City Wildlife

January is the depths of winter here and right now we are getting bombarded with frozen precipitation.  Yuk…this is not ‘my thing’.  As an August baby, I need a reason to remember the warm days when I could wear my favorite skin-baring sundresses!

I have not forgotten late last years’ beginning of my “Indian Summer of the Sundress” series, and so I’d like to add another installment to it with this post.  I figure it might help those of you in the depths of winter like me as well as inspiring those in the warm weather at the opposite side of my location!  This time I have a ‘modern-does-late-mid-century’ look in an animal print maxi.  It’s a properly classy yet subdued unruliness made to visit the animal and human wildlife for an event in our city zoo over this past summer.  Happily, a giraffe was more than willing to oblige to be in the background of some of our pictures even though I am wearing leopard (these big cats can be their predators in the wild).

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a super soft quilting cotton print fully lined in your average soft cotton unbleached muslin

PATTERN:  Simplicity #2180, year 2011

NOTIONS:  all I needed was a lot of thread, a bit of interfacing, and an invisible zipper, all of which was on hand

TIME TO COMPLETE:  about 15 to 20 hours went into making this dress; it was finished on August 25, 2018

THE INSIDES:  full lining means, “What seams? I don’t see ‘em.”

TOTAL COST:  As this has project idea been sitting in my stash for a while now, with the fabric bought a few years before that, I’m counting it as free by now.

This dress has been on my “to-make” bucket list for about 5 years now.  I remember it was one of the projects I wanted to tackle in the early days of my blogging, yet some of the details to it intimidated me at that time, so it got shoved to the back of the queue.  No longer!  However it was a good thing that I did put off making it because this sundress was challenging…not so much to make, just to fit and tweak to point where I am happy with it.  None of my changes are really noticeable when you look at the original design, though, so they are nothing major.  No, I wouldn’t do that to it – I love the style lines too much to really change them!

The back bodice triangular tied-together style is something I’ve seen again and again in mid to late 1950’s extant vintage dresses for sale at shops online.  I enjoy the fact that it is revealing yet you can still wear conventional brassiere under it!  It’s not like being completely backless but it sure gives off that air…so sexy with its teasing!  I can’t tell from the pictures whether or not the true vintage dresses really tie or are sewn shut in imitation.

Nevertheless, to make things easy for myself, I made the center back of my dress sewn down together.  The pattern calls for a tie back, but that sounds fiddly to me besides possibly creating a knot for me to sit back on – ouch!  I also didn’t want the complexity of ties to cover up the back design because I think the simplicity of the back is just beautiful.  It’s also perfectly airy for a hot summer day.  For my fix, I merely corrected the angle and left off the tie straps, which originally were and extension of the neckline facing.

I did not like the original neckline finishing though.  It was too wide and appeared stifling compared to the rest of the dress.  So I made my facing half the width.  I like the slightly more open neck and low key element to my version of the neckline facing.  However, I did have to slightly customize the shape of the front neckline because the bust (cutting out what should have been my ‘correct size’) turned out quite large in the chest.

To aesthetically correct the generous upper bust, I made two cross-bias darts that end at the upper bust and come out of either side of the bottom center neckline front.  This fix is something which is a fashion dart in my old tailoring books and you don’t see it on many garments.  Only (boo hoo!) it blends into the fabric print.  It takes out the excess right where it was at yet changed the neckline facing into something slightly more angular.  The original design has the neckline quite high with the wide facing and boat neck wide in style.  Personally, I like my version better (no surprise) but it was all just alterations I made along way of the construction process…in other words not planned ahead of time.  It is amazing how little ‘failures’ are only opportunities for happy creativity which makes things better you’d than hoped!

Now, the back bodice might be a 50’s element but the rest of the dress makes it seem more 1960s to me.  The long slim skirt with gathered waist and the high banded middle distantly remind me of Audrey Hepburn’s black Givenchy dress from the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” of 1961 (it’s my big hat – see picture below – influencing my perception, too).  Ever since that famous costume, early 60’s fashion had recurring but occasional long slim skirts to dresses, especially when circa 1964 combined these with an empire waist for a resurrected Recency Era fad, thanks to the creations of Norman Norell (see the “Josephine” dress), the great Dior, the innovative Bill Blass (then working under Maurice Rentner), and Mod Mary Quant.  These designers made such a silhouette the mark of high fashion.

This sundress’ skirt is really very straight rectangle on paper, and only appears a lot slimmer than it is when my legs are together or one knee is jutted out as I shift weight when standing.  I actually went up two size larger than my size because I didn’t want this dress to be too confining to walk in.  The above-the-knee slit helps movement freedom (and adds to the sultry aura of the dress, certainly) but I don’t want to rely only on that…I like my sundresses to both look nice and be ready for moments of family fun!  I was able to ride the jungle animal themed carousel ride with my son that day, but only side saddle for fear of ripping the side slit sky-high!

As the printed cotton was ivory (light colors tend to be see-through) I took the extra time to fully line the inside of the dress and it was so worth it!  It makes dressing in this so much more simplified not needing a slip, besides so soft on the skin.  I like a good layer of natural fabrics during summer, it wicks away moisture and breathes unlike any polyester, so I don’t mind doubling up on a good quality cotton.  Besides, the inside looks so professional even if it is just your average muslin lining!  Sandwiching a perfect invisible zipper up the side between the layers and matching up all the horizontal seams was tricky, though.

At first, I was afraid my outfit would be a bit “too much” but I had a happy time in comfort, received lots of smiles and a few compliments from passer-bys, and stayed classy despite my day in the hot sun wearing my sundress make.  I can’t wait to get more wear out of this sundress as soon as our weather turn balmy again!  It’s funny to realize I never used to enjoy animal prints as much as I have in the last few years, but when I do use them, for some weird reason it always tends to be leopard!  I have a Dior inspired late 40’s wool coatdress with leopard printed flannel accents which I plan on making this year, so my habit of using one kind of animal print doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon!

There is an interesting article I’ve read recently called “The Trashy, Expensive, and Contradictory Reputation of Leopard Print” and as much as I enjoyed the info it made think about why I tend to leopard.  Strangely, it’s not because I feel any of the stereotypes associated with it – power, exoticism, eroticism, punk, or glamour, probably why most of my leopard print makes are relatively tame.  I think I like it because I see it as a mere print, more like a curious twist on polka-dots, even though I know it is the natural camouflage of an animal skin, to a wild cat that needs respect and protection.  So there – either I’m admitting to a watered down mentality, or I’m fully duped by fashion idea of leopard, or perhaps merely admitting to agree with Dior (which makes me cringe a little to say, but that’s for another post).  He used leopard print as a “house motif” and mainstreamed the usage of it as more than an unnatural item and not just a fur (continuing the practice to this day).  Since such a print can be found on practically any material nowadays (thanks to advancements made in the 1930s) – from cotton to faux leather and scuba knit – my mind is so far removed from the actual idea of the real fur…don’t know if I’ve ever seen real leopard clothes nor would I ever want to buy or wear them (and probably couldn’t afford them, anyway).  Dior is quoted as saying, “If you are fair and sweet, don’t wear it.”

What side are you on when it comes to animal prints, because I realize I am some weird in between…I like wearing fabric based fashion reproductions but they by no means are my favorite nor do they garner my repugnance.  It is good on an occasional basis for me.  Do any of you animal print lovers also favor leopard like me?

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…a Bit Beatnik

Rebellion and resistance seems to extremely popular – with movies, with culture, with the arts, and as a word or idea.  From the Rockabilly crowd to Punk fashion, from “Star Wars” to “Mutiny on the Bounty”, and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, rising up against the norm never seems to be any less retold and repeated today.  The mid-century of the 1900s seemed to be ripe with unrest, but I’d like to focus on the free-spirited and artistic Beatnik culture with my newest make dated to 1963.  After all, we do have Beatnik to thank for reviving the popularity of wearing vintage styles! More on that later…

This is my November make for my monthly pledge for the “Burda Challenge 2018”.  Next up to match this blouse and give me a full vintage-style Burda outfit is the “Waistcoat Bodice Dress“ for my December project!  The model picture does show the two worn together.

The pants you see with my pictures are my 1974 knit jeans (post here) to amp up the casual and alternative style, but really this blouse goes with so much – jeans, skirts, and especially my purple 40s pants!  A beret hat is essential to the Beatnik style, and mine is me-made from a vintage 1934 pattern (post here).  My shoes are true 1960s vintage beauties as well as my earrings.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% cotton paisley print lined at the cuffs and collar with burgundy satin

PATTERN:  Burda Style “Vintage 1963 Anita Blouse” pattern from “The Sixties Style Kit”

NOTIONS:  I only needed plenty of thread and 10 vintage buttons

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This took a lot of hand-stitching and detailed work, so I lost count of time but I’m guessing I spent about 30 plus hours to make this over the course of a week.  The blouse was finished on November 21, 2018.

THE INSIDES:  All French seamed except for the grey bias tape over the bottom hem

TOTAL COST:  I’m counting this project as free since it’ fabric has been in my stash for a good number of years and everything else was on hand!

Beatnik subculture is loosely defined as both a media stereotype and a generational literary movement between the mid-1950s to mid-1960s.  The term “Beatnik” is said to have been coined by Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle on April 2, 1958 and its expansion paved to way for the hippie culture of the later 60s.

What I find the most curious about beatnik is the influence it had on fashion through music.  One of the leading figures of the Beat Generation, Allen Ginsberg, an American poet/writer, was a close friend of Bob Dylan and the Beatles, two of popular Beatnik musical performers.  The Beatles supposedly even put the “E” in their name because of Beatnik and Beat writer William S. Burroughs was on the cover of their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Their iconic, gaudy vintage-style military uniforms for that album were only a small part of the new awakening to reaching for past styles to standout, be unique, and express oneself that we have today.

Beatnik wanted nothing to do with anything that had to do with the eras of their parents, the 40s, and 50s and had no taste for designer trends.  The styles of the 1860s to 1890s, only 70 to 100 years old back then, were coming back with the ruffled neck shirts (of Edwardian times for women, early 1800s for men) being one major beatnik movement interpreted with my Burda Style make.  When you turn the perspective, this isn’t too different from what the vintage community of today does – garments from the 1910s, 1920s, up to the 60’s are still extant, and bought and sold to both wear and appreciate but the 70’s, 80s, and 90’s are still mostly only being appreciated by those too young to remember them.  When the London “Granny Takes a Trip” store opened in the mid-60s and stocked it with second-hand, outdated clothes, the Beatniks welcomed it and a whole new “thing” had begun.

The late Beatnik trend of the ruffle blouse was not just popular because of the big names that were wearing them, but also because they were seen as a unisex item, pretty much the first of its kind.  It was part of “Granny Takes a Trip” and the artists and writers of the Beatnik trend to focus on inclusiveness and loose sexuality.  However, the limelight did help the ruffled blouse popularity.  For the Rolling Stone’s concert in Hamburg 1965, much of the crowd was said to have been wearing ruffled neck tops, and for their “No Filter” tour just last year (2017), what do you know…Jagger is wearing ruffled neck shirts for a few of the performances.  Jimi Hendrix’s famous scene when he set his guitar on fire at the 1967 Monterey International Pop Music Festival made history in a ruffled neck shirt.  More inspiration can be seen in Burda’s collage photo.  A recent Royal Mail stamp from 2012, commemorating contribution to British fashion by designers, even features a ruffled neck blouse for the 60’s!

The paisley print in my blouse is a trippy sort of psychedelic prefiguring the later 60s, yet it is in the rich, darker, subdued colors that the Beatnik trend preferred.  The busy print calls to mind old textiles and the Kashmiri “cashew print” seen through the later 1800s.  “Granny Takes a Trip” did re-fashion Industrial Era clothes and tailor garments from precious antique items (such as a William Morris tapestry)!  Many times blouses like these are loosely referred to as “Artist” blouse, “Pirate” shirt, or even “Romantic” because of the tendency to think of the covers of a cheesy paperback romance novel or of Jane Austen gentleman.  It sure does have an idealistic, bold, flair with its excess of details, in my experience with wearing one now!  The deep burgundy satin I chose for the underside of the collar and the cuffs adds of luxurious flair that reminds me of the jewel toned velvet suits of the era, or some sort of masculine loungewear of Victorian times.

This pattern was quite exhaustive in complexity, and you certainly can’t rush making this design, but I revel in succeeding with the fine points of sewing.  I took time to make sure the chest ruffles laid flat and stayed in place otherwise I knew this blouse would end up feeling like it had a fussy, built-in bib!  Each ruffle had its own draft, cut on the bias and folded in half with its own length in different measurements from the others, so everything had to stay clearly labelled until being stitched down…which happened to be the very first step.  I serged (overlocked) the raw edges of each of the neck ruffles to keep things clean and simple, with as little extra bulk as possible.  Then, I stitched down each ruffle edge in three rows ¼ inch apart, and lightly steamed the gathers down.

As if that is not time consuming enough, the invisible button placket also has to be finished before the real body of the blouse is assembled.  These are tricky, fiddly, things but this is the third one I’ve done through Burda (first here and second here) so there it was much less of a guessing game this time.  More or less the left side is a very basic shirt placket while the other (right side) gets accordion pleated four ways.  The right placket is two individual plackets cut as one.  The middle line is folded in on itself to cover the seam allowance and be stitched down “in the (seam) ditch” before you fold the inner (second) placket half (which gets the buttonholes) and also stitch that down through all layers.  As the final touch, whether it’s mentioned or not in the instructions, I find the two placket layers become one to sight if you tack (by hand) the two together along the edges for only one inch between each of the buttonholes.

Besides the preliminary machine stitching to attach the plackets to both shirt fronts, everything else where the shirt closes I did by hand.  This way I can be more precise with catching all the different seams and layers, in addition to making the thread invisible.  Finally, only then were the darts made and shoulder seams brought together so that the collar and sleeves can be put on.  I figured if I’m putting this much effort into this blouse, it deserves the extra effort to be done very well.  This is why I also top-stitched the collar and cuff edges by hand, too.  The finished look is so professional!

These sleeve cuffs are so over the top…and I thought the 30’s and 40’s had dramatic arm features!  Including the ruffles, the cuffs are 1/3 of the length shoulder to wrist.  Keep this into account when you’re making it or if you need more length, because I was thrown off before the cuff was added.  I thought I cut too short!  The most challenging part of the cuffs was to make sure the ruffles stay out of the way of the seams when you are stitching down the underside (before you turn it inside out).

Now, as for any Burda Style pattern, printing and/or tracing is necessary to have a usable pattern to lay on your desired fabric.  My pattern was traced from the inserts in the magazine issue, and this set of 60s patterns is a special edition publication not available through the monthly subscription, but most other patterns are available online as a downloaded PDF that needs to be printed out and assembled together.  What works best for me is to use a roll of thin, see-through medical paper to trace my pieces out.  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size.  Some people add in your choice of seam allowance width directly to the pattern while some as they are cutting out the fabric pieces.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped.  Sorry to repeat something you might already know, but this is just an “FYI” for those that don’t.

Overall, I am so impressed with the quality of this pattern.  This is probably the best Burda Style pattern I have used yet.  Some Burda patterns are quirky in fit and the instructions can frequently be either lacking or confusing.  Not here!  The sizing was right on too, and it comfy to wear.  The body shape for this blouse is very straight, and the darts are only ½ inch (or less).  I did grade up a size (as I normally do) for my hips and it looks great tucked in or left out.  I kept exactly to the pattern for everything except the button placement.  The cuffs are so wide and frilly only one button is not enough to close the sleeve ends – I have two per cuff.  I also added one extra button at the very bottom of the blouse front just above the hem.  It makes the blouse look more put together when it’s untucked.  I have a whole jar of the vintage grey buttons I used so I was favoring excess, but more buttons do help this design – a small complaint!

It’s not that I’ve made this blouse because I really love the music of Beatnik or the culture…I don’t really.  However, I do love to explore different styles, and I love a sewing challenge, especially one that gives me an in-person reason to wrap my head around a curious aspect of history.  This is an era that my and my husband’s parents lived through as late teens/early 20 somethings after all!  My mom has even said she had a ruffle blouse very similar to mine when she was growing up…I believe she said it was something she bought at Macy’s in New York City on a high school class trip.  So – maybe I’m just a fashion rebel at heart to go for what tickles my fancy and create this unusual blouse which relives my parents’ times, but maybe that’s just why I like it.  Sewing does convey a certain independence, a personal freedom, and an appreciation of details that is in the face of the powerful, overwhelming, ‘buy it on a whim to immediately toss it’ ready-to-wear culture of today.  This is my favorite kind of rebellion, one that we need to encourage and nurture today between each other and in the upcoming generation.

You Can Spot a Dachshund Lover…

…by what they wear!  Weenie dogs are now in the popular spotlight more than ever.  Crusoe the Celebrity dachshund won the 2018 People’s Choice Award just the Sunday before, Lou Lou the mini dachshund has been featured by Ellen DeGeneres and Snoop Dog, and Harlso the Balancing Hound is getting big attention with his talent for using his head.  We even enjoy racing the little things!  Dachshunds are on greeting cards, home products, and every sort of wearable item from socks to bow ties.  Of course, this is nothing too surprising to me – I am a proud dachshund owner myself, just as my last three generations have been on my mother’s side!  It seems that I mostly get the wiener dog goods, so this time it is my husband’s turn to show his taste in dogs with a subtle vintage style made for him by me!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% cotton shirting

PATTERN:  Advance #9414, year 1960

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was sewn up in about 6 hours and finished on May 4, 2018

TOTAL COST:  $15 or less

The back envelope description is the weirdest summary of a design that I have yet to see.  It speaks about the shirt pattern in a titular first or third person voice, as if it were a real living thing.  “Shirt is especially good for the sports lover…” and “Shirt loves many fabric looks” are just disturbing and confusing sentences while totally laughable at the same time.  If the writers for Advance were trying to be cool, they fell so short.  It they were just being overly brief, well, it sure does make this pattern memorable!

Besides the text oddity, there isn’t much to say about this shirt except that the print and a good fit really make it pop.  I was lucky with this pattern – it has a perfect fit and proportions for my husband.  The sizing on men’s vintage shirt patterns tend to be generous in a size medium and up so I merely took out the given seam allowances to this design to end up with a slightly smaller fit, just right for him.

Even though there is no polyester or spandex in this shirting cotton from the local chain fabric store, it is really nice, with just a touch of sheen finish.  When it comes out of the wash, however, the shirt is a wrinkled mess yet a light steaming of the iron takes care of this easily.  This is the second time I have used this line of cotton shirting – the first was this Burda polka dot blouse for myself.  I may be hooked!

In order for him to feel like he is getting the star treatment with his handmade shirt, I finished off the inside with all French seams, even for the sleeve armscyes.  The hems and facing edges are covered in a pale yellow bias tape for a fun and clean finished contrast.  He always has to pick out his own buttons for everything I make for him, but this time I definitely swayed his decision into choosing some muted toned beige-brown swirled buttons, vintage items from the notions stash of his Grandmother.  They are still the basic four-holed shirt style buttons he likes, but I love how the colors match with the dachshund print to be noticeable but not be distracting.  Men’s clothes can have ‘matchy-matchy’ elements, too, right?

Speaking of matching, this print was a pain to line up.  The dachshunds are small enough that I didn’t bother the match up the sleeves and the side seams, but otherwise the rest was a bit of a challenge on only 1 ½ yards of material.  I am pretty happy with how my matching attempt turned out, especially across the back shoulder panel where I needed to line up the staggered alignment of the print.  Of course, with the little pleats in the main (lower) body of the shirt it only matches up across the middle of the back, but pleats are an infinitely better feature than gathering below the shoulder panel…one of the reasons I chose this pattern.  It has simple, clean, classic design lines that make it the best option for a print.  A solid would look really classy in this pattern, too, but I always associate the fun novelty prints as befitting for 50’s and 60’s menswear.

This was a really good birthday present to whip up for him, because he has been wearing this so much!  There seems to be just as much dachshund fabric to be found as everything else, and I do have a small stash of such prints so there will be a slow and steady flow of more wiener dog makes to come!

The silhouette of a dachshund is pretty silly, cute, and unmistakable all at the same time.  I’d like to think this may be one basic reason for the popularity of such prints, but many of our neighbors have dachshunds or dachshund mix breeds so they are a popular modern household pet, anyway.  Scottie dogs were all the rage in the 1930s with their images on feedsack prints, purses, and the like.  Models would pose walking a Scottie and they could be spotted in movies back then.  (A Scottie was chosen over Otto the dachshund in the famous movie “Wizard of Oz”!)  Their silhouette is every bit as unmistakable as a dachshund.  Eddie Bauer is known for their yellow or black Labrador prints. Elsewhere, other than a beagle print here and there, it is dachshunds that I see for every season’s product releases today!

Our own little dachshund!

Dachshunds were much belittled and stigmatized over their cultural association during the time between WWI and WWII.  They were stoned in streets.  One graphic WWI poster shows Uncle Sam’s hand choking to death a Dachshund wearing a Hun helmet and an Iron Cross because everything German was the enemy.  “Waldi” the dachshund helped bring back the public, universal acceptance of the breed by being the very first Olympic mascot at the 1972 Summer games in Munich.  The dachshund Waldi was designed to represent the attributes described as required for athletes — resistance, tenacity and agility.  These little loyal lapdogs could do without all the R-rated jokes on their account, though!

Bouclé Mid-Century Shift

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE FACTS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE FACTS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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