Foundational Lingerie: a 1942 Rayon Slip

Basic is beautiful to me for my new under garment sewing creation. Between being extremely useful and complimentary to a woman’s curvy shaping, this undergarment is now a frequently worn winner in my wardrobe of sewn garments. Believe me, once you make an undergarment, you suddenly realize that a complete outfit is really only achieved my working from the inside out.

100_5039a-compThis is sort of part one of two blog posts, both connected to the same outfit based off of Whoa Nelly for Agent Sousathe same episode from the Marvel’s “Agent Carter” television, “The Iron Ceiling”, Season 1, Episode 5, aired on February 3, 2015. I’ll address at the end of the post about Episode 5 and the way my slip creation is connected to part two post. Inspiration aside, I ultimately made my slip because 1.) I needed it, 2.) I can’t find anything to buy like what I wanted, and 3.) I wanted to have an entire outfit, inside and out which I made and that will co-ordinate perfectly with my vintage as well as modern garments. Besides, it’s always fun to try new things and use up leftover remnants laying in one’s stash bin, both applicable to my slip!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  One yard of pure white 100% rayon challis100_4996-comp

NOTIONS:  I had the thread, bias tape, twill tape ribbon, and zipper needed on hand already.

PATTERN:  Simplicity #4352, year 1942

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Not long at all…this creation was effortless. In all, I spent maybe 4 hours in total and it was finished on April 18, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  The inner edges are left raw to do their own thing, merely stitched over. The top edge and bottom hem are covered by sewing down and folding in bias tape.

100_5048-compTOTAL COST:  around $5 (more or less, I don’t remember precisely)

100_4998-compNow just to clarify a few things about the specifics of my pattern, I have not as yet found any record or picture of another version of Simplicity #4352 which is says “Made in Canada” like mine does. This combo must be rarer, but to be more unusual it also mentions in the bottom corner, “Simplicity Patterns are featured in Chatelaine Magazine.” I’m not sure what that magazine was exactly besides a woman’s periodical of the time, but I’m thinking that my find is a bit special. This is my first WWII Canadian pattern.

From what I can tell from the American versions of this slip pattern, and from the styling of the garment together with the envelope lettering, all point to the fact that it is highly probable to be from year 1942. However, this particular design seems to have been reprinted for a few years during WWII (highly common), so if it’s not from ’42 precisely, the pattern would be no later than 1945. Out of a dislike to be vague and a will to be decisive, I’m sticking with assigning to my slip the first year it seemed to surface – 1942.

100_5043a-compThe back guide for the needed fabric amount showed much more than I really needed. As you can see in the facts, I only made this out of one yard. There were a few things that effected this frugality of fabric. The width of the rayon I used was 60 inches wide (helping to fit more of the pattern pieces on the layout), and I did shorten up the slip to be just below my knees, but it was the way I folded the fabric at the layout stage – with the selvedge edges in at the middle to make two fold lengths – which really helped get the most out of a small amount. The pattern pieces were really long and skinny because of the princess seaming, so I also oppositely staggered the pieces…meaning I would place one with the large end towards the left, the next piece towards the right, then back to the left for the bigger end of the next. Extreme, I know, and it’s not that I don’t use my scraps, but a 1940’s thrifty WWII woman would have had the same mindset. Yup, this slip was another exercise in the art of getting the most of every possible free space on a cut of fabric with no compromises on the grain line. This economy at the cutting stage adds to my overall satisfaction/pride with my finished project.

I did have to lightly grade up in size for the slip, and I added it in two increments: at the sid100_5049-compe seams and at the centers in front and back, by moving the pattern away the necessary amount from the fold edge. The long princess seam down the center of the bust was sewn with a seam allowance slightly smaller by ¼ inch to shape the slip better for me. All the long seams were top stitched down for a smooth look under clothes without relying on constant ironing to keep things in place. The side zipper is quite necessary to keep the slip’s close streamlined fit, nipping in the waist, and amazingly not really a problem to me under other skirts, tops, or dresses with side zippers, too.

Using rayon challis for making a slip was the best thing ever! I absolutely love, love, love rayon – its hand, its wear, its ease to work with, and its historical accuracy – so it was a matter of course for me to turn to using it. However, you know that annoying polyester fabric that seems so beautiful and drapey on the bolt until you actually wear it and it turns into a static mess, clinging to your every move unless you spray it to death with static cling or line it with another fabric? Whew. Yeah, it’s a gross and annoying problem for sewers. Well, wearing a non-static, natural fiber rayon slip 100% completely miraculously solves that former curse of polyester. Hallelujah! So simple, I don’t know why I haven’t come across this solution earlier. Cotton would be anti-static, as well, and silk would, too, but it’s expensive and not used during the 1940’s. Rayon flows well, even with similar fabrics like cottons, woolen, and even other rayon, too.

I’m not sure what would be 40’s appropriate for the straps, but I used what was on hand – twill tape ribbon. My mind considered making the strap adjustable, but in the end, they were just stitched down. Hey…I am my own tailor, designer, do-it-all, so if the straps need to be fixed I’ll just unpick and re-fix.100_4999-comp

Check out that small detail line drawing close-up! It has such a tiny spot on the cover, I had to zoom in for you. Now you can see the two different versions to be made. I chose the drop neck version because open necklines will work with it better, and, besides, it’s just so darn pretty with the dip in the back neckline as well! I do love the straight neck version, with all the lace on it, but it’s not so practical for me. The cover is just all over appealing to me, from the loose pigtails to the bow-topped heels.

Now for an inspiration explanation. In the beginning of “Agent Carter” “The Iron Ceiling” Episode, Peggy is wearing a deep teal, white pin-striped masculine-inspired shirt dress. Once she gets the o.k. to fly off on a secret mission, she proceeds to change at the men’s locker –the only spot available – into a Agent Sousa catches Peggy changingcommando, military outfit. Here we see a brief, fleeting glimpse of her under slip in an uncomfortable but hilarious situation for her co-workers. I do own a vintage 1940’s black rayon slip, very much like the one seen briefly on Peggy in “Agent Carter”, and the straps are very skinny and adjustable, with remarkable shaping. However, I wanted to make her outfit from “The Iron Ceiling” Episode, and I intended to sew the whole this myself…both slip and dress. Thus, starting from the inside out like it mentioned earlier, part one (this post) is about my slip, and part two will be my copy of what Agent Carter wore over it – a pinstriped shirt dress.

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“Winter Mint” Suede 1942 Shirt Dress

As refreshing as a soothing after dinner treat, this 1940’s outfit is a sweet thrill. Dating to the early 1940’s, my outfit is as much of a joy to wear as it was to sew and make. It is like a breath of an assurance for balmy weather, on account of the creamy pastel color of my dress, while still being prepared for the cold, because of my long sleeves, my hat, and fabric choices – all wrapped up in one plush, cozy, fashionable package.

100_4499a-compNot knowing how to pin down a descriptive title for the color of my dress, I coined it “winter mint” one night while talking about my project. I haven’t yet come up with a name for my hat, except for adjectives like “amazing”, “versatile”, “luxurious”, and “handy”. Even my dress’ belt was made to match the specific color and needs of my dress. This is the one outfit so far for which my own two hands have put together, from scratch, an entire outfit of clothes and accessories to wear with one another, contrast/compliment one another, and match in time and era.

badge.80This is part one of two blog posts. This post will focus on detail about my dress its pattern, and photo shoot location info. Part two will show info on my hat (how it was made and its practicality), how I came up with making a matching belt, and early 40’s hair fashion.  These two posts are part of my “Agent Carter” 1940’s Sew Along.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The dress is made using a 100% polyester micro-suede. One side is a lighter, more pastel tone with the fuzzy nap of the suede, the other side is satin finished with a darker tone. McCall 5040 yr 1942

NOTIONS:  Some thread was on hand already, I needed no interfacing, and the button is vintage from hubby’s Grandmother’s stash. Nothing but a side zipper was needed to buy.

PATTERNS:  McCall #5040, year 1942

TIME TO COMPLETE:  On December 29, 2014, just before the new year and in the heart of winter, I finished my suede dress after about 15 to 20 hours.

THE INSIDES:  The dress’ insides are left raw as the fabric does not fray and is very soft.

TOTAL COST:  For the dress, I used a Hancock Fabrics gift card (yay for great birthday presents!) to pay for my fabric, but the total cost (which I didn’t pay) came to about $18 for 3 yards.

I really can’t peg down this outfit…is it dressy, casual, somewhere in between? Whatever it is, I’ve got nothing like it in my closet before now, and I like having this dress on hand for easy vintage dressing. It seems hard to get those amazing vintage outfits which are practical for cold weather climates at the same time, but I think I found it here. The micro suede is polyester, I know, but what creative person could possible resist playing with the two tones of the right and the wrong sides, as well as LOVE wearing a fabric which feels so good on the skin?!

100_4504-compIt was quite tricky to figure out the right/wrong side configuration during the pattern layout stage so as to make to dress sections contrast one another. My capability of thinking clearly was put to the test, like when I layout out a pattern on striped or plaid fabric – no half-asleep mindless cutting this time, as sometimes happens for some projects that are super easy. The sleeve cuffs, the skirt pockets, the side bodice sections, and the neck collar were all cut out in the deeper-colored satin side of the fabric, with the rest of theMcCal 4998, yr 1942 contrast yoke bodice dress dress (the skirt pieces, sleeves, middle front and back bodice sections) cut to show the fuzzy suede side. With my chosen pattern having such spectacular designing and seaming, I had to show those features off.  Here’s the cover of another year 1942 McCall pattern (#4998 which I do not own) which shows a dress with very similar design lines with contrasting “satin and matte” sections, too.

I did find sizing and fit of this pattern to be not as predictable as all the other 1940’s McCall patterns I have made already. The pattern I had was technically my correct size, with the bust being an inch or so big, but I thought it was close enough. I added a tad more in sizing (1/4 inch) to the side seams of the bottom skirt half of the dress, and the top half of the dress had a small measurement taken out (1/4 inch) to the sides, from the waist up. Even still, the skirt portion still came out snug when it was finished, and I had to take out the ½ inch seams down to 3/8 or ¼ inch instead. Seams that small are pushing the limit of safety, but it’s all I could do to be comfortable with the fit…unless I eat a large meal and fill in any extra space! In contrast, the top half, waist-up portion of the dress turned out roomy and blousy, which is authentic in fit and appearance for the 40’s. Shoulder pads were added into the shoulders to fill in the blousy shirt dress top half, thus keeping it from drooping and defining the silhouette.

100_4519a-compSuch a loose fit for the waist up of my “winter mint” dress would not be minded so much, if only the shoulders didn’t fit me just slightly wonky by drooping lower than normal. Hubby says the droopy shoulders are there, but barely noticeable to anyone else. Isn’t that how it goes? Crafting one’s own garments often makes you your own hardest critic – I know this is the case for me. Sometimes, I mentally build up small points which fall short of my own high standards into a giant discrepancy. Hopefully some of you, my readers who sew, are also perfectionists and can commiserate with me here. In other words, my dress is just fine and perfect in its own right, I just need to quit being hard on myself while wearing it to completely be happy of the fit and way it was made.

The pattern never mentioned anything about interfacing in the construction and layout instructions, so I didn’t add any into the suede dress. I know old patterns, especially 1940’s and earlier, take it for advantage that a seamstress will know precisely what to do without needing to be told. However, I thought better than to add it anyway, liking to keep up with the soft and easy feel of the suede fabric to lend my dress a similar air. I also made my brown collared 1949 dress the same way as my new suede dress, with no interfacing in the collar and such. It seems appropriate for both of those dresses to be made this way, but it is not my normal practice for most of the collars and cuffs I construct.

100_4503-compLike most of the printed 1940’s McCall patterns I have seen, this McCall shirt dress also has its own subtle special features. Bust fullness is provided by four rows of ruched gathers in the side bodice panel. The sleeves end in satin cuffs, made to be closed with cuff links. There are handy set in pockets that are a bit too small to be 100% utility, but still handy. The pockets follow through with the bust side panel section, finishing that front style lines. The skirt front has a center box pleat, while the back skirt has the classic three panel construction of 40’s McCall patterns for great shaping over the posterior. Some of the seams and features to my dress were lost in the plushness of the suede fabric, so I wanted to mention them just in case they couldn’t be seen very well in our pictures.

I really do not understand the button and loop up at the top of the neck opening.  100_4523a I followed the pattern, but as it turns out the button and loop closes at the very closely around my neck, which I’m not 100% comfortable with for long periods of time.  Oh well!  At least I finally had the opportunity to use a single amazing vintage button from my hubby’s Grandmother’s stash.  It is a close match with my dress…actually just dark enough to be noticeable.  The button sort of reminds me of a yin-yang, but each side has an opposite slant and tiny grooves on the surface.

100_4522-compIn order to honor warmer weather with my outfit, I wore a pendant of a hummingbird, made from abalone shell and sterling silver. The day of our photo shoot was one of those late winter days that are suddenly balmy, becoming a teaser. No, I have time to wait for the little nectar loving hummingbirds to come, but they’ll come soon enough.

Our photo shoot location was at the front promenade to the Municipal Opera Theatre building in our city’ downtown park. Looking up information about it shows that it was built and opened in 1917, but we saw some sort of dedication stone on the front that dated 1939. Either way, this time period book-ended in the main height of the Art deco era (my favorite), so we tried to include some of these details in the background. My favorite part about the Municipal Opera are those doors, with their beautiful clean lines. The doors remind me of my dress – straight lines and a few curved lines, and something that makes me smile!

100_4493Have you made a garment that reminds of the very opposite season, like my “Winter Mint” dress? Maybe a summer pattern made to work for winter wear, or a winter garment made into summer appropriate colors, for only two examples of dressing for a different season. It’s nice to know the weather outside does not have control over one who can make one’s own fashion!

Peggy at Griffith interviewThis is also my first total foray into wearing solid, one tone color. I admire how Peggy in Marvel’s “Agent Carter” knows how to wear primarily solid colors so well, a “talent” (if you call it that) I have a hard time achieving.  Look at her amazing brown and pink shirt dress at left.  Floral and patterned fabrics are very attractive and appealing, so hard to resist! Do you like patterns or solids, and how do you like to best pair or accessorize solids?

Stay tuned for part two!