’73 Coat-style Shirt Dress, a Turtle, and a Belt

This is a complimentary layered outfit of three pieces, working together as an effortless way to stay warm in the cold a la early 70’s style.  Three of the major pattern companies contributed towards my outfit – Simplicity, Burda Style, and Vogue – to spread out my contributing sources.

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This is also one of those fun oxymoron outfits where I find alternative ways to wear garments taken for granted…my shirt dress is actually worn like it’s a coat.  It is a heavy denim, flowered and all.  It’s like I’m bringing the flowers from out of season to the sleeping winter landscape.  My turtle neck top is not at all dated but actually quite enticingly fashionable, and it’s neither fit on its own for the very cold temps, mostly just a perfect layering piece, especially with its short sleeves.  The jeans were made by me as well, from a pattern of a different era (blogged about in a separate post here).  I can even eliminate the extra layers underneath and wear the shirt dress with my vintage 70’s heels and a neutral belt for a dressy outfit at the other end of the spectrum (seen down later).  Yeah, I love to mix things up and break boundaries – a least a bit when it comes to the clothes I make!

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This outfit is made for Allie J’s “Social Sew” for the month of January 2017 “New Year, New Wardrobe”.  There isn’t much I intend to change for this coming year’s sewing, social-sew-2017-badgebesides filling in new dates of historical sewing (teens era, and early 20’s), and continuing to try new techniques and having fun doing unique and meaningful outfits (loose resolutions, I suppose).  I feel that this outfit applies to the monthly theme because the dress was a U.F.O. (unfinished object) as of 2016 fall, and I was starting new tackling it and finishing it so as to be happy with it.  This outfit further applies to the monthly challenge because I have been meaning to make these items for a while, like since 2014 for the dress and turtle.  70’s style is still “in” so I guess there’s no time like now to just get around to a long intended project.

THE FACTS:simplicity-5909-yr-1973

FABRIC:  The Dress:  a cotton floral denim which may have a hint of spandex; The Turtleneck: a lightweight polyester jersey in a blue navy, leftover from my 1971 “Bond girl” dress; The Belt: a thin jersey backed vinyl, grooved and a bit weathered like a skin, in a cherry red cranberry color

PATTERNS:  The Dress: Simplicity #5909, year 1973; The Turtleneck: Burda Style #114 A, from December 2014, online or in their monthly magazine; The belt: Vogue #9222, from 2016, View vogue-9222-year-2016Eburda-style-turtleneck-114-a-dec-2014-line-drawing

NOTIONS:  I had (believe it or not) everything I needed to finish all this on hand already without needing to buy more than an extra spool of tan thread.  I used three different colors of bias tape (whatever was on hand), used a vintage metal zipper for the back of the turtleneck, and used vintage buttons and the belt buckle from hubby’s Grandmother’s stash.dsc_1033a-compw

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress was halfway made in October and November of 2016, and completed this year, finished on January 20, 2017.  I’m guess-timating a total time of about 25 hours spend on the dress.  The belt was made on October 21, 2016 in only 3 hours, and the turtle top was made one night the week after that in about 3 hours, as well.

THE INSIDES:  The dress is nice inside with bias binding, the top is left raw for the inside edges, while the belt has cut raw edges, too, finished off in my own special way (addressed down below)

TOTAL COST:  The vinyl was a remnant bought on double discount at Jo Ann’s Fabric store – a total of about $4 for one yard, so there’s plenty left over for a purse, yay!  The other fabrics were something on hand for so long I’m counting them as free.  Thus, between the vinyl and the thread, this outfit cost me about $6.  Sorry, allow me to pat myself on the back for this one.

I am so, so happy to have finally found a use for this floral denim.  It had been in my mom’s fabric stash since I can remember, then she gave it to me for my stash and I had no intention or even remote idea of what to do with it for so many years.  There were 4 freaking yards of this dated-looking flowered denim that could be from the 80’s for all I know.  So when I happened to notice my Simplicity #5909 1973 pattern having a similar looking fabric, I was sold.  Choosing the ankle-length, long-sleeve option was a give-in to use up all of the bolt, as well.  I might have been taking an easy road to follow an existing drawing, but – hey, at least I found a use for what seemed doomed to be an ugly duckling in my fabric stash!

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Making the shirt dress was technically not hard – it fits me great out of the envelope with no real fitting.  What was difficult about it was dealing with the large amount of such a heavy fabric.  Marking all those pleats and buttons all the way down was exhausting.  Besides, the stitching required to sew this fabric hog together was boring, straight, and monotonous, especially when it came to the long side seams.  Just trying to stitch on it was its own problem.  Half of the time it took me to stitch was I think spent throwing and pushing around fabric so as to even get it laid out right just to sew on it.  I’m not meaning to complain, just wanting to throw this fact out to anyone who is thinking of making a 4 yard denim shirt dress, too – you’ve been warned what you’re in for.  Like I say, though, it’s worth it in the end.

I’m loving the features of the shirt dress.  Of course it has the large collar lapels that are so traditional on 70’s clothes, but this collar also has an all-in-one collar stand.  There are separate chest front and back shoulder panels which keep the upper bodice flat, without the pleats of the bottom 2/3 of the dress.  There are long horizontal knife pleats in pairs all the way down the hem, four in both front and in back.  The extra wide cuffs have a lovely double button closure, with a continuous lap opening (for which I merely used pre-made bias tape rather than self-fabric).  A baker’s dozen of camel-colored vintage buttons complete it.

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This dress pattern’s long version was definitely designed for a woman with weird proportions – tall women with petite length arms.  I am about 5’3” and I had to do a 4 ½ inch hem to have it fall at my ankles.  However, the sleeves were so short, and I had to add one extra inch in length to make them appropriate for my arms (and my arms are a ‘normal’ length, not petite).

The denim is soft with the little bit of stretch, but still heavy, so in lieu of interfacing I chose only to use a medium weight, non-stretch 100% cotton.  It stabilizes the cuffs, collar, and upper back and front bodice panels with making them stiff.  I do have to laugh at how much of a rustle my dress makes when I move.  The fabric is not a heavy of a denim as my husband’s Levi jeans, but it sure does make a heavy, sort of muffled static “white noise”.  Definitely not the best dress for sneaky espionage work…no possibilities of quiet stealthiness in my denim coat-dress. I’m just doing some silly reflection.  It is a great winter dress!  Someone that recently gave me a compliment on my outfit commented that you just can’t find anything like this to buy – yes, that’s why I sew!burda-style-turtleneck-114-b-dec-2014-model-shot

The other great chill buster that keeps me cozy is my lightweight turtleneck top.  I figured the turtle pattern would work well with my 70’s dress because the Burda model picture looks very late 60’s with the equestrian-style helmet/hat, her long hair, and A-line pleated skirt.

This was so ridiculously easy to make I couldn’t stop voicing my amazement for a while after I finished – just a few hours and voila!  Of course, my top was made up more quickly without having the full long sleeves, but even still this is a great pattern.  I barely had a yard of the interlock knit leftover and I was able to make this!?  I’m so tempted to whip up a dozen of these turtles in every variety – quilted knit, sweater fabric, sheer fancy stuff, and more especially I’m hoping to find a funky printed knit for a true Space Age look to go with my ’67 jumper.

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The long sleeves are something I do love, but they have more of a 1930’s look so I might end up using them as a replacement on an old-style elegant Art Deco dress in the future.  I will say the body runs small – I almost wish I had went up a size…but hubby’s happiness with how it looks on me makes me say, “Nah, I picked the right fit…”

dsc_1027a-compwThe back neck exposed zipper is sort of mixed feelings sort of thing for me.  I love the modern way it looks even though it is a vintage 50’s or 40’s era notion.  I do not enjoy how it almost always gets caught up with my hair even though I close the zip with my head upside down so my hair isn’t in the way.  Oh well, win some, loose some – I cannot think of a better solution so I’ll shut up about it.  Hint, hint – when in an adventurous mood, you can even wear the back neck unzipped and the stand-up collar lays flat on the chest for a completely different appearance to the top!  O.K., now I’ll move on.

Another amazing thing to this outfit is the belt.  Look at that asymmetric loveliness!  It’s freaking awesome.  I look at it and can’t believe I made it, it seems so professional.  This is a really great design and it has wonderful shaping for around the waist – this is not a straight rectangle sort of pattern.  Belts might seem hard to make or even mysteriously different and even intimidating (working with vinyl or leather), but all of that is blown away by using Vogue #9222.  The instructions are clear and all the designs are so neat I intend to make all of the views available.  In your face ready-to-wear, store bought belts…I can make something better than you, you are often only half belts, with elastic across the back.  My belt is all belt, 100% my style and my make!

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My only caveat is that I wish I had extended the length of the belt to go up to the next size.  Cutting out a paper pattern on a slick vinyl leaves room for shifting and a small margin of error.  In order to get the two belt pieces matching together, I had to trim them down slightly, and thus I ended up with a belt that was a little smaller than the pattern intended.  This is why I recommend adding an extra 4 or so inches to the belt length going around the waist.  You can always cut some off, but you can’t add it on, especially when it comes to vinyl.dsc_0002a-compw

I was able to machine stitch most all of the belt, but I used a tiny ‘sharps’ sewing needle to hand sew on the buckle and the belt loop.  I did not want to test four layers of vinyl on my machine so I did not fold in the edges of the seam allowance.  I left the edges raw and tried something experimental.  Taking a hint from store bought belts, which have some sort of seal along the raw edges, I used a matching colored nail polish (yes, fingernail lacquer) to paint over the edges of my belt, both coloring and sealing them at the same time.  It’s a rather permanent option, nevertheless I did see some faint rubbing off of the nail polish onto my dress after one wearing.  So – it’s not perfect, but an easily available solution that I am happy to see worked out so well.

This was the first time making grommet eyelets and I think they are a success.  I have tried before again and again to get metal grommets to turn out right, but that was experimenting on fabric (for a corset) and this time they came out much better in the vinyl.  It was like a boost of confidence I needed, feeling that ‘o.k. I can do grommets, I understand how they work now’ so maybe, eventually I can have them turn out well for my future corset.  Does anyone have any tips to share about the keys to successful metal grommets or even what to avoid?  Should I add some glue to the back (to keep them in place) and can you replace one if it gets wonky (or does that not work)?  Just wondering.

dsc_1041a-compwI hope this post has inspired you to see outside of the traditional box for sewing and making every day-type of clothing items.  There is so much room for inventiveness when you make things yourself, the sky’s the limit!  A dress that is a shirt-dress worn like a coat, a belt finished-off with nail polish…a girl’s gotta do what she has to do when she gets an idea with a sewing machine, some material, and extra time on her hands!  Yup, I live on creativity and can’t stop.

Do you, too, have any big hopes for making some neat things this year, something which gets you all amped up just to think about it?  Do you too have some ‘ugly duckling’ fabric around just waiting for the ‘right partner’ in the form of a pattern to complete it (or did you ditch it)?  What is your favorite way to put yourself together to combat the cold weather?

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As Heavy as the Weather

Cold temperatures are my nemesis. I hate being chilly and get so very easily – even layers don’t help and only are uncomfortable for me. I know, I sound picky, but I seriously think I was meant for warm weather. Yet, clothes that are a combination of tailored, vintage, fashionable, extremely cozy are nonexistent in ready-to-wear…so I make them! The best thing about sewing is the complete independence it gives. You make reality what you want and/or need.100_6888a-comp

So…recently I opened my big mouth and expressed my excitement with a comment over at Burda Style.com when they recently re-released a “new” vintage 1957-1958 pattern. I don’t have anything like it and I really was struck by the simple slimming design. The comments that followed seemed to challenge me to get right to it and make my own version of the dress pattern sooner rather than later. Here’s that final garment just in time for an extreme cold snap. It was an unexpected project but perfect timing for our forecasted climate. My 1957-1958 wool dress is indeed as heavy as the weather demands, more like a coat dress than anything, yet oh-so-50’s fashionable and complimentary. I really do love it. The dress is cozy, comfy, and classy. Bonus – it has my favorite color purple with a little bit a sparkle!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  My fashion fabric is a thick wool blend (70% wool, 25% acrylic, 5% poly and other). It’s a purple and grey hound’s-tooth with some gold metallic strands woven through. The lining is a grey poly cotton blend broadcloth.Retro Wool Dress #128, 01-2016, dress pic with line drawing

NOTIONS:  Everything I needed was on hand already – bias and lace tapes, thread, and zipper.

PATTERN:  Burda Style’s “Retro Wool Dress” #128, from 01/2016

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Gosh, this dress took quite a while for me – maybe 30 to 40 or more hours spent over the course of two weeks. It was finished on January 20, 2016.

THE INSIDES:  All the inner seams are bound by either bias tape or lace tape, except for the armscye which is left raw on account of the complexity with the underarm gusset.

TOTAL COST:  This fabric was bought at Hancock Fabrics on a super clearance for $3.25 a yard. I bought 2 ½ yards but only used about 2 of them for the dress, so I suppose I spent about $6.50 on this dress. I’m counting the notions and lining as free because they were on hand.

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When I saw the pattern it immediately struck me as a coat-style dress. This is why I went with such a heavy wool. There were other ideas in my head that someone else might want to try. I was tempted at first to actually turn it into a coat, but now I’m glad I didn’t because I love it how it is. Then, I also had the idea to make the top half and the bottom half in two different colors out of a lighter weight chiffon type fabric, in brown tones, and add pockets to the chest for a kind of “safari” look. The solid color that the Burda model is wearing would look fabulous with some beautiful embroidery down the length of the vertical pleat. So many ideas and so little time. Let me know if you make any of my other ideas for a variation on this pattern!

Burda patterns (for those readers who don’t know) need some assembly and tracing before being ready for layout on your chosen fabric. They can be bought as a downloadable PDF file, to print out, or traced from the leaflet included in a magazine issue (the “Retro Wool Dress” is in the January 2016 edition).  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a pattern prepped. This is the stage where I pick out my size, tracing out only the size I need to use, including any grading and adding on chosen seam allowances.

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I don’t mind a challenging project, but during the sewing part, this dress was something I felt like I wrestled with and was confounded and frustrated by it instead. Part of my ‘frustration and wrestling’ was on account of the thick and heavy combination of the fabrics I used. However, the instructions to the pattern did not help make this dress a success at all. They are convoluted and not very clear. Since when do you sew together the side seams and the rest of the general dress and then add in the in-seam pockets?! Talk about making things hard, if not nearly impossible. The pattern piece doesn’t even seem made for this method. If only the paragraph for the pockets had been added in several lines earlier, it is effortless to sew in pockets as part of the side seams like all my sewing books show and as I’ve always done in my sewing. The skirt back pleated flap instructions were basically non-existent too, as it didn’t seem to recognize that the skirt is cut differently (on the fold) so it is unlike the bodice back’s pleated flap. I figured it out on my own and am happy with how it looks, I just wish I hadn’t created some smoking of my mental gears to get it how it is as you see it. As I end up saying with most all reprints of vintage patterns, I would absolutely love to see the original as a comparison. Vintage patterns almost always impress me in some way or another so I wonder if some change was made to the original before this pattern was released.

100_6828a-compSpeaking of change, I made no more than a few slight changes to the design of the pattern, and all of these were on account of a better look and fit. The only exception to this might be the sleeve pattern piece, where I combined to two separate front and back into a combined one piece sleeve merely for the sake of simplicity.

This pattern seems to run quite small, especially in the sleeves and the skirt bottom, and I don’t think it’s solely because of the thickness of my material. I went with my normal sizes, grading up as normal for my waist and hips, but I technically could have went up a whole size up more than that. I even cut the sleeves on the bias, but they still restricted my arms to the point that I couldn’t reach up to my hair. When I would reach back to put my hands in my pocket I would smash my bust due to lack of room too. I have a feeling that there is too sharp of a curve to the bottom of the sleeve. If this was a ready-to wear item, and fit this restrictively, I would not buy it. So time consuming work and all, I unpicked liberally to get the fit right (as you can read more about later down). For every two steps I made in progress, it truly felt like I made two steps back in unpicking. For most of the evenings spent sewing I would get one spot right only to have to unpick another spot which needed re-sewing and fixing, but after so many nights of this balancing act I eventually worked out all the ill-fitting spots. To me, the garments I make should fit right or the time spent in sewing is worth no more than time roaming a mall for clothes to my liking. A pattern needs to turn out well, too, so others can enjoy it, thus I’m giving an open confession of the problems I ran across.

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So many extra little touches were made, that for my benefit (and maybe yours), I’ll quickly list them. Firstly the pockets were sewn into the skirt pieces before doing the side seams for real “in-seam” pockets. I remembered to do the hem (a wide 1 inch hem) before doing the skirts’ pleats and side seams to make things easy and less bulky. The same early pre-hemming was done to the sleeve hems. In order to fit my derrière, I took out the back skirt darts, cutting their length in half. The vertical back pleat was let out for a smaller fold to give my rump and legs slightly more room. I picked out the 5/8 inch seam allowance of the bottom half of the sleeves to a scant 3/8 inch. The self-facing edges for the front were turned under for a clean edge (not mentioned in the instructions but a very good idea I think). A tiny hook and eye is sewn at the top outer edge of the zipper end to hide it under the pleat (works great). Shoulder pads are tacked in as well to nicely fill in and shape the bodice. Finally, to appease my preference, I tacked down the top corners of the front top opening so that it seems as if there are lapels at the neck. 100_6862a-comp

Under the most of the center front pleated lapel is the zipper. It has an interesting lapped sort of insertion which reminds me of a pants zipper fly. It was confusing at first especially sewing it wrong side down (see picture), but it works. When my mom saw the dress on me, she was voicing, “How do you put it on? Oh, there’s a zipper under the flap!” Surprise.

The very best alteration to the fit and look of the “Retro Wool Dress” is my addition of underarm gussets. I don’t mean to pat myself on the back, but the gussets make it more 50’s than it already is and fix my fitting problems. Underarm gussets were a frequent sight on 1950’s era garments. They are also the perfect solution for problems with sleeves which offer limited movement without having to start from scratch again. I drafted my own gusset this time – a pointy oval “cat eye” shape with a 2 inch center width by 4 inch center length, without seam allowances. Two and ¼ inches down the side seams was unpicked open in the bodice and in the sleeve so could insert the one piece gusset. See Gertie’s blog for a great tutorial.  Adding the gussets wasn’t really all that hard for me to sew, just awkward and fiddly, but I made it work…and boy does it improve things! Room glorious room!

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“Do I really have to highlight something at my armpit? There’s the gusset. Awkward!”

100_6880-compPockets flaps are vying for first place with the underarm gussets when it comes to helping the look and fit. As they were, the side pocket openings were slightly puffing out, changing the silhouette, as well as being a little too obvious for my taste. So I made them more “fashionably” obvious by closing them with a self-drafted flap closure. I drafted a 3 inch by 2 inch triangle (before seam allowances) to be sewn on the skirt back pocket edge and closing with a decorative button with a snap closing underneath. I love the little bit of extra class the pocket flaps add. They so clearly remind me of those little fine details that I see with designs (especially on suits) from the 1940’s and 1950’s when class and style and attention to subtlety was a matter of course. Both the gussets and pocket flaps (I think) show how a little extra effort goes a long way.

Burda’s “Retro Wool Dress” has a timeless appeal which is modern yet entirely vintage. It has the hourglass silhouette with the slightly exaggerated blousy hips of a classic 1950’s dress. Yet, its features also remind me of other garments I have Chanel Tan and Blue Cotton Tweed Sleeveless Zip Front Sheath Dress, spring of 2009seen, such as a spring 2009 Chanel cotton suiting dress which has a simiButterick #1192, year 1941 pattern cover-complar zip front under a vertical placket. Burda’s “Retro Wool Dress” also makes me think of another vintage pattern from another decade, Butterick’s new re-release #6282 and (what I think) is its original, Butterick #1192 from my collection, both from the year 1941. These two also have a vertical placket down the front, with a pleat hiding underneath and closures down part of it, and the small flap collar lapels (on the old Butterick #1192) like what I did to my version of Burda’s dress.

Thanks Burda Style for another interesting re-release of a vintage pattern. It is a good dress for me and a wonderful addition to my wardrobe, as well as an enjoyable make.  Another step forward in my effort towards combating the cold!