A ticking clock tracking the arrival of the New Year of 2023 isn’t the only thing I am watching at the moment. In case you missed it, I just had my 450th post here on my blog, so I am now counting down to my next milestone…number 500! What a way to end my year! Although 2022 has been one especially tough and challenging time for me, my blog and its wonderful readers is one reason alone to count my blessings.
The pieces highlighted in this post are a merging of multiple decades and influences, all combined into one versatile but elegant ensemble. This is so classic of me to do! The jacquard over blouse is from the mid-century “Swinging Sixties” and the dress is from the “Hippie Era” of the 1970s. Both were put together in a way that I hope is reminiscent of 1930’s era glamour. I do believe that it would be hard for anyone to ever guess the origin decade of each design with the way I made them! Of course, some of this may be due to the way I interpret my old patterns – I do need my handmade garments to be a modern and very individualistic interpretation of past styles.
Such ambiguity of vintage fashion only goes to show that stereotypical looks are frequently not a catch-all summary of a particular decade out of the past. In every commonly held story about fashion history there is something yet to uncover that’s quietly hiding between the lines, just waiting to be shared by the right person. Those further stories are something I attempt to expound upon through my blog. As I have been progressively going through the fashions of the last 100 years and their history, individually sewing each year in antiquity, it seems that the more things change, they also stay the same to a point. It is sad to know this is the last post of 2022, but also exciting to look ahead to everything I will share with all of you for the coming 2023. Here’s to more fabulous fashions to sew, further historical details to learn, fun times to share, and more glimpses into my life – all to be seen here at “Seam Racer”!
FABRICS: a black polyester satin and a polyester/metallic jacquard, both lined in a cling-free, matte finish polyester
PATTERNS: Simplicity #7807, year 1976, for the dress and Vogue #5419, year 1962, for the short over bodice – both patterns are vintage originals from my personal pattern stash
NOTIONS NEEDED: lots of thread with two zippers
TIME TO COMPLETE: The dress was made in about 10 hours, while my over bodice was in 6 hours. Both pieces were sewn at the end of last year (in 2021).
THE INISIDES: As both pieces are lined, the inner raw edges are fully encased except for the skirt half to the dress, which has its seams left raw because they – being cut on the bias – do not fray.
TOTAL COST: Both fabrics had been bought from my local JoAnn Fabrics store about 6 years back for other projects. The jacquard was a clearance remnant so my one yard was half the price of a full yard with 50% off – a price of $10, in other words. The black satin was on sale, but I did buy 3 yards. My final total was about $35 for this set.
Half of this project has been on my mind for many years. My first inspiration started by finding the jacquard remnant and feeling it had a nice modern Art Deco revival feel to it. However, there wasn’t much there and it was too polyester looking at close inspection to pass for a true Depression-era piece, though. This fancy Vogue #5419 pattern was the perfect match for being economical as well as channeling how the 1960s era revived the 1930s. I specifically wanted the over blouse top to be a shoulder cover-up for an ivory brocade strapless dress I bought for myself 10 years ago (as seen in this post under my green jacket). Adding a handmade garment to complete a ready-to-wear one always gets me to wear the one I didn’t make all the more. The two garments did end up matching well. After all, the dress I had was pretty much a line-for-line copy of the under dress included with the pattern for the over blouse. Nevertheless, the knee length gives off a cocktail dress air, and I needed an evening outfit more elegant for my husband’s work’s Christmas party. It was back to the drawing board.
This was the part of the project that had not been planned! I brainstormed with barely a week before the event and looked through my stash of fabrics available at home. Luckily, I had a variety of solid toned satins in larger cuts (about 3 yards each), hoping to use them for some 1930s gowns in the future. Relying on only what was on hand, I happily, quickly, and economically whipped up this little black dress that is like the best of the 1930s and 70s combined. I love it because it is unlike any other black dress in my wardrobe yet also so comfortable and sultry at the same time. It glamorizes my jacquard bodice and fills in the scoop neckline just like I wanted. Is it even an important occasion for a sewist if there wasn’t any drama in the planning beforehand?! My outfit ideal ended up being finished with two days to spare.
Let me begin with the easiest to make of the two – the over blouse. It was easy because it was basic with just a few pattern pieces, yet I simplified it even more by eliminating the facings. I did use the facing pieces to cut out iron-on stabilizer for the neckline edge, but otherwise the full body lining cleanly covers up all raw edges. It is a good thing I did full lining because the jacquard was a real mess, fraying all over the place, and was very itchy against my skin when I did a few in-progress fitting try-ons. I adapted the pattern early on by slightly raising the neckline and cutting the back body on the fold, just as was done for the front. The pattern calls for a full buttoning back, but I instead put a zipper in the side for ease of dressing. Being a jacquard, the fancy fabric technically had two ‘right’ sides, but I choose as my good side the one which had more black than gold to curb some of the shine.
The pattern did run overly generous in fit so I had to take in significant amounts distributed amongst the side seams and bust darts, as well as create a hidden fold in the center front. The sleeves turned out unexpectedly long, way beyond the elbow, but I kept them as extended short sleeves because it evened out the look of the cropped bodice on my almost petite frame. It was really tricky to fit. I found it needs to be quite snug on the body to keep it from riding up. I don’t know how the envelope cover shows the overblouse so loose fitting with so much gape. I tried that out during one of my fitting try-ons and it did not work being worn like that. That fit was very sloppy looking and shifted all over the place on my body. Whatever the case, the snug fit that I found necessary meant that whatever I wear underneath needs to be thin and not bulky with definitely no sleeves. If I wear my black high-waisted trousers (posted here) with this overblouse I will layer a tank top underneath. My choice for an underdress is the ivory brocade one I mentioned earlier or the black satin one you see in this post.
I don’t know about you but I can’t help but see a slight Regency era influence to the design of this top. It is not much different than the short jackets and decorative bodices that were worn over dresses between the 1800 to 1820s time period. Those pieces, called “Spencers”, similarly had a snug fit, empire waist, and were meant to be decoratively worn over an insubstantial dress. Since I love Regency fashion and already have historical clothes for that era, I was therefore at ease with the odd style of this top. Yet at the same time, it was completely out of my comfort level to pair it with modern styles. The little 60’s top surprisingly works with more of my wardrobe than what I first intended (as mentioned in the former paragraph) and therefore gives me all sorts of new ideas for sneaking Regency styles in with my 21st century clothing choices.
Speaking of sneaking things in, not only is my black satin dress pretty “old Hollywood” for being a 1970s pattern with an almost tacky envelope illustration, but did you notice how I made some cheap fabric look more elegant than it really is? Treating myself the good stuff, like silk, has spoiled me! I don’t enjoy polyester fabrics as much as I used to, but a black satin as shiny as an oil slick is so appealing for a design like this.
The benefit is immediately obvious in construction when the fabric pieces want to slip away from you and the skinny spaghetti straps are incredibly easy to turn inside out. The smooth finish to the fabric made this the ideal underdress for flawlessly fitting under the over blouse. Ultimately, however, black garments can be so hard to see in detail as well as photograph (especially indoors) but the shine to the fabric is just enough to help my silhouette not get completely lost in the shadows of mid-winter. Yay! I found a way to love a fabric from my stash that was languishing, forgotten and unwanted.
What helps achieve the slinky effect that plays upon the shine is my change in laying out the pattern. The instructions said to lay everything out along the selvedge to make it straight grain. However, I wanted to both avoid a harsh A-line shape to the skirt as I saw on the cover illustration and get a better fit without making it tighter. Combining these aims with my desire to channel the 1930s, I decided upon cutting the skirt half of the dress on the bias grain. I had plenty of extra fabric to do so! This was the best upgrade for this pattern but it really made the waist seam a beast to sew…lots of easing in the excess bias. My effort was all worth it in the end, though, because the softened silhouette and swish factor is unparalleled. It is a bias cut dress that has my ideal balance of loose cling while also hugging my movements. I love this dress!
To counteract the bias cut skirt the empire waist bodice is cut on the straight grain, interfaced, and fully lined. It is like its own brassiere being so stable, which is convenient with the spaghetti straps being placed so far out on the shoulders that conventional lingerie is not compatible. The high waist and the widely placed straps give this 70’s dress a Regency flair in its own right with the way it emphasizes the open neckline, strong shoulders, and columnar appearance. I had counted on this being the case – that was the only way it was going to be pair well as an undress for the little 60’s over blouse. I figured if both had a Regency era influence they must end up looking good together even though they are from differing decades? I had no confidence. When I saw for the first try-on that the two pieces actually pair so well together I totally did a happy dance. I love this part of sewing – the one where you actually surprise yourself with what you have made! It is the best kind of reward.
I have also found the dress to be an incredibly versatile piece of its own right, but the details of the extent to that may just be for another post. It is easy to pair tops over it and wear as if it was just a skirt. The dress makes for a very nice long length slip dress under some long but also sheer dresses. I want to make a long length open coat to pair over the dress to have more fun with its faux Regency appearance. I never expected such resourceful dress when I put it together but such usefulness makes me like it all the more!
Everything over and above the basic garment piecing for both items was finished with my finest invisible hand stitching. My sewing machine was only used for the hidden inner seams. I usually save my hands and shoulders the misery of doing this unless the fabrics that I am working with are fine or need a specific hem. However, the fabrics for both pieces were cheap enough in quality with a glossy face that would expose machine stitching in a way which would not do either fabrics a favor. I had to keep the ruse going and treat these fabrics as if they were nicer than they are to keep them looking that way as a finished piece. A bias cut skirt is extremely tricky to hem on a machine anyway, and the jacquard probably would have acquired runs and pulls that I would have taken to easy way of machine top stitching. What kind of finishing your handmade garments receive goes a long way towards the finished look and is just as important as every other step in the process of a sewing project.
Well – I suppose I have said more than enough and need to wrap up this last post for 2022. I hope the holiday season finery that I shared here has inspired you or at least entertained you. I trust that this post, like all of the rest, gives you a taste of the fun, the energy, the challenge, and the enjoyment that goes into everything related to sharing what I make…from a planning forethought to that final click of the publish button. It is my way of reaching out to all of you, so I love it when you reach out to me with every like, comment, or message.
My wish is that this upcoming New Year is the best yet to come for all of us!