“Retro Forward” with Burda Style – a Roomy Button-Front Dress

As much as I do like getting “dolled up”, there’s been times when I need or have to leave the house and do something without feeling much like getting put together.  Not that I take a lot of work to fix myself up, I just don’t leave the house too much looking like I rolled out of bed and sometimes I’d much rather stay in my cozy relaxed home lounge clothes looking like I really don’t care.  I’ll bet most of you, my readers have those times, too.  Well, I have now found a pattern to make myself a dress that is the perfect compromise – it’s every bit as comfy as a nightgown but a nice style for many occasions…all with a vintage flair.  Perfect!  How spoiled can I be making something exactly what I want so I can go out and still feel like I’m in house lounge-wear?!

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THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% cotton lightweight jersey knitlong-sleeve-dress-no-104-01-2011-line-drawing

PATTERN:  Burda Style “Long Sleeve Dress, # 104”, from January 2011

NOTIONS:  I had all the thread and interfacing I needed, but I did have to go out and find one more pack of matching buttons (I had some of the ones I wanted to use but not enough).

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress took about 15 hours to sew, and was finished on May 20, 2016.

THE INSIDES:  As this knit does not fray, I left all the edges raw.

TOTAL COST:  This cotton was bought at the now defunct Hancock Fabrics.  I believe I spent about $15 to $20 (with a discount), more than I normally spend for a dress but the fabric is such a nice quality.

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Burda Style has had this pattern out for a while now, hasn’t it?  This is a shirt dress that rather reminds me of a cross between the 1980’s and the 1940’s, which is why it’s part of my “Retro Forward with Burda Style” blog series.  I know the 80’s did often mimic the 40’s in many ways such as exaggerated shoulders, generously sized bodices, lovely sleeve cuffs, neckline details, and feminine menswear – part of my dress.  The 80’s and 40’s also made great use of jersey knits, except the skinny skirt and elastic waist sort of does sort of tip the scales in favor of the dress being in the decade closer to our own times, though WWII was all about combining comfort with style for women.  Even my shoes are a 1940’s style, vintage from the 1980’s.  So my verdict is non-committal – I’m happy with my dress whatever flair or style it might have.

dsc_0593a-compwI was originally going to line the knit but I’m glad I didn’t as it would have made the seams much too bulky and the dress too heavy.  Any fabric thicker than medium weight would not work here.  I also thought the dusty blue background and dainty small-print floral printed on the knit had a sort of quaintness which might bring out the vintage flair without being over-cute.  When I bought this fabric, my friend the store employee told me the color and print suits me well and I do very much agree with that.  The print unfortunately hides the special squared off sleeve design (see my layout of the bodice pieces picture, at left).  As my project looks finished, I now see the small floral making my dress seem more like a housecoat than something to be worn out and about, but oh well.

This was a bit of a challenging pattern to sew both on account of the decrepit instructions, the delicate fabric, and also because it is always a task to harness loads and loads of gathers.  For this dress there are tight, full gathers from the neckline, around the shoulder piece, and over to the other side of the neckline in a continuous and dramatic line.  Add in the fact of turning and shaping those uber-gathers into a definite shape and getting in down into a facing as well and there is a hand-stressing, time-intensive detailed area that used up all of my two boxes of straight pins just to keep in place for stitching.

dsc_0673-compwI messed up slightly on the shoulder panel and I do not feel entirely the one to blame (…although I did do the sewing).  The instructions didn’t give me something to help at this point, so here’s another ‘oh well’.  It still turned out o.k., I just would not recommended to top-stitch down the non-interfaced facing on top (from the visible outside) like I did.  I made it work, but doing so made the whole intricate panel with the dress gatherings harder to achieve.  Believe me, it would have been better the other way around.  The neck and shoulder detail on this dress is stunningly lovely in my opinion, and worth the effort…if only I had done it 100% right.  I think this is the part of the dress’ construction which takes just as long as making and cutting the rest of the dress combined.  It also is the base from which the rest of the dress hangs and (in my opinion) the primary focal feature.  (P.S., look how similar this dress bodice for sale on Etsy is to the one of my dress.)  I have an idea that the shoulder panel of this Burda Style dress would look lovely in a contrast with the right combo of colors.

dsc_0671a-compwI also adapted the sleeve cuffs (with another big ironic thank you to the instructions) due in part to another “mistake” of mine as well as tailoring the design to appeal to me better.  After two frustrating spells of unpicking stitches after mismatching the proper cuffs with the correct sleeves I realized I had sewn the arch of the cuffs inward to my body rather than outward, which I should have done.  I had had enough of futzing with things on the dress by this time and left them as they were.  However, I did not like how wide the cuffs were on my shorter frame and compared to the rest of the dress, cuffs which went halfway up my arm did not seem to work here.  Thus, I folded the cuffs back (just like the ones for my “Double Duty” year 1931 dress) and hand sewed a single elastic loop-and-button closure on each cuff to make them easy and adjustable.   These turned back cuffs make the enormous sleeves a bit more manageable for me and add another nice touch to the dress.dsc_0666a-compw

Besides all the little boo boos, I did some slight changes to the design.  First, I raised the center front neckline enough to add another button closure for a less revealing decollete.  Second, I switched up the skirt front pattern pieces so that the designated bottom hem became the new waistline.  As designed, the skirt to this dress is incredibly skinny at the knees and I saw a potential problem with walking, especially as the skirt buttons closed.  This step slightly widens the hem but keeping the back skirt design as-is still keeps the tapered silhouette and makes it easier to walk.  Granted, my dress’ skirt does open up above the knee at the thigh as it is, and I think this hint of hotness is need to save the dress from becoming overly conservative.  “She’s got legs…” and I know how to (subtly) show ‘em.

Finally, I left out the pockets.  Yes, I love pockets and rely on them more and more, making sure I have them in most of the garments I now make, but no – there’s enough poufiness to the gathered elastic waist I’m happier with the overall look with them left out.

The elastic waist does make this dress so incredibly comfy.  So, as much as I was doubtful I would like it on myself, the wearing of it wins me over.  I didn’t really bother with how the instructions said to make the waist because I had a method I wanted to use.  Similar to my “Ever Green” knit dress, I used the existing seam allowance of the waistband to sew a skinny ¼ inch casing for elastic to run through.  This method makes for quite tight gathering which isn’t too out of control as the casing is part of the dress, and anchored to it at both top and bottom.  The skinny elastic makes it easy to cover with a belt.  I sort of have a cheaters button at the waistband – a fake buttonhole with a button sewn to it.  The real working closure is a hook-and-eye.  This pulls the elastic waist together in a stable manner, versus a button closing.  I don’t want anything popping open on me while I’m wearing my dress…boop, surprise!  No, thank you.  That’s why there’s even a tiny safety hook-and-eye at the V of the neckline, just in case.

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All said, I really do like my dress very much, I just don’t feel that the amount of effort and frustration was worth this dress.  However, I find myself reaching for this more often than I’d ever had expected, so the usefulness and comfort which I’ve taken advantage of many times already does now make the effort worthwhile.  I am a very cold-sensitive person, and having my arms covered always feels quite comfy to me.  So, the loose sleeves of this dress is perfect for chilly nights during spring, summer, and early fall where I live, with the open, leg-revealing skirt keeping me from being too warm.  Here’s to a great one-step outfit, not too nice yet with casual ease!  And, here’s to a “new” type of clothing…what I call the “housecoat” dress, ideal for rolling out of bed and keeping the feeling but not the look.  The perfect dress for one’s needs can be so wonderful!

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“Retro Forward” Burda Style: Floaty Dress

This dress’ pattern name says it all – it really does float, flow, and overall make you feel like a beautiful romantic princess when wearing it. Most especially, I love the way the deeply open neckline and the shapely back panels save it from being too girly, adding (what I think) the right amount of ‘hottie’ factor.

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Here I’m actually multi-tasking…one eye on our child, and modeling at the same time!

I initially visualized this dress in a solid color to maximize all the details of the design, but, however, using a floral fabric for it is irresistible to amp up the dress’ feminine qualities. In my case, making and wearing the “Floaty Dress” is a treat in itself – it is made from one of my all-time favorite fabric (rayon challis) with lapped seams, bias ties, and ruched gathers (my favorite techniques) and made for a special festive occasion. Every year for our son’s birthday, I choose a special dress to make and wear as the party dress for me, the hostess, and it normally becomes my ‘ultimate’ summer fun frock for that year. This year’s party dress, Burda’s “Floaty Dress”, is by far my favorite…but I say this every year! See my other two party dresses here and here.

THE FACTS:100_6033a-comp

FABRIC:  a 100% rayon challis, bought from Hancock Fabrics. The print is a beautiful mix of all my favorite purples, lavender, and blue tones against white…mostly daisy and morning glory flowers

NOTIONS: I had to buy the zipper for the side closure, but other than that all I needed was white thread (always on hand).

113_floaty dress - combo of line drawing and model picPATTERN:  Floaty Dress, #113, from 03/2013

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress was done in two nights for a total of about 5 or 6 hours. It was finished on May 9, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  The inner edges are left raw and loose to go with the theme of the dress, but they don’t fray anyway.

TOTAL COST:  I spent a total of maybe $12, more or less, for around 2 yards of fabric and the zip.

This dress was so ridiculously easy and fun to make. The drawing and the details made me think it was so much more complicated than it was once I got into the ‘making’ part of the dress. Once I started, it seemed like the dress was finished before I knew it. Would you ever guess?! Anytime a project spends little time under the sewing machine to turn out a look like this, so it can spend plenty of time being worn…that makes it a winning pattern in my book.

100_6011a-compBurda patterns (for those readers who don’t know) need some assembly and tracing before being ready for layout on your chosen fabric. They can be bought as a downloadable PDF file, to print out, or traced from the leaflet included in a magazine issue.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped. This is the stage where I pick out my size, tracing out only the size I need to use, including any grading and adding seam allowances.

I made no changes to the pattern, with the sole exception of the sleeves and neckline. The instructions called for the ends to be turned into a casing, to run elastic through for a gathered effect. I left out the elastic gathered sleeve ends because I wanted to continue the flowing look of the overall dress and keep the gathered front as a main feature. The neckline opening was extremely deep to the point of flashing lingerie, so I had stitched the opening a few inches higher, but still low enough to be sexy. (The skinny bias facing ties give a more decent option to an open chest.) Otherwise, I made my correct size according to the Burda Style Chart, grading up for my hips, and the sizing seems spot on. I personally think that it is important to not make this “Floaty dress” snug…it needs to be free flowing and not too fitted.

100_6025a-comp-combo tied n untiedThe design of the princess seams down the back are so complimentary. You probably can’t see them as well as I would like but the contrast top-stitching shows the lines as does the line drawing above. Those princess seams give the back half a different outline, one more shaped and curvy than the front view.

100_6014a-compMy sole complaint/word of warning about this dress is probably unexpected, but helpful to know and easily remedied. Do not hang this dress if you make it with a fabric whose grain can ‘grow’! Lay it flat, fold it flat, or store it flat in some way or form to keep the fabric grain from losing its shape. The back left and right panels and the front pieces, on account of the layout and the shaping, have their side seam edges on the bias. I found out the hard way that even just a few days of being on a hanger will change the dress’ original shape…it now billows out more at the waist and front and is a bit more generous than intended. On its own I don’t think the bias on the side seams would be a problem if the dress was made out of a lighter weight polyester (for example, mentioned above), but there is a lot of fabric in the skirt portion, which is nothing bad, just a potential weight for the top of the dress.100_6032-comp

Speaking of the skirt, between that and the sleeves, my dress is wonderful to wear and with a floaty silhouette, the pattern title is literal and accurately appropriate. More or less, the bottom half of the dress is two large, almost half circle pieces. This high “skirt swirl factor” (as I dub it) would make the “Floaty dress” the perfect retro swing dancing outfit. Thus, I had to add in a twirl picture!

As I’ve mentioned before, gathering is one of my favorite techniques, so it was an enjoyment to make and also wear the dress with its front detail. Front gathering, similar to ruching and also called shirring, is seen in most all the decades of the 20th century fashions. This is why the “Floaty dress” post is part of my “Retro Forward” Burda Style series. Runched gathers are a great way to add controlled fullness1930s-early 40s yellow ruched dress & Dogwood Floral runched mid-30s dress in a decorative way while deceiving the eye into seeing things slimmer than reality. The decade of the 1920’s often used gathers in certain spots, such as over the hips, to add soft shaping fullness (see here or here). The 1930’s enjoyed adding large spots of ruching/gathers as a main feature and shaping method, such as down the front, across a skirt panel, or to puff out a sleeve from the hemline (see the right picture at right). 1940’s Simplicity 2230 yr 1947 ruched day or evening dress&Vogue #9691 1940s dress w sweetheart neck, shirred frontgarments and patterns use gathers in both small and large areas, such as on the sleeves in the early 40’s or all the way across the front, as was popular around ‘47. See the two patterns at left, or three of my past projects, my 1948 S-front dress, my satin 1946 dress, and my swing dance dress for more examples of large and/or small gathers during the 40’s.  In the 1950’s, gathered runching was heavily used1950's Miss Universe ad for Catalina brand pink ruched swimsuit&New York #1011 1950's pattern on swimwear, in many rows, to create the iconic “pin-up” style, but it was also used on garments, as well. I notice gathers were used in in 60’s, 70’s, and up to our modern day, but there was a resurgence especially the 1980’s.  For a current comparison, I see a similarity of design (sans gathers) shared between the “Floaty dress” and a recent pattern, New Look #6224.

Whenever, wherever, or however gathers are used, they always make for a challenging and appealing garment – and a creatively drawn pattern to be sure!

A “Daily Life” Dress from 1945

In my sewing, most of what I make is finished inside and out quite cleanly with time honored methods, such as French seams and bias binding or lapped edges. This is all good, but it also makes my garments seem very new, perfect, and not entirely ready to be possibly marred by food stains, play stains, or fabric boo-boos which happen when being a mom. “New and perfect”, too, is all good and is as it should be, but sometimes I feel I am missing out on that comfortable, daily life, style of dressing which you see in many of the old time black and white pictures of people from 50 or more years past. In reality, those everyday clothes are what was worn when memories were made, duties were done, families cared for, and (in all) life was lived.

100_3843a-compI started out this project unsuspecting what was ahead, making a dress from a 1945 pattern. I was excited because the pattern was a gift for my birthday and the fabric I chose for it was a perfectly wonderful feed sack rayon. Little did I know that here was the perfect opportunity to make lemonade from lemons and end up with a new, but already-broken-in, comfy handmade vintage piece meant for being that “daily life” style of garment our grandmothers and moms quietly built history wearing. Now I can live my modern daily life, build my own family, and make new memories in a re-make of their style.badge.80

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

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  A 100% rayon challis, bought from a JoAnn’s Fabric store.  It is a feed sack style, cool toned, swirling leaf-and-vine print, in light turquoise blue, tan and a bit of navy against a field of slightly off-white.

NOTIONS:  No notions were bought – I had all the interfacing, thread, and hooks-and-eyes needed.

100_3836-compPATTERN:  McCall 5946, year 1945, actually a ‘Maternity’ dress.  It was thoughtfully bought for me as a birthday gift from a good friend.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Not long at all, maybe 7 or 8 hours over 3 nights, were spent on my dress.  This project went quickly and was finished on September 26, 2014.

THE INSIDES:  The innards of my dress are left raw to do their own crazy thing and fray at will.  This sort of “finishing” usually drives me insane, but there is a very big reason for my doing this, which you’ll read later on below.

TOTAL COST:  I remember knowing I paid way more than what the fabric was worth, but still reasonable enough to really buy.  In total, I think my dress cost about $14.00 or less for 2 ½ yards.

I used this pattern as an opportunity to experiment and attempt some of the most dramatic pattern downsizing which I had done so far. I usually try to only get patterns very close to my bust size. Grading patterns up is no problem for me, and I have done downsizing in small increments. I’m tired of being confined to what designs are my size, so I did my homework and learned a new skill. Doing the math, and dividing up to take out a whopping 5 inches, the pattern was folded in vertically. The new size is not permanent, merely pinned in place. I can’t wait to do more of this method of pattern grading – it was fun and challenging for me.

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Even though my dress’ pattern is labeled as a “maternity” dress, I really don’t see it as such. Now don’t take a hidden meaning to my making this dress…I’m not expecting anything at this time and I’m not sewing this ‘to prepare for something’ – I liked the pattern, it’s in a year I haven’t done yet, and it looked like a very entertaining design to assemble. Personally, I think this dress, and other 40’s and 50’s maternity fashions I have seen, are basically normal fashions, for non-expecting ladies, engineered very ingeniously to adapt to the possibility a growing belly. I find these maternity labeled fashions to demonstrate an even higher creativity than what I already see in vintage fashions. Women back then apparently did not make a garment that they would only wear while expecting…they made clothes that would last long term and adapt for their life, to get true use out of what they wear. We in modern times tend to forget that clothes back in the 40’s were a real expense, not always easy to come by, and a lot of unnecessary “luxury” clothes did not exist for the bulk of the working class. Fast, cheap fashion of nowadays has spoiled us a bit.

McCall 5330 yr 1943 dicky insert dress&McCall 5701 yr 1944 -comboMany other non-maternity clothes in the mid-1940’s have a similar wide ruched front belly band, so this feature on my dress is a classic, but not always common, feature to have for 1945. The ruching doesn’t stretch, unless it would have been sewn with elastic instead of regular thread, so this doesn’t necessarily aid in the possibility of maternity wear – a style feature only. There are actually 5 rows at the belly section, and 3 or 4 more at the top of each shoulder center to provide bust fullness. It is the ingenious closure system which sets this dress apart and also gives it the possibility of being worn by an expecting mother, as well as making it an easy-wear, easy-sew house dress. This 1945 is a pullover, with no side zipper, because hidden under at the ends of the ruched belly band are two hook and eyes, which create tucks to bring in the dress when it closes. Smart! For normal wear, the closure system makes for a fun, new, uncomplicated way of dressing, and for an expectant mom, it becomes totally adaptable by not closing the hook and eyes.  Check out the pattern instruction drawing sheet.

100_3867-compThe front bodice section is also designed to be extremely long and the entire bodice itself is instructed to be lapped onto the skirt portion for even more adaptability. This way, one could take out the front bodice seam and make it longer to fit over a pregnant belly, if need be, but in my case I merely sewed to the skirt at the natural waistline. I have no expectation of both taking out the waistline seam and using the front closure system to make this dress adapt to maternity wear, so I merely trimmed off the excess front bodice length and stitched the waistline as a regular seam. I just find this dress’ styling very ingenious and worthy of understanding. (P.S. I also think pattern’s cover drawing very beautiful!)

Ah, the poor pitiful fabric of my dress is really wonderful against the skin and deceptively nice looking. You see, I didn’t notice the slew of threadbare holes which riddled the rayon UNTIL I was halfway through sewing the dress together. Yes – terrible holes that look like a cross between a feast for a silk moth and a brushing with a cheese grater. I was so focused on the interesting design and how quick the dress was coming together. I was sewing on the front facings for the mock wrap of the bodice and gave an audible, “What in the freaking world…?!” Needless to say, I hold a grudge against JoAnn Fabric Store for selling products this “quality”, but I should have been more hawk-eyed myself. The holes are about 1/8 to ¼ inch big and randomly all over, although primarily on the left side of the dress’ bodice section. My hubby helped me see the “good” side of the situation, and I really did cheer me up to a point that the fabric’s flaws do not bother me. Now I am rather glad to have a dress which is already “broken in” but yet looks so great (so I think) because it is so comfy, easy, not “perfect”, and just a part of me whenever I wear it. See why this dress is great for real life for me? It’s perfect for errands, cooking, playing with my son, and etcetera…just being a mom, wife, homemaker, and creative person in modern times with vintage style! Dressing in vintage can be as comfy as those jeans and T-shirts many love to wear.

100_3854a-compAs you can see, I chose the collared style. I have nothing like this collar style in my wardrobe, so here’s to a first. However, it seems I do have a tendency to end up making mock-wrap dresses, though. This 1945 dress only has the bodice top half be the mock wrap, but my first full mock wrap oddly enough happened to be a 1946 dressy day dress (see post for it here), also from another McCall pattern. The McCall pattern for my 1945 dress was, as I mentioned earlier, a special birthday present from a special friend, but my first mock wrap (from 1946) came from my very first purchase of vintage patterns. For these reasons, I associate together the ‘46 McCall pattern with the one for the dress in this blog post. They both make me smile just to see them, even not being worn.

100_3846-compMy 1946 cotton mock-wrap dress and my 1945 rayon house dress both share a similar slight problem with the front bodice wrap. Both needed a slight hidden dart where the bodice joins to the skirt to bring the drooping wrap front more taught to eliminate an overly gaping neckline. I’m supposing this part of adjusting fit is all a matter of taste or body types. I, being on the smaller side of chest endowment (to put it nicely), prefer to bring my mock wrap fronts close against my chest. Flashing someone with a peek down your top is not cool. However, I am thinking that just perhaps the mock front of my 1945 dress just might have been meant to be a bit generous. Being an optional “maternity” garment, a wrap front does make things handy for nursing a little one…just sayin’. I made the long waist tie included as part of the pattern (it’s hard to see the tie in the pictures), and it nicely covers up the little tuck/dart that I took in at the bottom of the wrap front.

100_3850a-compThe collar and the facing strips for the mock-wrap front are the only places that were interfaced. The dress as a whole is very soft and drapey so I figured on going with that ‘theme’, if you call it, and I used a lightweight interfacing.  The right detail shot also shows off my handmade matching aqua crystal/sterling silver earrings and agate stone necklace.

For our photo shoot location, we chose a basic place – a 100_3847-complocal neighborhood delicatessen/grocery store. This store, called Le Grand’s Market, and it has been family owned for many years, with the building itself being 70 something years – a good authentic background for a “daily life” dress. It’s one of the last of the old “Tom-Boy” Grocery stores. We love Le Grand’s sandwiches, and here I’m faking at eating a giant plastic hoagie.

Le Grand’s Market is on the edge of the Italian district, what we call “La Montagna” or “The Hill”. In our United States of America, we owe much of our amazing deli shops, restaurants, buildings and neighborhoods (among other things) to Italian-Americans, who had a hard time of things in their new land through most of World War II. The character of Angie Martinelli, the waitress at the Automat in the Marvel TV show “Agent Carter”, keeps her Italian descent low key, no doubt on account of how post-wartime suspicions still ran high. Because of Roosevelt’s “Custodial Detention Program”, established in 1940 and 1941, Italian-Americans were often forced to live like nomads, live under suspicion, and only had access to low paying jobs, if they could find any. Read here the full official history of “A Review of the Restrictions on Persons of Italian Ancestry during World War II” – very interesting and formerly classified reading.

100_3842b-compAngie full shot at AutomatAngie was so dissatisfied being stuck with her waitress job, and had big aspirations to make it big in Hollywood.  Whatever her state in life, I thought she was a lovely person, a real friend for Peggy Carter and a trooper. Angie’s waitress uniform was also lovely, in my opinion, composed of primarily aqua color, and contrasted in peach tones – a combo I like, want to try, and wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. I often tend to fall for aqua, just like how I more oftentimes choose shades of purple. This 1945 dress is primarily aqua…or maybe that’s just what I see the most of in the print!

I would like to think of my “daily life” 1945 dress as a bit of a small tribute to people like Angie, the overlooked ones with big hearts and big aspirations, all the while helping to make the world go round, one day at a time. In 1945, the Second World War was winding down, the veterans were returning, women were used to making do, and it was starting to be the time for things to settle down. Daily life might seem mundane, and slow or unimportant, but it is anything but that. Just so, a casual, tattered, broken-in dress like my 1945 rayon house dress might seem stupid to make new, but, you know, it already has seen a plentiful share of wearing and good memories. No fancy dress that gets worn once or twice a year can boast the utility of a casual, classic, comfortable “daily life” dress 🙂

Do you have anything which you have made which is your “go-to” piece for comfort in both work and play? Do you have something that you made which is so comfy you could feel like you could live in it, even though it doesn’t necessarily look like that would be the case?

Serpentine Style Dressing for 1948

With Vintage Vogue #2787 dress having an S-shaped front, that letter can here stand for words such as ‘stunning style’, but I can also unfortunately use the words ‘skeptical’, or even ‘stifling’.  Once, however, I accessorized my dress, wore it out to a few events, and even received a few compliments, the ‘stifling’  and ‘skeptical’ part faded away.  Who couldn’t help feeling like a movie star in a vintage dress that looks like this?!

100_2704aTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The fabric that you see on the outside of my dress is a sheer, slightly nubby, cotton knit with a beautiful drape.  Its color is on the border between a blue and a green, but it is a heathered turquoise tone.  There was only 2 yards of this fabric.  As the lining, I used a poly double knit in a darker turquoise color.  Even though a poly knit makes my dress a bit less historically accurate, I had reasons for my choice that get explained below.

NOTIONS:  I only needed to buy another spool of thread to finish this dress.  Everything else – the thread, interfacing, hem tape, and a zipper – was on hand already, bought about a year ago (which was when I matched up the pattern with my fabric).

Vogue2787PATTERN:  Vintage Vogue #2787, a 1948 reprint, with a copyright of 2003

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress was practically finished and wearable on October 25, 2013.  However, I was not happy or comfortable with how the dress looked or how it felt on me, so I piddled with minor details on it off and on through winter (which was the next 5 months).  I finally quit working on it and planning to re-fashion it in March of 2014.  Thus, at this point, I really don’t know or remember how much time was put into my final dress as you see it in our pictures.  Maybe 20 hours?  Maybe more.

THE INSIDES:  The insides are as nice as could be with all the unusual points of the 100_2727styling.  Since both my dress and lining fabrics are knits, they don’t ravel, so I merely zig zag stitched the edges.  The bottom hem is quite pretty with turquoise lace hem tape covering the raw edge (see picture).  The side zipper had to shortened, but I covered the raw cut end in more lace hem tape.

TOTAL COST:  After being in my stash forever, the nubby knit is being considered free.  I had bought the poly lining knit (like I said above) about a year ago, with all the other matching notions, so I can only give an estimate of $15, more or less.

I had been wanting to make Vintage Vogue #2787 pattern for some time before I finally got around to using this turquoise knit from my stash towards my dress.  A solid color truly brings out the best in this pattern, making the most of the beautiful front design.  Why disguise such a unique styling with a patterned fabric…all your work goes unnoticed, otherwise.  Who wants that?

100_2714aThis 1948 dress is an excellent example of a transitional time in fashion history.  The fact that the back is basic and plain, with the front having all the attention, is classic of WWII dress rationing ideas lingering into post-war times.  It’s like a party in the front, with all business in the back.  Gathering was also popular and widely used in many wartime fashions for women, especially between 1940 and 1946.  Yet, at the same time, the slimming, modern, glamorous appearance of the silhouette this dress creates prefigures the Dior “New Look”, which was just beginning its wave of popularity since its debut in ’47.  An odd mix of both WWII and Dior’s 50s style is balanced in this Vintage Vogue 2787.

My fabric had been a “white elephant” in my stash for so long, being a thin, almost transparent, nubby knit in a small two yard amount.  I never really knew what to do with it…until I came across VV2787 – a vintage style that calls for a small amount of yardage.  Yes!  I chose a poly double knit as the lining fabric, only because it was both the closest matching color and because it had a softly fluid drape which matched my dress fabric.

100_2705As is my norm, many reviews and blogs were checked before beginning laying out the pattern.   Adey’s blog on Sew Weekly has a an excellent review, but I especially love Viola’s review on her blog Brentwood Lane.  Viola’s comment about the fit of VV2787 having a full bust, small waist, and moderate hip was so helpful, and I’m glad I followed it.  For my dress, I went down two sizes in the bust and down one size in both the hips and waist, because, 1) I’m using a knit, 2) on account of Viola’s review, 3) and from reading the finished garment sizes.  As much as Viola’s recommendation of decreasing the gathers on the shoulder sounded good, I stuck to the pattern after all.

100_2719Since I enjoy doing gathering, putting my dress together was a fun and interesting project.  I have mentioned this fact before, when I posted about other 1940’s frocks that I have made in the past, such as this 1946 dress or this bow-neck dress.  At a certain point, I did use a few choice words when I wasn’t getting the gathers just right, and I had to unpin my fabric for the 6th time.  Yes, patience is a must for sewing!

I was so very precise with all the markings and cutting because I wanted to achieve the exact look of the cover drawing.  The front pieces were indeed very interesting shapes which made for some hard thinking to imagine how it adds up to the finished look.  At first, I found all the makings overkill, and I actually left a few off, but, as it ends up…YES…all those markings are really there for a reason and VERY important to properly assembling this Vintage Vogue.  It was necessary for me to go back and chalk the marking in that I had left out.  I don’t see too many patterns like this one, where there’s so many spots for marking that all the geometric shapes are used – triangles, circles, squares, and spots.

100_2706The S-front lapped seam down the middle front has a tricky crossover part.  Above the bottom half of the gathers (that come from the hip), where the lapped seam peters out into a non-gathers at about the hips, the flap switches from left on top to the right on top.  Top stitching supports the corners, and it really took some hand turning of my machine to set in my stitches just where they needed to go.  I made sure to nicely tuck the one corner under the other so both those supporting stitches didn’t show and there wouldn’t be a hole t100_2723ahere, either.  Inside, this crossover corner spot was also supported further by some hand stitches and a small patch of iron on interfacing.  See my picture of the inside at left.  The interfacing patch inside is the best thing for this tricky spot – it keeps everything nice and tight and sturdy so it’s ready to hold up for many washings and wearings!

I did have a slight problem with the pattern, or at least the instructions.  The inner neck facings were never really figured out exactly the way the instructions said to sew them.  Instead of making the front neckline facings in one piece, like many patterns have, this dress’ facings are two separate rectangles.  I couldn’t figure out if I should sew the two pieces in a vertical center seam, or if I should overlap the two facing pieces, and which side (right over left, or vise versa) I should overlap.  Overlapping the one side over the 100_2724other was the method I chose to join the two front facing pieces to make as one, so as to connect with the back facings before sewing to the neckline.  The back facings were, indeed, quite nice with no problems (see the right picture).  Hand-stitching holds down the facing edges to the lining knit only.  Originally I had planned on doing self-fabric loops down the back neck opening, but I left them out when the facings were sewn down.  The instructions said to make thread chain loops for the buttons, so I thought I would go ahead and try another new skill.   Thread chain loops were time consuming but I like what I ended up with…so it was worth the time, even though I’m not that impressed.100_2715a

100_2114aPlease notice the four buttons I used for the back neck closure.  An exact match to the color of my dress wasn’t found, so I went with a pretty contrasting color – a light blue.  There was no one home with me at that time,  so in order to decide, I had laid out a few button options on the kitchen floor and waited to see which one our little dachshund picked out with his nose.  (I got a picture of this…see at left.)  The buttons are vintage, coming from my familial stash, which dates back to hubby’s Grandmother.  However, I really don’t think the buttons are as old as the 1940’s, although I don’t know for sure one way or another.  It would be very much appreciated if any reader has any info about the “Streamline” brand buttons, or the dating of the card with its logo.

Anyone who is claustrophobic, or even occasionally or slightly so, might indeed have a problem with the high, almost choking neckline.  I myself have been toying with the idea of unpicking the whole top half of the whole darn S-front and refashioning it completely.  “The Slapdash Sewist” blog author has a wonderful idea for re-fashioning VV2787, and it can be seen by clicking here and going about to the middle of the page.  If my dress ever gets re-fashioned, I would want to change it into looking like the expensive ($725) MaxMara Saks Fifth Avenue dress which is shown as a close “modern” comparison.  See picture below.  There is also an Anthropologie brand “Riverbends” T-shirt top which seems very similar, as well.  It’s neat to see remnants of my vintage 1948 dress’ S-front design around today. MaxMars Runched dress Saks5thAve $725 combo

You can also see on her blog the nickname I have found to be thrown at this Serpentine 1948 frock – “the coffin” dress.  I have seen more than one blogger stamp this scary nickname, and, to think about it, you do button and zipper yourself into the dress like a fancy straightjacket, with only your arms bare and free.  (The “coffin” name also refers to the fact that the dress’ back is so plain, just as if all people would see of you is the front, just like someone laid out.)  Once I stopped thinking about my dress in the light of the nickname, and actually thinking and feeling skinny and glamorous in it, the S-front Vintage Vogue is not bad at all.  Design wise, it might be a bit lacking in full creativity, as with the plain back – a sort of cheapness which can be seen in many modern clothes.  No doubt it has its’ own share of faults which don’t appeal to some, but, overall, I think it is definitely fun, different, and (as long as it gets loved and worn) worth making.  Hey, being able to wear something you handmade is better than having a bolt of fabric sitting in the basement!

In the spirit of ignoring the dress’ faults and feeling glamorous instead, I posed for some fun, but dramatic pictures while my hair was all fixed up and my long beaded gloves were on me.

100_2710a

My Floral 40’s Fashion – A Fall Favorite

I am a woman of my word.  The very fact I am posting this sewing creation proves my point.  Back in our summer of last year, I had a blog post (link here) where I expounded on my version of view D from a cute 1940’s pattern reprint, Simplicity #1692.  In that post, I had said I wanted to make the long sleeved option, adding all the knowledge learned from sewing the pattern up already.  Well, here is my finished long sleeve version, as I had said, with a fit and design so perfected this blouse is an absolute dream for me to wear!  Casual and vintage yet versatile and comfortable – these four points cannot be better paired than in this 40’s cotton blouse.

100_2093bTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The fabric for the blouse is from a seasonal collection of soft 100% cotton quilting fabric, printed for Hancock Fabrics.  It was early fall/late summer of last year when I spotted this fabric, newly stocked as part of the early Thanksgiving prints, and seeing such a pretty floral got me in the mood to look forward to chilly weather.  The fabric has dark browns, mint greens, and rust oranges strewn around on a background of ivory, with a smattering of pale yellow in between.  To line this floral fabric, I picked a basic 100% cotton broadcloth, in a matching rust orange color.1692-Simplicity

PATTERN:   a 1940’s Simplicity 1692, re-released 2013, view A (it’s their 85th Anniversary pattern), originally yr. 1944

NOTIONS:  I really had every thing I needed on hand, excepting the side zipper, which I bought once I started making my blouse.  The buttons are probably close to being the correct era for my vintage blouse, and come from my special familial vintage button stash. 

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My blouse went together smoothly and quickly, only taking me about 10 hours to be done.  I was finished on October 18, 2013.

THE INSIDES:  The blouse hem is finished off with a strip of ivory hem tape, the armhole seam is covered in orange bias tape, the sleeves’ seams are flat felled, and the side is done in a French seam.  I love the finishing details so much I am almost more proud of the inside than the out!  Anyway, seeing my nice seams when I put on my blouse makes me smile even before I have it on me.  See the picture below.100_2147

FIRST WORN:  Out to our local neighborhood hobby shop to look for WWII plane models.  After that outing, I have worn this 40’s blouse many places and times, and wherever I go, I almost always receive lots of unexpectedly kind and interested comments on my garment from other people.

TOTAL COST:  I think my total cost is under $10

At first, I wasn’t totally sold on the idea of having the neckline that high around my neck, and it seems that others who have sewn Simplicity 1692 have had the same reservations.  However, I do want to be open to trying new styles because sometimes the unexpected can turn into a good thing.  With a few adjustments and tweaks, this blouse is indeed a winner in my wardrobe!

Between checking other seamstress’ posts and my own knowledge of how this pattern fits after making it last year, I would like to address the characteristics of the long sleeved View A which I adjusted for my personal taste.  It seems to have uber-gathers at the front center neckline, so I “pinched out” about 1 1/2 inches of excess gathers.  The hips seem to run small and snug, so I went up a size, added an inch more than I seemed to need, and went easy on the darts (which run vertically down from the high waist).  I dislike overly poufy fronts when I don’t have, let’s say, enough there to generously fill it out – and between the gathers at the neck and the amount of bust on the pattern Simplicity 1692 seemed poufy.  On other women, I think this poufy fit would be most complimentary and probably fit well.  In my case, with a slightly stiffer quilting cotton as the fabric, some precise sizing was (again) my dream remedy for this fitting situation.

100_2097     I was all over the board as far as sizing the pattern pieces, but this is the true beauty behind the ability to sew ones own clothes.  A custom fit comes from taking full advantage of the sizing options available in a multi-sized pattern  (like most modern ones) or merely knowing ones measurements (which comes in handy when fitting patterns which are one size or unprinted) or even finding what ease amounts you personally prefer.  In the case of my 40’s blouse from Simplicity 1692, I could look at the finished garment measurements as well to accurately judge the amount of ease that was included (the amount of ease can otherwise be a mystery or a surprise unless you pin a pattern on yourself ahead of time).  Thus, I ended up cutting out a size between a 6 and an 8 for the front  bust and shoulders down to the waist front, which was a 10, then a 12 for the front hips.  The back panel of the blouse was pretty much a solid 10 (because my larger upper arms need extra reach room) except for the waist and hips, which were again tapered into a size 12.  My sleeves were cut as a size 10.  A handful of inches were added to the bottom hem to make it longer so it stays tucked in all the better.  And, if you’re wondering, YES, all the pieces did fit together wonderfully, and make the finished blouse customized to me like fine tailoring.

100_2148     Don’t forget to buy a longer zipper if you do lengthen the bottom hem of the blouse.  I almost always buy longer zippers for my blouses just in case I do add inches to the hem.  I cut my zipper to make it the exact length, and thus I did my normal practice of covering the end with bias tape.  The last thing I wanted was a scratchy raw zipper end at my armpit.  It was serendipitous how the covered zipper end fit into the underarm seam.  I like the fact it keeps the end in place (see above left picture).

To “pinch out” the excess gathers at the center front neckline, I simply did the same easy trick I also did for the front bodice of my “High Standards” 50’s jumper (link here).  The front gathered section of the top neckline was laid 1 1/2 inches over the fold edge while the rest of the center front edge was tapered to meet the fabric fold at about the waistline, just like if I wasn’t doing a change at all.  You can fold in the pattern edge or just overlap it over the fabric, just so long as your new center front is still on the fold.

The look of self-fabric, bias bound necklines, is something I always love to add on my clothes and especially when it comes to this Simplicity #1692 40’s blouse.  The bias bound neck gives the blouse such a clean finish for around and over the center front gathers.  I tend to think it’s almost one the prettiest features of the high neckline.

100_2105      I was quite indecisive when it came to the sleeve closures – two buttonholes per cuff or one?  After mulling over what to do, I settled on one big buttonhole per cuff.  My personal taste has ended up disliking my decision for one closure per cuff – I hadn’t realized the wider the cuff (over 1 inch) I seem to prefer a more stable double closure.  Perhaps part of my problem of obsessing over the sleeves is because I’m really not used to long sleeves.  If I can’t push up my sleeves (as is the case for my green cowl neck dress), I feel a bit too confined.  Nevertheless, I still like my blouse too much to have the cuffs ruin anything for me, and, besides the sleeves look cool rolled up with the contrast color showing (see above picture).  Later on I ended up adding self-fabric loops to the ends of the cuffs so I100_2145 have the option of having tighter cuffs around my wrist by using buttonholes or loose around my wrist by using the loops.  Two pearl/shell buttons from my vintage familial stash were used on the cuffs to close the sleeves…something pretty but not show-stopping is just what I wanted.  I do have a complaint with the supposedly “disappearing” blue ink which never disappeared after using it to mark the buttonholes (see picture).

100_2150     For the back neck closure, I used a lonely single button and it seems to be quite old and rather remarkable in its color and design. This button is a bright green that matches exactly with the green tone in the fabric while also keeping with the “floral” theme by being shaped like a  flower, ready to unfold.  There are such tiny details (grooves and also a milligrain type pattern) on this already small button, it is a vintage work of art that I am so happy to be able to incorporate into my 40’s blouse.  My picture doesn’t do the real thing it’s due justice.

100_2095a     Romping and fun and cozy dressing on chilly days is everything my blouse is all about, which is why I think I love it so much.  I don’t have too many vintage clothes that are this casually nice looking together with an easy, comfy fit.  This something I have been working to sew more of – vintage clothes that can be worn to play out and about with our toddler in the same outing as doing errands, all while still dressed in an era past!  Ever since last year’s early Fall (when my blouse was made) I have turned to wear this blouse again and again.  The way my fall floral blouse is so fuss-free, receiving so many compliments, I have to close this post with yet another statement you’ll have to hold me to.

I’d like to make another version of the Simplicity #1692 pattern, perhaps in a beautiful, lightweight sheer fabric, or even in a knit!  I will keep my word – sooner or later you’ll see it posted on my blog!

Please visit my Flickr SeamRacer page to see more pictures of my “Fall Favorite” blouse.