“Wallis” Chic

I always suspect that a good amount of the appeal of the 1930’s fashion is the flaunting of elegance with chic, completely accessorized outfits.  I can’t think of a better face for this in the late 1930’s than the famous Wallis Simpson.  As she was already gracing every news headline in 1937 for her marriage to England’s former King Edward VIII, she became the woman that the most talented designers of the times jumped at to clothe…and boy did she ever wear the fashions!  She is quoted as saying, “My husband gave up everything for me. I’m not a beautiful woman. I’m nothing to look at, so the only thing I can do is dress better than anyone else.”  Whatever her reasons, she inspired my latest 1930’s outfit.  So many details of my outfit make this a very specific 1938 garment, with a heavy nod to ‘Wallis’ in my accessories. I’m not out to overdress, just dress “to the nines” in killer Tyrolean era, late 30’s style!

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Not only did I make the dress of this outfit, but I made the hat as well, and even broke out my prized 30’s gloves and vintage shoes to boot.  This is the kind of outfit I hate to take off!

Simplicity 1736, year 2012 hatsTHE FACTS:Hollywood 1647, year 1948, front cover-comp,w

FABRIC:  The dress – a 100% cotton print, with a selvedge marking of ‘“Nana’s Quilt” by Joan Pace Baker, Designs by Logantex’; the hat – a lofty and thick polyester felting

PATTERN:  Hollywood #1647, a Maureen O’Sullivan pattern from year 1938, for the dress and Simplicity #1736, year 2012 pattern, for my vintage-style hat

NOTIONS:  I had everything I needed on hand – buttons, ribbon, thread, and bias tape.  The buttons are authentic vintage from the stash of my Grandmother’s.DSC_0559a-comp,w

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress was made in about 10 hours and finished on May 14, 2017.  My hat was finished on May 19, 2017, in only 2 or 3 hours…easy-peasy!

THE INSIDES:  Half French seams and half bias bound (in red, too, for fun) on the dress while the hat is raw edged inside – it’s felt, after all.

TOTAL COST:  I’m counting this as free as the supplies were on hand and the fabric has been in my stash for so many years!

In the year 1937, Simpson made more than headlines, though.  She made fashion history Wallis' gown designed by Mainbocherin two dramatic ways – she wore the then shocking but now famous Schiaparelli-Dali “Lobster Dress” as well as sporting the “Wallis Blue” wedding gown designed by the Chicago-born designer Mainboucher.  Hollywood brand patterns were well known for imitating the rich and famous, bringing their styles to share with the masses, and there is a trickle-down effect which puts the newest fashion in the hands of those masses at a delayed time.  Thus, it makes sense for me to see details of Wallis Simpson’s influence in the Hollywood dress pattern I used to make my dress from the year afterwards – 1938.

Hollywood patterns that I see almost always stick with sweet princess styling, which can Hollywood 1647, year 1948, back cover-comp,crop,wbe complimentary in the way of thinning the body lines, yet overly youthful and conservative with Peter Pan collars and high necks.  Not for me – not with this dress!  Sure, there’s princess seaming to the front, but I changed up the neckline of the original pattern for an open, adult style, while the dress back (as designed) does have a very 40’s appearance (different from the front) with its darts and defined waist seam.  This is a dress which breaks both consistencies of the conventional Hollywood pattern!

I’m tickled at how I found a way to complement the original styling and make my dress more ‘grown-up’ and sophisticated by a mere change to the neckline.  A good friend of mine helped me realize one of the neckline shapes that are very specific to 1938 – an upturned curve to be the third ‘leg’ of a square neckline.  The late 1930’s frequently borrowed from historical garments for new features, particularly those that were severe or heavily restricting, and this type of curving squared neckline, which was popular in the mid to late 1500s 1, had a widespread use on women’s dresses of 1938.  See this Butterick Spring 1938 news flyer for a small example of this.  Period revivalism combined with modern touches was especially popular with one of Wallis Simpson’s designers, Elsa Schiaparelli – see her designs from winter 1937 to 1938 2 and many are strongly influenced by historic clothing from around the world.  If you read up on history, all that is old become new again at some point, it seems!

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Anyway, this 1938 neckline adaption coordinates perfectly with the likewise arching bust detail.  Wallis’ wedding dress had the exact same upward curving side panel bust gathers!  It is such a lovely, subtle, and slightly-tricky-to-sew touch that I don’t really see that much (whether on an extant garment or pattern).  If you would want to snag your own true copy of Wallis Simpson’s wedding dress, good news if you can sew! There is a reprinted pattern of it as Superior #114 (year 1939) up for purchase here at the Etsy shop “tvpstore”.  Go and drool over it at least, like I did!

Besides the redrawing the neckline change and making the bust gathers, the rest of theDSC_0520a-comp,w dress was a cinch to sew together.  The lines are really simple for the rest of the frock.  I did have to grade up to over the amount I really should have needed, and it’s a good thing I did!  Most 1930’s era patterns I come across run small, besides the fact that a full button front dress cannot be snug, and so I made sure to have extra room rather than too little. I ended up being able to have 5/8 inch seam allowances, rather than the original pattern allowance of 3/8…too little!  The modern sized seams allowed me ‘wiggle’ room to make clean finishing French seams and give myself space (if needed) to take it out if I need to in the future.  I want this baby of a dress to last me a good long while ‘cause I love it!

The cotton print is a rocking awesome re-print of an original 30’s print.  Sadly I do not remember where it was bought.  I do have proof of historic authenticity for it, though – see this original dress, sold over at Dorthea’s Closet Vintage.  Seeing that original dress ‘sold’ me on the idea of actually using this prized fabric which I had been hoarding…I mean saving for the perfect pattern.

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For as cute as the print is with its cheery daises and red contrast, my cotton is not the softest…it is actually quite stiff.  For once, a stiff cotton actually comes in handy!  The stiffness lends itself wonderfully to the puff sleeves and the button front as well as keeping the long princess seams smooth and non-wrinkly.  Anything softer and I would have had to use some powerful interfacing, with would be too noticeable to look great, I would think.  As it was, I used only a small strip of lightweight cotton interfacing down the front buttoning self-plackets and zero supports for the sleeve caps to do their glorious late 30’s obnoxiousness.  I had just enough material, too – 3 ½ yards of fabric to work with, which seems like a lot to me, and I just barely fit all the pattern pieces in on it.  Whew! Talk about making the most of what you have!  This was obviously a serendipitous match of pattern and fabric.

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What do you think about that two-at-a-time button placement?  Now that I see it done, it was worth all the bother, time, and trouble…and boy, was it ever!  It took me 3 hours just to make the buttonholes, cut them open, match them to the other side, and sew the buttons on… all 13 of them.  But like I said, so worth it, so unique!  The buttons themselves are vintage of a mystery era, but amazing nonetheless with their deep-set wells for the stitching spots and the faceted shiny outer edges.  They had been a set that I have been itching to use from the first I set eyes on them from in my Grandmother’s stash.  They make the bits of rich red in the fabric pop a little better.

I know what also adds to the red contrast – my lobster pin!  Again, I’m not sure what vintage era this is from, but the back pin mechanism is so rudely simple, I’m assuming it’s 50’s or older.  I’ve had this as long as I can remember so I don’t know where it came from or who gave it to me.  I’ve always seen it in my jewelry box ever since I first had such a thing.  Finally after all these years of keeping the lobster brooch and having mixed feelings about the combo of weirdness, ugliness, and cute quirkiness of it, I like that I have now found a way to enjoy and wear a time honored piece from my jewelry collection.  I feel it properly ties together the colors, the historical significance dating my outfit, and the ties to famous personas of the past.

1938 Dobbs womens hat trends make headlines & German 1938 vintage millinery adSpeaking of famous persons, too many past Hollywood starlets and fashion designs have included a killer fedora to their ensemble like this one!  And this was so easy to make, and it turned out so well, it is ridiculous.  This pattern is like a hidden gem, because everyone seems to make the View E 1920s style cloche hat (they are all awesome) but I only found one other version of the fedora style on the internet.  It is the perfect style for anything late 1930’s into the early to mid-40’s, and really should be labelled as retro or at least vintage.  Just look at how it matches up to these images from 1938!  Find this pattern for yourself, and please do sew this hat!

The design of the hat is like a hidden surprise.  It wasn’t until I began to make the fedora that I realized its lovely tailoring, something that isn’t even apparent from the line drawing even.  Every panel to the crown is its own specialized piece, cut once, and once sewn together, all of them have an elegant effect of motion by the way the seams are on the diagonal around the brim.  Even the top of the crown adds to the wonderful shaping by being a unique, long, oblong oval.  The brim accommodates to the overall drama by being shortest in the back, short on the one side, and longest in the front – again, very specialized shaping for a lovely final, finished hat.  I did make the front of the brim ½ longer just to make sure to give my face full sun protection.  The pattern doesn’t specify lining the hat, and I didn’t since I wanted my hat to be for the summer.  It didn’t even say to sew an inner sweat band or ribbon or anything to the inside of the crown/brim seam…rather odd.  I merely sewed a wide, cotton, bias band to the crown/brim seam inside for comfort against my head and a clean finish.  I played around with the ribbon placement for quite a long time, and had some bold, different experimental ideas (as many hats of those times had fun, unexpected decoration), but ended up going with a rather basic hat band treatment.

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Part of my success with this hat, I suspect, is the great quality felt I used.  I’m not meaning to brag – I don’t even remember where it came from, it has just been in my stash since I’ve been in this house.  I know it is polyester, at least 1/8 inch thick, but from the look and the feel of it, and the way it holds its shape so well, it acts like a nice wool felt.  Awesome!  This gives me the best of both worlds – and my hat is even crushable and washable yet still holds its shape…believe me, I tested this!  But really, for best results, find a material that has body for this hat, something easy to work with, washable, and that doesn’t need lining to make it oh-so-practical yet stylish at the same time – like mine.  You won’t find that combo with a true vintage hat, and even if you did, you wouldn’t want to treat it like that, so come on, sew up your own fedora!  I love this hat.

There is a tinge of nautical (ahem, cue the lobster, especially) and summer luxury-themed undercurrents to my outfit and our amazing background building for our photos is the icing on the cake!  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is was designed by a local architect, Eduoard Mutrux (an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright) in 1936 or 1938.  It is a very strong, very odd but wonderful combination of Streamline Moderne and International Style.  This masonry building has all the best of the avant-garde forward thinking that the 1930s did best.  However, this building sneakily looks like a lovely white cruise ship when you go and look at other views, as if it had just moored on the parking lot and been swallowed up by asphalt and ground, with its sweeping front facing the busy street below.

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The Streamline Moderne architectural style is after all about movement merging with stationary objects.  Originally intended to cut down on drag for cars, ships, planes and trains, Streamline Moderne designers and architects wanted a classicism to their buildings so they would last and span the test of time.  This is the kind of buildings you see in all those vintage travel advertisements of the 30’s that are so enchanting and appealing.  Streamline Modern buildings are also almost strictly inspired by movement (visit this Flickr group to see what I mean).  The International style is a friend of stark simplicity – form has to follow function and ornament for its own sake is an outrage…to the point of harsh sterility. Cubical balance and proportion was key, along with white being an important color.  This style of building was rare in Missouri before WWII. International is a major style that re-blossomed in the 1960s as Mid-Century Modern, and it was also the founding idealism for our modern business spaces made of metal and glass!

My sewn outfit is the best of combo of architecture and fashion I could ask for – ornament with a purpose and message, streamline shaping, comfortable practicality, and chic styling which looks good no matter what era it technically originated from.  The light and fun bright colors are perfect for reflecting my current summer mood.  Hello fun!  I have the perfect outfit for you…

Footnote links :  #1.) Detail from Mary Magdalene, 1519.Oostsanen Van (1475-1533); Portrait of a Lady as the Magdalen (Flemish, 16th century); Queen Catherine Parr reproduction gown; and info on sporting carcanet necklaces

#2.) Woman’s Evening Jacket, Designed by Elsa Schiaparelli, Winter 1937-1938; Silk Cape, Designed Elsa Schiaparelli, Winter 1937; An Elsa Schiaparelli couture black velvet ‘highwayman’ coat, circa 1935

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“Laundry Day” Dress

Have you ever had those days where you have errands to run and things to do but you want to be casual and comfy yet not completely dressed down?  No matter how nice it still appears, this is another much needed, throw-on, chore-time dress…yet it’s still vintage!

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Here’s a dress from 1948, something late in the 40’s and not yet 50’s, that now, re-made and sewn with modern fabric, becomes a frock for current times!  The lovely ribbon-like seersucker fabric of the dress is effortless to wear and take care of (it’s meant to be wrinkled, for goodness sakes), making this one of my wardrobe’s go-to, easy-wear pieces for those “laundry days”.  The cream, white, yellow, and green tones are a lovely combo that has a cool mental ‘feel’ for warm weather, yet pairs well with many cardigans and blazers in cooler temps for a multi-season garment.  What more could I want from a dress?!

Betty and Peg Braden - 1948, smaller picTo put the icing on the cake, this dress looks much like one worn by my Grandmother, as seen in her high school pictures.  She was 18 in 1948, and there are several pictures of both her and her sister from that year lounging around the high school campus with her books, both wearing matching, striped, button front dresses.  Her mother, and herself as well, were good at sewing whatever they needed, so I’m DressLikeYour Grandma Challenge 2017 badgecurious as to whether or not their two dresses were made by them.  My Grandmother’s dress, in particular, (on the left) has the most fun with stripe placement, most similar to my dress.  Her dress and mine even have the large, handy horizontally striped hip pockets, too!  This is a lovely knock-around-town dress, so I perfectly understand her style in these pictures now.  I guess it’s no wonder this dress is part of Tanya’s “Dress Like Your Grandma” sewing challenge.

THE FACTS:

McCall 7212, year 1948 day dress,pFABRIC:  a 100% polyester seersucker, with the bodice facing and pocket lining cut from a scrap of 100% cotton

PATTERN:  McCall #7212, year 1948

NOTIONS:  all that I needed to buy was a pack of buttons, but the bias tapes, thread and hook-and-eyes were already on hand

TIME TO COMPLETE:  not long – 7 hours.  It was finished on August 23, 2016

THE INSIDES:  Every edge is cleanly and easily finished off in yellow bias tape. (In this detail pic, you can also see my “fake” feature at the waist – there might be a button and a button hole on the outside, but there is really only a hook-and-eye inside to keep things stable.)

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TOTAL COST:  This fabric has been in my stash for as long as I can remember (it was in my parent’s fabric stash first).  Thus, I’m counting the fabric as free, so all that this dress cost was the pack of buttons…$2.00!

I actually hated what I saw of this dress as it was coming together.  It did fit perfectly in the size that it was, and it was mildly challenging yet easy enough to be fun.  It’s just that the dress ran so darn long…as in ‘evening length’ long.  I know that fashions from post-WWII were much longer, more mid-calf than the actual early 40’s shorter knee length of my dress.  However, this was the only length that I felt looked good on me and did well for the dress, too.  I’m not one to try to be so authentic to every detail at the cost of sacrificing my taste and my style and happiness with making a garment.  The shorter length also solves a few issues as well.  Yes, there is a deep 8 to 10 inch hem on my dress, and –no- I did not want to cut it off because it makes the poufy, lightweight fabric hang nicely and it also results in a completely no-see through skirt (which would have been a glaringly obvious problem otherwise).  Guess I was ‘taking down two birds with one stone’ as the saying goes!  After all, I did have four yards of this fabric so I might as well keep it on the dress rather than in my ever growing scrap pile…

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The hardest part about making this dress was deciding on the buttons – of all things.  It took me a week to figure that out.  I even ordered matching green buttons…which I didn’t use.  I looked through my substantial and varied button stash from Grandmothers on both sides of the family, and still nothing seemed to be ‘the one’.  This is when hubby came to the rescue.  He enjoys browsing through button collections and frequently has a good eye for my projects.  He said I needed to go with something not distracting from the rest of the dress, but extremely plain, basic, and mundane, so I picked out the cheapest bulk pack of what were labelled as “sweater buttons” at the fabric store.  I think he nailed it here.  Where I would be without his help sometimes, I don’t know.  (Don’t tell anyone that my man goes with me to the fabric store!)

Instead of choosing the high, choking, buttoned-up-to-the-top view, I chose the option that has the slot-type of neckline with buttons starting at the middle of the chest.  However, I still thought it looked a bit confining so I merely have both sides of the neckline flipped back as if they are lapels and only temporarily tacked into place.  Guess it’s a good thing after all that my cotton facing for the bodice matched with the dress so well!  I think the lapel neckline softens and lends more of a relaxed casual air to the dress (which I want) than the proper and perfect drawn cover version on the envelope.

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I sort of feel bad that I did kind of copy off of the cover by using a green striped fabric.  At the same time, I don’t feel guilty.  You see, after looking around at all the versions of this same sort of style of dress (and there are lots of them believe me, dating from about early 40’s to 1950s, at this Pinterest page of mine), I realized that many of them were in a green striped fabric of some sort.  As I figure it, I am going along with a late 1940s trend, not just copying the cover to give me a good reason to use up a long-time occupant in my fabric stash, ahem.  Besides, I did find ‘proof’ that this type of ribbon seersucker was around years back.  Granted they wouldn’t have had a fabric made from polyester in the 1940s, but look at this old original 30’s dress for sale at Emily’s Vintage Vision’s Etsy shop – doesn’t that type of fabric for the bodice seem so very similar to the fabric for my dress?

DSC_0257a-comp,wWe were happy to chance upon a vintage Laundromat in one of our shortcuts to get from one errand to the next.  Funny thing is, I found out that day this dress actually repels water and keeps me dry.  I suppose the tight polyester and rippled seersucker keeps the water rolling right off.  Later on, at a “Steak n’ Shake” for lunch that day, when my dress did get wet from my water glass, the fabric sort of “held” the water and kept my under layers dry.  This is one weird but awesome fabric – I haven’t had another material act like this.  Now, the only problem was making sure my natural fiber wedge espadrilles and braided cord belt didn’t get wet, too…

At the onset of this sewing project, I was aware that I have a similarly styled dress dated to the year before, 1947 (see it here).  It does have the same slashed neckline and pockets, but with the stripes and buttoned front, this post’s dress is different, after all.  This is a look alike to one my Grandma wore anyway, so that’s a big win.  Maybe this is just a trend of the post war that I like.  I know the large pockets are a big draw for me.  Do you have a certain style niche in the history of fashion that you especially love for one reason or another?  Do you too find yourself copying envelope cover images more often that not?

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“Retro Forward” with Burda Style – a Roomy Button-Front Dress

As much as I do like getting “dolled up”, there’s been times when I need or have to leave the house and do something without feeling much like getting put together.  Not that I take a lot of work to fix myself up, I just don’t leave the house too much looking like I rolled out of bed and sometimes I’d much rather stay in my cozy relaxed home lounge clothes looking like I really don’t care.  I’ll bet most of you, my readers have those times, too.  Well, I have now found a pattern to make myself a dress that is the perfect compromise – it’s every bit as comfy as a nightgown but a nice style for many occasions…all with a vintage flair.  Perfect!  How spoiled can I be making something exactly what I want so I can go out and still feel like I’m in house lounge-wear?!

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THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% cotton lightweight jersey knitlong-sleeve-dress-no-104-01-2011-line-drawing

PATTERN:  Burda Style “Long Sleeve Dress, # 104”, from January 2011

NOTIONS:  I had all the thread and interfacing I needed, but I did have to go out and find one more pack of matching buttons (I had some of the ones I wanted to use but not enough).

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress took about 15 hours to sew, and was finished on May 20, 2016.

THE INSIDES:  As this knit does not fray, I left all the edges raw.

TOTAL COST:  This cotton was bought at the now defunct Hancock Fabrics.  I believe I spent about $15 to $20 (with a discount), more than I normally spend for a dress but the fabric is such a nice quality.

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Burda Style has had this pattern out for a while now, hasn’t it?  This is a shirt dress that rather reminds me of a cross between the 1980’s and the 1940’s, which is why it’s part of my “Retro Forward with Burda Style” blog series.  I know the 80’s did often mimic the 40’s in many ways such as exaggerated shoulders, generously sized bodices, lovely sleeve cuffs, neckline details, and feminine menswear – part of my dress.  The 80’s and 40’s also made great use of jersey knits, except the skinny skirt and elastic waist sort of does sort of tip the scales in favor of the dress being in the decade closer to our own times, though WWII was all about combining comfort with style for women.  Even my shoes are a 1940’s style, vintage from the 1980’s.  So my verdict is non-committal – I’m happy with my dress whatever flair or style it might have.

dsc_0593a-compwI was originally going to line the knit but I’m glad I didn’t as it would have made the seams much too bulky and the dress too heavy.  Any fabric thicker than medium weight would not work here.  I also thought the dusty blue background and dainty small-print floral printed on the knit had a sort of quaintness which might bring out the vintage flair without being over-cute.  When I bought this fabric, my friend the store employee told me the color and print suits me well and I do very much agree with that.  The print unfortunately hides the special squared off sleeve design (see my layout of the bodice pieces picture, at left).  As my project looks finished, I now see the small floral making my dress seem more like a housecoat than something to be worn out and about, but oh well.

This was a bit of a challenging pattern to sew both on account of the decrepit instructions, the delicate fabric, and also because it is always a task to harness loads and loads of gathers.  For this dress there are tight, full gathers from the neckline, around the shoulder piece, and over to the other side of the neckline in a continuous and dramatic line.  Add in the fact of turning and shaping those uber-gathers into a definite shape and getting in down into a facing as well and there is a hand-stressing, time-intensive detailed area that used up all of my two boxes of straight pins just to keep in place for stitching.

dsc_0673-compwI messed up slightly on the shoulder panel and I do not feel entirely the one to blame (…although I did do the sewing).  The instructions didn’t give me something to help at this point, so here’s another ‘oh well’.  It still turned out o.k., I just would not recommended to top-stitch down the non-interfaced facing on top (from the visible outside) like I did.  I made it work, but doing so made the whole intricate panel with the dress gatherings harder to achieve.  Believe me, it would have been better the other way around.  The neck and shoulder detail on this dress is stunningly lovely in my opinion, and worth the effort…if only I had done it 100% right.  I think this is the part of the dress’ construction which takes just as long as making and cutting the rest of the dress combined.  It also is the base from which the rest of the dress hangs and (in my opinion) the primary focal feature.  (P.S., look how similar this dress bodice for sale on Etsy is to the one of my dress.)  I have an idea that the shoulder panel of this Burda Style dress would look lovely in a contrast with the right combo of colors.

dsc_0671a-compwI also adapted the sleeve cuffs (with another big ironic thank you to the instructions) due in part to another “mistake” of mine as well as tailoring the design to appeal to me better.  After two frustrating spells of unpicking stitches after mismatching the proper cuffs with the correct sleeves I realized I had sewn the arch of the cuffs inward to my body rather than outward, which I should have done.  I had had enough of futzing with things on the dress by this time and left them as they were.  However, I did not like how wide the cuffs were on my shorter frame and compared to the rest of the dress, cuffs which went halfway up my arm did not seem to work here.  Thus, I folded the cuffs back (just like the ones for my “Double Duty” year 1931 dress) and hand sewed a single elastic loop-and-button closure on each cuff to make them easy and adjustable.   These turned back cuffs make the enormous sleeves a bit more manageable for me and add another nice touch to the dress.dsc_0666a-compw

Besides all the little boo boos, I did some slight changes to the design.  First, I raised the center front neckline enough to add another button closure for a less revealing decollete.  Second, I switched up the skirt front pattern pieces so that the designated bottom hem became the new waistline.  As designed, the skirt to this dress is incredibly skinny at the knees and I saw a potential problem with walking, especially as the skirt buttons closed.  This step slightly widens the hem but keeping the back skirt design as-is still keeps the tapered silhouette and makes it easier to walk.  Granted, my dress’ skirt does open up above the knee at the thigh as it is, and I think this hint of hotness is need to save the dress from becoming overly conservative.  “She’s got legs…” and I know how to (subtly) show ‘em.

Finally, I left out the pockets.  Yes, I love pockets and rely on them more and more, making sure I have them in most of the garments I now make, but no – there’s enough poufiness to the gathered elastic waist I’m happier with the overall look with them left out.

The elastic waist does make this dress so incredibly comfy.  So, as much as I was doubtful I would like it on myself, the wearing of it wins me over.  I didn’t really bother with how the instructions said to make the waist because I had a method I wanted to use.  Similar to my “Ever Green” knit dress, I used the existing seam allowance of the waistband to sew a skinny ¼ inch casing for elastic to run through.  This method makes for quite tight gathering which isn’t too out of control as the casing is part of the dress, and anchored to it at both top and bottom.  The skinny elastic makes it easy to cover with a belt.  I sort of have a cheaters button at the waistband – a fake buttonhole with a button sewn to it.  The real working closure is a hook-and-eye.  This pulls the elastic waist together in a stable manner, versus a button closing.  I don’t want anything popping open on me while I’m wearing my dress…boop, surprise!  No, thank you.  That’s why there’s even a tiny safety hook-and-eye at the V of the neckline, just in case.

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All said, I really do like my dress very much, I just don’t feel that the amount of effort and frustration was worth this dress.  However, I find myself reaching for this more often than I’d ever had expected, so the usefulness and comfort which I’ve taken advantage of many times already does now make the effort worthwhile.  I am a very cold-sensitive person, and having my arms covered always feels quite comfy to me.  So, the loose sleeves of this dress is perfect for chilly nights during spring, summer, and early fall where I live, with the open, leg-revealing skirt keeping me from being too warm.  Here’s to a great one-step outfit, not too nice yet with casual ease!  And, here’s to a “new” type of clothing…what I call the “housecoat” dress, ideal for rolling out of bed and keeping the feeling but not the look.  The perfect dress for one’s needs can be so wonderful!

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1944, Piped, in Periwinkle…My Easter Dress!

Oh, and I can’t forget, there is another “P” to my dress – a pocket! Oh boy did I wear some rich and vibrant colors for Easter this year to brighten up my spring, although I had the new grass and magnolia trees for competition! Pop goes the Periwinkle…and the orange, and the white, and the fuchsia!

100_4877ab-compThere were a number of sewing “firsts” for me when making my Easter dress. I had fun with adding a “baker’s dozen” worth of vintage shell buttons all the long way down the front. To date in my sewing, this dress has the most buttons used and button holes made on a garment. My Easter dress also is my very first full button front dress. This was even my first try, and a successful one at that, doing piping to “accentuate the positive” to the pattern design, dating to 1944. 100_4895-comp

Three years ago, my Easter outfit was a design from the 20’s (my hankie-hem 1929 dress), and last year I made a dress from a 1935 pattern (posted here). This year I went for the 1940’s, because I wanted a decade succession up each year, and because of my excitement for the 40’s due to my “Agent Carter” sew along. By the way, I already have my 1950’s Easter outfit picked out for next year 🙂

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% rayon challis, bought at Hancock Fabrics as one of their new spring offerings. It reminds me so much of the fabric drawn on the dress of the lady on the left of the pattern front.

NOTIONS:  I bought most of what was needed for this dress – fabric, thread, and the piping. The interfacing and the shoulder pads were on hand already.  The buttons came from hubby’s Grandmother’s stash, which I now have. They are slightly heavy carved shell buttons with a glazed shiny top.  

Easter dress pattern front-comp.jpegPATTERN:  McCall’s 5668, year 1944

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Not too long but longer than “normal” for me, maybe 20 hours. It was finished on March 31, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  So nice…I love them this way! On account of an addition which was purely my idea, the waist band is covered smoothly inside with a second waistband cut out made to be an inner “facing” piece. Every other seam, except for the hems of course, is in French seams. The extra time spent on these finishes is so worth it when you see the insides putting it on.

TOTAL COST:  about $12

As much as I like this dress as a project, I really still am not sure how much I like it actually on myself, but I think this is merely because it is a new style. I’m not accustomed to having my waist so accentuated (with the piping in the waistband), but you know your waist is traditionally regarded as one of your shape’s best assets. After all, there is the famous song “Ac-cen-tchu-ate the Positive” which was published and recorded in the same year as my dress – 1944. So, I might as well follow those words and highlight my shape and the pattern’s style in one move! 100_4885-comp

However much I like the dress on me, one of the major selling points to make this dress so very special is the fact that it is (as far as I know) my only local vintage pattern which has actually stayed in town the past 70 years. Through an old receipt found inside the envelope of pattern, I can see the original place of first purchase in town and narrow down the year of purchase by a note written on the back. Then I happened to find and buy it about 10 miles away from the store on the receipt…talk about localized! I can’t do this exact sourcing with any other pattern in my stock. Dissemination of patterns through online sellers, vendors, and such seem to me to make sure that many patterns do not stay where they came from. After having so much enjoyment finding this 1944 McCall #5668, I now feel that this fact is rather a sad necessity for getting old patterns bought and sold.

100_4879a-b-compHappily my research into the pattern’s history through the receipt helped me discover something new about my own city and about the turnaround of old patterns. At the top of the receipt, it is a little faded, but I can still read “Sears, Roebuck and Co. retail store, Grand Blvd. and Winnebago St.” My scan didn’t pick up as much as I can see on the real receipt. There is a date of “March 2” with no year. The total amount of purchase shown comes to $1.35. At first, I talked to my mom, because she grew up not too far from that area and her mom worked in retail department stores. She remembered going with her mom to this store, where some good memories were made. Then, I looked up on my favorite preservationist and architectural appreciation web sites for our town and found this page showing pictures of the building and telling the sad story of how the Art Deco building had been neglected, unwanted, and torn down years after its closing in 1993. Now that I could place the location and store this pattern came from, I assumed it was bought in the year of the pattern, 1944, until I saw a handwritten note of “McCalls P. no. 5948” on the receipt back.Sears store receipt - back & front-comp Now I have done the best internet searching I can do, and I find no records, no picture, or anything of a McCall pattern by that number. However, I do possess a pattern with a very close number, McCall #5946 (see the post of my “Daily Life Dress”), and this pattern is from the next year after my Easter dress, year 1945. This presents so many questions. Is it possible this 1944 McCall #5668 pattern was bought in 1945? Did patterns stay out for purchase years after release, or was this something that happened just during war-time due to the smaller amounts of available resources for consumers and companies alike? I know I’ve definitely noticed a boom in patterns and styles in the year 1946, so did some of these patterns which had been out to buy for most of the war get shelved at that time? What is this mystery pattern the purchaser wrote on the back of my receipt? I wonder. If anyone wants to join in with me and help me answer some of these questions, you’re most welcome.

100_4889-compNow that I’ve addressed the “travel history” of the pattern, I’ll tell you making the pattern for my Easter dress was really pretty easy, requiring no extremely complicated skills. I merely made things harder (but a lot nicer in the end) for myself by deciding to add in the piping and extra inside waist facing. The most time consuming parts were the ones you would expect – the French seams, the piping, and the buttons and their holes down the front. Also, interfacing was ironed onto the wrong side of the front waistband, the self-facing half of the fronts (bodice halves and skirt halves), and the back facing piece. This type of iron-on interfacing (done for my 1946 Yellow Knit Top) is tricky and time-consuming but it really helps get sharply turned edges on a material as drapey as rayon challis.

100_4890-compThe dress was made exactly according to the pattern, except for one fun personal change – the chest tucks at each side of the neckline are facing out, where you can notice them, rather than the conventional inward facing. This makes them more like pin tucks, and much more decorative, than regular tucks. I figured they would also complement the angles of the square neckline I chose. Wearing a square neckline is real pleasure, too – and a nice oddity in my wardrobe. It nicely frames the face, I think, making this dress, together with the bold, bright floral fabric, not a frock for the wallflower side of me.

The top half of the dress turned out more blouse-y and generous than I anticipated. Oh well, this gives me room to move my arms easily and wear some vintage figure enhancing lingerie. I did also sew in rounded, softened silhouette shoulder pads which fill in the dress’ top and nicely shapes the droopy fabric. At least, the bottom half of my dress turned out fitting snugly comfortable. I was afraid that the skirt section would be a close fit which would end up pulling at the buttons. Whenever I see this, I imagine a button popping out at me.

100_4919a-compNot too often do I have a larger lot of vintage buttons, and I was excited to be able to use 100_4917-compup a “baker’s dozen” of 13 shell buttons. They all are a little different in character, but that’s what makes them special. Button number 13 wasn’t actually needed by time I hemmed the dress, so it is sewn in to the bottom side seam as an extra “just-in-case” one. The waistband middle was way too thick for me to even remotely consider making a workable buttonhole there – it might break my precious special vintage “buttonholer” machine. So I just did a once around to make what looks like a buttonhole there and sewed the button directly down. There are double heavy-duty snaps to keep the waist band securely closed. When the dress is on me, no but you will know the difference.

100_4847-compThe piping really is the small addition to this dress’ design that makes the whole thing go up a notch in style. Why have a separate waistband designed in the dress and let it get lost in appearance?!? This was my first time sewing with piping, and I am relatively happy at how I did wedging it in the seams. I wasn’t sure how to even make it work, until I had the idea to use my invisible zipper foot on my 1970’s Brother sewing machine. I suppose using a zipper presser foot is a simple cheater’s way of doing something without an expensive specialty part, but, hey – it worked great! It took lots of pinning, measuring, and slow stitching to reach the point where I was happy with the piping…and I am my own worst100_4918-comp critic. I must admit I wasn’t 100% happy with the “Wrights brand” piping tape, but I don’t really know if there is any other option out there to buy. I’m not meaning to complain, for after all, all’s well that ends well, especially when the addition of piping helped my dress turn out better than I had hoped. As a last minute “after-everything-else-is-done” decision, there is also piping added along the top opening of the pocket. Otherwise the pocket would have been lost in the rest of the dress. Never underestimate the beauty and utility of having a pocket.

100_4892-compFor Easter, I totally splurged and chose my own gift to wear with my outfit – new shoes! I did not know until a few days before Easter if my dress would be done in time, and so I decided at the last moment to order my shoes from ModCloth. They are the “Say It with Sophistication Heel in Ivory”. The employee I spoke to on the phone was extremely kind and helpful, even giving me a free “rush” 2 day delivery upgrade on my order. I was so tickled! My shoes look so high heeled, but they are really the most comfortable heels I’ve worn in a long time. I love all of Chelsea Crew’s brand shoes and have several, but this pair is lovely – nice details and oh-so-very 1940’s. They are the perfect complement to my dress even though in reality they are a darker ivory color than I expected. I’ve seen old originals which look just like these…Chelsea Crew did a good job imitating those old beauties. By the way, the grass in our pictures really isn’t fake, just the first new grass of spring.1940's green snakeskin leather strap heels100_4900a-comp

Spring rains are necessary for such lovely grass but it made the ground mushy where I was posing. My heel sunk right into the ground and I totally felt stuck and frustrated. Pulling my heels out left me with a yucky plug of mud, ruining my “perfect Easter outfit” look. Nothing mars the prettiest Easter outfit like an ugly scowl as hubby caught in this picture. A passing man that was jogging on the trail behind me (which you can see his feet if you look by the tree) filled in the words for me, yelling out an exaggerated, “Eww, yuck!” It was quite embarrassing, funny, and totally memorable.

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