The Pink Polka Dotty Dress

For as much as I love everything about the 1940’s wartime styles, I also love the contrast that the post WWII fashion offers.  It is a lovely in-between the 50’s extremes of femininity (either big, poufy skirts or slim wiggle versions) and the rationed utility clothing.  I mean, this post’s year 1948 dress is 40’s still, yet I can have a full skirt in a midi length, softer shoulders, and extra details which demand excess fabric.  Yes, very early 40’s frocks also had only some of these qualities.  Yet, the post-war period had streamlined, elegant looks while the pre-war time had many folk inspired styles often with exaggerated features.  This dress is the best of what came both before and after it, in my opinion!

Even though this dress is in my least favorite print – polka dots – I am naturally disposed to favor it, probably no matter what pattern it is made from.  The fabric has the prettiest light pink and a very rich, purple-tinted burgundy!  They fall directly in my “favorite colors” range!  The whole ensemble is finished with some true vintage gloves, pink pearl earrings which had been my Grandmother’s, a retro scarf (which had been my mom’s) as my belt, and a little 1940s original hat in the same tones.  I have a recipe for a total mood booster.  To go full matchy-matchy, I even have a vintage post-WWII rayon blazer which further pairs beautifully with my dress, only it covers up the details so I saved it just for cold indoor air conditioning or a cool breeze in the shade.

THE FABRIC:

FABRIC:  The polka dot fashion fabric is a polyester crepe, with a satin finish.  It is partially lined in both a cotton-polyester blend broadcloth as well as an anti-cling polyester.

PATTERN:  McCall #7226, year 1948 ( I never cease to be shocked at the completely sheer black version on the cover!  In 1948, really?  I love it!)

NOTIONS:  Just plenty of thread and one side zipper was all that I needed to whip the dress up!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress was finished on September 21, 2018 after taking about 20 hours to finish.

THE INSIDES:  The entire raw edges are covered by full lining.

TOTAL COST:  The fabrics for this dress had been with me long enough to no longer remember when they were bought, so let’s just count this as a free stash-busting project, shall we?!

The most obvious, glaring difference than any 40’s pattern which came the previous 6 years was the great number of pattern pieces and the extra fabric they required.  The back of the skirt section is a flared out version of the classic three piece which is the same as most of all 40’s dress patterns.  Yet the front has 7 panels which get wider as they go to the hem for a fantastic sweep which is so perfect for twirling!  The bodice back is like a bloused out version of a 1950s kimono sleeved block, and so is the front underneath the three wonderful layers of horizontal pleats!

This was as easy to sew together as it is a breezy and effortless joy to wear.  As the polka dots are randomly spread all over I made absolutely no attempt at any matching, totally taking the laidback route.  The skirt is more so.  The cut on sleeves with the deep cut armholes are unconfining.  I adapted the pattern so that the zipper would open up all the way under the arm for no need to wiggle into a dress with a limited side closure.  My choice of lining also adds both comfort and simplicity.  I detest the feel of raw polyester on my skin and hate the static cling it builds.  Lining the entire dress made it opaque and eliminates the need for an extra slip, of course, but adding a cotton blend to the bodice is for pure comfort while the anti-cling poly cuts out any problems with static.  I do like a ‘throw-it-on-and-out-the-door’ kind of dress which is classy in an instant yet feels as nice like a nightgown.

There is always something surprising to the construction of a vintage pattern.  They almost always have some little detail that is put together so much smarter than it seems at first glance of the line drawings.  In the case of this pattern, it was the pleats on the front bodice which were the ingenious detail that surprised and amazed me.  The bottom two pleats are drafted into the bodice front.  You have to stitch (wrong sides together) a certain amount away from the two marked foldlines and let the pleats hang down before sewing to the side seams.  Yet, the top “pleat” is really a fake, but realistically a two ties which get sewn into the top horizontal neckline seam.  Half of each tie hangs down free at the center front so they can be drawn into a bow.  As I said, things are not as they seem in vintage patterns…they are better than they first seem!

This is the perfect 3 season transitional piece.  Now, with the chilly spring days, it is just as perfect as crisp fall days with the darker burgundy background color (especially with the matching vintage jacket).  It is lightweight enough on its own for summer, too!  I have found myself reaching for it again and again after I’ve sewn it.  Some of the things I make just immediately transition into a being a piece of my everyday wardrobe and this is one of them (versus projects that wear out of that ‘just made’ status through time).  This is why I forgot to post it until now.  Oh, I am so behind on posting sewing goodies like this one!  So, no matter what is going on in the world, and no matter whether I am staying home looking not at all as magnificent as I would like, I have stuff up my sleeves to post of past fabulous times dressed in fabulous clothes to share.

Peggy’s Faux Bolero Dress

It was the day after that terrible, unexplained explosion at the Isodyne Energy Facility.  She was fighting through so much internally and externally – confusion, loss, blame, and a gut suspicion of a truth that she cannot prove.  At least she was the only one who had the humanity to get to know the missing scientist, no matter what his skin color.  Although she did not have the time to establish the connection she was inherently hoping for, she did understand him enough to mourn that he was only another senseless innocent in the long list of persons she seems to be the cause of their destruction.  Rightly or wrongly, those are her feelings.  Yet, the rest of the world around her only wanted the ‘facts’ about last night tied up in a nice little package, so that the truth for them was what they expected to hear.  SHE was the one needed by those in power to sign off for their lies – willingly or not was the threat.  What might our heroine wear for such a scene?  How can her fashion translate her strength showing through her weakness, her conviction to stand for veracity as the sole woman among a sea of lying, well-connected men?

Luckily, Peggy did have some true friends to turn to in such an hour.  Fortunately, also, the wonderful costume designer Gigi Melton has already come up with the perfect, amazing, and striking answer to a scene such as this, as well as other incidents just as powerful.

The heroine, Peggy Carter of the “Strategic Scientific Reserve”, dons the signature color of her female adversary – purple.  As someone who perennially wears blues, reds, and browns, she combines it with a new-to-her tone from the other end of the spectrum…green.  A professional looking faux two-piece outfit becomes a convenient one-piece dress.  Bold but sensible courage is manifested in Peggy’s fashion as well as character. Now, with my sewing capabilities, some fabric remnants, and an old pattern, I have my very own copy of Marvel’s Agent Carter’s dress for the above described scenes from Episode 3 of Season Two, “Better Angels”.

I love how Peggy’s words perpetually cut through the crud around her and are searingly direct, like a hot knife in hard butter, especially for this scene.  Truthfulness with others is what she is best at, and those scenes in which this memorable dress is worn, she oozes an assertive yet feminine, complex yet simple, and full on 40’s look!   “Better Angels” episode helps demonstrate why I have such respect for her and why I admire her character – an everyday superhero capability is tinged with a very relatable humanity and touching empathy.

April 9 is the anniversary of Peggy’s birthday, and it’s annually a day to celebrate a character that has brought so much into our lives by taking part in the “International Agent Carter Day”.  This is one of my favorite days of the year!  For such a day this year, I will post one of my very favorite Agent Carter outfit “copies” I have done.  It also happens to get the most compliments everywhere I go wearing it!  All this was made in one yard of deep eggplant purple gabardine and a few scraps of bright China silk leftover from a past project.  I adapted a true vintage 1946 pattern to both keep to the era and find the real historical version – thus I’m not just copying a Hollywood garment.

Of course, anyone who knows me knows I love a great pair of shoes, especially one that perfectly matches a color in my outfit.  Thus, I set out to find some true vintage shoes which would parallel the olive green B.A.I.T brand heels in the show.  There are some more modern decades, such as the 60’s or 70’s, which mimic 1940’s shoe styles, with slightly different heel shapes.  They are frequently much more wearable because of their not-so-fragile-as true-40’s footwear, however.  So, after much searching, I found a pair of lovely suede and polished leather, woven front, peep-toe heels in my size, in the exact matching green as my center bodice!  These are so comfy and really complete the outfit, yet they sadly blend in too well with the grass to be seen when I’m in a yard!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a rayon/cotton blend gabardine, combined with china silk (leftover from lining this 40’s jacket-style blouse) for the contrast, and full lining in the bodice with all cotton broadcloth.

PATTERN:  McCall #6377, year 1946

NOTIONS:  I had all the thread I needed, and I used interfacing scraps and a zipper from on hand

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress was finished on September 10, 2018, in about 10 hours.

THE INSIDES:  cleanly bias bound

TOTAL COST:  The one yard of purple gabardine was a remnant found for about $5 at Wal-Mart, the silk was scraps (I don’t count the cost of such small pieces), and the “American Classics” cotton was yet another remnant, this time found at JoAnn for a few dollars.  This dress cost under $10!!!

Faux boleros on a one-piece garment or even just color-blocking – like this dress – seemed to have been a ‘thing’ starting in the late 1930s through 1940s, from what I have found so far through extant garments and similar sewing pattern designs.  This collage is only a small portion of what inspiration I have come across.  These are all a very smart – perfect for using small cuts of fabric, but nevertheless make the most fun out of fashion as well as the most streamlined outfit ever!  The bottom right extant late 1930s dress is the one that I specifically channeled here with my tweak to add a bit of Agent Carter my vintage pattern.  That inspiration garment had the arched, faux cummerbund mid-section as well as the shiny silk contrast bodice panels which worked perfectly with my need to fit every pattern piece on small remnants.  The more concise the pieces, the better to fit onto scraps!

Getting my bodice to look like a faux bolero required me to retrace it out onto paper, cut out that copy, and re-draft it into a few extra pieces.  Yet, to keep all of those pieces together nicely – besides validating the accuracy of my re-drafting and provide a clean interior – the bodice lining is the one-piece design of the original pattern.   I was so happy to be using my lovely leftover silk in a project which would highlight it.  As I had only used it for interior lining in the project before, this silk literally now has its opportunity to shine.  Yet, the silk is so much lighter compared to the substantial thickness of the gabardine, it sometimes appears quite wrinkled.  China silk is not the best at holding its own on a fashion design.  There’s exceptions to the rule as you can see here, but it really is best as a lining.  I wouldn’t trust the China silk to not rip or tear apart on its own if I hadn’t lined the bodice.

The best part of sewing a two-tone dress (total irony here) is having to switch between colors with the spools and bobbins of thread in my sewing machine.  It is a real pain!  This is why I did the side zipper and several other sections by hand.  Not to brag, but I can use whatever color of thread on whatever color of fabric and make the thread invisible!  Such a technique is a very useful skill, just sharing a heads up!  I kept the machine top-stitching to the purple portion of the bodice only because gabardine doesn’t look as terrible showing thread as silk would.  Silk is such a fine fabric, I feel like it deserves better (most of the time) than machine stitching!  I know, silly me!

There’s something to be said about dressing in character.  When you try to copy someone else’s wardrobe, no matter how much you like it on that other individual, you are not dressing for yourself until you own it and make it yours, whether through a tweak to the garment or a change of mental outlook for example.  I – and many other wonderful women who call Peggy Carter their heroine, like me – find that Captain America’s “Best Girl” only raises us up and makes us stronger and more confident in ourselves when taking on her persona through wearing her wardrobe.  Agent Carter is such a special character to emulate.  She is so relatable and inspiring in so many ways that to imitate her is like manifesting a braver and bolder version of yourself, which needed Peggy’s help to show itself.  Let’s all “know our value” today and every day!

Long Dog Dreams

If you follow my blog, or know me even in passing, you soon realize my love for dachshund dogs.  Just like sewing and sunshine, they make me happy!  My own little long yet short fur baby is the sweetest companion I could ever find, but lately, younger versions of him have been also catching my eye.  This past year, my parents picked up a cute and rambunctious dappled dachshund puppy.  More recently, after watching LouLou the famous dachshund have her litter of puppies 10 weeks ago, I’ve actually had some happy dreams of half a dozen happy little wiener dogs all over me.  Now, I do have plenty of store bought pajamas and nightwear that are made of dachshund prints, but nothing hot dog related self-made to sleep in.  It was high time to correct that situation so I could have more ‘long dog dreams’.  I dare you to look at the picture and not yawn!

This project is a fun merging of modern-made-vintage which I rarely do to this degree.  Yes, I used a true vintage pattern to make something out of its contemporary antithesis – polyester fleece.  This combo sounds like ‘heresy’ deep down to my old school sewing heart, but the print had me at first sight.  Besides, I don’t mind redeeming fleece every so often (look how I further redeemed fleece as a fashionable coat here).  Fleece can be so much more than just no-sew blankets!  The 40’s style is something so pretty and feminine for nightwear, fleece or not, I figure I couldn’t go wrong adding a dachshund print to the mix!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  polyester fleece – a JoAnn store exclusive print – fully lined with contrast sleeves in a lightweight polyester interlock

PATTERN:  Simplicity #2269, year 1947

NOTIONS:  Thread and ¼ inch ribbon

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The nightgown was made in about 5 hours and finished on January 22, 2020.

THE INSIDES:  left raw…as one does with knits

TOTAL COST:  about $30

The fleece I used is not what you would normally expect or find.  It is thin and a different kind of plushness, closer to a velvet than anything else – quite dreamy!  However, I do believe in the possibility of too much of a good thing.  So, I chose a contrast for the sleeves and waist ties.  This contrast fabric is also the same I used to fully line the inside body (which you can see here), because no fleece is immune to the bane of static electricity.  The light interlock does not really add weight, but keeps the fleece from sticking to me as I wear it.  When you make it yourself, you can cater to your every idea for a glorious creation that is something you will enjoy so much more than RTW.

There are no closures and relative simplicity of lines – this is a popover and tie nightgown.  This helped make it a quick and easy creation.  The size was technically too big for me, but I made it as-is (I didn’t want to bother with grading) and simply sewed in wider seam allowances.  Doing so had me worried at first because it looked so oversized!  However, the ties – sewn into the side seams – cinch in in just fine.   It is okay to be a bit lazy when sewing nightwear?  I mean why wait until it’s done to be chilling out?! Perhaps the overall relaxation of it all was wearing off on my sewing practices this time around.  If you want a slightly easier-to-find and more modern version of the pattern I used for my nightgown (thus more reasonably priced, too), search for Butterick #5688 from 2011.

For as simple as it was, my nightgown is not lacking in the conventional 40’s details such as shirred shoulders and puff sleeve caps.  These details were slightly more difficult in double layered knit.  I added a bit of extra detail myself – a thin, pink ribbon top-stitched 5/8 inch away from the neckline edge.  There’s two reasons behind my bonus trimming.  Firstly, it’s pretty (and I had a whole roll to use on hand)!  Secondly, it keeps the neckline stable, preventing it from stretching.  Something which is useful yet decorative is a great all-around win!

There was a happy surprise when I opened the envelope for the nightgown pattern.  This bonus to the pattern has kept me further occupied than sewing this simple nightgown.  There were four pages torn out of a 1940s Wards catalog, along with newspaper clippings, showing slips and more nighttime wearing options.  I love happy finds like this!  Anyone ever heard of “Madeline Patterns” from Kansas City, as seen on the two clippings?  These ephemeral scraps have become quite acidic and brittle over the years and although I scanned them in, they are still a bit hard to see but still so fun to look at, so here’s a little preview.  My favorite is the little, ruffled, one-piece, shorts playset….or maybe my favorite is the wrapped crop top and trousers, I can’t decide!

Luxurious nightwear seems to be taking the spotlight nowadays with people staying at home more than ever nowadays.  On Instagram, people seem to be calling it many things, but my favorite is the “Hibernation Libation” hashtag.  Luxurious nightwear and elegant loungewear does make for the perfect indulgence – much lower in calories than ice cream.  Speaking of a treat, just look at all the dachshunds around me when I wear this nightgown…and in my favorite colors of pink and turquoise!  You know, I even wore my treasured dachshund house slippers, too, that were a very good gift from my mom!

Now is a great time to remember you are beautiful, worthwhile, and loved…and dressing up for your own well-being is very important now more than ever when we are stuck at home in droves.  Take care of yourself, however that means.  For me, that includes continuing making and wearing fabulous, useful clothes which both make me happy – like this nightgown – and help me feel like my normal, non-quarantined self!

Roughing It!

I am the latest and greatest fan of the American west.  My recent trip last month to Nevada, then the drive to and from Los Angeles, has opened my eyes to a whole new environment I’ve never experienced before.  I – of course – have watched the “Wild West” in classic films and such, yet the great expanses out there are best appreciated in person, I can attest.  My casual and active wear wardrobe is always lacking and so I whipped up a cozy pullover sweater in preparation for the day I planned on going hiking. It was perfect to wear for the occasion… it adds to my experiences to have a memorable handmade item for wearing when I do equally memorable events!  Most importantly, though, was the lovely time in the sunshine, the beautiful atmosphere, and the company I had visiting with my friend!

For most of my pictures, my top will be partially covered by my overalls.  Hiking through the breathtaking Red Rock Canyon – where everything is prickly, rocky, rough and dusty – required something sturdy, sensible, and secure.  Heck with fashion photography this time, here is what I sew, being seen exactly how I enjoy it.  Thus I paired my self-made creation with Hell Bunny brand heavy cotton denim, vintage-inspired overalls (“Elly May Denim Dungaree”) for a sort of ‘Rosie the riveter’ flair with a modern, utilitarian aesthetic.  I guess vintage fashion is so ingrained in my life that I cannot help but take a pattern from today and merge it into my lifestyle’s flair for the styles of the past.

On my way down to Las Vegas, I paired my pullover with my Burda Style 1930s style Marlene trousers (posted here) for yet other variant of the whole vintage-made-modern thing I like to do, consciously or not. At the airport, my son did not want to see me leave him behind with daddy!  He’s mommy’s boy…at least for now!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a one yard polyester knit remnant – it has a wonderful brushed outside which makes it appear like a sweater, yet there is a smooth knit, plain white inside

PATTERN:  Seamwork’s “Astoria” pullover

NOTIONS:  Nothing but thread!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This pullover was made in one evening as a last minute project before leaving – in under 2 hours I had this top done on February 2, 2020.

THE INSIDES:  as this knit does not ravel and needs room to stretch, the inside edges are left raw.

TOTAL COST:  As the fabric was picked up at a rummage sale where all the sewing supplies are $1 a pound – and this lofty knit weighs practically nothing – this can be counted as good as free!

I am such a fan of the Astoria pattern on many accounts.  I love the shaping of the design, it has a figure-complimenting, high-waisted seaming, it only needs one yard, is super quick to make, and easy to sew together.  Except for the bother of printing out and taping together the PDF pattern, I truly felt like I blinked and it was done.  Isn’t there more that needs to be done, I kept asking?  Apparently, I am not used to such successful 3 hours or less sewing projects.  I figured it had to be a winner purely on account of the over 1,000 cute versions of it shared on Instagram alone!

Luckily, I read through many of the shared posts about others Astoria sweaters, and noticed the frequent mention that the sizing ran small, especially when it came to the sleeves.  My chosen knit barely had the recommended minimum of 25% stretch for I figured that fitting trend could cause an issue.  This was my true first Seamwork pattern (not exactly counting this sundress because, although it came from Seamwork, it is a Colette brand pattern) and so I had no idea what sizing to go by besides their chart.  Just to be safe, I went up a whole size than what their chart showed I should be making.  Now – even though my Astoria pullover does fit me, only in a snug fashion – I wish I had went up yet another whole size still.  I don’t know if this fit applies to all Seamwork patterns or just this Astoria, but it is easier to err on the side of caution for next time I try their designs and cut a generous size.

Please look closely and take a moment to appreciate the plaid matching I was able to achieve on an only one yard limitation!  This was not an easy to match, repeating print, either.  No matter how simple or quick and easy of a project I may be working on, I always make sure to do a really good job.  Among other reasons like personal satisfaction, a job well done gives me a reason to feel that my time is worthwhile enough to spend sewing versus buying something ready-to-wear.  (Most of the time RTW doesn’t offer anything close to what I have in mind to wear, so never mind!)  The wide, hem panel matches as well as the entire side seams into the sleeves.  Every little sewing victory deserves to be celebrated!

I realize it may seem frivolous to many to be focused on fashion and not dire events at hand happening in our world today, especially when it comes to travel.  However, in order to get through tough times, we need to find whatever helps us stay whole.  I am not the best version of myself being cooped up.  The memories of just last month – when I was free to travel out in the sun, fresh air, and open land, seeing new sights and going out of my comfort zone to visit someone I care about – needs to be refreshed for me.  Hopefully this post and its pictures provide a moment of respite for you, too, especially if you find yourself living vicariously through social media and telephone calls these days!  Oh, the great wide world out there might feel scary right now, but it is beautiful and it is calling for you to enjoy it!  Maybe don’t explore too ambitiously right this moment or in the next several weeks, but make sure to not grow content with the grind or stop seeing with your own eyes the real world outside of a digital screen.

I recently came across a quote from Travis Rice, as shared by the “Kind Humans Movement”, which strikes me as very relatable to both my post as well as today.  “Our lives have become digital.  Our friends, now virtual.  And, anything you could ever wanna know is just a click away.  Experiencing the world through second-hand information is not enough.  If we want authenticity we have to initiate it.  We will never now our full potential until we push ourselves to find it. It’s this self-discovery that inevitably takes us to the wildest places on earth.”  My thoughts exactly.