Star Wars, Pinball, and Year 1974 Cozy Layers

The title might seem like an odd combo, but bear with me here…it is all connected, at least to me with this newest outfit.  In this post, I’ll proudly reveal myself to be a big fan for the decade of the 70s and its amusements – something that many vintage bloggers as well as those who lived in that decade seem to generally not share in common with me.  As one who is at the age to have totally missed that era, I can feel a connection to the decade of disco music, pinball machines, bell-bottom pants with platform shoes, and Star Wars because all these things played a big part in my parents’ lives.  What they were “in to”, I saw in old pictures, records in the basement, and clothes or memorabilia in a forgotten closet – and all that was cool and interesting to me.  Parents are interesting anyway, right?  Reasons given, I’ll move onto what I actually made.

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Inspired as I was to make things for Allie J’s “Cozy Layers” Social Sew #8, I might have went a bit over the top here.  Anyways, let me present my 1974 waterproof jacket, easy 1974 knit flared jeans, and a draped sweater vest.  Whoever says winter dressing is no fun hasn’t worn these kind of garments!  These pieces are so fun and warm…and handmade;)

THE FACTS:butterick-3914-late-1973-or-early-1974

FABRIC:  Pants – a cotton polyester blend brushed double knit in what looks like a denim finish; Jacket – a olive green snakeskin print vinyl with a knit backing, a poly micro suede and a basic polyester for the lining, and a fleece sandwiched in between; Vest – a poly cotton blend sweater knit for the draped front and the leftover poly micro suede for the back

mccalls-4052-yr-1974-cover-compwPATTERNS:  Pants – McCall’s #4052, year 1974 (love the whole play suit separates – lots of options here); Jacket – Butterick #3914, late 1973 to simplicity-1588-view-aearly 1974; Vest – Simplicity #1588, view A, year 2013

NOTIONS:  I only used what thread, interfacing, and other notions from on hand.  The pants button came from the stash of Hubby’s Grandmother so it might be vintage.  I only bought a metal jeans zipper for the pants.

THE INSIDES:  Most seams are bias bound on the vest, the pants edges are left raw, and the jacket seams are covered by the lining.dsc_0777-compw

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The vest was finished first on November 21 after only 3 or 4 hours, the knit jeans came second being finished on November 22 after 3 or 4 hours, and finally the jacket was done on November 28, 2016, after about 15 hours.

TOTAL COST:  The denim knit was something I bought about 5 years back so I don’t remember where it came from or how much I spent for it.  All of the rest of the material for this outfit was bought about 2 years back when there was a Hancock Fabrics store closing, so it was incredibly dirt cheap.  In all, not much fabric was used here – 2 yards of each fabric, except for ½ yard of the vest sweater knit, and voila!  Look what I came up with!

I won’t bore you too much detail in this post about sewing and construction details because not only are there three me-made garments here, but also one of them was tricky and complicated (the jacket) while the other two (vest and pants) were super easy.  I must say I am very pleased with all the patterns, especially the vest and pants.  The jacket is great, too, don’t get me wrong, and surprisingly warm for being a not-too-heavy of a weight.  My only reserve is that I am doubtful whether or not I paired the right fabric (the vinyl) and pattern together.  My hubby makes me feel better by saying that the material would have been hard to work with (and it was) no matter what pattern I’d have chosen, but this style is uniquely neat especially with the raglan sleeves.  The vest is more of a novelty item, but I am realizing it will go with more than what I first thought, mostly because I like it so much!  However, one can never beat an easy creation that looks so good and fits so great, so the jeans are the ultimate winner, especially for being so basic and versatile.

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dsc_0796a-compwI will go over each item briefly to comment of the fit and anything I changed.  First comes the vest.  I made a straight size small and found that I should have graded a size up for the hips the same way as I do for regular garments such as blouses and dresses.  The neckline of the draping were taken in by an extra inch to make for less of a droopy wrap, purely personal taste.  A facing of the micro suede used for the back was drafted from the pattern for the neckline edge.  I found the back of the vest to be quite long, ending at the bottom of my behind…not flattering.  So, to vent my frustration waiting for our Thanksgiving guests to arrive, I unpicked the bottom hem and re-sewed it 2 inches shorter in the back of the vest.

I love the texture and interest of this vest, besides the fact it is a wonderful weight to wear.  It keeps a chill out of my middle but yet the lack of sleeves keeps me from rey-in-the-force-awakenscropover-heating inside stores and homes.  I’ve always associated vests with the outdated 80’s things (like boxy front-halves of a weskit) that I wouldn’t be caught dead in, but now that I have a fashionable vest, I may have to re-think the value of this kind of garment for winter layering.  The funny thing is, this vest made in this desert sand khaki color, with its rough texture, and criss-cross design totally reminds me of the outfit for the lead character “Rey” in the 2015 Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens”.  I know it’s not exactly the same thing but I believe you can definitely tell where I see similarities.  This vest, though modern, also reminds of the creative and interesting, bold but relaxed style that see in 1970’s dressing.

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My idea to whip up the pants was spawned of all my ideas from and of the vest.  All of my previous pants have all been made of woven fabrics so I went for a thick denim knit sitting all lonely and forgotten in my stash for the last 5 years.  Now I’m glad I never sewed it up into a dress like I had originally planned because these 70’s pants are way hotter…oh, and comfy.  Everything I love about vintage 1940’s trousers is combined with my love for the 70’s here – full and wide legs, true waist, chic styling, and perfect fit.  Add on a body skimming booty and less excess fabric around the thighs and welcome to the disco era.  My favorite part is the lack of both the conventional waistband and the front placket here, replaced with a simple loop and button above the zipper.  It makes for a very clean look that’s so easy.  The instructions showed to sew in a ribbon waist, but I used some wide non-roll navy elastic instead and I think this turns out much better and is a better (and more forgiving) fit.  The best part?  These pants are a perfect fit for me without a hair’s breadth of change…go vintage patterns!

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These pants make me feel very tall, skinny, and all legs.  This was the 70s ideal body type anyway, and I like the feeling because in reality I normally think of myself as short, not skinny enough, and definitely not very leggy.  I kept a very long hem on my pants so as to wear my new 4 inch platform strappy heels.

After making year 1974 pants, I remembered a project waiting in the wings downstairs for the last several years.  This, together with the thought of another cozy layer to add to the 70s gloriousness, and I reached for the jacket project.  This was rather an exhausting project that I don’t know I was ready for, but it should see much use in the next few months, starting immediately.  There are some things I wish I could have made to work out better, but I am just proud at my first official coat and my first sewing with this kind of vinyl.  I do love the slightly golden sheen to the snakeskin print and the waterproof protection without looking (and sounding) like a plastic raincoat.

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The most stressful part of sewing this coat was the thought that I only had one shot to get things right…unpicking and re-stitching wasn’t really possible here because once a hole is made, it’s permanently going to be there.  Also, the vinyl was sticking to all the metal parts of my machine so I had to sandwich a layer of wax paper around the coat’s seams at almost every stitch so it would glide under the presser foot.  This wax paper method worked like a charm, and was easy to take off, it just was something else to add to the difficulty level.  So, in total not only did my stitching have to be accurate, and I was limited to my use of pins for seams (reverting to clothes pins), but I had to sew between wax paper.  This coat must have given me at least one grey hair.  My only change was that in lieu of gathers under both the front and the back yokes, I made my own pleats – two ½ inch ones on each front and one giant box pleat down the center back.dsc_0776a-compw

My two giant pockets are lined in a remnant of a 1970’s curtain which I had on hand from a buying someone’s small fabric stash at re-sale store.  It was so bold and fun, I also added bright green bias tape to finish in inner edge.  No one will ever really know it’s there, but I like how the print makes me smile whenever I see the funky brightness inside my pockets.

I still don’t know how to close the coat – any suggestions?  I don’t like it belted and it is warm enough that a little air actually feels good.  I’m beginning to think I should just leave it open and casual.

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1974 is an interesting year for me to channel.  My dad graduated that year from high school and (among other things that happened) he became a lover of the pinball machine.  Every chance we could as I was growing up, my dad and I would hover over and eye up every pinball machine, with the occasional dropping of a quarter to do a real play.  I always saw my dad as a champ at the game and he still enjoys playing when he can.  Luckily there are some game lounges around in our town nowadays that are much more respectable than those of the pinball culture 40 years back.  1974 was also the year the California Supreme Court ruled that pinball was more a game of skill than one of chance and overturned its long prohibition, opening the way for general acceptance of this form of amusement nationwide (info from here).

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So much of this outfit is due to the influence of my dad.  He still has some of his 70’s bell bottoms, though he got rid of his platform shoes, trench jacket, and elephant pants years back.  Now his daughter has her own version of what he used to wear, sorry dad!  He loved Star Wars and bought me many of the toys and even watched the movies from the roof of their house on the drive-in screen which had been up the street.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree I guess.  Star Wars is still around on screen, and the 70’s style is coming back today, and retro amusements are just as fun, so it’s hard to resist re-visiting my dad’s past with my own handmade twist.  This one’s for you, dad, hope you don’t shake your head at this…just smile.

And now for some Star Wars light saber fun with my own son before bed time…

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“Atomic Jacks” 1955 Set of Redingote Jacket and Dress

I’ve sewn it again…here is another look-alike to the fashion of the corrupt character of Whitney Frost on Marvel’s TV show “Agent Carter”, Season Two.  This time I have an outfit to show you of a dress and redingote jacket, inspired from episode 8 “The Edge of Mystery” to be precise.  I am so proud at how this outfit turned out better than I’d imagined it for myself, and it’s so wonderful to wear!  I even found an eerily similar silk scarf and leather-like driving gloves, all vintage, to properly complete my Whitney outfit.

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Both garments are absolutely great, however the dress was a bit overwhelming to make as it had a huge amount of ease on top of generously large fabric-hogging pieces.  The jacket is so amazing I want to convince everyone they need to brace themselves for the challenge of making this pattern – the most lovely design of outwear I could possibly want.

DSC_0860-p-compBe prepared for some dramatic poses, and a disturbing crack down my face opening up a force to be reckoned with…just like the villainess who wears my inspired outfit.  Yeah, it sounds weird to put myself in the shoes (through an outfit) of a megalomaniac with powers from another dimension, but Whitney Frost, like many women, was on a quest for purpose and respect…she just went down the worst path imaginable.

THE FACTS:

FABRICS:  The Dress: a Gertie brand 100% cotton sateen, The Jacket: a 100% Kona cotton for the exterior, a basic poly lining for the inside, a buff poly satin for the pocket flaps and belt, and a 100% cotton for the bias binding. 

PATTERNS:  The dress comes from an original 1955 Advance #7095 pattern and the jacket comes from a Vintage Vogue #8875, a re-print of a year 1955 and 1957 pattern (originally V#4771).  The pocket flaps were added on from an original year 1948 pattern, McCall #7354. McCall 7354, yr1948 & Advance 7095, yr 1955-comp

NOTIONS:  I had the interfacing that I needed, as well as the dress’ thread, zipper, and packaged bias tape, but the jacket needed thread to be bought and I made my own bias tape.  The buckle is from my stash and it is vintage carved shell.

THE INSIDES:  All nicely finished.  The dress has all bias bound seams and the jacket is fully lined.

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TIME TO COMPLETE:  Both the dress and the jacket were a bit time intensive.  My dress was made in about 10 hours (not counting maybe three hours for cutting and laying out) and done on June 8, 2016.  The jacket was made in about 30 hours (with about 4 hours for cutting and laying out) and finished on July 1, 2016.

TOTAL COST:  The dress took so much fabric (5 something yards) I’m not sure of the total anymore, but I think it is about $25 to $30.  The jacket was less because half of my supplies (the lining, satin, organza, and some thread) were on hand so my total for 4 yards of Kona cotton on sale with one yard of a remnant for bias tape comes to a total of about $23.

Whitney at atomic siteFirst off, I need to vent…this is not a costume, in the particular definition of being something for cosplay, stage, theater, or an out-of-place garment.  It is clothing I want to wear in my modern living (the jacket is something I needed, actually) and was merely inspired by something on television to go the extra mile for a great outfit.  That’s good, right?!  I kept my outfit similar in shape, color tone, and style, but it is according to my own taste and personality because I intend to wear these pieces in my daily life, such as out to dinner, vintage shopping with friends, or to church.  However, I will admit this would be perfect for the next in town cosplay event and it is fun to understand a character by stepping in her shoes, besides feeling like I could be a part of my favorite television show (see the television still at left with Wynn Everett playing Whitney Frost).

To top off the irony of my rant, the Advance pattern envelope actually calls it a “costume dress”…don’t understand why.  This is an original pattern to make what looks like a very normal mid-50’s dress, albeit quite poufy.  I’m assuming the use of ‘costume’ here is meant in the term of “fashion of dress appropriate to a particular occasion or season or a set of garments to put together an outfit.” Honestly, this all confusing grammar particulars.

Of all the weird things I’ve found in pattern envelopes, the Advance pattern had double pieces, as if someone bought two.  Why just double of the bodice, the skirt side panels, and collar pieces?  To further complicate the mystery here, the skirt double pattern pieces were cut in half, like the previous maker intended on cutting those on the fold, and sliced accordingly.  All the pattern pieces are the same size as each other, so why buy another just to cut two pieces in half?!  After all the unnecessary pieces, the pocket top band is missing, and there is one of everything else.  Was somebody making a lining?  Oh the stories these patterns could tell…

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I expected the dress pattern’s fit to be normal or at least semi-generous, but this Advance dress had the most unexplained extra ease of any pattern I’ve made.  It was like a gi-normous fabric monster.  The skirt pattern pieces were so huge, I had to taper off several inches on each side of all of them and they are still incredibly full.  Several inches had been taken out at the bottom hem because it seemed evening length long, and also to help fit everything in.  I had bought 4 yards already and still realized I did not enough for all of the pattern pieces.  To top things off, I miss-cut on one piece and had to frantically search amid town to find the last remnant so I could finish my dress.  As it turned out, I hacked off 6 more inches from the hem to get my dress the length you see and even sewed up the duo of giant pockets (which I didn’t add), so I guess I sort of wasted a bit too much fabric here.  The pattern I had was technically in my size but I did add in 3/8 inch so I could have a little “just-in-case room”, but I ended up taking out a few inches all over any way, distributing it between the panels.  The empire waist down is still kind of generous on me but I can only take so much in before I give up on reaching that “perfect fit”.  What was the deal?! DSC_0857-comp

For all my saying how huge the skirt pieces were, this dress is such a feminine, swishy, perfect-for-twirling outfit made even better with my full ruffled petticoat underneath.  My petticoat does not remotely fill the skirt out though.  The wide, oval, shoulder-to-shoulder neckline does balance out the vertical seamed skirt, compliments the waist, and creates a lovely 50’s silhouette which I think works for me.

The ‘anchor’ of the dress is of course the dramatically subtle collar-like neckline.  It was quite fiddly, time-consuming, and difficult compared to the rest of the dress.  The combination of a curved, interfaced, skinny strap, faced with another piece and attaching to the full dress with four gathered sections, too, was stressful, requiring lots of pins and slow stitching.  The front tabs end at the same place at the neckline, which was also tricky, then flipped under one another

Whitney and Thompson making a deal-croppedWhitney’s dress had a remotely similar neckline collar, except hers was folded over (free hanging) and tied in the center front.  Her dress has quarter sleeves and center bust gathers while mine has is neither, but our dresses do share the same skirt shaping.  Also, her dress was a solid purple in some sort of jacquard (in maybe rayon or silk) while mine is not, but I prefer the printed cotton sateen to stay true to my taste.  Besides, the children’s’ toy jacks that are on my dress are a nod to the Agent that aims to get on Whitney’s “good” side to reach what he wants – Jack Thompson.  Furthermore, my outfit is titled atomic because a faulty A-bomb is the catalyst for the events in “The Edge of Mystery” episode and the reason both Whitney and myself are in an empty, forgotten dirt patch.  Hence, the “Atomic Jacks” title is now explained.

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Advance 8296, cleaned upThis style of dress seemed to be a common design around 1955 especially with the Advance line but also seen through other companies.  For some examples, see Advance 8296 (pic at right) or view Advance 6915, Advance 8047, Butterick 6988, McCall’s 9647, all 1953 to 1956.  I find it funny that so many dresses look alike in a handful of years almost to the point of being boring.  One could buy only one of this style dress and tweak it to copy all the other releases.

Compared to the neckline, the dress from the empire waist down was just single layer DSC_0933a-compfabric and incredibly lightweight, so I unhappily found out it liked to creep up on me and wrinkle in terrible horizontal folds around the natural waistline.  I had to get creative to combat this bad behavior of my dress.  What I ended up doing was sewing down about 8 inches of skinny ¼ inch ribbon to the dress starting at just below the waist to below the waistline, with a long tail of ribbon hanging down tied at the end to a weight of a ¾ inch washer.  I did this in three places down the two front skirt seams and down the center back skirt.  The weights don’t really get in the way of my legs because I keep them over my frilly ruffled petticoat and they are totally removable because they are tied to the ribbon ends.  The weighted ribbons help the waist stay smoother instead of wrinkling up and nicely keeps the dress in place on my shoulders.  This is probably the most unusual fashion fix I’ve come up with but it totally works.

Now, the jacket is an awesome pattern which makes for a silent showstopper.  A redingote jacket is guaranteed to be awesomely special.  The 50’s were the hurrah for the redingote, although you do still see a few in the 60s, too.  Wearing a redingote is the most fashionable way to have a coat on yet still show off your clothes underneath, besides being so complimentary to the waistline.  (More history on the redingote can be found on this ‘Witness 2 Fashion’ post.)

For this pattern, everything matched together beautifully, the fit is engineered brilliantly,DSC_0771a-comp the sizing seems right on, and it is nicely unique.  Yet, it is tiresome to make and quite challenging…there are eight tricky corners in total to make.  (See the pic at right which shows three views of the angled corners, inside and out)  Once I started on the lining I wanted to give up on the jacket and swear I couldn’t sew another one of those funny angle/tight point corners.  I’m not even talking about the wraparound collar, either.  Yet, as I was making this, I could tell I was going to love it, and the promise of a rocking outfit (as well as a very rainy coming weekend) gave me the guts to suck up my distaste and finish the jacket.  I’m so glad I did.

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There are just a few things I did to the pattern to make it slightly easier to sew.  I did not change any of the design (besides shortening the jacket hem by 4 inches).  My ‘tricks’ here merely have to do with construction changes to achieve the same result as compared to what the instructions show.  First of all, I disagree with the need to do so much cutting down of all the curved seam allowances.  I did not see any noticeable restriction to the sleeve curves as they were and I think paring them down might make a high tension spot a bit less stable.  A little snipping maybe but that’s all.  It is still very important, as boring and repetitive as it might be, to stitch and re-enforce all the points and corners you’re supposed to and, yes, you do stitch the stabilization squares over the corners on the right side.  I didn’t disregard these points but I did use sheer organza instead of self-fabric for the re-enforcement squares (much lighter but just as strong).

Furthermore, I did not use any interfacing anywhere, and also left out the extra add-on contrast collar.  The facing for the jacket’s front edge was sewn to the lining’s outer edge to make a one-piece inner coat.  This was then sewn, as one ‘inner’ jacket to the ‘good’ outer jacket, along the front edge, from one hemline, up and around the collar and back down to the hemline.  Now where the jacket facing joins the lining the meeting is much more stable, strong, and smooth…besides saving me a butt-load of hand stitching!  I know this is sort of ‘cheating’ (so I’ve heard), not very time-committed, nor couture, nor vintage correct.  Hey, when sewing is a chore it doesn’t give personal enjoyment, so anything that saves one’s creative sanity is good in my book.  Besides, ready-to-wear has got nothing on this coat!

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Perhaps the best part (besides the awesome pocket flaps) was taking the extra step for self-made bias tape.  I know, I might sound nuts, but making bias tape is incredibly fun – a total mood-lifter for me, especially with my Dritz tool won from my entry to the “Butterick to the Big Screen”.  Once you have made and used your own bias tape, it is quite hard to use bought pre-made bias tape…no kidding, you’re ruined, spoiled.  Self-made bias tape is 110% better especially when it is made to match out of fabric better than the stiff poly-blend available in the stores nowadays.

To make my jacket truly stand well in rainy weather, I sprayed it down with some “Protect-All” fabric and shoe coating.  This doesn’t stiffen the fabric at all, nor does it make the water bead or roll off, it only retards liquid from soaking into the fiber.  A whole can was used to spray my jacket with one generous coat of “Protect-All”.

Dr Wilkes flying into the rift, my look-alike combo

Did you ever have a film star for which you just had to have her wardrobe?  Well, I guess Whitney Frost is that person for me.  However, I believe I am not just making for myself her fashion.  I also try to put my own touch into it to make sure I feel like “me” in it.  Besides, since I do love purple in all its shades, and this is the color Whitney wears most often, I find it hard to resist.  No, but really – I do promise to make garments in other colors for your sake, and more Whitney Frost outfits for my sake!

If you’re interested in learning more about the vintage methods of make-up that were used to “make” Whitney Frost, see this article on ‘World News’ – and don’t forget to click on the full page option through the L.A. Times!  There is also a photo galley for this particular episode of “Agent Carter” (which you can find here) if you’d like to compare our outfits or just take a look!

 

Fort de Chartres Rendezvous 2016 – Colonial dressing

DSC_0629-compThis past weekend, our family made our annual visit to the town of Prairie du Rocher, Illinois (U.S.A.) for their 18th century and early 19th century re-enactment at the historic Fortress of St. Anne De Chartres. It was a lovely day for the event, however a week of rainy days as well as a few showers the day itself made the flood plain that the fort is on more of a muddy marsh.  Luckily, we remembered to take our pictures soon after we arrived before our shoes, socks, and my skirt hem were soaked and caked (literally) in mud…yuk!  So much for my lovely suede shoes!  Hearing the fife and drum music made it all worthwhile.

Last year (post here) I went as an early 19th century lady, but this year we all were colonials, 1770 to 1780.  I did a good amount of sewing (and research) to my ensemble as well as for my son’s. Now that our son is old enough to remember and enjoy events like this, I took this opportunity to start him off fully participating with us.  He can always wear modern clothes…not too often will he get to “dress up” with us for a good reason, with somewhere to go!  He did get to wear my old tricorne hat from when I was his age.

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I’ve been doing re-enacting since I was 10, and every year, every time I attend an event I learn more and integrate that into my outfit.  Well, I know I’m lacking in stays to bind myself in, and our little man could use a vest.  However, this time I took the week before to lend some much needed finishing touches to my ensemble to get it close to how I would like it (more authentic).  It was also high time for me to address my hat, giving it a new look (more down later).

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Now, my short-gown is a nice working class fitted jacket in a lovely nubby raw linen.  It is simple and unlined, and not made by me but sewn by an acquaintance of ours from the “Marquette Trading Company”, as is my under chemise.  The jacket came without any closures or ornament, which I liked so as to customize to our taste and suit the rest of the outfit.  I hand-sewed in hook-and-eye tape into the front center closure, basing it off of this original from the MET museum.  Pinning the jacket front closed might be accurate, too, but I get poked enough when sewing, and if the Met has an original jacket with hook-and-eyes down the front…I’m all for easy!  As a final touch, I would like to add some interest to the sleeve ends, like a loop and button to pull it up to a V-point at the inner elbow (maybe next year).

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I made the rest of my outfit using raw, nubby, muslin cotton.  The skirt is a simple one made maybe 7 to 10 years back– just a few yards of fabric uber gathered.  I probably could have shortened it even more to show the proper amount of shoe/ankle, but my skirt was wet and therefore heavy and kind of dragging down a bit.  The apron is recently made and is also simple – just one yard of material with half the pleats ¾ inch and the others ½ inch.  My necklace is hand strung coral beads finished with sterling parts.

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Yes, I didn’t forget the hat!  When I was a teenager I bought this straw hat blank and decorated it with a lace neck jabot and some nice plastic flowers.  While it was a nice attempt, the hat’s embellishment wasn’t really authentic so I did look around and make something closer to how it should be for the era.  I used a modern ribbon (sadly yes, but this was a last minute fix) but it looks so much better than what I had and I had fun sewing it!  The ribbon was widely box pleated then sewed through the center into the wedge of the crown and brim.  A wide ivory ribbon from underneath keeps the hat on my head – you just can’t see it because it blends in with my linen head covering cap underneath on my hair.

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My scarf is modern, yes, and in a rayon, but I think it works.  “The Dreamstress” has a terminology post on her blog about Ikat prints and they were quite popular and used in many different ways during this time period (look at the 1755–65 chiné gown from the MET).  It seems they were a bit of a French mode and a luxury.  I’d like to think for an American colonial to wear Ikat might be seemingly associated with the country’s independent ideals of that time, so I think it quite symbolic for my outfit.

DSC_0625a-compI rather decided at the last minute to make our son’s clothes so I had to do a bit of research and made do with what I had.  Luckily, I already had some cotton batiste on hand to use for the shirt.  Mostly I used my husband’s shirt as my guide and made the best mini version I could.  For a start, I used a modern but vintage year 1953 pattern as a rough base to cut out a simple Simplicity 4026, year 1952tunic, cutting the jacket pattern pieces (front and back) on the fold and adding in a front neckline with a facing.  Then I used the sleeve pieces to the jacket as my guide, using the extra length to gather in the ends like cuffs with elastic thread.  The shoulder seams are off the shoulder like they should be but I did want the shirt to be roomy so he’ll get more than one wearing out of it.  I pleated in the center outward sleeve tops, which turned out well except I need to take out more of the cap poufiness.  Then I drafted my own collar and added skinny ties.  Voila!

My son’s breeches are something – just good enough for the day.  I really made these with no pattern whatsoever and completely self-drafted them using a pair of my hubby’s unwanted old cotton khaki pants.  They have good features – a mock front fly flap, a back gusset closure, a wide waistband, and pleated in knee cuffs.  I just wish I had made them longer and had buttons for them, too.  Poor little guy – other re-enactors were getting a kick out of him because he walked everywhere with one hand holding up his britches because he had serious droopy drawers!

I’m proud I was able to get this close in one day’s worth of a few hours with no pattern yet I’m frustrated because they were so lacking.  I’ll do better next pair – be sure of it.  However, boy 18th century patterns are hard to come by!  I found one at “Jas. Townsend and Sons, Inc.” and more at “Patterns of Time”.  Any suggestions as to other good sources for children’s 1700’s patterns or what to look for would be appreciated.

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It is a refreshing palate cleanser to break away from my “normal” sewing of the 20th century and dive into other past decades and centuries.  Now I have the gumption do a historical project.  I did pull out my Regency patterns to plan a new frock or maybe I’ll pick up some of my Gilded era, Titanic era, and Civil War projects which need to be finished!  We’ll see.  Next, I have to find more re-enacting events to attend…

Gold Digging Like It’s 1940…

…in the year 2014, courtesy of a Vintage Vogue pattern and some killer Hollywood style.  Not that I’m really gold digging – I have a hubby already.  My desire to try my hand at a couture classic/vintage suit set and my love for Busby Berkeley‘s movie “The Gold Diggers of 1937” were the dual impetus towards this lengthy project.

This suit dress and jacket set is special to me like no other garment I’ve made.  It sets the record to date among my creations for the most time spent, as well as the longest to get done, but also my first jacket, even if it for a suit.  My suit set is truly worth its weight in gold!

100_2738THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The primary fabric that for my suit dress set is a very thick and stable cotton double knit.  It has a faint print in a textured sort of brush-stroke blend of gold, bronze, and light blue on the right side.  The print is nicely subtle, and looks like it could be part of the fabric, but it does rub off (bummer).  This is especially true in places where I did some heavy duty stitching or handling of the fabric, such as the buttonholes.  For the lining of the dress and jacket, I used a very sheer, lightweight, and silky polyester interlock knit.  It was bought to make a Halloween costume which didn’t happen, so it went to my suit set.  The thin poly interlock makes the perfect lining layer – thin enough not to add much bulk, but silky enough to keep my main fabric flowing and effortless.

NOTIONS:  Most everything I used for my suit dress set had to be bought, such as extra interfacing, extra thread, the buttons, the dress’ zipper, and more machine needles.  One hook and eye set and some bias tape that was needed were the only notions from on hand in my stash. VV#2636

PATTERN:  an out-of-print Vintage Vogue pattern re-issue, #2636, originally a year 1940 design.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  There is no way to even count this part.  All I know is that I spent at least 30 hours on each of these three steps: the dress, the jacket, and lining the jacket.  I’m just figuring this set as my 100 hour “century of time” project which was a sometimes frustrating labor of love.  My dress was finished first, on December 28, 2013.  Next the jacket was done, sans lining, on April 8, 2014.  Finally, the jacket was completely lined and finished on October 18, 2014.

100_4233THE INSIDES:  The dress’ seams are double stitched, with the edges left raw and merely zig-zagged together.  Both the lining and the suiting knit do not fray, so there was no real need for better seam finishes.  Besides, the fabric was too thick for my sewing machine to realistically handle, thus the hard fact was that any seam would only be thicker and unable to be sewn.  For the jacket, every raw seam inside is covered by a full lining, complete with box pleats at the waist, between the shoulders, and on the chest to give ease of movement.  The bodice was sewn to the shoulder seams first, then the sleeves were added in for a complete professional finish (and a bad case of carpel tunnel from so much hand work).

TOTAL COST:  My set’s main fabric, the printed double knit, came from JoAnn’s fabric store.  It was bought September of 2013 (last year).  I needed 3 1/2 yards, and the regular price was a whopping $20 per yard, but, luckily, I got it at half price for $35.  The thin lining material came from Hancock Fabrics, and was bought dirt cheap (5 yards for $10) as part of an after Halloween discount.  The buttons and all other notions also came from Hancock.  So…to make a long explanation short finally, my total cost is just at $50.  I don’t think I’ve spent this much on any project yet, but the total cost is still very reasonable considering the quality, fit, and time put into my set.  RTW prices would be double for an item much less worthwhile.

I loved the pattern details, seaming, everything…except I knew the dress neckline Veronica Lake similar dressneeded some added interest and (like I said) I had some classic Hollywood inspiration to help me out with an idea.  Firstly, there are plenty of pictures of the iconic Veronica Lake in a metallic lamé dress (from the 1942 movie “This Gun for Hire”, see far right) which has a very similar arched torso and V-neckline to the Vintage Vogue dress 2636 pattern.  Secondly, the actress Glenda Farrell wears a beautifully styled basic black dress (above) that I loved the first minute I saw it on the “Gold Diggers of 1937” movie.  Why?  Not only do I greatly enjoy watching the actress Glenda Farrell, but, together with her friend the actress Joan Blondell, someGlenda Farrell bar shot ‘to-die-for’ fashions, catchy Dick Powell sung songs, and a great plot, makes the Busby Berkeley movie “The Gold Digger of 1937” an all-time favorite in my book.  The lame metallic gown of Veronica Lake inspired me to use the bushed gold/bronze black knit fabric I chose for my suit set, and Glenda Farrell’s black keyhole-neckline dress was ultimately what I copied onto my own dress.  Between the two main inspirations, there is a strong theme connecting everything together of the richness of metal, timeless beauty in design, movie inspiration, and a turn of the decade style.

Making the keyhole neckline on my dress was actually really easy.  It just took some forethought.  Basically, I drew my own template to keep things exact and made the front like a regular facing.  The dress’ facing is really deep and wide, so that fact worked to my advantage.

100_2732100_2571a     I made a paper copy of the front facing, then folded it in half at the center bottom of the V-neck so I could trace out the keyhole shape and have it even on both sides.  See my pictures.  Instead of sewing down just the V-neckline (facing down, right side to right side), I went in one continuous line all the way around down and around the keyhole too.  It was quite tricky on the facing to make the neckline/top keyhole point so close, barely touching, but still apart.  I think I held my breath sewing that spot.  Taking my time, I carefully turned everything right sides out and top stitched down.  There is a tiny hook and eye tucked in the spot where the keyhole point and the neckline V meet and hand stitched down.  This way I can undo the hook and eye to make getting the dress on over my head much easier, but also I accomplish a nice, tiny point much more precise than if the corner had been sewn together.  Utility and fashion are happily combined in my neckline refashion.

Glenda Farrell’s “Gold Diggers” dress had open, oval, cut-out shoulders as well as the keyhole front neckline, and was racking my brain whether or not to add the open shoulders, too.  Had the fabric been less thick, and the dress itself not so heavy, I might have had the open shoulders.  However, as you see, it didn’t happen.  It’s best not to mess with good thing sometimes 🙂

100_2753a     Other than grading, the entire suit set was made as is according to the pattern.  The small amount that I did need to add to the hips and the waist (only 1/4 inch) was added at the “on fold” end of all the waist middle pieces and the dress skirt pieces.  This way the curvy side seams retained all of their amazing original shaping possibilities.

I was tempted to bring in the hem of the sleeves into a box pleat to make my dress more of a late 30’s garment.  But the sleeves weren’t meant for that.  Puff sleeves of the 30’s did last in the early 40’s (no later than WWII), but the type of sleeves that are on my dress were “the new thing” for years 1940/1939, as a transition into a new decade with differing styles.

100_2752     The hardest part of the entire suit set was hands down the gathered slashed above-and-below bust gathers on the jacket.  Not only were they hard, but small, tricky work, too.  To top it off, I was obsessing just a bit to make sure that all four of the slashed gathers looked even on both sides of the jacket.  The instructions for the slashed gathers are a bit strange and different, but works in the end.  You cut the slash spot, sew a gathering stitch on the one side, and pin on this ‘sword blade’ shaped facing to help support and match everything.  Somehow you have to sew each side of the slash separately, so you can then cut an opening in the facing to turn the whole thing inside.  Both facings get pulled together (either above or below the gathers), to be sewn together by top stitching down with the edges meeting so as to cover up the facing.  At this seam, there is literally so much fabric, and to add the gathers was more than even my sewing machine could handle (and my Singer is a workhorse).  To top it all off, the ‘below bust’ slashed gathers also have the bodice panel ending there so it had drop down vertically along the button placket.  For the reason of ‘too much fabric’ alone, the jacket bust gathers are (in my opinion) a difficult, almost faulty design, but that’s no one’s fault, especially Vogue’s.  It just makes for more experience…that’s how I explain a frustrating sewing experience to myself.  If you want to make this pattern, too, I hope I haven’t discouraged you – this spot is not impossible (as you can see on my suit).  I just hope to help or prepare others.

As my very first suit coat, this is also the first time I have done bound “window pane” button combobuttonholes.  I am happy at how well everything turned out and I don’t feel that I really could have done better.  I found Gertie’s blog tutorial to be very helpful before I went and did the buttonholes.  Several trial runs were done first to make sure of the correct size for my buttons.  I even made a template rectangle to make sure all of the five buttons down the front had uniformed sized holes.  It was really fun to do (surprisingly).  The buttons are an antiqued gold, open worked filigree design, bought new, so they’re not authentically old looking.  More metal!  There are basic black buttons sewn on the under ‘wrong’ side as a backer support.

I chose the 3/4 length sleeve length for the suit coat to make it more of a transitional weather piece.  The lining inside and the heavy weight of the knit fabric makes the suit coat more of a jacket for me.  If you hadn’t noticed, the collar stays open, flap style, and doesn’t button up any farther than you see.  And just because you haven’t seen it yet, look at how the back of both the dress and the suit coat mimic one another with the drop arch of the middle bodice panels.

100_2759-combo     Sewing this suit set ended up costing even more than first realized because it literally broke my machine.  The fabric was too heavy, the knit was too very tight, and I ran over too many pins, breaking too many needles.  Bad me!  The sequencing was knocked off kilter on my sewing machine, plus a gear was slipped out of place.  The needle bar was off center, too.  At only 8 inches away from the last stitch that would have completely finished my machine stitching for my suit…the machine gave out.  “I can’t, just can’t do this anymore!!!” I could hear my old standby machine screaming.  It was needing a visit to the repair shop anyway, poor thing.  I just didn’t mean to torture it.  I suppose that you can tell one does a lot of sewing, and loves it, too, when one begins to speak of their machine(s) as you would a pet.  So it goes!

This whole suit is a very worthwhile satisfying project that demands some dedicated time and effort to finish.  Don’t expect to whiz through it or get by without a good amount of hand stitching time, as well.  Nevertheless, the final piece is a very classic, figure-flattering garment which has top notch style features that seem current in any decade.  If a garment can possess those qualities, then that is the true proof of quality fashion.  I am very happy with VV2636.100_2749

I accessorized my suit set with the most era-appropriate shoes and hat and purse of any outfit yet.  Everything you see on (well, not my glasses, sorry) and behind me is historically correct, plus, in this case, also has a personal story.

Let’s start with the story related to my shoes, which is about my backdrop: the International Shoe Company building.  It is an absolute, humongous, Art Deco gem (as you can see) built in 1910, remodeled in 1930, and has many references to the cobbler’s trade in some of its hard-edged designs.  In fact, if you look above me in the very first picture of this post, there is a cobbler sewing a shoe in a very dramatic pose.  In 1911, International Shoe Company was created by a merger of the Sam Peters Shoe Company with the Roberts, Johnson, and Rand Company (taken from here).  Washington Avenue, the street these are on, became known as “Shoe Street U.S.A.” because it “claimed more shoe trade than any other street in the world“.  My shoes that are worn with my suit set are old leather originals that have a stamp inside marking them as “Peter’s brand” ‘Smart Maid’ shoes.  With a bit of research, I was 100_2775able to find out that the ‘Smart Maid’ line of shoes were a short-lived line produced by the International Shoe’s Sam Peters through the 30’s and ending about 1940, pre-WWII.  Thus, I can date my shoes to a very specific time.  Cool!  More or less, I’m taking these shoes back to the place that made them over 70 years ago…and they’re still good enough to wear!  Wearing an old shoe made by the International Shoe Company is a small honor in its own way because my maternal Grandmother had a job here helping to make their shoes when she was young.  In fact, she likes to relate the story of how the great Major League baseball player Joe Garagiola happen to fall into a large vat of shoe glue at the factory.  It sounds humorous!

Gene Tierney in a slant top hat100_2767a-b     Now, for my hat’s story.  It came from the collection of an acquaintance of ours who also has an appreciation of all things vintage.  When I brought my hat home, I did some research to find out the era of a hat with such a special and unusual shape.   Looking at my old fashion catalogs (reprinted by Dover publications), it seems that slanted top pillbox hats and other unusual shaped millinery was worn in the late 30’s to early 40’s.  See at far left a 40’s picture with Gene Tierney, or look at the fashion picture from page 101 of this Dover book for two examples.  Though you can’t see it, my hat is a fine beige wool crepe with yellow gold embroidered flowers and intricate gold seed beads over the flowers.  The inside of my hat makes me think it just might have been handmade by a very talented milliner.  I feel as if I have properly matched up this interesting hat with a proper outfit appropriate for its era and formality.

100_2733     Hopefully, this suit set is the first of more to come…which I anticipate will not take as long to finish as this first one.  Oh well, taking the time to make sure to make something with quality is always worthwhile.

More pictures can be found at my Flickr Seam Racer page.