Three Piece 1940’s Pajama Set for My Hubby

Comfy cozy night wear and lounging attire are oftentimes, for one reason or another, neglected from the sewn projects of busy seamstresses like myself.  Sewing such items in vintage…especially for men…is a whole other unexplored area in the sewing world.  Speaking from my own previous ideas, night and lounging wear are over-looked too often because the final item doesn’t get worn out and about to be seen in public (unless you write a blog post about them!) and thus forgotten amidst so many other tantalizing patterns for dresses, suits, tops, and the like.  However, I have set myself to fill in this gap by sewing a set of tailored, personalized night wear for my hubby using an old vintage 1940’s pattern from my stash.  His pajama set consists of two pants, one matching and one matching/contrasting, and a button-down collared shirt.  Now he can get his rest in soft and vintage handmade style!

100_3735aTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Since the pajama set was for him, I let him pick out what he wanted, and he chose a luxurious “M’Liss” brand 100% cotton from Hancock Fabric store.  The fabric design is part of her “Route 66” series, including the plaid.  No doubt the fact that we own a little dachshund of our own influenced his pick of fabric…M’Liss always has the cutest dachsie prints.  This  “Route 66” theme has a definite retro flair which even includes the Gateway Arch from our home town of St. Louis, Missouri!

NOTIONS:  I had all the supplies I needed on hand, except for one extra length of elastic for the second pair of pants.  Being pajamas, it is no wonder they have few requirements and need nothing special to be made.  The shirt’s green buttons came from my stash, the interfacing was here already, as well as the thread, bias tapes and elastic.   100_2821

PATTERN:  Simplicity #1635, dating (from the research I have done) to the year 1946.  It a half and half printed/unprinted pattern, meaning it has the punched out dots to mark seam allowances, dart, and fold lines, but it also has printed numbers and assembly instructions directly on the pattern pieces.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Each of the lounging pants took only 3 hours from cutting to finish – great, right!?  The shirt, or “front-buttoning pajama coat” as the pattern calls it, took a total of 8 hours.  The coat was finished on September 8, 2014; the plaid pair of pants were done on March 8, 2014; and the first pair of pants (not pictured) which match the shirt were made on December 6, 2013, as a St. Nicholas day present for hubby.

THE INSIDES:  The bottom hems on all pieces are finished off with single fold bias tape, but all other seams are either self-covered or double stitched along the raw edge, for a traditional 1940’s finish.  As long as he’s happy with it (and he is), I am!

TOTAL COST:  Let me think…each pair of pants needs just a tad over 2 yards, and the shirt needed just under 2 yards, thus with one yard of fabric on sale at $4.50, the total cost for his sleeping ensemble comes to a total of about $27.00.

The pattern has simplistic instructions but I am very happy with its wonderful design and fit.  It took just a tad bit of fitting time to get his pajama pieces fitting his tall and skinny body type.  I have found that (so far) men’s vintage patterns seem to run generous, so I sort of assembled the pattern pieces around him body and figured out ahead of time where to adjust and take in extra space.  Doing this step of adjusting and fitting the pattern was very enjoyable for me.  I feel that the ability to do this step is the big advantage of sewing for others, with the best part being the pleasure of seeing how well your creation looks on someone else.

100_3813     I used the tiny ‘satin’ pins to fold in the fitting darts on the pants pattern.  There is no side seam to the pants (as you see in the bottom left corner of the pattern back, at left) and just two pieces to make the pants, so there is one giant pattern piece which needs fitting.  This giant pants piece ends up fitting smaller than you’d think.  Even still, I took out a vertical dart of about 3 inches, starting at the waist and tapered down to nothing and the pants leg bottom.  Next, I had to take a few inches out of the hip horizontally – the pants had a very high waist.  Hubby needed a few extra inches on the pants leg bottom, otherwise they would have been high-water.  Just be careful with the layout when working with directional prints.  For the first pair of pants, I made the mistake of merely folding over my entire length of fabric, and I ended up with one leg’s print going up, and the other going down -so embarrassing but, luckily, taking nothing away from their wearablity.  For the shirt, I left the girth and length alone, and so I didn’t need to do any pinning in of darts.  The only adjustment here was to slant in the shoulder length 1 inch, thus avoiding what would have been some very droopy sleeves.  I did this similar shoulder/sleeve adjustment in this dress project for myself.  Two inches were added to the hem length of the sleeves to accommodate hubby’s taste and style.

To make the pants, you first sew together the two pants pieces by connecting them at the small, two inch section which is under the front fly opening.  Then you sew together the back crouch before you next join the inner leg seam.  Voila!  This entire step takes me a whole of only 10 or 15 minutes.  Now, the rectangular fly facing piece gets sewn onto the right side of the pant’s fly extension, while the left side gets hemmed and turned in as a sort of self-facing.  The right side fly facing gets turned wrong sides in, top stitched around, and lapped over the left facing.  Both fly facings are tacked down together for 1 1/2 inches from the bottom and 3 inches down from the top waist is you’re doing an elastic finish (which is what my hubby picked out), but the drawstring version calls for an open waistband.  On the first pair of pajama pants which I made for him, I happened to get the proper fly flap closure mixed up, and mistakenly did it opposite sides.  The pants still turned out perfectly wearable, but it made me remember my mistake and realize the layout for next time.  I guess I’m so used to the ladies’ way of right-over-left, instead of a man’s left-over-right!  Between messing up on the fly flap and the direction of the print for pants #1, I made extra sure to get everything just perfect for pants #2.  Look carefully and notice how well the plaid is aligned (see picture).  Now can understand why I never had the heart to take any pictures of pants #1.

100_2822     There is a slightly difficult corner to deal with inside the pants where the crouch seam and the fly front meet.  I found it necessary to clip as extremely close to the stitching as possible, then stabilize the spot with a small strip of bias tape.  “A stitch in time saves nine”, so I wanted to do things well now to possibly avoid spending time repairing a ripped crouch seam later.

The shirt has a very basic and easy assembly.  I doesn’t even have the customary back shoulder panel.  However, I did find that the sleeves, and especially the collar and its facings, matched up beautifully.  Not all of the collars I have done fit so well – sometimes (like on this blouse) I have to stretch the collar, shirt, and facings for dear life just to get all the layers to match.  Besides the balance marks matching, I also matched the print for the collars so the two pet driven cars would be lined up on either side.  Another difference with this shirt is the way the sleeves were set into the body.  The instructions had showed to sew in the sleeve before doing the side seam.  I have seen this before on a few other patterns of mine, but never tried it until now, and it was fun to do something different.  Hubby didn’t want, or really didn’t need the pockets (they would just mean more places to check before doing the laundry), so they were left out.  I also eliminated the cuff bands for the sleeves in lieu of a regular hem.  It was strange to see pajamas with sleeve cuff facing pieces…this is usually reserved for suit jackets or clothing which gets lined.  Anyone have any good reasons for sleeve cuffs on pj’s?

100_3750       Last, but not least came time for doing the five buttonholes down the shirt front, and, for once, I was really excited to do this step.  Usually for me, making buttonholes is a dreaded event, and they never have turned out that great using a machine which has the A, B, C, D step method.  Not anymore!   A birthday gift from my parents of a pristine late 1930’s Kenmore sewing machine has changed all of my perceptions about buttonholes.  This is because my Kenmore came with a buttonholer machine, an automated attachment that moves the fabric for you – so easy!   All you have to figure out is what size cam you need (such as 3/8, 5/8, or 1 inch) to match your buttons, and drop the right cam in the bottom of the buttonholer.  The feed dogs get covered by a face plate so the buttonholer can clamp the fabric, and, once the foot and needle are taken off, the attachment itself affixes to the machine presser bar.  Then the magic begins.  In 60 seconds or less I was able to have perfect, uniformly sized buttonholes in exactly where I wanted them to be made.  Unless you have used a buttonholer, you might think I am a bit over-talking this attachment, but it really is “the 7th wonder” of the sewing world for those using older non-electronic sewing machines.  All sorts of opportunities for patterns with button features now can easily be made by me with no stress, little work time, and loads of fun!  Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed that hubby’s pajama shirt only need five button holes for his five bright green buttons.  Oh well!  I am chomping at the bit to dive right into some more great blouses, dresses and more needing plenty of buttonholes.  Look for these projects soon.

100_3731     Hubby’s pajama set is yet another 1946 project.  This makes a total of 4 makes from patterns of the year 1946.  I suspect that there was a post-WWII boom of both sewing pattern releases and new design ideas.  However, this men’s nightwear pattern is not that unusual, even if it wasn’t from the year 1946.  Vintage/retro men’s nightwear patterns are out there to find if you look for them without spending too much effort.  You don’t even have to spend too much in money, either, because there doesn’t seem to be much of a demand or market for men’s vintage/retro patterns.  Therefore the prices stay (so far, knock on wood) reasonable, unless I happen to start a new trend here!

Assembling a 1920’s Tux Ensemble: Part 1 – Buttoned Spats

Having more 20s themed parties and events to attend, together with a great vintage find of an old tuxedo jacket and pants, has entailed my working towards putting together everything necessary to historically suit up my hubby like a “white tie” gentleman from the Jazz Age.

This post is “part 1” of what will more than likely be a total of three, maybe four, total increments to reach a complete 1920’s Tuxedo ensemble.  The other parts will be the shirt (and collar), vest, and a cummerbund or even a bow tie.  For now, I’m starting from the bottom up, with turn-of-the-century gentleman’s shoe spats.  The spats I made for him turned out wonderful, look great, a fit very well.  They were also fun and unusual to make.  I love trying new things!

100_3681a     It is a bit unfortunate that vintage menswear is so scarce.  Thus, I’ve been turning to old and reproduction patterns as of late to clothe my hubby in something to match my own eras of vintage and historic clothing.  However, even vintage and reproduction men’s patterns are not as plentiful as the choices for women, so I was extremely happy to find such a wide selection of historically authentic patterns for men through the company Reconstructing History.  This company is a great resource, not just for patterns, but also for ideas and through historical information.


FABRIC:  white cotton mid-weight twill (one yard was more than enough)RC 1900s gentleman's spats

NOTIONS:  two packs of big ball “La Mode” buttons were the only notion bought; the elastics and thread and bias tape were already on hand.

PATTERN:  Reconstructing History 1007, the downloadable version

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The spats were very easy and quick coming together, they just took me a bit longer to sew because of the machine I was working on.  I wanted to enjoy myself, get to know the sewing machine…more about this later.  The spats were made by me in a total of 5 or 6 hours ( a few evenings worth of a little time), and finished on August 7, 2014.

THE INSIDES:  All seams are clean, mostly hidden, and oh-so-professional looking!

TOTAL COST:  around $5.00

I picked out the Reconstructing History downloadable 1900s gentleman’s spats pattern to make for my hubby.  The downloadable option is great because not only do you save money, but most of all, you get your pattern almost immediately…no wait!  The downloadable option was perfect because I needed the spats done for a party in less than two weeks.  You simply print out the pages, then connect and tape the pages together for the full pattern, similar to Burda Style patterns (see my post here).  Their pattern pieces included the seam allowance, and thus can either be traced out onto something else, or cut straight out of the paper.  Being a relatively small pattern I just used the paper version.  Any changes will just go on a paper note with the spats pattern so I can remember what I did for the next time these are made for hubby. This way if I need to make the spats for anyone else I haven’t changed the pattern itself.

100_3673     The spats pattern is only three simple pieces, with each getting cut out a total of four times if you are lining the spats, and twice each if your spats are not lined.  Personally I would completely recommend lining the spats for a very nicely finished item that is sturdy and not droopy.  A heavier duty fabric also seems to work well for spats as well.

All three of the fabric pieces get sewn together in one, two-seamed, continuous semi-rectangle.  Thus, if you are lining the spats, you end up having four fabric pieces.  As my hubby’s ankles are a bit skinny, I had to do a small adjustment on all four fabric pieces before connecting the front and lining together.  I sewed in a tapering seam of about 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the center front corner seam over the calf to the top of the spats.  Then, with wrong sides out, two of the spats semi-rectangles get sewn together at a time.  I stitched all along three of the spats sides (right side, left side, and the top) and next turned right sides out.  The raw edged bottom got white single fold bias tape sewn on and turned under.  The entire sides and the two seams where the three pieces connected were top-stitched down through all layers.

100_3656     Everything up until now, had been sewn on my “new” birthday present – a late 1930’s Sears Kenmore Rotary sewing machine in impeccable condition, and in a beautiful table/cabinet as well!  It was really fun to get a closer feel for how they did things back in the past, even though there is a decade of difference between the spats and the Kenmore.  I can’t wait to sew more on this gem.  My parents sure know in a good way what will make my special day…I was very surprised and tickled (especially with the giant bag of attachments and thread, some of them silk)!

I went back to my heavy-duty, early 80s standby Singer sewing machine to make my own elastic loop closure strips for the edges of hubby’s spats.  I didn’t want to do that many tiny button holes on the spats and make it hard for hubby to get them on himself.   The pattern itself suggests elastic, and, besides, elastic was starting to become more prevalent in the 20s.  Cutting small sections of cord elastic of about 1 1/2 inches, and marking equalized spaces out on a strip on double fold bias tape, I hand sewed my own “loop tape” to go along the sides of the spats.  Hand sewing the “loop tape” was hard on my hands, but, with a thimble and some good music on for help, it actually went faster than I expected and the finished result was well worth the effort.  I used my heavy duty Singer machine to sew on the “loop tape” along the very edge of the two spats’ left sides.  Then I matched up the spots where the loops are on the spats’ right sides and sewed on buttons in their corresponding places.

100_3449     Last but not least came the strap that goes under the foot in front of the heel.  The Reconstructing History pattern called for elastic and I used some small 1/4 in non-roll white elastic from my stash for the underfoot strap.  After paging through my old reprints catalogs from the 1920’s and 1910’s, I suppose a true historical feature for these spats would have been to have the underfoot strap be more like a belt, with a tiny buckle to loosen and tighten the fit.  However, I knew the strap would more than likely get quite dirty and take much more time that I didn’t have (not to mention where to find such a tiny buckle), so I opted for the easy “elastic” way.  Hubby put the spats on so I could mark (while they were on him) where to sew the elastic underfoot straps on and how long to make them for a perfect fit.

I am excited to see how the rest of the accessories for hubby’s tux look with these spats.  The cotton twill of the spats are a wonderful match with the mid-weight grooved gabardine he picked out for the main body of his vest.  Think of the actor Jean Dujardin in the movie “The Artist”; that will be my idea of hubby in his finished tux ensemble.  He’ll be a “Dapper Dan” man!