Turning into an “Alley Cat”

In my list of favorite designers held in high esteem, there are many which I know are inaccessible – I will probably never wear or own an original by them and only experience their creations in a museum.  Then, I have another list of top favorite designers that are exciting in an attainable way because I do own original pieces from them.  Betsey Johnson is at the top of the latter list…I have three of her vintage inspired silk dresses from the 90’s and 2000 era.  I adored her clothing styles as a teenager!  Wishing to understand more of her career after all these years, though, I am thrilled to have finally sewed up my own Betsey Johnson dress which hails from her rise to fame under the “Alley Cat” line.  This dress is from an important year in her history – 1971, the year Johnson received the Coty Fashion Critics’ Award.

In Betsey Johnson ads from the early 1970s (such as this one), these dresses are labelled as the “frontier-look”, but her spin on such old-fashioned style has a sleek look and stylish edge.  Even though there is almost 4 yards of fabric in this dress, I am miraculously not swallowed up in frills and gathers.  Instead, I feel slim in the way it has first-rate shaping and smart details that show off the body.  This dress lacks the homeliness of the normal prairie dress with its 1970s era youth oriented trendiness.  All these points help my dress be very wearable by being versatile, something which is a classic trait for Betsey Johnson’s clothing.  This dress can be sweet and simple (the way I styled it), but when paired with my 70’s boots, different jewelry, and bold makeup, I have found it can lean more on the punk side, an influence that Betsey Johnson preferred.  Her fashion offerings – at their core – was about a punk inspired spirit of rebellion…wearing what you want, how you want, and not being afraid to show both the pretty and the gritty side of being a girl. 

Even though this dress and its fabric – both being from the 1970s – makes my garment vintage in its own right, the way it turned out would make me think it was a modern “cottage core” dress loosely inspired by vintage.  The prestigious FIDM museum says, “Johnson designed vintage-inspired prairie dresses with small floral prints.”  I stayed true to that but it turned out so fresh, I was happily surprised by that.  More so, however, I wanted to show how Betsey Johnson had an alternative means of ‘rocking’ (literally, she was popular with the pop music culture of the era) the prairie trend differently than her contemporaries for such style, the fellow American Jessica McClintock (of the 80’s Gunne Sax, see my version here) or the British Laura Ashley.  I think I found that sweet spot of interpreting Betsey Johnson’s unique style to bring my own Alley Cat to life!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  two 100% cotton prints from 1970s (or possibly early 1980s); there was 3 ½ yards of the overall dress floral and ¾ yard of the contrast floral

PATTERN:  Butterick #6531, year 1971, an original vintage pattern from my personal collection

NOTIONS NEEDED:  one 22” long zipper, some bias tape, and lots of thread – that’s it!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress came together quickly in about 15 hours of sewing and was finished at the end of October 2022.

THE INSIDES:  These cottons are fairly densely woven, so they really don’t unravel much (I can tell by the way the raw ends didn’t unravel when I washed the fabric before cutting). I simply zig-zag stitched over the raw ends inside.

TOTAL COST:  this dress was as good as almost free, since the notions I needed were on hand from my Grandmother’s stash and the cotton fabrics came from a large box of 50-something assorted vintage fabrics I bought for $10 from an antique shop. 

I spent just as much time doing preliminary preparation – tracing the pattern, sizing it up to fit me, and then cutting it out – as I did actually sewing the dress together.  Betsey Johnson’s offerings were geared to the juniors and teens market, so much so that even for those styles which are in ‘adult’ sizing (such as the dresses I have from the 90’s) are still tailored for someone short-waisted in smaller sizes.  In vintage Betsey Johnson pieces, the most commonly found ready-to-wear size is 2 through 6, and they run a size smaller than listed.  All this works for me because I am still close to my teen years’ sizing and also borderline petite, but I know this limits many women from wearing her designs.  The opportunity of having Betsey Johnson’s designs in commercial patterns opens a big door of inclusiveness by making them available for ladies of all sizes…as long as you know how to grade!  The sizing chart on the back of my pattern shows that it wasn’t offered above a size 12, equivalent to a size 6 today.  My Betsey Johnson dresses are size 4 and 6 but they fit (snugly) thanks in part to being on the bias cut.  This dress pattern is laid out on the straight grain and I did not want this to be as tight fitting, being cut in a cotton and not a silk like my other dresses.  Thus, I had to dedicate some good time to fully adjust the pattern before I could dive into sewing.

I kept in mind the sizing trend of my existing Betsey Johnson dresses and came into this project half-expecting the same from this Butterick pattern even though it was in what appeared to be the brand’s ‘normal’ adult sizing looking at the envelope chart.  However, everything I was seeing from all the measurements I was taking from off of the pattern pieces told me this was a real-deal Betsey Johnson design…I was ecstatic!  So, I graded the pattern up with an extra inch bigger than what I needed and kept the petite proportions.  It turned out just as I expected, true to Betsey Johnson sizing, and fit me perfectly with no adjustments needed (beyond what I added into the pattern pieces).  This is one of the first clear examples I have found of a commercial pattern deviating from its company line of sizing to keep the designer’s sizing model instead.  This makes me super happy because it tells me this is a true designer pattern, not one that has been altered by Butterick to bow to their guidelines. I have yet not found such designer individuality with any Vogue brand designer patterns.  This heads-up knowledge of what sizing to expect was only possible because I had the opportunity to experience the clothes from this designer.  There is a special sewing related benefit to (as I mentioned above) enjoying those designers you find that are accessible and appealing to you.  It here paid off to be a “Betsey girl”!

My chosen two cotton fabric prints are a wonderful combination that do not match yet also complement one another just enough to actually go together.  I successfully figured out how to do this with my Gunne Sax dress…which also happened to be blue printed cottons, I know.  I was aware that I could end up being overly repetitive with this dress.  Thus, I used smaller all-over floral prints with a variation on the same colors.  The busier, smaller print on the side bodice panels and the sleeves was an already hacked up remnant that someone previously had cut several pieces from before I got the fabric.  Thus, even though I say the remnant was ¾ yard, actual usable space was much smaller and I just eked out the pattern pieces I wanted.  Up close, this contrast print is in triangles of tiny flowers, much like a faux ‘quilt’ paneling.  It adds to the low-key prairie flair of the dress.  The main floral has cheerful colors of coral pinks, blues, and tints of yellow in loosely thrown bouquets.  The blue of the berries in the main fabric print are much brighter in color than our pictures captured, and I had hoped my retro style wedges (Re-mix “holiday” shoes) would have brought out some of that tone.  The shoes happened to match what was drawn on the envelope cover’s model for the view C that I went with for my version!

Many of Betsey Johnson dresses from the 1980s and newer were made of flowing silks and polyester satins, but many of her prairie and kitsch inspired garments from the 1970s seemed to be in cotton.  The envelope back called for me to use “crisp fabric” or “soft fabric”…huh?  This was a confusing either-this-or-that choice, so I went for a bit of both.  Modern cottons are too stiff to be ideal, which is why I was thrilled to use this vintage cotton – it is luxuriously soft, lofty, and flowing.  At the same time, the fabric has enough body to let the gathered fluttery sleeves have their own definition.  Yet again, I find that vintage does fashion the smart and fun way! 

Several of the other fabric options for this pattern were crepe, voile, and – the most significant mention – knits.  Betsey Johnson was involved in dance school growing up, and she and her mom would sew the stretchy body suit costumes for her performances…fueling both her creative mind and her sewing talent from a young age.  Later, in 1964, Betsey Johnson had her first designing success by making velvet trimmed “sweaters that hug the body” with a batch of crocheted fabric she acquired (as she relates in her memoir book, “Betsey”).  Johnson at that time was in her early twenties and a “guest editor” of Mademoiselle Magazine, working in the fabrics department.  She had landed her role at the magazine by winning its summer scholarship contest.  Her first step into selling her designs was initially about survival because she needed rent money to supplement her editorial job but her little tops became popular and Betsey loved the opportunity to stretch her wings.  Thus, it’s no wonder the patterns she did for Butterick in the early 1970s (under the “Alley Cat” brand, when she was creative director there between ‘70 and ‘74) all either mention or prefer stretchy woven, sweater knit, or jersey material as a fabric choice since it was her first sewing experience. 

Knit fabric in a plaid or funky print is very much a Betsey Johnson thing and it was tempting to try as I had just the thing on hand!  However, as there are more than 3 yards in my dress, I was afraid a knit would have made it hang rather than float romantically.  This exact dress design was featured in the January 1972 edition of Seventeen magazine, along with several of the other views from the pattern I used as well as Betsey’s other Butterick offerings.  In the advertisement text, which can be viewed thanks to ”Gold Country Girls” blog (page here), it is hinted that Wyeth paintings were Betsey’s inspiration behind this dress design and magazine’s photo shoot, so I think using anything other than a dense but lightweight knit would have defeated her ideal here.  Ah, see – here I go diving headfirst into every aesthetic detail.  After years of admiring her brand, I love realizing just how this pattern completely sucked me into the joy of manifesting my own personal interpretation of Betsey Johnson’s style.  Her Alley Cat line was before my time, after all, so this is different than the Betsey Johnson I grew up with…but it is no less welcome!  Visit my Pinterest board here to see more Betsey Johnson ads, patterns, and clothing from her pre-1990s era.

My only small regret to my dress is the way the fine details and design lines get lost in the print.  I am a big fan of how the waistline comes up to ride the top of my hips at the sides but dips down low for both the center front and back.  It is a beautiful design that is interesting and makes for great ease of movement.  It also seems to be a popular feature for Betsey Johnson because she reused this same undulating waistline on her other Butterick patterns (no. 6536 and no. 6529, as well as no. 3292) as well as many of her ready-to-wear dresses.  This style of waistline pairs perfectly with the different layout of gathered waist where it is only gathered in at the center back and front.  With the sides being kept smooth, this really creates a slimming silhouette that I am obsessed over.  My hips are big enough the way it is and the combination of princess seaming in torso, dropped waist, and controlled skirt gathers all help me feel that I have lot a few pounds (even if only in appearance).  Any dress which can do that is a winner.  Usually teenager’s clothing does not simultaneously work well for a grown woman’s style, but Betsy Johnson has found a way around that.

My sole slight change to the pattern was to adjust the neckline.  I raised the dip of the front scoop neck by about 5/8 inch and eliminated the facings.  I love the simplicity and smoothness to a bias finished neckline, so I went for that instead.  Bias tape does tight curves so well, especially when sewn on with a tiny seam allowance that needs no clipping, and is much less fussy than facings.  After all, Alley Cat garments were meant to be bare-bones and not high end.  This was so that her intended market of urban teens and juniors from big cities (like New York or L.A.) would find them “reasonably priced” (yet Betsey’s “always under $100” garments equal about $750 dollars today).  Imitating the finishing of a 1970s Betsey Johnson dress gave me an excuse to do machine made top stitching and basic finished seams inside (I’ve been doing a lot of nice hand stitched projects lately).  Her 1990s and 2000 era silk dresses in my wardrobe are much finer in French seams and full linings, but this “frontier frock” was the perfect way to have an easy-to-make project for myself.

This dress may not be a knockout, but it is fun and ultimately comfortable with a great fit.  I thoroughly enjoyed everything related to the creation of this dress more than I show because this was an especially personal challenge.  It pushed me to add an alternate appreciation to what I thought I knew about a designer I have already admire and respect.  Every backstory to a designer’s history tells so much about why and what they did later in their life.  For all the fame designers can garner, they are just like any other human being who deserves empathy and appreciation, after all.  So I hope this post inspires you to take a look at Betsey Johnson and realize there is so much more to the “frontier look” than you may have realized.  Perhaps her style speaks to you, like it does to me? 

OO7 Halston-Style Maxi Dress

Allie J's Social Sew badgeWhen I saw Allie J.’s monthly “Social Sew” theme of August being “Hot, Hot Heat”, I picked up a project waiting in the works to sew up and finish.  I think my garment perfectly fulfills each word of her challenge theme – what else could be doubly ‘hot’ more than a 1970’s, Halston-style, “James Bond girl” movie dress, with the ‘heat’ being the weather outside that necessitates a maxi sundress.

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I have sewn plenty of garments from year 1971 patterns, but here’s another for this post that rather looks like a 1930’s does 1970’s.  My dress is directly inspired from a dress worn by the “Bond girl” Barbara Bach in the 1977 movie “The Spy Who Loved Me”.  Now that I’ve got this dress, all I need is some secret gadgets, a little intrigue, the classic theme music playing in the background, and a handsome chap in a suit.

Barbara Bach - close-up“Just call me Agent.”  Barbara Bach (“Agent Anya”) marked the beginning of a new type of “Bond girl”.  Post Barbara Bach, I love how Bond girls seem to share the same similarities of lovely garments, kick-butt moves, assertiveness, and thrilling action as my other favorite screen girl, Agent Peggy Carter.  Elegance doesn’t have to be prissy…it can be strong and self-empowering, especially when you have made your own outfit for the part!

Butterick 6671, August 1971, junior's-compTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Lightweight, 100% polyester interlock knit

PATTERN:  Butterick #6671, from August of 1971

NOTIONS:  Navy thread (which I had already) and 3 packs, same as 3 yards, of silver sparkle decorative elastic, bought from JoAnn’s Fabric store.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress was finished on August 15, 2016, after a total time spent of maybe 10 hours (I’ll break down this time amount in an explanation down below).

TOTAL COST:  This interlock knit is cheap and cost even less with a coupon, but I did need a couple yards.  The three packs of elastic were a few dollars each – so I suppose my total is about $10.  Not bad at all!!!

I find it so curious how my dress is from a ’71 pattern and the only thing was the neckline which needed to be changed to make it up like a ’77 Bond movie gown.  Vogue even cameVogue 8449, early 70's dress out with similar jeweled neckline maxi sundress in 1972, too (#8449), more alike than my own pattern to the Bond movie costume.  I usually think of vintage movies as keeping pace with fashion or at least starting a trend, but here is a certain design out there offered 5 years before being made up for a noticeably major movie series.  Halston’s style of minimalist, elegant, body complimentary garments for women was already popular and available to the public by the date of this pattern, and well established by the release of the Bond movie “The Spy Who Loved Me”.  So, while I think the outfits of the movie are just awesome, I do not see them as cutting edge (what I would expect from a Bond movie) as much as my pattern is.  I also find it interesting that this pattern is in juniors’ sizing, appealing to teenagers.

The juniors’ sizing is something I had to adjust at the cutting/layout stage, but as many of my 70’s patterns seem to be in these shorter teen proportions, I knew what to do.  I add in 2 inches across at a line drawn horizontally across the chest somewhere between the end point of the bust line (or slightly above) and the bottom third of the armhole.  The chosen line to add in the two inches is then added in around the back to completely bring the bust, and all the subsequent proportions of the waist and hips, too, back down to normal misses’ adult size.  (See my first junior’s dress.) As this is a sleeveless dress, my add-in line was at the bust line point over to the point of the side seam.  Sure this makes the hem a bit longer, but a wide and thick hem helps to slightly weigh this dress down.

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As my dress is a knit, I eliminated the back center zipper.  However, I had problems fitting the back dipping arch of the dress and I can’t say if it’s because of the pattern, or the way I sized up, or from eliminating the zipper.  It was really baggy!  I added in three darts on each side of the back, which sort of mars the smooth simplicity I was hoping from this dress, but I would rather have a good fitting garment.  The high halter neckline of the original pattern was also cut down to just above the bust line and out over to the edge.

Movie still - back viewMy chosen fabric of the lightweight interlock was a great choice, if I must say so myself, but a surprising one.  Until now, I’ve only used this kind of interlock as a lining to back other fabrics as I am making a garment, so this is a first time for the interlock to be worn on its own.  I am quite pleased with it.  Polyester is my least favorite fiber material, but it is most tolerable to me in this light interlock form.  It creates hardly any static, has a nice flowing ‘hand’, is breathable with its tiny waffle weave yet silky in finish, super sheer by itself but opaque once worn, and with a stable stretch.  I’m supposing the original movie dress is either a rayon or a silk jersey knit.  However, this interlock was on hand in the house in a perfect matching color (a very dark blueish navy) and has similar but slightly less body-clingy properties…so it was used, and I’m glad I did!  Yay for stash busting!DSC_0215a-compfull dress shot -

The thigh-high slit helps amp up the hottie factor.  It also makes the skirt portion of the dress just beautifully move and flow around me as I walk as if it has its own independent mind and its own places to go.  I see in the Bond movie that Barbara Bach’s dress is the same way.  Her dress however has two off-center front slits up to the thigh whereas mine only has one on the left side seam.  At first I had it as a knee-high slit, but that just seemed to reserved compared to the rest of the dress, so I made it higher (but still not as high as the pattern called for)!  I can’t help but think of the ZZ Top song, “She’s got legs…”

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The neckline is pretty much the highlight of the dress, so I took extra pains to get it right. Now, of course the movie dress has diamanté straps and neckline decorations of real crystals, probably.  Mine is more of an everyday girl’s version.  The metallic elastic would not be sewn on by my machine, and neither would my machine tolerate metallic thread no matter what I tried.  (It was getting stuck in the tension feed.)  Thus, although the dress itself only took me just a few hours to make, hand sewing on the metallic elastic took me many more hours than that.  Argh!  Hand sewing is something my hand, shoulders, and neck cannot take without making my body miserable, so I did the sewing in stages.  As I’ve said before, the promise of the end look always gets me through the hard parts of finishing a garment.

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So does anybody know of a metallic thread that is decently sturdy?  I used a Coats and Clark brand and even hand sewing was hell with it.  I had to sew with little short lengths because after a dozen stitches the thread would fray and separate.  Is Gutermann better?  Or is there some brand better yet?  Or do the modern offerings of metallic thread just…well…stink, and should I try vintage metallic thread?

Making this OO7 dress makes me ponder a few things.  Again, this dress is one of the many I’ve sewn which amazes me at how easy and inexpensive fancy gowns are when self-made.  In the stores, I’ll bet buying a gown remotely like this, which probably would not fit half as well, would cost a fistful of dough to buy.  Again, another vintage pattern shows me how patterns, designers, and movies all have been so interrelated.  Again, I see film fashion and iconic designs transmuted to the public is generally so lacking nowadays (with a few occasional exceptions).  Glamour is easier to wear and more available in the hands of those who create with fabric than the greater populace reliant on ready-to-wear realizes.

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For more movie images, see Barbara Bach’s fan website here or ‘Classiq.me’ for a review of the movie fashions

A Christmas Cotton Set for the Mr. and Mrs.

No – I’m not talking about the Mr. and Mrs. Claus of Christmas, but making something for me and my hubby! It feels so good to finally see (and get to wear) something from my stash that was silently begging to be re-fashioned! It is nice, too, among the business of making (and finding) gifts for everyone else to make holiday gifts for a little “selfish” sewing for ourselves…

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I’m wearing my Burda “Wrap, Drape, and Tie” set from the previous post.

This story starts with a downer but ends well. One attempt at creating an elegant, ankle length, full circle cotton skirt for a Christmas about 12 years ago turned out to be a disappointing fail that I couldn’t wear. The skirt only looked tacky, overwhelming, and literally homemade. It was just one those bad ‘fabric-print-pattern’ combinations. However, I loved the print of mistletoe and holly, and the cotton was very soft, thick, and high quality so I always wanted to make something better of a ‘failure’ to redeem myself. Here is that re-fashion combo on Christmas day at family’s house – not-so-good picture and all! It is a man’s neck tie, 3 ½ inches wide from a 1971 pattern, for my hubby and a vintage inspired bias-skirted apron for myself.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% cotton is the “Holly and Mistletoe” print, but the lining for the back of my apron (in a deep bright green) is a broadcloth which I suppose is mostly cotton, too, with some polyester perhaps.100_6606a-comp

NOTIONS:  I used whatever I had on hand for both the apron and the tie, which included thread (of course), interfacing, bias tape, and a blank clothing label.

PATTERNS:  The Tie: McCall’s #2971, year 1971; The Apron: the “Mango Tango” pattern from the book “A is for Apron” by Nathalie Mornu; The original skirt: Simplicity 4883, “Design by Karen Z”, year 2004, made in a size larger than what I needed so as to have an elastic waist.

Simplicity 4883, full & half circle skirts, yr 2004, with A is for Apron bookTHE INSIDES:  Both items could not be made any better even for being rather fast in completion. The apron has bias bound edges, both inside and on the edges, while the tie’s edges are not seen, 100% covered, tucked away inside itself. There is a “custom label” underneath just like store bought ties, too (picture below).100_6827a-comp

TIME TO COMPLETE:  I have a beef about the tie which I’ll address later, but it took me a total of 2 ½ hours to make. The apron took me maybe 4 or 5 hours, which is twice as long as my ‘normal’ time for aprons, a fact due in part to adding lining, doing some fitting, and much ironing.

TOTAL COST:  As this was a re-fashion of something bought and made from such a while back, made with what was on hand, I’m counting it as free. However, the tie only calls for 5/8 yard, and the apron pieces are rather small, so both could be made from scraps or at least very little fabric to make them low-cost creations.

100_6603a-compFor this duo of re-fashions, the absolute hardest part was at the pattern layout and cutting stage. It was hard to re-establish the grain line and selvedge direction on a garment that had already been made. My first step in the re-fashion was to cut off the waist panel which extended several inches down below the waist so that I could deal with just the bias circle skirt part – the only part I really wanted to use this time. I’ll save the skirt lining and the waistband for some other time. Now the only thing I knew was that the center front of both the front and the back skirt were on the straight grain, so I the rest I figured from there. Then finding the right grain for each of the pattern pieces for both patterns was the next challenge. It was kind of like a puzzle to fit the patterns in on the right grain and I can tell the bias might be just very slightly off in the tie and the apron skirt, but so close to right on that I shouldn’t be fretting. A successful re-fashion is always something great, especially when you can end up with two wearable projects out of one unwanted one!

100_6822a-compNotions and supplies given to me by my Grandmother came in handy for these two projects. Pre-Christmas time can be crazy enough the way it is, and the last thing I needed was an extra errand to the fabric store. Besides, I love to make my projects work as far as I can with what is on hand, although I do try to keep up a good supply so as to make this practice work more often than not. Anyway, I used two slightly different colored bright red single fold bias tapes (1/2 inch) for the apron, as well as a random cut of happy Christmas green. Going with a slightly shortened apron skirt, this green cotton lined the back of my apron and also a man’s utility apron I made as a gift for my sister-in-law’s husband, so it was enough for two actually. Hooray for stash busting with a good cause.

Oh goodness, the cover of the tie is so happily deceptive, for as nice as the tie turned out it 100_6655-compcertainly did not take me 45 minutes. In reality, it took me half of an hour to do both the cutting out and sewing out the pointed ends and two hours of hand sewing to finish the long inner center seam edges. (The two hours of hand sewing were actually quite productive, as I was multi-tasking listening to Ken Burns’ program on the history of “Prohibition”.) However, surely there must be a faster and easier pattern to use to make a tie so I probably will not be using this pattern again. Beyond some not-as-clear-as-they-could-be instructions, the pattern wasn’t really all that bad. After all, the tie did turn out quite nice, with clean finishes, and creative construction methods…it just didn’t live up to its façade of being ‘quick and easy’ as it makes you think. I do appreciate the fact that the tie pattern gave two size options: a 3 ½ inch wide or 4 ½ inch wide front bottom. Both of us decided unanimously for the 3 ½ inch option. He didn’t want to look too vintage, although he does look totally like a swing era gent in his picture.

100_6604a-compHow and who came up with the method of transforming a ‘T’ shaped end into a self-faced triangle? So smart, I wish I’d done it, but whatever, it tickles my mind. Seriously, look at that pattern! There is definitely some backwards thinking ‘engineering-style’ needed in sewing, especially when it comes to designing patterns, in order to deconstruct how to manipulate fabric and get it to turn out a certain way. I think this tie pattern is a good example of what I love about sewing…it’s better than magic how something in paper that’s flat, odd-shaped, with no dimension can become a wearable work of art. Amazing!100_6654-comp

My hubby’s father has done all this before me – he makes ties out of worn out denim blue jeans, and he has made his own pattern for his projects. Not to give away any secrets but it has a simpler design of construction which fits appropriately with the heavy weight of the denim. My father-in-law’s ties and my own are both products of re-using and re-fashioning, a trait I am proud to share. I am the happy owner of a copy of his personal, special pattern and maybe I’ll have to try it in my quest for the perfect design.

My biggest fear was that the two ends would turn out looking wonky. What if one side of the point has a different angle? As it turned out, following the markings of the pattern and such did produce perfect angles for even looking tie ends. Yay! I’m proud at being able to successfully make a not-so-traditional item and try something new.

100_6738a-compA cotton tie might sound odd just because you don’t see them sold but ties haven’t always been what they are today. In the 1910’s and 1920’s men’s ties were more like scarves or square bottomed. In the 1930’s, 1940’s, and the 1970’s tie were often a little wider than what we’re used to, and throughout the last 70 or so years ties were made from different materials such as sweater knits or made with odd monograms, painted designs, and appliques. On the pattern I used, the envelope back lists every material under the sun (almost) as recommended fabrics.

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Love the quote on this page!

Interfacing was added down the inside center of hubby’s tie. I didn’t really know what to use as interfacing. Muslin cotton? Canvas? Regular modern interfacing? I went with the modern lightweight interfacing and merely ironed it down in very small patches at the two pointed ends (to create a sharp triangle), at the center seam for joining the two pieces, and once in between. I made sure to tack the interfacing down with the tie anyway when I hand-stitched the first center inside seam down through all the layers. It should stay in place if it needs a washing, which I can do ‘cause it’s only cotton, he he.

I have so many patterns and choices when it comes to apron making but for some reason this particular design from a book of mine “spoke” to me, just seeming to be the right fit for the Christmas cotton. I’ve already made my mistake when I made the skirt, and it a pattern naturally pairs up with a fabric I’m not resisting. I kind of wanted something classier for my apron, like ivory or soft green color highlights by using different bias tape than the bright red I did use, but Hubby was right when he said those colors would have been too muted. I do love the slightly vintage flair to it, the very fun and feminine bias flaring skirt, the unusual pocket (too small to be too useful, but still cute), and the neckline features. In other words, everything! Maybe I should re-name this apron into a twist on the pattern title – “Christmas Tango”?

Patterns from this book are in the back, needing enlargement of 400% to be true to size. I took the “easy” route for the patterns and used a photocopier service to do all the printing and figuring for me. Otherwise one could draft the patterns up to full size themselves.

100_6813a-compThe pattern was made “as-is” except for a slight fitting I made to the ties. The ties are an extension of the bodice and slanted at such a sharp angle down that on my smaller frame I would have ended up with a bow over my behind…not the best spot. So I added a pair of 100_6825-comp1/4 inch darts into the inner (upper) curve where the bodice section runs into the ties to make a sharper turn, keeping the ties around my waist where they should be. Keep in mind that this was done before I sewed on the bias trim. Notice, too, how I took the extra time to line the extension of the ties with the printed fabric so that there wouldn’t be a “wrong side” of green lining cotton showing behind me. I love to make such little touches that none but an expensive apron would have. It doesn’t take much extra effort on my part and gives the pleasure of having a de-luxe apron.

Perhaps the mistletoe on the print will prompt holiday smooches both ways – from him for the cook (me), and from me to the dapper man with the cotton tie (me). Being a coordinated twosome has never been so fun and tolerable as this. It’s not like making matching clothes. An apron and a tie are just something to add onto our clothes, that we can take off when we feel “too cute” together. What a better time to be together than the Christmas holiday, anyway!

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My special “Merry Christmas” pin is decorating the apron top!

Multi-Purpose 1971 Jiffy Garment

All I know is that it fits, looks great, and it is in a peacock print (my favorite – see this post) lined in fabric of the color turquoise (another favorite). Can’t go wrong there! Whether it is a dress, or a tunic, or a jumper depends on the weather and how I feel like wearing the garment. That is the versatility of my newest 1970s sewing creation.

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THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The printed fashion fabric is a 100% cotton from the quilting department, and the lining inside is a cotton blend, twill-looking gabardine solid.Simplicity 9461, year 1971, Jiffy dress or tunic or jumper & pants-comp

NOTIONS:  None were needed to buy ‘cause all I needed was thread…pretty simple, right? It was my decision later to use some bias tape on hand to finish off the armhole edges.

PATTERN:  Simplicity #9461, year 1971, a “Super Jiffy” pattern.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Only about 4 hours were put into making this dress/jumper/tunic thing. It was done in one afternoon and evening on December 3, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  What insides? Everything is tucked inside itself.

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TOTAL COST:  Maybe $8.00 for the gabardine and a few more dollars for the printed cotton.

This little number is kind of a mystery fashion item – one of the reasons why I wanted to try it especially since it’s a one piece “Super Jiffy” pattern. In other words, I’m not committing much time and not cutting into my fabric much since this line of patterns seems to frequently be a large portion manipulated into fitting with clever darts and shaping (see this other 70’s “Super Jiffy” dress). Anyway, what is the real point to this? It does make for a really cute dress, and is decent as a jumper, but the wrap doesn’t close as much as I had thought it would. The 70’s did have some trends of slightly nonsensical layers, such as short cropped sweater vests over blouses or skirts over pants. I will need to wear tights, pants, shorts, or a mini skirt under this for decency’s sake. Maybe I’ll even have to whip up the pants provided in the pattern for full retro effect.

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My pattern is in junior’s proportions, so I had to do some interesting and successful grading up. As this pattern is one big tissue piece, at first I thought I couldn’t just add the amount needed like regular patterns…but then I thought back, “Why not?!” Time for some unwilling slashing to the pattern! So I cut the vertical center front line apart (where the two front cross over) and added in ¼ of my total amount added in, and another ¼ of the total amount was added to the vertical back seam, turning it into something I cut on the fold (rather than having a center back seam like the pattern directs). Then just like the other 60’s and 70’s junior patterns I’ve done (see here or here), I added in 2 inches horizontally across the chest between the shoulder and the bust to lower all the bust, waist, hip, and hem lines in one simple step.

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If you have a strong aversion to doing darts, then this pattern is not for you because they are quite plentiful. However, the darts are practically the only work this garment involves. My consolation to sewing all the darts (and I had to do double because the lining is a second mirror of the dress/jumper) was the final way the garment fits so well. This is seriously the best fitting Jiffy pattern I’ve made yet. Some of those darts are in slightly unusual directions, but they do their job very well – the designers were smart here.

As I mentioned already, the lining is like sewing a second dress/jumper, so as to face the two right sides together, sew along the entire outer edge, leaving a small opening to turn inside out and top-stitch things in place. This dress/jumper could easily been made reversible doing it this way (already did that here), but I have plenty of garments in solid turquoise so I didn’t do this because I really wouldn’t wear it that way. Take note that making an entire second mirror garment for a whole body lining was entirely my idea. The pattern only provides for facing to the neckline/front closure edge and the armholes. Many times I opt out of facings, feeling like they are too fiddly sometimes, but as I didn’t use facings to this pattern I’m not including this in the same pool. The peacock cotton was very this and like Velcro to whatever else it touched except for the gabardine (or polyesters) so it needed to be lined. As my last step, I used simple single fold bias tape to turn under the edges of the armholes in lieu of the facings, too.

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The button at the tab is completely for show and the real closure system is really hidden underneath. When wearing this as a jumper, I seem to need slightly more room than when just wearing as a summer dress. Thus I made to closure system adjustable by having the inner side have lovely aqua ribbons and under the outer tab there is more than one position of hooking for the waistband-style eye. By the way, the unworkable front button is the same as the decorative one used on another turquoise jumper garment – my ’67 jumper. This is the end of these same buttons, don’t worry…it was a two pack with no more to come.

I’m still unsure if this project is done until I can completely make up my mind as to whether or not to add on the hand level side pocket. I don’t know how much wear this dress/jacket will get (the gauge for whether or not to put more work in). Goodness knows, I’ve got the extra fabric for a pocket and can pull out the pattern whenever I feel like I need its utility, but until then it’s going to be basic I guess.

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Yikes! Check out those “headlight” eyes on my doggie!

It’s funny how I find myself gravitating towards 1971 again and again now that I’m sewing more from the decade. Perhaps it’s because of my love for the decade of the 1960’s, so please don’t tire of this trend on my blog. I see most of what our culture thinks of as the “60’s” as noticeably happening between 1967 and 1971, before this the earlier 60’s had more of a 50’s influence in my mind with random trends emerging from the popular music bands. The hippie looks and bell bottoms of the 70’s were obvious in style, fashion, and patterns after 1972.

Multi-use wear garments are my favorite pattern finds to make and therefore wear. They are something generally unavailable to buy “ready-to-wear”, and fun to make no matter how much wearing they get.  I’ve found that trying different styles, fashions, and garments has a higher success rate, lower monetary risk, and higher chance for personal partiality when you make it yourself, besides being so much easier, cheaper, and enjoyable.  It’s a win-win…teaching yourself something while ending up with something uniquely yours to wear!