Princess in Purple – a Two-Piece Formal Set

I for one cannot fathom the popular princess craze for little girls…pink and sparkles, oh my!  Nevertheless, as much as I despise the whole commercialism of it, I’ll sheepishly admit I know I have some inner princess to me.  I must have – why else to I keep going for long full, swishy skirts, love to dress up, and make and wear fancy clothes even when there is really no event to wear them to?  I even remember as an early teen, I made myself this skirt for my birthday…it was ankle length, full, with a sheer small floral cotton over a darker blue lining and I sewed ribbons to hold the fullness back like a bustle.  I felt like Cinderella in my head…oh the things I’ve been happy making and wearing for myself!!!  I think this is (finally) a classy and adult version of princess dressing for me.

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As this season is Prom time and also officially “National Princess Week”, I thought I would post about my newest, formal, princess inspired creation.  My outfit is both vintage and modern inspired, in varying tones of my favorite color purple, and pretty much made with no pattern and no occasion to wear it to.  I just made it because I wanted to, and it made me happy to make something that I half-envisioned wearing in a dream.  Man, where’s my fairy Godmother to magic up a ball for me?  Granted I’ve already found (and married) my “Prince Charming”.

Speaking of hubby, he finds it funny that “National Princess Week” comes just before “National BBQ Week”.  He thinks maybe the two weeks can coincide with a “BBQ princess picnic” – and all I can reply to this is an eye roll and a mental picture of a recipe for a dress disaster.  What do you think?

THE FACTS:

FABRICS:  a purple poly crepe and blue navy chiffon for the skirt with a magenta pink lace and matching buff satin (leftover from making this hat) for the top.  All fabrics were bought at my local JoAnn’s Fabrics store from their special occasion collection.

Simplicity 1690, Leanne Marshal yr. 2013PATTERN:  Simplicity #1690, a Leanne Marshal pattern from 2013 for the top while the skirt was self-drafted by me

NOTIONS:  I only used what was on hand, but this didn’t require much – specialty colored waistband elastic in navy (leftover from this past skirt project), thread, and hook-and-eyes.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My outfit was finished on August 8, 2016.  The lace top was made in 2 or 3 hours while the skirt took me about 5 hours.

DSC_0017a-comp,wTHE INSIDES:  Nice!  The way my skirt fabrics were cut the selvedge edges are along the hem and waist – the waist is covered with elastic while the hems are turned under into tiny ¼ inch hems.  As the side seams of the sheer and crepe layers are separate, they are French finished.  The top is bias bound.

TOTAL COST:  I really don’t remember exactly how much I spent, even though I recently bought it.  Perhaps I really don’t want to count costs for this one, but it probably wasn’t over $40…

I keep seeing this combo of crop top and full, long skirt popping up everywhere – in some e-mails from Mood Fabrics, in clothes and department store catalogs, in the front window of local formal/bridal shops, and in pattern re-leases.  It seems as if I started seeing such a trend when this past New Year’s celebration fashions were coming out and it has extended into and through the current Prom/school dance season.  I do like the idea of having an easy to wear and/or make option to traditional dresses, especially when it is no less ‘dressy’!  The basic design idea is really simple, too – hey, most ladies have ‘done’ skirts and tops at a regular non-dressy setting – and more body types can fit into a two-piece.  With a such a divided formal set, any little details, every variance of material, and fit differences all can be mixed and matched to have every set different and personalized to each body.  Sorry to ‘sell’ this trend, I just think it is awesome!

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When making my own set, I found that the tops need very little fabric while the skirts are fabric hogs (obviously).  I assume this is why so many of the crop tops to such two-piece formal sets are made of a more stunning fabric than the skirt – you can even out the scales when you pick an expensive material but can make something out of only half a yard of it!  Not that the bottom half isn’t worth it either.  Maybe a de-luxe taffeta skirt might look awesome on the right body/person/with the right color but then you’d need a basic, simple top.  I was tempted to go for the stiffer taffeta skirt-basic top combo, but the inner princess in me called for a swishy bottom.  A lovely lace in the fabric store won me over, too, to the idea.

Very easily do I tend to the color purple…in all its shades.  I still have it in this outfit, it’s DSC_0005a-comp,wjust more disguised!  The inner, lining layer of my skirt is purple, yes, but the sheer, true-blue navy over that combines to make a lovely and new color that changes up my fascination.  (My Anne Klein kitten heels match the over-layer blue, by the way.)  Purple is after all an intermediary between blue and red – so the navy sheer and bright pink are the opposite ends of the spectrum for my lining.  Purple is associated with royalty, making this even more of a princess-y outfit.  Did you know that “in fact, Queen Elizabeth I forbad anyone except close members of the royal family to wear it. Purple’s elite status stems from the rarity and cost of the dye originally used to produce it” says ‘LiveScience’.  Here’s your history nugget for the day…and a reason to buy more purple along with me!

So many patterns for these long full formal skirts called for about 3 yards of fabric.  As I was buying double fabric for my skirt, I did not want to buy or deal with that much fabric.  After all, I was trying to make an idea in my head and sewing it for myself…so why should I confine myself to a pattern at all?  I bought two yards of my skirt fabric and figured things out from there.  I have long been admiring 60’s and 50’s full, pleated skirts that over emphasize the hips and make the waist high and skinny.  Check out my Pinterest boards for some of my inspiration both modern and vintage.  Then, I just used mathematics to make my skirt.  My skirt fabrics were cut on the fold created when the selvedges were lined up (laid out), so my skirt is 30 inches long by four total yards width around.  I know what my waist is and I knew the length of the fabric I had to work with, thus the pleats were figured out the calculating way.

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Double pleats on top of pleats? Yes! I started with deep, sewn-in tucks at the line of the inner fold of the first pair of center pleats, both front and back.  These sewn-in tucks control the fullness of the skirt, keeping in place the under layer of pleats in place so the second layer of pleats can lay right.  You can only see the sewn in pleats when I swirl and my skirt becomes as full as it can be, like in the picture above.

DSC_0019a-comp,wThese double pleats of course make the skirt quite heavy so I chose a decorative elastic waistband to hug my middle tightly.  My problem was how to get it on easily?  I made my skirt have a front closure opening through the middle of the pleats.  It closes with a line of three large hook-and-eyes hidden under the fold edge.  I like to add a brooch or decorative pin over the closure just because it makes the waistband look like a belt, and I do have so many of those sorts of add on pretties.  However, the waist front is also fine without it too, and I’m so glad my hand-sewing is invisible.  Sewing through all the layers – two thicknesses of elastic with all the fabric layers doubled – was tough on my hands.  I was poked quite well a good number of times, as well.  Yup, this was another project I gave blood for…

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Now the top was loosely cut off of Simplicity’s pattern.  I choose the size larger than what I needed, on purpose.  I wanted a wide cropped top to widen my shoulders and emphasize the high waist of my skirt.  Then the hem was cut along the design of the lace a few inches above the waist.  Matching solid poly was cut into bias binding to finish all the edges – inner side and shoulder seams, neckline, and armholes.  Easy!  The only ‘fault’ to the top is that it is airy thin and light, moving around somewhat off of my shoulders sometimes, plus I have to be careful of what I brush against because of the open lace.  It’s just too pretty to find any real problem.  Underneath I’m merely wearing a tube top, but if I ever want a full coverage option, I’ll sew up a second top in a nude or matching pink color.

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Our photo shoot location is at someplace called Tower Grove Park, characterized as “the largest and best preserved 19th-century Gardenesque style city park in the United States”.  It is one of the landmarks to see in our town, as it has historical importance together with lots of spectacular sights (architecturally and in regards to nature).  Among those sights are all the elaborate Victorian pavilions and houses, two of which we captured as the background for my formal set.  For some reason I see Victorian architecture as grandiose, somewhat brooding, mysterious, and flaunting in-your-face elegance.  Those same adjectives can also apply to many of the castles and palaces that many princesses find themselves in…

Have you had a similar project where you made something full-blown fancy, just because you had an idea or wanted to make something specific to wear (occasion or not)?  Do you also find it hard (like me) to have more occasions to dress up?  So many events which used to be fancy are becoming so casual nowadays.  However, there is “National Princess Week” to give us girls of all ages a semi-legitimate excuse to ‘go all out’ the way that pleases your inner nobility.

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“Something Old, Something New…”

Yeah, I know this phrase is cliché, and I do not have anything borrowed or blue to show either.  Nevertheless, this set of both tie-front crop top and shorts from the year 1959, made for Allie J’s “Tried and True” Challenge, is dually familiar and yet unexplored.  The fabrics are three “old reliable” favorites that I can never get enough of – cotton gabardine, fine linen, and rayon challis.  The “Tried” part is covered.  With the garments themselves being so simple in design and construction, there wasn’t much to go wrong for the “True” section.

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Yet, everything else – the date of the pattern, the style and type of clothing – is totally new.  This was an interesting set to make despite using my well-loved fabrics.  I went out on a limb to combine opposites (new and unfamiliar) for these two pieces and I can’t believe how much I’m enjoying wearing the results.

The craft of sewing never ceases to amaze and surprise me.  I wanted a challenge while still staying to something “Tried and True” and sewing, together with one of those always amazing vintage patterns, gave me just that.  However, more than this reason is the opportunity to like something I’ve never appreciated before.  Never had I been a pants wearing person…because I’d never found any that I liked yet fit me well…until I recently made my own.  Even more so, I’ve never been a shorts wearing person, but now one pair of well fitting, high-waisted, awesome vintage shorties has quickly converted me, despite my perennial dislike of my legs.  Sewing is definitely one of the best things you can do for clothing yourself, in my opinion.

THE FACTS:simplicity-2999-yr-1959

FABRIC:  The tied crop top has a front of printed rayon challis and a back of cotton gabardine.  The shorts are plain-woven 100% linen (so pardon the wrinkles), opaque and thick like a Holland linen.

PATTERN:  Simplicity #2999, year 1959

NOTIONS:  Only notions on hand were used here, which included a good amount of vintage.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The top took me about 7 hours to make and was finished on August 27, 2016.  The shorts came next, and after only 4 hours they were done on September 10, 2016.

THE INSIDES:  All bias bound

TOTAL COST:  The linen for the shorts was a one yard “Red Tag” scrap piece on sale for only $4 at JoAnn’s Fabric store.  Since the gabardine is leftover from this 70’s tunic, and the printed rayon was used from scraps of a 50’s shirt I made for Hubby (posted here) I’m counting both as free.

It’s kind of late in the season here to get much use from this set this year.  However, in the last month since it’s been made, I have grabbed this outfit out of my closet and worn it many times in many different combos, so the future is bright next year for these pieces.  Although I have the idea in the back of my head to turn this into a full playsuit by making a bra or swim top from the 60’s with a button-on skirt, what I currently have in my closet works to make a playsuit.  I even have a pair of turquoise 40’s pants (to be posted soon) that fit over the shorts and make for a WWII-era kind of set.  Two fabric or two color blouses are often seen in the 1940’s anyway, part of the whole “make-do-and-mend” practices.  Year 1959 is a great in between date for me so I can bend the style and make it have a flair of the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, or just plain modern as I choose.

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For such a simple design, I had problems with making the blouse, mostly due to the silkiness of the rayon.  I didn’t interface anything except the collar so finishing the facing, keeping it in place, and doing the button holes was a challenge.  I didn’t want the tie to stick out like a poker, which would happen if the facing was interfaced, so I still can’t see how things could have been done differently.  I might come back and blind stitch the facing down by hand next year, but for now the top is good enough.  After all, I did have such small scraps to work with (leftover from hubby’s shirt) I had to cut the front with the trees going upside down, so – yes – it does have a fault (sorry I pointed it out) but is no less great to me.  My handmade dual stand necklace of polished agate rock also makes my outfit even better to me.

Whoo Hoo!  This top is too easy to dress into…only two measly buttons in the front and a tie front that shows off how the hem barely comes down to skim above the shorts.  I wasn’t originally planning on sewing up the shorts but I soon realized that high-waisted bottoms, whether skirts or pants and the like, are a must with the top.  Like I said earlier, I was up for the challenge of making and wearing something new.  I was actually going to use another pattern from in my stash, McCall’s 5263 also from ’59, but the silhouettes seem quite slender compared to my shorts.  I just stuck with the same pattern as was used for the top to sew a combo the way the design intended.

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Straight off, I am surprised at how short these bottoms are for 1959 and mine are a whole inch longer than the pattern calls for!  I didn’t know short shorts were a thing at that time.  Next, I am blown away at the perfect fit that required no fitting at all.  No kidding – this is like the third pattern from two decades for vintage bifurcated bottoms that fits straight off of the paper with no personal adjustments in the least.   Maybe it’s just my body type but after three tests (from 1940, 1943, and now 1959) I just think past printed patterns designed their crouches to be comfy, their bottoms for someone with a real booty, side seams for real women, and a smart amount of ease.

Finally, I am so impressed at one subtle detail to these shorts which makes all the difference – the back darts which come from the waist.  The waist has a double darts at each four quarter around, two at each side fronts and side backs, nothing unusual.  However, the back side double darts are in two different lengths.  The inner dart is longer shaping over the booty, while the outer dart is half the length of the other.  I think this shorter one shapes more of the hips, side seam, and the rest of the back.  I think this suits me wonderfully.  A very similar pattern, Vintage Vogue #9189, a reprint from 1960, is lacking the “smart darts” (so I call them) seen on my pattern…not meaning to be smug.  I’m just getting disillusioned by the modern reprints.

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Ah, and not to forget I have lovely pocket room in these shorts, too.  Granted, there’s only one on the right side for my dominant hand.  One is so much better than none though!

dsc_0345a-compIn the facts, I mentioned using vintage notions, but more than that they come from my Grandmother.  From the stash she has given me, there was this unusual golden yellow/orange bias tape matching the golden color in the printed rayon with just enough for the armholes.  It is glorious all cotton, too!  There are other colors of bias tape besides golden yellow on this set’s other seams, mainly turquoise and black…whatever worked.  However, I am most proud of the zipper.  Not only was the zipper a “Zephyr” dated to 1963 on the package, it is from Grandma as well as installed with a new-to-me and much improved method to stitch it into the shorts.  I usually save my stash of vintage zippers and use them sparingly but as the rest of the set had Grandma’s stash of notions, and the length and color was just what I needed, why not go all out?!

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My crop top and shorts epitomize to me the post war vacation wear, which for some reason this year means to me going to California.  No, we haven’t had a vacation this year, but, if we did, I would choose California.  That will not be this year, so instead I’ll have to settle with palm trees where I can find ‘em, with a top and some shorts that make me imagine I’m going to go somewhere other than where I am.

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Little Pieces of Tropical Paradise

Vintage multi-piece play suits have always intrigued me with their lovely mix-and-match factor and smart wear-ability.  Thus I had to make my own rather than just keeping up the looking and admiring!

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When I say ‘play suit’, I am not talking about the modern interpretation of the term as a sort of jumpsuit.  I mean the 1930’s to pre-1960’s outfits geared for play, sport, leisure, and/or swim time which are often comprised of several pieces layered for practicality – a more skin revealing under set complete with add-on pieces for more decency when going out, as well.  (See this blog post on the “Vintage Dancer” for more info and pictures on 1940’s play suits.)  Here, my play suit is a four piece set of a self-drafted sarong skirt, a tie-front crop top, and a pair of skirt-like shorts (skort), all true to the 1940’s, while part four is a knit ¾ sleeve shirt for a modern touch.          100_3646a-comp

These pieces were made a while back as my submission for the “Vintage Play suit Sew Along” in May 2014 sponsored by “Girl with the Star Spangled Heart”.  The skirt is what sees the most wearing, with the sports skirt/shorts and the knit shirt both coming in second.  As our land-locked mid-west of America is woefully lacking in bodies of water, the crop tie top is the least worn (not what I would wish).  Pool side lounging here I come!

The location for our photo shoot is again our town’s lovely 1930’s wonder in architecture, the Chase Park Plaza.  Our last photos taken at this location, albeit inside, were for the blog post about my emerald green 1930’s Vionnet evening gown.  This time we took advantage of their lovely pool courtyard and a slow, unpopulated lounge area to have a period background…complete with palm trees to match my fabric!

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THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  All of the 1940’s pieces (the skirt, the tied crop top, and the skirt-like shorts) are all in 100% rayon challis.  The ¾ sleeve modern top is made of 100% cotton interlock knit.  All fabrics were bought at the now defunct Hancock Fabrics.

hollywood-1479-combo-wPATTERNS:  A vintage Simplicity 3356, from the year 1940, was used for the skirted shorts; a vintage Hollywood 1479, from the year 1944, was used for the crop tie top; a year 2006 Simplicity 4076 was used for the knit shirt; and the long sarong skirt was self-drafted by me…so no pattern here!  By the way I definitely have plans to make the jumper ad blouse from Simplicity 3356, as well as the nightgown from Hollywood 1479!

simplicity-4076-knit-tops-year-2006NOTIONS:  Just the normal notions were needed and were on hand – thread, interfacing, bias tape, and buttons (which were from hubby’s Grandmother’s stash). The only thing I had to buy was a duo of zippers.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Making a play suit is a bit of a time investment, but the two tops and the skirt were easy and quick, taking only about 3 or 4 hours each.  The skirted shorts took longer, at about 20 hours.  The tie-front crop top was done on May 23 while the sarong skirt was finished on June 2, and the skort on June 12, all in the year 2014.  The ¾ sleeve knit top was made in 2006 or 2007.100_3192-comp

THE INSIDES:  Well, the older knit top was made at my parents’ house so I took advantage of their serger (overlocker) for the seams.  Otherwise the rest of the seams on the rest of the garments for the play suit set are in mostly French seams with some bias bound seams, too.

I know, I know – my tie-front crop top actually comes from a pattern for nightwear – how risqué!  It is pretty much similar to other play suit and bra top patterns from the 1940’s.  I love how it shows just enough skin while still keeping me covered (it still has puff topped sleeves, after all).  I can wear normal underwear or a swimsuit top under this easily, which is nice that it does not require anything different.  Actually, I anchor the tie front of the top to the center front of my bra…oops, too much info.  Best of all, it was super easy to whip up.  This is the main reason I took the extra time to do the tiny hem and the French seams.

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The sarong style wrap-skirt was very fun to make and I am happy that I was able to re-create what I envisioned, something not always achieved.  Sorry if I get a bit technical here but simple complexity is hard.  You see, when I think of sarong, I picture a skirt that is in 3D, meaning I see it as supposed to have flowing movement yet clinging drape.  All the reprints and reissues I see available did not fit the bill – they are all either merely side tie skirts with some sort of gathers or tucks to create drape and a simple back view but basically just plain skirts, still not the ultimate hottie level.  At first planning, I will confess, I was going to use something simple from on hand such as McCall’s 6519, from 2012, or a McCall’s 5430, from 2007, but after making the crop top I was left with only 1 ½ yards making all my chosen patterns no longer feasible, so I went for the self-draping route.  Since I do not have a mannequin I had to stand in front of our full length mirror with my pin box nearby and experiment with different tuck and dart placement and direction.  I did not cut into the fabric at all, merely stitched and manipulated one yard and a half cut (60 inches wide) into what you see.

100_3200a-compI will lay out my method of drafting the skirt as best I can so hopefully you can do the same if you’d like too!  First I chose which length would be the circumference of my waist and hemmed that edge.  Next, I found the center of that waist edge and figured that would be the back, then measured several inches out from that point to make some small (maybe ½ inch) darts for about 8 or less inches down.  Now the back of the skirt is done.  Next, I put the back up against myself and marked with pins what would be the side seam points on each side.  Then I started the experimental parts where adding a few small angled tucks to each side seam was successfully tested.  My tucks are angled opening up towards the back of the skirt – this brings in the skirt to gently shape under the booty and around and over the hips for an hourglass outline.  This step was hard to do.  I actually had to pin the waist100_3201-comp back to the top I was wearing that day so I could experiment with the darts.  After the waist sides were o.k. and top-stitched down, I worked on adding deeper tucks to the ends of the wrap.  These tucks are also sloping, between horizontal and vertical, and there are more on the end that is seen from the outside than on the end inside.  The front corners were softened to a rounded drape by merely turning in the bottom hem front points at an angle and simply taking them down.  To close the wrap inside is an elastic strap with a waistband hook (to make things semi forgiving), and on the outside a lovely olive green shell button with another loop of elastic.  Totally ready to be whipped on…or off if I need to just wear the skirted shorts underneath.

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I’ve worn my skirted shorts with my vintage blouses, and this gives me a very 30’s looking sports outfit.  I can wear them with modern tops and it looks fun and flirty, especially with some flat sandals.  Tops from other decades, with some large victory rolls or a ponytail, give a vintage-does-modern appeal.  The way I can change up the aura of the date of these skirt-like shorts is the best perk.  These shorts do have such a wide hem they are not the best for some exercising (too revealing) but are awesome for playing tennis in, I tried that out!

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As great as these vintage skorts are, I do need to try again in the future to make a better version.  The main problem with this pair is I believe the rayon challis fabric I chose.  It’s so wrinkly for something with details that you only sit on to mess up any ironing work, it doesn’t hold up well the minute I start to sweat – the fabric not tight enough.  With the rayon, I end up with darker colored spots where it’s wet from sweat (…embarrassing) and I’m beginning to get obvious holes from tension at the spots where the pleat top-stitching ends.  Rayon on top of rayon is also rather too stifling to wear for the summer.  Perhaps next try, I’ll sew these up in a cotton blend gabardine.  Reconstructing History has some 1944 play shorts  that are very similar to the one’s I made and they recommend rayon, linen, cotton (all too light and wrinkly) as well as denim.  Any other suggestions for another fabric thick enough, low on the wrinkle factor, and good for summer comfort all combined for my next play suit shorts?

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I kind of fudged my way through these vintage shorts as best I could but it was a real struggle.  What took the most time to make the skorts was due to the fact that the pattern was unprinted.  I’ve worked with unprinted patterns many times before, but with all the pleats, together with the grain line markings and such, my limits of comprehension of connecting the right dots was put to the ultimate test.  To top it off, in order to support the skorts’ pleats across the belly and cut down on any see-through issues, I had to draft my own one piece liner to go inside.  The liner was a great idea and really needed, but a second layer of rayon, on top of rayon, was not the best idea…should have used something else 100_3194-compwhich was lighter like batiste perhaps.  The instructions gave no clear designation of what to do with the space under the side button closures – I had ideas of adding in pockets, or full button closure (sailor-style), but finally settled on the easy-but-not-so-authentic option of zippers.  Looking back, I really don’t need double closures (there are buttons and zippers on each side seam), and next time I will eliminate one side to sew it closed and add in a button or hook-and-eye method like I’d thought.  Darts were even added to the inside of the waistband to give it more curve and bring it in – I believe it was drafted too straight.  I’m tired just going through its problems.  Oh well, I like what I have and now I know what to do and what to change for the next attempt at this lovely, complex design.

100_3643a-compLast but not least is my modern ¾ sleeve knit top, which was picked out of my closet during the planning stage of my playsuit as something which was finally going to have a specific outfit to match with.  I had made it such a while back and it never has seen that much wearing previously because it’s gentle dusty green never match with much but a solid skirt or denim.  Not that this is the only modern top I wear with the play suit, but it gives me a reason to highlight what I remember as my first totally successful me-made top.  It really has some body hugging shaping if you make your “correct-according-to-the-chart” size.  If you don’t want it to fit you as snugly, go up a size.  Also, I found the length to be a bad spot – too short to tuck in and not long enough for it not to ride up untucked – so making the hem longer might be a good idea.  Otherwise, this is a great top and easy to make and wear.  I’ll have to go back to the pattern and make some of the other views offered!

Gertie’s summer 2016 release of Butterick 6354 Gertie's B6354 combo picgave me quite a surprise at how similar it is to my own play suit – especially in the choice of fabric pattern and colors – as I mentioned before in this post.  These colors and this “palm leaf with flowers” seems to be rather prevalent when I was looking at play suit inspiration – see this color picture of actress Peggy Moran at “Glamourdaze”, or visit my Pinterest board for more.  I do find Gertie’s play suit as sort of a hybrid blend of pieces that make it more of something from the 50’s era, though it does seem awkwardly like it sort of should be from the 40’s.  Besides, one could make this set from patterns already released (such as Simplicity 8130 for the tops, Vintage Vogue 9189 for the shorts, out-of-print Vintage Vogue 8812, year 1940, for the bolero, and any adapted pencil skirt or real wrap skirt pattern for the mock-wrap skirt).  Sorry…I’m not meaning to criticize, I just would rather see variety than redundancy in the patterns that are released.

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As I mentioned above, play sets are a bit labor intensive, after all you have to make three or four separate garments just for a finished set!  However, it’s well worth it, especially when done with a vintage perspective for those of us who love the styles from the past.  Now I have some easy vintage garments that set my wardrobe up for some playtime, or easy dressing in style!  Plus, it doesn’t hurt to feel a little of the past’s relaxed associated with holiday or hot-weather wear, does it?!  This is much more fun than for me to wear than whatever most people wear for modern leisure/exercise time.  Yet I’ll bet it’s more comfy…and less confining! I actually just finished sewing a year 1959 play set, so get ready for an upcoming post on my interpretation of vintage sporty wear courtesy of the next decade!  Now if only summer would last a bit longer…

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An “Audrey’s Style” 1953 Gingham Blouse Re-Fashion

Audrey Hepburn in slim cigarette pants and crop topThe year 1953 was an important year for the popularity of the British actress Audrey Hepburn with the release of the movie “Roman Holiday”; 1953 was also the first year the “Utility Scheme” of clothing rationing was over for post-World War II Britain. Complete rationing wasn’t over in Britain until July 4, 1954, and the fashion industry was rearing and ready to go with a new trends, among which was the popular Audrey Hepburn’s style of casual chic – skinny leg cropped “cigarette pants” and flat loafers or ballet shoes. Skinny tops or cropped tops were often worn from the waist up with this style of dressing from the waist down. Large gingham was also branching out beyond homespun wear and tablecloths, seeing new popularity starting in 1950 and lasting through the decade. Therefore, I have re-fashioned a modern blouse into something hailing back from the early to mid-50’s to honor Audrey’s classic, effortless look.

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Just to clarify, my gingham blouse is the only part of my outfit that is made. The skinny fit black cropped pants are mine from about 20 years ago, bought RTW and still fitting, yahoo! The turquoise hat seen in some of my pictures is an authentic vintage 50’s item, in beautiful felt and with a velvet brim. Please notice my necklace of a charm-sized pair of golden scissors – it’s my new favorite silent “spokesperson” for my love of sewing!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  One “Mossimo” brand gingham tunic shirt, bought maybe 10 years ago from our local big box store “Target” in a girl’s size XL (extra-large). Its’ fabric is a nice and wrinkle-free 100% cotton. Underside the collar is a basic black poly/cotton blend broadcloth, made from scraps on hand.100_6372a-comp

NOTIONS:  I only needed thread…always kept on hand.

PATTERN:  Vogue #7975, a year 1953 pattern

TIME TO COMPLETE:  I took one evening to make this re-fashion, maybe 2 or 3 hours on October 16, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  Nothing special…raw and loose.

TOTAL COST:  Zero! A re-fashion made with everything which was on hand is the best new item because it is free and oh-so-sensible!

As I think I’ve mentioned before, there are indeed forgotten and untouched spots in the racks of clothing in our house. I’m pretty sure most of us all have this same condition. In my case, I seem to always gravitate to the wearing the garments I made or at least tailored and altered (for good reasons which you can probably figure out), rather than wearing any RTW store bought items. Thus, sometimes when I want something new to wear, rather than turning to my fabric bins I attack those uninteresting store bought items in my wardrobe to turn them into something I actually do want to wear. I figure the more I keep up this practice, I am going to have a complete wardrobe of all handmade garments I do want to wear. Not that it’s a bad thing to donate, but I am keeping out more clutter from the overloaded amount of unwanted and unloved clothes besides merely being thrifty. I have something on hand already…so I’ll enjoy the challenge of transforming it into something which fits and looks better than the original. It’s like shopping without spending anything! “Make do and mend” ideal isn’t just for the 1940’s era. If more of us used our existing sewing skills to not just make but also tailor and transform our existing wardrobe items, I think more happiness with what we have and more satisfaction with our personal style would prevail.

100_6367-compIn any case, the original blouse no longer fit my shoulders too well and I wasn’t happy with the overall look. Besides, its proportions were all off. My first thought was the one I went with for my re-fashion – to take advantage of the multitude of pin-tucks. I remembered I had a special pattern with some awesome pin-tuck details from the 1950’s, which was the era I wanted to go with the “new” blouse anyway. Bingo! It’s like figuring in that the pin-tucking part was already done for me and it was perfectly similar to the pattern the way I laid it out.

I made the new shoulder line begin at the old bust line, thereby cutting off half of the pin-tucks on the chest. The original pattern was designed for a separate button placket to be sewn on, just like on my original blouse, so I figured that into the pattern as already done and left it untouched as it was. An existing button was lined up at about 5/8 inches down (my chosen seam allowance for this project) from the center front so I have a closure at the very top of the finished neckline. 100_6370a-comp

The back lines of the new blouse needed to be lined up with the front, and this was quite challenging. You see, both front and back I wanted (actually needed) aligned because I was keeping the existing side seams untouched. The shoulder seam and collar of the new back panel were so much higher than the front for fitting purposes, but thankfully, I was left with just enough of the old horizontal back shoulder length to use for the collar.

Fitting in a new armscye was tricky because I also was keeping the sleeve seam untouched. What I did was roughly measure around the length of the armscye on the sleeve to get an idea of the finished circumference. Then I laid out a measuring tape to the same circumference from front shoulder seam down and around up to the back shoulder seam, marking the path of the u-shaped dip with chalk. Next the shoulder seams were sewn together and the sleeve then set in. I know this might not be the best or most professional way to do this, but you know it worked and provided me with a perfect fitting shoulder. I do a good amount of what I do in sewing by some sort of instinct, naturally knowing in some 6th sense how something will fit and/or work. What will work for me might or might not work as well for others, but at least I can explain my process to you. Getting how you did something “out there” is always good for others to know, whether it worked out in the end or not, for knowing and trying is part of learning in the sewing experience.

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Pin-tucks leftover from the front of the blouse were included in the front corners of the collar closest to the center. Black broadcloth is on the underside of the collar just out of necessity because there wasn’t enough original gingham for another collar, but this was no problem…a few scraps sufficed to cut out something so small. I left out interfacing the collar because I wanted to keep my blouse nice but easy and casual. Where the collar joins to the blouse, the seam is invisible because it’s hidden inside. It was sewn like many collars – one side is sewn to the blouse, the other side’s seam allowance is turned under and both top-stitched down “in-the-ditch” for a flawless finish. The little notch in the pattern’s collar design was rather hard to get sharp enough as I would have liked and, even if I don’t make this pattern again (unlikely), personally I’d like to try like this collar again, if only to redo it. I think it needs to be re-drawn into a more dramatic arch to get a more dramatic notching, as it seemed to me that no amount of clipping close to the stitching can get a good inverse corner following the existing seam allowance. Nevertheless, this collar is subtle but still special, especially with the several rows of pin-tucks across the ends.

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At first, I had planned on a contrast collar, either a lace one trimmed in bias tape or a broadcloth one, both in black. I still sort of wish I had gone with my first thought for a more modern, punk style blouse. However, I was left with enough extra self-fabric, so “Hey…I might as well match,” was in my mind. The matching collar sadly disguises to notched detail and the pin-tucking added. It also seems to make for blouse a bit more cute, and “baby-doll-ish” than I had expected, although making my new blouse more period accurate and more suited to being Audrey Hepburn’s signature “Gamine” style.

“Gamine” is a French word, according to Wikipedia, originally meaning “urchin, waif, or playful, naughty child”. It can be dated back to about 1840, but it wasn’t until the last 80 years it has come to be known according to its English meaning “a slim, often boyish, elegant, wide-eyed young woman who is, or is perceived to be, mischievous, teasing or sexually appealing”. Most of us know of the “Gamine” look of the 1920’s (flappers), but it really wasn’t until Audrey Hepburn’s popularity in the 1950’s when this term became more of something which conveyed a strong sense of style and chic.

The specific “Gamine” style Audrey had in the 1957 movie “Funny Face” was something Funny Face poster 1957 - Audrey Hepburn's costume test for 'Sabrina' from 7-21-1953which she originally refused, especially in regards to the white socks, according to a firsthand movie tidbit from the Director which you can read here. Previous to “Funny Face”, this general style of body hugging bottoms and simple understated coordinates was launched by Audrey in the 1954 film “Sabrina”. Her flat shoes do a lot to keep her style sweet and classic versus heels (which would instantly create a pin-up, bombshell aura). Interestingly enough, the second actress which popularized flat shoes, Brigitte Bardot in the 1956 movie “And God Created Woman”, gave flat shoes a sort of “hot and sultry” look, so I suppose it depends somewhat on the wearer what ballet shoes can do to an outfit. Ballet flat shoes, or slippers, have been around for a very long time in some form or fashion, in old Roman times but especially in the 1600’s being worn for men and women alike until resurfacing again in the 20th century with Hollywood’s help. For myself, I’ll admit that with my tiny feet, I love wearing simple flats. I’ll also admit I am part tomboy, but not enough to fully pull off the “Gamine” look in this post’s pictures…at least I tried! It’s sort of like attempting a conflict of interests trying to be an individual while copying someone else, isn’t it? It’s fun, though.

Do you have a style icon that is incredibly interesting to you? Have you carried over that particular style in your clothing and/or sewing?

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