“Cross My Heart” Agent Carter Dress Re-fashion

The Marvel Comics heroine Peggy Carter deserved to have more luck in love than heartbreaks, but either way the people she cared for were a major driving force behind her life.  Perhaps no other dress so blatantly shows Peggy’s ups and downs in love with such a fashionable, classy, yet visible way as Season Two’s “Better Angels” (episode 3) frock that I recreated for myself.  I know this is sort of weird to feature such subjects of grief intertwined with affection now that the holiday of love and friendship is here.  However, matters of the heart are powerful things and I can’t think of a stronger (if imaginary) woman than Peggy Carter.  My dress does have a rich, bright red and is elegantly perfect for a night out.  So, happy heart day to all of you and those who are part of your life!

dsc_0100pa-compw

A quite plain and slightly ill-fitting knit dress had been in my wardrobe hanging unworn for the last few years.  Slackers gathering dust and taking up space are not to be tolerated – we do not have the room for useless items!  It was high time for it to give me a reason for it to stay, and I figured it was basic enough for a re-fashion as it was still in good condition.  I realized it was in a lovely rich navy, one of the colors Peggy wears the most frequently, especially paired with red for a patriotic nod to her dearest Captain America.  The original dress also happened to remind me of a silhouette which would be something I could picture on Agent Carter – body hugging with a lovely bias flared skirt.  Thus, it occurred to me to attempt to make one her bolder garments I’ve long admired, as I had a short cut to easily make something I wasn’t willing to take the time to make from scratch!  Besides…I found a better fit and lovely re-use for something that I wasn’t wearing and enjoying otherwise!  I feel like this one of my best, easiest, and most fun of all my re-fashions so far.

better-angels-peggy-being-checked-for-zero-matter

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% cotton knit “Land’s End” dress bought about 10 years back with the added bright end panels and contrast being a 100% polyester interlock bought at JoAnn’s Fabric Store

PATTERN:  None!  All personal drafting  

NOTIONS:  All I needed was thread, and I had that…

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was so quick to make it felt almost too good to believe!  It was made in two evenings for a total time of 8 hours.  I was finished on November 17, 2016.

THE INSIDES:  The original dress had overlocked seams, which I kept, but the rest of the new seams did not unravel so I left them raw.dsc_0611a-compw

TOTAL COST:  maybe $10 at the most

On a night out together, a girl friend of mine helped me pick the contrast fabric for my re-fashion.  She couldn’t have chosen better!  My navy dress is a matte finish cotton, so together we figured I needed a knit (of course) which had a lovely satin shine for a smartly contrasting perk.  Both of us decided the bright red (which I would never ever wear alone) was the right tone over the deeper shades.  I bought way more than I ended up needing in the end, so I plan on convincing hubby he would wear a shirt I might make for him out of this interlock.  We’ll see what I end up really doing with the leftover red knit.

First of all, the original dress’ fitting problems were the odd placements of both the waistline and the sleeve hems.  The waist was too low to be an empire, yet too high for a natural middle placement, while the sleeves were like a slightly short bracelet length with a bulky, fake button placket keeping them unnaturally below my elbow.  The sleeve fix was easy – I shortened them above the button placket to hem them so they fall above my elbow.  My re-fashion plans also fixed the waistline problem perfectly and immediately by adding in the belt-like panel.  It brought the skirt to fall at the natural waistline and connected perfectly with the weird empire seam of the bodice.  The new red arched front belt-like panel is double fabric layered for stability and top-stitched onto the blue dress.  There is one center back seam to the belt as I designed it.

1940s-dress-w-green-panel-side-pin-fm-augusta-auctions-junior-house-cotton-40s-skirtThe skirt portion was the best part.  Drawing the curve of the red swirl panels was so fun!  I might have gotten just a bit carried away and added more of an arch to the panels than Peggy’s original dress.  My dress panels go from the front right side’s off-center over to the left side seam, while Peggy’s dress has panels that go a straighter down with a slight curve to one side.  I believe my dress panels’ sharp angles are the main reason for the slightly weird wrinkling going on with the red parts, combined with the fact I cut the insert sections on the bias and sewed them in as a double layers of fabric.  However the “faults”, I so love the red swirls on the skirt portion!  They make my dress have such movement when I walk I feel so elegant – static pictures do not do this dress justice.  I have been able to find only a few extant original vintage garments which have a similar bias, color contrast, swirled panels.  The ones I have found have been from the 1940’s but, to me (going with my gut), this dress appears to have a strong late 30’s influence, especially with my 30’s re-make Aerosoles strap heels.  Needless to say I’m a big fan of this fashion detail.dsc_0086a-compw

The toughest parts to this re-fashion was adding on the red interest strips that give the continuous crossed-heart all the way around the bodice.  The fabric is so silky it was hard to pin into a defined, consistent band.  Bias strips of the interlock resisted being ironed into a single fold shape, and I couldn’t use a hot iron, either.  I just had to pin like crazy and do a butt-load of eye-balling in between measuring to check the placement.  The dress was hung up at this step and I would look and look at the bands ‘til I was cross-eyed and I knew I just had to stitch them down soon or I’d never wear it.  I’m still not sure the bands are as precise as I’d like but – hey, if only I would notice any ‘imperfections’ that’s totally good enough!

The bodice bands are continuous around but pieced to apply. I started at the center back above the red waistband and went all the way to the opposite shoulder for each side.  Then, the back neckline band is another continuous piece from shoulder to shoulder.  I probably could have done better had I done hand stitching to the bands, but this re-fashion was not meant to take too long in time so I merely did machine stitching (which was another frustration in itself).

dsc_0090a-compw

By time the bands were sewn on, the dress became a bit of a challenge to wiggle into for dressing.  With all the top stitching visible and the looser cotton knit, my dress needed to look dressy as well as keep its shape so I used small straight stitching.  The ease of dressing was something I was willing to give in on for the nice stitching and assurance of stability for many wearings (and washings) to come.  Adding in a zipper was not an option here.  After all, most vintage garments are a circus trick to get into anyway…I’m used to it by now, just so long as I don’t pop any seams.

dsc_0098a-compw

I know my dress is not a carbon copy and I want it that way.  The original dress as designed by Gigi Melton is (I believe) wool crepe, with petal sleeves, low V-neckline as well as a bottom hem red band to differentiate itself from my own version.  I greatly respect the ingenuity of Gigi Melton to find so many lovely 30’s and 40’s inspired ways for Peggy to wear her classic colors of red and navy!

There are other bloggers who have done a symbolical low-down of my specific Agent Carter inspiration dress, so I’ll defer to “Hard Boiled Meggs” if you want more of that, and please do visit if you’ve seen Season Two.  Here’s a link to Megg’s specific post about Episode 3 (the one in which my inspiration dress can be seen), but her post on Episode 2 and Episode 9 further explain the crossing over her heart.  Here’s an official photo gallery to see more from the source of some of the screen shots I shared.

i-trust-my-instincts-from-better-angels-season-2-combo

My photo backdrop is meant to mirror the sumptuous, curious, and spacious setting of the Stark mansion where Season Two saw much of Agent Carter’s time.  We went on a visit to the Samuel Cupples Mansion on the grounds of Saint Louis University.  This historic home is the epitome of luxuriousness which its remarkable amount of fireplaces – 22 spread out over a total of 42 rooms and three floors!  This place now serves as a gallery for SLU’s collection of fine and decorative art dating from before 1919.  The ample space inside made it challenging to have the right light so the colors look a bit different in each of our photos.

This dress reminds me of so much.  Firstly, it reminds me of how one can be vintage without going hard-core by taking a mere feeling, an inspiration, or even a silhouette and blending it with what’s out there today for a mainstream form of the past that is beautifully unique.  On a more personal level, by jogging to mind Peggy Carter, this dress further reminds me to enjoy and appreciate every minute of the time spent with the people in my life.  Taking time for someone is a priceless gift that goes both ways, and Valentine’s Day isn’t the only day for doing sweet things.  Cross my heart – take my word for it.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Advertisements

“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!

dsc_0544-comp-w

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.

dsc_0553-comp-w

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.

dsc_0557a-comp-w

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”.

dsc_0555-comppw