Aprons Big and Small

Size doesn’t matter when it comes to aprons.  I love them all, whether they would fit a Barbie doll or be in grown-up proportions!  This post is a combo of all of that – a few small sized, vintage inspired ones to decorate the tiny mannequins which stand on my sewing room’s wall shelf and one big 1940’s one which I made as gift for a friend of mine.

Firstly, I’ll start with the adult gift apron.  One thing I have learned from doing many projects for others is that your ideas and preferences can show but must take a backseat to the personality of the person you are sewing for.  This was a wonderful project to work on as a gift because I used a vintage pattern for both my own taste and also because this friend also sews past era fashions using old patterns just like me!  The print is a wonderful assortment of old style sewing machines which both she and I actually use to do some of our stitching.

As I have said before for my other tiny aprons (see here, here, here, and here), these are a charming and fun way to use of scraps of treasured, nice fabric and notions too small to seem useful otherwise.  If you don’t have small dress forms like I do, or don’t want these for actual Barbies either (like me), you can pin them up on a twine “clothes line” and decorate a wall or any other space that needs a little something!  This is what I have done for our kitchen under our spice rack.  Tiny aprons take up much less wall space than having lots of actual adult aprons and yet are every bit just as addicting.  It’s literally hard to stick to just one.  Now my mini apron count to date is brought up to 6 in total.  Yet, I have a few more I want to do still!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The vintage sewing machine print is a 100% cotton, bought from the now-defunct Hancock Fabrics Store.  The fabrics for the mini aprons are true vintage material, found in scraps too small to do anything more with otherwise, but still amazing and killer cute!  I am supposing from the feel of the cottons, the white and green mini apron fabric is about 50’s or 60’s, and the yellow one about 1940’s or 30’s era.

PATTERNS:  Simplicity #1221, view A, a reprint of Simplicity #4939 from 1944, for the full-sized apron; and for the small aprons I used both Simplicity #2748, view F, and Simplicity #1957, view C

NOTIONS:  As the mini aprons are of vintage fabric, I used almost all vintage notion scraps (most from my Grandmother) on them for the details.  The full-size apron is all new materials, yet still stuff that came from what I had on hand.  These were stash busting projects!!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The gift apron was made in April 2015 and finished in 2 hours.  The mini aprons were made in January 2015 and each one took a few hours.

Aprons are relatively easy-to-make, so there is not much to say.  The adult apron was whipped up quickly so I spent extra time to make nice details, especially as this was to be a gift.  I was quite happy with the sizing too and made it as-is (according to the pattern) no changes, except for substituting ribbon ties for self-fabric ones as directed.  However, the small scale of the Barbie sized ones provided a big challenge in and of themselves.  I had to do more hand stitching on them so that they ended up taking longer to make than doing an apron for a real person…how weird.

As the vintage “gardening woman watering her flowers” print fabric was rather thin, I did the extra step of lining the apron with cotton broadcloth remnants.  I also had to add a center front seam to the mini apron’s skirt because I had such limited fabric…but at least I was still able to match up the print!  This by far my nicest mini apron made yet…not all of my own aprons get lined.

The yellow-red-black mini apron is a thick, feedsack style cotton so it was not lined, but it did get a lot of details.  I even added a tiny mini “handkerchief” folded up in the pocket for a touch of quaint realism.  I quickly realized that my idea of going with a fun contrast thread color for machine top-stitching the pocket edges was not the best idea, especially as I was trying to attach baby rick-rack, too.  I really should have chosen a matching yellow, and worked the stitching by hand.  But once it was done, my work wasn’t terrible enough for my own hardened self-criticism to have the heart to unpick.  This was a mini apron after all, was my thought, and one that was taking quite long to make in my opinion.  Oh well – I really want to try this design again, anyway and then I’ll do better for the next time! Not too many people see my nice sewing area, and even then no one will notice some tiny wayward stitching on a mini apron up on a wall shelf.

I’ll admit I did feel sort of bad actually using up my vintage scraps this way.  Perhaps I should have used these scraps for pocket linings in my garments?  Even then they would not really be seen the same way, and on a regular basis (as I am pretty much sewing every day).  Why shouldn’t my house’s decorations receive the same detailing, thought, vintage flair, and handiwork as what I wear?  What would I really do with a 12 inch scrap of lovely rayon seam binding otherwise?  Yup – sometimes I have to find legitimate reasons for my creative desires, because as the saying goes, “Of course, I talk to myself while sewing… I need expert advice!”

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Hidden Opacity

There is so much “extra” that goes into completing an outfit, especially with vintage styles because that can include a bunch of things that are overlooked today.  This might include gloves, jewelry, hats, and even more hidden and not so noticed items such as lingerie…proper slips and the like.  Necessary, matching underclothes and accessories often came with vintage garments originally, yet, most sadly, a large number have these items missing today.  There must be some mysterious gremlin or just some badly run estate sales which misplace those matching slips for vintage sheer dresses, or those self-fabric belts which somehow are sadly missing to complete an outfit!  Perhaps their former owners wore such items to death and they didn’t survive.  Anyway, this leaves one who can sew plenty of extra work to make items that will not be seen and be underappreciated (as a whole), yet just as necessary to bring a vintage original piece back to life.

What cannot be seen doesn’t mean it is not important.  Take this lovely vintage late 50’s or early 1960’s dress which came into my possession.  All I got was just the dress. Now, I am not in the least complaining!  It fits me, is in perfect condition, has wonderful details, and has my favorite colors.  However, it is missing its belt and definitely needing more than just your average slip to be complete it.

Now, the ‘trick’ of a classy, ladylike sheer dress is to be revealing yet not show enough to look like a tart.   So, that opacity which is needed can be an opportunity for fun – you can make that slip naughty, add whatever details or go basic, and even have fun with the color.  What is great about making an underslip is that, firstly, it is all about you – it is the most indulgent selfish sewing which is still justified because of its necessity.  It is all for your viewing (unless you post a picture of it) and your intimate wearing.  Secondly, I love the irony in that you are wearing it but yet it is both seen and yet not detected!  Such little things as a slip or a belt is also a great way for one who sews to make a little extra effort and both put your personal touch on a vintage piece and restore it at the same time.

After all this chatter, what I did make to go under my vintage dress was a deep burgundy-tinted purple satin crepe slip.  Any shade of purple is my favorite color, but I love the way it prevents any see-through and adds an interesting tone of color to the sheer dress over it at the same time.  I do like going darker than lighter with my underslips (as I did for this 1930’s dress) – it makes the dress more obviously sheer yet still highlights your underwear discreetly.  The print on this vintage dress is so busy you can’t notice the dark slip here, though.

The funny thing is, that on its own, my slip actually looks like a sundress to me.  It has nice details, but it still is rather basic overall and provides full lingerie coverage.  Oh well, I wanted something that rather looked like a dress actually because I had other plans for this slip.  There is another sheer outfit – one that I will post in the coming months – which I like wearing over this slip as well.  The neckline on this outfit is a deep V, so I want the slip to fill in the décolletage for me.  I love making one piece become a useful, working staple in my wardrobe.  Already this slip has proved its worth and is used more often than I had imagined.  Yay – so many times the simplest projects are the most useful.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  For being a polyester, this fabric is soft, flowing, and very good quality.  It has a darker, more burgundy color satin side, and a lighter, purpler buff crepe side.  I used the satin side facing out on my slip.  This is the second time I am using this fabric – the first time was to make the ‘pocket’ flaps and the belt for my 1955 Redingote jacket (post here).

PATTERN:  Advance #5552, year 1951 (I’m dying to make the dress from this pattern as well!!!)

NOTIONS:  Nothing but thread and bias tape (to cover the raw edges inside)

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was whipped up in only 4 hours and made in one afternoon (on May 11, 2016)

TOTAL COST:  as this was clearance fabric, and I only used under two yards, this is a $3 slip.

Just a few posts back I mentioned that circa 1951 is one of my new favorite time periods for fashion…well here’s another one to add to that count!  This slip does have a classic 1950s “New Look” shape of the times to it with the full skirt and trim waistline.  I’m supposing the cover drawing is slightly deceptive the way the woman is so tall and the skirt is so full.  I have to wear a poufy petticoat, but without that I would have to sew horsehair braid to the inner hemline to get my version to actually copy that image.  Many times the idealism on drawn envelope covers makes us think our projects will turn out differently than they really do…but that’s okay to a point for me – we all love a good and glamorous pattern image, but the line drawing to a design are the meaty reality at the end of it all.

There is a waistline zipper in the side seam – there was no other way to get that trim waist shaping.  A zipper in the side seam of a slip seems really odd today, doesn’t it?!  I learned from sewing this 1940s slip that such a closure feature isn’t really a problem until I wear another garment which also has a zipper on the same side.  A zipper on top of a zipper is not comfortable.  This was the 50’s though – fashion was above comfort.  My Grandma has told me the corsets from that time were torture.  At same point I might re-install my slip’s zipper on the opposite – the right side – as clothes so that there is no overlapping.  It feels odd when I get dressed to find my zipper on that side but it turns out better for the overall comfort of wearing.  This is not the 50’s anymore and after all this is my sewing, so I am darn well going to customize it however I’d like!

The bust shaping here was also definitely tailored for a 1950s bra, maybe even a bullet bra or one-piece corsetlet.  There was sooo much extra room!  I brought a lot of the extra in by sewing a much larger seam allowance in the top half of the center bodice seam.  Otherwise, the little trio of radiating horizontal tucks did a fine and unusual job of allowing room for the bust.  I have seen this manner of shaping once before on the Simplicity #8252 (originally #8270 from 1950) but the reissue has French darts, too, which my slip dress doesn’t have.

Advance patterns have funky sizing issues in my experience, so as much as I wanted to make the sheer dress from this pattern, too, I felt that making the slip first was a good way to test out the proportions.  Many Advance patterns run small, and this one kind of held true to that.  The overall length (unhemmed) was evening length (remember how I said the cover drawing made the model too tall?) and the bust was generous (expected because of the lingerie popular for the time) but otherwise the waist was inhumanly small.  I sized up for the waist and hips for this slip from looking at the pattern tissue on me beforehand.  It’s a good thing I did, otherwise this would not been a success…only a headache to fix.  Now I know what to expect when I make that wonderful sheer dress that is the rest of the pattern.

From the best estimating I can do, I am guessing that my slip is a bit early for the actual dating of the true vintage dress that I wear with it.  As I mentioned in the beginning of my post, I am estimating this dress is late 50’s or early 1960s after finding a few sewing pattern covers and fashion photography images.  There is a year 1958 Simplicity #2411 pattern with a similar back neckline drape, kimono sleeve, and rounded neck.  There is an unidentified late 50’s Butterick with an even more exact back neckline sash drape.  However, the closest and classiest look-alike to my vintage dress is actually from Nina Ricci of 1960 – this has a similar silhouette and fabric colors and print.

However, my dress has a label of “Marcy Lee of Dallas, Texas”.  Marcy Lee was one of the over 100 blossoming clothing companies that began in the mid 1930s (circa 1933, actually) of Dallas, and this line capitalized on the marketability of low-cost cotton housedresses (info from here).  For being an affordable “housedress”, this is still a lovely dress, with amazing details, a classic style, and appealing design.  I really can’t say the same about the cheap and basic cotton knit clothes that are sold today!  Even though this dress is made of the most delicate cotton gauze, somehow it still was made well enough to hold up all these years so I can wear it today.

The details to the closing of this dress gave me the inspiration to adapt my own sewing.  When I was making my 1951 wide collared dress and I couldn’t figure out a front closing method to replace the side zipper, I used the front fly method off of this dress to know what to do.  This was a gift to me in more ways than one because it actually taught me how to do something in my sewing I would not have known otherwise.

As much as I do not advocate wearing vintage garments as a clothing source, because such regular wearing without constant care and respect can render these old clothes torn, destroyed, and eventually non-existent, I do think it is important for everyone to handle, see, and experience at least some kind of old clothing on their back at some point.  Just seeing such clothes confined and displayed from a distance in a museum does not have the same personal effect for people as being subjectively tactile with them.  Find your local shop or resale boutique and enjoy yourself, open your mind to the new details you will see, and start trying things on!  It might take awhile to find something that both fits and looks good on you, but find something that you absolutely love and care for it like a good friend.  It will give you a whole new insight on the clothes of today, help any sewing skills you might have, and let you love yourself with a style as unique and individual as you are!  If you are up to it, you can even be a hero or rescuer for some of the ones that need some tender loving care (see this ‘save’ of mine), or be the one to fill in the missing parts such as I did here.  Finding clothes that earn your respect can help you wear attire which help you esteem your body shape as it is in way that I don’t see many modern clothes doing for the masses.

Bouclé Mid-Century Shift

Achieving the ideal fit for a garment is by far the most difficult process of sewing, but also the technique that completes it.  Every article of clothing, on every human body, has a unique fit, as individual as people themselves, which will make it best serve its purpose and look its best.  Funny thing is, I have found that styles which ride the boundary between loose and baggy or body skimming (such as many 1920s or even 1960s fashions) are actually the trickiest to find such a “sweet spot” of ideal fit.  Take into account that thick but warm fabrics (like my favorite textured bouclé) can become bulky when you sew something with them, making it challenging to achieve a close fit.  There is such a thing as a chic fit that doesn’t fit the body the way we’re used to, though!  Just look to the best designers and the most famous actresses of the 1950s and 60’s to see inspiration for what I am talking about!  This 1964 semi-fitted shift dress that I’ve sewn is a perfect example.

Certain well-known designers were changing the idea of a stylish silhouette for women earlier on, making oversized and non-body fitting garments attractive and fashionable.  Most of what we think of as the 60’s “look” had its beginnings in the decade before.  By the 50’s, Claire McCardell had already crafted her “monastic dress” and Yves Saint Laurent is credited with beginning the classic “trapeze dress” (in Spring/Summer 1958), both of which are generously unfitted than the ‘normal’ garment at the time.  Jacques Fath began the ever popular swing coat fashion in outwear circa 1950 (here’s one pink example) to accommodate both the post-WWII baby boom and full skirted or structured garments which were being released.  Balenciaga was the heavyweight!  He was using sculptural garments that had a shape of their own apart from a perfect body symmetry.  Their beauty is focused on the shape of the garment itself, only hinting at the body of the wearer underneath.  In 1953 he introduced the “balloon jacket”, while in 1957 came the “babydoll dress”, the gracefully draped “cocoon coat”, and the “sack dress”.  He even worked with fabric houses to develop innovative material, like silk gazar, which would be heavy and stiff to lend itself to such stand-away-from-the-body designs.   Pierre Cardin had his fair share of influence in this matter, too – he introduced the “bubble dress” in 1954, and was known for his preference of geometric shaping and ignoring the female form (see this coat of his for one example).

These types of fashions were an alternative to the immaculate, overly shaped (wasp waited) feminine form which was popularized by Dior.  It was seen as the newest chic of the time, and a very modern approach to styling, besides the fact that they were more often couture because of the high talent it took to uniquely shape such designs.  They might seem simple at first glance but these revolutionary creations emerging in the early mid-50’s were paving the way for the next decade.

The model woman drawn on the front cover of my Butterick #3296 pattern bears a striking resemblance to Audrey Hepburn, I think!  Hepburn was one of the model women for the youthful, fashion forward aura which was frequently associated with 50’sand 60’s loosely structured garments.  The coat especially reminds me of her clothes from the movie “Charades”, released the year before in 1963, but I think it’s the hat, too.  I stayed close to this with my interpretation.  This was my chance to accessorize with the only 60’s hat in my collection (and a good one, too – just look at its details), vintage wooden bead necklace, old earrings from my Grandmother, and vintage leather driving gloves.  I do want to make the coat half of my pattern at some point, but for now, a vintage 60’s hot pink pea coat matches quite well with the color, styling, and era of my dress!

After all, hot pink coats seemed to be the ‘thing’ for women’s outerwear in the 10 years between 1956 and 1966 if one looks at advertisements, movies, and designer creations for some examples.  Firstly, there is the March 15, 1956 “International Fashions” edition of Vogue magazine, with Evelyn Tripp on the front cover wearing a rose tweed cocoon coat by Zelinka-Matlick (A).  Then there is a year 1960 pink Balenciaga cocoon jacket suit (B) to be found as well as a Burda Style’s March of 1964 tweed bouclé A-line coat (C).  Ah, let’s not forget that swoon-worthy oversized hot pink coat worn by Audrey Hepburn and made by Givenchy from the 1966 movie “How to Steal a Million” (D).  So – among the many colors that are mixed in to make my dress’ bouclé (grey blue, maroon, black, pink, and a touch of orange), having a dress match with my period 60’s coat is partly why I stayed close to the pink undertones with the color of my lining.  It was also because a soft pink sweetens the dress, keeping it being too glaringly modern.  I love how the pink can be seen peeking out if you look closely inside my wide sleeves or just under the hem of my knee length dress.  Dior himself has said (in his “Little Dictionary of Fashion”) “Every woman should have something pink in her wardrobe.  It is the color of happiness and of femininity.”  I’m covered because I do have plenty of pink in my closet for every season now!

After all, the pink influence of my dress pays homage to yet another designer which had her own part to play in this kind of fashion, too – Coco Chanel, not mentioned in the above list of influencers.  Pink is one of her signature colors, and is often used with black (both colors are in my bouclé).  Chanel often used bouclé, tweed, and other textured, nubby materials for her suits and shift dresses in the 50’s and 60’s, as well.  However, to be braggingly specific, there is an uncanny resemblance that my own fabric bears to a suit set of hers from the same year of 1964 (see it listed here at the MET museum).  It is claimed that Chanel criticized the boned and uber-cinched waists that Dior was producing, in favor of a looser fitting, but still tailored look that both she and her forward-thinking contemporaries were producing.  Her collection of 1954 (when she re-opened her fashion house) is easily recognizable today – a boxy jacket with an A-line skirt – and still being worn.  Those like her who used more wearing ease with greater structure in their garments of the 50’s had more of an influence on the success of the fashion of the 60’s and beyond.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The visible outside of my dress is a loosely woven, but thick and textural bouclé, in a fiber content of wool, mohair, and acrylic.  The inside is a super soft all cotton in a soft pink color with a pink satin facing.

PATTERN:  Butterick #3296, from the Fall/Winter season of year 1964 (see cover picture above)

NOTIONS:  I had all the thread and interfacing I needed already, as well as extra bias tape, hem tape, and a large button.  The neckline placket is actually a faux closure permanently sewn into place by this large, vintage, dusty blue, carved shell button, salvaged off of this vintage suit when I refashioned its skirt’s waistband.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress was made in about 8 hours and finished on December 14, 2017.

THE INSIDES:  Since bouclé is a fraying terror of a mess along its raw edges, and I am allergic to mohair, all seams are either covered by the cotton lining or encased in bias tape.

TOTAL COST:  The fabric was stuff I had bought from Hancock Fabrics when they were going out of business, so it was only about $2 a yard.  With one yard needed of both the bouclé and the cotton (as they were 60” wide), this is a $4 dress, believe it or not!

Making the dress itself was ridiculously simple, and just a tad difficult due to the challenges of working with such a thick and full-bodied material.  I made sure to trim most of my seams allowances and even pulled a secret sewing trick I rarely use – I hammered the seams once they were stitched to make them flat, especially the front fake neck placket.  The tricky part about trimming seam allowances with bouclé is that the fabric unravels easily.  Thus, I kept the small seams together and finished them cleanly by using the bias tape over the edges.  The bias tape finish was especially tricky on the inside curve of the kimono sleeves, but I stretched It has I stitched it down as I kept the seam curved.

The back has the basic “fish-eye” darts to shape the waist, but the front holds the creative options.  There are lovely sun-ray darts coming out of the neckline to shape the chest and upper bust.  These were quite tricky to sew across the grain!  In conjunction with the long French darts to shape the dress below the bust, this dress has elegance down to an understated art.  It’s too bad the few details are not that noticeable with the blended business of my bouclé!  This was (amazingly) a 65 cent pattern.  For having both a coat and dress in one envelope, this still sounds kind of cheaply priced, even for 1964, when Simplicity patterns for one dress design were the same price and Vogue pattern were about $1.00.  Was this an unmarked designer knock-off, I wonder, because it sure does look like something out of the movie “Charades” anyway?

The pattern I had was a size too big for me – but no problem.  To have an easy fix to that, I merely left off the given seam allowance at the sides and shoulders when I cut out the dress.  Kimono sleeves can sometimes hang far too low on my almost petite frame, anyway.  Then I sewed in slightly wider seam allowances in this because it still seemed to fit too generously.  I ended up with a wonderfully loose, comfy, and ‘slightly fitted’ dress (as the envelope says) that is a perfect fit for this design.  I feel this unorthodox but simple way at approaching a pattern merely a few inches too big for me worked very well for this dress, but it probably would not be the best for a body-conscious tailored garment.  Nevertheless, I do love finding shortcuts that don’t compromise quality or fit.  Anything that puts my sewing projects from out of my fabric pile onto my back is most welcome!

My Australian and other southern hemisphere readers should appreciate the fact that this is a cold weather outfit!  (Bouclé lined in cotton is just as warm as wearing a blanket, for your information!) Even though it is finally spring here for where I live, only recently was the anniversary of Audrey Hepburn’s birthday (well it was May 4), and so I felt that this was appropriate to share.

Besides, I like to make sure I don’t get stuck in a rut of only one decade.  Not that there’s anything wrong with staying in one era for what vintage one recreates.  It’s just that I know I do enjoy all of them.  Sewing from all the decades of the 21st century also helps give me a good overview of the big picture.  Everything is connected in history – it’s not just static dates and names to remember – and this carries over into the accounting of what people have worn through those same times.  As I presented in this post, the 1950’s set things up for what defined the 60’s.  The minds of today inspire those of tomorrow.

“Retro Forward” Burda Style – “Hot Stuff” Cocoon Coat and Poster Dress

What you wear says something about you, whether or not you want that to be the case or whether you even want to get anything across.  How would an army-to-army battle be fought in the buff without clothes to identify sides of the combatants, after all?  How else did the upper classes of the past undemocratically distinguish themselves from their peers not so well off?  Well, since the last 50 years clothes evolved into something more…as an opportunity to purposely, inaudibly, make a message, declare a challenge, signal protest, or be the spark of a conversation using written expressions.  Today, more than ever, fashion is re-imagining the 1968 poster dress, slogan tee, and op art garment trends in its own way to truly make powerful statements with what is worn.  You can literally wear your heart, your convictions, or your idealism on your sleeve nowadays for all to see, and we don’t realize how lucky we are for this, something we take a bit for granted in an era where every tee or pants bottom has a slogan.  It’s the golden anniversary of this freedom, and I’m celebrating with a fun, mild little version of my own.

Not too often do I go for shock value…with what I have said above, now I have a good reason!  Under my cool and classy ice blue coat is a silk dress printed with advertising labels containing four letter words (“Well I feel damn sexy today!), even though a bit subdued due to their small size.  This is the outfit of bold contrasts and complimentary contradictions.  My dress is light, airy, and flippantly playful in earth toned silk, leather, and an A-line silhouette.  My coat is lofty, warm, dressy, and feminine, as sharp as an ice crystal, yet made out of one of our modern era’s most crafty, over-commercialized material – fleece!  My coat is definitely not body conscious, with its voluminous shape silhouette concealing, while the dress is practically the opposite, with more leg and general skin baring than is my norm.

 As I said, I was inspired by some strong 60’s trends here – both the in-your-face poster dresses as well as the shape-disguising cocoon coats made popular by the likes of Balenciaga and Cardin, the Après ski culture, and popular movies.  Using two great Burda Style patterns, I have now come up with an outfit that is part 2018 and part retro flower child era, all the while designer inspired.  This post is part of my ongoing “Retro Forward with Burda Style” Blog series as this is a modern take on 60’s styles.

Our home town’s downtown was the appropriate backdrop for our photos.  As a river city town, we have a long levee wall to keep the water at bay.  Along that wall, there is a concrete ‘canvas’ (allowed by the city) open for graffiti and street artists.  It is a wonderful, organic, and ever changing platform for a very interesting, creative, and sometimes rebellious way for expression.  This medium doesn’t always have a mainstream outlet, so it attracts quite a number of visitors and quite a variety of talent, as you can see.  For an outfit centered on the 60’s idea of self-expression in a semi-shock value sort of way, I couldn’t think of a better equivalent in the built environment of the city than our river levee graffiti wall.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The Coat – The outside is just your basic anti-pill fleece, and the inside is fully lined in flannel backed satin…yummy warm!  The Dress – a 60% silk, 40% cotton blend semi-sheer fabric, lined in a soft finish crepe poly.

PATTERNS:  Burda Style’s “Long Coat” #104B from December 2015, and their “Sixties Shift Dress” #106 from July 2016.

NOTIONS:  Amazingly, the only thing I specifically bought to finish this outfit was the plastic “crystal-look” buttons for the coat.  Everything else (notion-wise) was on hand – a 22” invisible zip, thread, snaps, interfacing, and bias tape

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The coat was finished on December 7, 2017 after maybe 20 to 30 hours.  The dress was made in about 10 hours and finished on January 20, 2018.

THE INSIDES:  Both the dress and the jacket are fully lined, so…what insides? I don’t see ‘em!

TOTAL COST:  The light blue fleece was bought probably 6 years back on deep discount for a few dollars a yard, so I went crazy and bought 6 yards of it and I only used 3 for the coat…so I have plenty leftover still.  The silk was bought online at an Etsy seller and the faux leather is leftover from this 40’s purse project.  Other than these fabrics, the linings were bought at Jo Ann’s fabrics specifically for my project.  I’m supposing my total is about $10 for the dress, and $20 for the coat…what a deal!!!

Both these pieces were time consuming and challenging, but they were so satisfying to make because I was making a creative idea from my head a reality.  Making a coat is necessarily labor intensive, but the dress and some of its detailing took more time than I expected.  However, I like a garment that I can be just a proud of inside as well as out, and I want my clothes to last, so I feel they deserve the extra time and I deserve finding a way to take my time to enjoy my sewing better!  Rome wasn’t built in a day and a good garment isn’t either without something being sacrificed, I would think.

Now, as for any Burda Style pattern, printing and/or tracing is necessary to have a usable pattern to lay on your desired fabric.  My patterns were traced from the inserts in the magazine issue, but they are also available online as a downloaded PDF that needs to be printed out and assembled together.  What works best for me is to use a roll of thin, see-through medical paper to trace your pieces out.  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size and add in your choice of seam allowance width.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped.  Sorry to repeat something you might already know, but this is just an “FYI” for those that don’t.

The sizing of both garments was pretty much spot on, without much extra fitting needed, yet I did  some departures from the original design lines.  I’ll start with discussing the coat, and firstly, the sleeves. They were so very, very long, just by leaving off the additional cuff piece they came to a good length on my arms.  The sleeves do have the most beautiful seaming, though, especially where they join the body of the coat.  At the top sleeve panel, they are “epaulet style”, continuing the sleeve to run right along the shoulder top into the neckline.  But then the bottom panels join in as a raglan style to make a sleeve that has first rate seaming and is gently set-in the main body.  What an unusual but amazing combo!  Many cocoon coats, especially the ones first created by Balenciaga in the late 40’s and early 50’s, and many of the others made by his fellow couturiers, all had deep cut kimono or dolman sleeve, or at least a sleeve that had a similar silhouette that tapered into the waist and offered generous ease of movement.  This was part of the reason they were so popular with the Après ski culture that exploded in the 60’s when people saw movies such as “Charade” with Audrey Hepburn, “Help” with the Beatles, or the James Bond escapade “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”.  These coats are easy to move in yet look good on their own accord, and offer full movement.  The excess material around the body only keeps the wearer warm.

The back bottom hem panel to the coat was also very long in length, so I cut that down by half in order that my coat would end at my knees, what a proper longer length cocoon coat should do.  Thus, my coat ends up being a length which is in between the “A” short version and the “B” long coat of pattern #104.  The idea of the general shape of Balenciaga’s cocoon fashion was to liberate the waist with flowing lines that carry their own beauty in the tailoring and shaping of the garment itself.  The defining points to a cocoon coat, however, is the neck and the knees, the two ends where the coat tapers in to slenderize the legs and highlight the face.  This coat has great design lines that do just that with the front French bust darts, the horizontal back bottom panel, and the angled, sun-ray style darts which radiate up and out from that.  From what I have seen of cocoon coats, many have an open, basic neckline.  Nevertheless, I added a small self-drafted collar at the neck because there’s no use for a warm and cozy coat that lets my neck freeze!

The pattern called for giant patch pockets to be added on the front of the coat, but that would ruin the classy streamlined look I was going for with it.  So I added pockets that were set into the French darts!  I think this one touch was the best thing I could have done for this coat!  The pockets also end up filling out the coat right over the low hip area so that it has more of a cocoon shape – this was a bonus I did not see coming but I really like it!

This coat was a project on my backburner queue since the pattern came out in 2015.  However, it wasn’t until I saw light blue coats popping up everywhere this past Fall-Winter season, at different stores, from different designers, and even on the back of one of my favorite actresses, Hayley Atwell, that I realized now was the time to pick up that idea and make something of it!  This Versace set from their Spring 2018 Ready-to-Wear collection, with its ice blue coat and Vogue poster print dress, was the first real impetus that inspired me to pair two 1960’s trends together in a modern way.

The leather piping is the most obvious out-of-the-ordinary addition that I made to the dress, yet I think it also was the best touch.  It brings to attention the awesome geometric cut to this dress that wraps around my arms, over, and down the back of my body, as well as bringing out a whole different “feel” to the general color scheme and texture.  I did take out the horizontal waist seam all around the front and back, mostly because I did not have much fabric to work with (only one yard) but also because I did not want to mess up my silk’s print with extra seaming.  As my dress is fully lined, I did not have to bother with using any of the facing pieces the pattern provided.  The full lining not only made my dress opaque, and covered up my seams inside, but some leftover scraps of it were also used to add in some small side pockets.  My pockets are basic and in the side seams to (again) not cut into the print, since the instructions directed to add welt pockets into the front.  Welt pockets are not my favorite thing to do, anyway, but I did install an invisible zipper down the back!

The faux leather neckline detail has that hint of a plastron-armor type of feel to me, but it does make for a lovely neckline or at least a good place to highlight a statement necklace, as I have done.  Beginning circa 1967, fashion was all about experimenting with novelty materials, and mixing them with contrasting traditional fabrics.  They did have many plastron front designs (I’ve made one myself) and several armor-like dresses in the late 60’s – especially when it came to the metal and chainmail garments of designer Paco Rabanne  or the plastic armor in the film Barbarella.  For the neckline addition, I made it slightly different than the pattern.  Mine is wider and more geometrically simple to match with the dress, versus the curved, tiny design as what the pattern originally planned.

I have worked with many 60’s patterns and this Burda dress felt like a true 60’s pattern, I must say.  I’m impressed!  It has the angular corners that the late 60’s loved (thanks in part to Pierre Cardin), the traditional pair of small back neck darts, and the normal, lovely, A-line silhouette with ever so slight body shaping that I enjoy about fashion of the flower child era.  I know certain “dress doctors” mourn the 60’s loose and youthful styles as the end of tailoring and the introduction of sloppiness.  Often these kinds of fashions were part of a certain desire to stand out, be different, or perhaps a bit rebellious, and are certainly not for everyone.  They are nonetheless a significant part of history.  Text and wording on these fashions didn’t come until about 1968, but even before then they were a statement in themselves.

Now, I’m not saying that wording isn’t to be seen on what people wore before the 1960’s.  Yes, there were many novelty prints in the 1940’s and 50’s that discreetly hid small doses of words which were often song lyrics or famous persons’ names (see this vintage pj top or this Elvis skirt for only two examples).  There are cultural uses of text in traditional African khanga to list out proverbs or words of wisdom to suit special occasions.  Earlier in the past century, women who were protesting the First World War or standing for women’s’ rights had sashes, ribbons, and badges which sported the words of what they believed in.  However, the wording was never (to my knowledge), before circa 1968, directly on the fashion garments themselves, and it was never before advertising or a personal or highly political statement.  The paper poster dresses where the first wave of this methodology – with the Cambell’s soup dress, ‘Nixon for President’ dress, the Newsprint dress, and the op art dresses.  The trend has spread like wildfire since.  Beyond the paper poster dresses, about the same time Pierre Cardin borrowed from the Lacoste crocodile logo idea that started in 20’s, and began the now universal practice of visible designer logos announcing themselves on clothing so one can obviously brag who ‘made’ their clothes and how much they spent.  We now have words, messaging, and advertising overload everywhere.  What would 21st century life be without your basic favorite printed tee?!  As New York-based artist Susan Barnett has said in her interview with “The Guardian”, “slogan T-shirts…tell us about the wearer’s identity. ‘It’s about how people use their bodies to send a message about who they want us to think they are.’”  Thanks be to what was going on in history and who was alive doing the moving and the shaking 50 years ago.

We should all be aware of the power that fashion has nowadays with the black dress code for the Golden Globes.  But it’s becoming more than that, in a way that reflects upon the wearer as well as our unconscious perception of the wearer, even if their clothes are not so subtle.  Just a year ago, Dior’s first female artistic director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, had her first collection begin with a basic white tee printed with the slogan “We should all be feminists”.  Now, there are even collections so overly cued into the political climate that the newspaper garment has official made a comeback!  See my picture of the newspaper Poster dress 1967 next to Alexander Wang’s “Page Six” collection for Spring/Summer 2018.  If this keeps up, I wonder when fashion will need to be protected by the laws of our First amendment right for freedom of speech.  Just like in the 1960’s, it seems as if these collections are catered to the younger crowd, our Millennial age group, the 18 to 35 year olds.

My own advertising dress is nothing so serious or political.  There isn’t any such a thing as “Bonobo Jeans and Underpants” that I can find before 2007, so this print is a spoof.  Making something of it is meant to merely push my boundaries so that I can understand history by making my own small part of it.  Besides, the print does make me laugh and blush at the same time in a way that I uniquely love.  “I can clean dishes and wear tight edgy underwear!’’, “Designed for fun!”, and “We shape nice butts” are all on there.  I love how I inadvertently had “Somewhere beneath” with the masculine eyes along the bottom hem – it’s too funny.

Finally, this brings me to explain my title.  One of the logos on the print is, “Hot stuff for all to see!”  Yes indeed, I do feel like the dress is pretty close to being hot, and it’s so thin and lightweight it’s definitely made for hot temperature days, anyway.  The coat is so warm and cozy, it is better than our best bed comforter at insulating.  I’m supposing it’s the flannel and the fleece together, with the satin to keep the heat in.  I suppose a man-made, non-breathable fabric is good for something after all!  I certainly do need to dress for summer underneath this coat, otherwise I’d burn up.  It’s unexpectedly the warmest coat I now have, so it deserves to called “hot stuff”!

“Retro Forward” Burda Style – a Vintage Inspired Novelty Knit Dress

Waffles aren’t just for breakfast anymore!  Silly me, you probably knew that.  However, I’ll bet you didn’t know there was such a thing as a waffle knit fabric.  Plain, flat surface knit isn’t the only option in my mind anymore, and this opens up a whole new world of fashion ideas to me.

This dress, made from a novelty, reversible (yes!) textured knit, is sewn using a modern Burda Style pattern with strong features of 1960s and 70’s fashion.  Thus it is part of my ongoing blog series, “Retro Forward with Burda Style”.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a polyester blend knit bought from my local JoAnn’s Fabric store

PATTERN:  Burda Style #116, from February 2014, “Dress with Buttoned Back” view B, or “Jackie Dress” view A.  (Both views look the same to me, by the way!)

NOTIONS:  Nothing but thread, some cotton scraps, and some buttons and snaps were needed and I had all of that on hand already.  Yay!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was made in about 8 hours and finished on October 15, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  As this knit is a polyester and it is a dense weave, it does not fray so the innards are left raw.  Hey – even the dress hem is left raw and unfinished!

TOTAL COST:  I don’t clearly remember, but I believe it was between $15 to $20.

When you look around at it, novelty knit fabric is ah-mazing, especially this waffle version, which is totally reversible, too (in a “photo film negative” sort of way), making it all the more open to crazy fun possibilities.  Novelty knits hold a certain balance that amazes me about modern fabrics – they keep their surface quality while still having a forgiving stretch which still acts like a normal knit, with a “memory” to go back to its original texture.  From what I have seen in my research, I have realized modern knitwear has been around since the 1920’s, but it seems as if novelty manufactured knits exploded into the designer fashion scene beginning with the end of rationing after WWII (in the 1950s), and have been out there ever since.  Look at this 1950 “blistered” textured knit dress from the great Claire McCardell, or this 50’s puckered knit wiggle dress for two examples of how a solid color becomes so interesting with this kind of fabric.  Then, after the 50’s, avant-garde fabrics (made of plastics, paper, and metal, to name just a few) were popular in the late 60’s and in the 70’s, so I feel this unusual fabric especially suits a design of that era.  After all, the pattern is called a “Jackie” dress, and as Burda calls it a “classic” design (which I really don’t agree with), I would like to think they are referring to the Presidential fashion inspiration for the 1960’s, Jackie Kennedy-Onassis.

This was really an easy-to-make dress that is so versatile and comfortable.  I found the sizing right on, and the instructions very good. Now, as for any Burda Style pattern, printing and/or tracing is necessary to have a usable pattern to lay on your desired fabric.  My pattern was traced from the downloaded and assembled PDF bought at the online store but if you have a magazine issue, use a roll of medical paper to trace your pieces from the insert sheet.  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size and add in your choice of seam allowance width.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped.  Sorry to repeat something you might already know, but this is just an “FYI” for those that don’t.

I did not make any changes to the design, but I did take advantage of it by using both sides of the reversible fabric.  The main body of the dress is in the side that has more grey than white undertones, while the belt which is sew-in to the front shaping tucks was made from the side which is mostly white.  I love how using the other side of the fabric for the belt helps it blend into the dress without getting lost over it at the same time.  I kept the dress a little on the shorter side, and I think it looks better that way…it also gives me a reason to wear fun colored tights in the winter!  Looking back on it, however, I now wish I would have left out the center back, between-the-shoulders, vertical closing because when this dress is sewn out of a knit it is not necessary.  I could have sewn a basic center back seam rather than making a proper placket with fake, sewn on, non-working buttons as I have.  It looks good in the end, so I shouldn’t complain.

I am proud and happy with the way I figured out how to interface the back placket and back belt after all.  I have seen but never tried the interfacing fabric stores sell that is labeled for knits – it is a lightweight tricot mesh with an iron on adhesive back.  I do not see how this would help much or even really work well.  A good knit dress needs certain areas to be non-stretchy, and this is what true interfacing should do.  However, anything iron-on can rip off a knit if stretched too much, and a thick facing would not look good.  Thus, I used a basic 100% cotton broadcloth and basted it in place of the interfacing with some stitching, and have it inside the waist belt straps.  This works wonders to let the back facing and belt be pliable without stretching and be stabilized without undue bulky thickness, besides being an easy, on-hand solution to something that could have been more complicated.  Basic cotton bias tape was used to finish off the neckline edge, as well.  The cotton tape, though on the bias, is not all that forgiving – it is primarily stable in character – which is what I needed to keep the wide V-neckline from losing its shape.  Cotton woven fabric used as interfacing or a stabilizer for stretchy knit fabrics is a match made in heaven and one of the best tips I have discovered!

I’d say the trickiest part to the whole dress was the back belting.  Now, it wasn’t hard to do.  It was just fiddly and required my being precise with matching up the alignment of where the belt straps came into the bodice tucks.  I did lower the belt pieces slightly by about 5/8 inch so they would land just above my natural high waist rather than be at a true empire waistline.  Even still, I was and sort of still am self-conscious about the style and how it compliments (or doesn’t compliment) the tummy and hips.  I do receive tons of compliments by people when I wear this, so it must look alright.  I fudged with the closures of the back straps and sewed on fake buttons to hide the oversized snaps underneath…so much easier to do on myself blindly reaching behind.  Thread loops at the sides and center back keep the belt in place.

This “almost-mini-dress with a back waist band that comes from the side front seaming” is something I see a plethora of when it comes to sewing patterns in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  I see variations of it in patterns from every single year from 1967 to circa 1972, even with many designer names attached, so this must be good style for it to persist for at least 5 years straight in the Disco era!

Simple, straightforward and uncomplicated fashion is needed and has its place.  Solid colors and basic fabrics are staples that many times become a most-reached-for item to wear.  However, stretching the limits of what is conventionally available (the boon of sewing) can be such a likeable refreshing change for both yourself and others to see.  Doing so also stretches one’s habits of dressing and provides fun to an everyday need and unique personal expressiveness.  Novelty fabrics and creative uses for patterns can do all this!  Don’t be afraid to go find that odd fabric that speaks to your wild side and whip something up with it!  I have thoroughly enjoyed my trial with a newly discovered fabric, and a newly found vintage-does-modern fashion style only helped me like it all the more.