A Tribute to Bernard the Flamingo – The “Devil in Pink”

When there are frigid temperatures, and forecasts of ice, snow, and dreary skies, part of me cannot help but mentally travel to the opposite clime…somewhere warm and sunny, where living is relaxed and duties are a thing forgotten (for the time being at least)!  Flamingos can be found at such tropical getaways, and imagery of their one-legged standing silhouette is often associated with resort lounging anyways.

This year, rather than just imagining, hubby and I are actually off at a sunny Florida beach for the moment.  Thus, now is the perfect time for me to share my 1940s outfit I made inspired by the “devil in pink” himself, Bernard, pet of the master of carefree lounging himself, Marvel’s inventor extraordinaire Howard Stark.  (Watch this clip for a small minute of understanding!)  Bernard the flamingo was the loud and hard-to-handle bane of Howard’s butler, Mr. Jarvis, to the humorous amazement to the two ladies Agent Peggy Carter and Mrs. Ana Jarvis in Season Two of the Marvel TV series.  This inspiration was the perfect opportunity to channel my love of vintage, Agent Carter, and casual yet nice separates all into one handmade outfit.

Thinking of a warmer climate basked in sunshine, my post WWII blouse has brass sun buttons and golden flamingos printed on a rich pink rayon.  My trousers are a multi-climate wool blend twill in practical khaki tan with post-war style hem cuffs for a masculine touch.  My accessories are a classic straw fedora (just like what Agent Carter had), pink patent oxford-style shoes, vintage pink pearl earrings, and an old 40’s original tooled leather box purse, the kind that were popular tourist souvenirs brought back to the states for sweethearts.  I couldn’t be happier with the comfort, chic, and practical usefulness of this set!  It’s a girly pink overload (with the shoes, too) in a restrained and professional way coming straight from the past.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Blouse – a 100% rayon challis; Pants – a wool blend twill in a medium weight thickness

PATTERN:  Simplicity #8243, a reprint of an original year 1948 pattern #2337, for the blouse and a vintage original Simplicity #4528, year 1943, for the trousers (used before to make these denim pants)

NOTIONS:  I used everything from on hand – bias tapes, cotton scraps, thread, and vintage notions.  My pants have an old vintage metal zipper in the side, and my blouse’s amazing sun-image buttons come from hubby’s Grandma’s stash.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The blouse and the pants came together quickly – about 5 to 7 hours to make each.  The blouse and the pants were finished in June of 2017.

THE INSIDES:  all cleanly bias bound

TOTAL COST:  The flamingo rayon was bought in early spring 2017 at JoAnn’s fabric store, while the fabric for the pants was bought at a rummage/resale store for only $2 for 2 yards. I don’t clearly remember the total but I think the blouse and pants together might have been about $10…pretty good, right?!

I had been saving the khaki fabric to make something that would be a staple piece which would see much wearing – weather that would be a 1940s Eisenhower jacket, vintage trousers, or a 1930s skirt, I wasn’t sure.  The flamingo fabric was a sudden, spur-of-the-moment purchase – one of those things that when you first lay eyes on it, it screams to you “you need this”, and then mentally you know exactly what to do with it.  The sudden purchase helped me narrow down what to do with the fabric purchase I had been hoarding.  Together, these pieces are awesome, but I really do immensely appreciate how each goes with so much else in my wardrobe.

Many times, spur-of-the-moment projects can satisfy one’s creative need but not really fit into one’s existing separates.  Not so with this blouse!  It actually looks good with khaki skirts, denim bottoms, and even some rust red and dark brown or white colored bottoms too.  As for the pants… they are something I really don’t know how I lived without until now.  I like them so much better than my basic black knit pants.  The material is nicely substantial and wrinkle free, and doesn’t show fuzz the same as a dark color would.  When my pants are worn with a basic blue oxford shirt and some suspenders, I feel like vintage menswear for women wipes out modern business attire.  Not even close to equal in awesomeness!

Rayon challis feels remarkably soft and silky on the skin, but as this was a blouse, it needed some stability in the neckline.  I didn’t want the collar and button front to be overly stiff from interfacing so I opted to use plain 100% cotton instead.  This gave it a bit extra body, and kept the fabric from losing its shape, without the stiffness.  As I used khaki colored cotton for the interfacing substitute, it also helped make the facing become invisible (more or less).  The pink rayon is slightly sheer, but a slip or anything skin toned becomes invisible under it.  I was afraid the double layer of fabric, where the collar and button placket are faced with on big fabric piece, would be glaringly obvious, making the pink a different color there.  However the flesh toned cotton interfacing happily disguised that.  I do like my sewing to be well engineered, keeping up the art of beautiful insides with tricky facings as subtle as if they are not even there!  Keep this in mind if you try this blouse in a light color, too!

The shoulders of this blouse pattern seem to run slightly small.  I have generous upper arms so I commonly have problems fitting in modern sleeves and some vintage sleeves, anyway.  This pattern is definitely not the tightest in its armscye, but it could benefit from a 5/8 inch longer shoulder seam in the bodice to make it extend out to the end of my actual shoulder blade as well as a wider back for more reach room.  The trio of darts at the sleeve caps are such a lovely detail, and make the actual sleeve itself generous in room, so any tightness in the bodice’s armscye is easily forgivable.

Besides the sleeve armscye, I did not find any major regrets to change for next time.  I did however, look ahead and make a bunch of slight tweaks.  The hem length ran a bit short for a blouse to stay tucked in on its own so I lengthened the blouse the fall under my hipline.  The collar was a steep curve to turn right sides out and so I snipped the seam allowances throughout down to about 1/8 inch.  The facings did not lie down as nicely as they could so I made the outer hem wider for a thinner facing that meets the back neck collar seam rather than hanging over it.  The recommended button placement was weird – the top button makes for a very chokingly high necked blouse while the bottom button ends right at the waistline making it hard to tuck in without looking like you have a majorly protruding belly button.  I lowered the top button by over an inch and raised the bottom one by ½ inch (could have brought it up even more) with the middle one coming in between the two.  Finally, I added a snap closure to close the blouse between the last third button and the hem.  This below the waist snap is something I always see in vintage patterns, and it helps keep my blouses closed nicely so I added it here even though it wasn’t in the instructions I saw.  Most of these recommendations I also made to my second, sequel version of this pattern – my silk orange Agent Carter blouse, posted here.

The length of the sleeve hems is something I see frequently “misunderstood” when I see versions of this pattern sewn up.  Looking at the original pattern piece, the extra length to the sleeves might appear as a ¾ length sleeve.  I installed my sleeve unhemmed to see for myself, and yes, it turns out as long as a ¾ sleeve.  I did not like this look in the least on my blouse, nor did the sleeves strike me as having the right shaping to give elbow room to be a ¾ sleeve.  Even if you do the instructed 5 something inch hem this makes the sleeve above elbow length, just like what you see on the silky red version on the model images on Simplicity’s site.  If you look at the original old pattern’s cover, the sleeves are meant to be cuffed, and honestly I think a shorter, mid-bicep sleeve looks better with this blouse, anyway.  It takes a lot of extra fabric to give room for cuffs, and I find it so weird, confusing and misleading that the line drawings and made-up versions to this pattern seems to inexplicably “forget” to show sleeve cuffs, throwing many sewers off with this pattern.

If the versions of this blouse that I am seeing are longer sleeved because they are intended to be so, because they like them that way, then that is another story and all fine and good.  But it sure seems the sleeves are this way because of a glitch on Simplicity’s part, since the pattern works out just fine being cuffed without making any changes.  I am wondering how many don’t see the sleeves were originally meant to be cuffed, and they don’t realize that in the extra hem length as the pattern intends all because Simplicity “forgot” about it in their modern make-up.  Every little detail matters when it comes to vintage – that is what makes it so loved, so likable, so unique, and so timelessly wearable.

Speaking of the sleeve cuffs, since I had made these pants before, and they fit me out of the envelope with no changes needed, I was comfy with the assurance of a good finished pair of pants and therefore played around with the long hem to add cuffs at the hem.  Each is cuff is tacked down in four places – one at each side seam, and one at the center fronts and backs.  This is what I did for the cuffs of my blouse sleeves, as well.  Cuffs are somewhat confusing because you have to over account for the extra fabric, but as I had my previous pair of pants to measure from and I had just done the cuffs on my blouse, I felt more to grips with making cuffs on my pants.  I think I would have preferred the cuffs to be a bit wider, now that I look at them, but I feel like they match the blouse this way, add a touch of masculinity, and bring my WWII era pattern up to date with the freedom from rationing that would have been the case with a 1948 outfit.

For these pictures, I had a good taste of how Bernard could easily have been a bothersome handful which was his reputation when we visited the flamingo pond in our town’s zoo.  I was a yard or so away from a flamingo fight and they were totally unafraid of people.  For all their socialness in the pond, they can really get into things with each other!  Their noise quickly turned into a harsh and grating ruckus, and the two fighters walked away with a pride that was really laughable for their movements.  Bernard the pet had no intentions of acting like a pet in the least if he was anything like the flamingos I saw!

In ancient culture, flamingos represent a calming confidence.  It can also stand for femininity and a firm outspoken attitude.  Combine all of these together and there is one awesome combo to stand for an interesting creature.  The wild, unpredictable brashness of the flamingo was sort of a running joke and source of humor to the creators of Marvel’s Agent Carter, some of whom I hear were pecked at and chased down by Bernard off set.  A trio of Agent Carter ladies had show-girl style flamingo inspired outfits for the song and dance sequence in the beginning of the 9th episode, and from what I have seen on the social media sites of some of the actors/actresses, but especially the costume designer Gigi Melton, anything flamingo related (brooches, novelty fabric, fan art) is appreciated.  So – this outfit is to all of that quality entertainment, killer vintage style, and much-needed inspiring characters which is Agent Carter.

You will be seeing my pants making recurring comebacks to match with some of my future to-be-posted blouses.  Other than that, don’t fall over when you try to stand like a flamingo, and I will be back at home to share something closer to my winter clime when I give you my next post.  Here’s to happy sewing everyone!

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Fuchsia Pleats to Brighten Up the Greys

Winter skies here can be so blasé and I am not at all afraid to use bold color in my choice of sewing plans to counter attack that!  This post will try to be short and sweet about a not so simple 1940s blouse I made to complete a recently acquired vintage suit set of the same era.  This blouse proves that mantra, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!” to be very true and not just words.  I indeed had to struggle to have this blouse turn out successfully and am so glad I persevered for this gem of a garment!

I will confess that I now have a hopeless taste for silk and silk blends recently.  A fine silk cotton is my especial combination of fascination – it can come in so many finishes, levels of opacity and crispness, besides the myriad of colors available.  Add that to its relative affordability, it is a no-brainer to choose for blouses.  Find some for yourself and you’ll thank me later.  Just don’t go and buy it all, now!

If I let myself get technical, I would guiltily admit that I am mislabeling this blouse because if you go by the book “a tuck is stitched down, a pleat is not”.  So this is a tucked front blouse whose detailing is made to look like what we conventionally think of as pleats.  There I said it – I’m admittedly wrong.  Nevertheless, tucks and pleats are frequent and lovely details on vintage blouse designs, and are a fun and relatively easy way to have a blouse that’s a complex, standout piece.  Tucks and pleats are just about cleverly manipulating folds of fabric after all.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 58% silk, 42% cotton blend fabric, opaque and rich in color with a sheen like a satin and a crispness like a shantung

PATTERN:  Hollywood #1165, year 1943, a “Ruth Warrick of RKO-Radio” design

NOTIONS:  All I needed was thread at first, which I happened to have, but then I ran out of thread and I needed a zipper so I had to buy (at the last minute) some of my notions needed for this project.  Otherwise I used up some interfacing scraps for the cuffs, and I used vintage buttons from the stash of hubby’s Grandmother.  The buttons might look like cut glass, but I believe they are Lucite

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This blouse was finished on November 20, 2017 after maybe 20 plus hours invested in it.

THE INSIDES:  So nice I’m tempted to wear the blouse inside out…well, almost!  100% French seams.

TOTAL COST:  I ordered this from a seller on Etsy than imports in from Hong Kong so it’s at a discount.  Two yards cost me only $14 including shipping.

Now, before I get into the details of the blouse, let me gush over the suit details.  From what I have seen in my research, I can date this suit with relative certainty to circa year 1946.  It could be as early as year 1944, but not much later than 1947.  They just do not make suits remotely close to the level of quality and beauty as they did in the past.  This wool, though it is plain grey, has a satin sheen in varying colors that is simply breathtaking.  Pictures just cannot capture that shine, neither can they convey the substantial thickness of the wool and the crepe lining inside.  These kinds of fabrics sadly are not to be found anymore.  This wool is almost like a felt in plushness, and with the lining and complicated, impeccable structuring I can feel is going on inside, this is more like a jacket than just a suit jacket.  If you haven’t ever felt what a 1940’s quality suit is like, you need to experience it.  Put it on your bucket list!  These garments are truly transforming when you put them on.  They make you feel like the best darn good version of yourself you never knew existed.  I feel like I can tackle anything in a killer vintage suit – they’re empowering.  The trick is to take your measurements, know what garment measurements would work well for you, and then wait and check around to find the one that “suits” you!

More often than not, unless you are willing to make a larger monetary investment, a vintage suit will need some upkeep and TLC, with many even missing their matching skirt.  This jacket needed its buttons tacked on and some popped seams closed up, but these are the most common repairs with vintage pieces as cotton thread was frequently used back then and is to the point of disintegrating by now.  Luckily, I had a matching skirt, only it didn’t fit me very well, not like the suit jacket did.  Since someone had obviously tinkered with the skirt before I received it, adding modern-style repairs I wasn’t happy with, I didn’t feel too bad when I refashioned it so I could wear it.  The waistband was unpicked and removed to make a center back panel that gave me about 3 inches more of booty room and better, curved shaping around the waistline.  To finish the waist, I turned under the edge in simple bias tape.  Without the waistband, the skirt does have the tendency to droop now, but at least it is more wearable for me and I was able to fix it using all of the same original material!

With all the effort I put into bringing this vintage suit set up to snuff, I felt that a more detailed and complex blouse was especially worth it here.  Don’t get me wrong – anything anyone makes for oneself is ‘worth it’.  I just mean that a rich looking, detailed blouse that might take more time than my normal project would justly give my suit set the finishing touch I was seeking to have a full outfit that has a bang!  Of course, the right accessories help that, too. My gloves, handbag, and hat are all true vintage, as well as my Grandmother’s jeweled turtle brooch and earrings set.  My two-tone spectator pumps are new reproductions from my favorite vintage-style brand, Chelsea Crew.

Finally, to the blouse!  Not that I don’t have blouses already that work with this suit – of course, white and black tops match here, primarily because of the buttons.  But that is so boring and predictable.  Blouses with collars distracted away from the lovey curved collar (and matching pocket flaps!) on the suit.  My oldie-but-goodie 40’s basic round neck satin blouse works nicely under the suit, so for my new shirt I reached for a rounded neck blouse with interest down the front that would peek out.

I have been wanting to use this Hollywood blouse pattern that I have had for years!  Ever since I saw Emileigh of “Flashback Summer” blog make a Maasai-inspired version for herself using this pattern it has been higher in my sewing project queue.  I had a feeling that a solid color would be the best way to show off the detailing, and I think I was right.  Only, I was wrong when it came to estimating the sizing.  This pattern ran really small!  It was weird.  Emileigh had said that she felt her pattern ran large, and I have made another Hollywood pattern from 1943, the same year, that ran true to size, as well as one which ran very large from the next year.  It’s not that this pleated blouse pattern had weird proportions, for all the pieces were nicely marked and fit together well.  It was just all over small.  Luckily, when I graded the pattern up to my size, I gave myself and extra ½ inch or so just to be on the safe side so I had just enough bonus so that that a small change could fix things.  More on that change in a minute!  The only thing I can think is that this was an anomaly rising from the combo of an unprinted pattern and an off-brand company (meaning something other than the “Big Four”, Simplicity, McCall, Butterick, Vogue).  Many times unprinted patterns are less reliable in accuracy than printed ones due to how they were made in stacks of hundreds of sheets at a time, die-cast stamped with their balance marks and darts.  Also, out of all the vintage patterns I’ve worked with, I do find unpredictable sizing almost always in brand patterns like Du Barry, Hollywood, mail order, and even Advance.

You start with the front, which is in three panels – one side front on the left and right of the center panel that gets pleated.  Except for the center where they spread out towards the shoulders, the pleats are in “blind tuck” style, which has folds that meet each other so no stitching shows.  Then I made all bodice darts, sewed the back panels on, and inserted the sleeves.  Sounds easy, right?  Well, I adapted the sleeve fullness to be pleats rather than gathers as the pattern intended.  It was tricky to get the sleeves looking even and exact together when I was free handing the detailing.  I wanted the pleats on the sleeves to match the trim darts on the sleeve caps and the pleats on the body of the blouse.

That done, then I realized that the neckline add-on piece would make the blouse so high necked I might as well choke myself with it.  No, I was leaving the round neck panel off. So I took what little material I had left and made bias tape facing to cleanly finish off the neckline at the level it was at.  While I was at it, I then also made a bit more bias tape to cleanly hem the bottom of the blouse, too.  I tried it on without the back closing, and realized the bust darts needed to be re-stitched about one inch lower.  With that fixed, the blouse seemed to fit great, so I finished it by stitching in all the buttonholes and buttons in the sleeves and bodice back.  Here came the problem.

The blouse was not all that small of a fit in itself if I just stood with my arms to the side, but add in the back buttons and that was a difficulty.  I found it almost impossible to button the blouse closed on myself, with not enough extra ease room.  Once I did finally do that feat, I saw that when I reached out, the stress on the buttons was making me scared the delicate fabric might possibly rip.  Stitched on and already cut through buttonholes are non-reversible, so I thought, “Why not cover up the buttonholes (my only real option anyway) and add a pleated panel down the back to also cover up a zippered closure?”  This way the back of the blouse compliments the front and now has equally lovely interest, besides that fact that a separating zipper is so much easier to do blind reaching from behind and much stronger than four buttons could be.  Adding the panel with the zipper technically gave me one whole extra inch of space across the back, making my blouse fit me so much better overall.  A crisis was averted that night, and I actually like my method of covering up a sewing “failure” much better than if everything had gone according to plan.  Mistakes are often blessings in disguise, I suppose.

The Hollywood star associated with my blouse’s design, Ruth Warrick, is herself an interesting woman that is not heard about as much as she could, for being in the limelight in as many ways as she was.  First of all, she played the character of the actor Orson Welles’ first wife in the famous 1941 movie “Citizen Kane”.  She worked with Orson Welles on both the screen and the radio on several occasions because he said he was looking for a woman who “was a lady”, not just someone who could “play a lady”.  Mostly she is known for the later career in the television soap dramas.  She was in “As the World Turns” for a number of years after the show debuted in 1956, then she moved to “All My Children”, which she was part of from 1970 to 2005.  She has bonus points in my book for being a gal from my own state of Missouri!  It’s amazing how adding the association of a famous screen star can really add to a pattern’s appeal.  Pattern companies should bring back Hollywood patterns, and I’m not talking about cosplay either.

Speaking of Hollywood, this reminds me of a quote of some fashion advice by Joan Crawford, “Find your happiest colors – the ones that make you feel good.  Care for your clothes, like the good friends they are!”  (Full quote here.)  This is good advice for store bought clothes, even more so for things that you have sewn.  If you have taken the time to think of it, buy the fabric and work with the pattern, you are worth seeing what you have made be a success and not an unwanted failure.  However, Joan Crawford’s quote is especially the case for vintage items.  It would be sad if the general interest in fashion from the past also becomes the cause for it to be more scarce and therefore less attainable.  I don’t mean to get on a soapbox, but really – it’s kind of like what is said about our environment, we should leave vintage the same or better than how we found it, but never worse off.  Those who own a garment piece from the past should make sure to wear it only if it fits (as there will be less chance of it tearing irreparably and more chance they will like wearing it), take care of it, and examine, appreciate, and learn from it.  Without clothes from the past how will we learn and understand our present and future fashion styles?  Anyone who has or does sew vintage and even those who do not should appreciate the value of true authentic pieces in the hands of everyday people.  I hope you agree and enjoy what I have done to add value to this 1940’s suit set.

Smart Pockets, a French Beret…Year 1934

I do love pockets (…and probably say that way too much on the blog), so really smart pockets that I see on vintage patterns are even more appealing.  You know, just because pockets are utilitarian, they don’t have to ‘look’ that way or be hidden.  Why should pockets just be tucked in the side seams or merely top-stitched on…why not make them not only obvious but also part of the styling?!  I’m glad I sew, because following this train of thought, I found a comfortable and practical early mid-1930s blouse whose stunning design is highlighted by using stripes.  And… just because I could without much extra effort, I whipped up a matching velvet beret from a pattern of the same year.  What proper 30’s lady would be out and about without a hat of some sort, after all?  Amidst a plethora of bias cut gowns and fancy wear, a chic everyday 30’s set is so refreshing and welcome.

This outfit has been so darn long in coming to completion!  For many years now, I have wanted my own vintage beret, and after much searching, I finally found an easy-to-make, reasonable to afford, yet true vintage option to sew.   Furthermore, speaking of past project connections, back in 2014 I sewed a skirt, the bottom half from the same pattern as this post’s blouse, using fabric from my Grandmother (post on my skirt here).  That same year was when I actually found the shirting fabric to make the coordinating blouse in this post.  Sheepishly, I’ll admit I only just recently got around to finally sewing some of what has been long planned out to now have all three pieces – hat, blouse, and skirt – together.

I have made other blouses of the same era to go with my basic black 30’s skirt (see some here and here), showing how the bottom half of the garment pattern is truly a wardrobe staple for me.  However, now that this properly coordinating striped blouse (which certainly gets top billing among any previous 30’s tops) has been made, my outfit feels complete and every bit as stylishly awesome as the pattern intended.  This is probably my very favorite make, as well as the most useful and frequently worn, from the decade of the 1930s.  Beret hats are not necessarily just for one decade either, and in a lovely grey velvet, this too will be an understated yet elegant and warmly basic accessory in putting together outfits.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Blouse – a striped, textured cotton shirting, with basic cotton broadcloth in a solid black for both the collar and full body lining; Hat – a lofty polyester velvet, in a grey two-tone with a tiny, slight windowpane print on it

PATTERN:  Pictorial Review #7379, year 1934 (as I said above the skirt has its own write up here), with a 1934 reprinted pattern from the Etsy shop “kalliedesigns” for the beret hat.  The original pattern for the hat is (I believe) Simplicity #1532, view 4.

NOTIONS:  I really had everything I needed already on hand – some thread, a little interfacing, bias tape, a metal jewelry chain remnant, and buttons. 

TIME TO COMPLETE:  I finished the blouse on December 18, 2016.  Making it only took me about 15 hours.  The hat was whipped up in a few hours about a month after the blouse.

First, I have to address my giving a definite year to this design.  I have yet to see a Pictorial Review pattern with a date on the pattern itself, yet I am quite confident in narrowing this one down to late 1934.  Styles of the 1930’s were very specific to certain years when you look at certain details such as hem length for both tops and skirts/dresses, shoulder styles, sleeve and pocket trends, as well as hairstyles, accessories, body images, and the like.  Taking all of these details into account, I initially estimated this pattern could even be very late 1933 at the earliest, but no later than early 1936.  Finding a few Pictorial Review magazines and dated patterns helped me narrow down my estimate, especially this Pictorial Review “Goddess Gown” #7363 adapted from a Lanvin design for Winter of 1934.  It is a number very close to my pattern (#7379).  Besides, it would make practical sense for my pattern to be from Fall and Winter anyway based on the long sleeve option.

Beyond the sensible reason, Pictorial review patterns were known to be fashion forward, working with foreign, well-distinguished designers, couture houses, and nobility to release some truly top-of the line and rare styles which would not be available to many ladies of the 1930’s otherwise.  Thus, when I found a copy of the same style as my blouse out of a Butterick company Summer 1935 catalog, as well as similar designs in Simplicity #1812 and #1724 (both ca. 1935), I realized what I already assumed about Pictorial Review patterns – that they were the leader of fashion for their time or at least ahead of the trends.  Their patterns are printed after all…another factor adding to their prestige!

This blouse was not that hard at all to make – what was hard was matching the stripes (mostly) together with re-drafting the pattern.  The stripes are not mirror matching and were playing tricks on my eyes when I was figuring out the placement of the pattern pieces.  Also, I had to add in four whole inches because this pattern both runs super small (something I learned from making the skirt already) and I wanted modern 5/8 inch seam allowance (verses the 3/8 called provided for).  I spread the four inches out properly and evenly across the entire blouse, like a good girl, for as much as I wanted to take the easy route, I didn’t just add it in on the sides.  Nor did I cut apart or otherwise draft a new pattern piece.  Yes, I know I made this extra hard for myself.  I do that sometimes.

My blouse might look somewhat straightforward at first glance of the pattern but it has lovely details.  The link closure neckline is my top favorite feature, so I’ll start at the neck.  Two buttons and a chain to link them connects the dual buttonholes and closes the shirt neckline.  I opted for a more decorative and showy jewelry style chain in sterling silver rather than the very basic thread looping together as recommended in the pattern. I do love how the neckline link closure almost doubles as a necklace with the chain!  Button link closures are something primarily seen in the 30’s for main fastenings down bodice fronts, jackets, sleeves, and necklines.  Depression era practicality, a desire for accessorizing, as well as accommodating the rough means available of washing garments all contributed to the popularity of removable buttons.  Many buttons were “change” or “clip on” buttons (read more about them here on Vintage Gal blog); others were link-style, connected by metal or thread.  As we just had National Button Day (which was started in the 30’s, by the way), this can be an idea to let those precious and amazing buttons you’ve been saving shine on a garment without feeling like you have to sacrifice them to the wear and tear the rest of the garment will receive.  Whatever the reason, I do love the singular and useful practice of link button closures.  My fellow blogger, Emileigh, has also made several 1930’s garments with link closures (see her dress here, and jacket here), just like me!

As lovely and soft as the striped shirting is on its own, I decided to fully line only the main body of the blouse.  Otherwise, it was thin enough to show seam allowances, underwear, and even the pockets…how racy to think of!  There are more reasons than that, though.  The black broadcloth renders my blouse a better warmth weight for chilly days as well as perfectly opaque.  I was also able to eliminate the facings with this trick…the lining finished off the front neckline opening easily and cleanly.  The collar is then the same fabric as the lining.  This was not only convenient but also great for matching especially when the collar is open!  The sleeves are unlined to keep my blouse from being too heavyweight.  Besides, at least with the sleeves I can feel the lovely soft shirting on its own!

The sleeves are also ‘hiding’ a secret detail – what I believe are darted French cuffs.  The outer side sleeve pattern was laid out with what looked like on paper to be a long and wide dart.  Except for the last 2 inches being open at the end of the sleeves where the wrist is, the French cuffs smoothly assimilate into the sleeves as a dart which ends to nothing at the elbow.  I have never seen anything remotely like this sleeve!  The darted part of the French cuffs makes for such a lovely, shapely, tapered sleeve shape that ends in a bang!  The cuffs were directed by the pattern to be closed with more link buttons, but I generally use cufflinks instead.  Cufflinks would probably not be something a 1930’s woman would have worn in the era were times were hard and pennies pinched, especially not the wrap-around mesh cufflinks that I used (this kind date to the 1960s and 1970s – mine are coveted Anson brand).  However, people also liked escapism in the 1930s to forget their hard times, so just maybe I can envision a 1930’s woman doing what I was doing her with my accessories – go big or go home! If Marlene Dietrich wore cufflinks, so will I!

I’m terribly distracted, though.  The above-the-hem hip pockets were meant to be the main attraction!  The side panels to the bodice fronts actually extend down to the hem and the top edges of the bottom “legs” of the middle section are hemmed and left open.  When the hem is tuned under and the side seams sewn, the pockets are then closed.  I love how the pockets are right there is front of me – so handy yet so subtle and hidden into being part of the design!  The stripes in my blouse also hide the fact these pockets can hold so darn much!  Hipline line front pockets must have been “a thing” in the mid 1930’s, as I have seen numerous versions of them on jackets, dresses, and blouses in patterns offerings at that time from all companies.  See this Butterick design from Summer of 1935, Simplicity #1812 from 1935, or McCall #9242 of 1937 for just a few of the examples I have come across.

I will admit to having a love-hate relationship with the action-back, though.  Sewn up as-is, the center back box pleat is open from below the shoulder panel (as you see in the the right picture).  I wore it like this one or two times, but it just made it feel oversized and fussy.  I felt like I needed to wear a belt just to keep it in place.  This is silly, I thought!  So I hand tacked the box pleat together from the hemline up to a few inches above the waistline.  I wanted to make sure to have full movement across my shoulders so I left some of it open.  Now it had the right 1930’s “skinny hip” appearance and unfussiness!

Last but not least is the head topper – my hat!  I’m sorry but I was so happy with this beret that in my rush to just wear it and enjoy it, I have totally forgotten to properly iron flat the many darts.  I suppose this is a good sign!  I’m rarely this excited to omit the finishing touch, an ironing job!  An ironing session almost felt like too much work for it when this hat came together so quickly.

The pattern itself could be much nicer – it is rather crudely traced.  However, it gets the job done and gives a nice basic piece to use on its own or build off of.  After all it is only two pieces, and a bunch of darts to sew, then voila – a finished hat!  Most importantly it did turn out well and ran true to size.  It is listed as a 22” to 23”, and my head is a consistent 22 ½” hat size.  This could not be any more perfect for me, but those who need it bigger, slash and spread more (while keeping the same size darts) and those who need it smaller, I would recommend the easy route of just adding a tiny casing around the head for skinny elastic.  I personally left off the recommended head band for the edge, and merely turned under the edge like a traditional hem.  This way the hat stays closer to my head and slouches better than with an added band to keep it around my head.  The slouch part is designed into the pattern, not just an effect of too much extra room.  The pattern is cleverly asymmetric, so if you would want the slouch to be on one side versus another, that needs to be figured out before cutting.  I didn’t care…I just dove right in as it didn’t take much of my time, nor did it take much fabric either to have a new hat.  If it turned out badly, it was no biggie, but oh did it turn out well!

My background location is earlier than my outfit’s date, but it is an early Art Deco wonder so we just had to include it in a 1930’s photo shoot sometime!  The grand “Moolah Temple” was originally built for a Masonic organization, but it is now a posh movie theatre and bowling lanes at the floor level and below, with apartment spaces above.  The meticulous and respectful renovations have happily left the building pretty intact and one can see it in its original teens-era splendor.  It has dizzying details, with a strong Moorish and orientalist influence which is both unique and lovely.  Extravagant ornate terra cotta outside, opulent marble work inside, with original fixtures makes me feel like I stepped back in time, especially when I can wear my vintage appropriate outfits such as this Pictorial Review one!

“I, However, Am Not Afraid of You…”

On a day that revolves around fear and frights, I can’t help but default to America’s Sweetheart, Peggy Carter, for the self-assurance to have a heroine’s heart!  She was speaking to her nemesis, a woman who almost wiped out all of New York, when Peggy uttered my title’s quote, a perfect mantra for Halloween night.

In those same first five minutes of the Second Season, you can see Agent Carter in a striking suit of the unusual combination of peach blouse and forest green skirt and jacket (see part of that here).  I have interpreted this set into my own wardrobe, and as it has all the colors associated with Halloween, I’ll think of this outfit as a fashionable pumpkin!

There wasn’t a whole lot of sewing needed for me to have this set.  I sewed the blouse, and it is a luxurious everyday basic piece, in a cheery color, which I needed in my wardrobe anyway.  The skirt is something I’ve had in my closet for the past decade, a RTW piece which had been not seeing much wear as of late, so it was time for a simple re-fashion to perk it up.  My optional suit jacket is a true vintage piece that had been given to me by a friend, and fits like it was made for me.  It was that simple – my easiest Agent Carter outfit yet!  Perhaps the style choices of myself and Peggy are naturally on the same page – maybe that’s why I feel the need to have every one of her outfits in my closet as well, he he.  Many of her wardrobe choices have a sensible practicality combined with a panache for a touch of standout details.  Perhaps there is something in your closet, too, that can translate easily into an Agent Carter outfit of your choice?!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The fabric for my blouse is a 100% silk crepe de chine, from “Printed Silk Fabric” on Etsy, with the front lined in a peach poly chiffon from Jo Ann’s Fabric store.  The skirt’s added portions are of a cotton twill suiting, also from Jo Ann’s.

PATTERN:  The blouse was made using Simplicity #8243, a reprint that originally was #2337, year 1948

NOTIONS:  I had the thread needed on hand already, as well as the abalone shell buttons I used, a snap, and a hook-and-eye.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My silk blouse was cut and finished in 5 hours, on October 29, 2017.  The skirt was refashioned in a few hours the day after Halloween.

THE INSIDES:  A nice blouse deserved nice finishing, the way I figured!  The inside is in French seams.

TOTAL COST:  $20 for the blouse and a few more dollars for the extra fabrics from Jo Ann’s.  How much more reasonable could an outfit like this get?!

The blouse pattern I used is wonderful.  It sews up in a flash and has a decently good fit (with a few tweaks) and lovely details.  This silk version is actually the second time I have used it, so I was confident enough about the fit and details to slightly change it up a bit.  My first blouse version using this Simplicity re-issue was part of another Agent Carter themed outfit, and I will be posting that soon so you can get the full low-down on making the blouse as-is out of the envelope.  For now, my second version will come first on my blog!

My tweaks to the blouse pattern of Simplicity #8243 were small.  First, I took out the downward curve that the collar points have and straightened them out so it could be more like my inspiration Agent Carter blouse.  Her blouse had collar points which are more wing-like, more horizontal, pointing straight out towards her shoulders rather than down to the hips as on the original pattern.  In other words, my current collar is now a true “wing collar”, much like the 1950s “Agent Sousa” shirt I already made for my husband!  Secondly, I made the shoulders about 5/8 inch longer.  The first time I made this pattern, the sleeves ended up more on my shoulder than going over it.  This time I corrected the short shoulder line.  Third, I changed up the sleeves to make them more like an early or mid-1940’s style than post war, as the original pattern is from 1948.  I added pleats in between the trio of darts that shape the sleeve cap, creating more fullness as well as a bit more room for me to move.

The original as-is length of the short sleeves is very long – not so that they can be ¾ length but so that you can have room to cuff the hem, as the original pattern shows.  For this blouse, I cut off the excess length from the sleeve hems to have a facing-like binding strip to easily finish off the hem.  I added small triangular notches at the outer center hems of the sleeves.  I love how this little detail adds just enough subtle class without detracting in complexity from the straightforward simplicity of the styling.  After all, there is a wide shoulder-to-bust dart that smoothly and beautifully shapes the blouse without the “traditional” gathers on so many other 40’s blouses.  On this blouse, there are none of the common 40’s hem-to-waist shaping darts, as well, eliminating the conventional “blousy pouf” and making this blouse just as nice to wear untucked as tucked.

I must say, that my main gripe about the pattern is the weird placement of the buttons if you follow the pattern’s markings.  The bottom button is right at the waistline (does it end up as a lump under my waistband or what?) and the top one makes the neckline restrictively high, almost to the point of chocking.  If you make this pattern, you need to change to your own liking where you put the buttons and button holes.  I lowered my top button placement down 1 ½ inches and raised the lowest one 1 inch, with the middle one naturally in between.  Three inches down from the last third button, I sewed on a snap to keep the lower half of the blouse closed.  Sewing a snap below the waistline is something I see on many 1940s original patterns and it makes total sense.  A snap would not show a bulge through the belly of a skirt or trousers like a button would, and I makes the bottom half of the blouse smooth if I want to wear it untucked.  I wonder why this bit of sensibility which I always see in vintage patterns is somewhat lacking when it comes to the instructed closure of this blouse.

The main body of the blouse seems to run a bit snug for me, so I cut a size bigger for the back than the front, and taper a size up for the hips.  As my silk crepe de chine is a bit sheer, I doubled up on the back bodice, but as I only had two yards of 45 inch wide material, I used the supplementary fabric to line the front.  The all-in-one collar and front facing combo can be a bit fussy and not want to lay down well, but between ironing and some small tacking stitches between the layers, I am able to have my collar behave well!

For my skirt, I really didn’t do anything to change the fit – I just added a few things to mostly change where it fit!  The main addition was to give my skirt a true waistband.  This was a skirt meant to sit on hips, with a wide waistband which ends just below the waist.  My waistband was sewn ¼ inch onto the edge, so it makes no real impact to the original skirt, ends just above the invisible back zipper, and I can easily take it off if I ever want to in the future.  The back of the skirt had a high kick pleat-style slit for freedom of movement.  I am not used to showing this much thigh, even if the slit doesn’t open up unless I do some true Agent Carter kick-but moves!  Nevertheless, I unpicked both the fashion fabric and the lining around the back opening to stitch it down like a slit.  Then, I filled in the slit with a small rectangle of fabric I had left over from the waistband to make a box-pleated fill-in piece.  This way the slit closes nicely on its own, but when it opens up as I need it, the fill-in piece unfolds to keep my thighs covered without restricting movement.  My slit addition makes the skirt now look closer to a pattern from my stash – a McCall #6338 from 1945.

Somehow, it seems as if there is always some small ‘something’ I would like to have which is lacking when it comes to RTW off the rack clothes.  Whether it’s a detail (such as “…if only the neckline was different”), or the fit (who hasn’t had “…it fits except for here!”), or even availability (why is it so hard to find nice, solid colored blouses or non-knit bottoms?), relying on off-the-rack can be so frustrating.  If you don’t have the time for sewing every dream item (who really does?!), combining sewing skills with RTW can be a match made in heaven for making your clothes truly speak for you!

Although this is a sort of an after-Halloween post, and an outfit from a “fantasy” character, this is not a costume.  To me, this is something I am bringing into my own persona from a screen heroine that I can closely associate myself with.  That is one of the many amazing things about Agent Carter.  What she wears on screen can easily be worn by anyone today, yet is still very 1940’s chic, and not in the least a costume.  I really do think that is one of the major attractions of Agent Carter – she’s so very realistic yet still as capable as any superhero, and she’s oh-so-empowering.  That’s not even taking into account the fact that she started a whole new interest renewal in the fashions of the 1940’s…yay!  I so want to see more of her story on screen…until then I’ll keep making her wardrobe for myself!

Right now, there’s a petition out there to “Save Agent Carter”, and it’s in need of more people to sign and join in the plea for Marvel to continue Peggy Carter’s story in some form or fashion.  I’ve already signed up…will you consider signing, too?  Let’s let Hollywood know the world is better with the inspiration and bravery of Agent Carter. Spread #SaveAgentCarter!

Parallel Geometry

I am certainly not a math loving person – yet I do greatly enjoy using it so precisely in sewing.  Even more so, I enjoy seeing how manipulating the basic shapes and parallelograms of geometry can create a garment that customizes to the human form.  I know – I’m weirdly technical sometimes.  Nevertheless, it’s true.  Some form of math can find its parallel in fashion, in art, in nature even.  There are lots of angles, geometric shapes, and fashion parallels in these photos of my new, but vintage, multi-season blouse.  How about a seek-and-find of some sort?

I really tried something different with some of the styling and accessories here.  I am completely loving it and it seems many passer-bys that day did too from the amount of compliment received!  This blouse is from 1941, still technically pre-WWII for an American like myself, when many of the styles of the era still had strong fashion influences from the previous 1930s.  The analogous black, white, grey, and cream colors in my outfit make this for a very undecidedly fall or summer set.  Since I am all about finding a confusing balance, apparently, I just went with it by adding a 30’s Tyrolean hat (a re-fashion by me, post here) with a snood in my hair, my Grandmother’s WWII star pin to keep my collar closed, her vintage long gloves and earrings, with reproduction skirt and shoes (B.A.I.T. Halina pump).

The amazing Tanith Rowan and her bringing back “Snoodtember” for 2017 was a big impetus to my even trying the combo of both snood and hat to match this outfit.  Her post for “Snoodtember” of last year (as seen here) and the amount of images from circa 1940 gave me a reason to break out my little used snoods and one of my favorite me-made hats to help date my new blouse a bit better by adding some vintage character that is not seen enough, in my opinion!  The transition periods between decades are generally so very interesting to me, anyway.  Most of the times they leave a lot of room for personal interpretation (while still being historical, if that is your thing, as it is for me many times).  A little bit from the decade ahead, a bit from the decade past, and there you have an outfit from a perfect tossed up mix of two sets of 10 years.  I am happy to have found a new way to enjoy and interpret the early 40’s, which I sew a lot from, with the combo of hat and snood.  This won’t be the only time either!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% rayon challis, bought from my local Jo Ann’s Fabric Store

PATTERN:  McCall #4520, year 1941

NOTIONS:  Nothing but thread and scraps of interfacing were needed here, and I had all of that on hand.  A vintage metal zipper from my stash on hand went in the side for the closing.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was a relatively easy and quick blouse – it was made in about 4 hours and finished on June 16, 2017.

THE INSIDES:  All lovely French seams with a bias covered hem.

TOTAL COST:  This was something I recently bought from Jo Ann’s in the last few months.  Actually, to tell you full the truth, this is something my 5 year old son picked out.  Yes, he enjoys going to the fabric store and many times if he’s not socializing with employees, he likes to pick out fabric, mostly for me, and sometimes for himself.  This rayon was something I let his taste be the judge of…and I think he did a pretty good job here!  I guess what I do is rubbing off on him!  Anyway, I bought 3 yards of this fabric, intending on making this into a dress before I thought the fabric would do better as a blouse.  I spend maybe $15 in total, but used half (1 ½ yards) so I could give the other half to my best sewing friend.  I can’t wait for us to have matching blouses together!

This is a great cheater’s pattern to have a top which looks like a traditional pointed collar blouse without being one.  No buttons needed!  Unfortunately the fabric pattern kind of hides the lovely placket detail so as to see everything of what’s going on.  There is a wide, squared off collar placket which gently angles up to the upper shoulders.  Depending on how deep of a chest exposure wanted, the placket can be left as it is for a deep V, but I prefer it pinned closed halfway up, the way you see it in my pictures.  Either way it’s pop on, zip up the side ready to go!

The smartest point about the placket is actually on the inside which no one sees.  The edges to the facing half of the placket are slightly wider to easily cover the raw edges.  Vintage patterns constantly surprise and impress me with their ingenuity in regards to the little things.  It’s the little things, though that sometimes make all the difference.  The small detail to the placket facing saved me time from hand stitching the placket down.  I could merely invisibly stitch “in the ditch” around the placket and easily catch the edge underneath, too.  I even left off my customary top stitching on the outermost edges of this collar, a rarity for me to do on a blouse, but the stiffer interfacing and a good ironing give a very polished look to the collar with no visible stitching to ‘mar’ the smoothness.

This placket-collar style must have been popular – and I perfectly understand why after making one myself!  I’ve seen each of the major, as well as some of the minor, pattern companies have a version of this neckline throughout the early to mid-1940s.  (See McCall #4130, year 1941; Du Barry #5785, year 1944; Simplicity #3900, year 1941; Hollywood #903, year 1942; and a re-printed De Pew #3504, year 1939 French pattern)  I realized after seeing a few of the other pattern covers that apparently this neckline style also seems to fit nicely under jumpers, vests, and sweaters without the “distraction” of buttons– part of the reason, no doubt, that it was popular apart from the ease of dressing and making.  I am really tempted to try the lovely striped version on the cover of my pattern but the perfect matching along the collar placket and bodice would probably blow my brains to pull off…still, I’d like to try at some point.

This is a very generously wide, loose, and sort of baggy blouse when it comes to the width across.  One can see this a bit more obviously from the back or when my arms are up.  However, this does make for a very comfy blouse.  The rayon is so flowing that however generous, it looks good.  A blousey 1940’s top needs to have something slimming or at least waist defining worn on the bottom half I’ve figured out.  My modern, vintage-style, A-line black skirt matches well, but my Burda Style black pants match well, too, as well as some neutral and grey bottoms.  Yay for a new staple separate!

A pattern which fits as-is straight off of the tissue is the best find ever!  I did lengthen the bottom hem just to make sure my blouse stays tucked in, but other than that I made no changes because this pattern was in my perfect size.  I suppose I could have added stiffening to the sleeve caps so the trio of darts (VERY early 40’s trademark, by the way) would not look so droopy, but I didn’t…I might add that later.  I also made the ¾ sleeves because I figured this will make this blouse more versatile.  After all, when it’s warm out, I frequently find myself rolling up the sleeves to short sleeves anyway.

Did you find some of the other geometric shapes on and around me?  My fabric is a grid of floral diamonds.  The 1910 to 1920 era building behind me is rich in square, rectangle, and octagon shaped brinks in a lovely glazed coating.  Fancy brick work is what my hometown historically did best out of the whole country, and that’s a fact – not just a brag!  I could name off a few more mathematical co-ordinations around me, but I’ll leave them up to those who want to find them.

For some vague reason this outfit reminds me of something that has a very European vacation flair.  Tell me if I’m crazy.  Maybe in my mind that’s just where or what I’d like to be doing at this moment instead.  Maybe just a great outfit in the right location in my own town is taking me back in time mentally a bit…to a past period in history where I wouldn’t be the only one dressed like this!  Oh well.

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