Year 1933 McCall’s Reprint Set

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

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

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THE FACTS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My “Agent Carter” Pinstriped Shirtdress

This project is my 1940’s “power dress” – a vintage classic that manifests the taking on of men’s roles which women assumed during World War II. This dress is also directly inspired from an outfit worn by Peggy during the Marvel television series “Agent Carter”, “The Iron Ceiling”, Season 1, Episode 5, aired on February 3, 2015. It is also part two to my previous post, part one, about the matching rayon under slip, also worn with the same inspiration dress in the same airing episode.Peggys pinstripe shirtdress-combo pic

However business-like this 1940’s “power dress” is, it’s also extremely comfortable in pure cotton shirting and plenty ease of movement, yet classy with fine tailored details. I love such tastefully beautiful garments which really have it all going for them! Do you have a favorite garment which you enjoyed sewing and absolutely love wearing, like me with this dress?

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THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  My dress is made from a 100% cotton shirting fabric. The fabric is not the over-wrinkly…it has a nice soft crispness that takes to an ironing really well and yet feel wonderful on the skin and gets softer after each wash. It is in a pastel baby blue color with thin double pinstripes in white.

NOTIONS:  I had the thread and interfacing I needed on hand already, but I bought the zipper for the side. The three front buttons came from hubby’s Grandmother’s stash of vintage buttons. I’m not sure how vintage the buttons are, but they seem quite old. The buttons are in a different, very lightweight material, in kind of a marbled dusty blue and grey color, with a raised square in the middle.

PATTERN:  Simplicity 1526, an unprinted pattern from the year 1945

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TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress was finished on April 21, 2015, after maybe 15 to 20 hours of sewing pleasure.100_5046-comp

THE INSIDES:  Just how I like them! I took the extra time to make fine finishes and this dress is worth it. All seams, except the hems of course, are bias bound with a few French seams. The rest of the seams all around the collar and back shoulder panel are covered by an extra panel I added to stabilize and enclose those seams.

TOTAL COST:  Well, I got lucky here. The regular price of the fabric was (I believe) about $10 a yard, but I bought it on sale for only $2.25 a yard. I bought about 2 ½ yards of 45 inch width fabric so, with the added zipper, I suppose I spent a total of just under $7.00. Nice!

My outer envelope to my pattern has some significant water damage, musty smells, and silverfish bug chews, but this time around there was more than just pattern pieces…there was a treasure inside this unassuming package. The previous user or perhaps the previous owner (maybe both were in one) left her personal measurements on the back of a very old blank check. The front of the check has a finely detailed line drawing of the Commercial National Bank of Charlotte, North Carolina in the background (the exact building is now torn down). The measurements are so much larger than the size of the pattern, if the woman who had those proportions made this copy (and I can tell it was used at some point), it would have taken some impressive grading to make a garment to fit her.

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There is and address at the bottom list of the measurements, “1234 Pinecrest Avenue, Charlotte”. According to what I see on Google Maps this is a real address, and Zillow says the home there was built in year 1939. Public records show the home was sold in 2002, and in 2012, and this is significant because I bought this pattern in 2012/2013 from an online shop when I was just getting into vintage sewing. I’m supposing 2012 was when the woman that owned this pattern is the same one who wrote the note inside; then in 2012 had her sewing collection sold, sending this pattern my way so I can rediscover it again. Somehow this makes me feel a wonderful connection to seamstresses through the past decades, in different parts of the world. The internet helps us connect across the world nowadays 🙂

I was dealing with some serious fabric shortage in yardage available – I bought the end of the bolt and was lucky to get what I did. However, I took several hours, spread out over two days, to layout the pattern pieces on the fabric, think about how to squeeze everything in while matching stripes, then notice a discrepancy only to re-arrange everything again and think some more. “Think twice, cut once” was my motto here, except I know thought much more than twice.

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In order to save on space layout and be more creative with the pattern, the back shoulder yoke was cut into two bias pieces so the stripes would chevron into the middle. In lieu of laying the piece on the fold like it should have been, I cut it out on the bias (as I said) in between everything else adding in a center seam allowance. Not mentioned in the instructions but needed in my opinion, I cut out an extra lining shoulder yoke to cover all the inside collar/shoulder yoke seams inside. The lining shoulder yoke is cut on the fold/straight grain so on a practical level it supports the fashion fabric, cut on the bias, from stretching out of shape. It’s a subtle touch that’s not obvious, but just noticeable enough so that it speaks of my extra time and thought. I don’t want my clothes to flag people down, just make (or inspire) them to want to put their own effort and interest in their own wardrobe by sewing too.

100_5032-compI learned how to do the slashed and gathered chest detail when I made my 1940 suit set (post here) but was determined to do better with a my cotton dress, a much lighter weight fabric. This is sure a neat but challenging technique to do…I like it! I sewed a small piece of cotton broadcloth down on top the right side and stitched down then slashed. The facing is turned inside and a loose gathering stitch is put “in the ditch” of the two fabrics only on the bottom half. The bottom is gathered evenly with the top, pulled in and lap stitched down.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Bound, or “window pane” buttonholes are in the trio of front closures. “Window pane” button holes are fun to make and much more striking when it comes to look but stable when it comes to support. It is a hard call, but every time I look at the buttons on this dress I want to say they are my favorite part. I love the way they are the perfect tint of blue without dominating the outfit, the way they have such details of design not found anymore, and especially the fact they come from the familial stash of notions.  Besides the family connections, there is the classic late WWII restriction amount of “no more than three buttons” as designated by the ration regulations, making this even more of a classic classy 40’s dress.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGoing with the menswear theme with this dress, I further altered the pattern by pleating the sleeve fullness into the cuffs rather than simply gathering it. I wasn’t really too precise with my pleating – they start roughly one inch away from the edge, and there are three dramatic ½ inch pleats on the cuff side facing up (where they can be seen better) and two small ¼ pleats on cuff’s underneath side. The smooth way the pleating at the cuffs extend up the rest of the sleeve in controlled gathers makes me determined to do this to more shirts and shirt dresses. Menswear is going so have the only market on pleated sleeve cuff goodness.

Actually this pattern had a few non-dire pieces missing easily replaceable, but the previous owner already took care of some of that for me. The belt was replaced with a different printed piece, the short sleeve was gone, and cuff piece was missing. I “made-do” by using another cuff piece from this blouse and added in the pointed end like the pattern shows. My cuffs are made for cuff links, as is the norm for my garments, but here I made a slight boo-boo which adds some humorous personality. There are two buttonholes on one side of one cuff! I simply miss-measured, putting the button hole too close to the edge, so I made a new one instead of unpicking a tightly made buttonhole. Un-picking stitching is one of my least favorite things to do, and when unpicking tight stitches like on a buttonhole you run the risk of leaving holes behind in your fabric. Yup…no matter how nicely my dress is made, you can tell a home seamstress made it when you look at the one cuff. I smile at it…and like it there.

Stitching down the box pleats fold edges helps immensely towards a crisp looking skirt that doesn’t need constant attention from the iron to be in place like it should. The front has two box pleats, but the back is plainer, in the classic 1940’s triple paneled style.

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I did end up adding in some thin shoulder pads to define the shoulders and fill in the bodice. They are modern newly bought shoulder pads and not as authentically accurate, but I really don’t want to look like a football player even though this dress is supposed to be a “power suit”.

My favorite way to wear my dress is with a belt which closely resembles how Peggy in Agent Carter wore the inspiration outfit. The wide, chunky utility style of my and Peggy’s belt is not as popular of an authentic 1940’s ‘look’, but the decade did love interesting, curiously designed waist cinchers. (See this pattern from my stash for belt designs to make yourself from 1945, as an example.) A tougher themed belt goes with Agent Carter’s personal situation and the mood I wanted with my dress. A woman in a man’s world in the 1940’s had to be strong, confident, self-assured of one’s own worth in order to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the men who had the assumed supremacy of the culture.

scetches of Peggy's power pinstripe shirtdress-my pinstripe dress

Blue has currently the designation of being a man’s color, but it was not always so…in fact, it used to be the exact opposite. There is a Mental Floss article which expounds the historical facts as to when pink started becoming a “girl” color. I love how a June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color (derived from red), is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl”, taken directly from the Smithsonian.com. It wasn’t until World War II times that the gender specific colors of blue and pink changed applications, as also did the previous practical practice of gender neutral dressing for children under 7 (see this NPR article). Thus, I love the fact that my dress incorporates a little of all of the color/gender history of azure and rosy hues by it being a masculine styled, shapely woman’s suit dress in a cool, powerful, and assertive blue colored 1940’s garment.

Silver Bells, Silver Brocade – It’s Christmastime in the City

Holiday parties, I’m ready for you!

Now that I have made myself the perfect go-to fancy event dress, I am all decked out in sparkle and silver and geared up for fun.  My dress is vintage to boot, with a very surprising, sexy but demure design.  I look all unadventurous and streamlined from the front, but there is a bit ‘va-va-voom’ from behind…just wait, read on and see.  It’s the time of year for surprises!

100_4269THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The fabric is a rather thick poly/metallic brocade, double sided in a ‘reverse negative’ sort of way.  The fabric’s floral, swirling, lace-like print is woven (part of the make-up), not printed.  It was bought at Jo Ann’s fabric store last year (2013) when their Holiday collection came out. Simplicity 6434 yr 1966

NOTIONS:  I already had everything on hand: black thread, interfacing, hem tape, zipper, and large sized hooks and eyes

PATTERN:  a year 1966 Simplicity #6434

TIME TO COMPLETE:   This dress was finished on November 29, 2014 after spending 15 to 20 hours to complete.

THE INSIDES:  Half of the long seams, such as the side seams and front princess seams, are finished in a French seam, while the bottom half is covered in bias tape to make the dress’ skirt stiffer and stick out like in the envelope picture.  My sleeves/armholes are covered in bias tape, too.  See the ‘inside-out’ picture below.  The only spot left raw is the inner top of the back pleat, but this spot doesn’t need any more of a bulky finish.  Anyway, I was just following directions!

100_4319TOTAL COST:  I remember that I was reluctant at first to buy this silver brocade because it was expensive by my standards.  Besides, I’d already dropped a good amount of dough on the fabric for my 1940 suit dress set about a month before.  Anyway, with a discount coupon, I believe the total for the fabric (my only expense) comes to maybe $30.  That total is still not bad at all for a dress like this.

          Do you see something interesting in picture of the inside front to my dress?  Pockets!  Yes, hidden in between the front princess seams are two handy-dandy pockets.  They fall at such an easy height – more or less hip height just over my lower tummy.  Now, anytime my hands are cold at a party or I need access to a tissue for my nose, I have my pockets to assist me.

Installing the pockets was one one the very first steps to complete before diving into any construction of the rest of the dress.  This way they could be sewn in one as part of the seam later on.  There are strips of stabilizer (I used black hem tape) sewn on the wrong side of the pocket openings to keep the fabric from stretching out of shape.  My silver brocade dress’ pockets remind me of another 60’s garment, one which has the same hip/tummy front “kangaroo” pockets – my 1968 ‘Pucci print’ Maxi Sundress.  Pockets seem to be my current obsession.  Pockets are so much easier to sew in than they seem, and well make up for any extra effort by their incredible utility.  Another reason I love sewing in pockets is because these vintage patterns really know how to cleverly place them…and besides, pockets are so hard to find in store RTW clothes.  The hidden convenient pockets are only one of the number of surprises to my silver brocade dress’ design.

100_4282     The side panels have three amazing specialties to add my unique holiday dress.  Firstly, there is no real side seam – the panels wrap around from off center side to off center back.  They more or less go from princess seam to princess seam.  I know I have seen patterns with this feature before, but they seem few and far in between.  The thing which completely “makes” the side panels do wonders for the dress are the fact that they are directed to be cut on the bias (cross selvedge).  Having the cross-grain in the pieces which complete the princess seaming give this dress’ fit an amazing beauty.  The bias side panels hug the body at every move, stretching and forming the princess seams to hug the body for a complimentary, yet forgiving fit.  Having the bias side panels being so ‘forgiving’ especially comes in handy after a big meal 🙂  I knew I liked the pattern (enough to order it!), but these two features of the side panels were only realized once I got into the ‘laying-out-and-cutting’ stage.  I had a “wow” moment.  Thirdly and finally, I cut the side panels to my dress on the opposite side of the fabric as was used for the rest of the dress.  Since the brocade is pretty and double sided (negative image, actually) I wanted to be able to both show each side of the fabric and also subtly highlight the side panels.

100_4280     Now, I suppose you’ve already seen the back design by looking at the pattern envelope picture above.  The back view of my dress reveals a wide open, deep V-back which opens up at the small of the back into a wide, gently flaring box pleat.  Sewing the back details was a very fun challenge – not too hard to accomplish, but just interesting enough to learn from doing it.  The back center zipper runs all the way down past the flare of the back box pleat.  This only involved an extra two step treatment of the zipper installation for the box pleat to properly flare freely.  You have to lift out the box pleat out of the way on each side of the zip and sew it in below the pleat.  Next I sewed up the rest (top half) of the zipper into the dress above the pleat opening.100_4322

When my dress was finished, of course I immediately tried it on and became a bit worried about the wide open back.  The dress seemed to have the tendency to slip off my shoulders from behind and slide forward.  However, once I added two large hook-and-eyes to close up an extra 2 inches above the zipper, as the instructions direct, the ‘slipping shoulders’ problem happily disappeared completely and the dress stays on effortlessly with no extra ‘lingerie catch straps’ or the like.  The back V-neckline even stays admirably flat against my back, with no gaping.  I credit this in part to the hook-and-eyes, another part to the great design, and a final part to the great fitting facings.  There is seam tape sewn into the facings (and the shoulder seams) to make sure those spots keep in perfect shape.  If you look at the picture at right, you can see it all – the hook-and eyes, the zipper between the pleat, my French seam innards, and the nice large, stable facings along the edges.

My one minor gripe about the design of my dress is the great excess of ease added into the sleeve caps.  It makes for some uber-gathered poufy sleeve caps which I think the dress could have looked better without.  Nevertheless, the poufy sleeve tops are not really that bad – they do provide plenty of reach room to move around in, and that’s rarely a bad thing 🙂

100_4276a     The funny factor about making this dress is the extra time and effort I made for myself by allowing room for unnecessary creativity.  Looking at the pattern, and comparing it to my brocade fabric, I thought perhaps the dress would look better with a longer hem and different sleeves.  Thus, at the cutting step, I added 3 inches extra to the bottom hem, as well as 3 inches to the hem length of the sleeves.  Hubby and I had these fantastic plans for some really pretty arched hem sleeves which could be turned up as cuffs with a button to show off the underside of the fabric.  After my dress was finished and I had tried it on, hubby and I both agreed that the original pattern had the design for the dress right after all, and our “changes” needed to go.  So, I had to go through some unpicking, and plenty of measuring and marking to get the dress back to the original length for the both the sleeves and bottom hem.  Three inches were added, and three inches taken off…oh, well!  We live and learn.

1966-soft-updo     Hubby and I were to attend a holiday party hosted by his workplace, and this was the first occasion (of many, I hope) for wearing my new party dress.  I wanted an authentic 1966 hair-do to match with my dress and found some great ideas amongst the blogging sphere.  My personal favorite page for 1966 party hair-do’s can be found here and my favorite page for 1965 evening wear hair is here.  As it turned out, I made a few valiant attempts at some of the more complicated up-do’s.  I ran out of 1966 David n' David wig adverttime when they weren’t working out, and so settled with a classic style, with thick side swept ‘bang’, a pony tail wrapped with a cone of hair at the base, and lightly curled tail.  I can’t help but think of this as a retro “Barbie doll” coiffed style.  It’s close to authentic, but still modern.  I would have liked something more spectacular (like my 1966 ad pictures below)…but I think I’ll have to spend some practice time first to reach the level of such hair art.

This project is my second 1960’s era ‘party dress’.  My first one can be seen here, and it is from 1961 for summertime glamor.  Both of them still have a strong 50’s influence in their lines.  I find it interesting that the 50’s still had such a strong influence on the 60’s fashion so late into the decade, with patterns such as the one used for my brocade dress still emphasizing the nipped waist, flared skirts, and open back.  I notice that what we traditionally think of the 60’s – ‘A-line’ silhouettes, easy dressing, “mod” prints, and the frequent unusual waist placement (such as empire or hip length) – does not seem to be in full force on pattern covers until 1967 and after.

100_4270     Wearing silver at Christmastime brings to my mind other places I see silver at this time of year, in pretty present wrappings, tinsel strands, and mirror-like shiny vintage glass ornaments.  Silver seems to reflect the beauty of the lights and colors of the holidays more perfectly than any other color…except for some white snow!  Thus, I feel my silver brocade ’66 dress to be a neat appropriate alternative to the traditional trio of black, red, or green worn for Christmas get-together occasions.  Silver is definitely good for more than just money!

Leaf Piling in Plaid

Leaves can be the curse or the joy of the season of fall.  So also, plaid prints can be the bane or the delight of those who sew and work with fabric.  Either way, if you want to move on to other things, both have to dealt with at some point.  So why not enjoy leaves and plaid at the same time?

I chose a simple shaped year 1928 Past Patterns reprint to make an earth-toned plaid dress perfect for fall’s transitional weather.  The straight lines and simple shaping of a late 20’s dress was also perfect to take the stress out of plaid matching.  A giant sycamore tree supplied the leaves to enjoy and an old Art Deco vitrolite decorated building provided the time-rewind backdrop.

100_4117THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  My plaid dress fabric is an incredibly lightweight, semi-sheer 100% cotton.  The plaid pattern is woven as part of the fabric, which I suppose, combined with the natural cotton content, technically makes it a textile and therefore quite historical.  Then, I go and ruin the historical bragging rights of my dress by lining my plaid fabric in a modern 100% cotton broadcloth (although broadcloth isn’t too UN-historical).  As you can see, the brown cotton broadcloth also went towards making the side godet/gusset inserts and the necktie.  Both fabrics were bought from Hancock Fabrics store.  100_4129

NOTIONS:  I only needed thread, but later on, when I also needed a zipper, that was in my stash too.

PATTERN:  A Past Patterns reprint #2792, Ladies’ and Misses Dress with Kimono Sleeves: Circa 1928-1929″.  Simplicity 4365, year 2005, was used for the godets added into the side seams.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress was completed on October 13, 2014.  I spent maybe 15 hours to finish this project, not too fast but not over long of a time either.

TOTAL COST:  The plaid cotton was super cheap on their ‘spot the bolt’ discount – I got everything on the bolt (only 1 yard and 28 inches) at only $2.00 a yard.  The brown broadcloth was on sale for $1.99 a yard.  Altogether, my total for everything comes to about $10 or less.

The sizing for this pattern showed measurement which were way too large for my size.  Naturally, I thought, “o.k, it needs to be graded down”.  I was technically right, but boy was I wrong.  However, this dress is another happy case of a mistake turning into a ‘design opportunity’, making my project even better than originally imagined.

100_4125     It seems that 20’s patterns have their own funny way of fitting…like, not at all!  No, really, they are based on straight rectangles, with no accounting for the reality of womanly bust/waist curves.  This fitting coincides with the ideal shape for the 20’s: a flattened bust and an elongated waist-less silhouette which focuses only on the hips.  Fitting was tailored in a unusual, unique, and subtle way that I myself have a hard time attaining in my 20’s projects, especially for my tango knickers.  From my experience, a 20’s pattern technically needs to be a size or two too large for you to fit…I am not joking.  I have a few late 20’s original McCall patterns, and they fit the same way – if you make sure the bust fits, then the rest of the dress (outfit) won’t fit, and it’s not just because of my hips.  Women are naturally hip dominant.  That being said, 1920’s patterns run tight in the hips, large in the bust, so you naturally have to go up in the era’s sizing.  Then, it might just lay on the body the way it should for the era, as long as you provide the proper 20’s shape underneath.  For example, the bust of my finished dress originally did not fit (it was too tight) when worn with a modern brassiere.  You have to wear something that flattens or at least offers low support to get the proper 20’s look and fit when you’re lacking period authentic foundation garments.

100_4019     Even though it was not completely the right move, I am proud at how well I figured the down grading of this 20’s pattern.  I divided the amount to take out in two (actually four) increments vertically between the aches of the dropped waist.  My picture shows grading for one of the bodice pieces.  Look how perfectly rectangular the piece is shaped, like I mentioned above.  Actually, grading down gave me just enough room to squeeze in all four pattern pieces into my small cut of plaid fabric.  Remember…I was only working with 1 yard and 28 inches of a 45 inch width fabric – yikes!  I folded the selvedge edges into the center and was thus able to place all four pieces (a front and back bodice, a front and back skirt) on a fold edge.  I would never have thought something like my finished dress could be made from so little fabric.

Here is a pattern which practically had no thorough assembly clarification as do modern instruction sheets.  There is merely a short paragraph and a picture or two to guide you, even less than the little that was given for my last Past Pattern, my 1931 dress.  As long as you know sewing and construction methods comfortably well, Past Patterns’ 1928 dress pattern should be rather self-explanatory coming together.  My method was to prepare both the skirt front and skirt back, as well as the bodice front and bodice back.  Next the bodice front was lapped seamed on the skirt front, and the same for the back sections.  Next the full front and full back were joined at the shoulder seams so I could do the neckline facing slash and necktie.  Finally the side seams were completed last…this was when I tried the dress on myself and realized (oh no) it was way too snug of a fit to be a proper 20’s silhouette.

100_4122100_3997     Ah ha!  No sweat – I had the ideal happy solution for the snug fit in my head!  Many skirts and dresses between the years 1910 to 1930 used godet inserts, a triangular piece of fabric usually set vertically into the hem of a garment to add fullness.  Their use faded somewhat in the 40’s and 50’s, and were mostly forgotten thereafter.  See the 1910 ladies walking skirt, this “Stylish Woman of 1928 in Day Dress”, or Eva Dress’ 1930 Dinner Gown, and also my own “The Artist” movie look-alike dress to see uses of godets through the 1910’s to 1930’s.  Thus, a godet was the perfect solution in more ways than one to fix the fitting issues of this 1928 dress of mine.  The use of the side godets being in the contrast on my dress also lends my dress a sort of “tabard” appearance, another fashion style used intermittently all the way from the Middle Ages into the 50’s and 60’s.  (See this 20’s style tabard dress and this 1963 dress for two examples)  Beyond all my historical proof, I love the way the brown godets were the model fix for a perfect fit, giving me a graded amount of extra room.  I personally think my dress looks better with the contrast godets than if it was without.  Between you and I, however, I did opt to add a zipper in the left side for ease of dressing.  The zipper is pretty invisible (I think) sandwiched in between the dress and the godet fabric under my arm.

I want to make a point that I found the dress length to be very, very long.  I had to make a 5 inch hem to bring it up to a decent 20’s style length.  The arched hip/skirt seam seems to fall in the right spot on my body so I really don’t think the dress needs to be shortened from out of the bodice area, just from out of the skirt section itself.  There is a blind hem done at the bottom of the skirt to make the large 5 inch turn up invisible.

100_4109     Using plaid for this Past Pattern makes sewing the dress extremely fun and easy.  Folding in the box pleats was merely a matter of matching up lines of the plaid.  This minimized the necessity of full chalk markings, which, in the end, saved some time.  Now you can see how the dress was quite easy and not too challenging to make, but a tad time consuming at the same time. 1926 vertical jabot dress pattern ad-cropped

My plaid 1928 dress is ridiculously fun and extremely comfy to wear – totally an easy play, shop, work, and general do-it-all in vintage style type of garment.  The only thing that stumps me is the decision to tie or not to tie the long neckband.  It looks so cute both ways!  According to this vintage 1926 magazine ad for a pattern, it looks like ladies wore it both ways.  Which way do you like?

There are plenty more pictures, especially some extra detail shots, on my Flickr Seam Racer page.  Also, if you’re interested (like me) in some amazing history tidbits, pop on over to ‘History Orb.com’ (link here) to get some ‘wow’ moments as you run through the info.

Simple, Slim, and Sexy – a 1930’s Basic Black Skirt

Just because a skirt is vintage and a “go-with-everything” piece, doesn’t mean it can’t be a little hot number.  This project proves that point.

What comes of my making some 1930’s tops recently is also the need for a basic skirt to go on the bottom half.  This basic black skirt is the first to fill in that gap towards attaining a 30’s wardrobe of separates which mix and match.  The great thing about my slim black 30’s skirt is it has a wonderful family connection for me, together with a look that is classic enough to pass as modern.  Slim fit doesn’t mean it’s also hard to move in – side box pleats make sure there plenty of secret room for action.  Nothing like sewing up an all-around winner!  Check it out.

100_2947     Here above I’ve paired my black skirt with a resale store jacket, which is originally from Target, as well as the lacy top underneath.  The jacket, though modern, has a sort of nod to the 30’s in my opinion, with its Deco style fan shaped shell design.  My earrings are also fan shaped shells…carved mother of pearl to be exact.  I also wore my old vintage 1930’s era leather T-strap shoes (although you can’t see them in the above picture).  Enough ensemble clarifications, let’s get down to –

THE FACTS:100_3838

FABRIC:  My skirt’s fabric is a mystery content which has a textured look and feel of shantung.  You can see some of the texture in the picture at right.  I’m assuming it is a polyester, but I’m hoping there’s a small percent of rayon in the fabric.  It comes from a stash of fabric that was given to me from my Grandmother.  There was only a small cut of this fabric, and it wasn’t even a whole ‘selvedge-to-selvedge’ amount.

PictorialReview7379 1930'sTwoPieceNOTIONS:  I had the thread, lace hem tape, hook and eyes, zipper, and grosgrain ribbon all on hand already.

PATTERN:  a Pictorial Review #7379.  My guess/estimate is it is from the early to mid-1930’s.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This skirt was quick and easy only taking 6 to 8 hours from cutting to finish.  It was done on March 19, 2014.

THE INSIDES:  All the inside seams are covered in lace hem tape.  The hem is doubled under, while the waistband is neatly and easily finished.  See the above right picture of the inside of the box pleat.  I am proud of my fine looking insides for this skirt! 

TOTAL COST:   Nothing!  This is the best part!

The pattern for the skirt is so amazingly small and economical on space.  Basically two long, skinny rectangles with small extensions (for the box pleats) turns out into this 30’s skirt.  A few tucks shape the back waist.  Thus, it is perfect for making something amazing and extremely useful out of a piece of fabric that seems too small and worthless to keep.

Like I mentioned above, since this fabric is from my Grandmother, I wanted to make something special out of it, so I made sure to make things work.  It wasn’t hard to finagle the pattern to fit – It was hard to believe.  I guess this pattern is a true Depression era design, but making clothes out of scrap fabric pieces is a very smart practice in any era.

100_2643 combo comp     Unprinted patterns suddenly made complete sense to me as I was laying out the pieces for my Pictorial Review 7379.  It literally was one of those “ah ha” moments when I felt like I was blind doing the few unprinted patterns I had beforehand.  Although the Pictorial Review patterns were marketed as “printed”, the pattern I used to make my skirt still used the hole-punched method of making darts and such, just like unprinted ones.  Basic guides for construction are printed directly on the pattern (as a bonus to the simple instructions, I suppose). Punched out holes for seam markings eliminate the need for a tracing wheel that might ruin the tissue paper, you just take chalk and fill in the holes as you did on tests when you were in school. Punched out pattern hole markings also make it extremely easy to mark the spot with thread, if you choose that method instead.  Unprinted patterns are not hard – just a different (better, in my opinion) way to do the same things as on today’s patterns.  I especially enjoy the indented balance marks on vintage patterns such as this – there’s nothing to snip off by mistake.  See the picture above to see (on the left) the marking method, and (on the right) the pattern laid out, with the center fold towards the bottom of the picture.

Grading the pattern up just a tad was necessary for the skirt to fit me.  I spread out the100_2964 amount I needed to add by placing the pattern 1/4 inch away (not directly on) the fold at the center back and front, plus making a wider seam allowance all the way along on the side seams.  This method of grading only works when adding small increments.  I must say, the skirt fits me very well – almost too well, to be exact.  It seemed like a very close call, in the way of fit, for this project.  I must say, from my experience, 1930’s patterns (and 20’s, too) do not account for curves in women’s proportions.  My being a fairly ‘normal’ size by vintage pattern charts, and finding it hard to get a whole lot of shaping in my 30’s makes, I can now completely understand how some people do not know how to wear 30’s styles.  Old catalogs show tightly shaping, slimming waist and hip girdles were worn to make the figure long and lean – without such items, vintage styles fit differently on a modern figure.  However, I highly recommend everyone having a try at making the slenderizing, complimentary designs of the 1930’s.  They possess a simple, classic character.

100_3837     My first step to construct this 30’s skirt was to sew on lace hem tape over the raw edges of the side seams.  Then the side seams get sewn together down to where the pattern indents out.  Next the outermost edges of the pleat indentation gets sewn together.  Now the pleat gets opened up and sewn down into a box pleat.  The left side seam was left open to insert a small — inch zipper.  Originally, there were only two small darts, but I made four in the shape of a fan to bring in the waist at the back above the booty.  My Pictorial Review pattern recommended something simple for the waistband, and I wasn’t sure exactly what to use.  I thought about wide bias tape, but that would not have provided support, and might stretch out of shape.  Thus, I used some wide 1 1/2 inch black grosgrain ribbon from my stash to finish the waistband.  The ribbon feels so smooth and comfy on my skin!  I left a longer extension of the ribbon on one side of the waistband to hand sew on a large sliding hook and eye to keep pressure off the top of the zipper, keeping my skirt closed.

100_2953      The edges of the side box pleats were top stitched down at the very edge of the folds to keep things in place.  I’ve done this method before for the pin tucks of my 1937 blouse and it works great to save on loads of ironing time.

Our little dachshund was needy for attention and loving during our photo shoot of my 100_296330’s black skirt.  My Flickr page Seam Racer has some successive pictures of our dachsie’s photo bombs, as well as some extra views of the skirt I made.  The afternoon was one of those perfect temperature days when being in the sun makes you just warm enough to get all sleepy and mellow.  However, as our dachsie has a thicker dark coat, he is heat sensitive, and was ducking into our nearby peony bush when he wasn’t receiving attention.  It sure made for some cute pet pictures!

100_3804     I have a cut of cotton tri-colored striped shirting just waiting to be made up into a blouse using the same 30’s Pictorial Review 7279 for my slim skirt.  Hopefully, I will get around to making it sooner than later, and blog about it here so you see the whole set from the pattern.  I already made a modern/authentic 30’s style knit tunic top (at right) that wears well with my slim skirt.   You can see the blog for the tunic top here, and more pictures on my Flickr Seam Racer page.