Warning! Sharp Angles Ahead…

When I don me-made modern wear, I really prefer it to be every bit as interesting with the details and design as the vintage pieces I normally choose.  Even though my vintage outfits can be styled in a very appealingly modern way, I do find that my current designs do come in handy within professional spheres such as University conferences and research visits, for nights out with hubby at the ‘hip’ spots in town, or just to stay in touch with the sewing world of today.  This post is presenting what might be one of my favorite pieces of modern sewing – a Melissa Watson wrap-on dress tweaked with my own custom-drafted sleeves added, contrast hemline fronts, and a cool, contrast, full body lining.

This dress is for the outgoing personality in me, the side that is not at all afraid to stand out.  It is bright enough to stop traffic and classy yet smoldering all in one awesome, easy-on dress.  I do not really mind the bit of leg flash this dress displays, even though it was unexpected coming into the pattern!  Now, I know wrap dresses are generally asymmetric by nature – and I do positively love asymmetric styles – but this is even more so due to the one curved and one angled front arching hemline.  Combining those gradients with the geometric print and the 90-degree points on my sleeves and I am in a seamstresses’ mathematical, creative heaven!  I hope that by pairing it with some black boots and a cardigan, I can enjoy this dress for more than one season.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a polyester peach-skin print lined in a poly-cotton broadcloth

PATTERN:  McCall’s #7246, a Melissa Watson design from 2015

NOTIONS:  just some thread and a little interfacing

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress was made in about 10 hours and was finished on May 2, 2019

THE INSIDES:  What inside raw edges?  They are completely covered by the lining.

TOTAL COST:  The geometric poly has been in my stash for about 7 years now. It was bought from Fashion Fabrics Club along with a bunch of other fabrics when I started to get back into sewing after my son was born in 2012.  I had 3 yards of this, bought for about $7 a yard, I believe.  The broadcloth was a few dollars cheaper a yard, so my total cost was about $35, spread out over many years!

For being a general quick-sew and de-stashing project, this turned out fantastic.  I kind of suddenly jumped into this project idea at the last minute before a Kentucky Derby Day watch party and wasn’t sure what to expect of the finished look.  That day, I received so many compliments and curious questions as to where I got my dress.  Sadly, too many ladies only bemoaned the fact they don’t sew or – for the funnier reaction – they were surprised my dress wasn’t actually a vintage design!  Using this Melissa Watson pattern has been on my “must-sew” projects backburner since it came out, and I am so glad the perfect fabric combo for it finally struck me.

Melissa Watson is the daughter of the renowned fit expert Pati Palmer, so of course there are very thorough and exhaustive fitting guides in with the instructions to the pattern.  This is all well and good, and a nice change versus the normal McCall’s issues.  However, all clumped together on one or two sheets and printed busily over every pattern piece seemed just overwhelming and confusing for me (and not to brag, but I feel like I know more about fitting adjustments than any average home sewer).  I think all the info just made it hard to figure out what actually needed to be done for a good fitting finished dress, and just made the ‘work’ of it seem harder than it really is to do.  How does a beginner really know exactly which fitting tweak to enact with all the info laid out on how to do them?  ‘Reading’ the signs of a bad fit is a difficult and not instantly acquired talent that no ‘quick cheat sheet’ can teach.  As the dress turned out for me, I wish it had slightly better reach room in the back and lower half of the armscye (sleeve).  I was literally too exhausted by the complications added to the generally simple design to remember to check that spot before cutting.  So – the bad drawback from a great pattern is actually too much good information.  Trying too hard does not necessarily make anything better.

That off my chest, I liked (and kept) the slight blousiness of the tucked darts to the waist of the bodice, but I couldn’t just make your normal, classic plain-Jane sleeves here.  There were too many angles going on and not enough playing with them!  Specialty sleeves are so unrated.  With all the over-information on fitting in the pattern itself, I would like to say that sleeves – in my opinion – are an excellent place to start with tweaking, experimenting, and understanding patterns.  They elevate a garment to the next level when they are outside the norm, and drafting unusual sleeves is such a relatively simple, low-risk, and easy-to-understand tweak.

I merely started by finding an inspiration picture on Instagram together with a simple deconstruction layout.  I thought backwards from there to fill in the blanks of how to do that myself.  You have to think in 3D, and reverse engineer that into a flat lay or simply start from the basic paper pattern and slash and spread where you will be adding new folds and fabric depth.  I’m equating my new drafts to being a version of an upside-down, folded petal-style sleeves.  They call them “envelope sleeves”.  I personally love the 90 degree angles it creates and the lovely sleeve cap it forms.  It made for a very thick hem that needed lots of clipping and hand stitching to look nice and turn out smoothly.

Talk about having things turn out smoothly, I just freaking love full body lining, especially when the inside is made visible by the design!  The pattern does not call for lining, but mullet or hi-low hems (like on this past make of mine) make the underside of the fabric particularly visible, even more so when it is a wrap dress like the one here.  Why not go for the fully fashionable play with the opportunity?!  Not only does lining the underside in a contrast look so pretty and make the garment pop, but the added wrap dress factor is just screaming for the opportunity to make the entire insides so very nice.  No way was I going to make a tiny hem all the continuous way around the wrap’s edges, anyway…enclosing it and all the raw seams inside the lining puts my mind at ease knowing I can beautifully cover-up any messiness.

Sure, it was like making two dresses, after all.  Yet, there is nothing equal to a personal happiness that comes from lovely insides meant for only you to see as you get dressed in your handmade clothes.  I, however, did have further ulterior motives for the full body lining.  I hate the feeling of polyester on my skin and the pretty print was far too lightweight and unsubstantial on its own to be a dress.  So – all these many reasons, it absolutely needed lining here.  I chose a solid cool mint green/aqua underneath to tame down the bright colors on the dress’ outside.

Beside the new sleeves and the added lining, the front hem is something subtle I changed, too, as mentioned at the posts beginning.  The right side has the angled hem while the left slides under along the 115 degree point with its curved hem.  It is subtle, which I wanted, but it adds to the whole play on the geometrics here and makes this so much more of an individual creation for me.  I sort of feel a silly guilt when I go line-for-line or fabric-imitation copy of a pattern with no personal changes.  Look – I even tie the ties around my waist like a belt to end in a cute little bow in front rather than a traditional wrap dress back knot or bow with streamers.  Oh my goodness, do I dare tell you I used my fabric pens to color in the top stitching along the edges so it blended in with print and becomes invisible?!  Yes, I do love to spare no detail to satisfy the perfectionist in me sometimes.

A big reason for my sewing is of course the creative outlet of it but also the opportunity to personalize my wardrobe and do that in better quality than can be found in most RTW.  Making sure to think about what is really coming from my creativity versus just going with what I see isn’t always easy but makes me own what I sew and feel more like me in the handmade wardrobe I wear.  That is the key to home sewing patterns and patterns available for the public to buy – they are tools that can be built upon to make your wildest clothing dreams come true.  This dress pattern might not have been the best tool – it was rather confusing in an unexpected way – but it helped me make a modern dress that even my vintage inspired heart loves!

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Having a Monochromatic Summer

My go-to sundress of 2019 actually is a carryover of a favorite make from the end of last year’s summer. I had been putting my idea off for a few years because I was not sure it would work. It is so different from the rest of my summer wardrobe! It is not bright and bold, flowery or frilly, like most of my other sundresses but the color scheme and the effortless wearing ease of the style and its material cools me down in thought and body. I’m having a monochromatic summer moment in my favorite vintage 1940s style!

This is such a sneaky vintage dress – it certainly doesn’t strike me as coming from 1949! Although dating from the fabulous post-WWII era, the pattern is one of the more popular modern Vintage Vogue line of reprints. It has such simple lines, and such a body complimentary design that this is a great example of the classic timelessness for which I love to make and wear vintage fashion. Whatever the era the dress shows, it proves I am still not over my recent fascination with the late 40’s, apparently!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC: a cotton denim with a touch of spandex, lined in an interlock knit

PATTERN: Vintage Vogue #8974, year 1949

NOTIONS: I only needed basic, simple stuff – some interfacing, lots of thread, and a zipper. After it was finished, I also used an old bra…but more on that later!

TIME TO COMPLETE: This was finished on September 21, 2018, and took me about 10 hours to make.

THE INSIDES: All cleanly bias bound while the bodice is fully lined.

TOTAL COST: I vaguely remember picking this fabric out at the now defunct Hancock Fabrics years and years back. So, as it has been in my stash this long and well deserved to ‘break free’ of the fabric stash, I’m counting it as free!

It’s funny how things come full circle. It’s always so poignant when you realize that after the fact! You see, a year 1949 dress was actually the very first piece of vintage reproduction me-made (see it here from an old 2012 post). It was also in brown! Apparently, my go-to color is a pretty variation of dirt. The classic “little black dress” doesn’t get as far as a brown one. I personally love how brown tones work for so many seasons and are a good base for brighter colors and pastels without being as heavy as a navy or black, for example. To me, a good brown color is cool tone, very calming. Monochrome palettes (referring to a color scheme comprised of variations of one color) are themselves supposed to be soothing and create a good mood. Maybe the khaki, dark brown, rust, cream, and ivory tones in the subtle striping to my dress’ fabric was an instinctual choice for me to choose for yet another project on the verge of the 1950s.

Of course, the pattern showcases stripes to show off the grain line ingenuity and I followed along happily. I’m just trailing on the heels of my last striped sundress by posting this, anyway. My fabric’s striping is so small I did a general matching effort – nothing too meticulous because I was really pushing the limit anyway to make this work out of only 2 yards of material – and it turned out great. After all, this was a simple project to sew and I wanted it to stay as effortless to make as it is to wear. I think the mitered stripes do a lot for the slimming and trim appearance of this but it is so cute and attractive in any print, from what I’ve seen of all the awesome versions other seamstresses have made. It’s weird but this dress reminds me very much of my plaid 1940 sundress (posted a while back here) even though I know it is different and the styles are 9 years apart.

I have learned from years of summer sundress sewing that wearing them is so much more fun and easy if the lingerie situation doesn’t call for any extra thought. Thus I am a big fan of adding decent lining or even lingerie directly into the sundress to make it an-all-in-one garment that supports my “girls” in one easy step as I dress. I used a no-longer-worn bra from on hand – there are some whose clasps and straps bother me so I only keep them because the cups are still in good condition and fit. This was sewn directly into the dress at the proper place making this so comfy to wear, with all the good shaping I want yet not compromising on the breezy skin-baring qualities of my favorite sundresses.

I know the support should have been sewn in between the lining and the dress fabric to be ‘properly’ done, but I like the easy access of it if I ever want to adjust or change. Besides, my favorite part of having the bra visible to the interior of the dress is the linear symmetry it adds when it is laid out. Anyone who has followed me for a length of time should realize I am big into the mathematical perfection of sewing, and love to visibly play upon that with what I make. Besides, creative design lines, stripes (and plaids) offer great opportunities for such calculating. This dress gave me another taste that!

The sizing was pretty much spot on for this pattern, maybe even a tad on the roomy side along the top bodice edge, but I don’t mind. The dress also ran really long, and would have been to my ankles if I had cut according to the pattern. I left it a mid-calf (midi) length because I think it makes the dress look more elegant as well as hang well. A longer length is very circa 1949-ish, anyway! Finally, I raised the dip of the front neckline V so it wouldn’t be so revealing but that is the last of the tweaks I made. This was a pretty quick and satisfying make! I do want to come back to this pattern and make the killer cute cropped swing jacket that comes with the dress. It will definitely have to be a different fabric, though, as I have nothing but a few measly scraps leftover. So many projects on my mind and so many sewing decisions to make!

The earth monotones matched perfectly with my favorite comfort sandals from Hotter brand shoes as well as my “Cinnamon Spice” brownish undertone lipstick from the brand “Wet n’ Wild”. Too bad I don’t have more of a bronze glow on my skin to match, as well. A simple walk through our neighborhood was the casual backdrop to our pictures.

This is my 1940s installment in my “Indian Summer of the Sundress” post series which began with the making of this sundress when we had an extended time of unusual warmth. This just about wraps it up, unless I happen to crank out a 1970s sundress! I had to basically end it with my first sundress, the one that started it all anyway! Kind of like that other 1949 brown dress that started all my vintage sewing…

Painted Bunting

Ah, it’s finally spring in the northern hemisphere, at least officially that is.  It’s the time for one of my favorite parts to spring besides the newly awakened flowers – the bird activity!  The snow birds are leaving town and both our ‘normal’ varieties of avian creatures as well as unusual visitors will be showing up through this next month.  Then the sweet but noisy baby birds will be coming!  I am one who admittedly has a “life list” of species I’ve spotted, and although birding is no longer as serious of a deal that it was when I was a teen, I now have a dress for that.

Novelty prints are not really my “thing” but this bird one is winning me over.  It is such a bright and cheerful print of what is probably fantasy songbirds, but they remind me of all my vivid-colored, real-life  favorites – the kestrel, the redstart, orioles, warblers, or my ‘yet-to-be-seen spotter’s life goal’ the painted bunting.  However, this post’s title is appropriate in more than one sense!  With its swishy, full, mullet hemline and peek-a-boo flashes of skin, my dress is fully lined in a hot pink cotton for both unexpected fun in my fashion and to have a non-poly comfort against my skin.  I’m carrying a celebration of cheerfulness with me when I wear this dress!

The fact that this dress has received top rating from my 6 year old is proof of the happiness this dress exudes.  He always laughs, smiles, and is like glue to me just to study the print – if I ever want to make his (and my) day better, I wear this.  Want proof?  My son made me a necklace that matches.  It was totally a surprise project of his.  Someone brought a beading kit to keep the kids busy after church one Sunday and he was busy making something for me in all the colors, but extra beads in especially the ones I love – turquoise, purple, and pink!  Together with earrings from my Grandma which remind me of baby robin eggs, this is a combo that is spring and summer embodied for me.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The bird print is a buff finish polyester satin while the solid bright pink lining is a poly and cotton blend broadcloth

PATTERN:  Burda Style “Cut Out Dress” pattern #116B from August 2014

NOTIONS:  All I needed was thread!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was a quickie compared to how it looks a bit complex – 6 to 7 hours and finished on April 19, 2017

TOTAL COST:  I didn’t really wait for a sale to buy this – it was too cute to wait and see if there was going to be any left!  However, I did buy it years back at the (now defunct) Hancock Fabrics so sorry if you want some, too!  It was about $7 for each of the 3 yards…and the broadcloth was a few dollars a yard too.  Thus – my total is about $20.

Everything matched up well for this pattern and the instructions were decent (not as great as sometimes).  However I did go up in size and I’m glad I did.  The bust and shoulders seem to run small in my opinion, but then again I did not want a tight fit for a breezy balmy weather dress made out of a non-stretch woven material.  I also brought the shape of the neckline in just a tad – straightening out the dip of the scoop in front and bringing in the sides so as to cover my brassiere straps better.  The neckline now appears to be more of a wide boatneck, but it is still easy to slip over the head as well as complimentary open around the neck, just now compatible with normal lingerie.  Finally, I slightly lengthened the front half of the hem line to the skirt.  All these changes I am so glad I had done at the cutting stage.  I do not think I would like my dress as much as I do if I hadn’t have done such adjustments.

I do love how this dress is a balance of simple and complex depending on how you look at it.  The pattern pieces were rather interesting, too.  From the front it has clean lines – straight, shorter skirt and a basic bodice with cut-on kimono cap sleeves and only a flashing hint of the ‘party in the back’.  From the back, the skirt has a full sweep – like a lovely cape – in midi length and the bodice is separated from the waistline for some skin baring in an uncommon spot.

The cut out ‘window’ at the back waistline more than just a feature, though – is adjustable with a drawstring going through the casing made around the oval opening so you can customize your coverage to your liking.  I love when personal preference is considered in fashion!  This design also makes this dress a pull-on which needs no zipper!  You loosen up the gathers to pop it on, then pull the drawcord ends (one long 1/4 strip made of the dress’ fabric) to close the back as you prefer.  The back opening as you see it on me is almost as small as it will go, so if you like this design, too, keep that in mind.   The half waistband that is in the front of the dress merely basic and comfy elastic kept in a casing made of the seam allowance.

Such a design detail of an open back above the waistline can be seen on the sporty dresses and versatile playsuits of the vintage world of fashion.  I notice similar styling from the 1940s to the 1970s.  In the case of this Burda dress, the back opening sort of makes it look like the bodice is only connected at the front and side waistline.

In the cases of vintage styles which are similar the bodice and bottoms can be actually disconnected for completely versatile set!  There is a modern (readily available) New Look sewing pattern which offers the same cute and ingenious styling as the 40’s and 50’s counterparts I showed as just a few examples.  However, none of them include a high-low hemline, as well.

If you’ve been following my site for awhile you may have noticed I do enjoy a high-low hem.  This style of skirt does show up here and there in my projects because I like it only in small doses.  This particular variety of a mullet hem is my favorite yet.  It has a fantastic sweep due to the back opening gathers – just the back half of the skirt was such a large pattern piece it practically was one yard in itself.  The lining underside the skirt really makes the most out of the hem shape because if you’re gonna see the ‘wrong side’ make it worth noticing.

Full body lining is the absolute best thing for this dress, I do believe.  The pattern needs to be amended from henceforth to include this step.  I don’t know about you, but I hate the feeling of a polyester fabric on my skin…man-made fibers aggravate both my body and my mental state in more ways than one.  So – to keep both my sanity and comfort whenever I do succumb to the cuteness of a polyester fabric, I line such garments in good old cotton broadcloth.

No, really, though – full body lining also makes the edge finishing so much cleaner and fuss-free.  No tiny hemming to do, and no raw fraying edges to deal with either.  I love a clean inside as much as I love how nice my garments look on the outside when on myself.  You can see the clean, no-seam hot pink lining side through the open armholes, too, and do so enjoy a garment that has its innards visible when they are done as nicely as this!  It’s not that much extra work – sure it takes twice as much fabric – but it is worth it in the end product.  For me, I guess sewing is not just materializing an idea or feeling, neither is it just crafting something I need or want.  I suppose my habit of finely finished insides say that what I love about sewing is the beauty and the art of it.

Cedar Waxwings I spotted in my parents’ backyard!

The ultimate magnificence is in nature, however, and birds are the cheerful feathered announcers that living is to be celebrated.  I am lucky to have had up-close and personal time with birds – especially the time I took a class on bird banding as a teen and actually held my favorite local feeder visitors.  Then, there is the time I was by a creek painting some flowers and a hummingbird buzzed me, coming up to within inches of me, seemingly thinking I was something which needed checking out.  Yes, the thing I love about birds is the best way to enjoy them – stop the busyness of life, listen with your heart, and soak in the cathartic benefits of realizing their simple but indispensable existence.  Something as insignificant as this post’s home-made piece of clothing, no matter how fabulous, reminds me of the greater beauty of life around me.

Mardi Gras Tricolor

The festivities of revelry are never as outgoing and widespread quite like what happens throughout the world before the Lenten season, whether or not one chooses to participate.  Trying to say goodbye to excess and habits by indulging in them seems rather odd to me, but nevertheless I like an opportunity to wear some great colors.  The trademark tones for the popular American “Carne Vale” are as bold in their pairing as the party antics which are carried on.  They are as rich in history as they are saturated in hue.  Yellow gold, dark yet bright purple, and a cheery grass green are quintessentially, visually recognizable of a New Orleans inspired pre-Lent celebration.

Not that this post’s outfit was originally intended to call to mind Mardi Gras…it was just an Art Deco fabric on hand and the inspiration of the 1930s penchant for bold color pairings which led me to make the dress you see.  This had been one of my early 1930s projects I had intended to make back when I started blogging, but I realized both that I was not ready for the challenge and I was perpetually undecided on a fabric choice.  Finally, everything came together and I am so happy with the results!  The geometric print is perfect for a dress from the very early 30’s, the fabric appears much nicer in quality than a modern poly, and the design has such great features I think it is so appealing even for today.

To keep with both the Mardi Gras theme and the 30’s inspiration, I am wearing a modern wool beret.  Mardi Gras is a French word after all, and New Orleans has a rich French heritage, so my beret fits right in!  Do you notice the fancy stylized French Fleur-de-lis on the wall behind me, as well?

Also, look for my special accessories, too.  The necklace is a true vintage gem – a 1920’s glass bead piece that needed my help by doing a restringing and adding a clasp for a whole new life.  My earrings are me-made to match (as best I could) using clip-on blanks.  My gloves are true vintage from the 30’s.  I even broke out my old timey Cuban-heeled stockings!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The main body of the dress is a polyester satin with a sheen on the printed side and a buff finish on the other.  The neckline contrast, sleeve bands, and belt are a burgundy-tinted, rich purple buff polyester satin remnant.  The dress is fully lined in poly scraps…mostly a pebbled satin purple supplemented with a black non-cling variety

PATTERN:  McCall #6957, year 1932 – I used the reprint from Past Patterns which you can buy here

NOTIONS:  The belt buckle is a prized Bakelite vintage item I’ve been holding onto for the perfect project like this!  (Subsequently, the buckle has sadly broken…and is tentatively glued back together for now.) All else that I needed was lots of thread and some scraps of interfacing for the sleeve bands and belt.  It’s a simple needs Depression-era garment!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was made in about 20 hours and was finished on April 18, 2018

THE INSIDES:  Left raw…but you can’t really tell because the dress is fully lined

TOTAL COST:  The fabrics for this dress are more of my precious hoard of clearance deals which I bought when Hancock Fabrics was going out of business.  I don’t remember exactly but this dress can’t have cost me more than $15.

Now, I recognize that the Eva Dress Reproduction Pattern Company also sells copies of this McCall pattern, but I have always preferred Past Patterns.  Besides – their sizing is closer to mine which means less dramatic grading for me.  However, if you need a bigger size than Past Patterns’ 36” bust, Eva Dress’ repro is a 38” bust.  Even still, I often find 1930’s patterns from 1936 and before seem to run small and this one was no exception.  You want a slightly baggy fit with this dress because it is a slip-on with no side zipper called for.  Also this design was coming from a time that was still easing away from the 1920s, which is very obvious when I take off my belt!  I graded this pattern down to what was still technically a roomy size for me (with extra for a modern 5/8 inch seam allowance) and I feel it fits perfectly enough to both be comfy and land at the right points on my body.

I am quite impressed with this pattern.  Everything matched together well and it turned out just as the cover drawing portrays.  It was relatively easy to figure out how to sew together despite the fact that there are several tricky spots to take time on.  Many of my other 30s patterns made to date needed tweaking to the fit, or some of the panels were a bit off, or some of the instructions lacking…but not with Past Patterns.  The designs they choose to reprint have so far always turned out happily successful for me so far.

Making the many exact points and precise corners to this dress was quite time consuming and honestly a bit stressful along the way.  My fabric was a very slippery and always shifting material.  It was hard to be precise and avoid any bubbling out at the points, especially since (for the skirt insets) I was trying to connect two opposing grain lines together.  The insets were stitched together like a regular seam, making it harder, but the neckline contrast was invisibly top-stitched on to be exact and clean because it is more easily seen.

All of the pattern pieces were rather odd and almost unrecognizable on paper, but looking at the cover they all made sense.  It’s amazing how sewing works, isn’t it?!  The front is all one enormously long piece (as there is no waist seam) which appears like a giant capitol H, because of the insert panels at the neck and skirt center.  The back is mostly like a squared-off basic bodice, except with two ‘tails’ attached for either side of the middle panel.  The seemingly rectangular middle panels swerve out on the sides like the curve of half of the letter U to provide soft fullness to the skirt below knee.  The sleeves, dramatically opened up because of the numerous pleats, are almost 30” wide.  It’s no wonder that this dress needed a very anti-Depression era fabric amount of 3 ½ yards…and I was using 60” width material!

I have never done tucks quite like what was called for on these fun, poufy sleeves, and it was sure an experience.  You have to make them in a certain direction because they are layered on top of one another.  I have seen this type of mock-pleating on the skirt waist some couture garments (such as Dior).

You start from the side and pleat towards the center then move to do the same for the other side.  Both top and bottom have to be done separately because the center has to be left free.  All the pleats are folded into the skinny cuff band and attached to the dress…suddenly the sleeve looks amazing!  I had planned on an organza ‘filler’ to go inside the sleeve thinking it would need help poufing out, but no it doesn’t, even though my fabric is silky soft.  My printed fabric and the discrepancy of photography does not do these sleeves due justice for their awesome detail.

The neckline was definitely the most ingenious and usual piece of all, and I absolutely love the look of it in the contrast solid!  It reminds of an adapted jabot, but it is merely called “a vestee” according to the pattern.  A project I’ve already made from the next year in history, my 1933 McCall’s reprint set, also has a wrapped front drape at the neckline – a more dramatic and simplistic version of what is on this ’32 dress.  Neckline interest was very popular in the early to mid-30’s and I like all the interesting variety of it, especially neck drapes and ties.

I changed up the instructed making of the “vestee” for what I think is a cleaner and more straightforward construction.  It called for a single layer of fabric drape which connects to another single layer half piece which doesn’t have a drape.  This would have showed the underside of the fabric, been awkward to sew together at the center, besides showing the hemmed edge.  I made two, draped, full “vestee” style neck insets so that they could be sewn together like a facing for a clean edge along the center drape that doesn’t show the other color of the other side to the fabric.  I had to add the trio of pleats to each of the two pieces before sewing them together and on the vest.  Then I hand tacked the pleats together down the center.

The same beautiful, rich purple solid satin as what was used for my 1951 slip dress and the details to my 1955 Redingote jacket went towards the contrast here to break up the busy print and made the most of my remnant stash.  Just you wait, though, I am not yet done using this purple satin…there is one more project I’ve squeezed out of it (to be posted soon)!  I used the darker satin side of the fabric on this dress.

Purple normally is the color for royalty, and many Mardi Gras celebrations to have a King (and Queen) that is crowned to preside, but the southern American symbolism for it during the pre-Lent partying is “Justice”.  The green represents “Faith”, gold represents “Power”.  It all relates to both heraldry symbolism as well as the fact both United States and French flags are tri-colored.  My green is the new spring grass, and the rest of the colors I’m wearing.  I don’t always wear the dress accessorized like this – tans, or ivory, or black tones mellow out the bright but rich colors.  Finding vintage accessories in my size, in decent condition, in a reasonable cost, in more unusual colors is a challenge otherwise I would also try out pale yellows, or light purple, and other colors with this dress!

My first sewing project from 1932 has been long in coming but I’m glad I can enjoy it now.  I have been straying at the very strong shouldered and cultural influenced styles of the late 30’s for quite a while recently and this is such a refresher!  This has me thinking about what will fill in my empty spot for the year 1930…hummm.  Look for that this summer!

Red Roses for a Vintage Style Lady

Admittedly, for someone that briefly worked as a florist, I’m not much of a real roses fan.  Don’t misunderstand, I regard them as simply beautiful, and when in quantity add up to a good day’s total at the cash register.  As a customer, though, they just wilt too quickly for their cost.  Even the outdoor bush and plant variety always seem to soon enough become sick or mutated and die in our yard, sadly.  Now I have the kind of roses whose beauty will last and make for a great deal!  Heck with the old song, “Red Roses for a Blue Lady”.  These are roses for a lady who likes vintage styles!

Here is yet another garment where I’ve repeated what I know I love in a project – channeling a feminine ‘Betty’ outfit from the television show Mad Men again (second season this time; other Betty dresses here and here) and also using a true vintage fabric (my most recent one here).  As good fashion never really goes out of style, I do think this dress has the same qualities as the costumes of Mad Men, period-appropriate but also timeless and fashionable even to modern viewers.  I paid attention to details like I had all the time in the world, and did tons of hand stitching, even adding seed beads, for a dress which is my own perfect Valentine’s Day treat!

My fabric choice is a pristine condition, polished, printed cotton from the 1950s (surmised from many recurrent similar extant garments of that era).  I found it as a lonely piece at a steal of a price thrown in the corner of an antique mall shop.  How could I just leave it with its saturated red goodness at that cost?!  So – a good fabric deserved a really great pattern…one that has intimidated me every bit as much as I adore it.  I came upon a find, I saw a perfect project in mind, and I have conquered it!  However, the finished wiggle shaping ends up making my body look like a very shoulder-and-hip-heavy hourglass ‘Joan’ silhouette that I really am not used to but am completely taken by nonetheless!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a true vintage cotton lined and contrasted in a solid black cotton broadcloth

PATTERN:  Simplicity #2727, a ”Slenderette” pattern, year 1958 (I plan on coming back to this and making the jacket, yet!)

NOTIONS:  The basics I needed were on hand – thread, interfacing scraps, a hook and eye – but the zipper (22”) and the beads I bought recently just for this as I realized exactly how I was going to detail it!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  It took me about 10 hours to finish, but I actually spent a handful of hours just on figuring out the pattern piece layout before cutting out…there was no room for error…or the pattern pieces, really…

THE INSIDES:  A fully lined dress means all inner seams are not to be seen…

TOTAL COST:  This vintage fabric was only 8 freaking dollars, people!!!  The cotton lining I received for free, and the beads were only $2.  So this is an under $10 dress!  Such a deal.

Why, oh why is it that the best fabrics I find seem to frequently come in small cuts?  It’s like some sewing Karma wants to test me at every turn and always make sure my projects are a challenge.  This rose fabric was in a ridiculously small 35 inch width (one of the reasons I can estimate the vintage) and was a hairs breath under 2 yards long.  Under the envelope back listing for 35” width fabric, it says I needed 3 yards for this dress.  Yikes!

The only way I could make things work was to piece together a full one side back bodice panel and to add a horizontal waist seam to what had been intended as a smooth center front.  The print is complex I do not think the extra seams are noticeable but I know they are there, nonetheless (well, so do you now).  The center dress panel change especially makes me a bit sad (seen or not) because I loved the streamlined look of it with one-piece, streamlined, princess-style drafting as on the original design.  Not too shabby of a compromise, though, and at least the lining was cut properly without extra seams!  Granted, every piece was butted up against one another when laid out, so it’s a lucky thing I did not have to grade up in size at all.  The skirt had to be shortened by about 5 inches and the kick pleat eliminated to make things work, so I was literally left with nothing but tiny triangles of scraps leftover.  Although stressful, even mind stretching, it feels so good to be super-efficient and determined with a project idea!  If there’s a will, there’s a way, as the saying goes.

I am glad I had put off tackling this sewing project until now when my sewing skills are where they are at.  The overall dress was not hard to make.  It was the detail points that were the challenge, which was a difficult one that I have not had in a while.  Luckily, I had some practice ahead of time to help me out on the trickier spots of this dress.  A few of the projects I have made already have had some of same the details I encountered in making my red roses dress when all of them were in one project.  The underarm bodice panel/kimono sleeve combined into one element reminds me very much of my 1955 Redingote, as does the belt attached in at a front waist dart.  The side paneled bodice shaping is just like on my recent 70’s style Burda jumper.  The pleats which cover up a seam, like the ones at my waist, are call to mind the pockets on my “Spring Green” Easter suit of 1954.  It is good to challenge oneself, but at the same time I want to stress it is beneficial to work up to that scary hard pattern by finding projects ahead of time which prepare your skills for a successful turnout.  A fruitful finished sewing creation makes all the difference in confidence and estimation of worth in time and effort.

The bodice panels turned out the best I’ve ever done yet, happily, thanks to knowing what to expect.  I do love the way such a design element in the garment provides the best ever shaping for ones bodily curves, besides being the most comfortable form of a kimono sleeve…better than one with underarm gussets.  Look for something similar to try for yourself – you will love the way it wears!  Only, I thought the bust for this pattern ran large until I put on the period-appropriate longline bustier.  Then, suddenly I had that curvaceous 50s figure and a perfect fit that put me in awe.  So, a word of warning – in a 50’s pattern, beware that their curving accounts for more than what modern women are used to with the lingerie of today.  Unless you are willing to try a different style of underwear, or unless you find such a design element in a pattern from another decade closer to now, the wonderful shaping which you will find with a bodice panel/kimono sleeve combo might be more than you expect.

Those front waistline pleats where the belt is attached were the toughest part to tackle.  It took me about 4 attempts to figure them out correctly…but just look at them!  They remind me of the interesting pleats which can be found on some 50’s or maybe 60s couture garments.  Two of the pleats that provide the slight hip poufiness are angled out and folded down.  The pleat that encloses the belt and bodice side panel seam is perfectly vertical and folded towards the other two pleats away from the center front…so confusing on paper but awesome finished properly.  The fabric makes it really hard to photograph these details as clearly as I see them.

I’m not complaining about this wonderful fabric one bit, though!  Modern cottons are sadly missing out on the lovely sheen which vintage polished cotton has, not to mention the saturated dying process that makes it almost reversible.  Yet, vintage polished cotton is a bit sheer and stiff on its own, thus another solid opaque layer was needed under my dress for a non-transparent and natural-bodied hand to the fabric.  Besides, I am silly and would rather make a whole second dress as a lining so as to have an impeccable, second skin finish inside…not just to cover all the seams but mostly to eliminate the fussy neck facings.  Having more than enough cotton lining gave me an opportunity to cut the dress out the way it should have been with no adaptations.

Except for the major seams inside, all else to this dress was hand stitched invisibly.  This has been the first garment where I really sense that my hand sewing skills have grown to be similar to my machine skills – accurate, fast, and efficient.  The lining is hand tacked to the zipper (which was also hand installed to the point it is as good as invisible); the neckline, sleeve hems (after a machine added ¼ inch bias binding), and skirt hems (after lace tape added to the under edge) hand finished.  Not that it matters – who else but me really sees inside or even gets close enough to notice the details?  Whatever.  It’s that choked-up, happy emotion I get inside seeing the unnecessary extra particulars so fine as I’m dressing.  It makes you feel special, and reminds me that the beauty inside a person, like a garment’s inside, although unseen, is the best part.

It’s these same sentiments and the urge to try something new that prompted me to add a bit of beading to the neckline.  Not that the neckline is not a statement in itself!  This is one of the best fitting boatnecks I have come across, and the little notched front heightens the neck and shoulder emphasis by centering under the pit between the collarbones.  I merely added some clusters of 4 to 6 seed beads at a rose center which might be near the neckline center top edge, with a few smaller 2 or 3 bead accents on some petal tips as shading.  I was tempted to go and add the whole package of beads so it would show up better, but there is something I love about the understated elegance to not going overboard.  I do not want gaudy or distracting details to subtract from the dress and its fabric, and the more I bead, the more there is pressure to turn it into some sort of defined design…then my beading skills have to be better.  I did attempt to make a simple 3-D flower out of strings of beads to add on the end of the back waistband.  It’s not perfect, but pretty nonetheless, and just the perfect touch if I do say so myself.

Vintage is admired and long lasting because of its understated quality and beautiful ingenuity…these are the details I miss the most in modern ready-to-wear.  So, if I can bring a small part of that back in my own life and be the example, then I am happy.  If I can remind others they are worth feeling good in their skin by a wonderful dress, and that creating is good for the soul, than my garments are beneficial to more than me alone.  Hopefully with the time, attention, and care I put in towards my dress project, this red roses vintage fabric will have a lovely new life for many more years to come!  I know this dress will be seeing more than just a Valentine’s Day wear!