Smart Pockets, a French Beret…Year 1934

I do love pockets (…and probably say that way too much on the blog), so really smart pockets that I see on vintage patterns are even more appealing.  You know, just because pockets are utilitarian, they don’t have to ‘look’ that way or be hidden.  Why should pockets just be tucked in the side seams or merely top-stitched on…why not make them not only obvious but also part of the styling?!  I’m glad I sew, because following this train of thought, I found a comfortable and practical early mid-1930s blouse whose stunning design is highlighted by using stripes.  And… just because I could without much extra effort, I whipped up a matching velvet beret from a pattern of the same year.  What proper 30’s lady would be out and about without a hat of some sort, after all?  Amidst a plethora of bias cut gowns and fancy wear, a chic everyday 30’s set is so refreshing and welcome.

This outfit has been so darn long in coming to completion!  For many years now, I have wanted my own vintage beret, and after much searching, I finally found an easy-to-make, reasonable to afford, yet true vintage option to sew.   Furthermore, speaking of past project connections, back in 2014 I sewed a skirt, the bottom half from the same pattern as this post’s blouse, using fabric from my Grandmother (post on my skirt here).  That same year was when I actually found the shirting fabric to make the coordinating blouse in this post.  Sheepishly, I’ll admit I only just recently got around to finally sewing some of what has been long planned out to now have all three pieces – hat, blouse, and skirt – together.

I have made other blouses of the same era to go with my basic black 30’s skirt (see some here and here), showing how the bottom half of the garment pattern is truly a wardrobe staple for me.  However, now that this properly coordinating striped blouse (which certainly gets top billing among any previous 30’s tops) has been made, my outfit feels complete and every bit as stylishly awesome as the pattern intended.  This is probably my very favorite make, as well as the most useful and frequently worn, from the decade of the 1930s.  Beret hats are not necessarily just for one decade either, and in a lovely grey velvet, this too will be an understated yet elegant and warmly basic accessory in putting together outfits.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Blouse – a striped, textured cotton shirting, with basic cotton broadcloth in a solid black for both the collar and full body lining; Hat – a lofty polyester velvet, in a grey two-tone with a tiny, slight windowpane print on it

PATTERN:  Pictorial Review #7379, year 1934 (as I said above the skirt has its own write up here), with a 1934 reprinted pattern from the Etsy shop “kalliedesigns” for the beret hat.  The original pattern for the hat is (I believe) Simplicity #1532, view 4.

NOTIONS:  I really had everything I needed already on hand – some thread, a little interfacing, bias tape, a metal jewelry chain remnant, and buttons. 

TIME TO COMPLETE:  I finished the blouse on December 18, 2016.  Making it only took me about 15 hours.  The hat was whipped up in a few hours about a month after the blouse.

First, I have to address my giving a definite year to this design.  I have yet to see a Pictorial Review pattern with a date on the pattern itself, yet I am quite confident in narrowing this one down to late 1934.  Styles of the 1930’s were very specific to certain years when you look at certain details such as hem length for both tops and skirts/dresses, shoulder styles, sleeve and pocket trends, as well as hairstyles, accessories, body images, and the like.  Taking all of these details into account, I initially estimated this pattern could even be very late 1933 at the earliest, but no later than early 1936.  Finding a few Pictorial Review magazines and dated patterns helped me narrow down my estimate, especially this Pictorial Review “Goddess Gown” #7363 adapted from a Lanvin design for Winter of 1934.  It is a number very close to my pattern (#7379).  Besides, it would make practical sense for my pattern to be from Fall and Winter anyway based on the long sleeve option.

Beyond the sensible reason, Pictorial review patterns were known to be fashion forward, working with foreign, well-distinguished designers, couture houses, and nobility to release some truly top-of the line and rare styles which would not be available to many ladies of the 1930’s otherwise.  Thus, when I found a copy of the same style as my blouse out of a Butterick company Summer 1935 catalog, as well as similar designs in Simplicity #1812 and #1724 (both ca. 1935), I realized what I already assumed about Pictorial Review patterns – that they were the leader of fashion for their time or at least ahead of the trends.  Their patterns are printed after all…another factor adding to their prestige!

This blouse was not that hard at all to make – what was hard was matching the stripes (mostly) together with re-drafting the pattern.  The stripes are not mirror matching and were playing tricks on my eyes when I was figuring out the placement of the pattern pieces.  Also, I had to add in four whole inches because this pattern both runs super small (something I learned from making the skirt already) and I wanted modern 5/8 inch seam allowance (verses the 3/8 called provided for).  I spread the four inches out properly and evenly across the entire blouse, like a good girl, for as much as I wanted to take the easy route, I didn’t just add it in on the sides.  Nor did I cut apart or otherwise draft a new pattern piece.  Yes, I know I made this extra hard for myself.  I do that sometimes.

My blouse might look somewhat straightforward at first glance of the pattern but it has lovely details.  The link closure neckline is my top favorite feature, so I’ll start at the neck.  Two buttons and a chain to link them connects the dual buttonholes and closes the shirt neckline.  I opted for a more decorative and showy jewelry style chain in sterling silver rather than the very basic thread looping together as recommended in the pattern. I do love how the neckline link closure almost doubles as a necklace with the chain!  Button link closures are something primarily seen in the 30’s for main fastenings down bodice fronts, jackets, sleeves, and necklines.  Depression era practicality, a desire for accessorizing, as well as accommodating the rough means available of washing garments all contributed to the popularity of removable buttons.  Many buttons were “change” or “clip on” buttons (read more about them here on Vintage Gal blog); others were link-style, connected by metal or thread.  As we just had National Button Day (which was started in the 30’s, by the way), this can be an idea to let those precious and amazing buttons you’ve been saving shine on a garment without feeling like you have to sacrifice them to the wear and tear the rest of the garment will receive.  Whatever the reason, I do love the singular and useful practice of link button closures.  My fellow blogger, Emileigh, has also made several 1930’s garments with link closures (see her dress here, and jacket here), just like me!

As lovely and soft as the striped shirting is on its own, I decided to fully line only the main body of the blouse.  Otherwise, it was thin enough to show seam allowances, underwear, and even the pockets…how racy to think of!  There are more reasons than that, though.  The black broadcloth renders my blouse a better warmth weight for chilly days as well as perfectly opaque.  I was also able to eliminate the facings with this trick…the lining finished off the front neckline opening easily and cleanly.  The collar is then the same fabric as the lining.  This was not only convenient but also great for matching especially when the collar is open!  The sleeves are unlined to keep my blouse from being too heavyweight.  Besides, at least with the sleeves I can feel the lovely soft shirting on its own!

The sleeves are also ‘hiding’ a secret detail – what I believe are darted French cuffs.  The outer side sleeve pattern was laid out with what looked like on paper to be a long and wide dart.  Except for the last 2 inches being open at the end of the sleeves where the wrist is, the French cuffs smoothly assimilate into the sleeves as a dart which ends to nothing at the elbow.  I have never seen anything remotely like this sleeve!  The darted part of the French cuffs makes for such a lovely, shapely, tapered sleeve shape that ends in a bang!  The cuffs were directed by the pattern to be closed with more link buttons, but I generally use cufflinks instead.  Cufflinks would probably not be something a 1930’s woman would have worn in the era were times were hard and pennies pinched, especially not the wrap-around mesh cufflinks that I used (this kind date to the 1960s and 1970s – mine are coveted Anson brand).  However, people also liked escapism in the 1930s to forget their hard times, so just maybe I can envision a 1930’s woman doing what I was doing her with my accessories – go big or go home! If Marlene Dietrich wore cufflinks, so will I!

I’m terribly distracted, though.  The above-the-hem hip pockets were meant to be the main attraction!  The side panels to the bodice fronts actually extend down to the hem and the top edges of the bottom “legs” of the middle section are hemmed and left open.  When the hem is tuned under and the side seams sewn, the pockets are then closed.  I love how the pockets are right there is front of me – so handy yet so subtle and hidden into being part of the design!  The stripes in my blouse also hide the fact these pockets can hold so darn much!  Hipline line front pockets must have been “a thing” in the mid 1930’s, as I have seen numerous versions of them on jackets, dresses, and blouses in patterns offerings at that time from all companies.  See this Butterick design from Summer of 1935, Simplicity #1812 from 1935, or McCall #9242 of 1937 for just a few of the examples I have come across.

I will admit to having a love-hate relationship with the action-back, though.  Sewn up as-is, the center back box pleat is open from below the shoulder panel (as you see in the the right picture).  I wore it like this one or two times, but it just made it feel oversized and fussy.  I felt like I needed to wear a belt just to keep it in place.  This is silly, I thought!  So I hand tacked the box pleat together from the hemline up to a few inches above the waistline.  I wanted to make sure to have full movement across my shoulders so I left some of it open.  Now it had the right 1930’s “skinny hip” appearance and unfussiness!

Last but not least is the head topper – my hat!  I’m sorry but I was so happy with this beret that in my rush to just wear it and enjoy it, I have totally forgotten to properly iron flat the many darts.  I suppose this is a good sign!  I’m rarely this excited to omit the finishing touch, an ironing job!  An ironing session almost felt like too much work for it when this hat came together so quickly.

The pattern itself could be much nicer – it is rather crudely traced.  However, it gets the job done and gives a nice basic piece to use on its own or build off of.  After all it is only two pieces, and a bunch of darts to sew, then voila – a finished hat!  Most importantly it did turn out well and ran true to size.  It is listed as a 22” to 23”, and my head is a consistent 22 ½” hat size.  This could not be any more perfect for me, but those who need it bigger, slash and spread more (while keeping the same size darts) and those who need it smaller, I would recommend the easy route of just adding a tiny casing around the head for skinny elastic.  I personally left off the recommended head band for the edge, and merely turned under the edge like a traditional hem.  This way the hat stays closer to my head and slouches better than with an added band to keep it around my head.  The slouch part is designed into the pattern, not just an effect of too much extra room.  The pattern is cleverly asymmetric, so if you would want the slouch to be on one side versus another, that needs to be figured out before cutting.  I didn’t care…I just dove right in as it didn’t take much of my time, nor did it take much fabric either to have a new hat.  If it turned out badly, it was no biggie, but oh did it turn out well!

My background location is earlier than my outfit’s date, but it is an early Art Deco wonder so we just had to include it in a 1930’s photo shoot sometime!  The grand “Moolah Temple” was originally built for a Masonic organization, but it is now a posh movie theatre and bowling lanes at the floor level and below, with apartment spaces above.  The meticulous and respectful renovations have happily left the building pretty intact and one can see it in its original teens-era splendor.  It has dizzying details, with a strong Moorish and orientalist influence which is both unique and lovely.  Extravagant ornate terra cotta outside, opulent marble work inside, with original fixtures makes me feel like I stepped back in time, especially when I can wear my vintage appropriate outfits such as this Pictorial Review one!

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Strutin’ My Feathers – A 1937 Pin-Tucked Satin Blouse

The peacock and his feathers have long been very symbolical, and its popularity seems as immortal as its typology.  However, in the 1920’s, the peacock began a new emergence of popularity.  Suddenly it’s fan shape and distinctive eye feathers were reproduced everywhere – in fashion, as decorative building motifs, and even as bouquets.

Peacocks have a very personal connection for me and my family.  My mom was once chased down by a peacock, and my dad can do a peacock call all too well.  When I was little, my mom also hand made a very elaborate peacock costume for me one Halloween. (She sewed me a train with more than a dozen long peacock feathers that I could lift up by my wrist bands…so creative!)  Therefore, it was a no-brainer when I saw a peacock printed fabric – I had to buy it.

I bought that peacock fabric and transformed it into something from an era suited to the peacock’s popularity.  Using my favorite (and only) original 30’s pattern, I now have a wardrobe go-to favorite.  I believe my 1937 blouse puts together a smashing vintage look as well as offering the best fit and comfort ever!

100_1892THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a matte peachskin silky print, 100% polyester, bought from JoAnn’s

NOTIONS:  I had the cranberry thread, clear snaps, and bias tape; I only bought 2 packs of see-through orange ball buttons, a cranberry colored zipper for the left side opening, and brown roping

PANTONE CHALLENGE COLORS:  Emerald green, Mykonos blue, and Koi (orange) all in small, but frequent patches throughout the fabric print

PATTERN:  McCall 9170, with the date of January 1937 stamped on the envelope flapMcCall 9170

TIME TO COMPLETE: 8 or 9 hours stretched out over the course of a week; it was finished on March 20, 2013

THE INSIDES:  French seams on every seam, except for the bottom hem and the sleeves, which are covered in Koi colored bias tape 

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FIRST WORN:  to church on Palm Sunday, with the green, bias cut wool skirt seen in my pictures (we had a heavy snowfall earlier that morning)

WEAR AGAIN?  YES! YES! YES! Love it!

TOTAL COST:  $20 or under

I really have almost no Fall/Winter/Spring blouses in my wardrobe.  That’s what helped cinch the decision to just make the top, actually the long sleeve version, with out the whole big project of the rest of dress to sew with it.  Besides, I wasn’t quite sure how this pattern would run -big or small – and I didn’t want to fiddle with it enough to find out ahead of time.  In the end, my peacock satin blouse did run small, but just small enough to still get a perfect fit.  This was one of only a handful of projects which did not need a single touch of adjustment…made just for me!

100_1887     The construction details and the sewing method of putting this blouse together greatly impressed me.  This McCall’s is an ingenious pattern, much better than modern patterns, with an assembly that teaches some excellent new and not as commonly used techniques.

First and foremost, I enjoyed doing the old-fashioned way of sewing the sleeve placket.  The finished look is smooth and unique.  It totally makes up for the extra time spent.  In the pictures below I am showing you how I did the sleeve openings.

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In the left picture, I have the small facing square, right sides together, with the tabs at the end of the sleeve matching.  I have stitched in the shape of a long and skinny U, then sewed a line down the middle of that U.  In the right picture, I have cut out closely around the middle stitch from between the U stitching.  Next, I turned the facing square wrong sides together, top stitched around the opening, and stitched down the turned under edges of the facing.  See the picture below right.100_1130

Both sleeve ends get gathered into cuffs that are designed to look more like cufflinks.  The instruction sheet said nothing about adding interfacing to the cuffs, and they are fine without it, but I will add it if (or when) I make this again.  In lieu of button holes I sewed on clear snaps, under where the button is sewn on,  to keep my ‘cuff links’ together.  If I ever find some cool vintage cuff links I might end up adding button holes, but snaps work just fine for now.

100_1897     The collar placket was the most time consuming and challenging part of the satin blouse. It required lots and lots of hand stitching with some intermittent hand picking of seams.  The whole thing was so twisty I had to do much stretching and clipping of curves just to achieve the lapped seams needed to tack the collar to the bodice.  Then, I had to sew on self-fabric facings to the entire collar!

100_1894    I took my time to get my corners just right on this ’37 blouse.  My picture at left does show off my gathered pouf sleeve caps, but the picture below especially captures the most tricky corner of all – the one where the front and back plackets meet, around the bottom of my neck.

I saved the loop closures for the buttons for last, wanting them to be more a decoration and not just purposeful.  My knowledge of tying ship’s knots was utilized for the loop closures.  I finished off the ends with Fray-Check and securely sewed them down.  I love how the fancy loops bring attention to the button placket in a good way, showing off my skills and hard work.100_1895a

Did you notice all the small pin-tucks, front and back?  There are 4 down the front (two on each side) and the two down the back meet each other and open up in the middle so I can move my shoulders freely.  The far front bodice tucks actually conceal a cleverly placed hidden dart.  There  is a bust shaping dart sewn first, starting from the top where the placket gets sewn on and ending at the bust point.  Only then do I sew the pin-tucks down.  How very clever!  The bust gets shaped from the chest area so as to take nothing away from the trim, but slightly blousy shape of the rest of the top.

We have a large but beautiful building used as a telephone company switchboard hub, just a block or two away from where we live, with numerous Art Deco details all over the window moldings and especially the railings. This is where we took these pictures.  Looking at our pictures when we came home from this photo shoot, we realized the railings match the feathers in the fabric of my blouse.  The same brushed, feathery shaping is shared in both.  What a happy coincidence!

100_1885     I like to show you some bonus pictures of my 1937 blouse, just for fun.  Hopefully our pictures convey how well fitted, smartly designed, and extremely comfortable my blouse is for me to wear.  My blouse is one of those projects that reminds me of something –  I’m so blessed to be able to sew my own clothes.

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