…a Bit Beatnik

Rebellion and resistance seems to extremely popular – with movies, with culture, with the arts, and as a word or idea.  From the Rockabilly crowd to Punk fashion, from “Star Wars” to “Mutiny on the Bounty”, and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, rising up against the norm never seems to be any less retold and repeated today.  The mid-century of the 1900s seemed to be ripe with unrest, but I’d like to focus on the free-spirited and artistic Beatnik culture with my newest make dated to 1963.  After all, we do have Beatnik to thank for reviving the popularity of wearing vintage styles! More on that later…

This is my November make for my monthly pledge for the “Burda Challenge 2018”.  Next up to match this blouse and give me a full vintage-style Burda outfit is the “Waistcoat Bodice Dress“ for my December project!  The model picture does show the two worn together.

The pants you see with my pictures are my 1974 knit jeans (post here) to amp up the casual and alternative style, but really this blouse goes with so much – jeans, skirts, and especially my purple 40s pants!  A beret hat is essential to the Beatnik style, and mine is me-made from a vintage 1934 pattern (post here).  My shoes are true 1960s vintage beauties as well as my earrings.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% cotton paisley print lined at the cuffs and collar with burgundy satin

PATTERN:  Burda Style “Vintage 1963 Anita Blouse” pattern from “The Sixties Style Kit”

NOTIONS:  I only needed plenty of thread and 10 vintage buttons

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This took a lot of hand-stitching and detailed work, so I lost count of time but I’m guessing I spent about 30 plus hours to make this over the course of a week.  The blouse was finished on November 21, 2018.

THE INSIDES:  All French seamed except for the grey bias tape over the bottom hem

TOTAL COST:  I’m counting this project as free since it’ fabric has been in my stash for a good number of years and everything else was on hand!

Beatnik subculture is loosely defined as both a media stereotype and a generational literary movement between the mid-1950s to mid-1960s.  The term “Beatnik” is said to have been coined by Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle on April 2, 1958 and its expansion paved to way for the hippie culture of the later 60s.

What I find the most curious about beatnik is the influence it had on fashion through music.  One of the leading figures of the Beat Generation, Allen Ginsberg, an American poet/writer, was a close friend of Bob Dylan and the Beatles, two of popular Beatnik musical performers.  The Beatles supposedly even put the “E” in their name because of Beatnik and Beat writer William S. Burroughs was on the cover of their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Their iconic, gaudy vintage-style military uniforms for that album were only a small part of the new awakening to reaching for past styles to standout, be unique, and express oneself that we have today.

Beatnik wanted nothing to do with anything that had to do with the eras of their parents, the 40s, and 50s and had no taste for designer trends.  The styles of the 1860s to 1890s, only 70 to 100 years old back then, were coming back with the ruffled neck shirts (of Edwardian times for women, early 1800s for men) being one major beatnik movement interpreted with my Burda Style make.  When you turn the perspective, this isn’t too different from what the vintage community of today does – garments from the 1910s, 1920s, up to the 60’s are still extant, and bought and sold to both wear and appreciate but the 70’s, 80s, and 90’s are still mostly only being appreciated by those too young to remember them.  When the London “Granny Takes a Trip” store opened in the mid-60s and stocked it with second-hand, outdated clothes, the Beatniks welcomed it and a whole new “thing” had begun.

The late Beatnik trend of the ruffle blouse was not just popular because of the big names that were wearing them, but also because they were seen as a unisex item, pretty much the first of its kind.  It was part of “Granny Takes a Trip” and the artists and writers of the Beatnik trend to focus on inclusiveness and loose sexuality.  However, the limelight did help the ruffled blouse popularity.  For the Rolling Stone’s concert in Hamburg 1965, much of the crowd was said to have been wearing ruffled neck tops, and for their “No Filter” tour just last year (2017), what do you know…Jagger is wearing ruffled neck shirts for a few of the performances.  Jimi Hendrix’s famous scene when he set his guitar on fire at the 1967 Monterey International Pop Music Festival made history in a ruffled neck shirt.  More inspiration can be seen in Burda’s collage photo.  A recent Royal Mail stamp from 2012, commemorating contribution to British fashion by designers, even features a ruffled neck blouse for the 60’s!

The paisley print in my blouse is a trippy sort of psychedelic prefiguring the later 60s, yet it is in the rich, darker, subdued colors that the Beatnik trend preferred.  The busy print calls to mind old textiles and the Kashmiri “cashew print” seen through the later 1800s.  “Granny Takes a Trip” did re-fashion Industrial Era clothes and tailor garments from precious antique items (such as a William Morris tapestry)!  Many times blouses like these are loosely referred to as “Artist” blouse, “Pirate” shirt, or even “Romantic” because of the tendency to think of the covers of a cheesy paperback romance novel or of Jane Austen gentleman.  It sure does have an idealistic, bold, flair with its excess of details, in my experience with wearing one now!  The deep burgundy satin I chose for the underside of the collar and the cuffs adds of luxurious flair that reminds me of the jewel toned velvet suits of the era, or some sort of masculine loungewear of Victorian times.

This pattern was quite exhaustive in complexity, and you certainly can’t rush making this design, but I revel in succeeding with the fine points of sewing.  I took time to make sure the chest ruffles laid flat and stayed in place otherwise I knew this blouse would end up feeling like it had a fussy, built-in bib!  Each ruffle had its own draft, cut on the bias and folded in half with its own length in different measurements from the others, so everything had to stay clearly labelled until being stitched down…which happened to be the very first step.  I serged (overlocked) the raw edges of each of the neck ruffles to keep things clean and simple, with as little extra bulk as possible.  Then, I stitched down each ruffle edge in three rows ¼ inch apart, and lightly steamed the gathers down.

As if that is not time consuming enough, the invisible button placket also has to be finished before the real body of the blouse is assembled.  These are tricky, fiddly, things but this is the third one I’ve done through Burda (first here and second here) so there it was much less of a guessing game this time.  More or less the left side is a very basic shirt placket while the other (right side) gets accordion pleated four ways.  The right placket is two individual plackets cut as one.  The middle line is folded in on itself to cover the seam allowance and be stitched down “in the (seam) ditch” before you fold the inner (second) placket half (which gets the buttonholes) and also stitch that down through all layers.  As the final touch, whether it’s mentioned or not in the instructions, I find the two placket layers become one to sight if you tack (by hand) the two together along the edges for only one inch between each of the buttonholes.

Besides the preliminary machine stitching to attach the plackets to both shirt fronts, everything else where the shirt closes I did by hand.  This way I can be more precise with catching all the different seams and layers, in addition to making the thread invisible.  Finally, only then were the darts made and shoulder seams brought together so that the collar and sleeves can be put on.  I figured if I’m putting this much effort into this blouse, it deserves the extra effort to be done very well.  This is why I also top-stitched the collar and cuff edges by hand, too.  The finished look is so professional!

These sleeve cuffs are so over the top…and I thought the 30’s and 40’s had dramatic arm features!  Including the ruffles, the cuffs are 1/3 of the length shoulder to wrist.  Keep this into account when you’re making it or if you need more length, because I was thrown off before the cuff was added.  I thought I cut too short!  The most challenging part of the cuffs was to make sure the ruffles stay out of the way of the seams when you are stitching down the underside (before you turn it inside out).

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 from the inserts in the magazine issue, and this set of 60s patterns is a special edition publication not available through the monthly subscription, but most other patterns are available online as a downloaded PDF that needs to be printed out and assembled together.  What works best for me is to use a roll of thin, see-through medical paper to trace my pieces out.  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size.  Some people add in your choice of seam allowance width directly to the pattern while some as they are cutting out the fabric pieces.  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.

Overall, I am so impressed with the quality of this pattern.  This is probably the best Burda Style pattern I have used yet.  Some Burda patterns are quirky in fit and the instructions can frequently be either lacking or confusing.  Not here!  The sizing was right on too, and it comfy to wear.  The body shape for this blouse is very straight, and the darts are only ½ inch (or less).  I did grade up a size (as I normally do) for my hips and it looks great tucked in or left out.  I kept exactly to the pattern for everything except the button placement.  The cuffs are so wide and frilly only one button is not enough to close the sleeve ends – I have two per cuff.  I also added one extra button at the very bottom of the blouse front just above the hem.  It makes the blouse look more put together when it’s untucked.  I have a whole jar of the vintage grey buttons I used so I was favoring excess, but more buttons do help this design – a small complaint!

It’s not that I’ve made this blouse because I really love the music of Beatnik or the culture…I don’t really.  However, I do love to explore different styles, and I love a sewing challenge, especially one that gives me an in-person reason to wrap my head around a curious aspect of history.  This is an era that my and my husband’s parents lived through as late teens/early 20 somethings after all!  My mom has even said she had a ruffle blouse very similar to mine when she was growing up…I believe she said it was something she bought at Macy’s in New York City on a high school class trip.  So – maybe I’m just a fashion rebel at heart to go for what tickles my fancy and create this unusual blouse which relives my parents’ times, but maybe that’s just why I like it.  Sewing does convey a certain independence, a personal freedom, and an appreciation of details that is in the face of the powerful, overwhelming, ‘buy it on a whim to immediately toss it’ ready-to-wear culture of today.  This is my favorite kind of rebellion, one that we need to encourage and nurture today between each other and in the upcoming generation.

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Graphic + Novel

There are unfamiliar clothing items that I would like to try and wear – things that the rest of the world is wearing.  I can remotely picture myself feeling good in such things, but the “play it safe” side in me pulls up my insecurities with my body every time.  I am so self-conscious about my physique.  Take into account that some of those things for my wilder-and-not-so-vintage side are really hard to find to suit my taste – like a really good quality pair of skinny jeans that will actually fit (with a high waist) or cool logo tees which are sustainable yet affordable.  I haven’t found either yet, which is why I don’t have them already!  In lieu of the misery of searching in vain I have used my sewing capabilities to fill in the answer.  After all, if I sew them, those bolder (for me) fashions become a source for a pride in what I made, a sense of accomplishment stronger than those insecurities which make me think I can’t wear what I fancy to imagine!

Here comes Wonder Woman help me out with that!  With a little ½ yard of graphic printed cotton and some too tight t-shirts back from when I was a mid teen, I have a new tank to remind me to own confidence, strength, and inner beauty.  But the remnants for making the Wonder Woman tank were enough to also update another yet uninteresting and unworn top from my wardrobe, too!  I totally ended up with the best deal ever, and made thoughtful and purposeful reuse of what I had on hand to now have new – novel – items that I am so happy with.  It’s a win all around. I swear – refashions are like a gift that keeps on giving. They make me feel like a wonder woman of the sewing world.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC: Pants: 100% cotton twill, in 7 oz. weight with a brushed finish on the ‘right’ side, bought from “ebpfabric” on Ebay (here is the listing).  The color is a bright orange-undertoned red, “cayenne pepper”. Tops: two girls size cotton knit tees (at right), one in a semi-sheer slub knit in white and the other a solid navy double knit, were my starting point with a 100% cotton woven print for the front of my tank.

PATTERNS:  Burda Style’s “Vintage High Waisted Trousers”, from year 1957, #129, from April 2015 and self-drafting for the two tops.

NOTIONS:  I used whatever was on hand, which was thread, some bias tape, and a zipper for the pants fly

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The two tops only took a few hours to make on the afternoon of May 9, 2018, and the skinny pants were made on two afternoons and finished on October 7, 2018.

TOTAL COST:  I only spent $10 on the jean material and as my mom had bought these so far back, I’m counting them as free!

These tops I will show you are not the most stupendous things I have made by far, but everyone needs basic yet fun pieces in their wardrobe, right?  Mine will be all me-made if I keep this up…and I intend to!  You see, I’m systematically going through many of the clothes I still have from my teen years and updating them for my current fashion taste and place in life rather than immediately sending them to a resale store. This is the most eco-conscious means to refashion, not to mention a cheap and challenging way to have something new, but I sense that this is helping me find myself in a very special way by evolving my wardrobe while still remotely staying the same.

The white tee was originally way too small on me – duh.  It was for a 15 year old, not the woman I am today.  Something that is too tight and doesn’t fit never seems proper when I actually know how to tailor, besides not even being comfortable for me.  I began my re-fashioning by first cutting off the confining sleeves, side seams, and shoulders.  Using the back body of the old top as my starting point to draft the front panel, and knowing my own personal body measurements, I traced the existing shape onto sheer medical paper and graded up to what it needed to be to fit me.  Yet, remember – only the back was going to be used on my new tank and it was way too small.  The front was not going to stretch.  So I added an extra 3 ½ inches to the side seams of the front panel draft, arched the armhole around to the back slightly, and added an extra inch to the shoulders.

When you take something meant for a knit and want it to work with a woven you automatically have to add in a handful of extra ease.  A knit has negative ease – meaning, you subtract wearing ease and the stretchier the knit, the more inches you have to take out for it to fit.  Not so with a woven.  Depending on what fit you want, 2 and 3 inches added make for a snug fit, and 5 and 6 inches give a roomy ease.  My top was half-and-half, though, and so went in between when drafting my pattern.  No matter how simple a tank top might seem, finding the perfect fit and learning the nuances of pattern drafting is always important to me.  Besides – no matter how simple, anything you make is worth the extra effort to make sure you yourself ends up happy with it!

I kept the original neckline for the back half of my tank, to make things easy, and the rest of the edges on the new addition were finished with some black and some red bias tape from on hand.  I also kept the cute little logo on the front of my old white tee – It was of a colorful bejeweled Italian Vespa motorbike…vroom, vroom!  This left some good, still usable remnants still, and of course, while I was on the re-fashioning mindset, I picked out something else to update.

There has been this plain knit tee in navy, way too conservative with its high neck and basic sleeves, but so luxuriously soft in pima cotton, languishing in my closet for just as long as the white tee which I had already cut apart.  I only ever used this navy top as layering piece.  The body, shoulders, and sleeves still fit me so it merely needed a slight change.  Therefore, it was the first thing I thought of to cut into.  Granted, I’ll admit what I did do to the top was probably not the best and most unique choice.  However, I did want something basic (navy and white is pretty easy to match with).  Even just a simple V-neck, short sleeve re-fashion is a major improvement that I feel okay with to wear now.  A couple of facing strips later and I have a fun contrast edged tee.

There isn’t much to say that I haven’t already said in the post about the last (also the first) time I had made pants with both this fabric and pattern.  I cut the pattern out as-is again, and turned it inside out to do a body fit again, too.  The waistline was significantly harder to do this time for some reason, but it turned out okay.  I splurged on the inside edge finishing and made my own bias tape from the fun floral cotton leftover from this 1943 blouse.  I did make the legs a bit longer at the hemline, and despite my hopes to make these more like jeans I did the same invisible zipper front as last time.  Only, these red hot pants forced my hand to turn them into what I had said I would do with them.

Have I ever said that I have a thorough love-hate relationship with invisible zippers?  I do.  They look so nice and give me such a challenge to accomplish…when they work, and it seems there is never any guarantee to that.  They are like a time bomb to me, waiting to fail, so although I do use them here and there, I never fully trust them.  For good reason! I was trapped in my 1930s royal blue satin evening gown because of an in visible zipper fail and unable to wear it to the occasion for which I made it years back.  These jeans were luckily only being worn in the house at the time when the invisible zipper I had installed popped open.  Thank goodness I had not yet left the house that night!  I had to carefully cut myself out of the jeans from the front.

Thus, I went back to my original plan and drafted my own mock-fly to cover the sturdy, vintage metal zipper which is sewn in the front instead.  This meant I needed back pockets, too.  I drafted some petite sized pockets and subtly monogrammed them with a fanciful cursive initials of my own design before sewing them down.  Do you see the ‘K’ then a ‘B’?  Yes, to make it easy for you to see the initials without staring at my behind, I took a close-up picture of them while they were off of me.

For starting with a vintage reprint pattern and outdated tees, this set really turned out fresh for my taste to try something more upbeat.  The 1950s really had some killer skinny pants that preceded the modern fad for the same thing (except back then they often relied more on good tailoring than the fact there is stretch in its fabric to fit)!  It would have been a bit bold to see Wonder Woman sported so overtly for the 1950s, because during the “Silver Age” comics she underwent significant changes which softened and adapted her image in the absence of her creator.  With the resurgence of a powerful and popular Wonder Woman today, this is the perfect retake, in my opinion!

Concert Night – a Burda Asymmetric Buckle Blouse

I don’t necessarily have much fashion that I consider perfect for a very-well attended, full-fledged pop-rock concert.  Yet, something new, different, modern, trendy, yet comfy for a long night of dancing and milling with several thousand people was just what I needed recently to see the long trending group Maroon 5 perform in town.  You see, my life’s bucket list is long and varied, and I have been fulfilling on that list some of the musical performances I have been wanting to be at for way too long.  Maroon 5 has been a favorite of mine since their first big release in 2002, and so going to this concert has been long in coming.  I enjoyed every second of that night and felt great in the outfit I wore, too.  A six year old Burda Style pattern was updated and tweaked so I could be on trend with the asymmetric garments popular for this 2018.

This is my September submission for the “Burda Challenge 2018” for which I pledged a garment a month from them.  My blouse is worn here with a skirt that I refashioned last year, which you can see in this post.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a printed 100% rayon challis

PATTERN:  Burda Style #118 “Asymmetric Blouse“ from September 2012

NOTIONS:  I had everything I needed surprisingly – the buckle straps, thread, and interfacing

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The final touches were put on the blouse the day of the concert – September 13, 2008 – after about 20 hours to make.

THE INSIDES:  The hem is bias bound, but otherwise all seams are lovely and invisible as French.

TOTAL COST:  This was a recent buy from my local JoAnn’s.  A 2 ½ yard cut was about $25.  This beats the $500 or higher price tags on a designer asymmetric shirt!!!

Asymmetric features keep popping up in the summer and fall 2018 seasons on the designer runways.  It is incorporated quietly mostly into the hemlines of skirts, but also seen in dresses, peplums, jackets, and as part of both men’s (such as this shirt or this blazer or this jacket from Comme Des Garcons) and women’s shirts.  I love the asymmetric trend luckily and I had the perfect pattern to put my own spin on it.  However, it was actually much harder to find a way to like the trend on myself than I expected.  For a blouse, if it’s asymmetric and a button down, it seems to look like either a spin on an ethnic garment or some sort of fancy chef uniform, especially in a solid.  It seems that an asymmetric blouse has to be obviously haphazard or have interesting closure details to look otherwise, and I liked this striped version by Ji Oh in the 2018 Resort collection the best, as does Vogue.  After all, Ji Oh is supposed to be the specialist in shirts.  However, I went for a multi-season and slightly more feminine version with the white, rust orange, lime, and turquoise colored directional vine print.  I purposefully trimmed the hem of my blouse fronts crooked (adapting the Burda pattern) and cut the two fronts on differing diagonals, much like this striped shirt from another brand that excels in asymmetric tops, Anouki.  I must say that I had the idea for most of these details before I saw many of the inspiration pieces mentioned, but they gave me the guts to go ahead with my crazy thoughts.

Perhaps the craziest standout detail which sets my asymmetric blouse apart from any designer inspiration is my original and unique way of closing – faux leather buckle straps.  Yes, they are fully workable and not just for display!  Yes, it seemed kinda weird to me at first that this was the only way of closing that brought my top to another level of interesting and edgy.  But I already had both of them on hand, and I love the crossover between jacket and blouse that it adds, so I tolerated the miserable amount of hand-stitching that sewing them down required.  A small snap closes the wrap front on the inside opposite the buckles.  I guess I’m stuck to only hand laundering this blouse because it only occurred to me after they were on that the buckle and straps are meant for purses and might not survive a soaking in the machine wash.  I don’t really care too much.  High fashion and my dedication to an idea rules over convenience in the case of this blouse.  I truly love the result.

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 cut out from a downloaded PDF assembled together after being printed out onto paper, but it can also be traced, using a roll of thin, see-through medical paper, from the inserts in the appropriate magazine issue (although the older issues are harder to find).  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size.  Some people add in your choice of seam allowance width directly to the pattern while some do this as they are cutting out the fabric pieces.  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.

I must stress that this pattern seems to run very large.  I chose my “normal” Burda size for this and it is quite roomy.  I actually don’t mind, though.  I don’t really think the wrap front look would have worked as well with a more form fitting blouse, and most of the designer asymmetric designs are loose and comfy in aesthetic anyway.  It’s not that there isn’t any shaping, thank goodness.  There are two fish-eye darts in the back, and angled half-French darts in the front panels.

There are large shoulder pads I added in the blouse and, as they blend right in (you’d never guess they were there, would you), I think the generous fit is all the better.  Shoulder pads that are not obvious are when they are just what a garment needs.  They add such a subtle definition to the shape here, squaring off the blouse strongly, besides picking up all the excess fabric I had drooping across my chest without them.  Even if you are not a fan of shoulder pads and you make this blouse, please add them and you’ll thank me later.

Continuing the oversized fit, the sleeves were also very long.  I was disappointed at first, but as I wear it more, the top the sleeves actually look good all bloused out at the wrist.  That is how all the long sleeved asymmetric blouses are anyway – too long in the arms.  It gives me full reach room as well!  Yes – I know I should have checked sleeve length first – but Burda blouses have never before come out like this for me, and besides I was finishing my blouse just the day before the event I needed it for.  I was definitely NOT going to undo the perfect tiny cuffs that were so hard to get right in order to change the sleeve length.

I swear, Burda must have been on crack when they came up with the measurements for the wristband-cuff piece because there is no way it works being that skinny small.  I was in misery (cueing off of Maroon 5’s “Misery” song of 2010) literally just making mine work in conjunction with gathering the sleeve end in, too, not to mention no room whatsoever left for buttonholes.  I merely did a thread chain loop and a metal hook to close the tiny cuffs.  If you want to blow your brains out trying, follow their cuff instructions like me…otherwise add an extra inch in width and save yourself some grief.  The delicate cuffs do look amazing, though, when I see them!

However, I do not want the sleeves always that long, and the rayon challis is so soft and silky that even rolling up the sleeves does not keep them up out of the way.  This is why I added sleeve straps 6 inches down from the shoulder line.  This is not something that is a part of the pattern and is a self-drafted piece which was entirely an idea of mine.  Most shirts which do have such a strap for holding ones rolled up sleeves are cotton or more casual in my experience, but I like the extra interest it adds besides that fact I needed such a detail.  To again break the trend, most mid-sleeve straps are button closed, but mine is fancier than that – a small fabric covered snaps do the job here.

The collar leaves me in awe, though.  This design is first rate if only for the collar.  As tricky and confusing as it was to assemble, it did turn out amazing.  Everything matched up, and is actually the best collar (especially one with a collar stand like this) that I have made to date.  The neckline pieces are so unusual and very steeply curved to accommodate the asymmetric front.  You therefore end up with this lovely bias that still makes a difference in the way the neckline lays so nicely even though it’s interfaced.  The right side collar that wraps around asymmetrically is actually wider than the other side and the bias starts right at the shoulder.  The left collar is smaller and not as pointed.  The neckline collar is rather oversized and almost overwhelming, reminding me of the 1970s, but hey – when it’s this special, you might as well flaunt it and make it noticeable, right!?

Not that anybody realistically noticed or cared what I had on probably with that many people there, but I am so happy to have matched with what Adam Levine, the lead and vocalist for Maroon 5, was wearing!  Not to brag, but we had really good seats and for a good part of the performance we were within a few yards of him.  It was go all out or nothing.  Do you hear the excited squeals right about now through the screen?  So amazing, sigh.  Anyway, I did my research on the amazing designer track pants that he was wearing at the concert that night (they were really neat with full embroidery down the sides) and found out that they are Marcelo Burlon County of Milan x Kappa brand Logo Tech-Jersey Track pants, sold online here through Barneys of New York.  “Their innovative aesthetic of streetwear with accents of intense color completes the label’s statement-making urban appeal” as described in Farfetched.

Oddly enough, the colors in Marcelo Burlon’s secretly feminine logo is pretty much the same colors in my print.  We both were channeling New York shown designer style.  Even if I was the only one to know (which I’m not anymore after writing this post) I would be happy.  I couldn’t have planned it any better, but it wasn’t planned.  I was just making something that seemed right.  I guess it was just what I was supposed to make for the moment.

Mermaid Out of Water

Following up on the heels of my last post, a 1954 qipao, here’s another Mandarin dress inspired by the 1930s era from the modern designer Andrew Gn.  “From the Paris catwalk directly to my wardrobe” thanks to Burda Style, this is home sewing at par with the designer world.

This is much more elegant than my first qipao, definitely meant for evening wear with its train.  The fabrics are much nicer and higher quality, too, than the printed cotton of the last qipao.  It’s also much more sensual and body-conscious, just like the original mine was inspired by – Nicole Kidman’s “Charity Ball” gown from the 2008 movie “Australia”.  It was the year 1939, and Lady Sarah Ashley was auctioning off herself (to dance with, I must clarify) to benefit the Missions for children, the “Forgotten Australians” as they are known, so she definitely dressed the part for that evening to win a large bid.  This is my third (and probably my last for this year) submission to the Unfinished Seamstress’ “Sewing the Scene” Challenge.

This evening dress is my very first mermaid shaped garment, and I am head over heels for what this does to my curves.  Why have I not worn something like this before?  Where has a mermaid gown been all my life?  Whatever – I have one now that I am very happy with…in fact I hate having to take it off once it’s on, especially as the first layer against my skin is lovely silk!

For more about the culture, history, and meaning to a qipao dress, please visit my previous post.  This one is admittedly designer, so it is linked more to the fashion scene than a pure culture garment.  In fact, the designer Tony Ward now appears to be knocking off Andrew Gn’s Burda release with some of the neckline on the gowns in his Spring/Summer 2018 collection (see Look #33 of his Couture garments, and see this look from his ready-to-wear)!  However, the Singapore-born Andrew Gn does have the privilege right to make a fashion qipao more than Tony Ward, and besides Gn did it first with his Fall 2017 Ready-To-Wear collection.  The designer Andrew Gn, as described in the Burda magazine, is a cosmopolitan designer who is heavily influenced by art and antiques.  He respects the worth of a good vintage item and finds creative expression universal.  Personally, he is ¼ Japanese and ¾ Chinese, but studied at London, New York, and Milan before opening under his own label in 1996 after being an assistant in Emanuel Ungaro’s atelier in Paris for just a year.  Ungaro is one of my modern designer icons, so it comes as no surprise to me that I like the work of his pupil Gn!  Traditional meets modern, and East merges with the West under Andrew Gn.

The pattern for this dress is only to be found in the monthly magazine issue and unfortunately not online to buy and download at all.   This edition of the magazine (February 2018) is totally worth buying, though – this is the best Burda month I have seen in a long time, there are so many patterns that are unique, lovely, and attractive.  Besides, nowadays how often do we get a copy to make for ourselves of what is seen is the catwalk?  This outfit counts as my August make to the “Burda Challenge 2018” for which I pledged a garment a month.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a combo of both polyester crinkle chiffon and rayon challis for the dress and true vintage all silk crepe for the under slip

PATTERN:  Burda Style #123 Gown, from the February 2018 magazine for the dress (see it on the runway here) and a vintage year 1942 pattern, Simplicity #4352, used once before, for the slip

NOTIONS:  All I really needed to make this set was really thread – lots of it – and some little scraps of interfacing for the Mandarin collar.  The neckline buttons are modern and were also on hand along with the scrap 6 inches of thread elastic.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress itself took about 15 hours while the slip took maybe 6 hours.  Both were completed on August 20, 2018.

THE INSIDES:  Clean due to the serged (overlocked) seams on both pieces – there were too many very long princess seams between the slip and the dress to do the insides as a French finish!

TOTAL COST:  The vintage silk was part of a trade at a local shop, and the dress’ fabrics came from my local JoAnn’s fabric store, maybe about $60 for 6 yards. 

Coming directly from a designer, I sort of find it oddly ironic that I became my own designer for this dress and slightly adapted the armscye to mirror my inspiration dress from the “Australia” movie.  Of course, looking at the original dress and its line drawing, you can see I left out the sleeves.  I do love them, and would love to make a winter velvet version of this dress just so I can see this design with those sleeves, but they did not fit in with my ideal of a visually obvious “Australia” movie copy, or even just a Mandarin dress for the summer.  It was a very easy adaptation.  I redrew the pattern tissue so that the center front and the center back panels’ curving seam kept going up to graze the outer end of the shoulder line.  The effect is like a pared down cap sleeve all-in-one with the dress. I also dipped the bottom of the armscye under the arm to be lower and more open, ending in a V-shape for both beauty and full movement.  Besides, the sleeve change, I shortened the front third of the hem to the dress so that the hem would graze the top of my feet with heels on.  I left the back and side hem original length.

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 from the inserts in the magazine issue, and most Burda Style Designer patterns are only in the magazines, but most other patterns are available online as a downloaded PDF that needs to be printed out and assembled together.  What works best for me is to use a roll of thin, see-through medical paper to trace my pieces out.  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size.  Some people add in your choice of seam allowance width directly to the pattern while some as they are cutting out the fabric pieces.  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.

I did find the sizing for this dress to be spot on, very exact.  I made my ‘normal’ size that I choose with Burda patterns, based off of their measurement chart and this finished out perfect for my body.  Granted there is a good amount of shifty give in the dress between the fine crinkled chiffon and random bias.  This is part of the reason I get by with leaving out any closures (except for the neckline, of course).  Yes – there are no zippers, hooks, or anything to the waist of both the dress and slip.  This is a pop-over the head outfit.  I didn’t want a zipper to awkwardly pucker or bubble the fabric out, and with lowering the cut of the neckline by a few extra inches, the dress goes on me just fine with all seams sewn up.  An all silk slip is smooth and slippery, like a weightless second skin, and it has similar seaming so it slides on easily as well with no closure either.

As wonderful as this turned out, it was almost the project that was never made due to the unexpected amount of material needed. Be prepared to have lots and lots of yardage on hand in order to make this dress because I soon realized this is a total fabric hog of a project.  I rather disregarded the instructions in disbelief when they called for 6 whopping yards of fabric, in 60” selvedge width. Really?!  The pattern pieces were very skinny (and very curvy, I must add, for a proper mermaid fit).  The bottom flared out very wide though.  The pattern segments were also unmanageably long as they are all one-piece princess seams from neckline to hem.  I felt that ‘surely if the pieces are staggered, and laid out oppositely I can make the dress work’ out of the 4 yards of chiffon I had on hand.  Four yards is really the most of any fabric I have on hand or generally buy.  There is only one other fabric in my stash that is a cut of 6 yards, and it is a winter brocade saved for a fabric hog 1950s dress pattern.

I really wanted to use this butterfly print as there was something about it that I felt needed to be an Asian influenced, 1930s inspired garment for evening elegance.  I don’t know how that approbation works in my head but some fabrics just naturally get designated to certain patterns without much of a though, like the two are meant to be together.  This time, there was no seeming way to make things work.  Four yards of fabric is only enough for three pattern pieces.  The dress has four pattern pieces in total, so I needed more for one last piece.

My husband is the one that saved this project by finding the exact same print, at the exact same JoAnn’s store where the first fabric was bought, only this time it was in an all rayon challis.  As long as it was the same print I had something to work with…thank goodness for JoAnn’s repeating a print design!  As the rayon would be heavier and also opaque compared to the chiffon. The most obvious pattern piece to designate this for was the two center back panels.

This way the train is weighted down nicely and the sheer effect is tamed by having the front the primary focus while the back is only simple lines without the slip being seen there to distract.  Also the back panels are the longest piece out of the four with the train – the biggest fabric hog.  The hemline is a full almost 10 inches longer than floor length on my 5’ 3” frame.  Two yards was just enough of a cut from the rayon for the center back panel, that’s how long it is!  As it turned out, I am glad to have used two fabrics for this dress.  How often does something like this happen, though – the same print in two different materials?  I love the feeling of how the train floats and flows behind me as I walk if I let it down (see a short video here on my Instagram).  If I hold it up it looks like I have wings, like a butterfly myself, or like a mermaid tail.  However, I wouldn’t have a mermaid tail out of water now would I?!

A little bit of the rayon form of my dress’ butterfly print also went to the Mandarin collar.  I was planning on laying cotton between the sheer to make the collar opaque and not see-through before I realized I had to use the rayon.  This made my work easier.  I doubled up on the interfacing and ironed it to the wrong side of both the outer and inner collars.  This way at least something holds the dress together because the rest of it certainly isn’t going the help.

I realize that most the dresses with this wide open, almond shaped neckline which dips down to Timbuktu do not have anything but skin (and cleavage) showing.  I do not care for how blatantly this sensualizes such a style of dress too much for my taste.  This is an opportunity to make a superior quality slip in a contrast color to fill in that void in the front.  The sweetheart neckline is one of the most universally popular and flattering, and a visible slip is a more discreet yet still tantalizing detail, so I prefer such a gown worn this way, not just because it is like the movie original.  It is really much more wearable this way anyway.

My basic everyday vintage slip pattern got the deluxe makeover here!  The way I made it first using basic rayon challis has it my go-to wardrobe basic.  There was no guesswork sewing this up as I had done it once before and made notes of my grading add-ons, but I took more time on the small details.  First, I added 12 more inches to the hem of last time to end up with an ankle length slip. Then, I hand stitched the self-fabric bias facing down by hand.  Skinny self-fabric bias spaghetti straps are over my shoulders.  I don’t have many long gowns to match but I’m hoping to get good use out of this slip.  After all, I did splurge and use true vintage fabric.  I am not one to use that fact as a reason to completely save this garment – no, I want to totally enjoy it, so maybe this would make a good nightgown too, if I want to wear it but have nowhere to go.

My accessories were carefully curated to make sure this was an outfit all about me – my take on a runway trend, my personal skills to make what else I needed, and some old favorites from on hand to compliment.  Following the trend of Andrew Gn’s Fall 2017 collection where the models mostly wore tassel earrings, I found mine at a local shop, handmade in three layers of gradient colors from out of my butterfly print.  My hair decoration is made by me, with three plastic flower heads attached to a hair comb with floral wire and floral tape.  My florist’s training came in handy here and I am so happy and proud at how this turned out.  My shoes are “Lola” peep toe strap heels from Chelsea Crew, the same as what I wore her for my Grace Kelly dress copy.  My bracelet is actually a hair scrunchie from when I was little, but it always used to pull my hair out so it’s always served me better as a bracelet.

This was a bit of a hard project to handle, as dreamy as it is to wear.  Between the struggle to find enough fabric for the dress, the “sacrifice” of multiple yards of vintage fabric, and all the large scraps which were leftover from the making of this outfit, it was almost painful.  I am very thrifty (as much as can be expected) with my sewing, making use of every scrap, getting only fabric that I have an idea for, and squeezing patterns on cuts too small for an easy layout.  Not too often am I liberal with my sewing, but extravagance is just that – an indulgence, a surrendering of practicality for the ideal of beauty, the effort towards a creative reality.  This is closer to how couture works, or at least designer productions, as well.

The outlook, the artistic vision is priority along the creative process, and then the special someone who gets to wear the finished product, and the resulting feelings upon wearing, are then the pride and crowning glory after the last of the finishing touches have been made.  This is a designer dress, after all, and I’m using my best vintage fabric to complete it as a ‘copy’ of something from Hollywood, inspired by the decadence of the era of elegance itself – the 1930s.  Why was I expecting something sensible here?!  Sometimes making (and wearing) the extravagance of what exactly you want, what you feel great in is intoxicatingly enjoyable.  I am sensible enough to not do this all that often, but with this dress it is so nice deep down.  Can I use the excuse that my birthday is in August?  I may just have to find as many excuses to wear this as I possibly can, too.

Dust Bowl Dress

Of all the times that were tough to live through in the last 100 years of American history, it was the 1930s in my opinion.  Yes, the 1940s were no doubt hard as well with the rationing, and every decade has its struggles and challenges, I am sure.  From what I heard from my Grandmother and from reading old periodicals of the times, however, it seems that the 1930s was a struggle just to make it through each and every day.  There was an alarming lack of jobs, and therefore a battle to get the money and food you needed.  It challenged all ages to see how much you could do without and yet still survive, with the goal of ‘making it’ although (for much of the Depression) no certain end was in sight.  The 1940’s at least had ‘the war’ and ‘those serving’ as its definite goal.  Sorry to be bleak but facts are facts to me.

Nevertheless, fashion of the 1930s seemed to generally have the intent of telling the opposite story and conveying an everyday beauty that did not necessarily scrimp because of the pervading conditions of the times.  A certain elegance was expected to be kept up.  All of this was rubbish in the face of the “Dust Bowl”.  It was just clothes on one’s back and a gritty, plain old effort to live, breathe, and eat.  Most of us have seen the famous government sponsored photographs of Dorothea Lange (the picture above is only one of many). If you haven’t, well you should.  This situation in the lives of our poorer fellow men, women, and children is frequently forgotten in the popular 30’s glamour.  Hopefully, such is acknowledged in my newest vintage-inspired sewing of a comfy and very un-pretentious feedsack printed cotton house dress, topped off with a basic, crushable, bright blue hat.

As much as I like dresses, this was out of my comfort zone, even though I have been planning on making this project for the last three years.  I do love useful and practical dresses, because a good part of my life does not call for the lovely, elegant clothes I desire to make and wear.  Thus, when a recent trip to the country we were planning gave me no excuse to put it off any longer, I whipped this dress up (because it was easier than I had expected) and loved wearing it (because it is so comfy and cool for a summer day)!  Of course, no proper 30’s dress for a day in to sun is complete without a hat, I whipped up a wonderful Depression-style hat to match too!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Dress – 100% cotton; Hat – a dense, low nap, polyester velvet for the visible exterior and a poly lining for the inside crown

PATTERNS:  Dress – Burda Style “Drawstring Dress with Peter Pan Collar” pattern #123, from April 2014, for the dress; Hat – Simplicity #8486, the “Snow White” 80th Anniversary pattern

NOTIONS:  Everything I needed for the dress was on hand as this was a long awaited project (mentioned above) – the oversized rick-rack, the thread, and interfacing.  The two buttons are true vintage from the stash of my hubby’s Grandmother.  The hat only needed supplies on hand – interfacing and thread.  The ribbon around the hat is a true vintage cotton velvet supply from my Grandmother’s stash.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was a one evening project.  It was made in about 5 hours on July 20, 2018.

THE INSIDES:  cleanly bias bound

TOTAL COST:  As the dress’ fabric was bought a few years before I came up with a plan for it (which was 3 years back) I no longer remember how much I paid for this.  I do know what store this came from though – the selvedge says it is a JoAnn’s Fabric Store Exclusive print.  The velvet was on clearance at JoAnn’s and 1/2 yard only cost me $4.50…and I still have enough for another hat!

Why was the dress out of my comfort zone?  It is just almost too homey and old fashioned for my general taste with most of what I make and wear.  Yes, I this is definitely NOT my first time sewing with a feedsack print (see my first, second, and third here), but this dress style fits in so comfortably with the fabric that my new dress doesn’t seem all gloriously bright and shiny but already broken in, as if it has already been loved and used for some time yet.  This is a good thing, and what I wish more of my makes felt like this, but I am not used to it.  Now that I have such a kind of dress, I don’t know what to think, but the cute practicality, cheery details, and simple femininity of it wins me over to loving it.

 Also, I generally want an authentic vintage style that is just as attractive and wearable for today, and although this is definitely suitable for today and will be worn with a maker’s pride, it is more obviously old-fashioned (the way I made it) than much of what I create.  There is no fashion-forward style I can point out, or designer influence here, just an everyday sensibility and a taste for the finer things on a very utilitarian level.  This kind of dress was what many women wore in the 1930s.  Not every woman looked as elegant as we might be led to think, especially when so many necessary duties of living were much more toilsome than today. (Washing is just one example…machines to do the job still required much hands-on attention and personal time to get clothes clean!)  A dress like this one was what was worn to get done those jobs of cooking, cleaning, and such.  It definitely had it place then and I’m enjoying finding a place for it today, too.  A frock like this makes house work or casual time feel much more elegant than doing the same in t-shirt and jeans for me.  This very appropriately part of my ongoing blog series “Retro Forward with Burda Style”.  It is also part of my one a month” pledge for the Burda Challenge 2018.

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 cut out from a downloaded PDF assembled together after being printed out onto paper, but it can also be traced, using a roll of thin, see-through medical paper, from the inserts in the appropriate magazine issue (although the older issues are harder to find).  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size.  Some people add in your choice of seam allowance width directly to the pattern while some as they are cutting out the fabric pieces.  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.

Looking at the finished garment in the example picture for the pattern on Burda’s site, I chose to go down a size for the bodice half and went up a size for the hips.  This was a good move because I have a great fit – originally, above the waist is generous while the hips are quite snug…too snug for the hip pockets in my opinion!  This why I left them out and opted for something more authentic, which also happens to be so much more fun – a fancy patch pocket.  I drafted my own rectangle for this, something about the size of my hand, and then added to the top a parallelogram which was a diagonal half of the square.  This was cut out in both my print and the contrast solid, with both facing one another, so that the point could be pulled down to become pleasantly, complimentarily noticeable, and trimmed with rick rack along the angled edge.  The pocket pulls the grey touches in the dress’ collar and waist ties together as a whole quite nicely.

There were a few things I left out and added on to the dress (besides the pocket). I did lengthen the hemline by 5 whopping inches.  This way I was able to use the selvedge along the hem and save myself a finishing step.  I wanted a dress that was closer to a true 30’s mid-calf length – I do find this length quite complimentary.  Besides, it keeps my knees covered (I’m self-conscious about my chubby knees) and yet is not long enough to get in the way of my ankles.  I also left out the sleeve ties because I disliked the idea of something that fussy.  Trying to fix something on one’s sleeve with the opposite arm is tough – I’ve done that before.  There is enough interest going on in the bodice with the collar and crossover placket that a basic hemmed kimono sleeve suits it better, I think.

The collar came together nicely, but boy was it a long and unusual pattern piece.  I was halfway expecting a very wonky fit, but no – it turns out a lovely face-framing shape which creates a wide neckline.  I love how the wide open neckline prevents this dress from being too conservative, also.  The only minor complaint is that it lays funny in the back half of the neckline.  After I had stitched the rick-rack under the edge, I was forced to sew the collar to the dress for about 6 inches across the center back.  I also found out that the wide open neckline reveals the bias facing used to finish the collar and neckline edges along the inside.  Luckily, I used a matching grey, but this is an important word of warning to anyone else who might consider making the pattern.  Definitely use a facing material that you won’t mind if it is seen because this design makes it visible.

Normally, I am not one for gathered waists, whether they be drawstring or elastic.  Anything that adds bulk at my waist – no thanks!  This was yet another ‘out of my comfort zone’.  However, I gave this one a try and I am quite happy with it.  The instructions had said to sew the casing on the fabric inside (wrong side) at the waistline, as the dress’ only real seaming (besides the sides) are on the upper chest (bodice) – there is one continuous piece for the entire dress body.  Instead, I sewed the waist casing on the outside (visible side) since I had cut that piece out in the matching dress fabric.  Then the tie for inside the casing was cut and made in the contrast grey.  Yet, rather than having the ties come out of the casing at the center front as the pattern directs, I also switched the opening to the center back.  Waist casings always seem their bulkiest at the spot where they open.  The nice casing is mostly covered up because the ties are so long I can wrap them around to the front…kind of like having a belt attached – so easy.

Last but not least, I’m not forgetting the hat!  On its own and how they style it on the pattern cover, this hat does look a bit cheesy.  However, once I had put the ribbon band on, had my hair styled, and wore it with the dress, it looked a lot better to me.  I think you really need to use a quality material for this hat for it to turn out plausibly and not seem like a costume prop.  Otherwise this is a great hat that has just enough of a brim to keep the sun off my eyes yet not be overwhelming.  It is crushable, sized well, and fits nicely on the head.  It was super easy to put together, even with doing a full lining and interfacing all of the pieces.  A hat project this successful that only took a few hours is an awesome win even if it’s not a new favorite accessory.

My major tip to have this hat turn out is to use alternate interfacing.  I used a stiff heavy weight sew-in interfacing and sandwiched it in the brim while I went with a lightweight iron on for the head crown pieces.  This is important – you want the brim to have the most body (you really shouldn’t have a wonky brim here…this isn’t the 70’s).  Yet you need a soft crown that isn’t completely floppy either.  Two weights of interfacing for the different parts of the hat work great.  What really finished off the hat and gave it the perfect fit and shape was doing a full crown lining, too.  In lieu of sewing the lining into the hat when the brim and crown were sewn together, and then finishing the headband seam with a ribbon (as most hats have and as the instructions direct), I merely turned the lining’s seam allowance under and invisibly had stitched it to the edge of the hat body.  Sometimes hat bands can be scratchy on the forehead, and I don’t have the proper Petersham ribbon on hand anyway.  Having the lining start immediately makes sure this hat slips on and off my head without messing up my hair at all and feels quite good on the forehead.  I was able to make the most of the car ride into the country by sewing the lining down while being a passenger!  Ah, the benefits of being a modern vintage seamstress.

As much as we take advantage of our modern machines today – why, I used the sewing machine to make my outfit, the radio to keep my ears occupied while working on it, the computer to see the program for the day, and the car we used to get to the event – I find it funny that the ingenuity and efficiency of the old 100-something year old farm equipment we saw still is a marvel.  And yet, it is these same technological advancements in farming that were blamed for causing the “Dust Bowl” era storms.  The efficient and deep cuts such farm equipment made into the ground broke up deep roots that held the dirt together and made quick work of something much more grueling done by hand giving farmers the opportunity to forget to rotate fields with rest.  This weirdly made me reflect on what the unfavorable aftereffects might be from the technology we take for granted today.