Simple Luxury – a 1940 Flannel Bias Nightgown

I’ve been wanting to post this for so long (two years), but it’s a nightgown so I don’t usually make sure to have make-up on and decently arranged hair in evening when I want to be cozy and relax!  This is the first part of a small three part February series of easy ways to do vintage for nighttime.  Emileigh of “Flashback Summer” blog beat me to the punch, and has a similar idea with her own “Lovely Lounging” series for February.

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Vintage fashion really knows how to make basic items so elegant and beautiful, and I think nightwear is one of the best examples of that, especially in the 1930s and 40’s.  Not that new luxury nightgowns cannot be found nowadays as well, but they tend to cost a lot of dough and are generally in static-attracting, non-breathable polyesters.  On the flip side, so many flannel nightgowns available (even today) are the “granny-style” Lanz of Salzburg type, completely vintage authentic, decent, quaint, and cozy.  Yet, I’m too afraid that a vintage one will end up tearing irreparably, so although they are so beautiful and still rather easy-to find in our town, I only own one and don’t wear it to sleep in.

100_4670-compwNow, the 1940 pattern I used for this nightgown’s post was so quick (a few hours), easy (only four pieces), required little fabric (just under 2 yards), and fits and feels wonderful to wear with the bias-cut skirt working in my favor.  This has the best of both elegance and warm comfort, not to mention it’s new and hand-made vintage.  I am totally hooked…I want one of these to wear every night!

Now you’ve also got a glimpse of our tiny 1930’s era bathroom, too.  Lucky for me I like lavender so much, since I see it every day!  We are proud to be one of the seemingly few homes in our primarily 1930’s/1940’s era neighborhood which still has many original features, especially in our bathroom.  We have lavender swirled Vitrolite tiles, powder grey/blue painted walls, and black and white tiled floor.  Odd combinations of colors were a popular craze starting in the late 1920’s…at least we don’t have colored fixtures, too!  Anyway, this architectural chat should postponed to get to “The Facts”.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% cotton brushed flannel in two prints – just under two yards of a purple and green floral with an aqua background, with an extra ¼ yard of a swirled purple print.

100_4669-compwNOTIONS:  Everything I needed was on hand already, only needs basic items: thread and bias tapes.

PATTERN:  Simplicity #3508, year 1940 (…this was such a lucky buy on Ebay, one of those where nobody bids and you get it for the dirt cheap starting price!)  By the way, look at this year 1940 Hollywood #544.  This Jane Wyman pattern is just about an exact copy of Simplicity #3508!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  From cutting out to finish took me about 3 hours.  It was finished on February 27, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  raw but nicely stitched over

TOTAL COST:  These fabrics were bought so very long ago (maybe 10 years back) from Hancock Fabrics, so I’m counting this as free.

This nightgown is a great example of a small niche in the decade of the 1940’s – pre-WWII times.  The fashion from 1940 to 1941 (and maybe 1942, for a stretch) has a very unique style in my eyes.  It shows strong influence of the styles from the decade before, the 1930’s, so much so that some early 40’s designs can be similar to as far back as about 1936.  Yet it is still the 40’s, too, so that lends its own touch to the styles.  The popular Tyrolean/Slavonic/Germanic designs of the late 30’s and the Latin American prints which spawned of the “Good Neighbor Policy” of 1933 was another way that influences carried over into the 40’s as well with such items as pinafores, peasant styles, dirndl-style embroidery, fun border printed skirts and dresses, Xavier Cugat music, novelty brooches, and unusual hats (like turbans, for one example)…this is just a short list.  Besides, rationing wasn’t in effect as of yet in America and our country’s designers were just beginning to hold their own against the other leading fashion headquarters of the world.  I see in the early 40’s a glimpse of something similar but yet apart from the rest of what 1940’s fashion became – it also gives me the sneaking haunch that had not WWII changed and influenced so much, the decade could have looked much differently than we know it.

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My duo of matching/contrasting flannel fabric has been something I’ve been holding onto for about a decade because I liked it so much and also because I wasn’t up for sewing nightwear until just a few years ago.  My original intent was pajama pants, but no – I have enough of them.  One night when I was in the strong mood to wear a vintage nightgown, I had finally felt I was holding onto the flannel long enough and laid my pattern and fabric out in the early evening and started cutting.  By late night (our bed-time) I had a new, glamorous nightgown.  Oh, thank goodness for uncomplicated, easy satisfaction projects!  I love it when you can start something and wear the results on the same day!  So many early 40’s patterns were labeled as simple-to-sew, when really they are complicated by today’s standards.  This nightwear pattern has no easy-to-make labeling, but it is truly a breeze.

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Perhaps the other best part was the fact there is no need for any closures.  No zipper, no snaps, no ties – the bias gives enough, and the pattern sizing is generous enough that this just slips on over my head.  No facings, either – just bias tape finished edges all around.  How easy can it get?  The flannel body keeps me warm enough, the sleevelessness gives me just enough to air to keep myself from being too hot, and if I’m chilly I’ll just cover up with my housecoat…another tease of what’s in the next post, sorry!

Before I forget to add fitting facts – this nightgown did run large (like 2 sizes too large).  Granted some extra room comes from the double facts that flannel gets larger as it is washed and worn besides extra ease needed to make this a slip-on gown (as I said above). However, I sewed a full front and a full back and then sewed the side seams as my last step so the fit is easily adjustable.  The nightgown pattern also was originally oh-so-very long.  I graded out about 10 inches from the length.  I do not need to trip all over an evening gown length just feel elegant in my bed wear! 100_6236-compw

The bottom hem band of contrast was added not so much to extend length (although I didn’t mind) but just to provide a matching contrast which would pair well with the tie belt.  I didn’t want just the aqua floral, not that it isn’t so pretty, but I had kept the purple swirl flannel paired with it for such a long time the two deserved to stay together.

As lovely and simple and quick as this nightgown was to make, this was (at the same time) another unprinted, hole-punched markings pattern where the pieces do not properly fit or match together.  The bodice needed to be cut smaller to fit into the skirt and the gathers didn’t seem quite equal, and I think this is mostly due to the skirt portion.  I have read before that unprinted patterns can be off-balance, because of the way they were made.  Large stacks of many, many layers of sheet are die cut and if you get one towards the bottom, its markings can be off – and anyone who sews knows that every little variation counts towards a successful finished garment.  Oh well, this is a simple enough design it was not hard to adjust, so I’m sorry if I seem like I’m complaining…just making an observation for you all just in case you happen to snag this pattern for yourself, too…and do buy it if you see it, and if it’s not too much for your wallet!

100_6224a-compwThere are plans in the works to use this pattern again, believe me.  Out of all the patterns in my collection, this one is a true asset in the way it is a good base, a tried-and-true starting point to tweak and draft off many other variations, especially some of the ever popular 1930’s era bias gowns.  Just imagine how this design would hang and drape in a lightweight sweater knit or a silk charmeuse for a dress version!  My immediate ideas for re-incarnations of my nightgown’s pattern are Simplicity #3835 (year 1941), one of these 1933 dresses or this 1935 evening dress (both from “Eva Dress”), and even this super elegant Butterick #5413 (year 1933).

For now, I just hope to make the bed jacket at some point to keep the chill off my arms when I don’t want the weight of a full housecoat.  I did make a bed jacket from a different pattern, modelling it over this post’s nightgown (link to see it here), but this was actually a present for my mother.

Stay tuned for the next installments of my vintage nightwear reveal.  Now, to decide which night wear project for myself to tackle next.  I actually have three in the queue – will you help me pick the next one?

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Candy Stripe Blouse

dsc_0976-compwI don’t know about you, but we have plenty of candy leftover still from Christmas (and even a little from Halloween).  Among the candy, we had so many candy canes we actually were able to decorate the tree with them!  Now that the tree and Christmas are past and out of sight, we have to work on finishing those candy canes still around.  Well, how about instead taking care of some scraps of red and white candy striped fabric?  As one who’s not that crazy for sweets (I know, call me odd…), this ‘sewing option’ to finishing off some ‘candy’ is my kind of thing!

Hubby thinks of the hospital volunteer “Candy Stripers” when he sees this blouse.  I know the two share similar fun red and white stripe usage, but they technically wore pinafore-style jumpers and my garment is just a blouse.  Still, both a pinafore and my 1940 blouse are peasant themed, and a rather “cute” (yuck – hate that term) style which tends to make one seem younger than one’s actual age (I don’t need help there).  Both are from the same decade – my pattern dates to 1940 and Candy Stripers originated in 1944.

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However, my blouse has something extra to it that makes it uniquely special in its own way, apart from any history or style or whatever.  It is made from fabric given to me by my Grandmother.  This post is in memory of her, as she is now deceased as of this past weekend.  The fact that the fabric for my blouse was from her gave me some stress and self-inflicted pressure, at first.  I wanted to make the very best I could with what she gave me, but I realized when planning to make this blouse that she would want me to only enjoy and be creative with what she gave me, and nothing less.  I felt the fabric and the pattern were made for on another, so it must be the best re-use of her scraps – I am quite pleased with my blouse, and thankful for her always encouraging appreciation of my talents.  She was seamstress herself, as was her mother, too, so she had some awesome and useful sewing related items she was sweet enough to want to see what I would do with.  Grandma, this blouse is for you!

dsc_0974a-compwThe date of this design (as I mentioned above) is 1940 – thinking back, my Grandmother was 10 years old that year.  To make this blouse all the more poignantly related to Grandma, the family (myself included) suddenly realized, while looking at pictures of her long life over the weekend, how very similar her face and mine are to one another.  Goodness, we seemed to have more in common than I knew.  She was such a lovely woman, always with a kind word, a smile on her face, a thoughtful act, and a love of nature and of family, just to name a few qualities.  I just hope I can be more like her, not just in face, but in person, too.

THE FACTS:hollywood-1991-year-1940-envelope-front-compw

FABRIC:  a 100% cotton flannel scraps, from the stash given to me from my Grandmother; linings and facing are cotton broadcloth scraps from on hand in my stash

PATTERN:  Hollywood #1991, year 1940

NOTIONS:  The only notion I bought was the trio of front buttons; otherwise, everything else was from on hand – the thread, bias tape, and hook-and-eyes

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was relatively quick – 6 to 8 hours were spent to make this blouse and it was completed on February 4, 2016.

TOTAL COST:  Just the buttons were bought (modern & basic red half-ball type) , so only a few dollars in total

This was a fun, intriguing, yet challenging project all-in-one.  I had plenty of inspiration that I had found for late 30’s and early 40’s striped blouses (many of which can be found on this Pinterest board of mine) so it was just a matter of choosing a combo of directions 100_6728a-compwfor each section of my own blouse.  This part was quite the memory game, trying to remember which pattern piece was for which section of the blouse and trying to lay it out in the intended stripe placement, all the while remembering to match lines!  At first, it seemed I was quite limited as to what I could do because the fabric was a scrap piece, all cut up already in odd places.  But, some mind crunching and much switching around of pattern pieces (again, like a puzzle game) and I was able to get what I intended, with only the blouse bottom waistband being necessarily cobbled together from four individual parts to make a whole.  In all, this was another “close call” sort of project where you cut the pattern squeezed onto the fabric so much so that you barely have a few inch scraps leftover – so difficult but these kind make the most of every inch of fabric.

As was the case for other Hollywood patterns, this blouse again ran large.  I know it seems it is supposed to be quite poufy and generous by design anyway, but I accounted for it by slightly downgrading with bigger, more modern, seam allowances.  My only complaint to this top is that the button front neckline does not give me enough room for my head.  I am able to put the blouse on as you can see, but getting it on is like some sort of skin pulling, “second birth” experience (sorry ‘bout the mental picture) that leaves the tasks of fixing one’s hair and applying make-up to be something that comes after being dressed.100_6948-compw

The awesomely full and puffy 30’s style sleeves are my favorite part to this blouse, besides being proud of the matching I achieved in the arm pleats on the side (see right picture).  Also, this is the first Peter Pan collar that I really actually like on myself for some reason.  The controlled, even fullness of the bottom band is easy to wear – nothing to come un-tucked!  The flannel keeps me just warm enough on chilly days but the short sleeves prevent me from being overheated when being inside.  In all, this blouse is a great wear, so comfy with full movement, bold statement striping, and a vintage look that is a good kind of unusual.

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In order to avoid a side zipper being too stiff for the side closure, I buried my intolerance for hand stitching and sewed in snaps.  The snaps keep the bottom blouse poufing out like it should above the bottom band.  A strong waistband hook-and-eye holds the waist 100_6946-compwtogether.  Sometimes I tuck the waistband into my bottoms (as when I wore my 40’s style denim skirt) and sometimes I leave the blouse band out (as when I wore it with my 40’s jeans), and I can’t decide what I like better.  The blouse appears more like an Eisenhower-style jacket when untucked and closer to a blouse when tucked.  Either way, I guess I do need to find more than just navy and denim bottoms to match with my blouse, at some point.

This last mention is no big deal, but I wish I had thought about “setting” the colors before100_6949a-compw I washed the blouse fabric.  It was a crisp red and white originally with a generally smooth feel, but after washing the flannel its brushed finish fluffed out more than expected and the red leaked slightly into the white turning some stripes into a faded pink tone.  The color problem is not something obvious enough to really show in our pictures, however I wish I had thought of it beforehand and am keeping this lesson in mind for the next bold two-tone fabrics that have to make their way to the washer.  Any suggestions on how to do this “setting” of dyes that leach?  I have seen salt water soaks being recommended, but does anyone have first-hand tips to share?

I attempted to channel to quaint hairstyle on the cover of the pattern envelope with a simple ribbon headband.  In the one set of pictures I even tucked my hair up to have more of a late 1930’s look, then the other pictures have my hair left down long for more of the ‘40’s young lady’ look.  It was after the pictures for this post were taken that I saw these old photo booth shots of my Grandmother in 1940 when she was 10 (center) and some others as a teen in post WWII times.  In the 1940 pictures, she had her hair short and curled, wearing the same ribbon-headband-with-a-little-bow just like me, but the teen pictures are pretty alike, too!  These old photo booth pictures make me see similarities between us all to well…

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There are many ways to remember the past, but remembering it through fabric is kind of special.  You get to wear it, do creative things with it, and it can be seen in pictures for a long time after.  Admittedly, there is nothing that can beat a memory but clothing certainly can add to that recollection or bring it back.  This might not be the best garment I’ve made but the special background to it makes it pretty great to me.  Now that the time for stories coming directly from my Grandma is past (sadly), I’ll keep paying attention to my her pictures and maybe I’ll see a glimpse of what she made with the other part of the fabric I used to make the blouse in my post.

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‘Gene Tierney’-esqe 1940’s Lumberjack Shirt and Trousers

It’s way too fun to let myself give in to my strong tendency to do pretty dresses.  With the weather turning chilly, I could use something different that isn’t quite so dressed up to keep me cozy.  So, now that I’ve been recently realizing the beauty of 1940s casual wear, through the inspiration of actresses Gene Tierney,  Ava Gardner, and Hayley Atwell (a.k.a. Agent Peggy Carter), I took two mid-40’s vintage original patterns from my stash to make my own downtime wear from the past.  There is something a bit timeless, tasteful, and special about a set of “down-time” clothes made in vintage style that modern ready-to-wear cannot have.  The 1940s can make wearing a man’s style look so ladylike!

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1946 is the magic year for my blouse.  Not only is it the year for the pattern of my blouse, but it is also the year of my inspiration.  Gene Tierney wears a lovely flannel shirt in her Noir movie “Leave Her to Heaven”.  Once I’d seen this movie, it has tendency to gene-tierney-leave-her-to-heaven-year-1946-see-classiq-me-style-in-filmcropuncomfortably stay in back of my mind and the fashions are equally memorable in a better way.  Luckily this movie was specially made in color (a rather special practice for the times) and I was so happy to find a plaid in a shockingly close color scheme.  Ava Gardner also wore a nice flannel blouse in her gritty part in another 1946 movie “The Killers”, as also did Paulette Goddard in the 1948 movie “Hazard”, though as both films are in black and white I don’t know the true colors.  You can visit my Pinterest page for “Ladies Lumberjack Blouses in the 1940’s” to see pictures of all movie inspiration mentioned for this blouse, as well as others, too.

peggy-and-sousa-promotional-imagecompBoth actresses Tierney and Atwell wore perfectly fitting bifurcated bottoms in colors, as did Marvel’s television heroine Peggy Carter.  They all put the “class” into “classic”.  Peggy wears such wonderful trousers during the exercising of her duties on the job, and although the inspiration garment came from her Season Two (year 1947), she is often stuck in the past.  Thus I feel using a pattern from an earlier date (1943) suits appropriately.  My spin on feminine menswear from the 40’s is completed with nail polish (Cover Girl XL nail gel in “rotund raspberry”), red lipstick (Cover Girl Continuous Color in “vintage wine”), my sole Bakelite bracelet, and a simple ponytail!

THE FACTS:mccall-6709-year-1946-ladies-lumberjack-shirt-compw

FABRIC:  BLOUSE – 100% cotton flannel, with cotton batiste scraps for lining the shoulder placket; PANTS – a mid-weight denim, 60% cotton, 36% polyester, and 4% stretch.

NOTIONS:  I relied on what was on hand and actually had everything I needed – the thread, interfacing, bias simplicity-4528-ca-year-1943-compwtape, zipper, waistband hooks, shoulder pads, and buttons (which came from hubby’s grandmother’s stash).   

PATTERNS:  McCall #6709, year 1946, for the shirt (view B belt looks like the modern Vogue #9222) and Simplicity #4528, year 1943 for the pants

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The pants took me about 5 hours in all from start (cutting) to finish, which was on March 4, 2016.  I spend maybe 30 or more hours to make the flannel shirt, and it was done on April 27, 2016.

THE INSIDES:  The denim of the pants was too thick to add more bulk with edge finishing, so they are left raw.  The shirt is nicely finished in either French seams or bias bindings.

TOTAL COST:  The denim was on clearance when the now defunct Hancock Fabrics was closing, so it cost maybe $6 for only 2 yards.  The flannel came from Wal-Mart and cost $7.50 for 2 ½ yards.  So my outfit cost less than $15 – good deal, huh?!

The shirt was a bit of a time consuming trouble to do all the details while the pants were so easy and quick.  Both the patterns fit me right out of the envelope no changes and no real fitting needed…it’s so nice when that happens!  A decent number of the 40’s patterns run small for me so I went up in size for the trousers to have a good comfy fit, especially as I was planning on tucking my thick flannel shirt in the waist.  Lumberjack shirts are often roomy, so I actually went smaller by finding a pattern in my exact sizing and making wider seam allowances.  Both steps were good ideas though the pants are a tad baggy when worn with lighter weight blouses.

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My flannel blouse served as an experimental piece on which to attempt two techniques for the first time before doing them on some upcoming projects.  As the back has a separate shoulder placket, and I did not have enough fabric to do something special (like mitering the plaid into V), I made my very own corded piping using self-fabric to make sure that dsc_0236a-compwseam has a special touch.  Making my own piping was not hard – it was fun actually!  All it took was a little extra time but is so worth it in the finished appearance.  I even cut the strip of fabric for the piping on the bias for more contrast.  See – the plaid is cross-grain.  Also, I found out how to do sleeve openings with a pointed over-and-underlapped placket.  They turned out great, but now I know what to do better next time.  Making these plackets became challenging with the flannel becoming so thick with multiple layers in one small spot, and they were barely all my machine could handle to sew.  I really do love the look of this kind of placket – so professional and finished looking, and special, too, as it was also cut on the cross-grain!  I can’t wait to try out these two techniques again.

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Most of the other skills that were needed to make my flannel blouse had already been done for my hubby’s 1943 flannel shirt as well as my “Saddle and Lace” Western-style tunic. This shirt has the collar stand all-in-one with the collar (like the tunic), a favorite feature of mine.  This makes for a smooth and unfussy neckline besides making it a bit less extra seaming to make.  My hem is arched into the side seams, shirt-tail style, though it is lacking a small patch at the inner arch, like what hubby’s shirt has.  On my shirt, the patch pocket (yes, just one) with the flap closure was every bit as stressfully detailed to match as last time I made them on my hubby’s shirt.  Just because I’ve done some techniques before doesn’t mean I like doing all of them any better for sewing them again 😉

dsc_0423-compcombowThe buttons on my shirt are vintage, as I said they come from the stash given to us of hubby’s Grandmother, but what era I’m not sure.  These buttons came in the number I needed, but they are also tiny and feminine, which is exactly what I wanted for the shirt, although they do kind of make it hard to button through the thick flannel.  The buttons had been coated with an imitation pearl stuff, but as most of it was coming off anyway, I used a pocket knife to take all of the coating off to have the buttons be a creamy white as you see them.  They are all kind bumpy on top with three small hills on each.  Does anyone have any idea what era these are from?

The shoulders are a bit droopy and I think they are meant to be like that but I did try todsc_0430a-compw prevent an extreme case.  I sewed the top shoulder seam in a ¾ inch seam allowance but as the sleeve was still over-long for my arm, I also made the cuffs in half the width they were meant to be.  Thin cuffs do look a bit different but I think this is a good save versus having the sleeves end up looking way too big for me.  I also added thick ½ inch shoulder pads inside the shirt to further structure the blouse’s silhouette, because the droopy sleeves fit better with them and also…this is the 1940’s after all!  Out of everything else on the shirt, it’s the shoulder pads that make me feel like this shirt is more like some sort of loose, unlined jacket.  I find it so funny how ginormous thick shoulder pads fit in so well with 1940’s fashion, they actually look good, and fit in to the garment’s style so well.  You’d never have guessed huge shoulder pads were in there, would you?

My trousers are so freaking awesome, I can’t praise true 1940’s high-waisted pants enough.  My last attempts were done using reprints of old patterns from Simplicity, and although they turned out decently enough, they seem modern and pale in comparison to the real vintage thing.  The reprints (especially Simplicity 3688) don’t have a proper vintage high waist, good crouch depth, and proper hip room that this old trousers pattern has to it.  The envelope back calls the set “pajamas” but I technically think that this set of tunic blouse and trousers is actually like a house outfit, probably worn as an option to the house dress.  Regular ‘blouse and slacks’ vintage original patterns for women seem to sell for more than I can reasonably spend, so this pattern is my affordable substitute.  The design is probably a bit more simplistic than an-outside-the-house pair of slacks, but they fit me better than I could have ever hoped for so that’s reason enough for them to deserve to be worn to be seen!

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The only small thing I did change was to transform a full dart out of the pattern’s prescribed knife pleat.  Just to be on the safe side, I added about 2 inches to the hem of the pants, but as they turned out, I didn’t need that extra length, so they have a very wide hem – no so 1943 at all when excess fabric like this would have been a waste not allowed by the war rations.  Next pair (yes, I am definitely making another) will not have the added length and wide hem – the pattern is just fine for me the way it is.  I have found a body match in this 1943 pants pattern.dsc_0306-compw

My trousers have seen so much use since I finished them, but here’s a different perspective yet.  I think they looked best the way I styled them to wear to our town annual WWII re-enactment weekend several months back.  I wore my white scalloped front blouse with the trousers, a leather belt which matched my studded wedge leather sandals, pearls, clip-on earrings, and a netted snood I my hair.  A re-enactor told me he thought I looked like I was dressed up like I was a French civilian.  My hubby can be seen in his recent lucky find of a never worn, Eisenhower-style, military suit set (just need to hem his pants…).  These service suits were being worn on limited personnel in 1943, but became standard issue after November 1944, so he and I are not too far off in time frame.  If I am re-enacting a French civilian, maybe I can play the part of the bride that he met while serving the European front of the war.

Do you, too, have some “inspiration icons”?  Do you sew your own casual wear, weather vintage or modern?  Have you, like me, happened to find a magic pattern that seems as if it was meant for your body?

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!  Here’s to best wishes for good eats, good times, and good memories!

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Gift Sewing: a 1943 Flannel Bed Jacket for My Mom

When it came to coming up with something to give my mother for this past Mother’s Day (2015), I couldn’t think of anything which would be more of a treat than a de-luxe handmade item from off of my sewing table. The gift of one’s talents and time is a special gift to give, especially when my mom appreciates my sewing skills…now it’s her turn to enjoy some of it! I made her cozy vintage bed jacket, one which will make her feel feminine, fancy, and special wearing it, all the while accommodating to her physical needs as one living with Rheumatoid arthritis. Meeting all of this was a fun challenge.

Throughout this post I will be the one modelling her bed jacket to save her from the public eye.

100_5052-compNow don’t get me wrong – it’s not that my mom really wasn’t picky or demanding or anything when I offered to make her something. All she asked for was something not challenging for her to close and something in a color easily washable (not something bright or odd which would need to be washed separately). I couldn’t help but choose my favorite color – a shade of purple…the softest pastel lavender in various shades for the buttons, flannel, and floral decorations.

To further the special touch to this bed jacket, I used a pattern which was given to me from my mother-in-law. The pattern is from 1943 and it belonged to her mother, my hubby’s Grandmother. I think that using this vintage family pattern makes for a special connection all-around linking all the mothers on both sides of my family by marriage, linked together by me! When using the pattern for the bed jacket, I could tell that hubby’s Grandma had definitely used it. This is interesting because she was a very straightforward woman, but at the same time she did put a lot of work into making her home life beautiful (I can tell when I see her hand embroidered pillowcase and tablecloths). I can’t help but hope she’d be smiling if she knew I’ve used her pattern and I wonder what her bed jacket version looked like.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% cotton brushed flannel

Grandma's bed jacket pattern-compNOTIONS:  I bought everything needed for this bed jacket: fabric flowers, bias tape, buttons, thread, and nylon flower decorations. I wanted it to turn out a certain way and didn’t want to cobble it together at all by relying on what I have on hand.

PATTERN:  Simplicity #4756, year 1943 (look at those darling house slippers to make!!!)

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Not long at all, maybe 4 hours. It was finished on May 1, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  Clean bias bound seams are all around inside for a nice finish inside.

TOTAL COST:  …let’s not mention it (reasonable enough to think I should be spending more on such a special woman)

There are so many options to choose on this pattern! It’s so versatile. Between differing sleeves, collars, necklines, ruffles and such, it has a little of everything with no need to have a project look the same despite coming from the same pattern. My mom chose the ¾ sleeve so long sleeves wouldn’t be in her way, and plain front high neck to keep her cozy but not too toasty. She is very similar to myself in the way she gets chilly easily all year ‘round, because even in the warm weather air-conditioning blows chilly air, then in cold weather any draft seem to be all too noticeable. Sweaters and bed jackets are year ‘round needs – they keep our upper half just warm enough to combat a chill.

100_5055-compMy mom is smaller than me (an aftereffect of her illness) so what fit me was in all probability would fit her. I was right…sorry, but I love saying that! The pattern I had was a very small sized small but I laid the pattern against my mom and it seemed more generous than expected. If I was making a full closure front I would’ve graded up but with the open front of the version I was making, “as is” worked just fine here.

The closures are simple, just over-sized loops and buttons. Using the same flannel I made skinny bias tubes for the loops. This makes it easy for her hands, many times stiff and achy, to close on herself rather than ties as shown on the pattern as she can’t visually see what she’s doing that high up under her neck. The idea is to make this bed jacket relaxing and easy to wear not a frustration because of its closure. This is the nice thing about sewing for someone – you can customize according to their needs and tastes, giving them exactly what is “up their alley” for the perfect treat.

100_5056-compI had to give the bed jacket a little extra fancy touch. I looked for an applique or transfer I liked but ended up choosing these little detailed nylon flowers, sewing them down in a tiny bunch on the chest side and one on a pocket, too. I’m not sure exactly what the flowers are meant for (meaning sewing, crafting, or scrap booking), but they seem 100% washable and stable, and besides, the way I sewed them on they aren’t going anywhere. There is a small square of interfacing behind the flowers on the inside of the jacket just to support and stabilize that spot for the decoration.

This new bed jacket is such a far cry from her old one – all worn, over-sized, pilled-up, and stained. As easy as this was to make, I’ll have to get around to making one for myself, too.

The nightgown you see under the gift bed jacket is another night time vintage creation made for myself which will be posted soon here on my blog. Just like the bed jacket made for my mother, my nightgown is also so very elegant, comfy, and was incredibly easy to make. Making home loungewear is worthwhile and so much more effortless than thought. Nightwear is truly a joy to sew – it is low pressure, not being made to impress anyone but the wearer. I think handmade loungewear is the most enjoyed since it is on during “personal” down time. So far most of the night wear I’ve made all relies on small cuts of fabric, too. Treat yourself to fun, different, and simple project and at the same time end up with a special garment for you or someone else to enjoy!

For One at the Home Front: a Man’s 1943 Flannel Plaid Work Shirt

There are the honorable men who helped World War II to be fought…and then there are the men (for one reason or another) who had the often over-looked position of keeping the home front with the women, children, and politicians. Those at the home front did not win awards or medals, but helped keep the wheels running for the country the soldiers left behind, making sure their nation was there for them when they returned from active duty. This part of World War II was brought to my attention by making a vintage pattern, believe it or not. I made (as my title states) a 1943 flannel plaid work shirt for my husband, as authentically possible and practical for me the seamstress.

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I would like to use the opportunity this creation presents to remember and address a subject of the men who stayed behind in WWII, and also the masculine fashion which prevailed in the mid-1940’s.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC: a 100% cotton blue, navy, and white flannel plaid. A small amount of black cotton broadcloth from my stash was also used to line the back shoulder yoke inside.100_4745a-comp

NOTIONS: Hubby enjoyed rummaging through his Grandmother’s vintage button stash (which I now keep) to find 10 total matching white buttons which he liked for his shirt – sleeves, lapels, and front. The interfacing and white thread needed was on hand already.

PATTERN: Simplicity #1961, year 1943

TIME TO COMPLETE: The total time was about 25 hours or more. The shirt was finished on March 8, 2015.

THE INSIDES: Every raw edge that isn’t the hem or isn’t already covered by lining or the design of the shirt (such as the cuffs), is finished in French seams. If I’m going to make him a shirt, I want to make him a really good one…’cause I can and ’cause I care (high mushy factor but true).

100_5904a-compTOTAL COST: The flannel was bought at Hancock fabrics on a big discount at $2.25 a yard. Since everything else for the shirt was on hand, and as I bought all the under 2 yards of fabric on the bolt, I only spent a total of $4.50. I think this total makes hubby even happier about this project…wouldn’t you?

100_4954-compBoth the proportions and the cover drawing of this particular pattern that I own has led me to some interesting conclusions. Firstly, let’s look at what’s apparent. The cover drawing top half shows two men facing the viewer, comfortably middle aged perhaps, both with a “grown-up” moustache and the left one having slicked back hair streaked with grey while the right has a pipe. The other man not facing the viewer is, to my eyes, a young adult/grown boy, dapper healthy and cheerful looking. I see a discrepancy here – what is not drawn are the 20 to 30-something year olds who were the ones sent away to fight the battles and see the action. Secondly, the sizing of my pattern is a small and the given proportions are quite petite. My hubby has arms that need a 34in. length sleeve, and a neck that is comfortable with a collar which is a 14 ½ in to a 15 something inch. The neck, the chest girth, and the shoulders all fit him as is, but the pattern’s sleeves needed a whopping – inches added to the length. Now I know hubby’s finished shirt fits more snugly than a traditional 40’s shirt should, and I know men’s 40’s shirts seem run roomy (that was the ‘look’ of the times), which is why he got away with fitting into such a small size, although he is lean anyways. However, my patterns sleeve length tells me that the small size was catered to one not fully grown yet – a teenage boy who would have been home because he was under 18 years old, one of the two age groups I figured from the cover drawing.

family picture3 - year 1944

Here’s a family photo. My hubby’s Grandfather, who was in the war, is in the middle in his uniform, with hubby’s great-uncle, who was about 17, on his left in the flannel plaid shirt. This is year 1944.

Amid the flurry nowadays of learning (and amazing) at how people of the 40’s rationed, scrimped, saved, and “made-do” to help their soldiers, I’d like to point out that the needs of the men who stayed behind were thoughtfully not neglected by the pattern companies, apparently. I’m impressed. I know from learning first-hand about family history on both sides that men who were in their prime of life, and did not fit in the two “classic” categories shown on the cover of my pattern, did stay back from being sent overseas, too. According to page 6 of the American Population Reference Bureau report on the military, “The World War II armed forces represented about 12 percent of the population and included about 56 percent of the men eligible for military service on the basis of age, health, and mental aptitude.” This means about 44 percent of American men didn’t serve active military service. Thus, I am curious about the size proportions of the medium and large to my pattern – are the next two sizes up for adult men with dramatically longer sleeves than the small or are shorter arms something of the 1940’s or just of this pattern? I can see some sizing on the back of my envelope, but a full sleeve measurements would fully prove my thoughts. After all, this pattern reminds me of a true “working man’s shirt” in the “lumberjack” style, with lots of generous pockets to make it even more useful and practical. Men’s vintage duds just isn’t around still like women’s vintage clothes – men wore their stuff (especially the practical ones) until it couldn’t be worn anymore. I’m so happy to find patterns which help me fill in today for what is missing from back then.

100_4958-compSpeaking of fabric rationing and pockets from the paragraph above, I was working with some major discrepancy of flannel to make this 1943 shirt, leading to some slight adjustments to the pattern. Not too often do I come across an exact fabric match to a pattern envelope drawing, much less at a cheap not-to-be-missed price, and also have it be something hubby actually liked, as well – a very rare combo! It was almost painful to hear at the cutting counter that there was just under, yes…under, 2 yards for me to make a plaid-matching, long-sleeved shirt. Augh! I don’t know why this is a habit, but it seems as if the fabrics which get chosen for hubby’s shirts are so far always way too small of yardage. I have to make the gears in my brain smoke just to make things work out (see his 1953 shirt). Oh well – I mark it up to, “it keeps me creative” (I have to reason with myself). Anyway, I did squeeze in all the pieces with a few necessary compromises which hubby is happy have – chest pockets and their flap closures are smaller all around by 5/8 inch with the hem shorter and rounded up into a point at the side seams. The shoulder tops were taken in ½ inch to eliminate drooping sleeves and keep the seam at the true shoulder. No compromises whatsoever were made as to the grain line or matching up the plaid, and I am shamelessly proud at the results, especially working on such an impossibly short amount. I’d like to think the most hardcore 1940’s era rationer would be proud of me, too.

100_4959-compNow, I’m not called “Seam Racer” for nothing, however I really slowed my pace down while working on this project, enjoying all the fine details and getting things as perfect as I could make them. Attaining “perfection” is a hard goal to set, but I wanted hubby to have a really nice shirt – besides, I have a tendency (for better or worse) to make things hard for myself.
Let me define some of the details put into my hubby’s 1943 shirt so you can look for them in our pictures. There are rounded off sleeve cuffs, for a subtle dash of personality. There is an ultra-wide collar, more akin to what I also see in the decade of the 1970’s. The classic back shoulder panel is there, fully gathered across the lower piece below to complete the vintage look. I top-stitched everything in white for a contrast/utilitarian appearance, and made the shirt insides special for hubby in French seams not seen in ready-to-wear. He chose a medium weight interfacing for the cuffs, collar, and button-hole closure edge. I chose to use the “wrong” non-fuzzy side of the flannel as the right side out to keep his shirt looking a bit more crisp and less likely to “pill” up or look worn before it’s time. This “new” “vintage” shirt is meant to last a long time!

100_4952-compThe detail that was the source of the most thought, time, and stress for me was the duo of flap patch pockets on the chest. This was the first time I had done this kind of pocket, and I found it to be a tiresome, exact technique but very rewarding when finished. The placement in the front didn’t leave much room for error without becoming immediately obvious. This is why I left sewing on the pockets with its flaps and closures for the very last step after the rest of the shirt was done. Not meaning to complain, but matching the plaid of the pocket with the rest of the shirt and the flap closure section is one thing…however, there was the button and button-hole closure to center. I felt like these pieces were a bit fiddly and rather tiny to turn, sew, and generally work with, so I am quite impressed and amazed when I see flap closure patch pockets on our son’s child-size shirts. Hubby is happy with the pockets, even though I still doubt whether or not they’re centered, so if it’s good enough for him, I’m happy, too.

After hubby wore the shirt a few times, I went back to the few minute scraps leftover and added little triangular inserts to fill in the upper corners of the shirt-tail arch. These are intended to give him just a little extra ‘forgiveness’ in the length. Now, the shirt won’t show his undershirt as easily when it is pulled out from his pants or even left untucked. Each triangle fill-in piece is doubled up and lap-stitched under the existing hem of bias tape.

100_4960-compHubby has yet to own a pair of vintage 1940’s pants, so his shirt is often worn with classic jeans. The jeans give his 1940’s shirt a sort of quintessential look in my mind, making them not so obviously vintage. Jeans are not too far off in era-appropriateness, although, because they have been a staple in the world since the 1800’s when the Gold Rush happened, as the best wearing and longest lasting bottoms. As a daily-life, work-wear men’s garment, my hubby’s 1943 flannel shirt seems appropriate to be paired with jeans, besides the fact the combo of flannel and soft broken-in, quality jeans is quite cozy.

The Marvel television show “Agent Carter” has offered some enticing eye-candy of Agent Carter Cast with Stan Leehandsome menswear styles which I have seen recently. Some of the masculine characters wore authentic vintage pieces, while others wore well sourced and excellently tailored new replicas, but either way, I love the way “Agent Carter” presents the variety of styles available for men during the 40’s, a subject often overlooked in lieu of women’s fashion. Go to this “Hello Tailor” Blog interview with the designer of “Agent Carter” where she talks about sourcing and styling the men for the television show.

1943 mens fashion-magazine ad & Spunrayon shirtsFor a man of the decade, there was the classic mid-40’s relaxed look of lumberjack shirts and blazer jackets, and also “new” post-war casual look of sweater vests and pre-1950’s “University-style” sweaters, which did or did not need a tie and “braces” (suspenders). The dapper style was there for men, too, with endless opportunities for self-expression by choosing classic ties or art ties, old style-plaids or newer brighter colors, double-breasted or single-breasted suits, and multi-pleated or darted flat fronted pants (more fashion forward). Knitwear men’s shirts, precursor to the modern polo, were also being worn by men in the 40’s, as well as more artificial man-made fibers, just like for women of the 40’s. Nevertheless, there is some things that do not change about 1940’s men’s clothes – high/natural waist pants with boxy shirts with large collars. Knits and plaid, new and classic…it all stood side by side offering a man of the 1940’s more personality with his wardrobe than many people realize.

Men’s vintage wear might be rather non-existent as far as surviving, but with knowledge, a 100_4957-comprealization, and respect of the past, us seamstresses can change this and bring back men’s ‘chic’ fashion from the past. Men deserve to have the same admirable classy personalization of individual fashion like what was available in the 1940’s. Here in this post, I feature a 1943 shirt for my hubby so relaxed it becomes a part of him but so classy and tailored I hope the vintage style and hand-made quality quietly stands out. I can’t wait to make him a different vintage project. If you sew and have special man in your life, what about honoring the past, catering to individual style, and expanding one’s talents by finding a pattern for you to create a “new” vintage garment with me and bring back a style and variety so lacking today?!