Simple Luxury – a 1940 Flannel Bias Nightgown

I’ve been wanting to post this for so long (two years), but it’s a nightgown so I don’t usually make sure to have make-up on and decently arranged hair in evening when I want to be cozy and relax!  This is the first part of a small three part February series of easy ways to do vintage for nighttime.  Emileigh of “Flashback Summer” blog beat me to the punch, and has a similar idea with her own “Lovely Lounging” series for February.

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Vintage fashion really knows how to make basic items so elegant and beautiful, and I think nightwear is one of the best examples of that, especially in the 1930s and 40’s.  Not that new luxury nightgowns cannot be found nowadays as well, but they tend to cost a lot of dough and are generally in static-attracting, non-breathable polyesters.  On the flip side, so many flannel nightgowns available (even today) are the “granny-style” Lanz of Salzburg type, completely vintage authentic, decent, quaint, and cozy.  Yet, I’m too afraid that a vintage one will end up tearing irreparably, so although they are so beautiful and still rather easy-to find in our town, I only own one and don’t wear it to sleep in.

100_4670-compwNow, the 1940 pattern I used for this nightgown’s post was so quick (a few hours), easy (only four pieces), required little fabric (just under 2 yards), and fits and feels wonderful to wear with the bias-cut skirt working in my favor.  This has the best of both elegance and warm comfort, not to mention it’s new and hand-made vintage.  I am totally hooked…I want one of these to wear every night!

Now you’ve also got a glimpse of our tiny 1930’s era bathroom, too.  Lucky for me I like lavender so much, since I see it every day!  We are proud to be one of the seemingly few homes in our primarily 1930’s/1940’s era neighborhood which still has many original features, especially in our bathroom.  We have lavender swirled Vitrolite tiles, powder grey/blue painted walls, and black and white tiled floor.  Odd combinations of colors were a popular craze starting in the late 1920’s…at least we don’t have colored fixtures, too!  Anyway, this architectural chat should postponed to get to “The Facts”.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% cotton brushed flannel in two prints – just under two yards of a purple and green floral with an aqua background, with an extra ¼ yard of a swirled purple print.

100_4669-compwNOTIONS:  Everything I needed was on hand already, only needs basic items: thread and bias tapes.

PATTERN:  Simplicity #3508, year 1940 (…this was such a lucky buy on Ebay, one of those where nobody bids and you get it for the dirt cheap starting price!)  By the way, look at this year 1940 Hollywood #544.  This Jane Wyman pattern is just about an exact copy of Simplicity #3508!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  From cutting out to finish took me about 3 hours.  It was finished on February 27, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  raw but nicely stitched over

TOTAL COST:  These fabrics were bought so very long ago (maybe 10 years back) from Hancock Fabrics, so I’m counting this as free.

This nightgown is a great example of a small niche in the decade of the 1940’s – pre-WWII times.  The fashion from 1940 to 1941 (and maybe 1942, for a stretch) has a very unique style in my eyes.  It shows strong influence of the styles from the decade before, the 1930’s, so much so that some early 40’s designs can be similar to as far back as about 1936.  Yet it is still the 40’s, too, so that lends its own touch to the styles.  The popular Tyrolean/Slavonic/Germanic designs of the late 30’s and the Latin American prints which spawned of the “Good Neighbor Policy” of 1933 was another way that influences carried over into the 40’s as well with such items as pinafores, peasant styles, dirndl-style embroidery, fun border printed skirts and dresses, Xavier Cugat music, novelty brooches, and unusual hats (like turbans, for one example)…this is just a short list.  Besides, rationing wasn’t in effect as of yet in America and our country’s designers were just beginning to hold their own against the other leading fashion headquarters of the world.  I see in the early 40’s a glimpse of something similar but yet apart from the rest of what 1940’s fashion became – it also gives me the sneaking haunch that had not WWII changed and influenced so much, the decade could have looked much differently than we know it.

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My duo of matching/contrasting flannel fabric has been something I’ve been holding onto for about a decade because I liked it so much and also because I wasn’t up for sewing nightwear until just a few years ago.  My original intent was pajama pants, but no – I have enough of them.  One night when I was in the strong mood to wear a vintage nightgown, I had finally felt I was holding onto the flannel long enough and laid my pattern and fabric out in the early evening and started cutting.  By late night (our bed-time) I had a new, glamorous nightgown.  Oh, thank goodness for uncomplicated, easy satisfaction projects!  I love it when you can start something and wear the results on the same day!  So many early 40’s patterns were labeled as simple-to-sew, when really they are complicated by today’s standards.  This nightwear pattern has no easy-to-make labeling, but it is truly a breeze.

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Perhaps the other best part was the fact there is no need for any closures.  No zipper, no snaps, no ties – the bias gives enough, and the pattern sizing is generous enough that this just slips on over my head.  No facings, either – just bias tape finished edges all around.  How easy can it get?  The flannel body keeps me warm enough, the sleevelessness gives me just enough to air to keep myself from being too hot, and if I’m chilly I’ll just cover up with my housecoat…another tease of what’s in the next post, sorry!

Before I forget to add fitting facts – this nightgown did run large (like 2 sizes too large).  Granted some extra room comes from the double facts that flannel gets larger as it is washed and worn besides extra ease needed to make this a slip-on gown (as I said above). However, I sewed a full front and a full back and then sewed the side seams as my last step so the fit is easily adjustable.  The nightgown pattern also was originally oh-so-very long.  I graded out about 10 inches from the length.  I do not need to trip all over an evening gown length just feel elegant in my bed wear! 100_6236-compw

The bottom hem band of contrast was added not so much to extend length (although I didn’t mind) but just to provide a matching contrast which would pair well with the tie belt.  I didn’t want just the aqua floral, not that it isn’t so pretty, but I had kept the purple swirl flannel paired with it for such a long time the two deserved to stay together.

As lovely and simple and quick as this nightgown was to make, this was (at the same time) another unprinted, hole-punched markings pattern where the pieces do not properly fit or match together.  The bodice needed to be cut smaller to fit into the skirt and the gathers didn’t seem quite equal, and I think this is mostly due to the skirt portion.  I have read before that unprinted patterns can be off-balance, because of the way they were made.  Large stacks of many, many layers of sheet are die cut and if you get one towards the bottom, its markings can be off – and anyone who sews knows that every little variation counts towards a successful finished garment.  Oh well, this is a simple enough design it was not hard to adjust, so I’m sorry if I seem like I’m complaining…just making an observation for you all just in case you happen to snag this pattern for yourself, too…and do buy it if you see it, and if it’s not too much for your wallet!

100_6224a-compwThere are plans in the works to use this pattern again, believe me.  Out of all the patterns in my collection, this one is a true asset in the way it is a good base, a tried-and-true starting point to tweak and draft off many other variations, especially some of the ever popular 1930’s era bias gowns.  Just imagine how this design would hang and drape in a lightweight sweater knit or a silk charmeuse for a dress version!  My immediate ideas for re-incarnations of my nightgown’s pattern are Simplicity #3835 (year 1941), one of these 1933 dresses or this 1935 evening dress (both from “Eva Dress”), and even this super elegant Butterick #5413 (year 1933).

For now, I just hope to make the bed jacket at some point to keep the chill off my arms when I don’t want the weight of a full housecoat.  I did make a bed jacket from a different pattern, modelling it over this post’s nightgown (link to see it here), but this was actually a present for my mother.

Stay tuned for the next installments of my vintage nightwear reveal.  Now, to decide which night wear project for myself to tackle next.  I actually have three in the queue – will you help me pick the next one?

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“1938 Goes Native” Dress

Hot weather and bright sunshine gives me no excuse to look any less cool and elegant with my year 1938 dress creation.  Now I also have a frock for the upcoming fall weather, as well.  The neutral tones work perfectly with blazers and cardigans for cooler temperatures.  Yay for multi-season sewing!

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As my dress is made of lovely rayon challis, the drapey, loose bodice is actually cooling and the high neck feels like I’m wearing a soft ascot to catch the extra sweat at my neck.  For the cool temperatures, the neck will keep me cozy.  The bias skirt is not at all restricting, moving with me at every step making me aware of the understated elegance of pre-War 30’s styling.

I am writing this post thanks to the help of another blogger, the awesome Emileigh at “Flashback Summer”.  When I had a question about my dress, I couldn’t think of anyone better at addressing cultural influences and its history, especially when it comes to being part of vintage fashion.  Thus, at my sending a query, she helped me recognize the Native American flair to my chosen fabric, seeing the geometric jagged triangle/diamond shapes and color scheme.  She recommended this site to see the similarities.

THE FACTS:100_4454acombo-comp-w

FABRIC:  a 100% rayon challis

PATTERN:  McCall #3061, stamped December 5, 1938, for the bodice and a mid-30’s (probably 1935) New York #531 for the skirt portion

NOTIONS:  I had all the thread needed, as well as the side closing notions, then I used vintage 100% cotton bias tape which had been given me by my Grandmother.  The single back neck closing button is a wood-looking plastic coming from the stash of my hubby’s Grandmother.

dsc_0585-compTIME TO COMPLETE:  This was whipped up in about 3 or 4 hours and finished on May 10, 2016

THE INSIDES:  All either French or bias bound

TOTAL COST:  The 2 ½ yards I used were bought at Hancock as it was closing, so I got a good deal – maybe a total of $10.

Now, just to clarify, I am not attempting to knock-off something designated as special to this race, like how Pendleton has lately been misusing the Native Americans “trade blankets” and Navajo prints.   I am merely trying to highlight and recognize the beauty and art of another culture through fabric, as well as taking this as an opportunity to learn about the past.

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In 1930’s and the 1940’s, Native Americans were still not represented well at all…even though more than 44,000 saw service on all fronts.  However, by the late 30’s things were taking a good turn.  1938 –the date of my dress – was the year the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) estimated the number of potential registrants for a draft in case of war (Hitler was then occupying Austria and Czechoslovakia).  The Navajos especially answered the call inwearing-navajo-blankets-1930s-estatesaletreasurehunter-blogspot force, with many of those enlisting seeing a big city for the very first time and many being in their early teens posing as older young men.  About 400 Navajos were chosen for a special WWII code unit (in 1942) to develop secret messaging for use on the Pacific front, offering the U.S. a code which could not be broken.  On a more personal level, 1938 was also the beginning of the first established high schools and centers for education on reservations, to bring more progressive and wide spread learning sponsored by the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs).  Previously, the “Indian New Deal” of the Depression played down schools and learning for this race.  The Indian division of the CCC was building more community buildings, lands were being granted back in 1938 and ’37, natural resources on their lands were protected by the “Mining Act”, and Anglo writers were transcribing oral tradition into written form.  No group that participated in World War II made a greater per capita contribution than Native Americans, and between this fact and changing attitudes, the time period before and after 1938 was one of significance for these people.  I would like to recognize this and let my dress do the extra showing of respect.

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This dress’ design is stunningly complicated in appearance but ridiculously simple to construct.  No kidding – it’s like the magically appearing pattern…only four pieces for my dress and 4 hours later…a dress!  This pattern has one basic body design, but there are three sleeve options and the ¾ sleeve is by far my favorite.  I meant to do the short sleeves but they seemed to overwhelming to the dress so were left off.  The pattern I have was bought at a very reasonable price because it was missing the skirt pattern pieces but no biggie – this basic shape is on a pattern I already have used (not posted yet), New York #531.  All the details are in the bodice and sleeves anyway.dsc_0586a-comp-w

The side closing here is one of its kind in my wardrobe.  It is a combo of both a zipper and a snap closure to not constrict the silhouette of the dress.  From the waist down there is a zipper, sort of a hard thing in a bias skirt, and from the waist up is a snap closure to keep the bodice draping well.  This was kind of tricky to finagle, but it gave me the opportunity to use up two small remnant pieces of snap tape floating around in my “scrap notions” drawer!

My biggest fear with this dress was being sewn from a print might make the bodice details disappear, but I figured (I think correctly) that a larger, especially geometric pattern would show best what is going on at the shoulders with the triple rows of uber-ruching.  I cannot wait to make another, dressier version of this dress out of a rich, deep colored solid jersey rayon.  For now, I am quite happy to have a vintage dress that is so versatile and comfy, as well as a tribute to the history of America’s “first citizens”.

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“Retro Forward” Burda Style – 1920’s Geometric Bias Dress

In strong simulation of the famous Madeleine Vionnet, this Burda Style dress is perfect for modern day glamour a la 1920’s.  My fabric is a silvery pink satin.  With its frosty sheen and surrealist clock “cog works” print, the fabric reminds me specifically of the cold, hard, mathematical beauty that I love about the Art Deco era.  The dress, in classic Vionnet style, is on the bias for a flowing, body complimentary gown the likes of which are not seen that often in modern patterns anymore.  I love this dress!

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McCall #6560 year 1931 Vionnet style facy gownI am not exaggerating – this is one of the most ingenious designs I have come across in my sewing.  It’s so simple yet so complex and so smart.  Just a few geometric shapes cut in the right grain line makes all the difference.  Vionnet had the foresight and ingenuity to create very similar styles, but Burda made this kind of dress reasonable in price and availability as a great option to going with a pricey hard-to-find old 1930’s/1920’s original patterns (at left)…without compromising authenticity.  Yes, believe it or not the 1920’s was more than just beads and fringe – it was also about bias cuts, freedom to move unconfined, and mathematical glamor.

THE FACTS:102 tango dress line drawing

FABRIC:  A 100% polyester satin bought from a Hancock Fabrics store

PATTERN:  Cowl Neck Dress #102, from 07/2012, on Burda Style’s store online or in the July monthly magazine issue.

NOTIONS:  I had the interfacing and thread I needed, as well as the money coins which went into the fabric weights for the dress’ inside.

THE INSIDES:  As this is on the bias, all seams are left raw and free.

100_3629-compTIME TO COMPLETE:  This was made quickly in about 6 hours, and finished on August 8, 2014.

TOTAL COST:  about $10

This was my first Burda Pattern to make and I’m glad it was a success.  The instructions for the neck/bodice all-in-one facing were quite impossible to understand merely reading but as long as I followed them to the letter in my sewing, as weird as they sounded all worked out great.  I didn’t do any changes to the pattern.  Besides fitting in the sides, I kept the proportions and length as-is.

As for any Burda Style pattern, printing and/or tracing is necessary to have a usable pattern to lay on your desired fabric.  My pattern was traced out using a roll of medical paper from the insert sheet of the magazine issue but you can also buy it, download it, and print it out from Burda Style’s online store.  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size and add in your choice of seam allowance width.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped.  Sorry to repeat something you might already know, but this is just an “FYI” for those that don’t know.

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Usually I grade from my “normal” Burda size (usually the smallest one offered) up to the next size for the hips but for this pattern I made the whole dress out of the size for my hips, just to be on the safe side.  However, I ended up taking in each side a few inches.  I don’t know if the bias is making the dress size seem so big or if it’s truly the sizing but either way for more of a body fit, rather than a loose and overall drapey fit, go a size down.  Now that I’ve made a few bias garments I’ve found there is a delicate balance.  A loose fit is needed so the bias does hang a bit on the body (you don’t want the bias stretched over you) but yet too much ease can make bias dresses look bad and frumpy with draping and wrinkles in the wrong places.  100_3614a-comp

The vertical sides of the dress are on the bias, but the side panels take turns with the main body of the dress to change things up.  There is the straight grain on the semi-horizontal downward edges of the panels while those corresponding seams of the dress are on the bias.  I had to be careful of both differing grains to ease in the fullness and yet also not stretch the bias in those spots– slightly tricky.

Bias cut also means no closures, no darts – just simple beauty.  Sweet!!!  While on me, if I pinch the dress and pull it out it could just keep going.  When putting this on, it falls open wide so it seems like a giant dress but then once it comes on over the head it magically falls around my body to fit.  Bias cut is so awesome yet so sadly unknown by the general non-sewing populace (at least from my experience).

My chosen fabric is feather-weight so it really makes the dress flow nicely, but with a slightly heavier fabric (such as a rayon crepe or silk charmeuse) the dress would have more of a correct drape.  Thus, I had to add some strategic weights at certain spots of the dress.  The cowl needed to drape better to keep the neckline down so I added a weight to the inside of the center front.  Then, the dress was lopsided so I had to also add a matching weight to the inside center back neckline.  My weights are merely small rectangular “pockets”, made from the same fabric as the dress, and they hold two quarters each.  So, I guess I ended up putting and extra dollar into my dress just to keep it hanging right on me!  Whatever it takes…

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I really don’t know why but the high-low hem didn’t turn out as obvious as in the pattern’s line drawing.  The high-low hem was a trademark of the late 1920’s and very early 30’s, which is why this dress is part of my “Retro Forward” blog series.  Around the time of the stock market crash of 1929, hemlines became more modestly transitional to the mid-calf skirt/dress lengths of the 1930’s by being frequently part short (like the 1920’s) yet getting elongated (mostly visually) by also being partially long.  Thus, during the transition of the 30’s and 20’s all sorts of hemlines became popular such as “high-low” hems, “hankie” hems (see this post), fur trimmed hems – and the variety doesn’t end there!  I find it funny how I still see many of these hemline styles in modern clothes.  Also, this Burda pattern is totally a Tango dress…similar to Folkwear’s version.  Many varied length hemlines were seen on dresses styled with a Spanish influence to be worn swaying to the then “new” music craze of the Tango.  Dancing that required full movement of the body was then not only popular but actually possible, too, for corset-less unconfined women in the late 1920’s, and crazy hemlines with body hugging bias cuts made the dancer seem all the more exotic.

This dress can easily go modern, but I preferred to glam it up ‘a la’ late 20’s style, with my fishnet stockings, bobbed hair, and my handmade long beaded necklace.  My Tango-style shoes are (I think) “1960’s does 1920’s” – they are “Debs” made by the famous Palter DeLiso footwear designer.

Even our background has the same time period and the same geometric shapes as my dress.  The building behind me is one which I have long admired and I happy to be integrating it into a project’s photo shoot.  It was built in 1930 as a power-station for an electric company, it is so awesome for such a mundane use, but that is the Art Deco movement to put glamour in everyday life.  The National Register of Historic Places Inventory for this building (page 16) lists it as “having metal grillwork in an abstract chevron-like pattern fills the rectangular openings” between the terra cotta and marble of the piers on the building.  “Above the openings of the spandrels, between the piers, large stylized ornament, linear, with hard edges, embellishes the parapets.”  Aren’t those details amazing?!  Sorry to go into detail here but I love historic architecture appreciation, and this building is up there on my “favorites” list so I can easily get going!

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I hope you like Art Deco like I do and hopefully this post can inspire you look for this era’s buildings in your town or even to work a little of this era into your sewing.  Have you tried bias garments, especially these geometric 20’s and 30’s ones with beautiful simple design like this dress?  If you have, they’re special aren’t they?!  If not, you need to go ahead and make one…let me know about it…I’d like to see it!

“Retro Forward” Burda Style: Floaty Dress

This dress’ pattern name says it all – it really does float, flow, and overall make you feel like a beautiful romantic princess when wearing it. Most especially, I love the way the deeply open neckline and the shapely back panels save it from being too girly, adding (what I think) the right amount of ‘hottie’ factor.

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Here I’m actually multi-tasking…one eye on our child, and modeling at the same time!

I initially visualized this dress in a solid color to maximize all the details of the design, but, however, using a floral fabric for it is irresistible to amp up the dress’ feminine qualities. In my case, making and wearing the “Floaty Dress” is a treat in itself – it is made from one of my all-time favorite fabric (rayon challis) with lapped seams, bias ties, and ruched gathers (my favorite techniques) and made for a special festive occasion. Every year for our son’s birthday, I choose a special dress to make and wear as the party dress for me, the hostess, and it normally becomes my ‘ultimate’ summer fun frock for that year. This year’s party dress, Burda’s “Floaty Dress”, is by far my favorite…but I say this every year! See my other two party dresses here and here.

THE FACTS:100_6033a-comp

FABRIC:  a 100% rayon challis, bought from Hancock Fabrics. The print is a beautiful mix of all my favorite purples, lavender, and blue tones against white…mostly daisy and morning glory flowers

NOTIONS: I had to buy the zipper for the side closure, but other than that all I needed was white thread (always on hand).

113_floaty dress - combo of line drawing and model picPATTERN:  Floaty Dress, #113, from 03/2013

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress was done in two nights for a total of about 5 or 6 hours. It was finished on May 9, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  The inner edges are left raw and loose to go with the theme of the dress, but they don’t fray anyway.

TOTAL COST:  I spent a total of maybe $12, more or less, for around 2 yards of fabric and the zip.

This dress was so ridiculously easy and fun to make. The drawing and the details made me think it was so much more complicated than it was once I got into the ‘making’ part of the dress. Once I started, it seemed like the dress was finished before I knew it. Would you ever guess?! Anytime a project spends little time under the sewing machine to turn out a look like this, so it can spend plenty of time being worn…that makes it a winning pattern in my book.

100_6011a-compBurda patterns (for those readers who don’t know) need some assembly and tracing before being ready for layout on your chosen fabric. They can be bought as a downloadable PDF file, to print out, or traced from the leaflet included in a magazine issue.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped. This is the stage where I pick out my size, tracing out only the size I need to use, including any grading and adding seam allowances.

I made no changes to the pattern, with the sole exception of the sleeves and neckline. The instructions called for the ends to be turned into a casing, to run elastic through for a gathered effect. I left out the elastic gathered sleeve ends because I wanted to continue the flowing look of the overall dress and keep the gathered front as a main feature. The neckline opening was extremely deep to the point of flashing lingerie, so I had stitched the opening a few inches higher, but still low enough to be sexy. (The skinny bias facing ties give a more decent option to an open chest.) Otherwise, I made my correct size according to the Burda Style Chart, grading up for my hips, and the sizing seems spot on. I personally think that it is important to not make this “Floaty dress” snug…it needs to be free flowing and not too fitted.

100_6025a-comp-combo tied n untiedThe design of the princess seams down the back are so complimentary. You probably can’t see them as well as I would like but the contrast top-stitching shows the lines as does the line drawing above. Those princess seams give the back half a different outline, one more shaped and curvy than the front view.

100_6014a-compMy sole complaint/word of warning about this dress is probably unexpected, but helpful to know and easily remedied. Do not hang this dress if you make it with a fabric whose grain can ‘grow’! Lay it flat, fold it flat, or store it flat in some way or form to keep the fabric grain from losing its shape. The back left and right panels and the front pieces, on account of the layout and the shaping, have their side seam edges on the bias. I found out the hard way that even just a few days of being on a hanger will change the dress’ original shape…it now billows out more at the waist and front and is a bit more generous than intended. On its own I don’t think the bias on the side seams would be a problem if the dress was made out of a lighter weight polyester (for example, mentioned above), but there is a lot of fabric in the skirt portion, which is nothing bad, just a potential weight for the top of the dress.100_6032-comp

Speaking of the skirt, between that and the sleeves, my dress is wonderful to wear and with a floaty silhouette, the pattern title is literal and accurately appropriate. More or less, the bottom half of the dress is two large, almost half circle pieces. This high “skirt swirl factor” (as I dub it) would make the “Floaty dress” the perfect retro swing dancing outfit. Thus, I had to add in a twirl picture!

As I’ve mentioned before, gathering is one of my favorite techniques, so it was an enjoyment to make and also wear the dress with its front detail. Front gathering, similar to ruching and also called shirring, is seen in most all the decades of the 20th century fashions. This is why the “Floaty dress” post is part of my “Retro Forward” Burda Style series. Runched gathers are a great way to add controlled fullness1930s-early 40s yellow ruched dress & Dogwood Floral runched mid-30s dress in a decorative way while deceiving the eye into seeing things slimmer than reality. The decade of the 1920’s often used gathers in certain spots, such as over the hips, to add soft shaping fullness (see here or here). The 1930’s enjoyed adding large spots of ruching/gathers as a main feature and shaping method, such as down the front, across a skirt panel, or to puff out a sleeve from the hemline (see the right picture at right). 1940’s Simplicity 2230 yr 1947 ruched day or evening dress&Vogue #9691 1940s dress w sweetheart neck, shirred frontgarments and patterns use gathers in both small and large areas, such as on the sleeves in the early 40’s or all the way across the front, as was popular around ‘47. See the two patterns at left, or three of my past projects, my 1948 S-front dress, my satin 1946 dress, and my swing dance dress for more examples of large and/or small gathers during the 40’s.  In the 1950’s, gathered runching was heavily used1950's Miss Universe ad for Catalina brand pink ruched swimsuit&New York #1011 1950's pattern on swimwear, in many rows, to create the iconic “pin-up” style, but it was also used on garments, as well. I notice gathers were used in in 60’s, 70’s, and up to our modern day, but there was a resurgence especially the 1980’s.  For a current comparison, I see a similarity of design (sans gathers) shared between the “Floaty dress” and a recent pattern, New Look #6224.

Whenever, wherever, or however gathers are used, they always make for a challenging and appealing garment – and a creatively drawn pattern to be sure!

“Creative Dressing” – Bias Tube Designer Garment

Not too often can my own clothes boast that they can do more than one wearing function and come from an idea of a designer (besides myself, of course). This project is like an “all-inclusive-package” to a tropical destination between the print, the fabric, the design, and utility. The designer, Antony Kwock, compares it to “a chameleon”. It is basically a rectangle, cut on the straight grain, connected on opposite ends to become a bias tube wearable in many different ways for variously shaped women.

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I’m just soaking up some summer sun…

To quote the designer about this creation, “You can make it in cotton for the beach, you can make it in fine wool and wear it with a belt and jacket, you can make it in crepe or satin for evening, draped and caught to one side with a brooch (as it is in the book’s model picture…see below).

The distinctive feature of the design is the spiral seam that turns the flat piece of fabric into a tube…being cut on the bias it moulds to your body when you wear it, draping itself around the natural curves. When you cut something on the bias, the seams are usually tricky to sew. This (project) is like taking a straight line and softening it, giving it dimension…the lines are carried right around the body.”

After I had made the bias tube garment, I actually found other ways to work the ingenuity of the design by using it as a skirt, too. Wearing it as a skirt actually reminds me of an OOP modern Vogue #1310, by Chado Ralph Rucci.

100_5887a-comp-front&back skirt comboWearing it as a dress, though, I had tried draping it around me by taking a brooch and pinning it in the center and on the side of me, but the pin made tiny holes in the fabric. I can even criss-cross the straps across my chest for an even more decorative front before tying at the back of my neck. However, in this post our pictures of the bias tube worn as a dress I merely define the waist with a belt.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a soft and drapey 100% rayon challis

NOTIONS:  Only thread was needed and on hand already.

100_5976a-compPATTERN:  The pattern is from the book “Creative Dressing: The Unique Collection of Top Designer Looks That You Can Make Yourself” by Kaori O’Conner, copyright 1980 (my copy is a second edition from 1981). I bought my copy of this book several years ago from a used book fair for $2.00.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  From laying out the fabric and cutting out to done and wearable only took 2 hours on the evening of August 7, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  The spiral seam is done in a French seam and self-fabric bias binding covers all the raw edges of the bodice section. The bottom is folded under twice in a semi-wide hem. I love my French seams, but I am intrigued by the idea from the designer to sew it with the seam facing out…hmmm, so many options!

100_5928a-compTOTAL COST:  …only the cost of the fabric, about $10

Now, the source book for this garment, “Creative Dressing”, is a must have for anyone who is interested in ingenious, cultural, and sometimes unusual designs for both sewing and knitting. The text, the projects, and the pictures are spot on and surprisingly fashion forward, not outdated.  For more about this book, see the blog “DIYCouture” where Rosie writes an observant and thorough review of “Creative Dressing”.

In the book, the sewing projects are drawn out on small blue-lined graphs with the scale100_5978a-comp for enlarging in the corner (most patterns are 1 square = 2 inches) while the hand knitting projects are mostly code abbreviations (some are graphed out). All the patterns are divided out in an interesting but sensible method – ‘Transcultural Clothes’, ‘Fabric and Surface Design’, ‘Design and Designers’, ‘Machine Knitting’, ‘Hand Knitting’, ‘Technological Chic’, and ‘Wedding’. There are several projects by Victor Herbert (insert excited happy expression on my face) and Les Lansdown to mention the more well-known designers…also the ones I will feature in another upcoming post about making their designs from this book.

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This is not the pattern, just the basic shape of the cut of fabric used to make the bias tube.

When it comes to making this design from Antony Kwock (read about his life here), I will not say too much because you really should just find and buy the book for yourself! I will say that between the construction method and the finished product, the bias tube garment reminds me of a cross between folding origami and assembling a Mobius strip. Reading the construction instructions really doesn’t make sense mentally until you just start doing it in reality, but follow it as directed and it will work! Opposites do attract and go well together in this garment. I was doubtful as to whether or not this project would even look decent or turn out, but something so simple is really fool-proof as long as your measurements are precise, matching on both sides. If you examine the pictures closely enough you should be able to see how the twisty seam starts at the center back, to wrap around and end at the hem on the opposite side. “Greenie Dresses for Less” blog made a basic muslin of the bias tube dress, too, and you can clearly see the spiral seam.

100_5912a-compThe only personal changes I made to this dress was to shorten the length just a bit, taking out 10 inches from the finished length between the lowest matching points. I was in between the sizing measurements given (30 to 34 bust, 32 to 36 hips), but being on the bias it is really not all that exact when it comes to fit. Even if someone wanted to make a size up it would be easy – simply make the width wider. Later, I decided to leave out the pleat or tuck recommended at the point of the neck opening…the bias tape supported that corner well the way I did it.100_5884a-comp

Whether worn as a skirt or some sort of dress, this garment seems so simple but feels like a desirable luxury to wear. In the rayon, it is so soft, gently hugging and flowing around me with every move, I am as comfy as if in a nightgown. Now I know why women (and designers like Vionnet) in the decade of the 1930’s loved to use the full bias cut…it makes you feel glamorous, it helps you make the most of your natural curves, it is easy to fit and creative to sew. Finally (most importantly), bias cut garments are very comfortable. The multi-colors in my version of the bias tube make it compatible with many varied accessories, such as belts, sweaters, and jewelry.

This bias tube garment is this year’s birthday present to myself. Every year at the height of summer (July/August) I seem to pick out a special project for myself as a treat…even though I’m the one doing the sewing and such to make it! (My other ‘Birthday-present-to-myself’ projects can be seen here and here.) Sewing something special and creative is indeed a joy and not work to me.

100_5914a-compAntony Kwock, the bias tube’s designer, made some very relevant and useful comments in the “Creative Dressing” book, which really makes me think. I’d like to end this post with some of his thoughts. “Clothes should dress the body but not hide it. You shouldn’t allow clothes to give you a personality. I like clothes to be simple and workable, to have a smart, clean classic look – but not a look that never changes. Everyone feels like a change from time to time.” This is why he explains he designs basic pieces, “things that can reflect different trends, different styles, different moods, without ever being extreme in themselves.” It’s a shame Antony Kwock didn’t become a bigger name than he was.

100_5924a-compVersatility is more important than you realize until one has a piece that goes a long way in your closet – like a white blouse, or a special skirt, or a garment like this bias tube. “Men can get through a whole year just by switching around the things in their wardrobe; women tend to buy things that can just be worn in one way, and then have to go out and buy still more things. The more a woman adapts to the way men dress – in spirit – the closer she’ll be to discovering the secrets of looking good.” If you’re a seamstress like me, you can achieve this easier than anyone else dependent on RTW. “When it comes to style, less is more!”