“Hiding Hibiscus” Post War Peplum Set

The sun is now setting sooner and the leaves are just beginning to show some vibrant color, but that doesn’t mean a girl like me can’t take advantage of the lingering warm fall weather to dream of being somewhere more perpetually balmy!  I’ll just wear some fall color in the late 40’s Hawaiian style to reconcile myself with the now fading summer!

This outfit of me-made blouse, skirt, and belt was directly inspired by an outfit worn by the character of Ana Jarvis, from Season Two of Marvel’s TV show Agent Carter.  However, it was also a very good opportunity to experiment with more new-to-me fashion trends – peplums and scallop edging.  I have  seen both peplums and scalloping in many sources for this coming fall, especially scallop edging (check out Talbots, Valentino, Zara, and Nordstrom for some higher-end starters).  I also see this feature everywhere in post WWII 40’s fashion until the early 1950’s (see my Pinterest board on this for examples).  This scalloping is an easy and exciting detail that the home seamstress or anyone who sews can incorporate into any and all existing patterns.  I will show you later on in this post.  As for the peplum of the blouse I am wearing, this was a total dive into something I’ve always been dubious about as to whether or not it could be made to “work” for me.  I believe it does, thanks in no small part to my awesome custom made belt, and I am now a peplum convert.  The best part is the fact I have put a completely new spin on a popular Simplicity vintage re-print, #1590.

A post 1946 to pre-1955 peplum is my favorite interpretation of this style – so far!  I love the bias circle flare.  Peplums from this time slot were sort of like a balancing act of offering what was missing from the peplums of the preceding and following eras.  Peplums of the 30’s were long and lean or short and almost non-existent, during the war years of the 40’s, there were short and frilly peplums, and the 50’s had padded, flared, or deceptively unreal inflated hips. I see post WWII to early 50’s peplums as a subtle transition to more accentuation of the hips, a classic trademark of after the mid 50’s, rather than an exaggerating emphasis on the shoulders as fashion had been doing since the mid 1930’s.  Case in point, Simplicity released an almost identical peplum blouse pattern (with a different neckline and sleeves, granted) in the year 1955 as Simplicity #1344.  The Simplicity reprint I used for my blouse was originally Simplicity #2027, from the year 1947.  Peplums nowadays are fun and varied – they experiment with anything and everything in between…long, short, half, bias, paneled.  Have you learned to love peplums yet?

Speaking of what I love, it’s no secret (if you follow my blog) how much I adore the fashions on Agent Carter (both seasons), and I had to branch out and try more of the fashion of the indomitable wife of Mr. Jarvis.  (Here’s my first and second Mrs. Jarvis outfits.)  Ana Jarvis’ personal style was strongly Hawaiian, with some Tyrolean influence of the late 30’s as well, so I figured on going for “the real thing” if I was to channel her and be authentically true to both the 40’s and the island culture.  Kamehameha, the largest commercial manufacturer of Hawaiian garments, began in 1937 using tropical floral cotton prints from a dominion of the United States rather than importing Japanese textiles.  After WWII, when tourists again flocked to the islands, the Hawaiian garment industry flourished (info from Forties Fashion by Jonathan Walford).

I have used tropical and Hawaiian prints before, but they have been rayon printed imports (see here and here).  The Hawaiian garment industry still deserves to flourish and be respected for their individual culture as an important part of America’s history.  That’s why the fabric for my skirt was ordered directly from the island of Hawaii!  Yes, I ordered it direct from “Barkcloth Hawaii” and it is so soft and luxurious, in excellent quality.  Besides, I knew the fabric was meant for a Mrs. Jarvis outfit when I saw the fabric that was the closest match to the movie skirt was named “Ana” and a vintage print!  Some projects are just meant to be.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The skirt is a 100% cotton sateen bought from “Barkcloth Hawaii” online, while the blouse is a basic 100% cotton, American made, bought from Jo Ann’s.  My belt is light grey vinyl also bought as a remnant from Jo Ann’s.

PATTERNS:  My skirt and belt were self-drafted by me, while the blouse top was made using Simplicity #1590, a year 2013 re-issue of a year 1947 pattern, #2027.

NOTIONS:  I used everything that was already on hand to make this set – I had all the thread, bias tape, hook-n-eyes, and everything.  I bought a big pack of metal eyelets a while back for corset and belt making (like this one), so two more were not a problem!  The belt’s ties are actually 3 mm macramé cord…I bought a large spool of 50 yards of this stuff.  (It’s great for making one’s own piping, fyi!)  The skirt’s side zipper is a vintage metal one, but the blouse’s closure is a modern 22’’. 

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The skirt was made in about an hour, and the belt took me about 1 ½ hours.  The blouse was made in about 5 hours.  Everything was made in July 2017.

THE INSIDES:  For the skirt, selvedge edges are along the side seams, and the rest are bias bound.  For the blouse, most all of the seams are bias bound, too, but the side and peplum dart seam are merely edge stitched raw.  The belt is double layered, so it’s self-faced.

TOTAL COST:  The fabric for the Hawaiian fabric cost just under $30, the fabric for the blouse cost about $12 from Jo Ann’s, and the belt was a remnant which was about $8.  Thus this outfit cost me about $50.

Making this set was really pretty easy, no matter what it looks like!  It was just time consuming to make all three pieces and a bit overwhelming to remember all the self-drafting intricacies and adaptations I was doing.  I made the skirt first, and found that if goes with a number of my already existing tops – oh yeah!  Then I made the blouse, and I felt like it was okay, but not striking me immediately as awesome as I’d hoped.  After the third step, making the belt, the whole outfit was instantly brought together in a way that I LOVED!  It made all the extra effort to make a whole outfit so worthwhile.  This happens frequently for me, most recently with this 1914 set.  So often an outfit or even just a garment a missing a certain “something” to turn it from “meh” to “Wow!”  This is why taking that extra effort to make that little detail or bonus piece pays off.  Your outfit can give you the opportunity to respond to others with, “Thank you, I made this!”, best modern fast fashion by your individuality, and make you feel like a million!

Starting in the order they were made, the skirt began with only 2 yards of fabric.  I cut the length into two one yard cuts, and sewed the seams up on the sides along the selvedge.  Then, I folded along the same spot along the other side of the “stripe” just where the floral section begins.  The center front is an inverted box pleat, while the center back is an outward box pleat.  The rest of the skirt is shaped of knife pleats that go in the direction toward the centers.  This free form pleating, while making consistent folds, was brain blowing and took a tad over an hour to achieve…fold, pin, think, then take it apart and fold, pin, and think some more about sums it up.  Completed, the center back and front pleats were top-stitched down for 5 inches down from the waist, while the rest where left free.    From authentic images of some pleated 40’s skirts, and someone I know that has researched the decade well, I was told that folding a vertically directional print like this is quite historically authentic, besides being fun and making it relatively easy to be consistent.  Fashion in to 40’s had some truly inventive “peek-a-boo” fun when pleating with stripes and directional prints…here are hibiscus flowers hiding behind hanging branches of bougainvillea on my skirt!

As it turned out, the two yards folded the way I liked just barely fit me…I couldn’t have cut it any closer.  This left me with no extra fabric for a waistband like I originally intended.  I suppose I could have cut the waist band off the skirt below, because there is a very wide 8 inch hem along the bottom.  The wide hem helps to weigh down the poufy skirt, though, as does ironing the pleats.  I didn’t really want a contrast waistband, either, so a sewing friend recommended none at all!  A wide strip of bias tape was stitched on the top waist and turned under.  This waist makes it hard to tuck in a top and wear a belt, but I can’t win ‘em all!  For this outfit, the waist is not seen anyway.  I also ended adding in small 7 inch zipper along the left side, as well, with a hook-n-eye that attaches the pleats to one another from the inside.

The blouse was a real breeze to whip up, and had excellent fit and construction.  It’s no wonder this pattern has been in print for a while and is used by so many!  This blouse really is a winner.  I absolutely love the flat front peplum with its interesting capitol T made of a combo dart and seam lines!  The peplum is slightly longer in the back than it is in the front.  I made my “usual” size in Simplicity for the front half and the back I went a size up for ‘’reach room”.  Otherwise, believe it or not, I really didn’t change anything else besides cutting the center front on the fold rather than with a button placket, adding a zipper (with a seam) down the back center, and stitching the sleeve and neckline edge differently.

I started making the neckline and sleeve edges by originally cutting them out as a straight edge.  Then I drafted my own wide facings for the neck and sleeves and drew out the scallops with an invisible ink pen.  Ana Jarvis’s original blouse had wide, deep, dramatic scallops, and I even counted out six around the front neckline, one straddling the kimono shoulder seam, and about 6 for the back neckline.  The only item that I had on hand to use as a tracing guide which would equal the amount of scallops on the original was what I use for pattern weights… ¾ inch washer (which you can find in the hardware store).  Using only half of a washer to make each scallop, with ½ inch in between each, made for two inch wide, 1 inch deep half circles.  The scallops are just a tad smaller where the seams are, so my experiment turned out “perfect” (…what I was hoping for…) but still more amazing than I’d hoped.

If I learned anything to change next time for self-drafting this kind of edge, it’s that the scallops might lay better if they had been made shallower than a complete half circle, but large scale looks good on this blouse in the end, I believe.  I also learned the facing for scallops turns inside easily and keeps its original stitched shape if the seam allowance is trimmed to ¼ inch or less.  This sort of adaptation can be done to any plain edge or even seam line, on any pattern, too.  Just make sure to be precise and remember the seam lines if the scallops straddle them dead center.  Then go to it with adding scallops anywhere!

The belt was basically a wider draft off of this belt which I made for my Agent Carter “Hollywood Ending” dress.  It is merely two layers of vinyl with no interfacing.  The toughest part was hands down turning the two layers of vinyl right sides out after it had been mostly stitched up into a long tube…pure torture.  Never do this unless you sew wax paper inside…this would’ve helped the vinyl from sticking like glue to itself when trying really hard to turn right sides out.  After about a 45 minute “fight” turning the vinyl’s good side out and edges rolled out, the whole darn thing was then top stitched down ¼ away from the edge and two metal eyelets in the center edges.  Add the ties, finish the cut ends, and all is done!

As ecstatic as I am with this outfit, the episode from which this outfit comes is admittedly a very tense, tragic, and sad one.  Ana Jarvis wears this blouse, skirt, and belt set for the whole of Season Two’s episode 7, “Monsters”.  This luckily gave me the best chance to study and re-make versus many garments (from several characters) that get seen in short snippets.

I am impressed and happy that (as has happened before) Marvel’s Agent Carter series has help me enjoy a new-to-me, completely different style and silhouette of the 1940s and early 50s and make it work for myself.  No doubt it helps me like it when I know I can wear something as seen on the screens, straight from Hollywood, and be true to the era!  Besides, now I have a little (very little) part of Hawaii to bring into my life, no matter where I live or what the season.

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India’s independence, 1947

What better way to celebrate 70 years since India’s independence than with a culturally-influenced vintage 1947 dress which commemorates that momentous year.  Not only did I find a lovely, symbolical, amazing border print rayon challis for my India’s tribute dress, but I came up with (what I’ll admit) my most creative use yet of both a sewing pattern and fabric print.  More often than not, the ideas that pop in my head surprise myself,   especially when they come out as planned!

This dress deserved the trip to visit and appreciate our town’s Hindu Temple, one of the largest of its kind in our country.  It is a stunning piece of architecture and the most appropriate place I could think of locally to observe an event that impacted the religion and culture of India.   For those of you reading that know about this point in history, yes, I know it technically wasn’t just India that received independence (due to Jinnah), and yes, I am fully aware of the strife, turmoil, genocide, and hard times that both preceded and followed August 15, 1947.  I enjoy history and learning – it is the opposite of a chore – so I have read and researched an overwhelming amount of information regarding all areas relating to India and Pakistan’s freedom.  But don’t worry – I will not fill up this post with all of that here.  I only want to let you know how much depth and appreciation for a culture and an event from their past has went into this dress.  Designing, sewing, and posting about my Indian-influenced 1947 dress is not just about a creativity I am proud of doing, it also a manifests my deep amazement at what determination and a belief in one’s convictions can do for people…in this case, India 70 years ago.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% rayon challis, bought from “Simply Fabric of Oakland” Etsy shop

PATTERN:  a Marian Martin pattern #9208, year 1947

NOTIONS:  All I needed was thread, a bit of interfacing in the form of cotton broadcloth scraps, and a zipper – noting odd or out-of-the-ordinary, so it was all on hand already.  I’m still on the fence as to whether or not to add in shoulder pads!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress was made in about 15 hours and finished on September 2, 2016

THE INSIDES:  Nicely French seamed

TOTAL COST:  As you can see on the site, 3 yards of fabric (I bought plenty extra to have more of the border print) cost me $18 – so reasonable for as silky the quality is and how unique the print is!For some reason this pattern seemed to run very large.  Most of the mail order and now-defunct companies such as Du Barry, Hollywood, etcetera, frequently seem to run generous, but this pattern was technically an inch smaller than my real measurements (32 bust), and it sewed up as if it was a 35 or 36 bust with a very long waist.  I had to take out almost a whole two inches off of the bodice bottom just to have the waistband come close to my true waistline…and it still is not as high as I would like.  Of course, rayon challis is so drapey and flowing it can make a garment seem a bit bigger than if the same was sewn in a cotton or some such stable woven.  However, this one was a true oddity I believe, and as cool as the design is, the sizing and some of the balance marks were just plain off.

Mail order patterns I see are rarely officially dated.  Most of the times I go by postage stamp codes and style lines, with the occasional notes scrawled down which sometimes have a date.  From my research, the postal stamp is mid to post-WWII, with this asymmetric paneled style being so very specific to circa 1947, as well as very frequently used for Marian Martin line.  (See my Pinterest board “Asymmetric” for examples.)  There are some dresses and patterns similar in the years 1946 and ’48, but the average year comes back to ’47 and with my India-theme going on, I am going with 1947 for this project.  Besides, the silhouette is lean and elegant to this dress, and the full, quarter circle bias skirt in the front only (yes! so lovely) is something obviously later post WWII, when fashion was gearing up for a whole ‘new look’ of the 50’s.  The ‘straight off the heels of rationing’ patterns of 1946 would never have a skirt like this one…the likes of which are not to be seen since pre-WWII, year 1939 (such as my Whitney Frost “Superior” dress).  I originally had the notion of making this dress pattern a full wrap-around button down designer-knock-off design, like this one in the book “Forties Fashion” by Jonathan Walford.  But, no, not this time around…This dress is sneakily not draped even though it looks like it – it is actually asymmetrically paneled, sewn like that with the borders facing in.  The only true drape is in the back – a separate sash attached and hanging down from the one shoulder to anchor at a loop in the opposite side’s waistband.  This I added…it was my own idea both to use extra fabric (practical level) and to make it closer to a true Indian garment, one that would be appropriate for religious occasions (culturally respectful level).

My fusion of western and cultural influence in my dress is not just something from me – it is something that the most well-known (native, non-British) ladies were doing at the time in post WWII India.  One of the most inspirational women of our modern times actually gave me the idea for this outfit – Maharani Gayatri Devi, princess of the Indian princely state of Jaipur.  Many of her most well-known pictures (such as the early 40’s ones by Cecil Beaton or the one I’m including from The Calcutta Telegraph, 1945) show her wearing a sweetheart neckline dress, with a sari sash across the front, a look I sought to imitate by having the border print swoop directly parallel with one angle of the neckline.  She was a successful politician (winning in a Guinness recorded “world’s largest landslide”), and a supporter of the cultural arts and learning for girls, so she was much more than just a pretty face, although she was known for her beauty and fashion sense.  Also, post 1946 saw a boom, a resurgence of the already steamrolling Bollywood business and famous actresses such as Nargis all could be seen post WWII wearing dress styles very similar to my own – especially in the 1949 movie Andaz.

The border to this fabric was lovely – multi-layered like a sedimentary rock and therefore very useful for many purposes and fun to play with.  The border started along the selvedge with the dark green strip, which I used as the waist band for high contrast.  Small snippets of the green can be seen on my one shoulder and at the bottom asymmetric hip seam, but I didn’t want that color to stand out as much anywhere else besides the waistband.  Next, come layers of dizzying, fanciful, decorative scroll work and relief images, such as one would find on a building.  These layers were lined up with one side of the sweetheart neckline, and the asymmetric front dress panels.  Boy, was this step tricky!  I actually miss cut, and luckily I had just enough extra fabric to make a new bodice piece.  The border on the upper bodice piece dissipates down, while the lower hip panel has the border going up towards my head, making the whole of my front middle appear as if it’s a swath of a sari wrap.  The only full border is on the long sash that I made.  This sash come from the one shoulder which has the border print, and it can hang down loosely, but I mostly like it when it drapes across my back, made possible by looping into a small bias tube casing I added in the waist of the opposite side, where the side zipper closes.

The fabric’s background is equally as lovely and intricate, but the toned down colors of khaki and white hide the print which adds to the symbolism of the dress.  If you look closely there are ceremonial decorated elephants in white!  Elephants definitely one of the animals of importance to the culture of India, partly – no doubt – due to the fact Ganesh, one of the best-known and most worshiped deities in the Hindu pantheon , has the head of an elephant.  However the pachyderms on my fabric are so fancy they are they look like the ones paraded through festivals, such as the Dasara festival at Mysore or the amazing Tysar Purim festival.  Elephants are at the entrance of the temples and were heavily used for construction of large structures such as temples and palaces.  They represent some wonderful attributes, such as strength and prosperity, and the rare white elephants (like on my dress) actually represent rain to India’s culture.  Luckily, it wasn’t inclement weather for our pictures, only a lovely sky to match the “Krishna blue” on the Hindu temple behind me.

To match the rich, dark colors in my dress, I wore my B.A.I.T. “Violet” peep-toe heels in forest green.  This is a killer 1940’s style heel that is synonymous with Agent Peggy Cater, used (in a navy blue) for the first season of the Marvel television show Agent Carter.  These are not that comfortable at all, and the ball of my foot aches and my toes sort of go numb after only several hours of wearing…not good, I know.  However, I got a good deal for these and they do match with a lot in my 40’s wardrobe, so, for relatively short periods of wearing, these shoes are awesome.  I put a lot of thought and detail into my hairstyle, too, although you can’t really see it in the pictures.  It is a mix of ethnic and 40’s, just like my dress – each side has a twist up which ends on top my head, with victory rolls and pompadour rolls front and back, sort of like this picture of the actress Brijmala.  With my ethnic brass hoop earrings, my outfit is set!

Sadly, I do not have enough places or reasons to wear my Sari inspired dress as often as I would like.  It is not something that fits many general occasions.  I think I will just have to put it on and wear it when I want to – there is no sense making something I love otherwise!  Often times, the vintage pieces I wear get people I meet and even random bystanders around me to make comments, ask me questions, and get a conversation going.  I like this, even welcome it – it is an opportunity I enjoy.  Hopefully, this dress will give off the same mojo as my other vintage outfits (whatever that is…) and get me and others talking.  We do have some very good friends that are just like family – they have parents who lived through the years of change in India, as well as distant relatives still in India – so this dress, and my research associated with it, will hopefully lead me to have an understanding of their culture like never before next time we talk.

I hope this post has inspired and informed you a bit regarding a little known facet of history which has had so much to do with making the modern world be as we know it today.  Please take a few moments on this anniversary of India’s independence to look up some extra info if you’re really motivated!  Let me suggest the short and sweet “Rarely Known Facts About India’s Independence and Partition” or the chock full of videos and pictures “Five Things You Didn’t Know About India’s Independence” for starters.

As always, thanks for reading!

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1940’s Arch Waist Blue Jeans

My new found enjoyment wearing (and success in making) my first pair of vintage pants gave me gusto to jump in to fill a gap in my wardrobe: comfy, casual vintage inspired jeans. Jeans are something I’ve learned to do without, mostly because it seems near impossible to find a pair that fulfills all of my requirements – room in the bottom area, vintage appeal, tailored details, and a waist that really sits at the waist, all the while being complimentary on myself. Whew! No…it’s way more fun and appropriate for me to make my own jeans.

100_4458I now have the ultimate vintage jeans, perfect in every way possible to my own discriminating taste. I also feel I’ve found the happy medium between loose comfort and tailored fit. Hopefully I can inspire others with this post to turn to their inner talents and provide for themselves, creating their own personal style to appeal to their own unique individual taste. Do not rest dissatisfied with wearing what doesn’t fit or suit you – be the one to make that change!

Now for THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  A 100% cotton mid-weight denim, in a medium blue wash. It was bought from a Jo Ann Fabrics store.Simplicity4044

NOTIONS:  All I needed to buy was a zipper for the side. The rest of what I needed – the interfacing, hook and eye, and thread – was already on hand.

PATTERN:  Simplicity 4044, a 1940’s outfit reprinted with a modern date of 2006

TIME TO COMPLETE:  These jeans were a breeze to make once I got past the fitting and adjusting of the pattern. I spent maybe 2 hours of time to customize the pattern, and then only 5 hours to cut, sew, and finish the jeans. They were done on February 6, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  …left raw. This denim has a tight weave so it really doesn’t fray much on the raw edges.

TOTAL COST:  I paid half price for the denim, and the jeans only took 2 yards to make, so my total (with the zipper) was only about $8.00. Pretty good, huh?!

The Simplicity #4044 pattern I used for these jeans was even easier than the other Simplicity pattern (#3688) used to make my first pants. Although it is unfortunately out of print, it seems readily available to purchase from many different sellers. I bought mine from Etsy.

I did a bit of research to be able to pin down exactly what part of the decade of the 1940’s might be the source for this pattern, Simplicity 4044 reprint. At first, I was focused mainly on the arch-waisted style, but looking into the design of the jacket happily co-ordinates with the years I found for dating the waist style. There is a McCall #6019 pattern for a skirt and bolero jacket, and it has an arch-waisted skirt front with arched/scalloped pocket detail on the jacket as well. Now the skMcCall 6019 two-piece bolero suit year 1945 - Advance 3964 suit set year 1945irt detailing is similar to the pants and skirt waist of the Simplicity reprint, as are the jacket sleeves, but the skirt box pleat is a change and bolero style is missing. Now let’s look at a pattern in my collection, Advance #3964. The jacket in this pattern is almost exactly the same as the design in the Simplicity reprint, with its paneled sleeves and long jacket front and single button waist closure. What I find interesting is that the pattern I gave as similar examples, McCall #6019 and Advance #3964, are both from 1945. This paneled, streamlined jacket style is very much a war-time design – it was in skinny and small pattern pieces meant for going towards re-fashioning an existing man’s suit. The skirt style of center front box pleats were a staple of the years 1942 to about 1945, with basic, full,Grace Kelly teen model pic 1947 - line drawing for Simplicity 4044 reprint A-line styles not as frequently used, so Simplicity 4044 throws my fashion reasoning off just a bit. Nevertheless, I have a strong “guess-timation” here that Simplicity 4044’s pieces are from late war-time, definitely 1945. Simplicity probably did not reprint a McCall or Advance pattern, so I’m assuming there is an original pattern I’m missing out on highlighting here. However there’s one more piece to my puzzle. The picture you see on the side here is from 1947 of the young, then teen model, Princess Grace Kelly wearing bottoms with an arched-front waist, setting the possibility of the fashion of Simplicity 4044’s set back even more to post-war fashion.

100_4482This time around for making trousers, I read up and informed myself on better fitting techniques, ways to understand the shape of your body, and how to do a full booty adjustment, which I needed. None of this is for the faint of heart, so if you’re squeamish about knowing the shape of your booty and the true measurements of your body, I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t like what I found out either, but…hey – the way I see it, I am how I am, and I’m healthy and happy so I shouldn’t put myself up to some artificial standards.

My primary step was so have a second pattern “victim” to cut and mark up at will. Only the top half of the pants pattern (both front and back) was copied on a machine so I could have a paper version. I also had to choose sizing first off, too. I was in between sizes for the waist so I stayed in between, but went up in size for the hips and carried that size all the way down the pants legs. As my jeans turned out just a tad too roomy in the waist, I think going down a size might be a good idea for anyone else in between sizing because this pants pattern is generous and, without a set waistband, these pants need to fit well to stay up. Of course, there are always “braces” or suspenders to fix droopy drawers!

100_5346a-compNext, I used two sites to guide me in my pants adjustments – “Sew Your Boat” blog – on a ‘BBA’ and Colette’s tutorial on “Pants fitting basics” (although Colette’s “Pants fitting cheat sheet” is good info, too). After reading through “Sew Your Boat” post, my first step was to find out the shape on my booty and see if the fullest part back there is low hanging so I can know where to add the necessary room. I did her “aluminum foil roll shaped around the crouch line” trick…and yes it is weird and funny, yet it works. You look at the shape of the foil and think, “This is me?” At least I knew exactly how to shape the booty of the pants because now I had a template. Next, I did the “slash and spread” method. I had the finished garment measurements of the unaltered garment and compared them to my measurements with added generous ease, and compared the two to see how much room to add in the “slash and spread”. I supposed I rather ran high on the measurement combo of my measurements + ease, so I chose the happy middle between that and the finished pants measurement – a total add in of about 1 ½ inches, slightly more or less. Finally, I used the booty form to do a finishing touch-up shaping of the “slashed and spread” back half pattern piece. The front piece was relatively left untouched except for the bottom point of the crouch (top of the inner leg seam). That part was re-drawn just an inch lower to make a wider dip of a curve so as not to have a drastically baggy bottom. All in all, my effort and figuring here completely paid off with exactly the fit and feel I had hoped to find…sewing bliss!

100_4474With this much done, the pants were cut out and constructed as instructed. I simply overlapped the paper top half over the tissue bottom half to come up with one whole pants leg pattern and cut it that way. As my fabric was 60 inch width, I was able to actually use less than the 2 yards asked for, and now I have a nice chunk of about ½ a yard of denim to use for another project. This pants pattern does have a side seam, and there are small tucks in the front, and small darts in the back, so there are a few no too complicated steps and details to accomplish when sewing the preliminary steps.100_5344a-comp

The trickiest part of the jeans were the arched front detail, but as you get into it, it is not as hard as one might expect. The arched front, together with the facing that finishes the inside, only requires taking one’s time to be precise with the stitching (and marking beforehand). I was impressed at how well the facing matched up and stabilized the waist of the pants pattern– sometimes small facing pieces can, if they are a tad wonky, throw everything off.

Words cannot describe how incredibly pleased I am with everything about my 1940’s jeans – from the fabric to the fit but especially the pattern. I do find the appearance of the pants on myself to be not exactly as complimentary as I had hoped. However, they have such a subtle unique vintage quality to them, one which does not scream vintage but still speaks of style. I cannot but love them. I also cannot wait to make the jacket pattern from the same Simplicity reprint as my pants – I even have a lovely Glen plaid fabric slated to make a suit skirt/jacket set, hopefully for this coming cold season. If you don’t have Simplicity 4044, and happen to come across it for sale, snag it and let me know what you make from it!

I couldn’t resist going with the whole Captain America/”red-white-and-blue” thing to pair with my jeans. A favorite past project, my 1943 cotton basic blouse, was worn with my jeans, layered over my favorite captain America tee shirt. I felt like some secret superhero opening my top to show off my Captain America shield tee underneath.

100_4466Do you have an article of clothing that you have conquered when it comes to fit and understanding? Be it pants, shirts or knit fabrics, the world of sewing and the fabric arts is always there to provide a challenging, interesting, and creative project for those willing to tackle it – never a dull moment necessary!

Fooled You! They’re-Fake-Suspenders 1947 Day Dress

Post WWII was an interesting time for the fashion world to dive into new styles, new fabrics, and new idealized silhouettes. While some things were changing, some things were also staying the same. The dress presented in this post is from 1947, a year caught in between the famous Dior “New Look” and the lingering classic 40’s appearance. I made this dress a little bit of both worlds but still oh-so-very 40’s – it is the classic comfort of basic cotton and accentuated shoulders, together with the boldness of dramatic color-blocking and handy, yet interesting details.100_4015abadge.80This is another “Agent Carter” Sew Along post.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  A basic 100% cotton broadcloth was used for the entire dress, bought from Hancock Fabrics. The main color, a deep purple, is slightly stiffer than the contrast color, a bright Kelly green.

NOTIONS:  I had bought the bias tapes, zipper, and thread needed when I had picked out the fabric, so that everything was on hand when the dress was finally put together. Half of the needed bias tapes were on clearance – ya hoo! – bought for only $1.

100_4026aPATTERN:  Simplicity #2075, year 1947

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Not long at all (in my estimation), at total time of about 8 hours, stretched out over three evenings. My dress was finished on September 26, 2014, and worn out to go vintage shop browsing the very next day.

THE INSIDES:  Everything is nicely covered in bias tape, and the only seams left, the suspenders, are covered on the inside by being lapped over with another mirrored piece. Smooth and comfy on my skin!

100_4035TOTAL COST:  I don’t really remember exactly anymore, only I think it might have cost me around $15 to $20, which is a little more than expected on account of buying double amount of the purple cotton (I’ll explain later).

The split neck and the pocket placement and styling is classic of ’47/’48. The hips began to be emphasized more for the first time in the decade – an early way to ease into the overly-exaggerated hips of Dior’s “New Look”, unveiled in 1947. The hip emphasis of ’47 and ’48 patterns is still quite subtle and very beautiful, in my opinion. I love the way that pockets were something more to show off externally and incorporate into the style of the outfit, rather than merely creatively hiding perfectly placed pockets, highlighting only with an external flap or such, like in most 1946 and earlier patterns. Here below are some sample 1947 and 1948 patterns (which I do not own) to prove an example for my point.  A style very similar to my ’47 dress, with fake suspenders, also apparently came back in the 80’s.

McCall #6752 yr1947,left, McCall #7185,yr1948,rightVogue 8375 80's tops, Simplicity 2094 yr 1947

My 1947 Simplicity #2075 pattern gave me the opportunity for some fun color pairing or stripe contrasting. I chose the color blocking, short sleeved option this time, but I can’t wait to make a wintertime long sleeved dress out of some bold stripes, just like on the other model in the envelope cover (see above). I tended to go for the bright apple green color for the pockets and “suspenders”, no doubt on account of the cover. The thought of having a dress with so much solid color of grey would not be very complimentary on me, so I paired the bright green with a very dark, deep purple. Using cotton broadcloth made my choice of these two colors quite a challenge, because Hancock Fabrics has so many colors and different tones to choose from.

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My second leg is really there, just hidden!

The fact of matter is, my choice in color, fabric, and pattern for this 1947 dress is technically not a new one. Simplicity #2075 pattern is one of the very first old patterns I bought in 2011 when I discovered the vintage world. I knew wanted to make the dress, but d100_4016aidn’t pick out the fabrics until 2012. This dress was cut out and ready to be sewn up for Lucky Lucille’s 2013 “Sew for Victory” sew along, but that didn’t happen so the next year I made sure not to put off this project any longer. Sometimes waiting so long for the finished product of a project really makes you amazed and extremely happy to finally be able to wear it, although there is the possibility for it to be totally neglected or even loose it’s “new” and “exciting” luster. Even still, I am very happy to see my idea completed after all this time. My only regret is that I wish I had bought slightly more fabric, because I had to shorten the hem to mid-1940’s below knee length, instead of the proper mid-calf fall of the late 40’s skirts and dresses.

I made the construction of my fake suspender dress just a bit harder for myself so as to get paid off for it later by having a nicely finished project. Firstly, all of the purple pieces are double layered, because a single layered seemed too see-through…this is why I bought double amount and spent a bit more money. The double-layers made the seams quite thick for my machine to sew over, especially since all the seam edges were covered in bias tape. This purple cotton broadcloth is tightly woven! Secondly, I doubled up on the suspender and pocket pieces to have the insides covered and stable, and to give a deep toned color for a dramatic contrast to the purple. Now, just to clarify, the bright green fake 100_4025suspenders are actually a separate piece that gets sewn on and connects the sleeve/side bodice section to the middle bodice section. The suspenders are not just applied bands! (See pattern back picture.) Neat, huh? Lapped onto the inside of the suspender piece you see from the outside, is a second piece sewn down. The pockets were supposed to (as per the instructions) just have the opening edge turned under with bias tape. However, I treated the second pocket piece like a facing, sewing them together at the opening curved edge, then turning right sides out and top-stitching for a smooth finish, before the rest of the pocket was sewn on the dress like instructed.

100_4018Besides the interesting features of the dress which I have mentioned already, there is a very curious detail under the pocket area which unfortunately is completely hidden. At the upward arch where the pocket comes to join in the dress’ waistband, there are a handful 100_4033of tucks on either side underneath, on the purple cotton. Then the top strip gets gathered and sewn right over those tucks…why?! I thought the tucks looked good (hated to cover them up), and they sure make that spot a bit bulky, especially with the pocket top gathered, there too, and belt tabs sewn in that same spot, too! That’s right, this dress also has contrast green belt carriers, like big free hanging loops. I love the late 40’s Post-War fashion – so elegant and fetching and intricate.

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You can see how the fake suspenders wrap over my shoulders…however, I blinked!

Keeping the whole color-blocking theme going, I decided to make my own belt out of the same deep purple cotton as for the rest of the dress. The belt pattern included with the dress pattern was the one I used. Each time I make a belt I seem to make it differently in order to find my favorite, or at least the best, way. This time I experimented using “Stitch Witchery”, and I must say I am ecstatically pleased. It was easy, too. Three belt pieces were cut, two out of the purple cotton and one from the “Stitch Witchery”. Then I sewed the belt as any tube or tie would be sewn, including top-stitching. The final step was the ironing process which fuses all the layers and sets the belt into being one stable but flexible amazing “new” single piece of belting. Luckily, the belt was exactly the size of a sliding insert style of belt from my stash. The buckle might be fairly new, but it was a low-shine, low-key silver color to provide a neutral balance to the two bold colors of my 1947 dress.

Color blocking strikes me as holding a very odd, but special place in the history of the fashion world. It appears that pairing two different solid colors, whether in the same color group of not, has been around for quite many decades, and it still always has the ability to seem fresh and new. Of course, the ways in which the colors were used on garments has changed a bit. Not until the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and especially 60’s did different tones get assigned to panels and sections which are part of the clothing’s’ construction rather than layering contrasting tones of separate pieces of clothing like in past centuries. For some ideas of color blocking from the past, see this Pinterest page.

Agent Carter at Cafe in two tone dress from facebookPeggy Carter, from Marvel’s “Agent Carter” TV series, wears an amazing color stepped dress that is actually a vintage 40’s original. It has a duo of patriotic “Captain America” colors – cranberry red and dark navy blue – which run horizontally across a wide waist cummerbund. There is an excellent video on Marvel.com (found here at this link) where you can see this dress in reality, and see the rest of Peggy’s wardrobe closet. Apparently the waist cummerbund is attached to the front part of the dress, and, after studying pictures, I have also noticed several rows of runching below the center of the contrast bias neckline. The neckline detailing and her sleeves makes me guess that this dress is from about the year 1944 or earlier. (See the right 1938 ad for a very similar color blocked National Bella Hess catalog ad, 1938 color blocked tops and dress -cropped picdress.)  She is stuck in the life she had during the war, so wearing a dress that might be a few years old (the TV show takes place in 1946) would make sense for her character. Nevertheless, her dress is beautiful, and I challenge someone to use a pattern like Simplicity #1692 (a year 1944 reprint) to make a knock-off copy…I hope to make one myself at some point!