1941 Convertible “Pinny”

Sorry, but this is not a name for an unusual kind of motor vehicle, it’s just referring to an unusual, yet very useful and attractive kind of garment which I have made!  I now have a pinafore dress whose “top can come down”.

Don’t take that the wrong way – all I mean is that this 40’s pinafore has been made so that it can come apart to be two separate wearing pieces if I so desire.  After all, as much as I unabashedly wear this pinafore set out and about, I’ll admit it’s not something I’d want to wear in its entirety in every social setting.  This way, I really don’t have to change completely…just change tops for a new and updated look.  Such a dress, made the ‘convertible’ way, completely transcends the almost 80 year time gap, making it truly something that is ultimately useful and sensible…the goal of a pinafore anyway.  I believe I have nailed a way to bring the pinafore to the modern wearer.  I managed this outfit all on 2 measly yards, too.

Guess what makes this even more up-to-date?  There is a hidden division to this pinafore where the top and the skirt attach at the waistline – above it is authentic to year 1941, below it is a modern Burda Style pattern.  Together, they both complement one another to the point that they even the other out, like a good marriage.  I see the modern bottom making the vintage top more like a trendy “Shabby Chic”, and the ’41 pinafore top bringing out subtle past references from the current design.  Separate, each of the two pieces work well with others (in my wardrobe I mean) making sure one or the other sees the light of day more frequently than not.  As much as I make what I like, I do always try to make garments that are still practical on some level to keep things from just hanging in my closet.  After all, there’s no use in making something to wear if you won’t wear it, right?  And remember – having the gift of sewing open up the opportunity for limitless ideas and customization.

If you haven’t seen my previous post, or if you haven’t encountered this weird ‘thing’ I’m calling a “pinny” (which is short for pinafore), I’d recommend you head on over a read it, please, for an explanation. Face it, a pinafore is smarter than modern clothes anyway, because at least it has giant pockets that really do fit a smartphone (little would a woman of the 1940’’s have guessed such a use)!  It’s every bit just as comfy, probably more so in my estimation, and a lot more fun!  Finally, the way I made it, all I can say is thank you to the person who invented snaps and hook-and-eyes, however, because otherwise this two-piece dress would not have been possible!

In most pictures, I am pairing the pinafore with a vintage rayon scarf to keep my hair in place, and a vintage necklace of mother-of-pearl oblong beads with matching mother-of-pearl carved earrings from my Grandmother.  My newest favorite shoes, lovely Re-Mix “Dara” 40’s style wedge sandals in burgundy red, are a comfy and colorful option for casual class!  I am also sharing some other photos of just a few of the endless outfits that match with my new favorite me-made – this pinafore!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  2 yards of 100% rayon challis floral in rose garden print, with a solid navy 100% cotton broadcloth for lining the skirt pockets and underside of the pinafore top body

PATTERNS:  Advance #3152, year 1941, for the top pinafore bib half, and then Burda Style’s “Pocket Skirt” #105, from February 2017, for the bottom half

NOTIONS:  I used a card of size 2 snaps as well as 4 of those flat, slide-closed, waistband-style hook-and-eyes around the waist.  I used PLENTY of navy thread, and a little interfacing along with some mesh netting as another kind of stabilizer (more on this down later).  There is a vintage metal zipper for the pinny bodice, and a modern zipper for the skirt (even my zipper choices attest to the fact of which part of my dress is vintage and which is not).  Everything I used was extras on hand and came from my stash.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was made in July 2017 in about 15 to 20, which is not bad at all for all the gathering and extra trouble to make this into two separate garments.  This sound cliché, but to tell you the truth I wasn’t really counting time because I was enjoying myself…until it came to the snaps and hooks…ugh!

THE INSIDES:  So nice and clean!  All seams to the whole dress are either covered by fabric facings or in bright, rich burgundy red bias tape.  I do love the flash of color the bias tape gives when my tiny hem is seem as my skirt blows or I sit and bend over.  Surprise!

TOTAL COST:  This fabric was bought from Jo Ann’s store for about $12 and the cotton was just a few dollars more.

After my recent jumpsuit that I divided up into two pieces, I kind of knew the premise of how to make my pinafore a two-in-one.  The biggest complications were the facts that both top and skirt of my pinafore needed zippers, and the droopy challis wasn’t going to cut it as stand-alone ruffles without a supple support.  The skirt was whipped up first – practically a few hours in one afternoon – and then the pinny came in second.  As I was making this pinafore, I was severely doubting whether this was a total waste of time.  I’ve never really made a pinny before, unless you count my Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” apron, so how did I know that I would love it once it was done, tried on, and accessorized?

The pinafore pattern I used was in a size too big for me, and, from my experience, smaller brands like Advance run on the large size.  However, as this should also have the capability to be worn over a blouse and be loose and comfy anyway, I only cut off 3/8 inch (the seam allowance amount) from the side seams and it still ran roomy with my sewing in ½ inch allowances.  I went a size up than my “normal” Burda Style skirt size, to match with the roomy waist of the pinafore top.  The generous waist pulls in nicely with a belt when worn alone, and doesn’t need pulling in when it’s attached as part of the whole pinny.  The awesome belt loops save the middle of my divided pinafore.

Technically I could count this as part of my ongoing “Retro Forward with Burda Style” blog series because the skirt’s lovely arched pockets have continuous cut-on belt loops for the waistband much like several 40’s patterns I have come across.  Advance 4344 or Vogue 7519 have very similar pockets.  I faced the entire wrong side of the pocket in the navy lining cotton, and it’s a good thing because the pockets have a wonderful flare out to add shape to the skirt silhouette besides also making sure they don’t get lost amid the rest of the busy print.  I added a center back belt tab to the waistband as well, to make sure wearing a belt actually keeps things in place.

Those awesome ruffles are hiding a neat trick I tried out for a new kind of interfacing.  In order to make the rayon challis keep its shape without the stiffness or fuss of applying interfacing, I used wide mesh tulle netting.  I’m talking about that see through stuff that is in a million different colors, and is formed in honeycomb design.  I bought some already to use as crinoline for another project, and it worked well.  For the pinafore, navy tulle is in the front center and back center panels of the bodice, sandwiched in between the rayon and the navy cotton lining, giving the body a nice semi-firm bib fit which would gently keep its squared off shaping.

There is a layer of tulle in each of the over the shoulder bodice ruffles, as well, in between the lining and fashion fabric similar to how I did it for the body panels.  Because I under stitched the ruffles’ outer seam allowances to the lining cotton, the outer edges are thread free, clean edges.  I was initially worried at how the tulle would gather along with all the layers in the ruffles, but sewing them was no harder than any other gathering I’ve done.  The trick to having the ruffles lay perfectly over my shoulder, away from my head, was to direct the seam allowances the right way for this on the inside and then invisibly “stitch in the ditch”, through all layers – floral rayon, tulle, and cotton lining – at the base of the ruffles to keep everything in place.  Keep in mind the pattern never said to do most all of these steps that I’m explaining – the tulle interfacing, lining the ruffles and bodice, and even stitching through the seam lines – but my pinafore top is so much better for it.  Sometimes overthinking can get me into trouble, but this was a case of merely thinking a project through, I believe, from how well my ideas worked to improve some potential ‘problems’ with my fabric choice.  Sometimes, I do believe sewing is truly a branch of engineering.

I can find no clear explanation for the very frequent use of ruffles on pinafores, other than the fact that it probably comes from their relation to both the child’s garment as well as the folk-influenced fashion of the dirndl.  1940s pinafores, peasant styles, and dirndls all can employ ribbons, lace, rick-rack, felt appliques, or embroidery for optional decoration so ruffles on a pinny were probably added for the same reasons as the rest of the embellishments.  Remember that even though a fashion dirndl is officially a skirt, the Germanic form does include a bib-suspender combination which unifies the whole thing, and the blouses to be worn under them could have the frills instead.  Peasant blouses and dresses can be somewhat obnoxious, oversized, and frilly like a pinafore, too, besides the shared fact that the adolescent crowd made them popular.  Even if adults wore these fashions they were supposed to bring on a ‘youthful’ connotation.  The cross-over is unexpected perhaps, but worth consideration, I believe. I’m guessing, though, the use of these embellishments for a pinny could merely stem from the simple desire to jazz up a basic garment meant for work and maybe play.

The system I devised to close and connect the waists of the two-individual pieces into one might look and sound like a convoluted mess – but really it’s not!  Both the top and the skirt each have their own side zippers, with a hook closing tab at the end like any garment.  The bodice closes on the right while the skirt closes up the left so that the two zipper wouldn’t end up overlapping each other.  In between the two sides of my waist, is a predictable pattern of two snaps and two hooks as well for each front and back, with one extra under the center back skirt belt tab.  That’s about 9 extra closures!  All of this hand sewing and measuring needed for this finishing of the horizontal waist band connections was such a pain in the neck, I really was gritting my teeth not to give up on my idea completely.  Finished now, I’m in no hurry to do this again but as much as I love the versatility of this divided set, my guess is that I’ll do this kind of thing again soon enough.  Many bib-style pinafores were button on and off in the 1940’s, but I wanted something that would give a stronger hold like the combined effort of hooks and snaps.

You might be wondering, “How does she get this thing on like that?”  Quite simply, much like any dress, except that the front waists are hanging separate and the back waist is still connected as one.  Once on me, the bodice is zipped up, the front waists are connected together around over to the other side of me where the side skirt zip is then closed.  Nothing quick, but it’s not complicated or fiddly – just methodical and definitely sort of a unique experience.

If you follow my Instagram account, you might have seen back on March 14, I posted a picture crushing over this dress’ fabric right after I bought it.  Then, I planned on pairing it with an orange/peach coral toned polka dot cotton for a matching blouse.  Yes, I still am holding to my plan – it’s just that with so much else to pair this dress and its separate pieces with, I’m in no hurry now to make the polka dot blouse.  When I do sew it up, which I plan on that being no later than spring of next year, it will be made using a vintage Simplicity #4734, year 1963 “action-back” bowling blouse, to totally see how far this set can work with any decade of fashion.  I have high expectations it will work…this set keeps amazing me.  It literally works with just about anything and has unlimited styling capabilities.

Hollywood has not shied away from using pinafores on their best actresses with amazing, complimentary success.  The 1940’s seems to have the most instances so I will focus on actresses and films from this era, with half of my inspiration in this pinny post, and the other half in my next.  First, the cheery and beautiful Donna Reed can be seen in a 1940’s picture wearing a pinafore dress very similar in style to my own.  Next, there is a lovely Loretta Young who wore a classy and dignified long length pinafore in the political version of a Cinderella-story movie, “The Farmer’s Daughter” from 1947.

Finally, the best I saved for last – the 1942 movie “The Major and the Minor” with Ray Milland and Ginger Rogers.  This hilarious film has the best and the most examples of pinafore wearing in any movie I’ve seen yet – I counted at least 5!  What I appreciate about the pinafores in this movie is the persona Ginger Rogers puts on with the pinafores she wears.  Most of the time her pinnys are worn when she attempts to be mistaken for a 12 year old, but towards the end of the movie she dons a pinafore smock to be mistaken for her own mother!  Being an awkward, no-makeup wearing pre-teen is not something anyone can think of as being the elegant Ginger Rogers, but her talent is supreme, so her pinafores ended up giving me a good idea of how a pinny is youthful, but still can be styled well enough for an adult woman to be charmingly complimentary.  I see the sheer plethora of pinafore styles (each of them is different) as a tribute to her face and figure, the costume designer, and the fun, playful theme of the movie.  I am amused at how a slightly different style of pinafore is used to designate her as being dignified, comfortable, and respectable older woman – different pinafores for different duties and different places in life.  How interesting – I wonder if this was the case in real people’s social world, too!  Either way, thank you, Hollywood for helping my inspiration!

For some modern options, Simplicity Pattern Company has recently been offering pinafores, smock dresses, and apron-style garments with the Dottie Angel patterns, such as #8186, #8230, #8438, and #1080.  Even Burda Style has an apron-style top – Pattern #132.  For more pinafore inspiration throughout the past decades, please visit my Pinterest board.  Until then, my next pinafore post will be following soon!

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…Sewing for My Little Motor Boy

My son sees what I do when it comes to creating and sewing.  Happily for me, he seems to pretty well understand and appreciate it…especially when he becomes the recipient!  He is enthralled and absolutely fascinated by anything that “goes” – planes, trains, and automobiles – so that it gets naturally chosen for him, as if on default.  But not any old print will do.  He likes emergency vehicles especially well and fast sports cars…this second one makes him more like a mini me!  Thus, every so often we come across a printed fabric that makes him particularly happy.  Sometimes he finds the fabrics and sometimes I find them…he does enjoy fabric stores!  Then, it is fun to pair me and my 5 year old up to find what to make with it!  Here’s some of what I have made from the most recent fabric finds which have tickled my son’s fancy.

Now that he is a bit older and no longer a baby, life with him includes more customizing to his age and paying attention to his individuality.  This includes updating his room, too!  So I’ve made him some novelty print ‘race car pets’ curtains that make him giggle and a Disney “Cars” movie flannel pillow cover which he uses every night.  Lastly, I’ve sewed a “Things that go” print shirt which he just loves wearing.  I am mostly proud of the shirt, for several reasons I’ll expound on later, although I did find the curtains to be an interesting learning experience, as I have not made any real home decorating items before.  The best part?  I think I get ‘awesome mama points’ from him for making this stuff – score!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  all are 100% cotton – the curtains and his shirt are quilting prints and the pillow cover is a brushed flannel.

PATTERNS:  The pillow cover and the curtains were self-drafted, but the shirt comes from a year 1975 McCall’s #4741

NOTIONS:  I needed lots of thread for all of this (of course), but I also used scraps of interfacing from on hand and some specialty buttons.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The curtains and the pillow cover was made in several hours’ time awhile back for my son’s previous birthday.  The shirt was made in 4 hours and finished on July 27, 2017.

THE INSIDES:  The little guy’s shirt has fun, random colors of bias tape finishing the inside.  A few seams are merely edge stitched, but the grown-up style facing makes this a very nice shirt.

TOTAL COST:  The curtain Fabric is a M’Liss brand “Traveling with Pets” series, bought from the now defunct Hancock Fabrics back in 2015.  I think I paid no more than $25 for the curtain fabrics, including the contrast remnant.  The pillow cover fabric was bought at Jo Ann’s fabric for a few dollars.  The shirt fabric was a recent ¾ of a yard remnant bought from Jo Ann’s, too, for about $5 and the buttons were on clearance for only 94 cents.

The mathematics I used to draft the curtains became a bit more challenging than drafting garments or purses and belts because it was on such a big scale, but also because I barely had enough fabric to make work.  The same “close call” happened for my son’s shirt – I was literally cutting the front, back, and sleeve with the pieces butting up against one another.  I don’t know why that always seems to happen – every time hubby or our son find a fabric that they really like, there is such a discrepancy of amount left for me to work with it makes my efforts at making something of it a bit more challenging.  The way this happens almost every time I’ve made a project for a family member is so odd!  Anyway, at least I’m putting to good use the last of what is left of these fabrics.

I have no idea if there is a “proper” way to make curtains, but the wide tabs to hang from the rod were relatively easy to make and have a bold yet relaxed, fun look to us.  The tabs and the curtain pulls might look like they are a basic yellow but they have a sneaky fun star print on them!  Nothing, however, can beat the hilarious cuteness of the print to the curtains themselves.  The “newness” of the curtains have worn off on our son by now, but for the first several weeks they were up he could be “caught” staring at them with a look that belies the proof of an inspired imagination and a smile which is between laughing and just plain happy.  After all, we are a family that loves animals, especially dachshunds (look at the giant stuffed “Gertie the dachsie” on the sill), as well as fast cars, so even if I didn’t want to sew this fabric into curtains, I pretty much had to because these are perfectly catered to us!

For my son’s pillow cover, I made it very basic, practically because it was whipped overnight for my son’s birthday.  I probably should have, or at least could have put a zipper into one end, but the pillow cover ended up fitting so snugly over the pillow itself that I didn’t want to take it off so I just hand stitched the opening closed.  I figured correctly that the cover wouldn’t need to come off for it to survive a trip through the washer and dryer.  He sleeps either with this pillow or on it every night (so excuse the worn appearance), and even likes it enough to want to bring it sometimes for sleepovers at the grandparents. Many people asked him what Mommy gave him for his birthday, and many of those who do not sew had a weirdly disappointed reaction when he would excitedly tell them I made something, as if I didn’t give him anything at all.  It’s a shame to see this misunderstanding.  A handmade personally-catered gift can mean so much between the recipient and the maker!

Now to get on to the best part – the shirt!  This is very special for me to sew for him mostly because of the family connections which bring things full circle.  The pattern I used is one that I had given to me by my mother-in law when we were first married.  It is one that she had from her stash.  She herself used this very pattern to make my husband a shirt when he was 5 years old, just like our son is now.  She even had the body measurements written on the pattern for when my hubby was our son’s age, and amazingly the body measurements are all too similar.  Thus, I happily knew it was finally high time to whip up a second generation version of this family pattern.  We explained the connection to our son, but he seems to rather focus on the fun print and details.  Like father, like son…they are both very engineering, detailed oriented persons – our little tyke now has his own version of his dad’s McCall #4741 shirt.

I know the pattern is for nightwear.  However, this pattern deserved to be used (because of the family ties), it was going to fit him without any alterations, and it was dated to a year I’ve never sewn anything from before.  Besides all this, a shirt is relatively classic for a boy of any age.  Even a nightshirt, in vintage terms, can pass as street wear easily and a novelty print can make it too fun to just restrain it to indoor-only wear.

One of the most entertaining aspects to a fabric store is definitely the button section.  My son certainly agrees!  He frequently wants to pick out buttons, and although I have such a generous stash of vintage notions, every so often the need for a store bought item arises and our son happily rises to the occasion.  I will say he does do very, very well for a 5 year old when it comes to finding the perfect button for both some of my own projects as well as his own.  In other words, yes…he picked out his own buttons for this shirt.  They are large planes in his favorite color red.  They don’t exactly match with the ‘theme’ of the shirt, but those buttons give him a special sense of personal pride in the making of this shirt.  He himself had a part in it, and he hovered over my shoulder watching me sew the shirt, so yes he did have a big part in making this.  He likes to brag about this fact, too.  No store bought shirt could have such a bonding, empowering influence!

My title is partly borrowed from a series of 1910 to 1920’s era books which were popular with the youth back when motor vehicles were the newest and most exciting ‘thing’.  There was the earliest and most popular “Motor Boy” series, as well as the “Motor Rangers” and (for the young ladies) the “Motor Maids” which came a bit later.  These are two books currently in our collection and date to 1911.  I cannot think of a better attribute for my son at this point in his life than calling him a “motor boy”, too.  Even in our modern age, the fascination with things that carry us, transport us, and help us travel faster than our basic human capabilities still never fails to captivate.

I do have plans for some fabric on hand to make our son the matching robe, as well as those amazingly dated bell bottom pants which are also part of the pattern for his shirt.  Between his growing so fast, the amount of clothing for him we receive from the grandparents, and the low cost of many kids’ clothes, the greater percentage of his closet is store bought, unlike my own wardrobe I must admit.  I can only sew so much!!! However, the handful of items I do sew for our little man gives me a reason to make sure and keep up sewing items for him and getting him involved with what I do in a large part of my life.  Sewing for the younger crowd is its own wonderful inspiration.  We need the next generation to continue stitching, creating, and imaging in terms of fabric!

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Lines of Wheat on the Bias

Early fall or late summer is a lovely season to me where I live.  It has warm days, which I like, in between cold snaps that preview the next season to come.  Together with the richness of colors building in the trees, interesting smells in the air, and enjoyable holidays on their way (familial birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Halloween), I really do wish I could hold on to this season for longer than it lasts, and not just because I despise winter.

My newest vintage 1930s sewing project, featured here, is I feel a perfect transition garment which takes into account all that I love about late summer and early fall.  Stripes the golden color of wheat as well as fluffy clouds in the sky are on an earthy, textured linen dress, which has a fascinating use of the bias grain line.  Vintage accessories from my Grandmother – gloves, earrings, necklace, and a brooch of double wheat sheaves – together with my Jeffrey Campbell leather lace-up shoes, a silk scarf, and a hat I refashioned to be an accurate 30’s shape all are meant to play with the richer colors of the fall season and thus bring out the muted stripes which highlight the amazing design of this dress pattern.

This was actually my outfit for our recent trip to Chicago, Illinois.  Yes, I traveled and explored the busy city downtown in fully accessorized vintage style and loved it!  And just think…this dress is linen too!  What I discovered from the compliments I received from passer-bys is that apparently this dress is a transition piece in another way.  It is not glaringly vintage, yet still completely true to year 1933.  That is a trademark of a truly classic, lovely design!  It is interesting enough in design that (especially made in striped fabric) it doesn’t scream for attention yet certainly can turn interested heads…almost like a toned down Wallis Simpson fashion for the modern vintage aesthetic.  It is also simple enough in silhouette and sewing difficulty that it can be whipped up easily to suit many differing occasions depending on how one finishes or accessorizes.  Case in point – this dress (before hemming) turned out very long on me and it looked very good with fancy jewelry and evening shoes…I can see a solid color satin or crepe ankle-length version of this dress making a wonderful elegant style!  Oh no, another project idea in my future!

Sorry, I know you can’t see all of my dress’ neck and shoulder details with my scarf, but the dress really looks better for it…and Chicago is a city with a cool wind, indeed!  Scarves were popularly worn like this in the 1930’s (see this article for more info and tips on using scarves) but they make such a great multi use fashion accessory in any era.  I cannot do without a scarf more often than not.  As for further clarification about my refashioned hat, it is modern, in straw, and something which I’ve had for years.  It started out with the popular modern “bucket” style crown and I merely pinched it in from the inside at the center top so it would have a proper vintage shallow crown with a very 1930s style ridge down the center.  The excess crown inside is folded flat and was hand stitched down in place.  Easy-peasy and oh-so-handy, this hat is a great way to protect my face while complimenting my wardrobe using both something on hand and my penny-pinching capabilities!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  slubbed, thick 100% linen

PATTERN:  McCall’s #7153, a 2015 issue of a year 1933 design

NOTIONS:  Nothing but thread and some interfacing was pretty much needed.  A true vintage buckle was used to finish the belt as well as some stitch witchery bonding web. 

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This came together rather quickly – it was made in about 10 to 12 hours and finished on August 6, 2017

THE INSIDES:  Mostly French with the some seams in bias binding.  So clean!

TOTAL COST:  This fabric was bought when the now defunct Hancock Fabric’s was closing.  This lovely linen was about $2 a yard…so I suppose this dress cost me about $6. How awesome is that!?

As someone who very frequently works with true vintage original sewing patterns of all decades in the 20th century, I can say I can recognize features of a vintage design and sort of estimate when something has been changed.  As much as I do love my new dress and am generally impressed with this pattern, there are a few things I am not happy with and strike me as ‘off’.

First of all, there are small separate triangular panels which are sewn on at the true waist at the top of the side front skirt panels.  This could have been on the original but I highly doubt it – there is no waistline seam to the similar side skirt panels in the back!  For a long and lean bias 1933 dress like this one, why would this small panel be separate without an obvious purpose?  A depression era pattern knew how to combine ingenuity and elegance in dressing with a complicated appearing simplicity and this small odd feature doesn’t strike me as ringing true to that habit.  Either way I do not like it one bit.  I should have just matched it to the top of the skirt side panels, taped it on there and cut the piece as one long part extending up to the bodice with no side seam.

The presence of the jarring, random horizontal waist seam remnant presents several ‘problems’ in my experience.  It places too much importance on precise matching of the grain line and fabric print – if this small section is off it will be noticed.  It mars the elegant and beautiful stripe work to the dress if the belt is not “just-so” over the seam…and with normal living’s body movements, a garment will not stay “picture perfect” anyway!  Besides, my true waist seems to be slightly higher naturally and a belt carrier wouldn’t help by keeping it down where it doesn’t want to stay.  After all, year 1933 was still coming off of the 20’s ideology and that year’s dresses were rarely defining the waist with a modern, boring horizontal seam, instead frequently opting for a wide panel, side gathering, interesting paneling, or similar gently hinting methods.  This ugly, tiny waist seam remnant needs to meld into the rest of the dress.  I made the pattern ‘as-is’ so I could learn from it – did I ever!  Please do my recommended change for your version…one little extra step will make your version of this dress so much better!

My beef about the waist seam aside, look at the lovely details to the rest of the front!  The tiny stripes matched up pretty well, and all the seams matched up impeccably.  This dress’ stripe paneling reminds me of something along the lines of two of my favorite American designers/dressmakers Elizabeth Hawes and Muriel King, both of whom I admire for their stunning mitering methods (among other things).  Mitering, often understood as a woodworking term for right angled joints, was appropriated by dressmakers in circa 1934.  Its earliest proponents outside of America were the French couturier Marcel Rochas and a young Balenciaga. (Info from the book Elegance in an Age of Crisis from FIT.)  However, Elizabeth Hawes used a bulls-eye pattern on the bias in the middle of the torso for a 1936 dress, a method very similar to the styling of this McCall pattern.  Not meaning to brag, but the tiny, muted color stripes of the linen I used for my dress also reminds me also of the subtlety of Balenciaga’s cotton 1938 dress.  If I can sew for myself anything that I feel can “knock-off” the designers that both I and history admires, that’s a big win!

Not to divert from my glowing praise, but my second complaint with this vintage reprint pattern was actually the same fitting problem as their other year 1933 re-issue (McCall #7053).  They both turn out to have a very droopy shoulder seam in their kimono sleeves, which makes me think it is something that McCall’s does to the patterns and not the patterns themselves.  After all, their Archive patterns are not really re-prints…from my understanding they are new drafts off of images and/or line drawings of old patterns they had issued in the past.  I have sewn using vintage original patterns from both 1931 and 1934, both of which have kimono-style sleeves, and neither of them have given me the same problems I have with the 1933 McCall’s Archive issues.  However, it is an easy fix.  I sewed the long kimono shoulder/sleeve seam about 2 inches further in from the original 5/8 seam allowance.  That’s a lot, isn’t it!  This dress was severely droopy.  The sleeves are very open anyway so taking out some doesn’t make much of a difference.  When I sewed the sleeve/shoulder seam in smaller I also straightened it out – originally it has a dramatic curve that I think does not work out at all.  The weird puckering curve in the shoulder seam is a big, obvious turn-off on the model version of the envelope cover.  Other than the drooping shoulders, I did find the body of the dress to fit pretty much true to the size chart for the bottom half, and slightly a size big for the top half.

Many 1930’s dresses have a very figure hugging bias which I’ve heard many women say won’t work for everybody.  This one seems to have a bias grain just gentle enough for shaping yet not enough to be overly clingy.  The best part about the bias in both the skirt and the bodice is there is no closure needed!  That’s right – no zipper, buttons, hooks, or snaps.  It’s just plain easy.  I know the instructions show a center back zipper, but those can be hard to do on oneself and sometimes also hard to keep the top pull from sagging down.  I believe McCall’s threw the back zipper in to ‘modernize’ the design.  The dress stretches wider easily from the smart grain line layout so why a zipper?!  I see how the zipper weirdly bubbles out and warps the loveliness of the bias on the back of the model’s dress on the pattern cover.  “Keep things simple, silly” (to put it mildly) is an engineering principle that is worthwhile to remember when engineering clothing, too.

This McCall’s pattern is not the best re-issue of a vintage style, but it does make for a very nice dress, with designer touches that is highly underrated once you get past its “meh” cover and fitting issues.  This is a good pattern I would recommend everyone to have on hand to try.  Once you make one successful version, I believe you will use it again, as I plan on doing.  Don’t let the sole sleeve version deter you – there are many types of sleeves that could be added to a short kimono style like this one.  There are no closures needed and deceptively easy to sew.  Do you need any more reason to try this one?  Come on…I want to see many more inspiring versions from all of you talented and lovely bloggers out there!

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The “… So Many Raindrops” Dress

This might be weird to make a parallel, but rain is kind of like sewing to me – it’s refreshing, relaxing, beautiful, sometimes messy, but always the water for creative growth.  So why just stay inside on a rainy day?!

Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to go out in a pouring, thundering rainstorm in a white dress (of all things, va voom!) but I didn’t want the wet weather to ruin my plans for wearing my newly finished project that weekend.  The print does remind me of raindrops, after all, trickling down, beading up as they occasionally do, while they take their gravity guided course.  This was my first light colored, early summer worthy garment that I made for this year.  It is a Burda Style dress with subtle, but interesting design features that was as easy to sew as it is easy to put on, all of which I really appreciate.  This might not be my best dress for this year, but it is a comfy, different, pretty dress that is versatile…and it’s out of my favorite material, rayon!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% rayon challis, a Kathy Davis Designer brand print, bought from Jo Ann’s Fabric Store

PATTERN:  Burda Style #102 A, Tie Waist Dress, from March 2016

NOTIONS:  Nothin’ but white thread, a small scrap of bias tape, and a hook n’ eye!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress was whipped up one afternoon, May 25, 2017, in about 5 hours!

THE INSIDES:  All French seams…

TOTAL COST:  Maybe $10 to $12

I have been seeing this style of a loose, knee-length dress with a side seam attached waist tie offered here and there through other pattern companies throughout this year (see New Look #6519 for one example), but Burda did it first in 2016 with this pattern.  In my opinion, I like this version the best, out of all the look-alikes I have seen.  And yet, I am not used to a dress that does not have a whole lot of fitting, so even though I wanted to whip up a version of this the minute I saw the pattern on the cover of the March 2016 magazine, I was unsure.  With the dress pattern simmering on the back burner of my project queue, it eventually won out, as I suddenly decided this spring season to cave in when I saw what I (finally!) felt was the right fabric for the design.

All the fullness is in the front.  This includes the fanned out pleats in the neckline and the excess which allows this to be a pop-on, no closure dress which is pulled in by the waist ties.  However, the back is so slim, trim, and fitted with darts, with a shaped waistline and small knife pleats at the neckline for shoulder freedom – it’s like two different dresses front and back!  The wrap-around bottom band unifies it all in my mind.

Rain water flows horizontally for a city dweller like me when it’s rushing through a street gutter, so the bottom panel has the blue “raindrops” running opposite the rest of the vertical direction on the body of the dress.  I also choose the same horizontal layout of the ‘rain print’ for the set-in waist ties, like a little rivulet running through my middle.  (I know I have a weird rhymes and reasons for my sewing choices sometimes! Whatever feels right inside!)  The print is so low-key, this play on thought process and the direction of the print is not as apparent as I would like, and yet I think something dramatic (like bold colored crazy stripes) would have been too much…so, I’m generally happy with it the way it is.

The best part to the dress is what I changed, in my opinion!  I extremely simplified the design by eliminating the center back zipper, opting for a front neckline closing instead.  It is just a strip of wide bias tape, stitched in a loop, snipped through and turned under with a tiny hook-and eye at the top corner hidden under the facing edges.  Besides making this dress quicker to sew and get dressed in, the front slit placket keeps the closing easy where I can see it, as well as freshening up the very high and conservatively designed neckline.  I decided after cutting out from the fabric to do this closure-free adaptation, otherwise I would have cut both the bodice back piece on the fold to eliminate the seam where the zipper was designed to be.  It was still a good thing that I cut this dress pattern out the way I did because I had enough left over to squeeze out a much needed new pillow case for my side of our bed!

I’ve never seen sleeves like these that have a shoulder cap with a shaping dart to get a curve over this angle of the body.  The darts start from the shoulder seam end and taper into the middle of the upper sleeve.  This is very interesting and different, yet not as effective in shaping after all as I would have thought.  However, it’s always nice to have a change and try something different!  In hindsight, I now wish I would’ve checked ahead of time and adjusted the overall fit of the shoulder and sleeves.  The shoulder seam is a bit short compared to the somewhere in between generous and spot-on fit of the rest of the dress.  I also wish I had given myself more reach room under the arms.  If you make this pattern, I suggest you raise up the side seams and make the sleeve seam longer at the armscye (maybe by about ½ to 1 inch) to have full movement for yourself.

To more than make up for any ‘meh’ feelings toward the dress, I paired it with some awesome accessories that are favorites from my wardrobe.  Firstly my necklace is from my beloved Grandmother’s jewelry collection, and it’s just so different – I love it.  My shoes take the cake though.  They are all leather, inside and out, and Clark’s brand so well made and so comfy.  These are something I splurged and bought for myself (much to my mom’s dismay) with my birthday money, about 17 years back.  Sorry mom, sometimes that monetary gift cannot be saved when a one-of-a-kind pair of shoes comes one’s way!  I think this was my first major indulgence in my taste for interesting shoes…and these take the cake. Why? They actually have jewels set into the bottom of the already decorative sole. Yasss!  I must admit I do like to kick up my heels, cross my legs, and overall let the soles be seen when I wear these, judiciously I might add, but I do not save them…they need to be enjoyed!  Hubby says these shoes remind him of the words in a song by Paul Simon, “People say she’s crazy, she’s got diamonds on the soles of her shoes.”  Thanks.  No, but this is not the only way I’ve accessorized it – every time I wear it (which is frequent) I have tried different jewelry, shoes, sweater (or jacket) combos, and even tie the belt differently.  This dress is like the unlimited “I can go with anything” go-to dress that just keeps making me glad now that I made it.

On to other tunes that I do like and cannot help but sing when I wear this dress –they are “Raindrops” of 1961 by Dee Clark, Enya’s “A Day Without Rain” and her “It’s In the Rain”, and finally (my favorite) Engelbert Humperdinck’s version of “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head”.  And then there’s the amazing “Isn’t This a Lovely day To Be Caught in the Rain” with Fred Astire and Ginger Rogers. I know there’s plenty of other popular classics which mention rain, but these are my personal picks!

Just like a living thing cannot go on without water, just so I seem to survive in a different way on the creativity and self-expression that the outlet of sewing has to offer.  This is why it makes total sense for me to combine rain and sewing in one project.  I’m surprised I haven’t done this combo earlier!  Perhaps this post can even encourage you to not stay inside on that rainy day, but get out and make the most of it…just don’t necessarily wear white in it like me unless you really intend to!

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My “Naomi” Dress

Many times when I want to try something experimental in my fashion, I like to start with something I’m not as completely invested in as a sewn ‘from-scratch’ garment.  Therefore, if I don’t find something unwanted from my existing wardrobe, I often resort to re-sale and thrift store offerings.  They are low-cost, there are a plethora to choose from, and I feel like I need to do my part in making a dent with the unwanted and uninteresting leftovers from our modern fast fashion industry.  Here is my latest re-fashion attempt, made for a special family occasion.  As a frequent vintage wearer, I am rather surprised how taken I am by this…it makes me feel so on trend with all the latest off-the-shoulder looks this summer!DSC_0923a-comp,wMy husband actually thinks it reminds him of the character Naomi from the television series “Mama’s Family”, although my dress is green and not her favorite shade of yellow.  For some reason, this attribution to Naomi makes me sigh, half-smile, and feel ever so slighted even though I know she was a great character in her own right.  Hubby is right, though, this is something she would totally wear!  I mean, she even wore an off-the-shoulder dress for her wedding to Vint!  Yet, do I think this dress reminds me of the peasant and hippie styles of the 1970s and 80’s especially with the hem ruffle, but maybe it’s the vintage lover in me which only wants to find a past decade to associate with.  I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to peek-a-boo shouldered garments, starting from the late 20’s ‘til now, as well as a board for the Peasant look, if you’re interested in looking at more past twists on this modern trend.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a rayon knit big-box store sundress 

NOTIONS:  nothing but some thread…

PATTERN:  none – this was all my own inspiration!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Making this dress took me about 2 or 3 hours and it was finished on July 5, 2017.

THE INSIDES:  cleanly overlocked (serged)…more on this below.

TOTAL COST:  I only paid $2 for this dress about 2 or 3 years ago

I have been waiting for the perfect re-fashion idea to hit my mind for the few years since I bought this dress.  After simmering on the back burner of my projects list, it was only recently that I suddenly came up with this idea which felt ‘right’.  I went with it (as you can see), and was so pumped to dive in that a picture of the original sundress was forgotten before it became re-fashioned.  Oh well – it was very boring and basic after all.  The original dress was just an empire, under bust sundress with spaghetti straps and very long skirt which had two ruffles at the bottom hem.  There were inseam pockets – one on each side – at a very awkward, low hip spot.  It was pretty much shapeless and uncomplimentary, but the fabric is a wonderful rayon knit with a nice color and print, so I figured it was worth saving.

My first step was to cut off the bottom of the two large hem ruffles.  Most of this became the shoulder ruffle.  I couldn’t have asked for an easier refashion here – I kept the gathers at the top of the ruffle when I cut it off, so all I had to do was hand tack it to the spaghetti straps and the neckline front and back centers.

There was just enough left over from the shoulder ruffle to make a new, wide, middle body waist band so I could have more shaping than just the high empire seam (which gets covered by the ruffle anyway).  The skirt was cut off at the empire seam and my new middle waist panel was sewn in there instead.  It extends down to my natural waistline so the skirt could be re-sewn on at that point.  I did cut off an extra several inches from the top of the skirt portion, just so the inseam side pockets could be at a natural height for my hands at mid-hip.  Next, this was stretched while sewn onto the bottom waist seam of the middle body panel, giving the dress a nicely controlled and loosely gathered skirt.

As this is a ready-to-wear item originally, I departed from my normal dislike of serging (overlocking) seams and thought I would give it a go again just to match with the rest of the finishing inside the dress.  This is a knit so I figured I probably would not need to really change, adjust, or otherwise tailor this too much in the future…but hey, this was cheap enough to buy and no skin off my back if it didn’t turn out.

Since I do not have a serger, I made a visit to my wonderful neighborhood sewing room.  It’s a place equipped with every sort of machine, notion, fabric, pattern or necessary supply I could ever want sewing-wise and the best creative, happy, and friendly atmosphere one could ask for…with a kitchen and wash room to boot.  I pay a ‘per hour’ rate and get sewing done while relaxing and enjoying the company of interesting, fellow sewing enthusiasts.  There are many such places popping up all over – I suggest you search and see if there is something like this in your town…if there is, please support it; if not at least do what you can to connect with other sewing friends!  Apart from my diversion in topic, I now had the perfect reason to spend more time at my local city sewing room, and used the sergers and large cutting tables there to make and finish my dress.  I totally had much more fun making this dress than it is to wear it.

Don’t get me wrong.  My dress is great, and I do like it, but I am not just 100% won over by this off-the-shoulder trend.  I plan to try some more versions yet, to find one I like the best.  As elegant and airy as it is, I feel like I’m always loosing something down the sides of my arms…apparently I’m not used to it.  For those of you that do wear these off-the-shoulder fashions, I need to ask you some questions.  Do your ruffles ever happen to have their hems roll up on you when you lift your arms up?  (This is a “problem” with my dress.)  What do you do if you are chilly – do you like sweaters, loose shawls, or jackets over your off-the-shoulder ruffle fashions?  (I haven’t yet found something I like to cover my arms against some air conditioning which is cranked up like the inside of a refrigerator.)  Also, to get technical, does anyone know whether an off-the-shoulder ruffle is really a sleeve or not?  Just wondering.  If anyone can let me know what they think or know, it would be much appreciated.P.S. – Does anyone else (like me) get the biggest kick out of the character of Naomi from “Mama’s Family”?  I just couldn’t achieve her second season massively fluffy hair the day of our pictures, unfortunately…

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