“On The Sunny Side” – a Casual, Lace-Collared 1920’s Dress and Re-fashioned Cloche Hat

“It will help us every day, it will brighten all the way, if we keep on the sunny side of life.”  So goes the chorus from the song popularized in 1928 by the famous Carter family, but the song is also known for being in the year 2000 movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”  This song, the movie, and the general time frame of both have inspired me to make a bright and daily-life type of summer 1920’s dress together with a hat re-worked into a 20’s cloche.  There isn’t anything like a great outfit that you love to be in to help brighten up a disposition and add to a great day.

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A vintage tractor show in a small town only a day’s trip away was the catalyst behind my creation.  The occasion was a dusty, farm-centered, old-timey day of laid-back enjoyment which completely reminded me of something out of the depression-era dust bowl, the general setting of the movie, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”  I don’t know what was brighter that day…my dress or the summer sun.

B6140THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% rayon challis in a bright coral with a vintage cotton collar

PATTERN:  Butterick # 6140, year 2004

NOTIONS:  I had all the thread and bias tape needed, but I had to go out and buy the blue ribbon the day before my dress was worn.  The collar is from my stash, as was the hat ribbon and button (which was from hubby’s Grandmother).

100_5735-compTHE INSIDES:  French seamed

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress took me about 8 hours, and was finished the day before the event, July 18, 2015.

TOTAL COST:  maybe $15

I had been sitting on the idea for this dress for a while but when we decided at the last minute to go to the vintage tractor show, it gave me the reason to whip this up from off of my sewing table.  I am glad I had a reason to wear it because it seemed harder in the thought process than it was to actually make it.  This is the cutest loose fitting sack dress I could have ever imagined.  My dress being from the 1920’s is (I suppose) the only way to reconcile mentally my wearing something so generous.  My cloche hat doesn’t do much for the sun but is a good match for what I believe is a decently historically accurate 1920’s ensemble.

The-Artist-Costume and drawing by Mark BridgesMy preliminary inspiration was from a Hollywood source –Bérénice Bejo’s character Peppy Miller in the 2011 movie “The Artist”.  Our first sight of her in the movie is when she is wearing a jacket over a dress very similar to the one I made.  The movie dress, however, has long sleeves with a sleeveless vest/jacket, but to make my outfit versatile, my dress is sleeveless and a long sleeve jacket will be sewn later.  I even tracked down a costume sketch so I could see all the original colors which I stuck to as well in my version.  Part of the reason for the use of odd colors on the movie dress was so that things would show up a certain way in grey toned colorless film.  Nevertheless, the early/mid 1920’s into the 30’s are classic for pairing and using bright and unusual colors (reflective of the positive outlook of the times, see this as one example), so as wild as a bright salmon peach and royal blue sound, there is a high probability they were matched.  Honesty, I love the finished look.

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To start with, I used my easy, two-piece, fall-back basic Butterick for my 20’s shift silhouette.  It has been used with great success already for two other 20’s era creations – a blouse and a satin dress.  This time, I had to do some detailed adjusting of the neckline so it would suit my chosen lace collar.  I also opted for the easy and quick bias facing for the neck and arm hole finishing as the rayon is a bit sheer.  A deep hem was made so as to weigh down the dress a bit. 100_5737a-comp

With the dress done in a jiffy, I figured out how I wanted the center front skirt insert to be pleated and made a draft from plain paper – a box pleat in the middle and plain knife pleats on each side.  Then I made the real version of the pleated skirt insert and top stitched it down before cutting away the dress fabric behind.  This process reminded me of opening up a window.  That was all!  With only some quick hand tacking of the add-ons, my dress was done in the blink of an eye.  Many mid and late 20’s dresses have similar center front skirt interest which adds room to move.

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My parents (on occasion) pick up vintage items they know I don’t have but are uniquely special, such as collars and unique notions, with the occasional accessory.  Making this dress gave me my first occasion to use my now substantial lace collar collection, all found by my parents.  I believe this particular collar that I used is not too old, but I really don’t have any idea besides I think it’s hand crocheted.  It is so lovely the way it has such detail and I love the pointed dip in the center back.

Adding a lace collar made me rather seriously reluctant for the first time…I felt like I was doing vintage quaintness overload.  Now I mostly sew and wear vintage, and wearing the 20’s styles is obviously from the past so I really shouldn’t care.  However, out of all the trends that have made a resurgence, lace collars have not strongly come back and in my mind I’ve always seen them as too cute to handle on anything other than little girl clothes or a civil war era dress.  However, I did feel like this dress needed that collar, and if ever I was going to try and wear one…this was it.  Somehow, I think the plainness of shape and bright color to the dress saves the collar from becoming what I so feared.  Whatever it is, I do like it and already have plans for my other lace collars.  I’ll be like the anti-trend setter…

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The neckline ribbon is merely pinned in place with a safety pin because I really don’t think modern satin ribbons wash well…and I don’t want to try just to find out.  After having the rest of my dress be vintage appropriate materials (rayon and cotton), I regret having a poly satin ribbon, but I have limited resources and my dream materials might have to stay that way.  The ribbon does have a nice dull shine and it does give my dress the right amount of cheery fun.

100_5720-compMy hat is my first attempt at re-fashioning head wear.  I don’t think it’s too shabby.  My methods were primarily sewing and folding rather than soaking, re-blocking and shaping.  It was a cheap basic shaped hat originally, similar to the hat I used for this re-fashion.  My problems with this hat are purely on account of me – 20’s hats are so darn close fitting and my hair gets so frizzy on hot, humid days that there is no room to hide all my locks!  I can get away with this somewhat with winter cloches because the wool sticks to my hair, but this straw one does not.  Besides, I need my glasses to see and for some reason this hat interferes with my eyewear.  However, my hat is a success and fills in a niche by completing my 20’s wardrobe for summer.

I did not cut into the hat at all but folded in the back brim into the crown.  The sides are folded like tacos and covered up by the ribbon.  Everything is invisibly hand tacked own by clear filament thread.  Eventually, I might like to rip all this apart and do a better job (because I can) but it would be easier (and more fun) to probably just make a new hat.

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Technically, I believe the tractors behind me in most of our pictures are not really my dress’ era but probably 40’s or 50’s.  They did have some breathtaking 1910 to 1915 still working steam powered tractors for some historical awesomeness.  Although my hat is breathable straw, standing next to piping hot steam engines running in the height of summer was a bit overwhelming, but without the cloche my outfit suddenly had a 30’s aura.

100_5699-compWatching those old machines still working makes me realize how the times before ‘The Depression’ had such a swaggering confidence.  1920’s ingenuity is often overlooked because it is so far back and different than our modern technological advancements but most of what we take for advantage has its roots in the 20’s – television, synthetic fabrics, traffic signals, sunglasses, refrigerators, washing machines, and frozen food, to name just a handful.

The 1920’s definitely has a sunny side…

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Wallpapering a Tent

The idea in my title might sound ridiculous but hey, what if you really felt comfy in the tent and wanted to stay awhile? What if that tent’s ocular pleasantries are a bit ‘dated’ but still ‘old-fashioned’ enough to be cute? Well…what if that “tent” I’m speaking of is something worn in the form of an over-sized vintage nightgown, and the “wallpaper” is a quaint but soft cotton? Bingo! Hello year 1969.

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This project was not my own choosing or doing, actually, but was kindly passed on to me by my mother-in-law. It was begun by her and completed up to the point before the marking of the pieces and sewing them together takes place. I was tickled, happy, and (later during sewing) slightly skeptical of the finished project, but now I truly enjoy the nightgown and am glad I got to finish it. The nightgown was even sewn on the machine given to me by my mother-in-law, one which had been her mother’s. My Grandmother’s stash gifted to me provided the lace. By using thread to link the past and present together, I get to wear a piece of the family’s memories.

THE FACTS:Simplicity 8457, year 1969 nightgown and bed jacket pattern

FABRIC:  It is a very soft but also quite sheer (va-voom!) printed cotton that might have a small blend of poly…but I’m not sure.

NOTIONS:  Every notion came from what I had on hand – two colors of bias tape packs, ivory thread, two buttons, and some lace (from my Grandmother’s stash)

PATTERN:  Simplicity #8457, year 1969

TIME TO COMPLETE:  As I mentioned above, the preliminary work was started for me, but what I did do took me about 5 or 6 hours to do. The nightgown was finished on February 19, 2016.

THE INSIDES:  I made sure all the edges are cleanly finished inside in either French seams or bias bindings.

TOTAL COST:  Zero!!!

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The size to the nightgown seemed to be a bit on the generous size for my proportions but having a roomy nightgown almost always is a good recipe for comfort, I figured. The original fabric pieces were cut out with a slight up-grading of about ¼ inch on all seam allowances. As the pattern was a size up than what I needed, I cut off the excess to make the medium precisely. Then, as the nightgown turned out, it is a good size for me. I have made several other Simplicity patterns from about 1968 to the mid-1970’s in a size medium, too, and they also fit me well. Hmmm…perhaps these run on the small side.

Luckily, the scraps that were leftover had been kept with the fabric pieces and the pattern. I needed those scraps for some pieces which hadn’t been cut out yet – a continuous lap-style placket for the front button closing and a neckline facing. With the scraps still available, I decided to go all out with the dated look and cut out a collar (which also didn’t come with the nightgown as my mother-in-law gave it to me).  My thought was, I enjoy collars, doing one wouldn’t take much extra time, and the large baby doll style was cute in the cover drawing. Nevertheless, I do not like the collar as much as I had hoped but it isn’t that bad, either. In the back of my mind I think the chest placket would look a bit basic or empty without it. However, the delicate lace around the collar wins me over to it.

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Speaking of the lace, my Grandma’s stash (as I said above) provided the most lovely, delicate, deep ivory lace that I could have wanted. It was a length which was just enough with perhaps 5 inches to spare for under the edges of both the collar and sleeves. Speaking of sleeves, they were originally cut to be quarter length but I shortened them by 3 inches. Cropped sleeves and the thin lace felt more in keeping with the rest of the nightgown to balance out the large amount of fabric everywhere else.

As easy as this was to sew together, it seriously was overwhelming and almost hard to find the seams when working with it at the sewing machine. There is so much fabric for the long length version…which is why it truly seems like a tent when I’m not wearing it. However, on me, the excess fabric seems quite nice and in proportion to the rest. This nightgown is an extreme example of how different something can look on its own compared to when on a body. When I held it up to show my hubby, he said the nightgown reminded him of something to wear to go camping. “Why?” “Well,” he came back, “if it wasn’t so thin, the whole family could stay warm under that nightgown.” That was a creative –albeit unexpected – thing to say, and funny to think about! I’m still laughing to myself just writing it! I think my calling the nightgown a tent had something to do with his idea…

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It actually took longer than I realized to wake up and hear the thought in the back of my head regarding the fabric’s print. I knew that the more I looked at the heavy layer of white in that repetitive vertical design I was always confused, like I was thinking, “this can’t be fabric”. The pastel colored bouquets in between the white swirls were the most annoying part of the print ‘til I was lying in bed on day and I saw the outdated floral wall paper on our ceiling (yeah, we need some renovations…). Eureka – wall paper! I’d finally pinned down what my mind was thinking without my knowing it. This fabric truly needs to have glue spread on the back of it and be pasted up on the walls of a movie set for a retro disco-era background…just don’t do that now that I’ve made something from it. Seeing remnants of this fabric actually got my dad to talk about memories of his Grandmother’s walls. Gosh, it’s amazing what a fabric can do.

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I did not follow the instructions as to where to work the button holes and buttons and decided to stick to my personal taste. A touch of claustrophobia keeps me terrified of anything which fits too tightly around my neck. Thus I left the chest free of buttons and only chose two over-sized pink pearl buttons to close the lower third portion of the placket. With no interfacing added into the placket (or anywhere for that matter), making a button hole in this thin fabric was a frustrating nightmare but nothing a little hand-stitching and some “fray check” liquid couldn’t fix. I’m still a bit frustrated that I took the time to make nice insides but sew such a crummy button hole. So goes life – at least this only happened to a nightgown and nothing made for wearing out and about.

DSC_0087a-compThis nightgown reminds me of an important point. Having one’s own taste is important, and recognizing that fact is even more so. Just because something is “out-of-date” or not conforming to what current trends tell us to put on doesn’t – shouldn’t mean you ignore your own likes or dislikes. To a point, those who rely on “ready-to-wear” are restricted but for those who sew…the possibilities for self-expression through what you wear are endless! When fashion is in the hands of one whose knows how to manipulate paper, fabric, and thread…THAT is a powerful, satisfying, source of enjoyment.

Sure this nightgown is odd, by hey, I’m glad to get to try it out and, gosh, it is comfy to lounge about and sleep in. It is so curious in so many ways, and between me and hubby we’ve thought of several ways of looking at it which make us smile. Since when is different bad?! So, in the end this is one of the strangest ways of liking an unexpected project. Who would have guessed? Perhaps a new and unexpected style might be just the “palate cleanser”, “trial for your skills”, “branching out of a style rut”, or “trip down memory lane” which shows you what you never knew you could like. Who doesn’t like something new?!

Hollywood 1944 Scalloped Front Blouse

This blouse may be a basic white, but it is anything but plain. It has a character that reminds me of how vintage patterns conveniently brought movie star glamour to the populace for a decent price. Who doesn’t have a film fashion crush in some way or another? So…bring on the Hollywood patterns!

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Hubby said, “Strike a ‘Peggy Carter’ action pose.”  This is my interpretation.

100_4940-compMy Hollywood blouse was directly inspired by a newly modern “icon” of the vintage world – Agent Peggy Carter. She wears the most simple but beautifully classy blouses, many with amazing collars and appealing details such as contrast top-stitching, pretty buttons, or special sleeves. There isn’t a blouse in Peggy’s wardrobe which I’ve seen yet that looks like mine, but it has the same feel to me of special touches and unique design. This is why I chose to make a basic white blouse superbly snazzy with a scalloped front collar pattern. Here’s to both the red, white, and blue and the power of a strong woman clad in 1940’s fashion!

THE FACTS:

100_4818-compFABRIC:  It is a rayon, cotton, polyester blend “linen-look” line of fabric from Hancock Fabrics store.

NOTIONS:  I had all of what I needed on hand – the bias tape, buttons, and thread.

PATTERN:  Hollywood #1318, year 1944

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The blouse took me about 4 or 5 hours to make and was finished on March 17, 2015.

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THE INSIDES:  All edges are bias bound.

TOTAL COST:  Under $10

Being detail-oriented, this pattern was great for fulfilling my enjoyment of tricky time-consuming tasks which tests my skill (like all the scallops). Beyond any pleasing features, this was also compelling as it is the first Hollywood pattern which I’ve sewn. Hollywood patterns are often considered rarer (compared to Simplicity or McCall) and are slightly harder to find due to the fact that they were only made between 1932 to about 1947. Those patterns with a famous radio or movie name and face in the star on the envelope front are more special than those without. I must admit I have mixed feelings but am overall pleased using a Hollywood pattern. Its instructions were laid out differently, in a way I found a tad confusing and not as clear as they could have been. The finished blouse did seem to turn out on the generous side, too – not something I find in vintage patterns too often. I’m wondering if this tendency to run a bit large is connected to Hollywood patterns, because it certainly doesn’t have to do with the fact the pattern is unprinted (as surmised after making many other unprinted patterns). I do find their designs lovely, so I shall see what happens when I sew up the other handful of Hollywood patterns which are in my collection.

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Being an unprinted pattern using the “punched out holes” method, the scalloped front edge took a ton of marking. I just kept filling in hole after hole after hole! Then I ended up with what looked like a big connect-the-dots puzzle. The pattern piece layout guide on the instruction sheet clarified any confusion I had, but I just needed to think of how the finished product needed to look to figure it out anyway. It might sound hard but it was really fun! The only not-fun part was snipping the curves and turning them right side out into perfect half circles. Every time I do this much snipping, I always save the zillion of tiny triangles leftover…someday I hope to do something wildly creative with all these little pieces of fabric confetti.

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The instructions did not call for interfacing or any kind of stabilization, and although I know old vintage patterns leave out many basic elements of sewing because women “knew” what to do already, I left it out. I wanted my blouse to be easy care with a soft appearance, and interfacing would go against that aim. The neck and collar edges are faced, but not interfaced. I merely used a tight stitch length to keep the fabric from stretching and make my time to sew those amazing scallops not spent in vain.

100_4915-compI am impressed with the ingenuity of the sewing method to the collar. I believe it is a sort of a simple “waterfall collar” and is cut as one with the blouse front. The self-collar is cleverly manipulated so that it turns, gets slashed and darted so that it goes towards the center back neck, making the collar naturally lay open the way you see it. This part was tricky, and I got it wrong at first (due in part to the slightly unclear instructions), but with some unpicking and a little re-stitching, it came out right. Vintage patterns are so smart, they never cease to amaze me.

Down the front, the buttons are antique real mother-of-pearl, carved into a nice smooth knot with a deep inner cut out where they get sewn down. Sure the buttons are ivory on a white blouse…but I don’t care. I love how the buttons feel so cool – sometimes even cold – to the touch, much like how marble stone or metal keeps a differing temperature than the air around it. When I feel this it makes me aware of how special this blouse is to me. It has something about it you just can’t find anymore and knowing sewing can bring vintage back. However it does make me a bit apprehensive to clean this blouse in the washing machine on account of the buttons. They are extraordinarily thick nodules, otherwise I’d never have put them on in the first place. So far so good, but now that I’m talking about the buttons I don’t feel like pushing my luck and it might resort to hand washing from now on.

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My blouse goes with many different bottoms, but I like it best with a basic color skirt, such as navy blue so I can wear red accessories and feel like Agent Carter. However, for Easter 2015’s daytime ‘visiting with family’ I changed into my white blouse with a bright plaid skirt (modern thrift shop find with 40’s details) and an authentic vintage 40’s hat.

Do you have a favorite blouse which has some detailing which makes you feel special just to put it on – is it simple or snazzy? Do you also have a garment that you made in imitation of someone in Hollywood? Does imitating that Silver Screen starlet inspire you to attempt sewing a challenging garment? (This has happened to me on a few occasions already!) It’s amazing what we who sew (or knit) will do in order to make real our dream garment, isn’t it!

P.S. This blouse was part of an “Agent Peggy Carter” ensemble which I put together for being featured on “PopWrapped – Fan Tribute” (see the post for this here).

1976 “Disco Dots” One Yard Blouse

The more I sew, the more I am amazed by the amount of wonderful projects I can make from one yard or less of fabric. You really don’t need that much material to make something incredibly useful, interesting, and all-around great! Here is a post about my latest “one-yard-wonder”… a classic sleeveless button front blouse from 1976.

100_5858a-compTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  One yard of a basic 100% cotton

NOTIONS:  All that I needed was on hand – the interfacing, bias tape, thread, and buttons.Simplicity 7353 yr 1976 pattern from my M-I-L

PATTERN:  Simplicity #7353, year 1976, from the collection of my mother-in-law

TIME TO COMPLETE:  From start to finish, the blouse only took 5 hours, and it was finished on August 4, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  So nice! All seams are finished in French seams, and the hem and armhole edges are covered in bias tape.  The facing edge is also covered in tiny 1/4 inch bias tape (see picture below).

TOTAL COST:  The fabric was bought from Hancock Fabrics for $5.00 or less.

100_5903-compMy blouse’s fabric was part of a three part set of matching prints, all in the same color scheme – one more of a large solid polka dot, one part floral/tiny polka dot, and the broken circle combo of both that was the print I used. My friend, the Hancock store employee, helped me decide which of the three to pick out for myself…thank you! I am so happy with my choice.

Originally, I picked out the fabric for my blouse because it reminded me of a print drawn on the cover of a 1960’s reprinted pattern, Simplicity #1364, but I had a “feeling” that the print needed a different, more funky design to go with it. After all, I have always admired how sleeveless shirt blouses look so cool and summer-appropriate in the warm weather months, but I did not yet have anything like it in my closet. Thus, between the right “feel” for the combo of design and fabric, the desire to make a different type of garment, the attraction of using a pattern from the family’s collection, and the ideas that the material brought to my mind, I made the project the way that I did.

100_5857-compNow the 1970’s were the height of the Disco era, and this culture was a large influence for my blouse. I personally enjoy the disco era music and songs, perhaps because I grew up hearing those songs from the late 60’s to 70’s through the vinyl records of my parents, who are (in my opinion) an awesome dance couple knowing all the best moves. The year after the date of my blouse, 1977, was the release of the famed “Saturday Night Fever” movie, which seems to have a fad all its own. However, the children’s cartoon character Snoopy was what anchored my impression of the Disco Era in my head when I saw the Saturday Night Fever Movie Soundtrack record cover&Flashbeagle VHS cover“Flash Beagle” episode as a little girl. Even though the Snoopy episode was from 1984, it was based on dance classics such as “Flash Dance” and “Saturday Night Fever”, and my parents had the Snoopy VHS at home so I could watch it again and again (you can watch it yourself here). The print of the cotton, with its broken ridged circles in boldly bright and rich colors, reminds me of two things classic to the Disco Era: vinyl records and light-up dance floors like the ones in both “Saturday Night Fever” and “Flash Beagle”. This is how I came to the nickname “Disco Dots” for my new creation…and it makes me smile! 100_5860-comp

I found the pattern to be easy and straightforward, with the pieces matching/fitting together very well. My sole minor complaint is that the armholes turned out quite small, but this is nothing new – many patterns’ armholes seem snug to my larger upper arms, so I don’t know if this had to do with the pattern or just me. Look at those darling options with the pattern. If I get the notion, I might pick a contrast fabric and make the collar/head scarf to match my blouse. Wouldn’t View 1 (top center) be great in a lightweight flowing crepe or chiffon, perhaps in a retro floral like in the drawing?! Simplicity #7353 probably will have to be used again soon.

Simplicity 7353 yr 1976 pattern back from my M-I-LThis is my first 1970’s blouse and it has helped me get the big picture on how blouse trends change while staying the same. I have patterns in my stash for blouses in every era from the 1910’s to nowadays, and have made blouse from most of the decades in that time frame. I see slight and subtle changes to adapt to the differing popular silhouettes for each decade, giving room and shaping where needed to achieve the decade’s ideal. I also notice each decade of the 20th century having blouses with special characteristics of prevailing design use, such as a large variety of interesting collar styles in the 20’s, unusual sleeves in the 30’s, gathered shoulder fronts in the 40’s or kimono sleeves in the 50’s (to list a broad and brief summary of the variety), but behind all the details I still see a basic blouse construction with facings, similar collar insertion, and a button closure whether in the front, back, or side. This 1976 blouse has a long bodice length, with little shaping besides the bust darts and back neckline darts, buttons all the way down to the bottom hem, and gi-normous collar lapels.

100_5863-compI am so awed by the oversized collar – I love it! It is so large the collar tips extend over edge of the sleeve. Looking at the pattern cover envelope drawing, it seems the collar needs to be worn folded over higher behind the neck, so I ironed it down like that so it would stay. Hey – it did work to help the collar not hang over the armholes and it look really cool and subtly special.

After the giant collar, my favorite part about my blouse is how the buttons are a lovely toned-down light blue, a match for the bright colors in the fabric. They came from the stash of Hubby’s Grandmother to make this blouse a very special project in combination with the pattern coming from my mother-in-law.

100_5853-compPerfect for pairing with a multitude of solid skirt bottoms in my closet, this blouse is a new staple. I have one-color skirts in all in interesting colors and silhouettes and my blouse looks good with so many of them, I haven’t yet decided which is my favorite. It’s so fun every time I wear my blouse to change things up and pair it with a different skirt, shoes, jewelry, and possibly a sweater once the weather turns chilly. Versatile pieces are so great! In our pictures, I’m wearing my blouse with a – brand cotton twill skirt, bought years back. I love the way the bright pastel lime green is so unusual and fun for summer.

My next post will continue the 1970’s decade, but here’s a teaser – it will be menswear. Both this post and the up-coming next post share the same colorful background location of the side wall to the South-Hampton Art Studio-Gallery.

A “Daily Life” Dress from 1945

In my sewing, most of what I make is finished inside and out quite cleanly with time honored methods, such as French seams and bias binding or lapped edges. This is all good, but it also makes my garments seem very new, perfect, and not entirely ready to be possibly marred by food stains, play stains, or fabric boo-boos which happen when being a mom. “New and perfect”, too, is all good and is as it should be, but sometimes I feel I am missing out on that comfortable, daily life, style of dressing which you see in many of the old time black and white pictures of people from 50 or more years past. In reality, those everyday clothes are what was worn when memories were made, duties were done, families cared for, and (in all) life was lived.

100_3843a-compI started out this project unsuspecting what was ahead, making a dress from a 1945 pattern. I was excited because the pattern was a gift for my birthday and the fabric I chose for it was a perfectly wonderful feed sack rayon. Little did I know that here was the perfect opportunity to make lemonade from lemons and end up with a new, but already-broken-in, comfy handmade vintage piece meant for being that “daily life” style of garment our grandmothers and moms quietly built history wearing. Now I can live my modern daily life, build my own family, and make new memories in a re-make of their style.badge.80

This is another post part of my own “Agent Carter” 1940’s sew along.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  A 100% rayon challis, bought from a JoAnn’s Fabric store.  It is a feed sack style, cool toned, swirling leaf-and-vine print, in light turquoise blue, tan and a bit of navy against a field of slightly off-white.

NOTIONS:  No notions were bought – I had all the interfacing, thread, and hooks-and-eyes needed.

100_3836-compPATTERN:  McCall 5946, year 1945, actually a ‘Maternity’ dress.  It was thoughtfully bought for me as a birthday gift from a good friend.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Not long at all, maybe 7 or 8 hours over 3 nights, were spent on my dress.  This project went quickly and was finished on September 26, 2014.

THE INSIDES:  The innards of my dress are left raw to do their own crazy thing and fray at will.  This sort of “finishing” usually drives me insane, but there is a very big reason for my doing this, which you’ll read later on below.

TOTAL COST:  I remember knowing I paid way more than what the fabric was worth, but still reasonable enough to really buy.  In total, I think my dress cost about $14.00 or less for 2 ½ yards.

I used this pattern as an opportunity to experiment and attempt some of the most dramatic pattern downsizing which I had done so far. I usually try to only get patterns very close to my bust size. Grading patterns up is no problem for me, and I have done downsizing in small increments. I’m tired of being confined to what designs are my size, so I did my homework and learned a new skill. Doing the math, and dividing up to take out a whopping 5 inches, the pattern was folded in vertically. The new size is not permanent, merely pinned in place. I can’t wait to do more of this method of pattern grading – it was fun and challenging for me.

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Even though my dress’ pattern is labeled as a “maternity” dress, I really don’t see it as such. Now don’t take a hidden meaning to my making this dress…I’m not expecting anything at this time and I’m not sewing this ‘to prepare for something’ – I liked the pattern, it’s in a year I haven’t done yet, and it looked like a very entertaining design to assemble. Personally, I think this dress, and other 40’s and 50’s maternity fashions I have seen, are basically normal fashions, for non-expecting ladies, engineered very ingeniously to adapt to the possibility a growing belly. I find these maternity labeled fashions to demonstrate an even higher creativity than what I already see in vintage fashions. Women back then apparently did not make a garment that they would only wear while expecting…they made clothes that would last long term and adapt for their life, to get true use out of what they wear. We in modern times tend to forget that clothes back in the 40’s were a real expense, not always easy to come by, and a lot of unnecessary “luxury” clothes did not exist for the bulk of the working class. Fast, cheap fashion of nowadays has spoiled us a bit.

McCall 5330 yr 1943 dicky insert dress&McCall 5701 yr 1944 -comboMany other non-maternity clothes in the mid-1940’s have a similar wide ruched front belly band, so this feature on my dress is a classic, but not always common, feature to have for 1945. The ruching doesn’t stretch, unless it would have been sewn with elastic instead of regular thread, so this doesn’t necessarily aid in the possibility of maternity wear – a style feature only. There are actually 5 rows at the belly section, and 3 or 4 more at the top of each shoulder center to provide bust fullness. It is the ingenious closure system which sets this dress apart and also gives it the possibility of being worn by an expecting mother, as well as making it an easy-wear, easy-sew house dress. This 1945 is a pullover, with no side zipper, because hidden under at the ends of the ruched belly band are two hook and eyes, which create tucks to bring in the dress when it closes. Smart! For normal wear, the closure system makes for a fun, new, uncomplicated way of dressing, and for an expectant mom, it becomes totally adaptable by not closing the hook and eyes.  Check out the pattern instruction drawing sheet.

100_3867-compThe front bodice section is also designed to be extremely long and the entire bodice itself is instructed to be lapped onto the skirt portion for even more adaptability. This way, one could take out the front bodice seam and make it longer to fit over a pregnant belly, if need be, but in my case I merely sewed to the skirt at the natural waistline. I have no expectation of both taking out the waistline seam and using the front closure system to make this dress adapt to maternity wear, so I merely trimmed off the excess front bodice length and stitched the waistline as a regular seam. I just find this dress’ styling very ingenious and worthy of understanding. (P.S. I also think pattern’s cover drawing very beautiful!)

Ah, the poor pitiful fabric of my dress is really wonderful against the skin and deceptively nice looking. You see, I didn’t notice the slew of threadbare holes which riddled the rayon UNTIL I was halfway through sewing the dress together. Yes – terrible holes that look like a cross between a feast for a silk moth and a brushing with a cheese grater. I was so focused on the interesting design and how quick the dress was coming together. I was sewing on the front facings for the mock wrap of the bodice and gave an audible, “What in the freaking world…?!” Needless to say, I hold a grudge against JoAnn Fabric Store for selling products this “quality”, but I should have been more hawk-eyed myself. The holes are about 1/8 to ¼ inch big and randomly all over, although primarily on the left side of the dress’ bodice section. My hubby helped me see the “good” side of the situation, and I really did cheer me up to a point that the fabric’s flaws do not bother me. Now I am rather glad to have a dress which is already “broken in” but yet looks so great (so I think) because it is so comfy, easy, not “perfect”, and just a part of me whenever I wear it. See why this dress is great for real life for me? It’s perfect for errands, cooking, playing with my son, and etcetera…just being a mom, wife, homemaker, and creative person in modern times with vintage style! Dressing in vintage can be as comfy as those jeans and T-shirts many love to wear.

100_3854a-compAs you can see, I chose the collared style. I have nothing like this collar style in my wardrobe, so here’s to a first. However, it seems I do have a tendency to end up making mock-wrap dresses, though. This 1945 dress only has the bodice top half be the mock wrap, but my first full mock wrap oddly enough happened to be a 1946 dressy day dress (see post for it here), also from another McCall pattern. The McCall pattern for my 1945 dress was, as I mentioned earlier, a special birthday present from a special friend, but my first mock wrap (from 1946) came from my very first purchase of vintage patterns. For these reasons, I associate together the ‘46 McCall pattern with the one for the dress in this blog post. They both make me smile just to see them, even not being worn.

100_3846-compMy 1946 cotton mock-wrap dress and my 1945 rayon house dress both share a similar slight problem with the front bodice wrap. Both needed a slight hidden dart where the bodice joins to the skirt to bring the drooping wrap front more taught to eliminate an overly gaping neckline. I’m supposing this part of adjusting fit is all a matter of taste or body types. I, being on the smaller side of chest endowment (to put it nicely), prefer to bring my mock wrap fronts close against my chest. Flashing someone with a peek down your top is not cool. However, I am thinking that just perhaps the mock front of my 1945 dress just might have been meant to be a bit generous. Being an optional “maternity” garment, a wrap front does make things handy for nursing a little one…just sayin’. I made the long waist tie included as part of the pattern (it’s hard to see the tie in the pictures), and it nicely covers up the little tuck/dart that I took in at the bottom of the wrap front.

100_3850a-compThe collar and the facing strips for the mock-wrap front are the only places that were interfaced. The dress as a whole is very soft and drapey so I figured on going with that ‘theme’, if you call it, and I used a lightweight interfacing.  The right detail shot also shows off my handmade matching aqua crystal/sterling silver earrings and agate stone necklace.

For our photo shoot location, we chose a basic place – a 100_3847-complocal neighborhood delicatessen/grocery store. This store, called Le Grand’s Market, and it has been family owned for many years, with the building itself being 70 something years – a good authentic background for a “daily life” dress. It’s one of the last of the old “Tom-Boy” Grocery stores. We love Le Grand’s sandwiches, and here I’m faking at eating a giant plastic hoagie.

Le Grand’s Market is on the edge of the Italian district, what we call “La Montagna” or “The Hill”. In our United States of America, we owe much of our amazing deli shops, restaurants, buildings and neighborhoods (among other things) to Italian-Americans, who had a hard time of things in their new land through most of World War II. The character of Angie Martinelli, the waitress at the Automat in the Marvel TV show “Agent Carter”, keeps her Italian descent low key, no doubt on account of how post-wartime suspicions still ran high. Because of Roosevelt’s “Custodial Detention Program”, established in 1940 and 1941, Italian-Americans were often forced to live like nomads, live under suspicion, and only had access to low paying jobs, if they could find any. Read here the full official history of “A Review of the Restrictions on Persons of Italian Ancestry during World War II” – very interesting and formerly classified reading.

100_3842b-compAngie full shot at AutomatAngie was so dissatisfied being stuck with her waitress job, and had big aspirations to make it big in Hollywood.  Whatever her state in life, I thought she was a lovely person, a real friend for Peggy Carter and a trooper. Angie’s waitress uniform was also lovely, in my opinion, composed of primarily aqua color, and contrasted in peach tones – a combo I like, want to try, and wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. I often tend to fall for aqua, just like how I more oftentimes choose shades of purple. This 1945 dress is primarily aqua…or maybe that’s just what I see the most of in the print!

I would like to think of my “daily life” 1945 dress as a bit of a small tribute to people like Angie, the overlooked ones with big hearts and big aspirations, all the while helping to make the world go round, one day at a time. In 1945, the Second World War was winding down, the veterans were returning, women were used to making do, and it was starting to be the time for things to settle down. Daily life might seem mundane, and slow or unimportant, but it is anything but that. Just so, a casual, tattered, broken-in dress like my 1945 rayon house dress might seem stupid to make new, but, you know, it already has seen a plentiful share of wearing and good memories. No fancy dress that gets worn once or twice a year can boast the utility of a casual, classic, comfortable “daily life” dress 🙂

Do you have anything which you have made which is your “go-to” piece for comfort in both work and play? Do you have something that you made which is so comfy you could feel like you could live in it, even though it doesn’t necessarily look like that would be the case?