The Outfit of a Christmas Past

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

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

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

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THE FACTS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Groovy, Girl! My Squiggle Striped 1970 Sweater Dress

I have a weak spot for funky, fun, and bold prints.  Perhaps it’s the inner wild child that wants to have more fun with my fashion than I ever had the nerve for in my younger years.   Another weak spot in my love for fabric goes to cozy, easy-care sweater knits.  (I’ve used a similar fabric for this project.)  This post is about a dress that combines those two happy “weak spots” in my fabric taste – a dress that is a good example of a fashion at the outset of a new decade.

100_2129     When you sew your own garments, it’s never a bad thing to have your clothes stand out from the crowd.  With all my projects, I always try to make sure they are made with great care, have special details, are precisely for my own style, and tailored for the best personal fit.  So, if my garments do stand out, and perhaps get a few compliments, that is necessarily a good thing – especially when I can say, “Thanks, I made it myself!”  No matter what your own sewing qualities are, to have made some thing you are wearing deserves no small amount of pride.  The sewing craft is an amazing combination of art and utility and talent.

This dress makes me happy and proud on account of successfully resizing it from a junior’s size and making it with the instructions missing.  I can’t help but twisting up that famous phrase from the 1948 Treasure of the Sierra Madre movie, “Instructions? I don’t need no stinking instructions!” (See original movie clip here.)  Having no instructions actually made the construction fun and more a matter of sewing knowledge, by relying 100% on figuring out what goes together when and thinking backwards.  Also, the knowledge learned from figuring out how to adapt the proportions of a junior’s pattern to my sizing has come in handy since then.  Now even more patterns are open to being a possibility for me to tackle.

100_2136a     The pattern had just a few basic pieces to it – a front, a back, a neckline facing, and the neckline tab.  Thus it was easy for me to fit tissue pieces of the front and the back around myself.  I figured out that the bust line, the waist line, and the hip line were all consistently 2 inches higher than my actual bust, waist, and hip lines.  To remedy this, I started by measuring the length along the side seam between the bust line and the top of the underarm seam and marking the center of that measurement.   I then marked that measurement as a horizontal line all the way around the dress – front and back, going across between the shoulders and the middle of my chest.  The pattern was slashed apart at that line and I taped in a long strip of paper 2 inches wide to re-align the bust, waist, and hip measurements all at once…easy as pie!

100_2138     Figuring out the facing was easy after doing so many neck facings on what feels like a billion garments in my lifetime of sewing.  It was simply right sides together, then sewing around the keyhole neckline opening on the chest, clipping curves and excess fabric, and turning right sides out.  I did sew in seam tape onto the entire neckline, except for the keyhole circle, to keep the neck in shape and support the rest of the stretchy, heavy dress.  The tab closure at the neckline is sewn on top the dress across from one top corner of the keyhole over to the other, so it’s o.k. to have the seam tape end there.  The tab’s facing is a heavy weight black cotton scrap to make sure that it stays stable and 100_2142doesn’t stretch either.  Having the inner keyhole stretchy provides just enough give for me to slip the dress on over my head, but once on me, with the tab closed, the neckline it entirely stable. Heavy, black, 1 inch snaps close up the neckline keyhole tab.  I spent the time to do some fine and detailed hand stitching to invisibly tack down the neck facing, just loosely catching the inside chains of the knit.

Long sleeves were added as the pattern was intended as a summer garment.  I used an old favorite standby modern pattern which has bell sleeves to go with the era appropriate funky look.  I used these sleeves before to make this 20’s style tunic, and I love how they can work with a knit or a woven.  It’s always nice to use a perfect fitting piece from a pattern you’ve used before…it takes some of the guess work out of sewing.

I had fun achieving precise stripe matching along the sides of the dress and across the sleeves.  See my full length pictures – how cool does that look when I have my sleeves down?!  Small, interesting details (except for the long French-style bust darts) are lacking with this dress to make the most of aligning the fabric’s squiggle stripes.  So many RTW (ready to wear) garments have either a half-hearted sort of attempt at remotely matching stripes or they brazenly slap the pieces together with no intent at matching.  I only notice more expensive garments to possess good stripe matching…but for the personal seamstress, it can be fun and easy with no extra cost and very high satisfaction!  Matching any sort of pattern matching/aligning costs clothing makers and manufacturers so much extra money, it’s ridiculous – the sewers need to have better skills, more fabric gets wasted, and more time is taken…all of which costs money in the long run.  So – you get what you pay for with RTW…unless you’re lucky enough to know how to do it yourself.  That is ultimate and best trump card.

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In the above picture, you can see so much of what I did for my dress: the layout to make the most of my fabric, the way I matched the stripes, how I resized the pattern, and washers that I use for pattern weights.  Take note that the pattern called for a center back seam in order to insert a zipper, but as I was using a knit, I merely cut out the back on the fold minus the seam allowance.

This might sound funny, but this dress took me so long to get to posting about it (a year and a few months) because I wear it so darn much.  My dress gets worn on such a regular basis that by the time I am posting about the dress it literally is starting to look worn.  All I need to do to renew it is run one of those fabric shavers across it to remove the lint pills.  But, not to digress, I think I am so used to reaching for it to put it on, and feeling incredibly happy and comfy wearing it, that the dress does not occur to me as new, and therefore worthy of a write-up.  I also sense that, as the dress gets worn so much out and about, it gets its own live broadcasted promotion on myself, and that’s better than anything which can be put into words.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a lofty, brushed 100% polyester sweater knit in a royal blue, black, and tan squiggle/wavy striped design.  The squiggle design is printed on the fabric, leaving the inside wrong side as a solid neutral dark cream color.  I also used a scrap of heavy black cotton for the facing of the neck tab.

NOTIONS:  I didn’t need to buy any notions – they were all on hand, and I only needed snaps and thread.Simplicity 8851

PATTERN:   Simplicity 8851, year 1970, for the whole of the dress.  I love the border print version on the girl on the right…I’ll have to make this pattern again!  Butterick 4230, year 1999, for the sleeves.  I made view B of this pattern (bottom left) as a stretch velvet top for a fancy occasion about 15 years ago, but I’ll save that for a future post 🙂

B4230-knit bell sleeve-shawl collar-top

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress took me only about 6 hours to make, and was finished on November 5, 2013.  

THE INSIDES:  This knit doesn’t ravel.  To keep the dress springy and stretchy, the dress and its edges are merely zig-zag stitched together.

TOTAL COST:  I really don’t remember any more, but I know I didn’t spend any more than $15 or $20.

Geometric Lines of the Times – My 20’s Inspired Tunic

Here is one project that couldn’t help the way it turned out!  It was one of those special garments that kind of makes itself…and in this case, that is a VERY good thing.  I merely knew what era I wanted (the 20’s), knew what color (mustard yellow) and fabric (linen blend) I wanted to be working on, then, with plenty of fashion research, did whatever seemed right.  I can’t lay claim to any one specific pattern or garment as an inspiration.  The finished tunic is simply my best expression of the Art Deco styling I love about the 20’s.  There is a one-of-a-kind historical accuracy about this tunic that seems so perfect for our modern times just as well as 90 years ago.

100_2199a     This is the second 20’s inspired tunic top I have made.  My first one can be seen here.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  I used 3 1/2 yards of a 62% linen/38%rayon blend fabric.  It has a loose weave, almost like lightweight burlap (perhaps you will notice this in some close-up shots), and has a slightly scratchy, natural feel to it.  The color is a unique mustard yellow that has a bit of green undertones in the shade. 

NOTIONS:  I only needed thread, so, with such an odd color, I did buy one matching spool of Dual Duty thread.   I also bought a pack of golden yellow pearlescent square buttons for the back closure.

B6140Butterick 4230PATTERN:  I used a modern out-of-print pattern to make my tunic, on account of its similar fit to 20’s style clothes.  It is a Butterick 6140, year 1999, view F, shortened and without the pockets.  I also used one of my favorite patterns, a Butterick 4230, year 2004, for the long bell sleeves.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This top was unbelievably quick and fun!  It was done in a total of 10 hours, and it could’ve been less but I took my time enjoying this project.  My 20’s tunic was done on December 3, 2013.

THE INSIDES:  The neckline is self-encased by the second layer of fabric (the tunic’s main body is double layered).  The side seams and sleeves are French seams, the back center is a clean finished (turned under), my shoulder/sleeve seams are raw zig zagged edges, and the bottom hem is covered by brown lace hem tape (see right picture). 100_2589

TOTAL COST:  somewhere around $15.00

HISTORICAL ACCURACY: Relatively accurate; I built upon ideas from old original posters.  (The posters below are “Australian Home Journal, March 1, 1930” and “L’Echo de Paris” newspaper fashion page from the 20’s)  I believe I only used sewing methods and fabrics that would have been available for the 20’s/maybe early 30’s.  I also opted for a simple self-fabric loop and button closure since zippers (or technically slide fastener) were not widely accepted yet in the 20’s. 

100_2592    The basic tunic, like I mentioned above, went together in such a flash you could’ve blinked and missed it.  I made some slight changes to the construction to suit my needs, such as doubling up the main body of the tunic and shortening the dress pattern to a hip skimming length. Double layering the body helps my 20’s tunic hang better and it guarantees no see through.  Besides those reasons, I was able to easily make a cleanly finished neckline without facings.  How?  I sewed the four shoulder seams (two on the ‘lining’ top and two on the ‘good side out’ top) first, then sew the entire neckline and back button placket with the right sides together, and wrong sides out.  When the right sides get turned out, the neckline merely needs a top stitching to cleanly set everything  in place, and the rest of the tunic (side and back seams, hem, and sleeves) goes together as normal.  I have done this “doubled-up” method to other projects (link here and here) so as to simplify an already easy project.  I love anything that helps me make the most of my time!

My Butterick 6140 had never been made up yet, and I’m surprised that such a gem in my pattern cabinet never got noticed before.  Such a basic pattern has great potential in my eyes, especially knowing now that it fits me “to a T”, needing no adjustments to be my instant perfect size.  There is just enough ease in this dress pattern to really be a pullover (perfect for the relaxed 20’s styles) without any difficult wiggling to  get into it, either.  You bet I’ve got a few knockout 20’s dresses in mind to make using some spruced up reincarnations of the dresses from Butterick 6140.Home Journal 1920'sParis 20's drop waist dress poster

At first I had planned on adding a bow and/or a collar once my basic tunic was sewn together, like the three poster ladies in yellow above.  But once my tunic was together, a bow at the neck just didn’t seem like it would work well, and I began tending towards taking a different style, a simple Art Deco.  I loved the vertical stripes on the dress of the lady in yellow (from the “L’Echo de Paris” poster).  I still wanted the brown/yellow day suit combination on the left half of the “Home Journal” poster.  Over the course of a few non-sewing days, I did some passive brain crunching to figure out a simple, decorative way to add a Deco design.  Self-fabric tubing and ribbon were some of my first ideas of what to add to my tunic, but I was wanting something more simplistic.  Using tiny pin tucks to jazz up my tunic gives me the perfect answer to my design desire.  The pin tucks also give me a combo of both inspiration poster pictures – I get to be truly authentic while also true to my personal taste.

Art Deco designs are characterized by rich colors, bold geometric shapes, and anGatsby line preview embrace of technology, as seen in many architectural designs.  For a recent reference, see the line designs of the opening credits (see left small picture) in last year’s “The Great Gatsby” movie.  With this in mind, and with my adoration for the mathematician/designer Vionnet, I made the measurements and lined pin tucks on my tunic very precise, symmetrical, and exact. My sleeve hems end at 1/2 inch above the tunic hem, to compliment the tunic and create a square look.  Remember, my back neck closure is also a square button.  The ‘V’ neckline adds another geometric shape.  The two rows of pin tucks are on my left side, and 1 1/2 inches apart from each other.  The first row starts 1 1/2 inches away from the center of the tunic.  What number do you get with 1 1/2 inches times two?  That’s right, the horizontal pin tucks start at 3 inches up from the bottom hem.  How’s that for someone (like me) for whom math isn’t a strong point.    100_2190

I did the lines of tucks on the front only, at first, then, after talking it out with my hubby, decided to extend the lines around and back up again.  My left sleeve also was bestowed pin tucks when I discovered it was slightly longer than my right one.  I guess I had done a slightly imperfect hemming job but it was turned to my advantage because the tucks made the sleeves equal in arm length and matching with the design on that side.  I measured and double checked to get the sleeve tucks perfect and I’m proud of how cool it turned out.  The horizontal pin tucks on the left sleeve lines up exactly with the ones on the left tunic side, creating the illusion of a continuous line when my arm hangs down (which you can see in the 100_2585apicture, if you look closely).  A corner turner was a necessary staple to keep the two layers of fabric together to make all these pin tucks at only 1/8 inch big.  The tucks are also tapered to end at the neckline as well as on each side of the side seam because these spots were too thick to go through (see small picture).

100_2201     Modern RTW items helped my tunic turn into an outfit.  A staple in my closet – an Old Navy brand skirt – became an era appropriate match for my tunic.  With the skirt’s “high-low” hemline, bias cut, and knit fabric I suppose this outfit I put together would be a late 1920’s style.  Check out my shoes!  They are “Maxin” by Chelsea Crew, found at ModCloth or DSW, to name a few providers.  Bought at a good price, my shoes are so comfy!  I think they are THE piece that ties my outfit together with my tunic, both era wise (having the 20’s t-straps) and color wise (very rarely do my shoes exactly match when it comes to such an odd color).

Our photo shoot location was at two 20’s/30’s era buildings a few blocks away from our home.  It’s so fun to try to match my outfits I make with era appropriate locations around our town; it gets us out to explore and pay attention to what’s in our own town!  Several passerby’s who saw our photo shoot really seemed to enjoy watching our photo shoot and I hope I brought to life a past era for them.

I certainly enjoy imagining myself back 80 or 90 years ago, when these buildings were new…I’m hoping I would fit in wearing my handmade tunic.  The thought of “would I fit in if I were in year -” is my true historical test for my creations.  I happily feel that my geometric pin tucked tunic passes this test.

100_2183      The picture above is showcasing a very decorative doorway lintel, dating from the 20’s/30’s.  This is the second photo shoot taken under a Deco doorway lintel found in our neighborhood – the first pictures are at my “It’s De-Lovely” blog post.

In this second picture, I’m posing in front of a different building, dating to the 20’s, carrying an old original sign, “Frank Hardt Memorial Medical Building”.  It is our photo shoot’s second building (and also in our neighborhood), still serving to fulfill medical purposes as a family owned pharmacy which has proudly been around for 80 years.

100_2210    What’s cool is how it’s actually hard to tell the two buildings apart, other than these two last pictures.  Both buildings share the same builder, even though they’re a half mile apart!  You just can’t get a better example of Art Deco architectural art in the area where we live, than the two buildings which we included in our photos.