My Emerald 30’s Vionnet Evening Dress – Buckle and Closure Details

In response to Nikki’s comment and to clarify what I didn’t address in my latest post, here is a follow up which will explain the closure system to my Vionnet evening gown and how the buckle works.

DSC_0591a-compWorking with vintage parts can be rather tricky because they are slightly different than what we are used to with modern notions and sewing parts, but with some ingenuity they can be made to work in more than one way.  This buckle is no exception.  The back had a very odd and basic bar to the back of each half, like it was made for the ends of a belt to be looped around.  The hook closure is a simple metal piece bent over to loop into an opening of the other side detail work.  I have several other 1930’s buckles and they have these same features.

Now, Vionnet original plan for this dress call’s for a square decorative piece (look at the pattern piece), not even aDSC_0592a-comp buckle.  Her original dress has four eyelet openings so that hooks in the decorative piece can loop in the openings and bring the dress in that way.  Since I was working with an actual buckle, I attached the backer bars behind each side to fixed spots on my dress.  This was a bit challenging…I had the measure the space between the two bars when the buckle was closed and figure that in when I was estimating where to attach the closures and how tight to bring in the dress.

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At first, I merely whip-stitched the backer bars around and around directly to my dress, flat on top with no pleat or anything, at a spot of my choosing.  The fabric of the front just folds in and gathers on its own under the buckle when the dress gets clasps.  After a night of partying and dancing, however, the threads around the buckle back broke and I had to come up with something which gave the fabric more support.  Plan two was to still sew the buckle on in the same spot in the same way but I used a small cut of some green felt, double layered, to back the buckle inside the wrong side.  This works great and feels quite stable as well as not ripping out the stitches and/or fabric.  The felt inside acts like a cushion for the thread to wrap tightly around (although it looks like surgery stitches), and provides a wide anchor spot to strongly bring the dress in with no appearance of even pulling at the fabric.

I hope this post clarifies any confusion as to how to use those vintage buckles you see or find and also how my emerald Vionnet dress closes.  There are plenty of awesome vintage notions out there – go find that ‘perfect’ project to make them have a new life at the hands of your creativity.  A little voice in the back of my head wants to “save” stuff like this…but no!  Vintage pieces can really help a project shine, elevating it from special to extra-special!  They might need some t.l.c., or some extra effort but it’s worth it.  Have you worked a really neat vintage notion into a sewing project or had to get creative with it?  Did this post help you?

“Jump-ing” Into the New Year

It’s been a few years since I made my first jumper – a vintage, warm and cozy fashionable (yet unusual) piece of clothing.  As I don’t want my single jumper to get lonely in my closet, I made a second unusual and very fun vintage jumper to kick start my sewing for this year of 2015.

100_4552-comp     Does it look like I love it?  I do!  It’s a little bit of mod and bold and uniquely complimentary all at the same time.  Ah… most importantly it is warm and versatile winter wardrobe piece.  Also, it was a stash busting project!  I have to laugh, though, at the fact that my jumper is turquoise in color.  Looking at the amount of projects that I make in this color, I guess some things don’t change in my sewing habits.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  I don’t really know, but at the same time, I do know.  I’ll explain.  This jumper’s fabric totally seems like a felt by its thickness and composition, but it also feels like a flannel by its softness and brushed pile.  So, to explain, I’m rather confused, but I’ll call it a felted flannel (if there is such a thing).  The content is probably cotton, but there might be some polyester or even acrylic in this fabric.  This felted flannel is backed in a 100% polyester, cling-free, matching colored lining for a smooth feel and fine finish.100_4600a-comp

NOTIONS:  Everything but the zipper down the back and front button came from on hand.  The zipper and button were bought from Hancock Fabrics, with the button being “fiber-optic” from their own “Lauren Hancock” brand.

PATTERN:  a year 1967 junior’s pattern, Simplicity #7255 (I love the studded gloves drawn on the center model!)

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My jumper was made in no time – maybe 5 hours or less.  It was finished on January 10, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  So professional and perfect, because of the very nice construction methods directed in the instructions.

TOTAL COST:  The felted flannel has been in my stash for as long as I remember, and the lining was bought a few years back, so I’m counting both as being free.  All the expenses are from buying the zipper and the button, which is a total of $3.00 or less…cheap, huh?!

Notice that this pattern is a “junior’s” sizing.  So I went back to the same method of adjusting the bust/waist/hip lines as for my last late 60’s junior’s pattern, which you can see by clicking here.  For that first junior-sized dress, I added in 2 inches horizontally at the high chest (above the bust) to lower all the bust/waist/hips at the same time.  After all, I measured and found out that the distance between the main sizing points is correct, just where those spots hit needed to be brought lower.  That same adjustment was done to this jumper pattern and, again, the fit turned out perfectly.  The dip of the side opening falls at my high hip, the bottom point of the front piece ends below my hip, and the decorative button becomes my “fake” belly button – all as the pattern shows.  I know all this sounds strange, and maybe a bit weird, but, hey…the jumper is from the “Space Age” and I do say I like to try new and different things.

100_4564a-comp     Speaking of “new and different”, this 60’s jumper pattern introduced me to a completely odd and never-heard-of-before sewing term for a specific part of clothing – “plastron”.  The back of the pattern envelope States that “the lined jumper with button trimmed plastron has slightly lowered round neckline, very low armholes, back zipper, and top-stitching.”  Apparently the plastron is the downward arching piece which ends around my hip into a tri-pointed keyhole on the front of my jumper.  Now, what exactly is the plastron?  It does indeed sound like some sort of super cool science fiction space story word…sort of like the word “dalek” from the British television series Doctor Who.

From the research I have made, a basic definition for a plastron is more or less and interfaced chest piece that fills the hollow between the shoulders and bust (based on “The A to Z of Sewing” by Janome/uk.com).  However, “Gertie’s Blog for Better Sewing” quotes a 1947 book- here –where a plastron is listed as a type of a yoke.  A basic dictionary definition of plastron has several general terms showing how this article of clothing has been around since the middle ages when it was a front piece for armor, and later a defensive protection for the sport of fencing.  The basic idea of a plastron, a separate piece of garment meant for covering the chest/shoulders, was incredibly popular in the 1830’s into 1860’s as well (see this wikipedia page). During those eras, it was popular for women to appear to have wide shoulders, and also use pieces which covered, protected, or fancied up their bodices with such plastron style pieces as a fichu, or a tippet , or a pelerine (see this Pinterest page for a picture of a pelerine).  A pelerine appears to be the closest and1959 dress oldest thing to what we know as a plastron, being that they both are made from the same fabric as the rest the garment, are trimmed and decorated, and have a high neck.  Now, both you and I can properly recognize a style that has been used for many centuries.  I have a 1940’s plastron dress to post about soon and a few 50’s plastron dress patterns I would like to find (such as the 1959 dress at right), so keep watching for this neat style across the decades!

100_4566-comp     After my failure at attempting to make a funnel neck (back when I made this 1968 corduroy dress), I had little interest in making the pattern’s version with the high collared turtle neck.  Although it does look neat on the cover drawing, in all reality I don’t think I could pull off the collared funnel neck view, styling wise.  A turtleneck if definitely a necessary item of clothing to wear with this jumper, anyway, big funnel neck or not.  I have searched high and low with no luck at finding a wild colored paisley turtleneck like the one shown on the cover model at far left – but I do have another late 60’s pattern in my stash to make my own copy at some point.

Anyway, let’s talk about being economical!  Making this jumper using 60 inch width material took even less fabric than the amount listed on the back graph of the pattern envelope.  That is always a nice surprise to be able to make something great on so little fabric.  In total, I believe the jumper only used 1 1/3 yards.  The suggested fabric types also leave this jumper to be made out of practically anything a seamstress might possibly have on hand: cottons, synthetic blends, denims, fleece, linen, double knits, woolens, gabardine, and corduroy.  This is one sensible but strange pattern.

100_4557a-comp     The jumper itself went together in a flash, even with completely lining the insides and covering every seam.  I found the pattern construction methods to be amazingly smart, and for once I followed the instructions almost 100% (only once in a blue moon do I do this).  You sew up the back, connect it to the plastron at the shoulders, and also do the same for the lining.  Then, you sew the lining (wrong sides out) to the jumper fabric all along the back half of the armhole and all the way down and around the plastron.  Turn right sides out, top stitching completely around the edges except for a few inches away for the side seam edge.  Now the zipper had to be installed so the neckline facing could be sewn on.  Next, the bottom front of the jumper had the armhole edges finished off in the same way as the back/plastron piece, lining to fabric, wrong sides out, with right sides turned out and edges top stitched.  I covered the inner raw edge of the bottom front with bias tape before lapping the plastron over the lower front to make one whole piece.  To my happy surprise, the marks to match up the plastron on the lower front matched up so very perfectly, making things incredibly easy.  Last but not least, the side seams were sewn up in one continuous line of fabric and lining so that the top stitching around the armhole bottom could be finished.

100_44381960s vintage home sewing ad frm Miss Dandy blog Aug 7 2009      A 1967 poster for this jumper pattern was found on the internet, with the singer Beverly Ann as the “popular face” to promote sewing this project.  I find it interesting how just top stitching on the plastron in different lengths from the edge changes the jumper’s front.  In the old poster, Miss Ann‘s jumper has the plastron’s edges sticking out dramatically because I suppose it was sewn down about 2 inches in from the edge, looking like a real breastplate.  My own jumper was sewn about 5/8 inch from the edge, making seem to be more a part of the overall jumper.  I like both ways, and can’t decide which I like better, but as my jumper is made how it is, I’m suppose I’ve decided already 🙂

The last decision on the hem finishing was difficult for me because I wasn’t quite sure what length to choose.  On account of adding in the two inches to adapt in from a junior’s measurements to normal proportions, the bottom length came to fall a few inches below my knee.  The jumper, from the hips down, fitted like a very nice, straight pencil skirt, and I felt the hem would look best quite short.  Adding a little “hottie” factor would not be a bad100_4441 thing, anyway.  However, most people I know who lived the prime of their lives in the 60’s and 70’s seem to look back and cringe at the mini-mini lengths they wore for those decades…and I did not want to completely revisit those days.  Thus, my jumper is shorter than what I am used to, but still long enough to be conservative.  The lining is just an inch shorter than the jumper itself, and free hanging separately, attached at the side seams by thread chains.

100_4423     It is funny how just a little bit of different styling changes the theme of the jumper between blatantly junior’s into modern flashback retro.  Knowing about the styles of the era and observing the pattern envelope, I enjoy pairing matching/contrasting colors of my turtleneck and the tights worn with my jumper.  The different toned yellow colors as seen in these second pictures, together with my hair pulled straight back into a low messy bun and basic flat shoes, seems like the junior’s theme for the jumper.  I don’t need any help looking younger than I am.  100_4563a-comp

So, to make an adult theme, I paired it with my knitted beret hat, a basic white mock-neck top, cranberry tights, chunky socks, and suede boots.  This second modern adult theme is my favorite and warmest way to wear my jumper.  The boots you see are Italian leather and were my mom’s boots, bought for some ski trips she took with my dad in 1979, so they are about a decade off in years from the era of my jumper, but they add a special fun and warm touch to my outfit.

Even with being bundled up, I was quite cold in the picture at right and used my jumper as a sort of muff to warm up my hands.  Look for more pictures of the different ways I use and wear my jumper loaded soon to my Flickr page.

100_4433     Creating a garment like my ’67 jumper highlights one of the best benefits to making one’s own clothes – you can try new and unusual styles, something you can’t find or get to wear otherwise.  To me, making one’s own wardrobe is all about exploring one’s own tastes in style, attaining a fit uniquely one’s own, and finding enjoyment from being open to endless possibilities which come from fashion being in the hands of the individual. Being an individual keeps you from turning into a boring, uniformed robot, like so many who wear exactly what the advertising industry tells you is “the thing”.  Sure, I keep up with trends, but just enough to know what’s going on and recognize quality or a vintage style feature when I see it.  This 1967 jumper might be different…and I like it that way.  Will you help me end the fast-fashion, advertising-brainwashing of our modern culture and make your own wardrobe, too?

Putting a Feather in My Hat

badge.80The title phrase for this blog post is the literal truth – I put another “feather” in my sewing “cap” of projects under my belt recently by successfully making and fitting a vintage wool hat.  Not just any hat, mind you, but a hat designated to a certain style which was popular in a particular time period -the mid 1930’s to early 1940’s Tyrolean style.

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

100_4093a Here I’m wearing my hat with a garment that hits the midpoint in the era of this Tyrolean hat –my 1940 “Gold Diggers” style suit dress and jacket.  My hat also matches well with my 1937 peacock blouse, for another option of pairing the hat with something from the very beginning of the Tyrolean style.

From all I can tell off of old fashion plates and catalogs, as well as what I have read from books and other bloggers, the Germanic/Bavarian/Tyrolean Cultural style lasted from about 1935 to the end of the war, 1945-ish.  There is a wonderful blog post here at “The Vintage Traveler” were this fashion is expounded upon and explained better than any attempt of my own.  I perfectly agree with the author of “The Vintage Traveler” that the Germanic styles lasted because of a very basic reason – it was popular before the war, then the war-time shortages forced it to stay.  If a lady had a wardrobe of these styles when WWII broke out, she wasn’t going to acquire many new styles and/or fabric for the next several years, so those were the clothes she had to wear.  However, I would also like to share my strong suspicion that this fashion prevailed before and around WWII because of the amount of fashion designers fleeing into America to escape ethnic isolation and persecution going on in their homeland territory.  See this link (or see We Sew Retro’s review) that will show you an exhibit about one such designer. Those designers seemed to strike a cord with the Hollywood industry (becoming popular with actresses like Marlene Dietrich).  The Tyrolean/Bavarian style was also regarded as exciting with its new, fresh styles of easy button front dirndl skirts, fun jumpers, and bright colored fashions bringing back a youthful ideal from overseas in our very own America.

THE FACTS:Vogue 8175, yr 2005

FABRIC:  My Tyrolean hat is made from an 100% wool felt, in a golden heathered yellow tan.

NOTIONS:  None needed to be bought; everything was on hand.  All I used was thread (the same color used for my linen 1920s tunic), a ribbon (which was easy, as I have a generous ribbon stash), and a feather I’ve had on hand for a while to use on a hat.

PATTERN:  Vogue 8175, year 2005, (now out-of-print).  Beautiful cover pictures, Vogue!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  With only three simple pieces in this pattern, it was together in the blink of an eye and took me only 3 hours from start to finish – 45 minutes to sew the crown and brim together, an hour to hand sew the brim’s hem, and just over an hour for the cutting out, sewing on the inner band, and other finishing touches.  It was completed on October 25, 2014.

TOTAL COST:  The full price of the wool felt, bought from JoAnn’s, was $20 a yard, but I had a coupon for half price, and I only bought half of a yard, so my total cost was only $5.00.  Making my hat only used up half of what I bought, so in reality I actually only spent $2.50!  How’s that for dirt cheap pricing for high quality?!

Millinery skills are my new ‘thing’…another world yet unexplored for me, at least as successfully as this time.  You see, I have actually made two hats before.  Several years ago, I had made a basic fleece hat, which did turn out very well, except the plaid print does not go with much in my wardrobe so I haven’t worn it.  That fleece hat did provide some faith in my potential for hat crafting.  Flashback to sixteen years ago when I had bought some very nice winter suiting fabric and planned on making a matching “tulip shaped” skirt and “bucket style” hat set.  The skirt half of the project was finished perfectly, and I still wear it nowadays.  The hat, however, was also made perfectly…only it didn’t fit.  Boo hoo!  It was lined and interfaced, and lots of time and details were put into that hat.   When I was done it was way too huge and too well made to be picked apart and salvaged.  Frustrated and devastated, I ended up giving it away (now I wish I had kept it), and have only now regained my hat making confidence again with my wool felt Tyrolean hat.  Enough said!

100_4070 With a pattern this easy and simple, at first I was doubtful as to how it would work out.  As you can see above, it takes only three simple, unusual shaped pieces to become something amazing in no time at all!  The rectangle sort of piece with the notch in it is the crown, and the crescent is the brim, and the tiny band is the loop for my feather.  The brim piece gets a dart along its length (if you look closely you can see it marked on the felt).  Then you sew together the long ends on each side of the square notch.  Next, that notch turns into the crown’s asymmetric side pleat/indentation by opening it up a different way and sewing it together.  That’s it!  It magically turns into the crown as you see it on me and the pattern envelope cover.  For the brim, the slanted ends get folded under before it is attached to the crown.  This part was tricky, but still much easier than expected with the brim and crown matching up and fitting perfectly.

I was wary of the sizing, and actually terrified I was going to choose the wrong size.  I looked up about how and where on the head to measure your head size for hats and measured my head accordingly.  I ended up with a measurement of about 22 or 22 1/2 inches, which was no big surprise as I have noticed labels on the inside of my vintage hats listing the same sizing.  This Vogue #8175 pattern is divided into small (21 1/2), medium (22 1/2), and large (23 1/2) sizes.  I went for the medium size and – bingo! – perfect fit.

100_4103GoodGirlsGotoParis cafe scene-a After much discussion together with a sewing friend of mine who knows about hat making, I opted for a wireless brim edge and I am quite happy with my decision.  As an example, the actress Joan Blondell wears a Tyrolean flared hat very similar to my own in the 1939 movie “Good Girls Go to Paris” (see her in the middle of the left picture). Joan Blondell’s hat was rained on, smashed, rolled up, and generally beat up, but she would pull on her hat, fold it into shape, and it still looked good.  Now, I’m not saying I want my hat to go through the treatment her hat received, but I get the general idea that these hats are supposed to be easy care, easy wear items that have shape, but do not keep that shape by means of stiff, constrictive support.  Besides, the wool felt fabric I used for my hat is so very luxurious, tight, and finely made that it is supple yet able to keep its shape at the same time.  Hand sewing under 1/4 inch hem on the edge of the brim took me longer than sewing the hat together, but I ended up with a very nice appearance, especially after it was ironed.  This hat’s edge is the perfect lightly stable finish to match with the rest of what the hat has going for it…effortless style!  Vintage truly does things right!

100_4097a I did fudge a bit on the inner ribbon band.  Proper vintage hats should technically have Petersham ribbon, which gives the correct flexibility and fiber content to provide the best support and authenticity.  Apparently you’re supposed to iron the ribbon into the curve of a smile as pre-shaping before sewing it into a hat – this way there are no wrinkles in the close of the curve which you get with ribbon or grosgrain.  However, I was impatient to have my hat finished and be able to wear it, especially when it was coming together so quickly.  I did not want to wait the amount of time necessary to order some Petersham ribbon, and find myself agonizing at the mailbox every day just so I can wear my new hat.  At some point, I do want to order some Petersham ribbon and do an inner crown’s band properly.  For this hat, I chose some wide ivory satin ribbon and hand-stitched it on, easing in the wrinkles.  It still looks nice inside, but like I said, I’ll do better on my next hat.  Hey, listen…I’m talking about making more hats!  Keep watching my blog.

100_4101 My hat’s feather comes from a mystery bird, as far as I know.  I’m guessing it’s a turkey feather.  I bought it from a vendor’s tent at a “Lewis and Clark” 1812 Historical encampment which we visited a few years ago.  I had bought another, second, even more interesting feather, to be added onto a “Jane Austen” era bonnet of mine.  Only thing is, that second fancy feather had been eaten up by an insect, and this smaller one I used for my hat was the one I have left.  I didn’t know bugs liked feathers.  If anyone can recognize the bird my hat’s feather comes from, leave me a comment and enlighten me, please.

Once you feel that you can make hats, it opens up a whole new facet of the vintage world.  Now you can perfectly compliment and complete that vintage garment you sewed up with a hat that suits the individual’s taste, wardrobe needs, and sizing.  No more biting the bullet to fork out a lot of dough on an old original for sale – most vintage hat patterns I have seen take about 1/2 yard or less, so you can generally get some very nice fabric for a decent (if not cheap) price.  Making something yourself is sensible in more ways than one.

From my experience, I think hats seem so much more intimidating than they really are, and once you actually get into making one (as long as the sizing is right) you’ll be happily surprised.  After this Tyrolean hat was finished, I know I found myself saying over and over again, “This was it?  It’s done already?  Look at how great it looks!  I can’t believe I made a hat!”  Everyone deserves to have a sense of this proud amazement over what they make.  I have a suspicion it comes from successfully completing a challenging and unusual sewing project.  By overcoming my fear of not being able to do a certain skill, I have found a way to indeed add another “feather in my cap”…the first of others, hopefully!

There are more views of my wool Tyrolean hat on my Flickr page.