A Hybrid 40’s Blouse and Denim Skirt

Interested?  Basically, using two mid 1940’s patterns, I drafted a mixed-breed WWII era blouse only to add some beautiful features to it and make it not 1940’s at all just so I can imitate Marvel’s Agent Carter.  My skirt is completely modern with timeless features which co-ordinate perfectly with current or 1940’s dressing styles.  I’m absolutely loving the versatility and comfort of my blouse and skirt!

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From a historical standpoint, you might say I had misdirected principles here…although I’m not too far off in accuracy.  However, being creative and having fun is to me one of the most important factors to sewing for myself or anyone else…enjoying yourself!  I also am one of Agent Peggy Carter’s biggest fans, and I am more than happy to rock what she wears, too.  So – here’s to enjoying my own style “a la Carter”!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC: The blouse: a thick and luxuriously soft 100% cotton.  It is a line of U.S.A. made “Country Classics” cottons available at JoAnn’s Fabrics.  The Skirt: a 100% cotton lightweight indigo wash denim…so nice it doesn’t really look like denim.DSC_0272-comp

NOTIONS:  None but thread and a little interfacing was needed for both projects and these notions were on hand, as well as a zipper, hook-and-eye, and vintage buttons from hubby’s Grandmother’s collection.

PATTERNS:  The blouse: a combo of Hollywood #1318, year 1944, and a McCall #5946, year 1945; The skirt: a year 2001 Butterick #3134

Butterick 3134 year 2001 coverMcCall 5946, year 1945, and Hollywood 1318, year 1944-compTIME TO COMPLETE:  The blouse was done quicker than the blink of an eye in one afternoon and evening of 5 hours on March 14, 2016.  The skirt was made in about 5 hours and finished on April 13, 2016.

THE INSIDES:  Nice!  All seams on both the skirt and blouse (except for the armhole/sleeve seam) are finished in French seams.

TOTAL COST:  On sale with an extra coupon, my blouse’s American fabric (being the only cost) was about $5.00 for one and a half yard.  My skirt’s denim cost about $10.

Happily, our new cable provider has given us the option of being able to record HD channels on TV, and we’ve taken advantage of this to have the whole “Agent Carter” season 2 recorded so we could watch it (and I could study the fashions) all we wanted.  After much pausing, playing, and rewinding, I figured out the details of my chosen-to-imitate blouse and skirt from Episode 2, “A View in the Dark”.

Peggy's outfit - model trial photos and blouse close up

First off, Peggy’s blouse is most definitely a much finer material than my own – it’s probably silk or at least a very fine rayon by having such a soft shine and lovely drape.  Secondly, her blouse has several rows of ruching or shirring across the upper shoulders, with a V-neck and three squared buttons which looked like shell.  The back of her blouse has an upper shoulder yoke with a lower bodice section with has about three or four pleats coming out from under the yoke.  The sleeves are puffed with a small box pleat at the center bottom hem.  The color my blouse and Peggy’s is pretty much exact – a soft aqua tinted baby blue.  Now her skirt looks like it has six-gores, with bias flared bottom and hip shaping.  The waist is high and arched in the front over the belly.  The material is nicely flowing…just lovely details in all, enough said.

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Now, as much as enjoy being in Peggy Carter’s shoes I still need to stay “me”.  Thus, I downgraded in materials from rayon or silks, which probably were the fabrics of the originals, to cottons and denim so my look-alike outfit is completely practical for my life.  Vintage styles are so good for offering luxury that is classy and put-together with the comfort of modern lazy-day clothes.

The blouse is a combo of two patterns which I previously made with great success (posts here and here) and they are one year apart (’44 and ’45) so I felt confident that this could not go wrong with this mash-up.  To start, I overlaid one pattern over/on top of the other so as to make my ownDSC_0088a-comp design from there.  I wanted the main body to me more or less like the Hollywood pattern in overall length and hip width, while the bodice of the McCall dress pattern was my guide for the V-neck and the shoulder gathers (shirring or ruching as it’s called).  The most challenging part was to try and define a set-in shoulder seam on the McCall pattern as the sleeves are a continuous part of the dress in the original design.  The sleeves for my “Agent Carter” blouse came from the Hollywood pattern as I knew they were loose and comfy.  Halfway down the shoulder seam of the back bodice, I drew a line for a shoulder yoke above the line and a detailed lower half.  For the lower back bodice, rather than cutting on the fold I made a center seam and added about 3 inches in a parallel block extending down the center back so I could do a box pleat.

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I’d say my blouse is a success.  There are lovely details in both the front and back, so any way you look at it, the blouse is pleasingly detailed.  The back box pleat gives me comfortable reach room and adds a masculine touch while the front has a complimentary V-neck and delicate shirring (8 rows of it) for a ladylike touch – a mix of both worlds…much like the life of Peggy Carter.  There is a similar blouse pattern from Burda Style, sans shirring and with a collar, for a lovely “as-is” option to making your own Peggy Carter blouse.

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Now, I am a bit confused though because her blouse that I imitated here is from a TV series Vogue S4223, early 40's -B1192 year 1941-compwhich supposedly takes place in 1947, but everything about this blouse is late 1930’s or early 40’s.  I have found images of patterns with box pleats in the back bodice but they were from the late 1930’s or very early 1940’s, and the same goes for opulent shirring except it started early on in the 30’s.  So my blouse is actually accurate, just a more or less mystery year as Peggy wore this in 1947 and I used ’44 and ’45 patterns to make a blouse for a period much earlier.  Oh well, it fits, it’s comfy, so versatile, and completely makes me happy!

DSC_0205-compMy skirt was super easy to make and is equally awesome as the blouse, I must say!  With the skirt being so simple, I spent the extra time to make fine finishing inside and to re-draft for some lovely generous pockets…a handy must!  Yes, the pockets were not a part of the original design, but were easy to add into the side front panels.  I simply drew in the pockets were I wanted them to go, added in the seam allowances, and cut the side front panels into three portions instead of one (an upper pocket panel, the pocket itself, and the lower skirt panel).  The pocket upper edges go at an upward angle toward the middle panel and are re-enforced with seam tape while in the stitching process to prevent any stretching.  I also added 2 inches the length of the pattern to get a skirt which has better total knee coverage (and make it more mid to late 40’s).Joan Bennet 1940's in pants with sweater and sunglasses

Originally wanted a closer fitting skirt with a flared bottom (like Peggy’s and like “Physics Girl’s” Simplicity 2451 skirt).  I was really considering using a Simplicity #4086 (out-of-print, year 2006) from my stash, but I wanted my skirt to actually sit at the waist and not the hip like the other patterns I was considering.  The pattern I used is also more classic and easy to move in with an A-line silhouette that changes to a fitted flare appearance as I move or as the wind blows.  Here is a link to my favorite version and best review for the skirt pattern, this is what really sold me on this out-of-print gem.  My inspiration for adding in the pockets, besides utility and practicality, came from a combo of the pattern “Physics girl” used and this picture of actress Joan Bennet.

DSC_0273a-compI went all out with my Agent Carter fandom and was wearing her “Red Velvet” lipstick from Beseme Cosmetics and “Cinnamon Sweet” nail color from OPI.  I can’t say enough good things about both products so I’ll just say they are wonderful.  OPI nail polish is deep color, with a great brush and long wearing.  Sometimes with a nice top coat I get a week out of my OPI colors and they self-heal with a touch-up over small chips.  The Beseme lipstick is thick and rich and also long lasting – the best ever!

Some factories from the old industrial district of our town, the Carondelet neighborhood, became the backdrop.  I was trying to re-create the feel of Peggy visiting the Isodyne Factory in the episode where she wears my inspiration outfit.  The blue factory is an authentic Post WWII building and the lovely sky was trying to match me in tone, too.  Even buildings meant for basic or industrial uses can have their own special rugged beauty in my eyes.  We had fun with this photo shoot so look for more of these Carter inspired pictures on my Flickr page soon.

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I hope this post inspires you to try that adventurous mash-up of patterns so you can wear that lovely inspiration outfit that strikes your fancy.  Every “franken-pattern” I do has some sort of frustration, disappointment, and confusion – but see what you can get when you don’t give up!  Put your own personal touch to it, enjoy the experience, and give it a go!  This is the best examples of one of the reasons for sewing – making a one-of-a-kind garment which is exactly what you wanted to wear.

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“Agent Carter” Season 2 – My Thoughts and Ideas

Season Two Art Deco Graphic Novel style posterHooray! Peggy Carter is back for another season…and in California! We’re over halfway through and getting into the final home stretch to the finale, and with lots of inspiration I would like to share my ‘two cents’, observations, and enthusiasm (without giving away too much for those of you that are just catching up to the season).  Many of my pictures come from Agent Carter’s facebook page.

First of all, with my Season one sew-a-long un-participated, I am thinking of throwing out a simple, casual, “come and join me with my sewing goal”, part 2. Peggy is wearing loads of two tone outfits, in bright colors or interesting combos of tones. The very first outfit we see Peggy in at the first season episode is a suit set, with a green suit and skirt and a peachy toned blouse…unusual but it works! How about challenging myself and yourself to sew up a two toned 1940’s era project? My blog will have Agent Carter inspired 40’s posts in the next few months, along with some sort of two toned outfit for my season two of Peggy-look-alike garments. If you sew something along this line, please let me know (via a ‘contact me’ message on my ‘about’ page) or give me a shout out or link on your own page and I’ll try to do the same. That’s it!

'Ready for another adventure' pic at the racetrack-combo with two-tone pants set

Stark from Agent Carter, left-Actor William Wright, rightSecondly, I’ve noticed some similarities between Agent Carter season 2 and some old 1940’s movie and actor tidbits. The actor who plays Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) is uncannily alike in both looks and voice to the rather unknown WWII actor William Wright. He was used in place of more well-known actors who were away at war, and he died too young and too soon after the war to end up being recognized. I recently saw part of the 1945 movie “Escape in the Fog” and realized this insane similarity. Look at how they two men could be doubles – albeit time differences!  You saw it first here!  Stark, Dominic Cooper, is on the left and actor William Wright is on the right.The Man with Nine Lives, 1940 film, movie poster

Also, there is a Boris Karloff movie from 1940 called “The Man with Nine Lives”. In this movie, he experiments to find a way to conquer disease, only to end up freeze people in such a way to halt life, so they can be thawed and pick up where they left off. Not that this is in Agent Carter but it vaguely reminds me of poor Jane Scott, the “Lady in the Lake”. Most especially, the beautiful assistant in “The Man with Nine Lives” looks totally like an Agent Carter lady in the movie poster.

I recently found a blog post with a wealth of info and pictures regarding Agent Carter season two. It is a tour of the set, close-up view of the costumes, and info on the making and production of the series. I would highly recommend visiting here to see it for yourself…for me it gave me a deeper appreciation of the talent and rich quality of the series.

The Agent Carter show is the continuing of something good, I think, both for the line between cinema and television as well as for the forgotten talent of authentic, old-fashioned costuming. It also bringing back the 1940’s into the forefront and that’s a cool thing. However, no matter what I or others would like, unfortunately we have a very strong suspicion this is the last round for Marvel’s Agent Carter to be hosted on a major television station. Maybe something else good will come in a different way for the continuing story of Peggy.

Season Two - on set for Stark's western -cropped

Will you share in this enthusiasm of mine and maybe sew something Carter-inspired along with me? Are you too up for bringing the 1940’s and maybe some fun color combo’s to your sewing table…and thereafter, your wardrobe?

My “Agent Carter” Pinstriped Shirtdress

This project is my 1940’s “power dress” – a vintage classic that manifests the taking on of men’s roles which women assumed during World War II. This dress is also directly inspired from an outfit worn by Peggy during the Marvel television series “Agent Carter”, “The Iron Ceiling”, Season 1, Episode 5, aired on February 3, 2015. It is also part two to my previous post, part one, about the matching rayon under slip, also worn with the same inspiration dress in the same airing episode.Peggys pinstripe shirtdress-combo pic

However business-like this 1940’s “power dress” is, it’s also extremely comfortable in pure cotton shirting and plenty ease of movement, yet classy with fine tailored details. I love such tastefully beautiful garments which really have it all going for them! Do you have a favorite garment which you enjoyed sewing and absolutely love wearing, like me with this dress?

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THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  My dress is made from a 100% cotton shirting fabric. The fabric is not the over-wrinkly…it has a nice soft crispness that takes to an ironing really well and yet feel wonderful on the skin and gets softer after each wash. It is in a pastel baby blue color with thin double pinstripes in white.

NOTIONS:  I had the thread and interfacing I needed on hand already, but I bought the zipper for the side. The three front buttons came from hubby’s Grandmother’s stash of vintage buttons. I’m not sure how vintage the buttons are, but they seem quite old. The buttons are in a different, very lightweight material, in kind of a marbled dusty blue and grey color, with a raised square in the middle.

PATTERN:  Simplicity 1526, an unprinted pattern from the year 1945

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TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress was finished on April 21, 2015, after maybe 15 to 20 hours of sewing pleasure.100_5046-comp

THE INSIDES:  Just how I like them! I took the extra time to make fine finishes and this dress is worth it. All seams, except the hems of course, are bias bound with a few French seams. The rest of the seams all around the collar and back shoulder panel are covered by an extra panel I added to stabilize and enclose those seams.

TOTAL COST:  Well, I got lucky here. The regular price of the fabric was (I believe) about $10 a yard, but I bought it on sale for only $2.25 a yard. I bought about 2 ½ yards of 45 inch width fabric so, with the added zipper, I suppose I spent a total of just under $7.00. Nice!

My outer envelope to my pattern has some significant water damage, musty smells, and silverfish bug chews, but this time around there was more than just pattern pieces…there was a treasure inside this unassuming package. The previous user or perhaps the previous owner (maybe both were in one) left her personal measurements on the back of a very old blank check. The front of the check has a finely detailed line drawing of the Commercial National Bank of Charlotte, North Carolina in the background (the exact building is now torn down). The measurements are so much larger than the size of the pattern, if the woman who had those proportions made this copy (and I can tell it was used at some point), it would have taken some impressive grading to make a garment to fit her.

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There is and address at the bottom list of the measurements, “1234 Pinecrest Avenue, Charlotte”. According to what I see on Google Maps this is a real address, and Zillow says the home there was built in year 1939. Public records show the home was sold in 2002, and in 2012, and this is significant because I bought this pattern in 2012/2013 from an online shop when I was just getting into vintage sewing. I’m supposing 2012 was when the woman that owned this pattern is the same one who wrote the note inside; then in 2012 had her sewing collection sold, sending this pattern my way so I can rediscover it again. Somehow this makes me feel a wonderful connection to seamstresses through the past decades, in different parts of the world. The internet helps us connect across the world nowadays 🙂

I was dealing with some serious fabric shortage in yardage available – I bought the end of the bolt and was lucky to get what I did. However, I took several hours, spread out over two days, to layout the pattern pieces on the fabric, think about how to squeeze everything in while matching stripes, then notice a discrepancy only to re-arrange everything again and think some more. “Think twice, cut once” was my motto here, except I know thought much more than twice.

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In order to save on space layout and be more creative with the pattern, the back shoulder yoke was cut into two bias pieces so the stripes would chevron into the middle. In lieu of laying the piece on the fold like it should have been, I cut it out on the bias (as I said) in between everything else adding in a center seam allowance. Not mentioned in the instructions but needed in my opinion, I cut out an extra lining shoulder yoke to cover all the inside collar/shoulder yoke seams inside. The lining shoulder yoke is cut on the fold/straight grain so on a practical level it supports the fashion fabric, cut on the bias, from stretching out of shape. It’s a subtle touch that’s not obvious, but just noticeable enough so that it speaks of my extra time and thought. I don’t want my clothes to flag people down, just make (or inspire) them to want to put their own effort and interest in their own wardrobe by sewing too.

100_5032-compI learned how to do the slashed and gathered chest detail when I made my 1940 suit set (post here) but was determined to do better with a my cotton dress, a much lighter weight fabric. This is sure a neat but challenging technique to do…I like it! I sewed a small piece of cotton broadcloth down on top the right side and stitched down then slashed. The facing is turned inside and a loose gathering stitch is put “in the ditch” of the two fabrics only on the bottom half. The bottom is gathered evenly with the top, pulled in and lap stitched down.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Bound, or “window pane” buttonholes are in the trio of front closures. “Window pane” button holes are fun to make and much more striking when it comes to look but stable when it comes to support. It is a hard call, but every time I look at the buttons on this dress I want to say they are my favorite part. I love the way they are the perfect tint of blue without dominating the outfit, the way they have such details of design not found anymore, and especially the fact they come from the familial stash of notions.  Besides the family connections, there is the classic late WWII restriction amount of “no more than three buttons” as designated by the ration regulations, making this even more of a classic classy 40’s dress.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGoing with the menswear theme with this dress, I further altered the pattern by pleating the sleeve fullness into the cuffs rather than simply gathering it. I wasn’t really too precise with my pleating – they start roughly one inch away from the edge, and there are three dramatic ½ inch pleats on the cuff side facing up (where they can be seen better) and two small ¼ pleats on cuff’s underneath side. The smooth way the pleating at the cuffs extend up the rest of the sleeve in controlled gathers makes me determined to do this to more shirts and shirt dresses. Menswear is going so have the only market on pleated sleeve cuff goodness.

Actually this pattern had a few non-dire pieces missing easily replaceable, but the previous owner already took care of some of that for me. The belt was replaced with a different printed piece, the short sleeve was gone, and cuff piece was missing. I “made-do” by using another cuff piece from this blouse and added in the pointed end like the pattern shows. My cuffs are made for cuff links, as is the norm for my garments, but here I made a slight boo-boo which adds some humorous personality. There are two buttonholes on one side of one cuff! I simply miss-measured, putting the button hole too close to the edge, so I made a new one instead of unpicking a tightly made buttonhole. Un-picking stitching is one of my least favorite things to do, and when unpicking tight stitches like on a buttonhole you run the risk of leaving holes behind in your fabric. Yup…no matter how nicely my dress is made, you can tell a home seamstress made it when you look at the one cuff. I smile at it…and like it there.

Stitching down the box pleats fold edges helps immensely towards a crisp looking skirt that doesn’t need constant attention from the iron to be in place like it should. The front has two box pleats, but the back is plainer, in the classic 1940’s triple paneled style.

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I did end up adding in some thin shoulder pads to define the shoulders and fill in the bodice. They are modern newly bought shoulder pads and not as authentically accurate, but I really don’t want to look like a football player even though this dress is supposed to be a “power suit”.

My favorite way to wear my dress is with a belt which closely resembles how Peggy in Agent Carter wore the inspiration outfit. The wide, chunky utility style of my and Peggy’s belt is not as popular of an authentic 1940’s ‘look’, but the decade did love interesting, curiously designed waist cinchers. (See this pattern from my stash for belt designs to make yourself from 1945, as an example.) A tougher themed belt goes with Agent Carter’s personal situation and the mood I wanted with my dress. A woman in a man’s world in the 1940’s had to be strong, confident, self-assured of one’s own worth in order to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the men who had the assumed supremacy of the culture.

scetches of Peggy's power pinstripe shirtdress-my pinstripe dress

Blue has currently the designation of being a man’s color, but it was not always so…in fact, it used to be the exact opposite. There is a Mental Floss article which expounds the historical facts as to when pink started becoming a “girl” color. I love how a June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color (derived from red), is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl”, taken directly from the Smithsonian.com. It wasn’t until World War II times that the gender specific colors of blue and pink changed applications, as also did the previous practical practice of gender neutral dressing for children under 7 (see this NPR article). Thus, I love the fact that my dress incorporates a little of all of the color/gender history of azure and rosy hues by it being a masculine styled, shapely woman’s suit dress in a cool, powerful, and assertive blue colored 1940’s garment.

Foundational Lingerie: a 1942 Rayon Slip

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

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

THE FACTS:

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

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

PATTERN:  Simplicity #4352, year 1942

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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For One at the Home Front: a Man’s 1943 Flannel Plaid Work Shirt

There are the honorable men who helped World War II to be fought…and then there are the men (for one reason or another) who had the often over-looked position of keeping the home front with the women, children, and politicians. Those at the home front did not win awards or medals, but helped keep the wheels running for the country the soldiers left behind, making sure their nation was there for them when they returned from active duty. This part of World War II was brought to my attention by making a vintage pattern, believe it or not. I made (as my title states) a 1943 flannel plaid work shirt for my husband, as authentically possible and practical for me the seamstress.

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I would like to use the opportunity this creation presents to remember and address a subject of the men who stayed behind in WWII, and also the masculine fashion which prevailed in the mid-1940’s.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC: a 100% cotton blue, navy, and white flannel plaid. A small amount of black cotton broadcloth from my stash was also used to line the back shoulder yoke inside.100_4745a-comp

NOTIONS: Hubby enjoyed rummaging through his Grandmother’s vintage button stash (which I now keep) to find 10 total matching white buttons which he liked for his shirt – sleeves, lapels, and front. The interfacing and white thread needed was on hand already.

PATTERN: Simplicity #1961, year 1943

TIME TO COMPLETE: The total time was about 25 hours or more. The shirt was finished on March 8, 2015.

THE INSIDES: Every raw edge that isn’t the hem or isn’t already covered by lining or the design of the shirt (such as the cuffs), is finished in French seams. If I’m going to make him a shirt, I want to make him a really good one…’cause I can and ’cause I care (high mushy factor but true).

100_5904a-compTOTAL COST: The flannel was bought at Hancock fabrics on a big discount at $2.25 a yard. Since everything else for the shirt was on hand, and as I bought all the under 2 yards of fabric on the bolt, I only spent a total of $4.50. I think this total makes hubby even happier about this project…wouldn’t you?

100_4954-compBoth the proportions and the cover drawing of this particular pattern that I own has led me to some interesting conclusions. Firstly, let’s look at what’s apparent. The cover drawing top half shows two men facing the viewer, comfortably middle aged perhaps, both with a “grown-up” moustache and the left one having slicked back hair streaked with grey while the right has a pipe. The other man not facing the viewer is, to my eyes, a young adult/grown boy, dapper healthy and cheerful looking. I see a discrepancy here – what is not drawn are the 20 to 30-something year olds who were the ones sent away to fight the battles and see the action. Secondly, the sizing of my pattern is a small and the given proportions are quite petite. My hubby has arms that need a 34in. length sleeve, and a neck that is comfortable with a collar which is a 14 ½ in to a 15 something inch. The neck, the chest girth, and the shoulders all fit him as is, but the pattern’s sleeves needed a whopping – inches added to the length. Now I know hubby’s finished shirt fits more snugly than a traditional 40’s shirt should, and I know men’s 40’s shirts seem run roomy (that was the ‘look’ of the times), which is why he got away with fitting into such a small size, although he is lean anyways. However, my patterns sleeve length tells me that the small size was catered to one not fully grown yet – a teenage boy who would have been home because he was under 18 years old, one of the two age groups I figured from the cover drawing.

family picture3 - year 1944

Here’s a family photo. My hubby’s Grandfather, who was in the war, is in the middle in his uniform, with hubby’s great-uncle, who was about 17, on his left in the flannel plaid shirt. This is year 1944.

Amid the flurry nowadays of learning (and amazing) at how people of the 40’s rationed, scrimped, saved, and “made-do” to help their soldiers, I’d like to point out that the needs of the men who stayed behind were thoughtfully not neglected by the pattern companies, apparently. I’m impressed. I know from learning first-hand about family history on both sides that men who were in their prime of life, and did not fit in the two “classic” categories shown on the cover of my pattern, did stay back from being sent overseas, too. According to page 6 of the American Population Reference Bureau report on the military, “The World War II armed forces represented about 12 percent of the population and included about 56 percent of the men eligible for military service on the basis of age, health, and mental aptitude.” This means about 44 percent of American men didn’t serve active military service. Thus, I am curious about the size proportions of the medium and large to my pattern – are the next two sizes up for adult men with dramatically longer sleeves than the small or are shorter arms something of the 1940’s or just of this pattern? I can see some sizing on the back of my envelope, but a full sleeve measurements would fully prove my thoughts. After all, this pattern reminds me of a true “working man’s shirt” in the “lumberjack” style, with lots of generous pockets to make it even more useful and practical. Men’s vintage duds just isn’t around still like women’s vintage clothes – men wore their stuff (especially the practical ones) until it couldn’t be worn anymore. I’m so happy to find patterns which help me fill in today for what is missing from back then.

100_4958-compSpeaking of fabric rationing and pockets from the paragraph above, I was working with some major discrepancy of flannel to make this 1943 shirt, leading to some slight adjustments to the pattern. Not too often do I come across an exact fabric match to a pattern envelope drawing, much less at a cheap not-to-be-missed price, and also have it be something hubby actually liked, as well – a very rare combo! It was almost painful to hear at the cutting counter that there was just under, yes…under, 2 yards for me to make a plaid-matching, long-sleeved shirt. Augh! I don’t know why this is a habit, but it seems as if the fabrics which get chosen for hubby’s shirts are so far always way too small of yardage. I have to make the gears in my brain smoke just to make things work out (see his 1953 shirt). Oh well – I mark it up to, “it keeps me creative” (I have to reason with myself). Anyway, I did squeeze in all the pieces with a few necessary compromises which hubby is happy have – chest pockets and their flap closures are smaller all around by 5/8 inch with the hem shorter and rounded up into a point at the side seams. The shoulder tops were taken in ½ inch to eliminate drooping sleeves and keep the seam at the true shoulder. No compromises whatsoever were made as to the grain line or matching up the plaid, and I am shamelessly proud at the results, especially working on such an impossibly short amount. I’d like to think the most hardcore 1940’s era rationer would be proud of me, too.

100_4959-compNow, I’m not called “Seam Racer” for nothing, however I really slowed my pace down while working on this project, enjoying all the fine details and getting things as perfect as I could make them. Attaining “perfection” is a hard goal to set, but I wanted hubby to have a really nice shirt – besides, I have a tendency (for better or worse) to make things hard for myself.
Let me define some of the details put into my hubby’s 1943 shirt so you can look for them in our pictures. There are rounded off sleeve cuffs, for a subtle dash of personality. There is an ultra-wide collar, more akin to what I also see in the decade of the 1970’s. The classic back shoulder panel is there, fully gathered across the lower piece below to complete the vintage look. I top-stitched everything in white for a contrast/utilitarian appearance, and made the shirt insides special for hubby in French seams not seen in ready-to-wear. He chose a medium weight interfacing for the cuffs, collar, and button-hole closure edge. I chose to use the “wrong” non-fuzzy side of the flannel as the right side out to keep his shirt looking a bit more crisp and less likely to “pill” up or look worn before it’s time. This “new” “vintage” shirt is meant to last a long time!

100_4952-compThe detail that was the source of the most thought, time, and stress for me was the duo of flap patch pockets on the chest. This was the first time I had done this kind of pocket, and I found it to be a tiresome, exact technique but very rewarding when finished. The placement in the front didn’t leave much room for error without becoming immediately obvious. This is why I left sewing on the pockets with its flaps and closures for the very last step after the rest of the shirt was done. Not meaning to complain, but matching the plaid of the pocket with the rest of the shirt and the flap closure section is one thing…however, there was the button and button-hole closure to center. I felt like these pieces were a bit fiddly and rather tiny to turn, sew, and generally work with, so I am quite impressed and amazed when I see flap closure patch pockets on our son’s child-size shirts. Hubby is happy with the pockets, even though I still doubt whether or not they’re centered, so if it’s good enough for him, I’m happy, too.

After hubby wore the shirt a few times, I went back to the few minute scraps leftover and added little triangular inserts to fill in the upper corners of the shirt-tail arch. These are intended to give him just a little extra ‘forgiveness’ in the length. Now, the shirt won’t show his undershirt as easily when it is pulled out from his pants or even left untucked. Each triangle fill-in piece is doubled up and lap-stitched under the existing hem of bias tape.

100_4960-compHubby has yet to own a pair of vintage 1940’s pants, so his shirt is often worn with classic jeans. The jeans give his 1940’s shirt a sort of quintessential look in my mind, making them not so obviously vintage. Jeans are not too far off in era-appropriateness, although, because they have been a staple in the world since the 1800’s when the Gold Rush happened, as the best wearing and longest lasting bottoms. As a daily-life, work-wear men’s garment, my hubby’s 1943 flannel shirt seems appropriate to be paired with jeans, besides the fact the combo of flannel and soft broken-in, quality jeans is quite cozy.

The Marvel television show “Agent Carter” has offered some enticing eye-candy of Agent Carter Cast with Stan Leehandsome menswear styles which I have seen recently. Some of the masculine characters wore authentic vintage pieces, while others wore well sourced and excellently tailored new replicas, but either way, I love the way “Agent Carter” presents the variety of styles available for men during the 40’s, a subject often overlooked in lieu of women’s fashion. Go to this “Hello Tailor” Blog interview with the designer of “Agent Carter” where she talks about sourcing and styling the men for the television show.

1943 mens fashion-magazine ad & Spunrayon shirtsFor a man of the decade, there was the classic mid-40’s relaxed look of lumberjack shirts and blazer jackets, and also “new” post-war casual look of sweater vests and pre-1950’s “University-style” sweaters, which did or did not need a tie and “braces” (suspenders). The dapper style was there for men, too, with endless opportunities for self-expression by choosing classic ties or art ties, old style-plaids or newer brighter colors, double-breasted or single-breasted suits, and multi-pleated or darted flat fronted pants (more fashion forward). Knitwear men’s shirts, precursor to the modern polo, were also being worn by men in the 40’s, as well as more artificial man-made fibers, just like for women of the 40’s. Nevertheless, there is some things that do not change about 1940’s men’s clothes – high/natural waist pants with boxy shirts with large collars. Knits and plaid, new and classic…it all stood side by side offering a man of the 1940’s more personality with his wardrobe than many people realize.

Men’s vintage wear might be rather non-existent as far as surviving, but with knowledge, a 100_4957-comprealization, and respect of the past, us seamstresses can change this and bring back men’s ‘chic’ fashion from the past. Men deserve to have the same admirable classy personalization of individual fashion like what was available in the 1940’s. Here in this post, I feature a 1943 shirt for my hubby so relaxed it becomes a part of him but so classy and tailored I hope the vintage style and hand-made quality quietly stands out. I can’t wait to make him a different vintage project. If you sew and have special man in your life, what about honoring the past, catering to individual style, and expanding one’s talents by finding a pattern for you to create a “new” vintage garment with me and bring back a style and variety so lacking today?!