Bouclé Mid-Century Shift

Achieving the ideal fit for a garment is by far the most difficult process of sewing, but also the technique that completes it.  Every article of clothing, on every human body, has a unique fit, as individual as people themselves, which will make it best serve its purpose and look its best.  Funny thing is, I have found that styles which ride the boundary between loose and baggy or body skimming (such as many 1920s or even 1960s fashions) are actually the trickiest to find such a “sweet spot” of ideal fit.  Take into account that thick but warm fabrics (like my favorite textured bouclé) can become bulky when you sew something with them, making it challenging to achieve a close fit.  There is such a thing as a chic fit that doesn’t fit the body the way we’re used to, though!  Just look to the best designers and the most famous actresses of the 1950s and 60’s to see inspiration for what I am talking about!  This 1964 semi-fitted shift dress that I’ve sewn is a perfect example.

Certain well-known designers were changing the idea of a stylish silhouette for women earlier on, making oversized and non-body fitting garments attractive and fashionable.  Most of what we think of as the 60’s “look” had its beginnings in the decade before.  By the 50’s, Claire McCardell had already crafted her “monastic dress” and Yves Saint Laurent is credited with beginning the classic “trapeze dress” (in Spring/Summer 1958), both of which are generously unfitted than the ‘normal’ garment at the time.  Jacques Fath began the ever popular swing coat fashion in outwear circa 1950 (here’s one pink example) to accommodate both the post-WWII baby boom and full skirted or structured garments which were being released.  Balenciaga was the heavyweight!  He was using sculptural garments that had a shape of their own apart from a perfect body symmetry.  Their beauty is focused on the shape of the garment itself, only hinting at the body of the wearer underneath.  In 1953 he introduced the “balloon jacket”, while in 1957 came the “babydoll dress”, the gracefully draped “cocoon coat”, and the “sack dress”.  He even worked with fabric houses to develop innovative material, like silk gazar, which would be heavy and stiff to lend itself to such stand-away-from-the-body designs.   Pierre Cardin had his fair share of influence in this matter, too – he introduced the “bubble dress” in 1954, and was known for his preference of geometric shaping and ignoring the female form (see this coat of his for one example).

These types of fashions were an alternative to the immaculate, overly shaped (wasp waited) feminine form which was popularized by Dior.  It was seen as the newest chic of the time, and a very modern approach to styling, besides the fact that they were more often couture because of the high talent it took to uniquely shape such designs.  They might seem simple at first glance but these revolutionary creations emerging in the early mid-50’s were paving the way for the next decade.

The model woman drawn on the front cover of my Butterick #3296 pattern bears a striking resemblance to Audrey Hepburn, I think!  Hepburn was one of the model women for the youthful, fashion forward aura which was frequently associated with 50’sand 60’s loosely structured garments.  The coat especially reminds me of her clothes from the movie “Charades”, released the year before in 1963, but I think it’s the hat, too.  I stayed close to this with my interpretation.  This was my chance to accessorize with the only 60’s hat in my collection (and a good one, too – just look at its details), vintage wooden bead necklace, old earrings from my Grandmother, and vintage leather driving gloves.  I do want to make the coat half of my pattern at some point, but for now, a vintage 60’s hot pink pea coat matches quite well with the color, styling, and era of my dress!

After all, hot pink coats seemed to be the ‘thing’ for women’s outerwear in the 10 years between 1956 and 1966 if one looks at advertisements, movies, and designer creations for some examples.  Firstly, there is the March 15, 1956 “International Fashions” edition of Vogue magazine, with Evelyn Tripp on the front cover wearing a rose tweed cocoon coat by Zelinka-Matlick (A).  Then there is a year 1960 pink Balenciaga cocoon jacket suit (B) to be found as well as a Burda Style’s March of 1964 tweed bouclé A-line coat (C).  Ah, let’s not forget that swoon-worthy oversized hot pink coat worn by Audrey Hepburn and made by Givenchy from the 1966 movie “How to Steal a Million” (D).  So – among the many colors that are mixed in to make my dress’ bouclé (grey blue, maroon, black, pink, and a touch of orange), having a dress match with my period 60’s coat is partly why I stayed close to the pink undertones with the color of my lining.  It was also because a soft pink sweetens the dress, keeping it being too glaringly modern.  I love how the pink can be seen peeking out if you look closely inside my wide sleeves or just under the hem of my knee length dress.  Dior himself has said (in his “Little Dictionary of Fashion”) “Every woman should have something pink in her wardrobe.  It is the color of happiness and of femininity.”  I’m covered because I do have plenty of pink in my closet for every season now!

After all, the pink influence of my dress pays homage to yet another designer which had her own part to play in this kind of fashion, too – Coco Chanel, not mentioned in the above list of influencers.  Pink is one of her signature colors, and is often used with black (both colors are in my bouclé).  Chanel often used bouclé, tweed, and other textured, nubby materials for her suits and shift dresses in the 50’s and 60’s, as well.  However, to be braggingly specific, there is an uncanny resemblance that my own fabric bears to a suit set of hers from the same year of 1964 (see it listed here at the MET museum).  It is claimed that Chanel criticized the boned and uber-cinched waists that Dior was producing, in favor of a looser fitting, but still tailored look that both she and her forward-thinking contemporaries were producing.  Her collection of 1954 (when she re-opened her fashion house) is easily recognizable today – a boxy jacket with an A-line skirt – and still being worn.  Those like her who used more wearing ease with greater structure in their garments of the 50’s had more of an influence on the success of the fashion of the 60’s and beyond.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The visible outside of my dress is a loosely woven, but thick and textural bouclé, in a fiber content of wool, mohair, and acrylic.  The inside is a super soft all cotton in a soft pink color with a pink satin facing.

PATTERN:  Butterick #3296, from the Fall/Winter season of year 1964 (see cover picture above)

NOTIONS:  I had all the thread and interfacing I needed already, as well as extra bias tape, hem tape, and a large button.  The neckline placket is actually a faux closure permanently sewn into place by this large, vintage, dusty blue, carved shell button, salvaged off of this vintage suit when I refashioned its skirt’s waistband.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress was made in about 8 hours and finished on December 14, 2017.

THE INSIDES:  Since bouclé is a fraying terror of a mess along its raw edges, and I am allergic to mohair, all seams are either covered by the cotton lining or encased in bias tape.

TOTAL COST:  The fabric was stuff I had bought from Hancock Fabrics when they were going out of business, so it was only about $2 a yard.  With one yard needed of both the bouclé and the cotton (as they were 60” wide), this is a $4 dress, believe it or not!

Making the dress itself was ridiculously simple, and just a tad difficult due to the challenges of working with such a thick and full-bodied material.  I made sure to trim most of my seams allowances and even pulled a secret sewing trick I rarely use – I hammered the seams once they were stitched to make them flat, especially the front fake neck placket.  The tricky part about trimming seam allowances with bouclé is that the fabric unravels easily.  Thus, I kept the small seams together and finished them cleanly by using the bias tape over the edges.  The bias tape finish was especially tricky on the inside curve of the kimono sleeves, but I stretched It has I stitched it down as I kept the seam curved.

The back has the basic “fish-eye” darts to shape the waist, but the front holds the creative options.  There are lovely sun-ray darts coming out of the neckline to shape the chest and upper bust.  These were quite tricky to sew across the grain!  In conjunction with the long French darts to shape the dress below the bust, this dress has elegance down to an understated art.  It’s too bad the few details are not that noticeable with the blended business of my bouclé!  This was (amazingly) a 65 cent pattern.  For having both a coat and dress in one envelope, this still sounds kind of cheaply priced, even for 1964, when Simplicity patterns for one dress design were the same price and Vogue pattern were about $1.00.  Was this an unmarked designer knock-off, I wonder, because it sure does look like something out of the movie “Charades” anyway?

The pattern I had was a size too big for me – but no problem.  To have an easy fix to that, I merely left off the given seam allowance at the sides and shoulders when I cut out the dress.  Kimono sleeves can sometimes hang far too low on my almost petite frame, anyway.  Then I sewed in slightly wider seam allowances in this because it still seemed to fit too generously.  I ended up with a wonderfully loose, comfy, and ‘slightly fitted’ dress (as the envelope says) that is a perfect fit for this design.  I feel this unorthodox but simple way at approaching a pattern merely a few inches too big for me worked very well for this dress, but it probably would not be the best for a body-conscious tailored garment.  Nevertheless, I do love finding shortcuts that don’t compromise quality or fit.  Anything that puts my sewing projects from out of my fabric pile onto my back is most welcome!

My Australian and other southern hemisphere readers should appreciate the fact that this is a cold weather outfit!  (Bouclé lined in cotton is just as warm as wearing a blanket, for your information!) Even though it is finally spring here for where I live, only recently was the anniversary of Audrey Hepburn’s birthday (well it was May 4), and so I felt that this was appropriate to share.

Besides, I like to make sure I don’t get stuck in a rut of only one decade.  Not that there’s anything wrong with staying in one era for what vintage one recreates.  It’s just that I know I do enjoy all of them.  Sewing from all the decades of the 21st century also helps give me a good overview of the big picture.  Everything is connected in history – it’s not just static dates and names to remember – and this carries over into the accounting of what people have worn through those same times.  As I presented in this post, the 1950’s set things up for what defined the 60’s.  The minds of today inspire those of tomorrow.

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“Winter Soldier” Blue Suit Dress

I despise the cold and hate the season of snow and dead looking trees.  Grey skies and a body not tolerant of bundling up in layers combines to make the fact that we’re at the beginning of what is officially winter now gives me no reason to celebrate.  In my mind I’m like a “winter warrior” that endures through the tough season…wearing my own made garments to make staying warm much more enjoyable than it could be.

This post’s suit dress is from 1955 and to me is the best of me putting up with the past cold season in lovely vintage style.  I love this!  Warm (but not bulky) boucle, slimming design, interesting asymmetric features, and mid-50’s chic fashion.  There’s even a good influence of Agent Carter inspiration, courtesy of Peggy’s Smithsonian interview from the movie “Captain America: Winter Soldier”, to combine for one awesome result, if I do say so myself.  (Watch the whole 3 minute clip here…warning, it’ll make you cry!) My dress may not be as “line for line” a copy as some of my other Agent Carter makes, but it is definitely similar in a way that is clearly recognizable, even if I do only have one lapel!  Life is better with a little bit o’ Peggy in it!

A good Agent Carter dress in 50’s era class deserved an amp up in some quality features.  Perhaps that’s why this dress is the first to have me hand-stitch everything when it came to finishing – the side zipper, all top-stitching, and all hemming.  As one who hates hand work due to achy wrists and a bad neck, this is a truly strong statement to how I feel about this (not just a slight brag) that my “Winter Soldier” dress is the first to have deserved such treatment.  It deserved it, believe me, but all that hand stitching taught me some unexpected but much appreciated lessons on a new outlook to certain aspects of sewing.  More about this down later!

To “top off” my set is one of my favorite vintage hats that I own – a rich navy velvet halo hat, also asymmetric in style, complete with a matching velvet vintage clutch purse.  My gloves are also vintage, so I guess my suede, patent toed heels are the only real modern accessories of my outfit!  This kind of asymmetric halo hat found great popularity for a short period of time (about 1948 to 1953), so my hat is a tad early for the actual date of my pattern (1955).  However, as the “Smithsonian Interview” scene was supposed to be in 1953, it is right on spot in both year and complimentary style, I do believe.

My lipstick is my favorite crimson shade, “Red Velvet” from Besame Cosmetics.  “Red Velvet” goes on so smooth and is intense in pigment.  It often lasts through eating a meal!  Anyway, I’m naturally swayed in favor of “Red Velvet” – it’s the color that the Agent Carter actress Hayley Atwell wears whenever she’s in character, so it is only fitting to pair it with this Captain America outfit.  I love how subtly patriotic and richly cheery it makes my mellow winter blue suit dress!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  an acrylic/poly/rayon blend boucle lined in a crepe-finish polyester

PATTERN:  Simplicity #1353, year 1955

NOTIONS:  I had all the interfacing, thread, and other notions needed (bias tapes, shoulder pads, zipper) in my stash already.  Yay for using what’s on hand for a project that easily comes together!  The buttons are vintage from my Grandmother’s collection.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was finished on February 11, 2017, and took me about 20 or more hours to make.

THE INSIDES:  All cleanly bias bound, as boucle shreds like a maniac otherwise!

TOTAL COST:  The boucle had been in my stash for I don’t even remember how long.  It was one of those good materials that I hold onto until I find a very convincing reason to use it!  My lining was something from my longtime stash, as well, so I’m actually counting this as free!

I’ve never gone wrong knocking-off or copying a Peggy Carter outfit for myself, and this dress only continues the good trend, even though it is from the next decade than we’ve traditionally seen her in.  It is definitely 50’s, but it still has the strong shoulders with waist and hip slimming features that looked so well on her in the 40’s.  In classic Peggy style, my dress is a wonderful combo of appearing impeccably put-together in a garment which is comfortable and practical.  This is a soft, not stiff or even itchy, suit dress in just the right weight to keep me warm yet without being overly toasty indoors.  I have no idea if such an ideal dress exists in RTW (I am highly skeptical there is), so I am extremely thankful to be able to put my sewing capabilities to use to make my own “copy” of a garment worn by my fashion muse, Agent Peggy Carter.

Sewing this dress was a real pleasure.  Sure it had its challenges, especially when it came to getting sharp corners to the collar and adding in the skirt pleats.  The boucle was lofty and nubby making it hard to be so precise with such details.  As tempting as it was to just pin it all down in place and whiz through to tack it down with a machine stitch, I couldn’t stand the thought of a harsh stitching line around the edges standing out against the lovely speckled boucle.  I wanted a finish that would blend in with the boucle invisibly and there was only one way to do it.

Many times I feel an inner unwilling tolerance to the necessity of doing a large amount of hand stitching, most due to my resulting physical discomfort.  This time, I slowed down and took time to give it the detailed work it deserved, coming to a new realization of the power of time lavished and well-spent on a special quality which sets handmade clothes apart in best of ways from RTW.  When a certain hand-made technique would make a particular garment be finished with a quality which would bring it to another level, a handmade garment can receive that treatment whereas a RTW dress made in a sweatshop or factory setting will not…ever.  Bureaucratic time restraints and the frequently penny pinched fast fashion system has too many limitations on the quality of what can be offered in stores.  A home dressmaker’s common constraints are often finding “free time” and availability of easily found or affordable supplies!  As efficient and productive as I am with what I make, I do not like to see what quality I want be sacrificed to time constraints…especially not after this dress.  What I found is that when I relaxed and appreciated my hand sewing like never before, it was not as uncomfortable to my body or as terribly drug out as I had expected.  It’s amazing what a new outlook can do.  I really do believe that quality concerns must be one of the many reasons I sew.  I just hadn’t seen this before I had this dress to give me an example and come face-to-face with it.  Poor quality is one main reasons why store bought clothes so quickly end up thrown or given away, and become uninteresting.  High quality is one of the main reasons why a vintage garment from 50, 70, or more years ago is still existing in such good condition and are such a treasured treat to wear.  I want to learn from time-honored lessons.  Be warned, though – a French seam or a hand-picked zipper and hems can totally “spoil” you in a very worthwhile way!

Speaking of details, other than the aforementioned challenges with the points and corners arising from the nature of the fabric, the rest of my challenges were mainly about fit and the asymmetric front.  You see, asymmetric designs are always an interesting departure from the “norm” because suddenly you don’t have one pattern piece which is laid on a double layer of fabric for an easy, instant result of both right and left sides.  Ever since this 1947 asymmetric dress, I realized the importance of making sure your patterns are all equally facing “right side up” when laying them down on the single layer of fabric, otherwise you don’t end up with a “left” and a “right” piece with the good side of the fabric on the outside.  When you are cutting double fabric layers with one piece you don’t have to think of this detail.

Also, the fit was a bit unexpected on this pattern.  The bodice turned out generous, but the skirt turned out slightly small.  Bringing the seam allowances out and then in at the proper areas helped this matter but even still, this was a weirdly unique fitting fluke for a 50’s pattern.  Oh well, this gave me an opportunity to use some thick 80’s style shoulder pads from my stash so as to fill in the extra fabric to the bodice, pick it up, and square it off.  You’d never have guessed such big shoulder pads were in there, right?  I’m always amazed at how vintage fashions benefit so discreetly from exaggerated shaping!  Shape definition is something this decade of the 50’s was known for being good at – creating and emphasizing the ‘ideal’ hourglass shape.

From the back the dress merely looks like a lovely, tailored, but basic dress.  The sleeves quietly amp up the details – they have darted French cuffs (similar to these on this 30’s blouse I’ve made), cut on-one with the sleeves and merely faced.  Now it’s the front that carries the weight of the intricacies!  It might look like a wrap, but that’s only part of the guise.  The “wrap” is sewn down from the waist to mid-thigh were the skirt releases up into a double pleated opening for fashionable freedom of movement.  The pattern only called for a solo oversized button to ‘hold down’ the collar’s left lapel, but as I had a matching smaller sized button I added it above the waist to help keep the bodice wrap closed a little better and add to the asymmetric appearance.  I will definitely be trying out pulling a small scarf through the collar lapel buttonhole, just like the cover envelope shows, for a whole different visual effect!

My background is meant to lend a professional and city living kind of air to my outfit besides being rather accurate in era.  However, for clarification, my background building is special…just about the last of its kind in the area, an icon in the history of the famous Route 66.  It is an early 50’s office space, a late successor in the style of the infamous Coral Courts Motel, which had been just a block up the street.  Glass block windows and golden bricks with decorative aluminum work began in the 1940 and 1950s as a way to build the bridge between late Art Deco and early Mid-Century architectural styles.

The end of this post brings me to think of a quote from Sir Ranulph Fiennes, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”  I see he’s described by The Guinness Book of Records as ‘the world’s greatest living explorer’ so his quote may not be the best from a fashion point of view, but technically it’s still every bit as appropriate.  From my point of view, I really don’t see how, if you can sew or knit, why your clothes can’t be every bit as warm AND as fashionable as you would like!  Beat that you cheap store bought dresses that only make me freeze in the winter…or you worthless sweaters that have unravelled on me after a few washes.

What is your favorite winter garment to make or favorite winter fabric to use?  Do you like the dressy luxuriousness of velvet, the loftiness of fleece, cozy comfort of a knit, or the warmth of a classic wool?  Do any of you find yourself infatuated with boucle as I am?  If you haven’t experienced this fabric for yourself, you need to!  Let me know your special way of rocking your winter style!

“Bright Confetti” Burda’s 1960 Suit Dress

Re-prints of vintage patterns are happily available everywhere nowadays.  Vintage re-released offerings from Burda are fewer than other pattern companies, and they are frequently quite challenging but awesome styles!

My Easter dress this year was one of Burda Style’s re-prints that have been out for a while now.  Ever since I dove into Burda patterns in 2013, this pattern has been one I’ve been wanting to sew – now I finally have made it, and I love it.  It has Paris-influenced details and a style that is put together yet deceptively easy to wear.  This is a year 1960 design of a suit jacket and pencil skirt in the form of a one piece dress…made boldly bright and cheery by using a fun bouclé that happens to remind me of confetti.  Confetti for Easter?  Why not celebrate!

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This makes project number two for the Easter Spring Dress Sewalong 2017.  However, for EasterSpringDress Sew Along Badge 2017those of you that follow my blog, you might have seen I have a ‘tradition’ for the Easter outfit I sew for myself each year.  I think it is an interesting challenge, but I know it probably just sounds weird and even quite quirky.  Starting with my 1929 Vionnet-style dress in 2013, I have been going up in decades (closer to modern times) for each successive year’s Easter dress.  For 2014, I made a silk 1935 dress with a matching slip, for 2015 I sewed a 1944 rayon dress, and then in 2016 I made a 1954 shantung dress and reversible jacket.  Whew!  This ‘tradition’ did make it a bit easier for me to choose what 2017’s outfit would be – a definite 60’s garment.  I blew away a whole lot of things I’ve been waiting to ‘check off’ on my sewing ‘bucket list’ by making this particular Burda Style 1960 garment, though.  It’s from a year which I have not yet sewn from, it is made of a pattern (and fabric) I have long been wanting to use, and it’s a one piece dress to make things relatively easy on myself this year.  Our church’s 1960 era Mid-Century Modern architecture matched perfectly with my outfit anyways!  Here’s to a doubtful but hopeful plan that I might actually find a dressy outfit from the 1970s which strikes my fancy so I can keep my Easter sewing ‘tradition’ going.

THE FACTS:Vintage Bouclé Dress 12-2012 #141

FABRIC:  an acrylic, polyester, ribbon blend novelty boucle lined on a sheer, lime green chiffon with bright pink cotton broadcloth for the facings

PATTERN:  Burda Style #141, released 12/2012, “Vintage Bouclé Dress”

NOTIONS:  Thread, bias tape, interfacing, a zipper, a button, and shoulder pads was what I needed – all of this was on hand already.  The single fake closure button on the dress front is from the stash I inherited from hubby’s Grandmother.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was finished on April 12, 2017, after about 20 (maybe more) hours to complete.

THE INSIDES:  This fabric shredded and un-raveled like a sewist’s nightmare!  Thus, all the seams are bias bound.

TOTAL COST:  Ah, here’s the sweet part!  The bouclé was bought when a Hancock Fabrics store was closing in 2015, and so I bought several yards of this for just under $2 a yard.  The lining was recently bought at my local Jo Ann’s Fabric Store on clearance for about $5 a yard.  Put all of that together and this dress cost about $15.  Awesome!  I do have one yard of the confetti bouclé leftover, so unless I share it or ‘donate’ it towards one of the projects of others I know who sew, you’ll probably see this again. 

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So much about this outfit screams Coco Chanel to me.  I mean, my ensemble is primarily pink (even my shoes), the fabric is a tweed-like bouclé, it’s a suit with fringed hems, and the Burda magazine summary says this dress has a French couture influence.  How much more Chanel can one get!  (If you’d like more Chanel pink inspiration through the decades, please visit my dedicated Pinterest page.)  In my own country, the famous first lady Jackie Kennedy wore a Chanel pink suit for one of the most iconic moments in Presidential history, 1963.  I did find that this particular waist tab styling isn’t really new, though, it can be seen in earlier decades looking at both the cover of Butterick #4022, year 1947, and a 1956 photo of Ghislaine Arsac.

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

I found this pattern’s sizing to run on the large size, but perhaps this is because of the weight of material I used.  This confetti color bouclé does not hold its own shape or keep its own body.  A fabric that does both of those things would be the best way to really achieve the right fit and fake bolero appearance.  I know the pattern’s fabric recommendations say the same thing.  I’ll admit I often disregard such guidelines only to end up with a great finished garment, but they are really is important here.  Otherwise this dress is a more of a trick to make than it has to be.  Perhaps a boiled wool (lined, of course) or a suiting blend, might be ideal…however, the fabric recommendations also ask for a fabric which can fray easily.  As of yet, I don’t understand what would be a fabric that is the best of both worlds.  As long as I made it work to sew this pattern out of my lovely novelty suiting, all is well.  You see, I had been saving this up specifically to make a suit dress from the minute I laid eyes on this in the fabric store.  Some pattern and fabric pairings are just meant to be, like a match made in heaven.

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Of all the features, the front fake bolero ‘closure’ at the waist takes the cake to this design.  It is neat, but was so tricky to figure out and actually get it to appear as a bolero.  I whizzed through the rest of the dress, otherwise, but the front probably took up half or 1/3 of the total time spent.  What was really hanging me up was where to snip and what to do with the ends of the pleats which come into the dress from the front waist tabs.  As I figured out, they get tucked into the facings of the tabs, pulled down (more or less) on each side of the tabs.  I would have taken a picture of what I was doing at this step, but unless you make this dress, it’d look like mumbo-jumbo to show you.  Nevertheless, once I had the front mock closure reasonably correct, I further figured out that the real trick is to pull up the 2 inch wide seam allowance to the front waist and connect it to the top of the tab facings.  This way the bodice sort of overhangs onto the skirt, creating the appearance that there is a jacket over a skirt.  Only when I turn to the side or the back then someone might go, “…wait, what?”  What a tricky deceiver!

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The back part to this dress is very basic to vintage 50’s and 60’s patterns, and even modern ones for that matter, but I find it to be shaped very well.  It is common for me to adjust the darts to these type of dress backs.  I almost always need to fix the bootie and/or the shoulder points of the darts…but not this time.  This was quite a relieving change.  As I said above, the pattern runs a bit generous so perhaps this was the reason for my vacation from fitting adjustments.

There were a handful of relatively small changes I made to the design and/or layout.  I straightened out the skirt side seams – originally they tapered into the knee for something like a wiggle silhouette.  No, thanks!  Rather than a slit in the back of the skirt I made the classic kick pleat vent.  I raised the shoulder seam on the bodice (making DSC_0132a-comp,wroom for shoulder pads) and added in 5/8 inch to the sleeve/dress armsyce at the armpit point so I would have “reach room”.  I also cut the sleeves on the bias for more interest in the directional bouclé and for more “reach room”.  The sleeve length turned out quite long (as in bracelet length) so I shortened them by one inch.  Just to be on the safe side, I added in an extra inch to the length of the hem of the skirt bottom.  I did not do a separate lining for the entire inside, but cut out full pieces (except for the skirt front, which is its own piece) to back the bouclé and be sewn into the dress as a whole.  Finally, rather than cutting strips of fabric, shredding them, and finishing off the edges for the sleeve hem and neck, I merely used the fancy selvedge to the fabric.  It worked perfectly to use to selvedge, and I think it looks better and is more stable than using frayed fabric strips.  I only put the frilly edging on the sleeve and neck (not on the skirt) because (again) I was trying to keep up the whole mock jacket appearance.DSC_0110-comp,w

Oddly, what most impresses me is something you’d never see unless you make this dress or wear it for yourself – the inner lining.  The lining skirt has four darts and is significantly smaller than the fashion fabric skirt with its two box pleats.  This design ingeniously keeps the box pleats loose enough to keep a lovely loose shape.  It’s just like the 1950s and 60’s to have this ingenious fitting technique that’s so understated and disguised.  There is so much more than meets the eye to vintage patterns, and as long as a re-issue is decently ‘true’ to its original design, then more amazing techniques can be done by others to sew one’s very own special design, too.

DSC_0120a-comp,wThe difficult but successful process of making yet another Burda vintage re-print has given me a very comfy and cheery dress that I am just plain happy wearing.  With my adjustments, I am not confined at all in this dress so I can walk and bend fully (to find those hidden Easter eggs).  The design makes me put together with one pull of the back zip (so simple).  Finally, the fabric is a lovely standout mix of colors (just like how spring is to the floral world).  So many times, being in a suit dress doesn’t mean all of those things.  Until I started sewing my own garments did I realize you can have the best of both worlds, if you plan a sewing project just right.  In Vogue magazine for February 15, 1954, page 84, Chanel was quoted as saying, “A dress isn’t right if it is uncomfortable…A sleeve isn’t right unless the arm moves easily. Elegance in clothes means freedom to move freely.”  I like that.  Easter is a time to celebrate and appreciate family, nature, and blessings, among so many other things, and I didn’t want what I was wearing to get in way of doing all the ‘good stuff’ to do.  Another Easter might have come and gone, but now I’ve got memories leftover as well as a great dress to wear again and again.  I hope you, too, had a wonderful holiday!

Belated Easter Sewing – Part Two of a 50’s Suit

This year’s Easter outfit from earlier this year’s spring left me with a lovely year 1954 reversible jacket and an exact one yard of lovely boucle suiting leftover.  Another dress I made this spring (yet to be posted) also left me with another one yard that seemed like it would match well with the suiting.  Humm…seemed like potential just waiting for the making.  I just couldn’t help myself but to continue the mix-and-match properties of the jacket and make a different look composed of separates from ’56 and ’58.  I’m so pleased to get further use out of my fabric leftovers on hand and give my jacket something else to match with.  The 50’s really can provide some effortlessly lovely pieces when you don’t have generous cuts of material!  I feel so put together in this!

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My jacket is was made earlier for my Easter suit (as I mentioned already) from a year 1954 Simplicity #4793.  Thus, if you think about it, my outfit in this post skips every other year through the middle of the 50’s.  I suppose this would be plausible for a lady of the 50’s to do something like this outfit, perhaps she might add to her wardrobe as the years went by with one more simple-to-make piece so as to keep up with the styles of the times.  I think it works well together – especially when I add a vintage headband-like netted hat, elbow length gloves, cat-eyed sunglasses, and my wonderful “Hunter” turquoise B.A.I.T. brand heels!

THE FACTS:

simplicity-1732-year-1956-teen-slim-skirts-front-coverFABRIC:  The boucle for the skirt (and jacket) is a rayon/acrylic blend; inside the skirt is a polyester cling-free lining leftover from on hand in my stash; the blouse is a cotton gabardine (leftover from another project yet to be posted).

NOTIONS:  I had all the bias tape, zippers, interfacing, and thread that was needed

dsc_0172a-comp-wPATTERNS:  McCall’s 4605, year 1958, view B, for the top; and Simplicity 1732, year 1956, view #3, for the skirt

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was a fast outfit to make – the skirt took me 6 hours and was completed on March 22, 2016 while the top took me maybe 4 hours and was finished sometime in April 2016.

THE INSIDES:  So nice!  The skirt is fully lined and hemmed with bias tape while the top is French seams with bias hems and edges.

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A classic pencil skirt is more or less about one yard of fabric very simply wrapped around and darted to make an awesome basic wardrobe staple every bit as suitable today.  With such a basic design, it’s all the little details that make pencils skirts stand out to me in the 50’s.  This skirt is no different even for being a “teenager” pattern.  Look at all the cute options on my Simplicity 1732 – you can bet you bottom penny that I intend to try that suspendered jumper option, as well as the asymmetric front pleated style.  My skirt version definitely has subtleties – two cute little pointed tabs out of the front waist darts and a triangular closure tab at the center back waist.  Aren’t they cute?!  At least I think so.  Sure they might emphasize the hips but this is the 50’s after all and the top I chose is meant to balance things out.

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My skirt’s tabs co-ordinate perfectly with the tabs on the top.  The tabs are small enough not to make my set too matchy-matchy.  The pattern originally called for one tab at the neckline and one above the hemline.  Since I planned on generally wearing the top tucked into bottoms, I switched things up and had the two tabs together at the neckline going opposite ways.  There’s more interest this way.  However, I suppose I sort of ruined what this pattern really is designated to be – a “Misses Overblouse” as the envelope back says.  The definition of an “overblouse” is “a blouse usually fitted or belted and worn untucked at the waist.”  Oh well, so much for that…the irony of the situation makes me shake my head at myself.  I suppose view C in blue on the far right of the pattern cover is fully an overblouse with its belted-look bottom, all buttoned down.  This just goes to show your sewing is whatever you choose to do with it.  Learn from it, be proud of it, and (most importantly) rock what you’ve made when you wear it!

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The large square neckline is of course the other main feature to this design.  It’s sort of hard for me to wear something this wide and it doesn’t always stay straight or necessarily lay flat on my smaller shoulders.  Nevertheless, it is flattering (so I feel), different, and classic of the 50’s to widen the shoulders and neckline… it also helps create a visual trick which slims down on the waist (always good).  This combo of my skinny skirt and square neck top looks similar some dress designs already out there – Butterick 5032, a reprint of a 1952 pattern, as well as Simplicity 2233, a pattern from 1957 or 1958.  Yet, there is something that still seems slightly 60’s about this to me, too, maybe it’s the cover hairstyles…oh yeah, well it is from ’58.

I must say the top, for being such a simple pattern, was really somewhat of a problem.  Getting the top fitting right was difficult. I kept taking the darts and the side seams in a little at a time again and again in between trying it on until I got tired of this.  The pattern was supposed to be my size and an overblouse is supposed to be fitted but I just couldn’t get this top to really contour to me as well as I would have liked.  Next time I make this (and I do want to try some of the other views soon) I will take out maybe and inch from the center front and back to bring to neckline and darts in more.dsc_0171a-comp

Complicating the simplicity of the making of this top was the pattern itself.  I’ve seen McCall’s patterns between late/mid-50’s until the mid-60’s have this “Easy Rule” feature on them and I do not like it.  There is so, so much type and explanations covering the entire pattern pieces making it hard to see what is going on.  If it is too hard to see the basic stuff like darts that are needed on a pattern what is the use?

There are just a few special touches and tweaks to the skirt I would like to mention.  I did change up the pattern just a bit when it came to the back slit.  Originally the back slit was supposed to be more like a box pleat opening, but I’ve done these before and besides the boucle seemed too thick for something like this to turn out successfully so I merely made a basic, fully opening slit.  I don’t mind showing a bit ‘o leg!  Extra pains were taken to hand sew a blind hem to the skirt…and this from one who cannot do hand stitching.  Luckily pencil skirts have short hem circumferences.  I needed to make a really wide hem – it turned out ankle length before finishing…way too long!  Finally, I enjoy the bright, rich green lining inside the skirt.  The pop of color makes me smile every time I put my skirt on.

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It never ceases to amaze me at what can be made from fabric cuts leftover.  At the same time one can only keep so much stuff on hand.  It’s hard to find the balance of time, ideas, storage space, and places to wear one’s projects.  I don’t really see any one yard patterns offered anymore…unless they’re vintage, especially between the 1930’s and 1970’s.  I think one yard cuts need to be advertised and better known to help us who hold onto our leftovers (and those who have a great fabric stash) go through our store without too much effort!  Even without extras on hand, buying one yard is generally a practical purchase whether the fabric is on the expensive or cheap side of the wallet.  Style doesn’t have to be short because of the amount of the fabric, especially with mix and match pieces.  Do you use one yard patterns, or not?  Do you also sew sets that match?

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“Past Project” Highlight: Two Winter Wool Skirts

Winter’s worst is past where I live but I know this is not the case everywhere across the globe, so here’s a post that feature two skirts for brisk weather.  These skirts were made by me about 10 years back but they still are enjoyed and worn.  They recently even got an upgrade done to the waists to make them even better.  This waistband re-fashion might come in handy for others to try so I figured these skirts deserved a feature here on my blog.Butterick 4803 border print & front overlay skirts

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Grey border-design skirt – 100% wool;  Blue toned boucle skirt – wool and acrylic blend; lining for both skirts – polyester cling-free lining

NOTIONS:  elastic and thread with maybe some hem tape or bias tape

PATTERNS:  Simplicity #4593, year 2005, for the blue/navy/black skirt; Butterick #4803, year 2006, for the bordered grey wool skirt 

Simplicity 4593 skirts-envelope front and line drawingTIME TO COMPLETE:  a few hours to make each skirt with just a little more time to re-work the waist

THE INSIDES:  all seams are finished off by a serger/overlocker…these were made while I could use my mom’s Bernina.

These skirts are so cozy and a way to look nice while still busting chilly winds.  The long length looks elegant with the bias of the blue/black boucle skirt while the grey border print one is great for making me feel taller.  Both skirts can be even toastier when worn with long underwear or pants underneath and boots, too.  I know many people reach for pants in wintertime and the fall, but I go for skirts – they rock!  You can still wear your pants or even layer, but with a skirt over them is like having a warm blanket fashionably wrapped around you to keep you warm…and no one knows the better!

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Anyway, both skirts were pretty much made as-is, but I added in full lining as well as my own darts to further tailor the waists of both of them.  The blue/black boucle is a very loose material, but lofty and matches well with many tops, sweaters and suit coats.  The loose boucle goes perfectly with the asymmetric bias panel in the front.  This skirt received one skinny dart on the other side of the waist that doesn’t have a seam.  The grey wool skirt is from a fabric that is thick more alike to felt, while its  border print is embroidered on – not printed.  I remember it was so expensive, but so unusual I had to have it and my mom pitched in, but I only bought one yard (in 60 inch width) with a coupon to help.  This cozy skirt has two long darts that are more like pleats to control the fullness and add interest.  I just can’t seem to leave a garment mint from pattern design without adding my own touch to personalize it.  That’s o.k., this is why I sew my own fashion.

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The waists of both of the skirts had been nicely made but they were just basic casing-style with an all-around elastic gathering.  This was alright for me as I was growing up, but now I want a slightly more refined style and one that I can wear with a top tucked in, perhaps with a belt, too.  So I cut off the old casing and turned under the edge nicely.  Then I put the skirt on and pinched in the sides to figure out how much fabric needed to be brought in on each of the two sides.  Next, I took some wide 3 inch non-roll elastic and cut two pieces into the amount I figured needed to be brought in on each side of the skirt.  Since when you sew elastic down as you stretch it out it ends up longer, I decided to cut off an extra inch to the two elastic portions.  For the first skirt I did this to, I didn’t finish off the cut ends of the elastic before sewing it down, but for the second time I covered those edges in hem tape or bias tape (this is much nicer).  Now, I pin the elastic edges to the skirt, and stretch the elastic out ‘til it’s even with the skirt fabric and pin!  This process was helped by my hubby, otherwise I don’t know how I would have done this without having someone to hold it for me.  Then I stitched the elastic down to the fabric in four rows running parallel to the length of the waistband.  I was able to re-work one skirt waist in just under one hour.

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Now the waist is smoother front and back, with the gathers over the hips (where they end up making nice shaping anyway).  The large elastic stitched right to the fabric makes for very small and unnoticeable gathers which are tightly and evenly spaced.  This waistband also keeps my skirt sitting at my true waist because the elastic seems to sit on top of my hips.  A casing waistband always seems to twist around and droop down on my middle unless it’s quite snug, and this new waist solves these problems.  I’m systematically working on weeding out the old all-around casing waistbands from my past made skirts (such as this paneled micro-suede one) and doing this new style.

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There’s only one small tip to my new waistband method.  Don’t cut the elastic pieces even, cut them like an ‘isosceles trapezoid’ to be exact.  If the upper edge of the elastic that goes along the waistband top is the one with the smaller length, the finished look turns out much better. Cutting the elastic in this shape tapers in the waist for an even smoother finish.  Such a small point does make all the difference.  I didn’t cut ‘isosceles trapezoid’ shaped elastic for the grey skirt, just block rectangular pieces, and see how the top edge stretched out from stitching more than the blue skirt, which does have the special shape cut.

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I see a number of these dated out-of-print patterns for sale in the internet stores (Etsy, Ebay, and other private site sellers).  Just because a pattern is dated doesn’t mean it can’t still have value and be made in an interesting manner…it just needs more creativity 😉

Every so often on my blog in the future I will feature a past project which is still a winner in my book, being worn through the years.  I figure why should just my newer creations get the spotlight?!  Besides, every review or picture of a pattern sewn up by someone has the possibility to help someone else who might want to sew with or be interested in that pattern.  I know so many other bloggers’ have helped and inspired me!