“Poster Girl” – Hat, Dior Flower, and 1951 Dress

If it’s on the front cover of a magazine, or in a publicity shot, your outfit had better be good, right?  Well, the villainess for Marvel’s “Agent Carter” television show wears some pretty killer post-War 1940s and early 50’s fashions, and no less so for the outfit she wears for both the preview publicity pictures of her character and for the cover of a vintage “Fashion News” magazine (seen in “Better Angels”, Season Two, episode 3).

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In order to recreate her “Poster Girl” outfit, I made a bunch of different pieces – the dress, the hat, and the clip-on flower.  I’m not complaining – this was closer to being a labor of love to sew, not a bother.  It required a good flow of my creative juices, some good pattern sourcing, and taking my time to enjoy myself for things to turn out “just so” for an equally killer outfit which I would like to think could hold its own against the class of Whitney Frost.  Her sense of fashion is probably one of the reasons she was held as the face for Hollywood, as well as her seemingly ‘perfect’ life with her husband.  However, 'All eyes on her, but no one sees her'-combobeing a “Poster Girl” (definition here) was a hard standard to hold up to for her.  For Whitney, it only meant keeping up the façade of happiness and glamour, always smiling and keeping the truth hidden…and boy, did she have some dark secrets to hide.  George C. Scott once said, “Technique is making what is absolutely false appear to be totally true in a manner that is not recognizable.”  Here, I intend to only stick to Whitney’s fashion without her superficiality.  This is my closest copy yet of a Ms. Frost outfit, and I absolutely love it!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  THE DRESS and FLOWER: a 100% cotton sateen, a “Gertie” print; THE HAT: Simplicity 8390, cover front-comp,wa buff satin polyester solid in fuchsia color

PATTERN:  THE DRESS: Simplicity #8390, year 1951, “Misses One-Piece Dress and Stole”; THE HAT: Vogue #7657, view F, year 2002; THE FLOWER: the instructions and guide to how to make a ‘Dior’ rose came from a small “Easy-to-Sew Flowers” booklet, compiled by Threads magazine, copyright 2012.  The tutorial is listed as adapted from Threads article “Dior Roses” by the late Roberta Carr, in issue no. 34. 

Vogue 7657, yr 2002, pics onlyNOTIONS:  Believe it or not, this outfit was made with only what was already on hand.  I had all the thread, interfacing, closure notions, bias tapes, and other odd and ends needed for the hat, dress, and flower here in my “magic” stash.  The only thing I needed was to order a buckram hat blank base (more info where it came from and what it is exactly down later).  Ah – and the cotton velvet ribbon,  “Waverly” brand, was bought (of all places) at Wal-Mart.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The Dress was made in about 20 hours and finished on September 15, 2016, and the hat came maybe 10 hours later.  The flower was made in just under an hour the day or two afterwards.

THE INSIDES:  There is a combo of both French and bias bound seams inside this dress for a clean finish.

TOTAL COST:  The dress cost a reasonable but decent amount, about $7 a yard for about 4 yards.  The hat fabric combined with the buckram base and ribbon cost me just under $15.

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I had some problems dating my dress’ pattern.  My first problem was the presence of new pattern numbers stamped in grey on the back info of the envelope.  The instruction sheet has the date of the year 1951, but the newer stamped numbers of ‘4291’ would make this about year 1953.  However, as everything else to this pattern points to the year 1951 (the style of dress, the original numbers, the instruction sheet, as well as the double bars on the top left side of the front envelope), I am sticking to that early year in the decade.  I have not yet found any evidence of this design being re-released later under a new number, so I’m not sure why the stamped combination was added on (it does look quite official like it was a die cast impression).  One of the many wonders and curiosities that vintage patterns offer…

DSC_0384a-comp,w,combo, Whitney and Calvin

The dress design is lovely, and smartly designed.  It also fits very well on me – perhaps the best fitting 50’s pattern to date.  I usually find that the back waists are too long, shoulders proportionally too wide, and busts too generous on other 50s patterns, but not here!  The pattern was close enough to the inspiration dress that some small adaptations were needed to get to where I wanted it to be for my copy.  The fabric is, as you might have seen above in “The Facts”, another lovely Gertie print.  My other Whitney Frost dress that I made was in a different Gertie print, so this is the second time her fabric has been what I feel is the right parallel for channeling the Agent Carter villainess.  Sure my dress fabric has more grey with an addition of magenta and deep purple, but these last two mentioned are her signature colors, and the print is still a water colored in theme like the original, so I feel it is a good match.  From what I can tell, I suspect that the original dress on Whitney Frost is silk, and maybe a taffeta form of that, but Gertie’s sateen prints are quite luxurious without being impractical for a not-overly-dressy garment.  This means my dress will see more wearing…and as comfy and classy as I feel in this, frequent donning of it is good!

DSC_0419a-comp,wThe collar is of course the highlight of the dress and although the original design is neat, with a little mind crunching to figure out the curious construction method I was able to tweak it to have it more like Whitney Frost’s inspiration dress.  I re-drafted the over the shoulder portion to eliminate the notches, then curved and widened it a tad more.  I also had the facing be the same as the dress fabric, not a contrast as the cover envelope shows.  The underside of the collar has this interesting L-shaped method of piecing together the collar while the outside facing is all one, long, giant wrap around-to-the-back cut – I love vintage pattern details!

Maybe the collar is vying for the top favorite position among this dress’ feature because I also love the squared off armholes and the squared back of the collar.  This shows how subtle complimenting of details can go a long way and make all the difference for an awesome garment.  The square back of the collar end is something I haven’t seen in a pattern before and it is a nice way to add interest to the view from behind.  The squared armholes allow for extra room that my larger upper arms appreciate, as well as something extra different and lovely.

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The skirt had been a small, sort of adapted half-circle, bias-cut four-panel style.  What I did for my dress was to take the side seam side (over the hips) and add about 5 more inches out so I could gather the skirt over the hips.  This created and extra 10 inches over each hip which was then tightly gathered between side front to side back.  The gathers give my dress an extra 50’s style widening emphasis on the hips, slimming my waist (so I feel) and also (I think) balancing out the giant collar better than the original plain skirt as the pattern shows.  (This vintage year 1949 dress has the same skirt with gathered hips.)  Besides, I wanted to copy the same detail on the inspiration dress of Whitney Frost.

DSC_0416a-comp,wHowever, adding the gathers over the hips of the skirt portion to my dress did mean that I could not place a zipper in the side.  Where would I put the zipper?  Bing – on goes the light bulb over my head.  Down the front like a pants fly!  This idea actually came from seeing this kind of closure method on and existing vintage 1950’s dress I have – this is how I knew to re-create it plus the benefit of knowing this was done in the decade (keeping things authentic).  The front bodice of the dress is a wrap-over, double-breasted closure so I merely continued the closure down the front center seam of the skirt to include a small 7 inch zipper.  It took some forethought, but I love this part of the dress!  It’s so easy to get in and out of with all the closures in plain sight…not on the side or down the back like many other vintage garments.  I think the front zipper is pretty undetectable.  Knowing that I made something work out, besides its being different and new (for me), leaves me tickled.

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Now – onto the hat.   I must say that the hat itself is ingeniously designed and the pattern was excellent, very clearly explained and turning out a finished product better than even what the picture shows (so I think).  It is incredibly simple in its construction and design, but it is also terribly tedious and detailed work to make so that it turns out well.  The last part is where the ‘trouble’ comes in, especially for me because I cannot tolerate hand sewing (because my wrist and shoulders do not take it well).  However, every ache and minute spent on this hat was so worth it to me ending up with something like this!  I feel like this hat is my first fully ‘proper’ millinery piece, and it was good practice with good teaching steps towards diving into more detailed and professional headwear.

I was able to use everything that was on hand already, but the buckram hat base was something special needed here – no ways around it.  The good news is that I found the buckram hat blank quite affordable and very easy to work with…I was even able to stitch around the edge on my machine!  For this hat I used a 7 ½ inch by 5 ½ inch teardrop shaped blank from “Dance Costume Supply” on Etsy.  It did have a covered edge with a wire in it (not called for in the pattern’s instructions), but I think it gives the hat better, firmer shaping than otherwise.

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My first step was to cover the buckram blank.  The instructions say to steam the fabric or soak in water in order to shape over the hat blank (blocking method), but my chosen fabric is a poly blend and would not react to either method so I cut the piece on the bias and lightly stretched (then stitched) the cover pieces over both underside and top side.  Next, the head straps were made and stitched onto the side edges.  Then I made a bias binding and stitched it over the edge just the same as one would for the neckline or armhole edges of a garment – easy!

I am so glad I went with my gut and made the head straps to match my hair color rather than the hat.  I love how this helps the hat stand out all the better and the way it stays on all the more subdued.  I especially love the fact that I used good old-fashioned cotton velvet ribbon, too.  Not only does it add a bit more authenticity (being in cotton), but from a practical standpoint the velvet literally acts like Velcro to my hair keeping the hat band in place like glue where I put it without needing pins.  Cotton velvet ribbon hair bands for hats are literally the best thing ever!  I need stock in this ribbon for my next hats…

DSC_0383a-comp,wThe final step to the finished hat was the hardest – the stand-up crown.  This is really nothing more than an interfaced rectangular strip of fabric whose edge gets sewn right onto the very edge of the front 2/3 of the hat.  This was very slow, tricky work that did damage to my hands and required precision to make the stitches invisible.  Beforehand, however, I scavenged through the house to find something more poker-stiff than the DSC_0422a-comp,winterfacing sewn in the crown and – bingo – I came across a perfect sized strip of thick plastic laminate to slide in the rectangular piece.  Every so often my habit of saving “things-that-might-be-useful” comes in handy, as long as I can find what I want when I want it.  Anyway, this plastic worked perfectly – it’s still 100% bendable but keeps a shape nonetheless.  I cut the strip a few inches shorter than the fabric’s length on each end so I could fold the crown down and tack onto the hat base, behind which the bow sits.  In order to give the bow some pouf without stiffness, the final extra adjustment was to have a strip of sheer organza in the fabric bands.  In order to cover up the not-so-perfect bow center, I have a small bias band to finish things off nicely.

Last but not least is the fabric flower clip.  This flower was so fun and easy to make (one hour!) I am tempted to spend one day to make a dozen of these out of my fabric scrapDSC_0417-comp,w stash.  They do not need that much fabric – just three pointy almond-shaped ovals in consecutively smaller sizes cut on the bias.  My flower turned out very good without much difficulty and too much hand stitching (I was about done with hand stitching after the hat).  Some scraps of green felt finished off the bottom of my flower and gave me a lovely ‘leaf’ look as well as a base to sew on my hair clip.  I’d bought this how-to booklet at our local JoAnn’s fabric store a few years back, but finally just came to using it – I should have done so sooner!  If you’d like to try these Dior roses out for yourself and don’t know where to find the Threads booklet, visit the blog “Oliver + s” for an excellent tutorial along with a mini history lesson (link here).

Witney Frost cameo shot in collared 50's dressThis flower just so ultimately finishes off my outfit, in my opinion.  It’s that understated extra touch, not to mention the fact that it is a fabric rose in the style of the famous Dior.  This is so like Whitney Frost to wear an accent used by the “famous Parisian couturier whose designs were worn by the world’s most glamorous women” (to quote the Threads article).  It all adds to the sham of the “Poster girl’s” face.  For me, it makes my handmade efforts seem all the more worthwhile to be able to use my talents to re-create something from the likes of Dior, Hollywood, and the decades that had more style and class than what I see in most  fashion of today.

Speaking of style and class, a small part of this outfit is (I would like to think) also in the mode of the most sophisticated woman I’ve known – my own dear, and now departed Grandmother.  She was a young, newly married 21 year old in 1951 (the year of my outfit) and she frequently dressed up, and on these occasions would never go out lacking a hat, pearls, and a flower (she loved nature).  Grandma was also a “Poster Girl”, too – in her younger years she was a local vaudeville celebrity.  Oddly enough, I recently found a picture of her in a dress similar to the one in this post, with a large collar and double breasted front closing, from the year 1951.  I know her dress is in a solid with a notched collar, different from my own, but we do share the same smile and taste in clothes, so I would like to think she would be proud to see me wear something after her own heart.  This is why I’m including this dress in Tanya’s “Dress Like Your Grandma” sewing challenge.  Have you heard about this!  Maybe you could join in on the challenge along with me?!

DSC_0561-comp,w,combo, me & Grandma

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

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

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

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

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

THE FACTS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Winter Mint” Dress Part 2 – Velvet 1940 Hat and a Belt

After making my suede 1942 dress, I was a bit stuck. I couldn’t figure out what colors or styles to accessorize with it. As is normal for me, if I don’t have what I need, I scrounge around the house, enjoying the challenge of crafting something from what is on hand. Thus, I was led to using another neat pattern, utilizing from my stash, and finding an exciting new way to make a belt. badge.80

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

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  For the hat, I used 100% cotton velvet scraps leftover from a skirt I made for myself back in 2006. Some cranberry anti-static 100% polyester lining that was on hand went towards finishing the inside of my hat. The belt is a thick vinyl, veined and slightly weathered surface, with a mesh fabric backing to it.

100_4515a-compNOTIONS:  Only extra thread and a buckle was needed to buy, as well as tarlatan (I’ll explain this later) for the velvet hat. The ribbon for the inner band of my hat came from my stash and the button is (I believe) Bakelite that came from hubby’s Grandmother’s collection; see the left picture.

PATTERN:  The hat: Simplicity #3323, year 1940 (look at the other amazing accessories – I want to make the purse soon) ; the belt: my own idea…in other words, no pattern.Simplicity 3323 'accessories to match your costume' yr 1940

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress’ belt was made in an hour or less, not counting time for glue to dry, in early January 2015. The hat was so easy, I shocked myself…it was made in only 3 or 4 hours, and finished on January 18, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  Hat finishing details are very nice and clean, with no raw edges – they are all enclosed and covered.

TOTAL COST:  The hat cost nothing because I used scraps from so long ago. The belt cost only a few dollars – we found the vinyl for it on clearance, and my belt was made from the leftover scraps of using towards another project. In total, I suppose we paid less than $5.00 to make these accessories.

My little one’s new toy chest had recently been covered inside with some vinyl hubby bought from the fabric store, and – what do you know – it was a very good matching color close to the satin side of my suede, with enough left over for a skinny belt. I cut out two strips of vinyl material the same length and width as another skinny belt which was on hand, and glued the two pieces together using “Shoe Goo” brand glue. For a while I considered sewing the belt strips together (too thick), but I ended using the shoe goo because it was easy, dries flexible, clear, and strong. The glued pieces were weighted down with boards for 24 hours before I hand sewed the one end under around my chosen belt buckle.

100_4531-compTo make the holes for the belt buckle to close in around my waist I went for a very unusual but highly successful tool – a bead reamer. I have had this reamer on hand for some of my beading/jewelry creating, to help with making holes in gemstones, rocks, and fine (but hard) materials I work with sometimes. My reamer tool comes with 3 different sized, diamond covered, conical-shaped bits, and is not mechanical, merely twisted or pushed by hand. It was perfect for making good sized holes without tearing the surrounding vinyl, like an awl tool did. I suppose I could have used a drill bit to mechanically make my belt’s holes, but a drill seemed like overkill and the reamer cut through the belt like a hot knife into cold, hard butter. Only by experimenting do we learn, and WOW…I had a happy experiment making my belt. I recently found some more vinyl in a different color and I’ve got some cool ideas coming!

100_4914-compAfter my happy success with my latest vintage hat creation, I was stoked to jump into making another. This one is also amazing! It seemed like I took a long blink and the hat was done – no kidding! It was so easy and foolproof I want to make more versions in denim, in satin, in anything pretty, versatile, and leftover in my stash. Perhaps the best part about my hat is the fact the pattern pieces are so economical, there is no need to buy anything to make it – scraps are plenty sufficient, no matter how worthless they might seem! The fabric I had left available to work with was more or less four 12 to 20 inch triangles. I can’t say enough good things about this new vintage hat of mine, except that – like I’ve said before – vintage really does things right, in the smartest way possible. There’s more to old patterns than meets the eye, too. I don’t see nearly as much of this old-time ingenuity in many patterns nowadays, and I don’t know about you, but I’d like to bring more of it back.100_4510-compThe amazing part of my hat’s styling and design is the way it becomes very necessary part of a wardrobe by being incredibly simple – an accessory that could seem like it would complicate things, becomes effortlessly convenient. I myself LOVE hats, and I will be the first to admit they are a sort of a bother. They take up plenty of space to store, don’t like being smashed, are something additional to remember when putting together an outfit, and (the final query) what really do you do with them when they are off your head? This one hat pattern answers all of those points just mentioned. This hat’s brim is soft enough to be rolled up, but the tarlatan in the brim still has enough body to keep its shape. The button-at-the-back headband style of fastening on one’s head and the open backed crown accommodates several different hairstyles. Most importantly it can be buttoned onto a purse strap or belt loop so that there is always somewhere to hang the hat so you don’t lose it when it’s not on the head. The crown is soft and the brim supple so it can’t really be smashed. Most of all, this hat can be stored flat when the crown headband is unbuttoned, making it take up as much room of a piece of paper. My new vintage 1940 velvet hat embodies the word “versatility”.

100_4511Originally, the choice of some newly bought suede leather casual/dress heels (Hush Puppies brand) inspired me to use the material chosen for my hat. Not only did this velvet fabric match my shoes color wise, it also is rather historically accurate, compliments the plush theme of my “winter mint” dress, adds a touch of glamor and richness, and thins out my extensive stash of scraps.

I was intrigued by the back of the pattern instructing the use of “tarlatan” for hat brim. At first I was considering just using some sew-in interfacing or something readily available and modern, but I actually just couldn’t do it. After using such a luxurious fabric and trying to be “historical” with my hat creation, I decided to use tarlatan and thus see what how the hat was truly meant to be both made and worn.

100_4508-compNot knowing where to even start finding or locating tarlatan, I began with an internet search. A rough technical definition for tarlatan would be that it is “a thin, plain weave, open mesh cotton textile finished with stiffening agents and sometimes glazed.” The plain stiffened tarlatan is the lightweight option, and the glazed version is more or less the heavier weight. As it turns out, tarlatan seems to be used more in the arts department nowadays, used for the etching process as a lint-free and scratch-free wipe. A slew of phone calls and tarlatan was located at a local “Dick Blick” art supply store, which was also the only one in town with tarlatan in stock. Even online, tarlatan seems to be sold in what they call ‘wipes’ (one yard by one yard squares). Lucky me…the “Dick Blick” store’s tarlatan had been in back store room forgotten and neglected, so it was still uncut, in one long roll. Hoping to use tarlatan for more projects to come, I took advantage of this find and I was able to get one long, un-cut, 2-something yard portion. Yay!  However, even more exciting was the conversation I happened to strike up with the store manager who was checking me out at the register. She (the store manager) apparently had used tarlatan herself for several amazing projects. She said she made herself her own super-fancy “Kentucky Derby” hat, as well as sewing together an authentic “Dior’s New Look” suit, with the tarlatan used to create the hip fullness and shaping of the jacket. Her husband even worked for Simplicity Pattern Company! Apparently there are more people around me that sew than I realize.

One last word about the tarlatan. I did experiment with it before using it for the hat. I used it in the waistband for my 1941 wool pleated skirt, in lieu of modern iron-on interfacing, and it worked out great. I even cut a strip and soaked it in a bowl of water, wrung it out, reshaped it and let it dry, just to see what type of abuse the tarlatan can handle. Surprise…it held up remarkably well, and even kept a good percent of its original stiffness (in other words the starched/glazing didn’t wash out). Tarlatan is also no trouble when it comes to actually sewing with it, too. I was afraid my machine’s needle would get stuck on the mesh weave, much like a having pin in the way.  Not at all!  Tarlatan really is wonderful to sew with and use.

Simplicity 3323 'accessories to match your costume' yr 1940 back drawingThis hat is so simple it really could be self-drafted. It is basically a crescent shape, cut twice out of your chosen fabric and once from the tarlatan, with four triangles, which have outwardly curved edges, to make up the crown. Those triangles are also cut out from the chosen lining for the crown. The brim is faced with the tarlatan sandwiched inside and the outer edge is finished (inner edge left raw). Next, the four triangles are sewn together, from the outer fabric and the lining, for the head crown, so they can be faced with back of the head opening edge being finished. The corners of the brim are folded in, and the brim and the crown get sewn together – voila! You have a hat! All that is left is to sew in the inner ribbon band (which covers up the only raw edges) and make the headband strip, tacking it in place and making the buttonhole.

As much as I wanted to do things perfectly, I still don’t have any proper Petersham ribbon on hand, so I made things work and used a ribbon from my stash. However, this is no ordinary ribbon, for me at least. I’ve been meaning to use this ribbon, with its swirling ancient Celtic-style designs, towards making my own version of Arwen’s purple velvet dress, from the third “Lord of the Rings” movie. As my pattern for the dress is gone and I’ve had the ribbon since 2003, I finally went ahead and used it for my hat. I know this story probably makes no sense to you, but it makes me feel good to finally use this ribbon on something. 100_4513-compPlease notice the lines of stitching along the outer edge of the brim and along the buttoned headband. I was terribly worried about getting the lines perfectly straight, and not wavy or wonky, and I think I succeeded decently. Those stitching lines are no doubt decorative but they also help tremendously to keeping thing in place. As much as I love the look, I can’t help but think of quilts and their decorative stitching when it see those lines of top-stitching on my hat. Oh, just think if those lines of stitching were done in a contrast color on say a white poplin version of this hat? Ah, I have so many ideas.

100_4945a-compI have seen hats similar to the one I made on other patterns, in fashion drawings, and also be worn in many movies, all in the mid to late 1930’s into the early to mid 1940’s. For one example, I will show you the actress Joan Blondell’s hat, from the Busby Berkeley movie “The Gold Diggers of 1937” (my favorite old film!). See the open back of the crown and where the brim ties together there is a hanging 100_4947a-comptassel?  Sometimes you McCall 4575 year 1942have to look closely to see that a hat is basically the same design, because often the brims were folded up and decorated with a brooch or pin, thus appearing completely different (see this pattern of mine from 1942 for a folded up brim, or Glenda Farrell‘s hat in “Gold Diggers of 1937”). Here’s the “versatility” factor again.

100_4507-compMy hair-do is an easy vintage style, one I call a “half-toilet bowl” (which is not a very complimentary label, I know). My hair style is now ever easier to make due in part to a new amazing gadget I recently found in a drug store. It is labelled by Conair as “Classic Vintage Roll”, a sausage shaped nylon netting rat with a tiny, but long, clear elastic running through it like a headband. In under 60 seconds, I pull the headband down on my head with the rat at the back of my head. Then, I tuck the hair up and around the rat and tuck the ends under, securing the rat down with a few pins. It is extremely comfortable and my new go-to piece to wear – and I am not in any way getting a perk for saying this either. I just thought others might like to know about this.

A turban out of scarf apparently was also another option to add style to my head but still FashionExpert,AnneEdwards,fromWomensMagazine,how-to-tie-a-turban,BritishPathe,1942keep it warm. This 1942 picture advertises how to do it but I tried and couldn’t get it right. I think there probably is a knack to doing it that I haven’t found yet, but I’ll keep trying. I have some pretty scarfs that are dying to be worn as the picture shows.

100_4509a-compHead wear and hairstyles are a whole other world of fashion and history. I don’t know if it’s “up my alley” to dive into this department, but it kind of does go along with wearing what I make and putting authentic outfits together. Whether or not hats and hairstyles rock your boat, please appreciate my work, my interests, and musings here. Perhaps I can inspire you to branch out and try something new and different and challenging…like I do! Believe me, when you’re done, you feel amazing.

A Plain and Plaid Modern Fleece Hat

As I mentioned in my previous post, “Putting a Feather in My Hat”, a few years back I had made a basic but successful modern fleece hat which gave me some much needed confidence in hat making.

Like I mentioned in that post, I really don’t wear this hat too much, but it does fit and look great.  The plaid is matched together perfectly, only it doesn’t match with my wardrobe as often as I would like.  Nevertheless, my hat deserves a post sooner rather than later.

100_0794As you can see, my fleece plaid hat is not very receptive towards any special hairstyle or  fixed up coiffure.  It has a basic “skull cap” design and a long scarf-like piece that gets sewn onto the hat edge.  The outer long “tail” of the hat’s scarf edge gets horizontal tucks to sort of aid in gathering that “tail” into a large decorative buckle.  I used a semi-vintage (1960’s or 1970’s era) plastic pearled buckle from hubby’s Grandmother’s stash of notions to provide a feminine and neutral colored touch to the hat.

This hat was a very easy and quick two hour project.  There wasn’t too much cost or any risk involved in making this hat, either, because it uses hardly any fabric and the fleece is stretchy enough to make the sizing forgiving.  You could even use scraps to put together one of these type of hats, to make it even more sensible.  Every so often an “instant satisfaction” project such as this hat is needed in my sewing – it keeps more complex creations from feeling like they’re so formidable.

100_0790The “skull cap” base of the hat is made up of six small triangles which, I am proud to see, line up the plaid all the way around.  Look closely at the center back of the scarf bottom to the hat and you will see that there are just a few horizontal tucks there as well.  I think it provides a nice touch of detail and keeps the band gathered all the way around.

I should get this hat out more often and wear it.  Come to think of it, my fleece hat can be stuffed in pocket or purse, it will keep my ears and head warm for sure, plus, it is an easy, fashionable fix for a bad hair day!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a polar “non-pill” fleece 100_0988

NOTIONS:  All I needed was thread for the hat’s construction.  The buckle was on hand from hubby’s Grandmother’s stash.  That buckle was missing it’s middle bar to be used as a regular belt closure, so it was perfect to be used decoratively.

PATTERN:  Simplicity 2494, view C, year 2009.  I would like to make the ivory version with the scalloped brim…so very 1920’s!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Only two hours!  It was both made and finished on December 12, 2012.

TOTAL COST:  About less than $2.00

Putting a Feather in My Hat

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

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

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

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

THE FACTS:Vogue 8175, yr 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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