Simple Luxury: a Vintage Hair Curling Tutorial

Yay!  I’ve reached 200 posts here on my blog!

To celebrate I will offer you something that is definitely different.  Here’s my very first hair tutorial to show you one of my very favorite way of achieving a curly hair style.  This method of pinning or setting my hair for curls was shown to me through my good friend, 'Pickwick Papers' curl-paper illustration-compwho is a hair stylist, by her salon’s owner, Cecil.  Apparently, it is the real-deal old-fashioned way that they used to do it before we women had metal, foam, plastic, wire, and electric devices to resort to for a hairstyle we wanted…ladies resorted to paper and fabric!  I have no idea when “rag rolls” and “curl-papers” originated in history, but my first introduction to this type of pinning up one’s hair was in high school when I read Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist”.  There are several references to “curl-papers” in both Nancy’s and other ladies’ hair throughout the book, with the most prominent citations in Chapter 13 (find it yourself here).  Just think – this book was from circa 1840!

It might be the best looking way to set curls (hubby thinks I look rather funny in it), but it is natural, easy on the hair and head, and requires only very simple and readily available supplies.  Little or no money is needed to try it out…only a little time.

This is the final part, number 3, to my post series on easy and simple ways to stay comfy, cozy, and effortless but authentically vintage when it’s time to unwind.  Post number 1 is a 3 hour, bias-cut nightgown and post number two is a fleece, very coat-like housecoat.  The pictures below show my finished style after using my hair curling method. Enjoy the following tutorial!

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This might sound weird to start off with, but I will demonstrate how to make your own “curlers” using something menial but soft and readily available – toilet tissue paper.  This is how Cecil first showed me.  In “Oliver Twist” and Jane Austen times, women used paper – and you still can try this with strips cut from a lunch bag or such if you’d like.  In addition to toilet paper, you can even use paper towels.  I also have “curlers” made from real rag portions or scrap fabrics, the reason this kind of set is often known as “rag rolls”.  However, learning to use toilet tissue paper means wherever you go, you’ll never lack the necessary tools for lovely curls…just sayin’!  Later on you’ll see my curlers made from velvet leftover from this blouse, but just basic cotton is actually the best material, in my opinion, for rag rolls.  You don’t want to use any material silky or slippery in feel.  You want a fabric that will somewhat “stick” to itself.  Here’s your fabric scrap pile’s big opportunity to become useful!

Best perk ever – this set is the most comfortable to sleep through the night in that I have found yet!  This is due to the fact my method of rag rolls is not just wrapping hair around a strip of fabric and tying a knot.  Who wants to sleep on that?!  My rag roll method is all about making the perfect “curler” that eliminates any knotting, tying, or any little bird’s-nest of hair to sleep on overnight.

First off, you need to start with a rectangle that is about 4 inches by 12 inches (or 3 squares of toilet tissue paper to be exact).  You can make your rag rolls longer (maybe 15 inches) if you want them to be a bit easier to work with and you can also make them wider (maybe 5 or 6 inches) if you want thicker “curlers”, but I would not recommend going smaller with the proportions.

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You are going to take this rectangle and fold it first in half towards you, long wise (step #1 & #2), and then in half again (step #3).  In other words, the rectangle is being folded into fourths along the length.

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This done, you hold both ends and twist only 3 times.  A semi-twisted rectangle piece, not a tightly wound ‘rope’, is the ideal.  A few twists of the wrist while holding each end is all it takes.  Now, put your finger into the middle and fold the whole piece in half, keeping it twisted.  Voila!  You have your curler!  You can do this as you go to see how many you’ll need or you can do about a dozen and work with that.

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Now, I usually only do my rag rolls when my hair is completely dry or partially dry.  Starting off with wet hair would only soak the rag scrap and prevent your hair from ever drying (unless you sit under a hood hair dryer for a long, long time).  Wet hair with toilet paper “curlers” seems like the formula for a gunky mess, so make sure your hair is dry for this option.  My hair is naturally curly so maybe starting off with hair completely dry will not work for everyone without adding on some sort of setting lotion or the like…I don’t know, I’m not you!  You’ll just have to try and experiment to see what works best for you.

The same thing goes for the portions of hair you want to use – you’ll have to experiment.  I usually grab a portion about 2 inches square from the scalp and always curl under (unless I want a 60’s ‘flipped end’ style).  Now’s the time for some rapid fire quick tips.  Smaller portions make tighter curls, larger portions make looser curls. You can also twist your portions of hair like you did for the rag “curlers” – this helps the hair stay in place but also makes for a loose, wavy sort of curl.  Rolling in with the hair at a 90 angle or more from the scalp creates volume, versus rolling in at a 45 degree angle which creates a curly style that lays closer to the head.  Rolling in all the way to the scalp creates more, tighter curls while rolling only half way up to you scalp leaves a flat crown with curly ends.  There are so many possibilities for changing it up for a different look!DSC_0348-comp,w

I like to make the front side portion as tighter, smaller portion curls rolled in a vertical angle.  The same goes for the bottom back hair along the nape of my neck.  These two spots come un-curled easily over the course of a day and I like tighter curls falling down one side of my face. My hair is cut in long layers, with the front angled down so curling this way pairs up well with my haircut.

Once you have a hair portion, hold the end of your hair because you’ll start curling there.  Find the middle of the rag “curler” (still keeping it twisted and looped in half) and put your other finger over it.  Roll the end tips of your hair twice over both the “curler” and your finger. Then pull your finger out and keep rolling in from there.  Having your finger over the rag roll at the beginning of the curl keeps the tips of your hair from being kinked or rolled way too tight.  Otherwise you’ll end up with a finished curl that has an end which is very frizzy and terribly ugly (called “cow licked”).  Believe me, I tried a set without my finger there at the end just to see what it would do and won’t do it again!

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Once you’ve rolled up as far as you want to go, take your two “pinchy fingers”, thumb and index finger, and peek them out through the loop at one end of the rag “curler”.  Grab the two “tails” at the other end of the rag “curler” and either stuff or pull them through the loop.

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It takes practice to get the loops just right because if they are too big they won’t hold the curl or tails.  If the loop is too small, well…it won’t work at all either, especially if you’re using toilet paper (it breaks and you have to start over).  Again, this step takes a bit of practice.100_6439-comp,w

With all curls looped closed and hair pinned up, I’m ready for bed!

After a night of sleeping sometimes a few curls do come undone.  However, they almost always survive intact well enough to do their job.  All taken out, below at left is what my rag rolls look like un-combed.  After a thorough brushing with a bristle brush, this (below right) is my finished hairstyle.  The curls do relax a bit over the course of the day, more so with extra brushings, but generally last me for two days.  Of course, as my hair is naturally curly, it probably takes to the set better than others might find.

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This hair set works for many decades depending on how you use it.  A loose set is something I can use for the 40’s and especially 50’s, while a tight set I use for both the 30’s and the 80’s.  Look what fabric can do for your hair!

Please do let me know if you try this and how it works for you.  It took me several times of experimental sets before I felt like I had it down and was doing it decently enough.  Please do ask me if you have a question – whether it’s something you need clarified or whatever!

P.S. I will have a “short and sweet” version of this hair curling tutorial on my Instagram, just done with velvet rag “curlers” rather than the toilet paper used in this post.  Also, in case you were wondering, the printed tee I am wearing in some of my pictures is my newest Agent Carter acquisition…to see the whole thing, go on my Instagram post here and figure out the meaning to it!

Shopping at the Old Arcade

Most people generally know twenties clothing as being tubular with drop waists.  Many also frequently think of the twenties as having beading, sheer fabrics, and fringe, but that was for evening and special occasion.  However, do you know what the turn of the decade, year 1920, actually looked like for everyday wear?  When I started doing research on this I was surprised.  Very high waists, overly exaggerated hips (many with ruffles and ridiculous pockets), slightly awkward long mid-calf length hems, and loose but lovely bust-less blouses.  Yes – this was the year 1920, when women were wearing fashion which was both a carry-over from 1918 – 1919 that was also finding its way for changing up styles in a new decade.  Here is my sewing creation interpreting the year 1920, as a woman in her nice, almost sporty, and nothing-too-fancy clothes to go do some window shopping.
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Actual teens era/1920s hand painted glass buttons (close-up picture here on my Instagram) were included on the blouse I made, as well as several hours of decorative hand stitching on both neck and sleeves.  My hat is a thrift store purchase, which already had straw flowers, but I piled on a wide lace band and silk flowers for an old fashioned style.   I also made the skirt and the purse, as well as some of the authentic lingerie I’m wearing underneath.  This ensemble did not look right (silhouette speaking) until I had the correct undergarments, so I will definitely show you what I wore (and made) in a future post.

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Period authentic doesn’t have to be old-fashioned or un-wearable today.  Because it is all cotton and not body figure conscious, this is really quite comfy to wear.  Sure, it’s different, but yet lovely and tasteful enough for me to only receive kindly smiles from strangers who saw me.  I love the subtle complexity, the understated richness, and the odd femininity to the style of my 1920 pieces.  The ideal of beauty and the popular silhouette for women has changed so much throughout history, and this is just another incarnation that I am glad to have learned to appreciate through sewing it for myself!

THE FACTS:McCall 9412 & Pict.Review Overblouse, both ca. 1920, fm Past Patterns

FABRIC:  100% cotton specialty twill for the skirt, 100% cotton for the blouse, and a tapestry remnant (mystery content) for the purse lined in a burgundy Kona cotton leftover from this project.

PATTERNS:  Past Pattern’s No. 8268, Ladies’ Overblouse, from Pictorial Review circa 1920; a Past Pattern’s No. 9412 “Ladies’ Skirt with Hip Pocket Effect” from McCall Company circa 1920 , and a Vogue 7252 year 2000 patternVogue #7252 from the year 2000 for the purse

NOTIONS:  The notions for this came from everywhere.  The detailed, Art Nouveau-style brass buttons were a Hancock Fabrics’ store brand item, bought when the company was closing, while the old vintage blouse buttons were from our favorite antique store.  Most everything else needed was on hand – I even had the tassel for the purse in my stash!  

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The skirt was made in about 6 hours and finished on October 21, 2016.  The blouse took 8 to 10 hours, with 4 more hours for the hand embroidery, and was finished on February 26, 2017.  The purse was made in about 2 hours on February 28, 2017.

TOTAL COST:  The skirt’s fabric was bought at the now defunct Hancock Fabrics for less than $2 a yard…and I only needed 2 yards here.  I have 2 something extra yards still left for another (upcoming) project.  The blouse’s cotton was bought at JoAnn’s fabric recently for maybe $10.  The brass buttons were expensive even with the Hancock Fabrics closing clearance – maybe $17 – while the old buttons on the blouse were only $5.  The tapestry brocade came from I don’t know where from I don’t know how long ago, thus I’m counting it as free, but the cord handle was bought at JoAnn’s for about $4.  So, my total is about $40 something.

DSC_0232,p,a-comp,wWorking with patterns this old presented plenty of unknowns, but the primary one was in regards to fit.  What kind of body, what kind of peculiarities, and what ease do these patterns account for?  It’s one thing to get something to fit, but historical garments need a particular fit (as well as the right underwear) to be authentically worn.  I did have the assurance that my pattern came from Past Patterns Company…every single garment I have made from what they offer is a wonderful success I am most happy with.  No wonder they’ve been in business almost 40 years!

Let me start by talking about the bodice.  After some figuring, my estimated bust measurement of the blouse pattern as-is (in the size 38 to 40 bust) is 45 inch around.  This led to my figuring the wearing ease to this blouse was about 5 inches over and above the bigger of the two sizes (bust 40).  I can see that the bust is supposed to be bloused and roomy (over a flat chest) so I went down to a generous measurement for myself and ended taking out a total of 4 inches around hoping to end up at what would be the next size smaller for this pattern.  The side seam allowance is 1 whole inch so I figured I had plenty of room to fix a wrong calculation is sizing, but still…it’s easier to  take out some extra than it is to be stuck with a garment which ends up too small.  I totally feel like I nailed the right fit!

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I realized that this is an overblouse that I am not wearing as an overblouse.  This is not the first time I have made an over blouse only to wear it tucked into a skirt – see this 1958 project.  When I received my pattern in the mail Saundra Altman kindly included a tutorial page on how to add in a stay-belt inside the blouse.  As I am just getting the feel for teens and early 20’s dressing, I kept the construction of my blouse simple from the waist downPerry, Dame & Co Catalog, New York styles, fall and winter 1919-1920 because for now I plan on only wearing it as you see it.  At some future point I hope to make a year 1920-style pleated skirt and wear this same top as a proper overblouse, and at that point I might come back and add the welt pockets and a stay-band to the waist.

I did use my oldest (1930’s) sewing machine to do all the button holes along the front opening, but I also splurged and used all cotton thread and self-fabric bias tape for the neckline.  After I had made the button holes I decided I really didn’t want to subject the buttons to the wear and tear of pushing them through every time.  So, I still sewed two at a time connected like link buttons but they’re on there permanently for now, and if I want them off I’ll just cut the linking threads.  I did try to make these buttons linked by a metal loop with a connecting chain but I had disaster strike doing that.  The back loop on one broke by cracking right off, but it is a molded part of the rest of the button so it cannot be fixed unless I glue some loop or such on it.  I never guessed these were as fragile as they seem to be.  Until I figure out how to add something to the back of this broken button, I will sadly made-do with one at the top closure.  This is the risk of working with, or even wearing, old original items from many decades back – they are unique and fragile, but deserve to be seen nonetheless, so using them is a risk that also could only garners appreciation.

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My decorative hand stitching is I know not the best compared to many others, but this is so much better than I used to be able to do.  Whatever my skill, the stitching does take my blouse to the next level, I think, besides show casing an old time-honored practice that modern garments are so far from.  Hand stitching was very much needed here because of the rather plain color of the blouse’s cotton.  I made my own design, and after several unsuccessful Art Deco drawings I settled on the softer more feminine floral on my blouse.  After all King Tut’s tomb would not yet be discovered for a few years from 1920!

The skirt probably would’ve fit me pretty much as-is, but I did add one extra inch to the waistband only to be on the safe side for fit.  I did not change the rest of the skirt because I wanted the gathers to be a bit looser.  Looking back I wish I had made no gathers across the center front of the skirt – the pockets and the hip panel would look better.  No matter, I like it just the same! DSC_0297a-comp,w

The skirt did not need any special closures for the left side opening – the placket kind of conceals itself because of the side seam pleat overlay.  Only hook-and-eyes keep it together at the waistline.  The waistband is quite neat.  It is a two inch band against my skin on the inside, with a 4 inch waistband gathered horizontally on the outside so it looks like a cummerbund belt.

DSC_0220a-comp,wTrue to the era, the back of the skirt is just a long rectangle for a small taste of the slim and skinny.  What a contrast for the front!  Along the front geometric pocket edge I made my own self-fabric “ribbon” to decorate, finish, and stabilize the edge.  At first I tried a brown velvet ribbon for the edge, but, no – I didn’t look good so I took it off and went with the matching fabric.  This pocket edge needs to be stiff enough to stick out on its own and define the hips so I was tempted to add interfacing.  My skirt’s twill fabric was thick enough that three layers along the edge (1 – the skirt, 2 – the ribbon edging seam allowance inside, 3 – outside of the ribbon edging) was plenty good.

Needless to say, as much as I love pockets, these take the cake! My skirt’s pockets are like mini suitcases.  I can keep everything in them and it doesn’t even make a difference the skirt is so roomy and meant to be billowy.  Yet, the only thing that mystifies me about my 1920 outfit is the pockets, mostly because the purses and hand bags were so tiny!  Pockets and purses were still relatively new items to 1920, and both signifying the independence and progression of women, but to go overboard with such a contrast between the two in interesting to me.  As you can see, I did take a slight shortcut and have the pocket opening close with a snap rather than a real working button and button hole.

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Patterns for both the skirt and the blouse both seemed to run very long.  I made the shorter length of the overblouse, which was just over 10 inches shorter than the full-length option, and it is still falls about mid-thigh on me.  For my skirt, I took out 4 whole inches from the length because as-is the pattern falls to floor length (I’m about 5’ 3” height).  Now, take into account the fact that these two garments are meant to have deep hems, especially the skirt.  My skirt does have a wide 3 inch hem to it which helps to weigh it down properly besides bringing it to the proper just-below-calf length for the year 1920.  Skirt and dress lengths of 1920 seem to be just enough to show the ankles, just enough to move freely in, and a tad shorter than just a year or two before (1919-ish).1916 purses

My purse is something so easy but I’m so tickled at how lovely and cute it turned out.  The pattern I used is a real unknown gem with lovely designs straight out of the teens and 20’s.  I remember my mom and I being so excited when this came out!  Look at this comparison between a 1916 handbag poster for comparison.  In a 1926 catalog, I’ve even seen a strikingly similar version to “View C”!  They are all really quite simple designs but I like the fact they give the tracing designs for all the beading and decoration.  My purse doesn’t hold much but came together so quickly.  Trimmings and de-luxe materials seems like the way to go with this pattern and a remnant was all I needed.  I will definitely be using this again!

In the 1920’s, handbags were often just enough room for a few small essentials (including lipstick and keys) and often geometric in shape, like my own vers ion.  Mine is probably way too stuffed than what a 1920 woman would have carried, yet as it was I didn’t have room for everything I needed!  Also in the 1920’s, handbags weren’t necessarily meant to match with an outfit but carry their own tasteful, individual, and often ostentatious flair…quite different from modern times!

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By making my purse (a ‘reticule’ style) from tapestry I am harkening back to a popular type of “daytime” purses of the 1920s – ones made of richly complex fabric carpet bags and delicately flourished needlepoint.  Handbags from these materials seem to either be meant to show the wealth of the one possessing it or the talent of the maker, as many of these types of purses were often handmade by either the woman herself or someone for the company that sold it and some were quite expensive.  By having a decorative tassel at the center bottom point I’m aiming to narrow this to a primarily early 20’s piece.  To read and see more, this “Vintage Dancer” page has a wonderful overview of all the ways 1920’s women carried what they needed.  There is so much history to this littlest part of my ensemble!

All the materials I used for this outfit are just a dream to wear and were wonderful to sew.  The twill for the skirt is a lovely weight and hand – almost as heavy as a denim, slight body, but drapey and soft enough to hang nicely.  The low-key design of the fabric adds interest and keeps the olive and brown tones to it from being too drab.  The cotton of the blouse is so soft it doesn’t really wrinkle all that much and it’s just sheer enough to be pretty.  The tapestry of the purse is so rough, textured, and stiff it provides a nice contrast to the blouse and skirt.

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The place of our photo shoot is something quite special.  Not only is it a city landmark and the town’s best example of Gothic Revival architecture, but it is a National Historic Landmark.  I’m talking about the St. Louis Arcade/Wright Building, opened in year 1919 as one of the very first indoor shopping areas of its kind in the country, a very early, but much more elegant version of the modern American suburban, indoor, covered “Mall”.  Just think how extraordinary this is from a historical standpoint – plans for this steel and stone skyscraper was begun in 1913 before World War I and many of the materials needed for this building were rationed.  Federal officials closed and postponed many construction operations during WWI.  It is rumored that the principle contractor apparently had a simultaneous deal with the government at the time, so I suppose he was able to pull a few strings.  The Arcade was the tallest building in the world for a number of years.  Besides, the architect, Tom Barnett, was something quite important nationally.  This multi-story hall was recently renovated (after being vacant for several decades), preserving much original pieces so that the Arcade can still give visitors a taste of what it might have been in its heyday when people came here for high-end purchases such as jewelry and fine china.  Being able to walk through and visit places like this in period authentic clothes makes sewing this outfit a very worthwhile experience.

DSC_0295aa-comp,wP.S. Good news…you don’t necessarily have to sew if you want this ‘look’!  ReVamp vintage has re-made an amazing year 1921 oversized pocket skirt very similar to my own, the “Prudence” with brownish olive twill and lovely details!  Although, there are a few ways to wear a modern take on such a style – “Dress Romantic” on Etsy marketplace has a neat version that’s my favorite!  As for ready-to-wear 1920 style blouses, ReVamp has lovely options but any loose modern blouse with lace and/or feminine details would work – my favorites are this Anthropologie yellow blouse, this J.Crew cream colored pleated neckline blouse, or this sheer smocked neckline top.  There’s always old originals out there, too, (like this one) for a taste of the real thing!  Will you be channeling the early 1920’s for yourself, or have you already?

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A 1910 Era Brassiere and Open-Drawers

Yesterday in the States here we celebrated “Armistice Day”, better known now as Veterans’ Day.  The agreement that was signed between the Allies on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918 marked the ceasing of the horrible hostilities on the Western Front.  World War I also proved a good point for the capabilities of women, and the efforts for the passing of 19th Amendment would be productive in the next few years, giving women the right to vote by 1920.  In honor of these two past events (so good to learn from with what’s going on lately), I am posting something that I’ve made from the 1910 decade.

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In an effort to branch out and explore more historical eras and their fashion, history, and way of life, I’ve taken the first steps towards an authentic 1912 outfit by starting from the inside out…the proper way to get the correct figure when re-creating the past.  I’m going with the more advanced, “fashion-forward” two-piece undergarment combinations to go as my first layer against the body under a corset. I am very proud of and happy with both pieces and together with my corset, they make for a wonderfully good way to start.

As far as I know what makes this a brassiere and not a corset cover is the closeness and slimming fit as well as simple decoration.  A corset cover has more fullness to it, as well as a set waistband with a sort of ‘skirt’ or ruffle below it.  This brassiere is lacking the conventional boning of the time, but this give me options to make my undies work for more than one time period.  A full corset and/or a supported dress bodice would more than make up for no boning.  The drawers for my set are from a slightly earlier time period, the turn of the century or late Edwardian era as far as I can tell, but still short, poufy, frilly, and open-crouched as they should be for 1910.  Nevertheless, most all the under layers historically seem to be light layers in sheer weight linens of cottons, which I adhered to in my versions.  lily-elsie-a-popular-english-actress-and-singer-during-edwardian-era

I was even trying to re-create a hairstyle of the popular actress Lily Elsie, at right, one of the most popular beauties of the time.

THE FACTS

FABRIC:  The main body’s fabric of both pieces is a soft and lightweight handkerchief weight cotton in an antique ivory color. 

NOTIONS:  All notions are 100% cotton, too (except for a small percent of the modern thread’s content).  Most of the trim was bought specifically for this project from Ebay and Etsy sellers because I wanted this to be as authentically close to the original as possible and my town fabric stores don’t carry this kind of neat stuff.  However, the cotton eyelet lace for the drawers’ hem came from my Grandmother’s stash of supplies, while the shell buttons for the side closings came from Hubby’ Grandmother’s stash of notions.  The cording is half cotton and polyester bought from Jo Ann’s Fabric store.  The ribbon shell lace for the brasserie neck and arm holes was bought Jill Salen book coverfrom a Hancock Fabric store.

PATTERN:  The pattern I used for the brassiere was free from here at the blog “historicallydressed.com”.   My drawers came from author Jill Salen’s book, “Vintage Lingerie”.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My brassiere was finished on February 16, 2016 after about 4 or 5 hours.  The drawers were completed on February 27, 2016, after maybe 8 to 10 hours.

THE INSIDES:  Not perfect but cleanly finished and quite nice.  Most all seams are covered by the entredeux tape/trim or ribbon.   For those that aren’t, the side seams and shoulder seams are a flat-felled finished in my brasserie while the drawers have French seams.

TOTAL COST:  The cotton base for the camisole and drawers came from on hand as did the twill tape and thread, so I’m counting this part as free.  I bought extra of most notions, but dividing out what amount I used for the brasserie, it comes to a total of $16.00.  I used about one yard of entredeux ribbon ($2.00), about one foot of hook and eye tape ($2.00), one yard of embroidered entredeux trim ($7.00), and just over 2 yards of ribbon lace ($4.50), ½ yard of twill tape, and ¾ yard of cotton.  The drawers were as good as free (using what was on hand) unless you count $2.00 for the back draw cording.

After looking through all the sources for Edwardian, Titanic, and WWI era patterns I could possibly find, as well as several historical-knowledge sites and blogs, I found myself easily enlightened but yet still confused by all the different ways these three eras are somewhat 1917-corset-covers-and-bras-a-compmulti-layered into one another when it comes to what goes under ladies’ clothes.  (My favorite internet sources are here at Wearing History and “Lady Carolyn”.)  Some Edwardian styles are in the Titanic era, as are some early 1920’s styles found in the end of the Titanic era/WWI times.  Now there were some features to undergarments which are crucial to the silhouette of the year or decade, and some little touches to the lingerie reflect that, such as ruffles to fill out a skirt or a bodice at a certain place or princess seams for a long and lean silhouette.  However, through those 20 years, I did understand that the mixture of drawers and chemise could be slightly mixed up a bit – one-piece combo ‘chemise/drawers’ under a corset with the corset cover and a slip, or the two separate pieces could be worn under the corset with a slip chemise over that, or even (lastly) a short chemise under the corset with drawers and short cover over corset.   All these individual underwear pieces can be seen in this 1917 Sears ad (at right) in the “Everyday Fashions, 1910 to 1920” book by Dover.

Thus, I’m hoping that my readers will take into account my efforts to be accurate, if anyone who knows more than I do sees anything amiss.  I want to make something which would work for a good part of the 1910 decade.  (I’ve seen an alike set of brassiere and short open-crouch drawers in a 1917 catalog page.)  I also want to also stay true to my own personality in my historical sewing, and I can certainly see myself (if I lived back then) drawn to the newest fashion-forward fad of two piece undergarments.  It’s funny nowadays to consider this brassiere “new” and possibly “progressive” for its times by being very pretty and two-piece undergarment.  (I think camisole tops looking similar were worn out in public in the 1970’s and 80’s, with jeans or hippie bottoms in the “flower child” ideal.)  Nevertheless, by wearing the open-crouch drawers, I’d be a not too dsc_0948-compwadventurous woman by adhering to what was considered “proper” bottom first-layer covering since the 1850’s.  Open bottom panties were considered indecent when they started being worn about the 1850’s, and then when closed crouch intimates came in during the 1920’s, it was hard for the general society to adopt them until the next decade.  All of this is weird, isn’t it, when you think of how underwear is today.

Besides the efforts to research and source all my materials (which was well worth it), making this Titanic era undergarment was easy, quick, and stress-free…and fun!  The entredeux trim and ribbon were super easy to work with.  I did the seams first which had the entredeux insert, which was the center back and the bust fronts.  Then the side seams and shoulders came next as well as the fitting.  Too much fitting wasn’t really needed as making the pattern as-is came out a little too big – an easier fix than something which turns out too small!  I simply took the seams without the entredeux in a bit more.  Finishing the center front seemed best if I folded in the edges back inside to meet at the entredeux trim.  This made the entredeux bust line seam come in towards the off center more than the original garment intended, but it works better for my personal fit.

dsc_0950-compwNext, the hemming trim, the laces, and the hook-and-eye tape were added but first, the bottom trim was slightly adapted to stabilize the garment better.  As I received it, the entredeux embroidered ribbon had wide raw edges.  The original garment had some sort of twill tape simply sewn to the back.  Instead, I merely cut a strip of cotton (used for the main body) to sew to the entredeux ribbon at the long edges so I could turn it inside out like a strap/tube.  Now it was sturdy with nicely finished edges ready to go on the bottom of the brassiere around my ribcage.  The twill tape down the opening was added to keep the hooks off of my skin as well as provide a strap extension to join to the drawers.  Everything put on my 1910’s brasserie is very, very close as could be to the old original garment as shown at “historically dressed”.

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As for the bottom drawers, the patterns from Jill Salen’s book don’t give much to go on as far as instructions, so I had to do my own research to see some original garments to get the right idea of the construction.  Others know more than me, but I believe the books’ dating of these drawers as “1850, pantaloons“ is wrong.  Everything I saw and found in my research confirms the pattern and its styling is more of a late Edwardian Era to Titanic era, possibly WWI era, too, for a stretch.  This pair of drawers at the Egerland Museum is a carbon copy of my own (from Jill Salen’s book) and they are dated to circa year 1900.

dsc_0960-compwThe drawers were relatively easy and fun to make, as well as ridiculously comfy to wear even if a bit silly looking.  Yes they do have a completely open crouch, connected only at the waist, but it is undetectable because these are so baggy.  I did not change a thing to the pattern – no resizing, hem shortening or anything – and they turned out great.  The hardest part was the lack of any instructions or clarification, but with a bit of research, overview of extant pairs, and attention to details in the picture I figured it out.

dsc_0974a-compOn each side, there is about a 6 inch by 1 inch (finished size) placket in the ‘bound and faced’ method used on vintage underwear.  The placket tops end at the waistband and close with a single button on each side (I used an old carved shell button).  The waist is plain in the front, merely faced with three rows of knife pleats on each leg.  The back wide waistband has a cord running through it, coming out of a tiny button hole so there is the possibility of adjusting the back tighter.  The bottom hem is gathered into more entredeux trim, which then has eyelet lace gathered into that for a frilly finish.  Though short, I can totally see the “bloomer” look in these old-fashioned undies.

Now, after all this gab comes the corset.  I did not sew this but I did have “Fiorentina Costuming” on Etsy custom make it for me.  As I am on the smaller side I do not have dsc_0976-compwmetal or spiral boning – only strong plastic canes.  It is all cotton (even the lace) and unlined so as to not be too warm to wear or too bulky.  I cannot say enough wonderful words about my finished garment, the quickness of her replies to my many questions, and the options she offered me so I could have it just the way I hoped.  I am very happy with it.

For being my first corset, it is confining but comfy in its own sort of way.  There is something like a one hour span before the corset or my body (don’t know which) acclimates itself to the shaping.  This slim, full torso corset certainly does make one walk, sit, and hold posture in an entirely different way!  I could be wrong, but I believe this is a pre-World War I style (1913-ish according to here) by the way it comes full up to the bust.  This doesn’t quite match with some post World War I garments I’m intending to sew but I do not have enough places to wear clothes from the teens, nor enough free time for extra sewing, to warrant more than one corset for an era.  However, I do plan on making an elegant “woman-with-money” 1912 beaded lace evening gown at some point so this will come in handy.  Not having a ladies maid (duh), my method (seen here) of dividing the back laces into two parts helps me dress myself and have extra room to use the toilet without unlacing the whole thing.

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I did add on my own garter straps to the corset (this blog page helped me out).  I know thick, colored elastic is not authentic, but hey – I do what I can.  We had an extra pair of child’s suspenders on hand, meant for our son, but they gave me just enough elastic to cut four straps with clips attached to make things ultra-easy.  I cut two 6 inch straps for the back sides and two 8 inch straps from the adjustable clips for the center front.  Then I simply turned the ends under and stitched down between the boning for total lengths 1 inch shorter than what was cut.  Grey is neutral enough that it does not standout too much with my corset and the elastic is super thick so it doesn’t look so much what it really is.

dsc_0966a-compwI have the tendency to totally laugh at myself with this outfit – I’m kind of rather embarrassed in it, actually.  There is also something between disbelief that I am wearing this and satisfaction in the enjoyment of doing a decent job on sewing such different items from a new-to-me era.  Oh well.  At least this 1910 under-clothes have prompted a new “dive” into the history of the WWI era – before, during, and after – and learn as much as I can in the most rounded out way possible.  I just don’t want to dress the era…I want to understand it.

Now, hopefully the next steps to my teens era outfit will look more decent, and be just as enjoyable for me.  This was a wild ride, taking these preliminary steps, but quite interesting.  Thank you for making it through this long post so I can share it with all of you.

Simplicity’s New Winter Patterns

I went to the fabric store yesterday, and what did I see…but Simplicity’s new patterns waiting for me!  I guess these are for Winter of 2016/2017.  The new pattern releases were a complete and stunning surprise because I have not seen a mention online or any discussion about them…and they are rocking awesome in my estimation!  There are at least 10 – count them – yes, 10 vintage re-releases starting from the 1930s into the 1970s, with a vintage-influenced one.  If your interested, here’s my ‘probably-too-thorough’ overview of them.

Firstly, let’s start at the patterns from the oldest (and most spectacular in my opinion) decade.  I think Simplicity deserves a great pat on the back for their choice of re-releasing these two patterns, as well as their lovely fitting, styling, notions, accessories, and fabrics.  I want a pattern for red and white hat, too!  No really, Simplicity must have been working hard to please us in the vintage community this time around.  I’m encouraged to see this.

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I have found the original for Simplicity 8248, it was a no. 2432 dated to July of 1937.  It’s a nice day dress that is not too outstanding in style for the time period but very welcome to have released.  Only, where are the long sleeves included in the original?  The other pattern, 8247, is (I believe) from Winter of 1930/1931.  So far I haven’t found the original envelope or number, but I have found from my digging, that the style of cover, type font, and three-piece sets were released from about 1930 to no later than early 1932.    If anyone knows otherwise about the dating let me know.  I need to find the perfect fabric for these two and whip them up immediately!  I want to wear these outfits so badly!

Next, are two patterns that have good promise, but as I see them sewn up and on the models, I am a bit disappointed.  They do not fit the model correctly and are similar to past re-releases.  Simplicity 8249 is originally from year 1947, released as no. 2230.  This is so elegant, detailed, and classic of the asymmetric styles seen in the Post War era.  I also like how it can be a mid length cocktail dress or a long evening style.  However, the style reminds me of Vintage Vogue #2787, year 1948, and Butterick #6374, year 1944.  Also, the models shoulders are droopy, bust darts quite high, and bosom stuffed into a dress made a size too small for her chest – it looks awful and doesn’t do the pattern justice.  The same for Simplicity 8250 – originally no. 3775 from 1951.  I love the set, but it seems the bolero ends on the model at the wrong place…it’s supposed to curve under the bust.  The arched waist skirt vaguely reminds me of Simplicity 4044 (from the 40’s and OOP) but is darling in this 50’s version – I’m especially loving the giant pockets.  This looks like something Gracie Allen would wear…and that’s a good thing.  I hope the fitting problems are just with the model garments and not something to watch out for in the patterns themselves.

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The next two patterns are both early 50’s patterns.  Simplicity 8252 was originally a Designer’s pattern, no 8270 from year 1950.  I love that fact that this pattern has a Redingote style over dress with slip-like dress underneath – just lovely design and a breath of fresh air to get a change.  I love Redingotes (so glad they used the term on the pattern) and hope this prompts others to look up about them as I did because they are such a complimentary style.  Not that long ago, I just made a slip from an Advance pattern from 1951 which is just like the 8252 under dress…sorry, off topic.  The second pattern, Simplicity 8251, looks to me like an early 50’s design with its sweet styling, large oblong pockets, and double collar and cuffs.  Very practical dress, but it’s details make all the difference.  I just can’t find the original cover and number for it – also can’t wait to sew up this one!  (Update – Alex’s comment on this post (down lower) let me know that 8251 is actually another Designer’s pattern, originally no. 8364 from year 1950.)

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Simplicity 8255 and 8256 are killer!  I love the edginess and hippie factor to both the patterns and the covers – but that’s just me.  I can so totally see some sort of Emma Peel or Marvel Comic Black Widow body suit version of Simplicity 8255, originally no. 9142, year 1970.  It might take some body-conscious bravery to wear this.  The bust panels of Simplicity 8256 look like they make for a nice fitting bodice, but I personally think highlighting them in a different color or top-stitching might be quite a bold move.  The peasant influence prevails here yet still seems totally adult with all the ruffles, but I must complain…why aren’t the pants included like in the original?!

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Simplicity 8254 is definitely from the Space Age.  Although I can’t find the original cover I’m guessing it’s from 1967, ’68, or ’69.  (Update – Laura Mae on her blog post here shared info that lets me know that 8254 is actually another Designer’s pattern, originally no. 8537 from 1969.)  I think Simplicity did a great job presenting this pattern, too.  However, for a different pace, Simplicity 8259 has wonderful details and is a nice design with classic yet vintage flair, released through the Sew Chic pattern Company.  Indie companies and designers have a chance to reach a bigger audience and get spotlighted with actions like these.

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I need patterns like I need a hole in my head but I did buy all 10 of these new re-leases.  If you want to see the original covers for the reprints, please visit my Pinterest page by clicking here.  I believe there were actually more releases from Simplicity for this season but I think my mind blanked out after seeing these 10.  Will you be buying any of them?  What do you think?  Do you know anything more about the missing info (dates and pattern numbers) I couldn’t find?  I want to know where Simplicity gets their fabric!

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“On The Sunny Side” – a Casual, Lace-Collared 1920’s Dress and Re-fashioned Cloche Hat

“It will help us every day, it will brighten all the way, if we keep on the sunny side of life.”  So goes the chorus from the song popularized in 1928 by the famous Carter family, but the song is also known for being in the year 2000 movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”  This song, the movie, and the general time frame of both have inspired me to make a bright and daily-life type of summer 1920’s dress together with a hat re-worked into a 20’s cloche.  There isn’t anything like a great outfit that you love to be in to help brighten up a disposition and add to a great day.

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A vintage tractor show in a small town only a day’s trip away was the catalyst behind my creation.  The occasion was a dusty, farm-centered, old-timey day of laid-back enjoyment which completely reminded me of something out of the depression-era dust bowl, the general setting of the movie, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”  I don’t know what was brighter that day…my dress or the summer sun.

B6140THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% rayon challis in a bright coral with a vintage cotton collar

PATTERN:  Butterick # 6140, year 2004

NOTIONS:  I had all the thread and bias tape needed, but I had to go out and buy the blue ribbon the day before my dress was worn.  The collar is from my stash, as was the hat ribbon and button (which was from hubby’s Grandmother).

100_5735-compTHE INSIDES:  French seamed

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress took me about 8 hours, and was finished the day before the event, July 18, 2015.

TOTAL COST:  maybe $15

I had been sitting on the idea for this dress for a while but when we decided at the last minute to go to the vintage tractor show, it gave me the reason to whip this up from off of my sewing table.  I am glad I had a reason to wear it because it seemed harder in the thought process than it was to actually make it.  This is the cutest loose fitting sack dress I could have ever imagined.  My dress being from the 1920’s is (I suppose) the only way to reconcile mentally my wearing something so generous.  My cloche hat doesn’t do much for the sun but is a good match for what I believe is a decently historically accurate 1920’s ensemble.

The-Artist-Costume and drawing by Mark BridgesMy preliminary inspiration was from a Hollywood source –Bérénice Bejo’s character Peppy Miller in the 2011 movie “The Artist”.  Our first sight of her in the movie is when she is wearing a jacket over a dress very similar to the one I made.  The movie dress, however, has long sleeves with a sleeveless vest/jacket, but to make my outfit versatile, my dress is sleeveless and a long sleeve jacket will be sewn later.  I even tracked down a costume sketch so I could see all the original colors which I stuck to as well in my version.  Part of the reason for the use of odd colors on the movie dress was so that things would show up a certain way in grey toned colorless film.  Nevertheless, the early/mid 1920’s into the 30’s are classic for pairing and using bright and unusual colors (reflective of the positive outlook of the times, see this as one example), so as wild as a bright salmon peach and royal blue sound, there is a high probability they were matched.  Honesty, I love the finished look.

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To start with, I used my easy, two-piece, fall-back basic Butterick for my 20’s shift silhouette.  It has been used with great success already for two other 20’s era creations – a blouse and a satin dress.  This time, I had to do some detailed adjusting of the neckline so it would suit my chosen lace collar.  I also opted for the easy and quick bias facing for the neck and arm hole finishing as the rayon is a bit sheer.  A deep hem was made so as to weigh down the dress a bit. 100_5737a-comp

With the dress done in a jiffy, I figured out how I wanted the center front skirt insert to be pleated and made a draft from plain paper – a box pleat in the middle and plain knife pleats on each side.  Then I made the real version of the pleated skirt insert and top stitched it down before cutting away the dress fabric behind.  This process reminded me of opening up a window.  That was all!  With only some quick hand tacking of the add-ons, my dress was done in the blink of an eye.  Many mid and late 20’s dresses have similar center front skirt interest which adds room to move.

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My parents (on occasion) pick up vintage items they know I don’t have but are uniquely special, such as collars and unique notions, with the occasional accessory.  Making this dress gave me my first occasion to use my now substantial lace collar collection, all found by my parents.  I believe this particular collar that I used is not too old, but I really don’t have any idea besides I think it’s hand crocheted.  It is so lovely the way it has such detail and I love the pointed dip in the center back.

Adding a lace collar made me rather seriously reluctant for the first time…I felt like I was doing vintage quaintness overload.  Now I mostly sew and wear vintage, and wearing the 20’s styles is obviously from the past so I really shouldn’t care.  However, out of all the trends that have made a resurgence, lace collars have not strongly come back and in my mind I’ve always seen them as too cute to handle on anything other than little girl clothes or a civil war era dress.  However, I did feel like this dress needed that collar, and if ever I was going to try and wear one…this was it.  Somehow, I think the plainness of shape and bright color to the dress saves the collar from becoming what I so feared.  Whatever it is, I do like it and already have plans for my other lace collars.  I’ll be like the anti-trend setter…

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The neckline ribbon is merely pinned in place with a safety pin because I really don’t think modern satin ribbons wash well…and I don’t want to try just to find out.  After having the rest of my dress be vintage appropriate materials (rayon and cotton), I regret having a poly satin ribbon, but I have limited resources and my dream materials might have to stay that way.  The ribbon does have a nice dull shine and it does give my dress the right amount of cheery fun.

100_5720-compMy hat is my first attempt at re-fashioning head wear.  I don’t think it’s too shabby.  My methods were primarily sewing and folding rather than soaking, re-blocking and shaping.  It was a cheap basic shaped hat originally, similar to the hat I used for this re-fashion.  My problems with this hat are purely on account of me – 20’s hats are so darn close fitting and my hair gets so frizzy on hot, humid days that there is no room to hide all my locks!  I can get away with this somewhat with winter cloches because the wool sticks to my hair, but this straw one does not.  Besides, I need my glasses to see and for some reason this hat interferes with my eyewear.  However, my hat is a success and fills in a niche by completing my 20’s wardrobe for summer.

I did not cut into the hat at all but folded in the back brim into the crown.  The sides are folded like tacos and covered up by the ribbon.  Everything is invisibly hand tacked own by clear filament thread.  Eventually, I might like to rip all this apart and do a better job (because I can) but it would be easier (and more fun) to probably just make a new hat.

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Technically, I believe the tractors behind me in most of our pictures are not really my dress’ era but probably 40’s or 50’s.  They did have some breathtaking 1910 to 1915 still working steam powered tractors for some historical awesomeness.  Although my hat is breathable straw, standing next to piping hot steam engines running in the height of summer was a bit overwhelming, but without the cloche my outfit suddenly had a 30’s aura.

100_5699-compWatching those old machines still working makes me realize how the times before ‘The Depression’ had such a swaggering confidence.  1920’s ingenuity is often overlooked because it is so far back and different than our modern technological advancements but most of what we take for advantage has its roots in the 20’s – television, synthetic fabrics, traffic signals, sunglasses, refrigerators, washing machines, and frozen food, to name just a handful.

The 1920’s definitely has a sunny side…