Warm Weather White…Topped Off!

A sundress, to me, is a sort of ‘default’ summer garment.  Sure, it can be changed up and made in a million different ways and (don’t get me wrong) I do love a sundress.  However, when Allie J. had her June ‘Social Sew’ with the theme of “sun dressing”, there was something in my mind that told me, “You have plenty of sundresses…that’s an easy thing for you to fall on…pick something you don’t have, something new and different that still means summer to you.”  O.k., I’m always up for a challenge.

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So, I have make a bright white year 1934 blouse and re-fashioned a modern sun hat into a vintage one.  With my wide cuffed driving gloves, a two tone belt, and my already made mid-30’s basic black skirt (posted here) I have a new basic toned summer outfit.

My blouse was so easy that I want to whip up about a baker’s dozen and is so comfy that I want to wear one on a regular basis (also why I want multiples)!  There’s only one yard needed, anyway.  On its own, I think the blouse is not obviously vintage, which is interesting as it is from a very old date in an era known for “stand-out” designs.  Most importantly, this blouse is the ultimate summer blouse for me – just enough to keep me effortlessly classy and covered up in old style while staying cool as a cucumber!  Nailed it!  With an awesome one-of-a-kind hat to keep the sun out of my eyes I am ready for the heat.

THE FACTS:DuBarry 1114B, year 1934, envelope front-comp

FABRIC:  The blouse is a 100% cotton with all over embroidery in a “hibiscus flower” pattern, the hat is modern in a 100% straw content

PATTERN:  Du Barry #1114B, year 1934, for the blouse and my own design for the hat

NOTIONS NEEDED:  Nothing but the basics are needed here – thread, bias tape, and buttons, all of which were on hand.  The hat refashion needed something special besides water and clothespins…I’ll explain down later.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  only 3 or 4 hours from start to finish, which was on June 24, 2016.

TOTAL COST:  The embroidered cotton was bought as a one yard discounted remnant at JoAnn’s store, so it only cost me $8.50.  The hat was given to me as a present from my mother-in-law.

Not only is the pattern I used for my blouse a Du Barry line (harder to find, made between 1931 made 1947) but it also has the “NRA” symbol, something limited to years 1933 and 1935 as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal Depression Era initiative.  Also, each garment in this three piece ensemble of skirt, blouse, and jacket has basically only three pieces for a ridiculously and deceptively easy outfit.  This is very utilitarian but lovely in its details.  I mean, just look at that jacket, too, with its two tone scarf closure!

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The main drawback is that the only way this pattern was affordable was because the instruction sheet was missing.  So far, I made it by without the instructions and I think the blouse is the hardest item from this pattern’s trio, but I would still love to know exactly how I was supposed sew it ‘cause it was slightly tricky.  Yet there was nothing some ingenuity couldn’t make work.  At the front neckline edge, where the blouse bodice joins to the all-in-one shoulder/sleeve yoke there seems to be some sort of tuck or dart called for, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure it out no matter how I tried.  What small tuck I did make all but disappeared, leaving a small bubble behind when I finished the neckline.  My hubby figured out that perhaps the bow (which I left off, as you can see) hooks and hangs from this bubble tuck, so perhaps it is meant to be there.  Between the embroidery and some steam from my iron the bubble has disappeared already, but I would love to see the instructions showing how this was supposed to work.

DSC_0759a-compLook at the odd pattern pieces!  The shoulder front/back yoke is the most unusual one – it is cut on the fold and darted so it is all-in-one, including the sleeves.  This is actually the first blouse pattern where there are separate pattern pieces for both the right front and the left front.  Those two pattern pieces are identical, the button holes and the buttons are just marked differently, so I’m kind of counting them as one piece despite them being cut separates.  I left out interfacing because I wanted an easy, quick blouse without being stiff or prissy. DSC_0806-comp

The hem has a shirt tail bottom, which I haven’t seen much of in vintage women’s’ blouses.  The ends are rounded off which I think is so cute!  I had tried to hem the ends under but with the embroidery in the cotton it turned out much too thick especially for a blouse that is meant to be tucked in.  So I merely finished off the raw edge with some double fold white bias tape giving a clean-looking hem, with a hint of a contrast, and a flat edge.

DSC_0804-compAs this blouse was just so quick and easy with its insides left raw (the embroidery keeps the cotton from fraying), I compensated by making bound “windowpane” buttonholes.  There are only three of them down to the waist so it wasn’t overmuch.  Making any more than five bound buttonholes starts to become more of a chore for me…but the promise of the finished project always gets me through any tough spots.

I love how the embroidery keeps the blouse from looking as sheer as it really is but I think the neckline somehow turned out a bit low.  I also don’t understand why the sleeves don’t look quite as wide as on the cover drawing, but oh well, they still are great.  Happily, this blouse goes with so much in my wardrobe, and works with my 40’s bottoms, as well as McCall 375, 30s hat pattern&Jaya Lee Designs on Etsylooking remotely modern.

Speaking of modern, the hat from my mother-in-law was originally such a bland, un-interesting piece, so very forgettable, it’s no wonder she didn’t want it.  I had to make it special, but also something I needed to go with my wardrobe, something I was lacking…a 30’s style summer hat!  My inspiration for this re-fashion came from browsing through pictures, old catalog re-prints, patterns, and online vendors.  The early 1930’s hats all had small brims and small crowns (many with ridges) worn over closely cropped or tightly curled hair.  Time to soak and re-block.

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A large tub of plain water was the starting point.  The lace was taken off and the plain hat was soaked for about three hours to soften it.  However, there is a clear glaze covering the straw which made things challenging.  The glaze still kind of flakes off like falling snow when I wear it.  Nevertheless, I was able to pinch out two giant ridges running the length of the crown, held in place while the hat was drying with clothes pins and wave clips meant for vintage hair-do’s (available online or at salons).  The brim was un-rolled and pulled down at the center front and center back as well.DSC_0801-comp

Some unique lattice-cut ribbon from my stash was folded in half for the band and a simple double bow was made from the full width.  The ribbon is kept in place with a straight pin because I want the option of easily changing my mind 😉

It’s fun to stray from the norm, especially since I can make whatever comes into my head!  I found a new way to rock the summer.  I hope I’ve inspired you to look into re-fashioning those ‘blah’ hats to your liking.  Have you used your creative juices to make something especially different that means summer to you?  Or have you, like me, found a new amazingly simple blouse that is perfect for you from an unsuspecting pattern?

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“Wilderness Stripes” – A 1944 Day Dress and a Hat Re-fashion

The varied colors of the forest are layered like a sedimentary rock in this year 1944 dress I made. Earth tones, leaf tones, and a basic white found on mushrooms or in the sky can be found on my casual and comfy vintage dress. For a complete outfit, there is even a special hat re-fashion I made to match…one with an open brim which now lets the sunlight in! Hint, hint, there is something also very forest related in plain view on my dress – look at my close-ups and if you’re not a pro at seek-and-find I’ll reveal it down later 😉

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This dress is such an effortless piece, more like a past make, my 1945 “Daily Life” dress.  Having a dress (and hat) that looks nice while making me relaxed enough to play in the outdoors (where I enjoy myself the most) is indispensable to one like me that adores vintage fashion.

The soft rayon is a dream to wear and the pockets are so fun and utilitarian. Style features on the pattern I used are rather unique to one made from “Hollywood” or “Du Barry” pattern brands. No classic ‘40’s blousy waist with gathered shoulders’ or ‘slim lean shape’ here – only tailored darts, unfussy seams, and basic simplicity (many other “Hollywood” and “Du Barry” patterns I see are princess-style fitted and traditional convertible collars). The Rayon print I chose is bright, and makes the most of my pattern and my sewing capabilities with its stripes.

100_6322-cut-compMy dress, hat re-fashion, and shoes are all late war, mid- 1940’s. It is also more of a youthful, almost “junior” look, especially with the hat (more down later). That youthful aura is ‘saved’ by the totally edgy and adult wedge sandals with studs. Footwear with platform soles, with studs, and in sandal form were a fashion forward trend in the 1940’s (see Lauren‘s blog post here for more) in some part brought on by rationing (see this ad here or this Time Life picture of alternative material shoes from 1943).  Although accurate, my shoes are new re-makes (“Cherub” by “White Mountain” brand – most comfy and soft and in real suede).

THE FACTS:

FABRIC: a 100% rayon challis for the dress; a 100% paper hat for my re-fashion, bought ready-to-wear100_6213a-comp

NOTIONS: The thread, bias tapes, and shoulder pads sewn into this dress were from on hand already. The side zipper was newly bought to match, and the buttons are a vintage find purchased a few months back. The hat’s ribbon was from my stash on hand

PATTERN: Du Barry #5840, year 1944. (DuBarry were a branch of Simplicity patterns, printed for about 15 years and sold only at Woolworth ‘five and dime’ stores, info from here.)

TIME TO COMPLETE: Total sewing time was probably 10 hours, but contemplating the layout before cutting must have taken 2 hours in itself. The dress was finished on October 1, 2015.

THE INSIDES: Inside is a combo of some French seams with mostly bias bound seams.

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TOTAL COST: Not counting the buttons (since they were bought a while back, and just to have on hand), my dress cost me a total of about $12 or less for about 2 ½ yards of clearance fabric, the bought notions, and hat.Aug. 21, 1943 ad for General Tire in the Saturday Evening Post

As neat as my dress turned out, I originally intended on the stripes in the fabric to go vertically up and down on my dress rather than how they are horizontally. It was an embarrassingly brainless mistake…I was so completely wrapped up in making sure the stripes all lined up and adding on the slight grading needed, I forgot to change the direction of the stripes. Duh! Oh well, I still totally like it, I’m just frustrated I didn’t see what was in my face. It’s hard for me to admit, but clueless moments do happen and at least I didn’t make a mistake that rendered my dress unwearable…finding those ”silver linings”, you know!  Now my dress’ stripes are more like the one seen in the 1943 General Tire ad at right.

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Making my first “Du Barry” pattern was a happy experience. The dress construction was super easy (yes, even though it’s an unprinted pattern) and I liked the instruction sheet. Nevertheless, I found the sizing to be very large, as in a whole size too large, at least. I had to bring in the side seams about 1 inch on each side and the dress is still generous on the top potion. The hem too was very long – I had to make a 6 inch hem to get my dress the length you see. A hem this large would never have been war-time ration acceptable, I know. As my first “Du Barry” creation, I can’t say anything definitively but I wonder if this is a tendency of this line of patterns. Does anyone else know…what do you think about “Du Barry” sizing?

Here’s another question – have you figured out the forest item which is on my dress? It’s100_6320a-comp my vintage buttons! They’re like giant acorns. The way they are grooved reminds me of the stripes in my dress. They also match with the era, as well as matching theme-wise. On a practical scale, there were three of these acorn buttons (just what I needed) and the only remotely matching color on hand. They are not really “working buttons”, as my dress is loose enough with such an open neck that I sewed down the front by merely stitching them down through all layers. Nevertheless, these acorn buttons are a special find, very pretty, and a nice statement piece.

I could not for the life of me decide what to do when it came to choosing what bias tape to use to enclose the raw edge of the neckline (as the instructions recommend doing). Do I want the possibility of the bulk and further stripe craziness with self-fabric bias taping? Maybe. Do I want a contrast? No, I didn’t want to highlight just one color from the print and limit the sweaters, belts, shoes and accessories which I could wear with it. Thus, in the end, I abandoned all of my ideas, stitching bias tape down and turned it under like facing. It sort of makes a blunt finished edge which I’m not sure if I like, but I didn’t decide what exactly to do. The neckline is nicely simple and dramatically open with a nice finish inside, so it good enough for me for now. There might be changes to the neckline in the future.100_6319-comp

Check out those pockets! Could something so useful be so neat? Yeah, only in the 1940’s. My dress’ skirt stripes are matched across under the pockets (quite hard to get right). Harder sewing techniques are only seen as a challenge to me, one which hopefully improves my skills and learning with each attempt.

100_4868-compMy hat was such an easy and cheap re-fashion. It was bought for one freaking cheap dollar anyway! Luckily it was actually paper to make it a bit more authentic, since straw imported from Italy ceased in 1940. Luckier still, the hat was assembled of woven strips stitched together so my refashion was simply a matter of unpicking thread from the crown to a certain point. The thread used for the stitching on the hat was thick cotton thread, and what I unpicked has been saved for use at a subsequent time.

100_6323-compBrowsing through the info and pictures on “Vintage Dancer” blog (page here), I decided I wanted a sort of cross between a “Roller Hat” and a “Bonnet Hat”, with an open crown. Once I unpicked the hat to make the new open-crown, I had several ideas of how to accessorize the hat but liked them all so I went non-committal and simply have the ribbon as you see it pinned into place inside. You’re probably thinking, “There she goes again with more indecision.” I figured it was a matter of which outfit I wanted it to go with or which “look” I wanted. The simplicity of the wrap-around ribbon style you see goes well with my bold, busy dress print. However, I also had planned on having the ribbon end pinned at the center front crown, then going across the top of my head to separate and tie in a bow at the back crown, but this only made me appear as a 1940’s school girl junior (cute, but not exactly what I wanted). I was also tempted to further the forest theme by adding on a corsage decoration of leaves and such to my hat, but no – I’ll make a floral corsage at some point, I think, but pair it with another outfit. There are so many styles and options with 40’s hats, I’m envisioning more effortless hat re-fashions such as this one for me to make in the future.100_6312-comp

There is a literal wilderness out there of ideas, inspiration, pictures, patterns, fabrics, and techniques when it comes to the realm of sewing. It can be hard to swim through it and find what fits for you and your particular project, like me trying to decide how exactly to refashion my hat or make my dress. Enjoying the process and just going for what seems best works for me…but it is intimidating that there is so much fun and creative things to do with so little time! What do you like to conquer in that ‘sewing wilderness’ – challenging techniques, tricky fabric prints, detailed designs, or novel ideas? I enjoy making anything, but specifically relish in sewing projects with a relaxed lived-in, easy comfort and fine details. What makes you happy to sew?