Shopping at the Old Arcade

Most people generally know twenties clothing as being tubular with drop waists.  Many also frequently think of the twenties as having beading, sheer fabrics, and fringe, but that was for evening and special occasion.  However, do you know what the turn of the decade, year 1920, actually looked like for everyday wear?  When I started doing research on this I was surprised.  Very high waists, overly exaggerated hips (many with ruffles and ridiculous pockets), slightly awkward long mid-calf length hems, and loose but lovely bust-less blouses.  Yes – this was the year 1920, when women were wearing fashion which was both a carry-over from 1918 – 1919 that was also finding its way for changing up styles in a new decade.  Here is my sewing creation interpreting the year 1920, as a woman in her nice, almost sporty, and nothing-too-fancy clothes to go do some window shopping.
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Actual teens era/1920s hand painted glass buttons (close-up picture here on my Instagram) were included on the blouse I made, as well as several hours of decorative hand stitching on both neck and sleeves.  My hat is a thrift store purchase, which already had straw flowers, but I piled on a wide lace band and silk flowers for an old fashioned style.   I also made the skirt and the purse, as well as some of the authentic lingerie I’m wearing underneath.  This ensemble did not look right (silhouette speaking) until I had the correct undergarments, so I will definitely show you what I wore (and made) in a future post.

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Period authentic doesn’t have to be old-fashioned or un-wearable today.  Because it is all cotton and not body figure conscious, this is really quite comfy to wear.  Sure, it’s different, but yet lovely and tasteful enough for me to only receive kindly smiles from strangers who saw me.  I love the subtle complexity, the understated richness, and the odd femininity to the style of my 1920 pieces.  The ideal of beauty and the popular silhouette for women has changed so much throughout history, and this is just another incarnation that I am glad to have learned to appreciate through sewing it for myself!

THE FACTS:McCall 9412 & Pict.Review Overblouse, both ca. 1920, fm Past Patterns

FABRIC:  100% cotton specialty twill for the skirt, 100% cotton for the blouse, and a tapestry remnant (mystery content) for the purse lined in a burgundy Kona cotton leftover from this project.

PATTERNS:  Past Pattern’s No. 8268, Ladies’ Overblouse, from Pictorial Review circa 1920; a Past Pattern’s No. 9412 “Ladies’ Skirt with Hip Pocket Effect” from McCall Company circa 1920 , and a Vogue 7252 year 2000 patternVogue #7252 from the year 2000 for the purse

NOTIONS:  The notions for this came from everywhere.  The detailed, Art Nouveau-style brass buttons were a Hancock Fabrics’ store brand item, bought when the company was closing, while the old vintage blouse buttons were from our favorite antique store.  Most everything else needed was on hand – I even had the tassel for the purse in my stash!  

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The skirt was made in about 6 hours and finished on October 21, 2016.  The blouse took 8 to 10 hours, with 4 more hours for the hand embroidery, and was finished on February 26, 2017.  The purse was made in about 2 hours on February 28, 2017.

TOTAL COST:  The skirt’s fabric was bought at the now defunct Hancock Fabrics for less than $2 a yard…and I only needed 2 yards here.  I have 2 something extra yards still left for another (upcoming) project.  The blouse’s cotton was bought at JoAnn’s fabric recently for maybe $10.  The brass buttons were expensive even with the Hancock Fabrics closing clearance – maybe $17 – while the old buttons on the blouse were only $5.  The tapestry brocade came from I don’t know where from I don’t know how long ago, thus I’m counting it as free, but the cord handle was bought at JoAnn’s for about $4.  So, my total is about $40 something.

DSC_0232,p,a-comp,wWorking with patterns this old presented plenty of unknowns, but the primary one was in regards to fit.  What kind of body, what kind of peculiarities, and what ease do these patterns account for?  It’s one thing to get something to fit, but historical garments need a particular fit (as well as the right underwear) to be authentically worn.  I did have the assurance that my pattern came from Past Patterns Company…every single garment I have made from what they offer is a wonderful success I am most happy with.  No wonder they’ve been in business almost 40 years!

Let me start by talking about the bodice.  After some figuring, my estimated bust measurement of the blouse pattern as-is (in the size 38 to 40 bust) is 45 inch around.  This led to my figuring the wearing ease to this blouse was about 5 inches over and above the bigger of the two sizes (bust 40).  I can see that the bust is supposed to be bloused and roomy (over a flat chest) so I went down to a generous measurement for myself and ended taking out a total of 4 inches around hoping to end up at what would be the next size smaller for this pattern.  The side seam allowance is 1 whole inch so I figured I had plenty of room to fix a wrong calculation is sizing, but still…it’s easier to  take out some extra than it is to be stuck with a garment which ends up too small.  I totally feel like I nailed the right fit!

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I realized that this is an overblouse that I am not wearing as an overblouse.  This is not the first time I have made an over blouse only to wear it tucked into a skirt – see this 1958 project.  When I received my pattern in the mail Saundra Altman kindly included a tutorial page on how to add in a stay-belt inside the blouse.  As I am just getting the feel for teens and early 20’s dressing, I kept the construction of my blouse simple from the waist downPerry, Dame & Co Catalog, New York styles, fall and winter 1919-1920 because for now I plan on only wearing it as you see it.  At some future point I hope to make a year 1920-style pleated skirt and wear this same top as a proper overblouse, and at that point I might come back and add the welt pockets and a stay-band to the waist.

I did use my oldest (1930’s) sewing machine to do all the button holes along the front opening, but I also splurged and used all cotton thread and self-fabric bias tape for the neckline.  After I had made the button holes I decided I really didn’t want to subject the buttons to the wear and tear of pushing them through every time.  So, I still sewed two at a time connected like link buttons but they’re on there permanently for now, and if I want them off I’ll just cut the linking threads.  I did try to make these buttons linked by a metal loop with a connecting chain but I had disaster strike doing that.  The back loop on one broke by cracking right off, but it is a molded part of the rest of the button so it cannot be fixed unless I glue some loop or such on it.  I never guessed these were as fragile as they seem to be.  Until I figure out how to add something to the back of this broken button, I will sadly made-do with one at the top closure.  This is the risk of working with, or even wearing, old original items from many decades back – they are unique and fragile, but deserve to be seen nonetheless, so using them is a risk that also could only garners appreciation.

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My decorative hand stitching is I know not the best compared to many others, but this is so much better than I used to be able to do.  Whatever my skill, the stitching does take my blouse to the next level, I think, besides show casing an old time-honored practice that modern garments are so far from.  Hand stitching was very much needed here because of the rather plain color of the blouse’s cotton.  I made my own design, and after several unsuccessful Art Deco drawings I settled on the softer more feminine floral on my blouse.  After all King Tut’s tomb would not yet be discovered for a few years from 1920!

The skirt probably would’ve fit me pretty much as-is, but I did add one extra inch to the waistband only to be on the safe side for fit.  I did not change the rest of the skirt because I wanted the gathers to be a bit looser.  Looking back I wish I had made no gathers across the center front of the skirt – the pockets and the hip panel would look better.  No matter, I like it just the same! DSC_0297a-comp,w

The skirt did not need any special closures for the left side opening – the placket kind of conceals itself because of the side seam pleat overlay.  Only hook-and-eyes keep it together at the waistline.  The waistband is quite neat.  It is a two inch band against my skin on the inside, with a 4 inch waistband gathered horizontally on the outside so it looks like a cummerbund belt.

DSC_0220a-comp,wTrue to the era, the back of the skirt is just a long rectangle for a small taste of the slim and skinny.  What a contrast for the front!  Along the front geometric pocket edge I made my own self-fabric “ribbon” to decorate, finish, and stabilize the edge.  At first I tried a brown velvet ribbon for the edge, but, no – I didn’t look good so I took it off and went with the matching fabric.  This pocket edge needs to be stiff enough to stick out on its own and define the hips so I was tempted to add interfacing.  My skirt’s twill fabric was thick enough that three layers along the edge (1 – the skirt, 2 – the ribbon edging seam allowance inside, 3 – outside of the ribbon edging) was plenty good.

Needless to say, as much as I love pockets, these take the cake! My skirt’s pockets are like mini suitcases.  I can keep everything in them and it doesn’t even make a difference the skirt is so roomy and meant to be billowy.  Yet, the only thing that mystifies me about my 1920 outfit is the pockets, mostly because the purses and hand bags were so tiny!  Pockets and purses were still relatively new items to 1920, and both signifying the independence and progression of women, but to go overboard with such a contrast between the two in interesting to me.  As you can see, I did take a slight shortcut and have the pocket opening close with a snap rather than a real working button and button hole.

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Patterns for both the skirt and the blouse both seemed to run very long.  I made the shorter length of the overblouse, which was just over 10 inches shorter than the full-length option, and it is still falls about mid-thigh on me.  For my skirt, I took out 4 whole inches from the length because as-is the pattern falls to floor length (I’m about 5’ 3” height).  Now, take into account the fact that these two garments are meant to have deep hems, especially the skirt.  My skirt does have a wide 3 inch hem to it which helps to weigh it down properly besides bringing it to the proper just-below-calf length for the year 1920.  Skirt and dress lengths of 1920 seem to be just enough to show the ankles, just enough to move freely in, and a tad shorter than just a year or two before (1919-ish).1916 purses

My purse is something so easy but I’m so tickled at how lovely and cute it turned out.  The pattern I used is a real unknown gem with lovely designs straight out of the teens and 20’s.  I remember my mom and I being so excited when this came out!  Look at this comparison between a 1916 handbag poster for comparison.  In a 1926 catalog, I’ve even seen a strikingly similar version to “View C”!  They are all really quite simple designs but I like the fact they give the tracing designs for all the beading and decoration.  My purse doesn’t hold much but came together so quickly.  Trimmings and de-luxe materials seems like the way to go with this pattern and a remnant was all I needed.  I will definitely be using this again!

In the 1920’s, handbags were often just enough room for a few small essentials (including lipstick and keys) and often geometric in shape, like my own vers ion.  Mine is probably way too stuffed than what a 1920 woman would have carried, yet as it was I didn’t have room for everything I needed!  Also in the 1920’s, handbags weren’t necessarily meant to match with an outfit but carry their own tasteful, individual, and often ostentatious flair…quite different from modern times!

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By making my purse (a ‘reticule’ style) from tapestry I am harkening back to a popular type of “daytime” purses of the 1920s – ones made of richly complex fabric carpet bags and delicately flourished needlepoint.  Handbags from these materials seem to either be meant to show the wealth of the one possessing it or the talent of the maker, as many of these types of purses were often handmade by either the woman herself or someone for the company that sold it and some were quite expensive.  By having a decorative tassel at the center bottom point I’m aiming to narrow this to a primarily early 20’s piece.  To read and see more, this “Vintage Dancer” page has a wonderful overview of all the ways 1920’s women carried what they needed.  There is so much history to this littlest part of my ensemble!

All the materials I used for this outfit are just a dream to wear and were wonderful to sew.  The twill for the skirt is a lovely weight and hand – almost as heavy as a denim, slight body, but drapey and soft enough to hang nicely.  The low-key design of the fabric adds interest and keeps the olive and brown tones to it from being too drab.  The cotton of the blouse is so soft it doesn’t really wrinkle all that much and it’s just sheer enough to be pretty.  The tapestry of the purse is so rough, textured, and stiff it provides a nice contrast to the blouse and skirt.

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The place of our photo shoot is something quite special.  Not only is it a city landmark and the town’s best example of Gothic Revival architecture, but it is a National Historic Landmark.  I’m talking about the St. Louis Arcade/Wright Building, opened in year 1919 as one of the very first indoor shopping areas of its kind in the country, a very early, but much more elegant version of the modern American suburban, indoor, covered “Mall”.  Just think how extraordinary this is from a historical standpoint – plans for this steel and stone skyscraper was begun in 1913 before World War I and many of the materials needed for this building were rationed.  Federal officials closed and postponed many construction operations during WWI.  It is rumored that the principle contractor apparently had a simultaneous deal with the government at the time, so I suppose he was able to pull a few strings.  The Arcade was the tallest building in the world for a number of years.  Besides, the architect, Tom Barnett, was something quite important nationally.  This multi-story hall was recently renovated (after being vacant for several decades), preserving much original pieces so that the Arcade can still give visitors a taste of what it might have been in its heyday when people came here for high-end purchases such as jewelry and fine china.  Being able to walk through and visit places like this in period authentic clothes makes sewing this outfit a very worthwhile experience.

DSC_0295aa-comp,wP.S. Good news…you don’t necessarily have to sew if you want this ‘look’!  ReVamp vintage has re-made an amazing year 1921 oversized pocket skirt very similar to my own, the “Prudence” with brownish olive twill and lovely details!  Although, there are a few ways to wear a modern take on such a style – “Dress Romantic” on Etsy marketplace has a neat version that’s my favorite!  As for ready-to-wear 1920 style blouses, ReVamp has lovely options but any loose modern blouse with lace and/or feminine details would work – my favorites are this Anthropologie yellow blouse, this J.Crew cream colored pleated neckline blouse, or this sheer smocked neckline top.  There’s always old originals out there, too, (like this one) for a taste of the real thing!  Will you be channeling the early 1920’s for yourself, or have you already?

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Candy Stripe Blouse

dsc_0976-compwI don’t know about you, but we have plenty of candy leftover still from Christmas (and even a little from Halloween).  Among the candy, we had so many candy canes we actually were able to decorate the tree with them!  Now that the tree and Christmas are past and out of sight, we have to work on finishing those candy canes still around.  Well, how about instead taking care of some scraps of red and white candy striped fabric?  As one who’s not that crazy for sweets (I know, call me odd…), this ‘sewing option’ to finishing off some ‘candy’ is my kind of thing!

Hubby thinks of the hospital volunteer “Candy Stripers” when he sees this blouse.  I know the two share similar fun red and white stripe usage, but they technically wore pinafore-style jumpers and my garment is just a blouse.  Still, both a pinafore and my 1940 blouse are peasant themed, and a rather “cute” (yuck – hate that term) style which tends to make one seem younger than one’s actual age (I don’t need help there).  Both are from the same decade – my pattern dates to 1940 and Candy Stripers originated in 1944.

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However, my blouse has something extra to it that makes it uniquely special in its own way, apart from any history or style or whatever.  It is made from fabric given to me by my Grandmother.  This post is in memory of her, as she is now deceased as of this past weekend.  The fact that the fabric for my blouse was from her gave me some stress and self-inflicted pressure, at first.  I wanted to make the very best I could with what she gave me, but I realized when planning to make this blouse that she would want me to only enjoy and be creative with what she gave me, and nothing less.  I felt the fabric and the pattern were made for on another, so it must be the best re-use of her scraps – I am quite pleased with my blouse, and thankful for her always encouraging appreciation of my talents.  She was seamstress herself, as was her mother, too, so she had some awesome and useful sewing related items she was sweet enough to want to see what I would do with.  Grandma, this blouse is for you!

dsc_0974a-compwThe date of this design (as I mentioned above) is 1940 – thinking back, my Grandmother was 10 years old that year.  To make this blouse all the more poignantly related to Grandma, the family (myself included) suddenly realized, while looking at pictures of her long life over the weekend, how very similar her face and mine are to one another.  Goodness, we seemed to have more in common than I knew.  She was such a lovely woman, always with a kind word, a smile on her face, a thoughtful act, and a love of nature and of family, just to name a few qualities.  I just hope I can be more like her, not just in face, but in person, too.

THE FACTS:hollywood-1991-year-1940-envelope-front-compw

FABRIC:  a 100% cotton flannel scraps, from the stash given to me from my Grandmother; linings and facing are cotton broadcloth scraps from on hand in my stash

PATTERN:  Hollywood #1991, year 1940

NOTIONS:  The only notion I bought was the trio of front buttons; otherwise, everything else was from on hand – the thread, bias tape, and hook-and-eyes

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was relatively quick – 6 to 8 hours were spent to make this blouse and it was completed on February 4, 2016.

TOTAL COST:  Just the buttons were bought (modern & basic red half-ball type) , so only a few dollars in total

This was a fun, intriguing, yet challenging project all-in-one.  I had plenty of inspiration that I had found for late 30’s and early 40’s striped blouses (many of which can be found on this Pinterest board of mine) so it was just a matter of choosing a combo of directions 100_6728a-compwfor each section of my own blouse.  This part was quite the memory game, trying to remember which pattern piece was for which section of the blouse and trying to lay it out in the intended stripe placement, all the while remembering to match lines!  At first, it seemed I was quite limited as to what I could do because the fabric was a scrap piece, all cut up already in odd places.  But, some mind crunching and much switching around of pattern pieces (again, like a puzzle game) and I was able to get what I intended, with only the blouse bottom waistband being necessarily cobbled together from four individual parts to make a whole.  In all, this was another “close call” sort of project where you cut the pattern squeezed onto the fabric so much so that you barely have a few inch scraps leftover – so difficult but these kind make the most of every inch of fabric.

As was the case for other Hollywood patterns, this blouse again ran large.  I know it seems it is supposed to be quite poufy and generous by design anyway, but I accounted for it by slightly downgrading with bigger, more modern, seam allowances.  My only complaint to this top is that the button front neckline does not give me enough room for my head.  I am able to put the blouse on as you can see, but getting it on is like some sort of skin pulling, “second birth” experience (sorry ‘bout the mental picture) that leaves the tasks of fixing one’s hair and applying make-up to be something that comes after being dressed.100_6948-compw

The awesomely full and puffy 30’s style sleeves are my favorite part to this blouse, besides being proud of the matching I achieved in the arm pleats on the side (see right picture).  Also, this is the first Peter Pan collar that I really actually like on myself for some reason.  The controlled, even fullness of the bottom band is easy to wear – nothing to come un-tucked!  The flannel keeps me just warm enough on chilly days but the short sleeves prevent me from being overheated when being inside.  In all, this blouse is a great wear, so comfy with full movement, bold statement striping, and a vintage look that is a good kind of unusual.

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In order to avoid a side zipper being too stiff for the side closure, I buried my intolerance for hand stitching and sewed in snaps.  The snaps keep the bottom blouse poufing out like it should above the bottom band.  A strong waistband hook-and-eye holds the waist 100_6946-compwtogether.  Sometimes I tuck the waistband into my bottoms (as when I wore my 40’s style denim skirt) and sometimes I leave the blouse band out (as when I wore it with my 40’s jeans), and I can’t decide what I like better.  The blouse appears more like an Eisenhower-style jacket when untucked and closer to a blouse when tucked.  Either way, I guess I do need to find more than just navy and denim bottoms to match with my blouse, at some point.

This last mention is no big deal, but I wish I had thought about “setting” the colors before100_6949a-compw I washed the blouse fabric.  It was a crisp red and white originally with a generally smooth feel, but after washing the flannel its brushed finish fluffed out more than expected and the red leaked slightly into the white turning some stripes into a faded pink tone.  The color problem is not something obvious enough to really show in our pictures, however I wish I had thought of it beforehand and am keeping this lesson in mind for the next bold two-tone fabrics that have to make their way to the washer.  Any suggestions on how to do this “setting” of dyes that leach?  I have seen salt water soaks being recommended, but does anyone have first-hand tips to share?

I attempted to channel to quaint hairstyle on the cover of the pattern envelope with a simple ribbon headband.  In the one set of pictures I even tucked my hair up to have more of a late 1930’s look, then the other pictures have my hair left down long for more of the ‘40’s young lady’ look.  It was after the pictures for this post were taken that I saw these old photo booth shots of my Grandmother in 1940 when she was 10 (center) and some others as a teen in post WWII times.  In the 1940 pictures, she had her hair short and curled, wearing the same ribbon-headband-with-a-little-bow just like me, but the teen pictures are pretty alike, too!  These old photo booth pictures make me see similarities between us all to well…

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There are many ways to remember the past, but remembering it through fabric is kind of special.  You get to wear it, do creative things with it, and it can be seen in pictures for a long time after.  Admittedly, there is nothing that can beat a memory but clothing certainly can add to that recollection or bring it back.  This might not be the best garment I’ve made but the special background to it makes it pretty great to me.  Now that the time for stories coming directly from my Grandma is past (sadly), I’ll keep paying attention to my her pictures and maybe I’ll see a glimpse of what she made with the other part of the fabric I used to make the blouse in my post.

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Year 1933 McCall’s Reprint Set

With all my recent criticism of modern “Big  4” pattern companies’ reprints of old original patterns, my budget is nonetheless limited when it comes to buying all the old sewing patterns I would like.  (Guess you can tell my ideas are bigger than my budget!)  Thus, in the spirit of being open-minded as well as needing a resource for more variety of past years to sew from, I do still use the re-releases with some misgivings.  Recently, in my effort to understand and sew the early 1930’s, I have used two of the first releases from McCall’s “Archive Collection” – a skirt and tie-front blouse for an ensemble from 1933, worn with my vintage 30’s Dr. Scholl’s brand shoes.

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Both pieces, and particularly the blouse, do have the classic 30’s look of easy sophistication with ‘simplicity-yet-smartness’ of its design.  Both are feminine and flowing yet a bit structured in their own way.  The blouse is one of the many designs of the early 30’s which had interest going on over both the chest and neckline (visit my Pinterest page for some visual examples).  Adding such details gave illusionary body lines, as well as ways to play with dramatic, inventive, interesting, or just plain weird ideas of how many ways to avoid a plain fronted blouse or dress. This skirt, as well as my previous 1930’s skirt, is in line with the style of Lucien Lelong, who in 1925 debuted his “kinetique” line of clothing.  Lelong over saw the creation of slim silhouettes with inset pleats that would pop open when the wearer was in motion but fall back into place at rest (quote from page 82 of the 2014 book of the FIT museum exhibit, “Elegance in a Time of Crisis, Fashions of the 1930s”).  This outfit is from the beginning of “sportif” clothing – the first modern means of dressing with both comfort and style for a new-to-the-30’s type of female…an active, independent, and collectively important woman.

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THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The Blouse – a 100% cotton Swiss dot fabric in a deep dusty peacock turquoise color; mccalls-6993-7053-ca-1933-pattern-compThe Skirt – a heathered tan oatmeal-colored 100% linen 

PATTERNS:  McCall’s #7053 for the blouse and McCall’s #6993 for the skirt, both “Archive Collection” patterns circa 1933

NOTIONS:  I used all of what was on hand – a vintage metal zipper for the skirt, vintage bias tape given to me from my Grandmother for the skirt, as well as thread and interfacing that I had already.

dsc_0519a-compwTIME TO COMPLETE:  Pretty darn quick – the blouse came together in 4 or 5 hours and the skirt in about 5 or 6 hours.  The first was done on September 23 and the second on September 26, both in 2016.

THE INSIDES:  The blouse inside is left raw (it doesn’t fray) and the skirt is clean inside with all bias bound edges.

TOTAL COST:  Both fabrics were bought when Hancock Fabrics was going out of business so both fabrics were only a few dollars a yard.  My total is probably about under $20.

I am quite happy with my finished outfit.  My all over outfit is completely authentic to the times with the fabrics I chose (especially the Swiss dot), the colors will span seasons and match well with what else I have in my closet, and the fabric textures add interest.  Early 1930’s patterns from the time of the NRA are expensive (to me), a bit harder to come by, and considered more collectible (at least from what I see) so this outfit is a welcome and oh-so-very wearable addition to my wardrobe of this decade.  I am itching to make the other long sleeve cowl neck view on the blouse pattern – it looks just as practical yet lovely for my growing amount of 30’s clothing!

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However, I do have lingering doubts that these are 100% true carry-overs of 30’s patterns as they are quite fabric hogs.  I know the 1930s patterns demanded more fabric than a 1940s pattern, but this was still Depression times and almost 3 yards for a blouse seems like almost too much.  I am not certain my claim is worthwhile because this was the era of both an aura of elegance and superficial extravagance, even if only to “keep up appearances”.  I have read other bloggers who have mentioned ad-for-1933-achive-collectionthis seeming incongruity of era and fabric demand seen on the envelopes.  These 1933 pattern re-issues also include a vest and a jacket, but each were released as their own individual pattern.  (Why? To make us spend more money?  It’s quite rude to do this for the Archive Collection when the regular patterns have sets in one piece!)  I am guessing this whole 4-piece suit could have been in one complete pattern set originally – this was common practice in the early to mid-1930s.  I have yet to find the original for these patterns, so for all I know I’ll have to believe McCall’s…for now. 

I did have some problems with the fitting of both pieces – they seem to lack good fitting in odd places and run quite large!  I needed to dramatically take in both the blouse and skirt as well as add more darts and shaping.  Generally, I made the same sizes I would have chosen had these been McCall’s traditional modern pattern, and the blouse and skirt are not the same as them nor are they the fit of old 30’s patterns I have sewn up before.

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First of all, the skirt needed more curving added in to both make the hips and waist smaller and more fitted.  Even with an extra two inches taken out, I still could have taken out more and curved in the waist better because it has a weird placement on me.  I sewed my “normal” McCall size – that’s what makes this fit so weird.  Since the waist is not fitted to my body while the hips fit better, this skirt hangs from the hips while the waist kind of floats in place.  Anyway, it is comfy being loose, and what I feel with the fit is (I think) not noticeable on me.  The cover drawing makes it look like the waistband panel should be snug and at a high point across the middle…I wish I would have achieved that with my version.  I tried to do so, I really did.

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Secondly, the blouse’s shoulders were incredibly droopy on me.  As the perfect fix, the back of the blouse has a Y-shaped dart system where the horizontal “arms” of the Y come up and over my shoulders and down into the wrap front.  The blouse is designed with a Y paneled front, why not do it to the back when it is the best option to achieve a well-fitting blouse?  Of course, this blouse is supposed to be loose and kind of baggy, but too much hanging in the wrong places and a garment just appear poorly made.  Once ironed, my Y darts became invisible – yay – and each dart picked up the shoulder by an extra 2 inches to make the lantern sleeves puff out over my elbow right where they should be.

dsc_0485a-compwWhen the front wrap ends are held out they look like some sort of wings.  I think they are pretty and a good kind of different but having a blouse with fabric hanging down the front does take a little getting used to.  When I sit down at a table with food in front of me, I have to remember to place my arm across my front to keep my blouse’s fabric from dipping into the plate and making a mess.  The same thing goes for being over a sink to wash my hands.  I have heard this pattern design referred to as always wearing a napkin under your chin to catch any mess and generally be in the way.  I do not think it is as bad as that – the wrap front with its hanging ties can be tacked down permanently if you would so like because you do not need to undo it to put the blouse on oneself.  This doesn’t need any zipper or closure, for goodness sake!  For as easy to make as it was and as lovely a blouse as it is, this pattern is definitely worthwhile…as long as you’ve got 3 yards of fabric for it.

We kept with the time period with our background and went to take our pictures in the Continental Life Building.  It is a scrumptious Art Deco gem which was built in 1930.  It has had a tumultuous history and more recently saved from demolition by being turned into an apartment complex.  The lobby that you see behind me is such an over-the-top way to give a visitor their first impression – so classic of the wonderful architecture of the 1930s.  I just love the awe and tingling happiness it gives me to be in these types of buildings, especially when I’m in period clothing!

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In the competitiveness and eagerness to move ahead and be “modern” it seems many towns, especially ours, glazes over architectural history as if it was a hindrance rather than a necessary link to connect us with the past.  This can be the same situation when it comes to clothing styles seen in the stores to buy.  Past fashion trends are always being re-used and re-hashed but once recognizing where they came from and why they were first used, the reason to admire or wear a new type of detail becomes a source of learning, knowledge, and sense of the bigger picture.  (Hint – has anyone else seen a whole lot of 1930s era sleeves on the fashion scene since the last several months?!  Check this out for one example.)  Somehow, I feel like I’m doing both the building and my outfit due appreciation when I am able to pair a ‘me-made’ outfit with its time period counterpart place…and learn in the process.  Also, I guess I’m just venting appreciation for every historical gem of a building that gets saved, just the same as for every vintage fashion trend treasure that gets re-made, re-worn, loved and respected anew.

The Outfit of a Christmas Past

Some of my pre-blogging outfits are like ghosts peeking out to appall my current taste in clothes when they are seen from a less frequently visited garment rack or out of a storage bin.  Others, in good number, are still worn by me and occasionally trickle visually onto my blog.  These ones are the ultimate tried and true standbys in my closet, and although I have some reservations about them deserving to be on my blog, this site does feature things I made and if these garments have lasted me this long…hey I’ll give them their moment in the spotlight!

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Here’s a Christmas outfit I made for myself back in 2006.  I must say this is one I am still quite proud of – besides, it has good memories attached.  My aunt’s house was being featured in a Christmas neighborhood tour, and I was delighted when she chose me to be the guard/helper for the occasion.  Being one who sews, of course I used this event as the perfect reason to whip up a new outfit (the one in this post).  How could you get any fancier than two lovely tones of velvet?!  Also, too, I figured correctly that the velvet would keep me warm the week after for the midnight church service my parents and I attended that year.  Even with my coat on, you can still see the prettiest feature of my skirt sticking out from underneath since it’s so long.  Oh yes, I was doing some calculating with this outfit, and it might be a bit dated, but it’s still a winter winner!

My hat was bought to match my outfit, a Christmas gift that same year (2006) from my thoughtful dad.  It has a velvet ribbon around the base of the crown to continue the theme of my outfit.  My matching boots leather suede “Hotter” brand, a gift to myself a few Christmases back.

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THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The skirt is a 100% cotton velveteen, lined in cling-free polyester;  The top is a polyester stretch crushed panne velourB4230-knit bell sleeve-shawl collar-topbutterick-3654-year-2002-bias-flounce-hem-skirts

PATTERNS:  The skirt used Butterick #3654, view C, year 2002, while the top is from Butterick #4230, view B, year 2004 (whose bell sleeves went onto this 20’s tunic and this 1970 dress).

NOTIONS:  Just basic stuff from on hand was needed here – thread, elastic, bias tapes, and some spare ribbon.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Neither of these took very long to make, but I do not remember exactly anymore – I’m guessing about 5 or 6 hours for the outfit.

100_7051a-compTHE INSIDES:  Both top and skirt were made at my parents’ house so I took advantage of her serger (over lock machine) for all around cleanly finished edges.

The patterns for the top and skirt are great – easy, quick, fit right on, and turning out exactly as pictured.  There is a refreshing lack of both facings and closure notions.

My top was made without any changes or adjustments but now I wish I had lengthened the bottom hem a bit.  The bertha-style collar has the tendency to curl, but I believe that is 100_6986-compdue to the panne velour…it just loves to curl like holiday ribbon run over the edge of a scissor.  Bell bottom style sleeves prevent this top from being worn under a sweater, kind of a bummer because the poly panne is a lot thinner than the skirt and not as warm.  Besides, the panne has a nap that seems to go in every which way at once so it sticks like Velcro to whatever clothing is over it.  This is the only down side to this top, really.  Otherwise, I do love how this is a dressy top without being stiff or stuffy.  Mostly, I believe I choose this ivory panne because I love how the look of it reminds of the beauty of a cold frost spreading, crusting and settling over a window on a cold winter’s day – part of the reason we took our pictures in a snow shower!

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My velveteen skirt had several issues along the way to as you see it now.  When I was first making the skirt, I had miss-read the proportions and lengthened the skirt.  However, it didn’t need it so I ended up taking out the added inches by making a folded over band above the bottom bias flounce.  I think the skirt looks all the better with that band above the flounce.  A few years later, I finally got around to refashioning the waistband so it wasn’t an all-around elastic band-type.  There are two off-center darts down from the front of the waistband so the belly will be smooth, with the elastic going around the back and sides from front dart to front dart. Last year, I realized one of the front darts were crooked and longer than the other, so I adapted that.  The lining inside is free hanging attached at the waist of the skirt.  Its hem ends at just above the bottom flounce of the velvet skirt because when I walk the ruffle above my feet flips up in a rather curious but pretty way.  If the lining was lower than the flounce it would show when I walk.  This might appear a simple skirt, but it has seen its share of tweaking through the years I’ve worn it.

100_7000a-compThis outfit brings to my mind a topic I’ve wanted to bring up on my blog.  You see, when a garment is made by me, I make sure I both like it enough and that it fits me well enough that it gets worn for as long as it will last.   This includes any mending, repairs, fitting adjustments, and even includes the possibility of re-fashioning.  I crafted it for myself and spent the time and money on it, thus I feel no one else but me is better qualified or has more vested involvement to make sure a handmade garment gets loved and appreciated.  Granted some of my past makes are eye-sores to me now, way beyond any ideas of re-fashioning at the moment, and make me shake my head at what I was thinking.  At the same time, I will admit I do like keeping these currently unworn eye-sore garments because it helps me see how creative and individual I’ve been with my fashion all these years and (most especially) see how far I’ve come with my skills.

100_6984a-compAm I just a lone wolf doing this long-term interest in one’s own wardrobe?  This idealism is mostly associated with the war-time rationing efforts of the decade of the 1940s, but I do not see why it should be so ‘cubby-holed’.  Modern “fast-fashion” has no staying power – it comes and goes out of fad every few months, it is commonly made with extremely low quality, and is not made to your fit and taste like a sewn garment can be.  No wonder charity shops are overflowing with unwanted ‘stuff’.  Handmade garments have more lasting qualities, so why give up on them and get rid of them like any old “ready-to-wear”?  Even if you do have store bought garments, or even vintage pieces, you can still take care of them to keep them in fine order rather than letting a fallen hem or frozen zipper be forgotten by being donated away.  In my early 20s, experimenting with store bought clothes which did not fit me well was how I taught myself the ins-and-outs of tailoring.  Sure, clothes might be a cheap commodity nowadays, but it wasn’t always so.  If you have them, use those awesome sewing skills of yours to do more, given the time and gumption of course.  If you don’t sew, it never hurts to learn how to create with scissors, thread, paper and fabric.

What do you think?  Would you rather start anew with a project?  Working on something existing can drag one down.  Does the thought of fiddly repairing send chills down your spine?  Do you (like me) rather enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you invested in your wardrobe after a garment repair has been made?

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‘Gene Tierney’-esqe 1940’s Lumberjack Shirt and Trousers

It’s way too fun to let myself give in to my strong tendency to do pretty dresses.  With the weather turning chilly, I could use something different that isn’t quite so dressed up to keep me cozy.  So, now that I’ve been recently realizing the beauty of 1940s casual wear, through the inspiration of actresses Gene Tierney,  Ava Gardner, and Hayley Atwell (a.k.a. Agent Peggy Carter), I took two mid-40’s vintage original patterns from my stash to make my own downtime wear from the past.  There is something a bit timeless, tasteful, and special about a set of “down-time” clothes made in vintage style that modern ready-to-wear cannot have.  The 1940s can make wearing a man’s style look so ladylike!

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1946 is the magic year for my blouse.  Not only is it the year for the pattern of my blouse, but it is also the year of my inspiration.  Gene Tierney wears a lovely flannel shirt in her Noir movie “Leave Her to Heaven”.  Once I’d seen this movie, it has tendency to gene-tierney-leave-her-to-heaven-year-1946-see-classiq-me-style-in-filmcropuncomfortably stay in back of my mind and the fashions are equally memorable in a better way.  Luckily this movie was specially made in color (a rather special practice for the times) and I was so happy to find a plaid in a shockingly close color scheme.  Ava Gardner also wore a nice flannel blouse in her gritty part in another 1946 movie “The Killers”, as also did Paulette Goddard in the 1948 movie “Hazard”, though as both films are in black and white I don’t know the true colors.  You can visit my Pinterest page for “Ladies Lumberjack Blouses in the 1940’s” to see pictures of all movie inspiration mentioned for this blouse, as well as others, too.

peggy-and-sousa-promotional-imagecompBoth actresses Tierney and Atwell wore perfectly fitting bifurcated bottoms in colors, as did Marvel’s television heroine Peggy Carter.  They all put the “class” into “classic”.  Peggy wears such wonderful trousers during the exercising of her duties on the job, and although the inspiration garment came from her Season Two (year 1947), she is often stuck in the past.  Thus I feel using a pattern from an earlier date (1943) suits appropriately.  My spin on feminine menswear from the 40’s is completed with nail polish (Cover Girl XL nail gel in “rotund raspberry”), red lipstick (Cover Girl Continuous Color in “vintage wine”), my sole Bakelite bracelet, and a simple ponytail!

THE FACTS:mccall-6709-year-1946-ladies-lumberjack-shirt-compw

FABRIC:  BLOUSE – 100% cotton flannel, with cotton batiste scraps for lining the shoulder placket; PANTS – a mid-weight denim, 60% cotton, 36% polyester, and 4% stretch.

NOTIONS:  I relied on what was on hand and actually had everything I needed – the thread, interfacing, bias simplicity-4528-ca-year-1943-compwtape, zipper, waistband hooks, shoulder pads, and buttons (which came from hubby’s grandmother’s stash).   

PATTERNS:  McCall #6709, year 1946, for the shirt (view B belt looks like the modern Vogue #9222) and Simplicity #4528, year 1943 for the pants

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The pants took me about 5 hours in all from start (cutting) to finish, which was on March 4, 2016.  I spend maybe 30 or more hours to make the flannel shirt, and it was done on April 27, 2016.

THE INSIDES:  The denim of the pants was too thick to add more bulk with edge finishing, so they are left raw.  The shirt is nicely finished in either French seams or bias bindings.

TOTAL COST:  The denim was on clearance when the now defunct Hancock Fabrics was closing, so it cost maybe $6 for only 2 yards.  The flannel came from Wal-Mart and cost $7.50 for 2 ½ yards.  So my outfit cost less than $15 – good deal, huh?!

The shirt was a bit of a time consuming trouble to do all the details while the pants were so easy and quick.  Both the patterns fit me right out of the envelope no changes and no real fitting needed…it’s so nice when that happens!  A decent number of the 40’s patterns run small for me so I went up in size for the trousers to have a good comfy fit, especially as I was planning on tucking my thick flannel shirt in the waist.  Lumberjack shirts are often roomy, so I actually went smaller by finding a pattern in my exact sizing and making wider seam allowances.  Both steps were good ideas though the pants are a tad baggy when worn with lighter weight blouses.

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My flannel blouse served as an experimental piece on which to attempt two techniques for the first time before doing them on some upcoming projects.  As the back has a separate shoulder placket, and I did not have enough fabric to do something special (like mitering the plaid into V), I made my very own corded piping using self-fabric to make sure that dsc_0236a-compwseam has a special touch.  Making my own piping was not hard – it was fun actually!  All it took was a little extra time but is so worth it in the finished appearance.  I even cut the strip of fabric for the piping on the bias for more contrast.  See – the plaid is cross-grain.  Also, I found out how to do sleeve openings with a pointed over-and-underlapped placket.  They turned out great, but now I know what to do better next time.  Making these plackets became challenging with the flannel becoming so thick with multiple layers in one small spot, and they were barely all my machine could handle to sew.  I really do love the look of this kind of placket – so professional and finished looking, and special, too, as it was also cut on the cross-grain!  I can’t wait to try out these two techniques again.

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Most of the other skills that were needed to make my flannel blouse had already been done for my hubby’s 1943 flannel shirt as well as my “Saddle and Lace” Western-style tunic. This shirt has the collar stand all-in-one with the collar (like the tunic), a favorite feature of mine.  This makes for a smooth and unfussy neckline besides making it a bit less extra seaming to make.  My hem is arched into the side seams, shirt-tail style, though it is lacking a small patch at the inner arch, like what hubby’s shirt has.  On my shirt, the patch pocket (yes, just one) with the flap closure was every bit as stressfully detailed to match as last time I made them on my hubby’s shirt.  Just because I’ve done some techniques before doesn’t mean I like doing all of them any better for sewing them again 😉

dsc_0423-compcombowThe buttons on my shirt are vintage, as I said they come from the stash given to us of hubby’s Grandmother, but what era I’m not sure.  These buttons came in the number I needed, but they are also tiny and feminine, which is exactly what I wanted for the shirt, although they do kind of make it hard to button through the thick flannel.  The buttons had been coated with an imitation pearl stuff, but as most of it was coming off anyway, I used a pocket knife to take all of the coating off to have the buttons be a creamy white as you see them.  They are all kind bumpy on top with three small hills on each.  Does anyone have any idea what era these are from?

The shoulders are a bit droopy and I think they are meant to be like that but I did try todsc_0430a-compw prevent an extreme case.  I sewed the top shoulder seam in a ¾ inch seam allowance but as the sleeve was still over-long for my arm, I also made the cuffs in half the width they were meant to be.  Thin cuffs do look a bit different but I think this is a good save versus having the sleeves end up looking way too big for me.  I also added thick ½ inch shoulder pads inside the shirt to further structure the blouse’s silhouette, because the droopy sleeves fit better with them and also…this is the 1940’s after all!  Out of everything else on the shirt, it’s the shoulder pads that make me feel like this shirt is more like some sort of loose, unlined jacket.  I find it so funny how ginormous thick shoulder pads fit in so well with 1940’s fashion, they actually look good, and fit in to the garment’s style so well.  You’d never have guessed huge shoulder pads were in there, would you?

My trousers are so freaking awesome, I can’t praise true 1940’s high-waisted pants enough.  My last attempts were done using reprints of old patterns from Simplicity, and although they turned out decently enough, they seem modern and pale in comparison to the real vintage thing.  The reprints (especially Simplicity 3688) don’t have a proper vintage high waist, good crouch depth, and proper hip room that this old trousers pattern has to it.  The envelope back calls the set “pajamas” but I technically think that this set of tunic blouse and trousers is actually like a house outfit, probably worn as an option to the house dress.  Regular ‘blouse and slacks’ vintage original patterns for women seem to sell for more than I can reasonably spend, so this pattern is my affordable substitute.  The design is probably a bit more simplistic than an-outside-the-house pair of slacks, but they fit me better than I could have ever hoped for so that’s reason enough for them to deserve to be worn to be seen!

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The only small thing I did change was to transform a full dart out of the pattern’s prescribed knife pleat.  Just to be on the safe side, I added about 2 inches to the hem of the pants, but as they turned out, I didn’t need that extra length, so they have a very wide hem – no so 1943 at all when excess fabric like this would have been a waste not allowed by the war rations.  Next pair (yes, I am definitely making another) will not have the added length and wide hem – the pattern is just fine for me the way it is.  I have found a body match in this 1943 pants pattern.dsc_0306-compw

My trousers have seen so much use since I finished them, but here’s a different perspective yet.  I think they looked best the way I styled them to wear to our town annual WWII re-enactment weekend several months back.  I wore my white scalloped front blouse with the trousers, a leather belt which matched my studded wedge leather sandals, pearls, clip-on earrings, and a netted snood I my hair.  A re-enactor told me he thought I looked like I was dressed up like I was a French civilian.  My hubby can be seen in his recent lucky find of a never worn, Eisenhower-style, military suit set (just need to hem his pants…).  These service suits were being worn on limited personnel in 1943, but became standard issue after November 1944, so he and I are not too far off in time frame.  If I am re-enacting a French civilian, maybe I can play the part of the bride that he met while serving the European front of the war.

Do you, too, have some “inspiration icons”?  Do you sew your own casual wear, weather vintage or modern?  Have you, like me, happened to find a magic pattern that seems as if it was meant for your body?

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!  Here’s to best wishes for good eats, good times, and good memories!

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