Midnight Celestial

     I love channeling vintage fashion anytime for any occasion but especially so when it comes to evening wear.  Lavish garments from the past just have a classic, graceful elegance that is attractively timeless.  They are also the sort of thing I most enjoy sewing (and subsequently wearing) but I rarely actually have a proper occasion to warrant sporting such finery.  However, exactly a year ago my husband and I had an especially fancy celebratory dinner to attend for his collage which finally gave me a literal reason to sew a new outfit straight from the pages of old Hollywood glamor.  Hubby wore a true vintage 1929 silk tuxedo set we’ve been saving for years.  I went for something close in era and wore a combination of a pre-WWII 1940s velvet weskit blouse with an early 1930s dress in his fraternity’s color!

     I love the title for this post so much – it perfectly captures the aesthetic I have for my outfit.  The rich toned, bottomless blue of the luxurious velvet being offset by the bright twinkle of the zipper reminds of a piercing night sky.  However, the brushed silver of my dress possesses a cold beauty which calms and grounds the deep blue velvet.  Yet, the way the dress’ fabric flows around me like butter at every move or wind gust lays that icy impression to rest.  To me, the night sky can be an equally mysterious, entrancing, and stunning reference for many Art Deco era evening wear pieces.  Alternatively, this set also has me envision a low-lit Depression era society party where the intrigue and cliques are as deep as the heavens at midnight and the only bright points are the diamonds on the ladies and the sparkling of the drink glasses.  Maybe I have just been watch too many old movies!  Nonetheless, I felt amazing but comfortable in what I wore for the evening, and it suited the occasion perfectly.  I hope you enjoy this post as much I myself enjoy the sewing project I am sharing.

THE FACTS:

FABRICS:  3 yards of a silver hammered satin for the dress and one yard of a deep blue silk-rayon velvet for the blouse

PATTERNS:  DuBarry pattern #2471B from year 1940 and a French early 1930s “Patron Migaline” no.9, a hand traced out copy that had been given to me by an acquaintance 

NOTIONS NEEDED:  Lots of thread and one fancy rhinestone studded zipper for the blouse

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress took 8 hours to make, while the blouse took 20 hours (due to all the hand sewn finishing detailing).  Both items actually were completed in an even longer stretch than this if you also count the time it took to trace out and resize the patterns.  They were finished in January 2022.

THE INSIDES:  French seams are on the blouse but the dress has interior raw edges as the pieces have so much bias there is minimal fraying

TOTAL COST:  The silver satin had been bought nearly a decade ago at the same time I as the fabric for this 1920s dress (posted here) so I vaguely remember it should have been about $20 for all 3 yards.  The velvet was a clearance discount found online for only $10 (can you believe it?).  The zipper was $9, bought through this Etsy shop.  My total comes to about $40, which is unbelievable for a set like this!

     Let’s start off with the blouse since the details are just the chef’s kiss…so good!  It is not only on account of the high quality fabric I used, but I am sure that no doubt helped me be so completely head-over-heels here.  The pattern technically calls this a weskit, which is an informal word for a waistcoat.  This means it is a fitted front closure blouse that is meant to be left untucked.  The amazing part is how precisely pared down the design is by having the entire front be only two pattern pieces.  The neckline, front panel and the wrap-around peplum is one continuous piece, while the gathered bust and underarm section is the second piece.  Five pattern pieces are all that is needed!  If I have perked your attention over my blouse, the reprint company Past Patterns offers a paper copy this DuBarry design so you can try it for yourself, too.  The listing for the pattern is here on this page.

     For being from the DuBarry Company, this is perhaps one of the best vintage unprinted patterns I have come across.  DuBarry patterns were manufactured by Simplicity from 1931 to 1946 exclusively for F. W. Woolworth Company (the pioneers of the five-and-dime store).  They were almost exclusively easy to sew and unprinted, with many styles for teenage young ladies. They were also catered to a different audience than Simplicity so I am overall pleasantly surprised at how fancy the design, well-cut the tissue pieces, and ingeniously planned is this entire pattern.  I have previously had issues with the poor fit and mismatched balance marks with this pattern line – not this time!  I can’t wait to try the other views!

     The blouse was an easy project decision because I had it planned out and ready to be made ever since I bought the velvet fabric and its fancy zipper back in 2016.  I first had to retrace and completely re-size the pattern up from its very tiny, petite size to my own proportions.  The pattern pieces were relatively few and manageable in size so that went smoothly.  Even still, I measured and checked my tracing a million times along the way and fitted the new pattern pieces around me to make sure I would get this right at the first try…no need to make a muslin here!  For the best of my sewing projects, I like to dive right into the good stuff and live dangerously, relying on good patterning skills to give me the right base to start with from the beginning.  This is why, for as fancy as my blouse is, it was by far the easiest and most enjoyable portion to my evening set.  I like it when I can be in charge of a fitting and tailoring a pattern and know it is going to turn out just as I hoped.

     Of all my sewing projects, this may just be one of the best pairings of pattern to material.  The design adds to the beauty of the fabric and in return the fabric gives an unexpected dimension to the design.  The gathers in the bust panel highlight the deluxe plush shine of the velvet.  The velvet is butter soft at the same time making it so easy to gather, French seam, and otherwise work with.  The inside “wrong” side has a knitted appearance and is smooth and soft enough that I left the blouse unlined.  It is an overall dream to wear.  Unlike other velvets I have, this one acts like a true silk (which it is) more than a velvet.  It is quite breathable and adapts to my body temperature.  It was never too warm to wear, and washed in a cold water delicate cycle wash perfectly with no obvious changes or shrinkage or wrinkling.  It did fray a significant amount of fibers during the construction process, aggravating my eyes, nose, and skin, just like other velvets I have used (with the sole exception of this dress’ velvet).  Yet, as long as the raw edges are finished, spending the extra money to sew with real silk velvet (almost always much more in cost than the steal that I paid) is truly worth it.  

I had always assumed I would have a skirt or a dress on hand that would pair perfectly with the blouse, so I never gave much thought as to what exactly I would wear with it.  I did have several items that looked good with the blouse, but nothing seemed like a ‘perfect’ pairing nor did I have anything which brought the blouse up to evening wear level.  This was the hard part…doing a mind crunch two weeks before the event, trying to find the perfect fabric from on hand in my stash because shipping would take too long.  I naturally felt drawn to my silver hammered finish satin, but I had always been saving that for a 1930s evening gown.  I thought, “Why compromise?” into just making a matching skirt.  So I still made a 1930s evening gown from the fabric, and it still gives off the look of an elegant skirt when worn under the blouse.  This way, I can take off the blouse and have a completely different look of its own! 

     That being said, the pattern itself was a nightmare to deal with.  The copy I was given was on some very unusual paper and the lines and balance marks did not seem to be trued up or consistently straight.  I have no idea how much of this was due to the person who traced it or the pattern itself.  I had minimal instructions to go on (a short summary with an illustration was merely printed on the envelope back) and even that was in French.  My French is basic and conversational, and Google Translate does not recognize sewing terms, so that did not always help me out.  My measurements showed that the pattern’s proportions were short (very petite), but at least seemed to be in my general bust-waist-hips width range. Thus I had to retrace this pattern as well to add in two plus inches – spread out over the midsection – and lower the fall of the bust, waist, and hips.  I am almost petite in height myself, so I am confused as to why it was for someone so short.  If it was for an adolescent, it is surprisingly adult and elegant for one so young.  I was following where the waist and bust were marked on the pattern as well as comparing myself to the illustration to find where the seams should fall on my body.

Interestingly enough, the French text in bold at the top of the pattern envelope back is “Chemise de nuit pour dame”.  Google’s translate app said this line means “a ladies nightgown”.  Wait – what? Is this really only a nightgown?!  Is that too literal of an understanding?  Can this be understood as a gown for night, as in evening wear, or would that have the word “soiree”?  Could the 1930s have merely had an understanding of words differently than today?  People who understand French fluently please chime in.  I am having a hard time believing something this intricate is just for bedtime.  The pattern says it is offered in only one size (size 44) and gives basic instructions to size up and then down by adding or subtracting a half a centimeter at the seams indicated by the dashes.  How thoughtful to add sizing assistance when the construction info is a mere illustration!

     Sizing tips or not, just look again at the design lines, with all the geometric paneling throughout the midsection, and you will understand why I felt like either pulling my hair out or going crazy over this pattern.  I did my best to true out all the corners, points, and balance marks, and with all the additions and corrections the dress’ pattern pieces just barely fit on my 3 yard cut.  Then it sewed up as easily as can be expected for a dress with so much bias and so many tight corners…only to find out that it ran big.  The bias gave this dress a wearing ease that my paper tissue fitting could not account for.  I suppose this may be due to the fact that the pattern is really just a nightgown. Some of the excess fabric was taken in simply by sewing in the side seams.  However, I left the fit generous because I like the way it pops over my head with no need for a zipper or snaps or any closure at all.  It is comfortable and versatile this way, and all I could muster to not completely lose my sanity over this tricky dress pattern.

     For all the problems I had with the design, it is really first rate after all the quirks were weeded out.  The main grainline for the entire length – neck to hem – is laid out on the straight grain (parallel to the selvedge).  Thus the cross seams in the main body which create the paneling are all on the bias.  Every seam that connects together is on an opposing bias grain.  This way even though the dress is on the straight grain it ends up hanging on the bias due the seaming but also doesn’t “grow” in length like other bias dresses once the grain relaxes.  How mind-blowing is this?! 

From the way the illustration on the pattern envelope is stylized (Art Deco text with a model who is slim and tall with slender hips), my closest guess is that this is from circa 1931.  The design itself may be 1930 or 1932 but I do believe it is clearly influenced by the talents of the French female fashion designers popular for the early 1930s.  Most of the 1930s evening dresses were on the bias cut, but this one is true to the French ingenuity of the time.  It makes the best possible use of both grains by using prolific but precise seaming, similar to the practices of the designer Augusta-Bernard.   My set’s interpretation where I use an icy silver and sapphire blue combination is very much aligned with the preferences of another bias cut gown expert of the early 1930s – Louiseboulanger.  The triangular paneling even reminds me of Madeline Vionnet’s bias evening gown designs between 1929 and 1933, as can be seen in the Betty Kirke book under the chapter “Quadrants”, (especially pattern number 14).  The stamp on the corner of the pattern has an address of “Maison Mairesse, 3 Rue Saint-Hubert, Arras” and I can’t help but wonder if that place used to be a fabric shop or a couture house.

     I originally wanted to do this pattern in some stripes or color blocking to highlight the panels and seaming but am glad I didn’t for as challenging as it was to perfect.  The hammered finish of the satin has a consistent nap to the direction of the shine, unlike many other satins so the seams kind of do get lost overall, sadly.  However, the versatile color gives me an opportunity to wear this under (or with) many different other pieces in my wardrobe, like the Grecian rope belt I made for this mid 1930s dress (posted here).  The archeological discoveries of Pompeii (Herculaneum) and ancient Greece that were made circa 1930 created an explosion of classical inspiration for the era’s fashion details, especially the evening or bias cut frocks of the French designers such as Vionnet or Lanvin.  I went with a classical theme for our background setting with the colonnades of the historic “Vandeventer Place Gates”.  I was living the 1930s dream!

     There was a very personal detail I brought along with me on the trip to attend the event in my me-made outfit.  My vintage earrings and bracelet were a matching set from my paternal grandmother.  They are very heavy and so over the top, this fancy event was actually a really good reason to wear them finally, besides being a good match to my outfit!  I think Grandma would be thrilled they accompanied me on my night out, and I wonder where she wore them and what stories they held for her.      

My entire set was certainly a conversation piece the night of the event.  Yet, I was by no means under or overdressed when compared to the rest of the ladies present so I was so happy to have known I made the right creative decision.  I was in great company of people that I could easily talk to as there were many old friends to meet.  It was a great way to prove my capacity in sewing to be able to show off my handmade finery when talking about what I do.  When mentioning that my garments were me-made, often it only became humorous when those folks – who had just enough to drink – would then ask to touch my silk velvet!  They had no idea what silk velvet would feel like, and never heard of such a deluxe material!  The mere thought of those moments never fails to bring a smile to my face. 

This is your message to not be afraid to dive into the good stuff you’ve been saving in your stash but enjoy it.  See how much more fun my best velvet and satin are to wear than they ever were just being admired on a shelf or in a bin?  It is such a great thing when you can make such great memories wearing something that you intentionally crafted with love for a special occasion!

Lines of Wheat on the Bias

Early fall or late summer is a lovely season to me where I live.  It has warm days, which I like, in between cold snaps that preview the next season to come.  Together with the richness of colors building in the trees, interesting smells in the air, and enjoyable holidays on their way (familial birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Halloween), I really do wish I could hold on to this season for longer than it lasts, and not just because I despise winter.

My newest vintage 1930s sewing project, featured here, is I feel a perfect transition garment which takes into account all that I love about late summer and early fall.  Stripes the golden color of wheat as well as fluffy clouds in the sky are on an earthy, textured linen dress, which has a fascinating use of the bias grain line.  Vintage accessories from my Grandmother – gloves, earrings, necklace, and a brooch of double wheat sheaves – together with my Jeffrey Campbell leather lace-up shoes, a silk scarf, and a hat I refashioned to be an accurate 30’s shape all are meant to play with the richer colors of the fall season and thus bring out the muted stripes which highlight the amazing design of this dress pattern.

This was actually my outfit for our recent trip to Chicago, Illinois.  Yes, I traveled and explored the busy city downtown in fully accessorized vintage style and loved it!  And just think…this dress is linen too!  What I discovered from the compliments I received from passer-bys is that apparently this dress is a transition piece in another way.  It is not glaringly vintage, yet still completely true to year 1933.  That is a trademark of a truly classic, lovely design!  It is interesting enough in design that (especially made in striped fabric) it doesn’t scream for attention yet certainly can turn interested heads…almost like a toned down Wallis Simpson fashion for the modern vintage aesthetic.  It is also simple enough in silhouette and sewing difficulty that it can be whipped up easily to suit many differing occasions depending on how one finishes or accessorizes.  Case in point – this dress (before hemming) turned out very long on me and it looked very good with fancy jewelry and evening shoes…I can see a solid color satin or crepe ankle-length version of this dress making a wonderful elegant style!  Oh no, another project idea in my future!

Sorry, I know you can’t see all of my dress’ neck and shoulder details with my scarf, but the dress really looks better for it…and Chicago is a city with a cool wind, indeed!  Scarves were popularly worn like this in the 1930’s (see this article for more info and tips on using scarves) but they make such a great multi use fashion accessory in any era.  I cannot do without a scarf more often than not.  As for further clarification about my refashioned hat, it is modern, in straw, and something which I’ve had for years.  It started out with the popular modern “bucket” style crown and I merely pinched it in from the inside at the center top so it would have a proper vintage shallow crown with a very 1930s style ridge down the center.  The excess crown inside is folded flat and was hand stitched down in place.  Easy-peasy and oh-so-handy, this hat is a great way to protect my face while complimenting my wardrobe using both something on hand and my penny-pinching capabilities!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  slubbed, thick 100% linen

PATTERN:  McCall’s #7153, a 2015 issue of a year 1933 design

NOTIONS:  Nothing but thread and some interfacing was pretty much needed.  A true vintage buckle was used to finish the belt as well as some stitch witchery bonding web. 

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This came together rather quickly – it was made in about 10 to 12 hours and finished on August 6, 2017

THE INSIDES:  Mostly French with the some seams in bias binding.  So clean!

TOTAL COST:  This fabric was bought when the now defunct Hancock Fabric’s was closing.  This lovely linen was about $2 a yard…so I suppose this dress cost me about $6. How awesome is that!?

As someone who very frequently works with true vintage original sewing patterns of all decades in the 20th century, I can say I can recognize features of a vintage design and sort of estimate when something has been changed.  As much as I do love my new dress and am generally impressed with this pattern, there are a few things I am not happy with and strike me as ‘off’.

First of all, there are small separate triangular panels which are sewn on at the true waist at the top of the side front skirt panels.  This could have been on the original but I highly doubt it – there is no waistline seam to the similar side skirt panels in the back!  For a long and lean bias 1933 dress like this one, why would this small panel be separate without an obvious purpose?  A depression era pattern knew how to combine ingenuity and elegance in dressing with a complicated appearing simplicity and this small odd feature doesn’t strike me as ringing true to that habit.  Either way I do not like it one bit.  I should have just matched it to the top of the skirt side panels, taped it on there and cut the piece as one long part extending up to the bodice with no side seam.

The presence of the jarring, random horizontal waist seam remnant presents several ‘problems’ in my experience.  It places too much importance on precise matching of the grain line and fabric print – if this small section is off it will be noticed.  It mars the elegant and beautiful stripe work to the dress if the belt is not “just-so” over the seam…and with normal living’s body movements, a garment will not stay “picture perfect” anyway!  Besides, my true waist seems to be slightly higher naturally and a belt carrier wouldn’t help by keeping it down where it doesn’t want to stay.  After all, year 1933 was still coming off of the 20’s ideology and that year’s dresses were rarely defining the waist with a modern, boring horizontal seam, instead frequently opting for a wide panel, side gathering, interesting paneling, or similar gently hinting methods.  This ugly, tiny waist seam remnant needs to meld into the rest of the dress.  I made the pattern ‘as-is’ so I could learn from it – did I ever!  Please do my recommended change for your version…one little extra step will make your version of this dress so much better!

My beef about the waist seam aside, look at the lovely details to the rest of the front!  The tiny stripes matched up pretty well, and all the seams matched up impeccably.  This dress’ stripe paneling reminds me of something along the lines of two of my favorite American designers/dressmakers Elizabeth Hawes and Muriel King, both of whom I admire for their stunning mitering methods (among other things).  Mitering, often understood as a woodworking term for right angled joints, was appropriated by dressmakers in circa 1934.  Its earliest proponents outside of America were the French couturier Marcel Rochas and a young Balenciaga. (Info from the book Elegance in an Age of Crisis from FIT.)  However, Elizabeth Hawes used a bulls-eye pattern on the bias in the middle of the torso for a 1936 dress, a method very similar to the styling of this McCall pattern.  Not meaning to brag, but the tiny, muted color stripes of the linen I used for my dress also reminds me also of the subtlety of Balenciaga’s cotton 1938 dress.  If I can sew for myself anything that I feel can “knock-off” the designers that both I and history admires, that’s a big win!

Not to divert from my glowing praise, but my second complaint with this vintage reprint pattern was actually the same fitting problem as their other year 1933 re-issue (McCall #7053).  They both turn out to have a very droopy shoulder seam in their kimono sleeves, which makes me think it is something that McCall’s does to the patterns and not the patterns themselves.  After all, their Archive patterns are not really re-prints…from my understanding they are new drafts off of images and/or line drawings of old patterns they had issued in the past.  I have sewn using vintage original patterns from both 1931 and 1934, both of which have kimono-style sleeves, and neither of them have given me the same problems I have with the 1933 McCall’s Archive issues.  However, it is an easy fix.  I sewed the long kimono shoulder/sleeve seam about 2 inches further in from the original 5/8 seam allowance.  That’s a lot, isn’t it!  This dress was severely droopy.  The sleeves are very open anyway so taking out some doesn’t make much of a difference.  When I sewed the sleeve/shoulder seam in smaller I also straightened it out – originally it has a dramatic curve that I think does not work out at all.  The weird puckering curve in the shoulder seam is a big, obvious turn-off on the model version of the envelope cover.  Other than the drooping shoulders, I did find the body of the dress to fit pretty much true to the size chart for the bottom half, and slightly a size big for the top half.

Many 1930’s dresses have a very figure hugging bias which I’ve heard many women say won’t work for everybody.  This one seems to have a bias grain just gentle enough for shaping yet not enough to be overly clingy.  The best part about the bias in both the skirt and the bodice is there is no closure needed!  That’s right – no zipper, buttons, hooks, or snaps.  It’s just plain easy.  I know the instructions show a center back zipper, but those can be hard to do on oneself and sometimes also hard to keep the top pull from sagging down.  I believe McCall’s threw the back zipper in to ‘modernize’ the design.  The dress stretches wider easily from the smart grain line layout so why a zipper?!  I see how the zipper weirdly bubbles out and warps the loveliness of the bias on the back of the model’s dress on the pattern cover.  “Keep things simple, silly” (to put it mildly) is an engineering principle that is worthwhile to remember when engineering clothing, too.

This McCall’s pattern is not the best re-issue of a vintage style, but it does make for a very nice dress, with designer touches that is highly underrated once you get past its “meh” cover and fitting issues.  This is a good pattern I would recommend everyone to have on hand to try.  Once you make one successful version, I believe you will use it again, as I plan on doing.  Don’t let the sole sleeve version deter you – there are many types of sleeves that could be added to a short kimono style like this one.  There are no closures needed and deceptively easy to sew.  Do you need any more reason to try this one?  Come on…I want to see many more inspiring versions from all of you talented and lovely bloggers out there!

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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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