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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Men’s 1971 Skinny Stretch Jean Pants

Some decades of the 20th century have been more accommodating than others when it comes to skinny or not-so-skinny guys who want their clothes to fit closely. The decade of the 1970’s was one of those eras where clothes fitted more like a second skin, or at least showed off the shape of the body, for both men and women alike. Think of some of the stereotypical popular fads of the times – super short “short shorts” and “hot pants”, knitwear, and chest baring tunics. What I will feature here, is also popular in the 70’s but unfortunately not as well-known as bell bottoms – men’s skinny pants in the straight “broomstick” style.

100_5874-compMy hubby was in need of new jeans, and, being a seamstress, I understood this as an opportunity to take on a challenging project. Using an old Kwik-Sew pattern and some stretch denim, here is the happy success of my effort to fit my “thin man” with some pants that fit him better than anything a store can offer. These pants are full of “first times” for my sewing experience, but hubby is very happy with them and I do not feel like I could have done better.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  A brown stretch denim, with a nice medium weight, smooth feel, and slight white “pebble” appearance from the weave underneath when you look at it closely. The fiber content is 60% cotton, 36% polyester, and 4% stretch. The inside bottom half of the pockets is made from a cotton/polyester broadcloth, in a dark brown color, which came from my stash on hand.

NOTIONS:  I used white thread to make a fashionable contrast, and I always make sure to have plenty of white thread on hand. I also used interfacing and a sliding “waistband style” hook-and-eye from on hand, too. The only notion I did buy was the metal “jean zipper” for the front fly.100_5726-comp

PATTERN:  Kwik-Sew #322, year 1971

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The jeans didn’t take me as long as I expected – a total of about 18 t0 20 hours. They were completed on July 16, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  Left raw but evened up and stitched together cleanly. I didn’t want to overwhelm my machine with thick seams or my skills with too many new skills by doing lapped seams, like I would have liked. Each seam is double stitched, with the crouch seams triple stitched next to one another for stability.

TOTAL COST:  The fabric was bought from Hancock fabrics, and cost (on clearance) about $7 in total for the 2 yards needed. The zipper cost an added $2.

From looking at 1970’s catalog advertisements and patterns, I see that the “broomstick” skinny straight leg style seems to keep to earlier in the decade (the ads I see are primarily from 1971). According to the blog “DressThatMan” they were a product of the Glen Oaks Company from New York City and ran quite expensive figuring prices with inflation calculator – about $140 in today’s money. The pattern used for hubby’s pants is not truly a “broomstick pants”, but they keep with the style. Broomsticks, like the Kwik-Sew pants, had a slightly higher waist than most pants from the 1970’s, and this is what my hubby is looking for in fit…no droopy drawer’s teen fashion here please! Broomstick pants were advertisement from 1971 for Broomsticks Men's Slacks. Broomsticks Slacks were a product of Glen Oaks in New York Citystretchy, again like hubby’s new pants, except for the fact that his are from a stretch denim, and the Broomsticks were almost always a polyester thick ponte-style knit. Bell bottom trousers usually swept the floor as they were meant to be worn with platform shoes, but the broomstick pants were higher hemmed, meant to be worn with flat dress or casual shoes for “the cool stud who wants to look experienced”…as I sum it up looking at the attitude of the old Broomstick ad models. I’m assuming my hubby doesn’t necessarily want to fill in “the cool stud” summary, but he does want some pants with a normal hem.

So many of the ads for Broomsticks terribly (and awkwardly) portray their product in a very obvious “girl magnet” or “sex appeal” direction (see this page for more 70’s bad adverts). I suppose direction of selling line is on account of the close-fitting knit, but I really wonder, as these pants aren’t heard of much, if their method of advertising failed the Glen Oaks Company before it started (like I could have told them). It’s a shame. The 1970’s could have actually had a fairly normal trend with the Broomstick pants, because after all, did bell bottoms actually look good on anyone?!

1971 Men's Fashion Ad, Montgomery Ward, Knit Slacks&Hubby's pictureI love how hubby’s Kwik-Sew jean pants have subtle retro features that speak of attention to detail while remaining utilitarian. There is a long 9 inch front fly in the front for the closure, angular slant front pockets, a wide waistband, a duo of back welt pockets with darts above them under the waist. Vintage enough to be different, straightforward enough to still be in fashion, and stylish enough to make a great pair of pants on trend. As I see it, clothes that are personally sewn necessarily have to look good – when the person wearing it feels good in what they are wearing, confidence is like icing to a cake!

My correct surmise was that starting with a pattern from a decade and a style that caters to a close fit for skinny guys would give him the custom fit he and I like to see. Thus, I really did not make any tailoring changes to the pattern before cutting. Fitting the pattern around him beforehand seemed to indicate they would be his size exactly as they were with no adaptation…and that turned out completely correct! I did measure the pattern waistband piece to figure out what would be the finished size so that the correct size could be chosen for my man. I really didn’t want my efforts to end in a fail or require too much adjusting. My measuring revealed that the finished waistband ended up about 1 inch below the size chosen. For example, the size 32 (which I made for him) finished up as a measurement of 31 ¼ inches. This size verses finished measurement difference is probably because the pattern is designed for stretch fabrics but also achieves that ‘snug and skinny’ 1970’s look.

100_5871a-compI really could not be happier with the pattern. This is the first Kwik-Sew pattern I’ve used, so I have no idea if the modern ones are different or the same, but this one was wonderful. The construction methods were ingenious and great, working out very well for a nice final product. There wasn’t a fabric layout on the instruction sheet, which was mystifying, but not exactly needed, but I did have to think clearly as to what grain and quantity were directed on the pattern pieces. I also felt like they did not make things any harder than they had to be when doing things as tricky as the zipper fly and welt pockets. But they were very clear and thorough nonetheless. Using the pattern was different, but that’s not a bad thing. 100_5733a-comp

A whole page of the instruction leaflet was dedicated to how to sew with knits, as in “what presser feet to use” and “what seams to use”. I never seen a “roller presser foot” like to one recommended and shown, nor have I seen one such thing shown in a pattern’s instructions before now. Do any of you my readers know about such a thing or happen to have and use one, so that you can tell me how well it works and if it would be worth my investment to buy such a sewing aid? I’d like to know if it is good for gripping fabric or is it good for going over thick seams…maybe both.

Sewing the front zipper fly and the welt pockets was an interesting experience. The way of constructing both amazes me. In my head, I can’t help but think, “Who came up with this intelligent design?!” I can say now that I definitely want to do a zipper fly again, and can also feel confident, too, as to how it will turn out after having the good luck to get it right the first time. As for the welt pockets, I have no inclination to do these again as I found them tiring, but I will sew them in a jacket or bottoms if called for because they did turn out in the end. Fold in, sew down, fold up, pull down is a short incomplete summary of the silliness to welt pockets. There was a lot of self-induced pressure on myself to get everything right on this project, which I didn’t need, but it gave me the drive to sit down and to both the zipper fly and the welt pocket duo each in their own solid cut of solid, focused time of clear-headed thinking. I spent a two hour slot of just working on the zipper fly, and on the next day, another two hours solid were spent on the welt pockets.

100_5883c-compOne of my friends at the local Hancock Fabric store once encouraged me to try a zipper fly, telling me it’s really not as hard as it seems. She was definitely right. It might seem convoluted and non-sensical the way the zipper goes in, but if I thought long and hard enough it kind of did make some sense enough to follow instructions according to the letter…and you know, it did work out! I had read through other directions for zipper fly insertion, but for some reason, even though Kwik-Sew’s flyer wasn’t picture heavy, I understood it this time. I will refer back to this pants pattern’s instruction sheet for the next zipper fly I sew.

100_5729a-comp-comboCrouch inseam construction for hubby’s pants was different, as well. Each of the four sections was sewn separately. I can see that this would make it easy to adjust the fit, however adjusting was not needed for my guy fit in them as they were.
These pants were made really long – and I mean that in the extreme! Hubby is on the taller side of the norm, and, as it was I folded out 3 inches from the height at the pattern stage, with another 3 inches hemmed up after the pants were done. Anyone with a height that tall and a waist as skinny as the pattern’s proportion is not the norm, I believe. The un-altered pants leg length is the one curious part of the pattern.

100_5872a-compJust like for the perfect knit wrap dress, keeping certain parts stable and preventing them from stretching was necessary for these 1971 pants. Firstly, I added stay tape netting strips into the seams around all the pockets. These spots are the primary place for the chance of being pulled out of shape from much use, but the last place you want that to happen. The stay tape didn’t add any bulk either.

The pattern called for interfacing the waistband, which leads me to talk about how these pants were made to accommodate his personal taste. I let hubby pick which weight he wanted, and he chose the lightweight over the medium. These pants needed a stable waist for them to stay up in place. Men don’t have hips like women, remember. Belts or braces (that is suspenders) seem to help them keep their pants from drooping. I might be the one doing the sewing, but I realize how things are different when sewing for someone else – my taste might not make someone else happy to wear as much as catering to the preferences of the wearer. Everyone has their own personal style that needs to be respected – what the ready-to-wear stores have to offer you doesn’t honor individuality.

100_5876-compThus, as much as I loved the clean and bold plain waistband on him, he really wanted to wear a belt on the trousers. Even an interfaced waistband wasn’t enough to keep them up…the bane of skinny men is droopy drawers, I suppose. To start, I made small ½ inch piping tubes, and stitching them flat (this was hard working with the denim, actually). Belt loops were sewn down in four places, at the two spots in the back where the darts (above the welt pockets) join into the waistband and at the two spots in the front where the pocket joins up to the waistband. So that the loops wouldn’t jar with the appearance of the waistband they were sewn down with the stitching flush horizontally with the stitching on the waistband. If he has to have belt loops, these aren’t too bad in my opinion – but he’s quite happy with them. That’s good.

Now that I’ve mastered pants for myself (see here and here), and now for my man, you might think I might rest with that…but no…I thrive on a challenge. I have a vintage corduroy and an old 1940’s pattern for some overall pants to make for our 3 year old son. Growing boys are their own sort of challenge! Look for his bottoms coming this winter. Pants sewn by me for the whole family!