NOTIONS: I relied on what was on hand and actually had everything I needed – the thread, interfacing, bias tape, zipper, waistband hooks, shoulder pads, and buttons (which came from hubby’s grandmother’s stash).
PATTERNS: McCall #6709, year 1946, for the shirt (view B belt looks like the modern Vogue #9222) and Simplicity #4528, year 1943 for the pants
TIME TO COMPLETE: The pants took me about 5 hours in all from start (cutting) to finish, which was on March 4, 2016. I spend maybe 30 or more hours to make the flannel shirt, and it was done on April 27, 2016.
THE INSIDES: The denim of the pants was too thick to add more bulk with edge finishing, so they are left raw. The shirt is nicely finished in either French seams or bias bindings.
TOTAL COST: The denim was on clearance when the now defunct Hancock Fabrics was closing, so it cost maybe $6 for only 2 yards. The flannel came from Wal-Mart and cost $7.50 for 2 ½ yards. So my outfit cost less than $15 – good deal, huh?!
The shirt was a bit of a time consuming trouble to do all the details while the pants were so easy and quick. Both the patterns fit me right out of the envelope no changes and no real fitting needed…it’s so nice when that happens! A decent number of the 40’s patterns run small for me so I went up in size for the trousers to have a good comfy fit, especially as I was planning on tucking my thick flannel shirt in the waist. Lumberjack shirts are often roomy, so I actually went smaller by finding a pattern in my exact sizing and making wider seam allowances. Both steps were good ideas though the pants are a tad baggy when worn with lighter weight blouses.
My flannel blouse served as an experimental piece on which to attempt two techniques for the first time before doing them on some upcoming projects. As the back has a separate shoulder placket, and I did not have enough fabric to do something special (like mitering the plaid into V), I made my very own corded piping using self-fabric to make sure that seam has a special touch. Making my own piping was not hard – it was fun actually! All it took was a little extra time but is so worth it in the finished appearance. I even cut the strip of fabric for the piping on the bias for more contrast. See – the plaid is cross-grain. Also, I found out how to do sleeve openings with a pointed over-and-underlapped placket. They turned out great, but now I know what to do better next time. Making these plackets became challenging with the flannel becoming so thick with multiple layers in one small spot, and they were barely all my machine could handle to sew. I really do love the look of this kind of placket – so professional and finished looking, and special, too, as it was also cut on the cross-grain! I can’t wait to try out these two techniques again.
Most of the other skills that were needed to make my flannel blouse had already been done for my hubby’s 1943 flannel shirt as well as my “Saddle and Lace” Western-style tunic. This shirt has the collar stand all-in-one with the collar (like the tunic), a favorite feature of mine. This makes for a smooth and unfussy neckline besides making it a bit less extra seaming to make. My hem is arched into the side seams, shirt-tail style, though it is lacking a small patch at the inner arch, like what hubby’s shirt has. On my shirt, the patch pocket (yes, just one) with the flap closure was every bit as stressfully detailed to match as last time I made them on my hubby’s shirt. Just because I’ve done some techniques before doesn’t mean I like doing all of them any better for sewing them again 😉
The buttons on my shirt are vintage, as I said they come from the stash given to us of hubby’s Grandmother, but what era I’m not sure. These buttons came in the number I needed, but they are also tiny and feminine, which is exactly what I wanted for the shirt, although they do kind of make it hard to button through the thick flannel. The buttons had been coated with an imitation pearl stuff, but as most of it was coming off anyway, I used a pocket knife to take all of the coating off to have the buttons be a creamy white as you see them. They are all kind bumpy on top with three small hills on each. Does anyone have any idea what era these are from?
The shoulders are a bit droopy and I think they are meant to be like that but I did try to prevent an extreme case. I sewed the top shoulder seam in a ¾ inch seam allowance but as the sleeve was still over-long for my arm, I also made the cuffs in half the width they were meant to be. Thin cuffs do look a bit different but I think this is a good save versus having the sleeves end up looking way too big for me. I also added thick ½ inch shoulder pads inside the shirt to further structure the blouse’s silhouette, because the droopy sleeves fit better with them and also…this is the 1940’s after all! Out of everything else on the shirt, it’s the shoulder pads that make me feel like this shirt is more like some sort of loose, unlined jacket. I find it so funny how ginormous thick shoulder pads fit in so well with 1940’s fashion, they actually look good, and fit in to the garment’s style so well. You’d never have guessed huge shoulder pads were in there, would you?
My trousers are so freaking awesome, I can’t praise true 1940’s high-waisted pants enough. My last attempts were done using reprints of old patterns from Simplicity, and although they turned out decently enough, they seem modern and pale in comparison to the real vintage thing. The reprints (especially Simplicity 3688) don’t have a proper vintage high waist, good crouch depth, and proper hip room that this old trousers pattern has to it. The envelope back calls the set “pajamas” but I technically think that this set of tunic blouse and trousers is actually like a house outfit, probably worn as an option to the house dress. Regular ‘blouse and slacks’ vintage original patterns for women seem to sell for more than I can reasonably spend, so this pattern is my affordable substitute. The design is probably a bit more simplistic than an-outside-the-house pair of slacks, but they fit me better than I could have ever hoped for so that’s reason enough for them to deserve to be worn to be seen!
The only small thing I did change was to transform a full dart out of the pattern’s prescribed knife pleat. Just to be on the safe side, I added about 2 inches to the hem of the pants, but as they turned out, I didn’t need that extra length, so they have a very wide hem – no so 1943 at all when excess fabric like this would have been a waste not allowed by the war rations. Next pair (yes, I am definitely making another) will not have the added length and wide hem – the pattern is just fine for me the way it is. I have found a body match in this 1943 pants pattern.
My trousers have seen so much use since I finished them, but here’s a different perspective yet. I think they looked best the way I styled them to wear to our town annual WWII re-enactment weekend several months back. I wore my white scalloped front blouse with the trousers, a leather belt which matched my studded wedge leather sandals, pearls, clip-on earrings, and a netted snood I my hair. A re-enactor told me he thought I looked like I was dressed up like I was a French civilian. My hubby can be seen in his recent lucky find of a never worn, Eisenhower-style, military suit set (just need to hem his pants…). These service suits were being worn on limited personnel in 1943, but became standard issue after November 1944, so he and I are not too far off in time frame. If I am re-enacting a French civilian, maybe I can play the part of the bride that he met while serving the European front of the war.
Do you, too, have some “inspiration icons”? Do you sew your own casual wear, weather vintage or modern? Have you, like me, happened to find a magic pattern that seems as if it was meant for your body?
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! Here’s to best wishes for good eats, good times, and good memories!