Lines of Wheat on the Bias

Early fall or late summer is a lovely season to me where I live.  It has warm days, which I like, in between cold snaps that preview the next season to come.  Together with the richness of colors building in the trees, interesting smells in the air, and enjoyable holidays on their way (familial birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Halloween), I really do wish I could hold on to this season for longer than it lasts, and not just because I despise winter.

My newest vintage 1930s sewing project, featured here, is I feel a perfect transition garment which takes into account all that I love about late summer and early fall.  Stripes the golden color of wheat as well as fluffy clouds in the sky are on an earthy, textured linen dress, which has a fascinating use of the bias grain line.  Vintage accessories from my Grandmother – gloves, earrings, necklace, and a brooch of double wheat sheaves – together with my Jeffrey Campbell leather lace-up shoes, a silk scarf, and a hat I refashioned to be an accurate 30’s shape all are meant to play with the richer colors of the fall season and thus bring out the muted stripes which highlight the amazing design of this dress pattern.

This was actually my outfit for our recent trip to Chicago, Illinois.  Yes, I traveled and explored the busy city downtown in fully accessorized vintage style and loved it!  And just think…this dress is linen too!  What I discovered from the compliments I received from passer-bys is that apparently this dress is a transition piece in another way.  It is not glaringly vintage, yet still completely true to year 1933.  That is a trademark of a truly classic, lovely design!  It is interesting enough in design that (especially made in striped fabric) it doesn’t scream for attention yet certainly can turn interested heads…almost like a toned down Wallis Simpson fashion for the modern vintage aesthetic.  It is also simple enough in silhouette and sewing difficulty that it can be whipped up easily to suit many differing occasions depending on how one finishes or accessorizes.  Case in point – this dress (before hemming) turned out very long on me and it looked very good with fancy jewelry and evening shoes…I can see a solid color satin or crepe ankle-length version of this dress making a wonderful elegant style!  Oh no, another project idea in my future!

Sorry, I know you can’t see all of my dress’ neck and shoulder details with my scarf, but the dress really looks better for it…and Chicago is a city with a cool wind, indeed!  Scarves were popularly worn like this in the 1930’s (see this article for more info and tips on using scarves) but they make such a great multi use fashion accessory in any era.  I cannot do without a scarf more often than not.  As for further clarification about my refashioned hat, it is modern, in straw, and something which I’ve had for years.  It started out with the popular modern “bucket” style crown and I merely pinched it in from the inside at the center top so it would have a proper vintage shallow crown with a very 1930s style ridge down the center.  The excess crown inside is folded flat and was hand stitched down in place.  Easy-peasy and oh-so-handy, this hat is a great way to protect my face while complimenting my wardrobe using both something on hand and my penny-pinching capabilities!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  slubbed, thick 100% linen

PATTERN:  McCall’s #7153, a 2015 issue of a year 1933 design

NOTIONS:  Nothing but thread and some interfacing was pretty much needed.  A true vintage buckle was used to finish the belt as well as some stitch witchery bonding web. 

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This came together rather quickly – it was made in about 10 to 12 hours and finished on August 6, 2017

THE INSIDES:  Mostly French with the some seams in bias binding.  So clean!

TOTAL COST:  This fabric was bought when the now defunct Hancock Fabric’s was closing.  This lovely linen was about $2 a yard…so I suppose this dress cost me about $6. How awesome is that!?

As someone who very frequently works with true vintage original sewing patterns of all decades in the 20th century, I can say I can recognize features of a vintage design and sort of estimate when something has been changed.  As much as I do love my new dress and am generally impressed with this pattern, there are a few things I am not happy with and strike me as ‘off’.

First of all, there are small separate triangular panels which are sewn on at the true waist at the top of the side front skirt panels.  This could have been on the original but I highly doubt it – there is no waistline seam to the similar side skirt panels in the back!  For a long and lean bias 1933 dress like this one, why would this small panel be separate without an obvious purpose?  A depression era pattern knew how to combine ingenuity and elegance in dressing with a complicated appearing simplicity and this small odd feature doesn’t strike me as ringing true to that habit.  Either way I do not like it one bit.  I should have just matched it to the top of the skirt side panels, taped it on there and cut the piece as one long part extending up to the bodice with no side seam.

The presence of the jarring, random horizontal waist seam remnant presents several ‘problems’ in my experience.  It places too much importance on precise matching of the grain line and fabric print – if this small section is off it will be noticed.  It mars the elegant and beautiful stripe work to the dress if the belt is not “just-so” over the seam…and with normal living’s body movements, a garment will not stay “picture perfect” anyway!  Besides, my true waist seems to be slightly higher naturally and a belt carrier wouldn’t help by keeping it down where it doesn’t want to stay.  After all, year 1933 was still coming off of the 20’s ideology and that year’s dresses were rarely defining the waist with a modern, boring horizontal seam, instead frequently opting for a wide panel, side gathering, interesting paneling, or similar gently hinting methods.  This ugly, tiny waist seam remnant needs to meld into the rest of the dress.  I made the pattern ‘as-is’ so I could learn from it – did I ever!  Please do my recommended change for your version…one little extra step will make your version of this dress so much better!

My beef about the waist seam aside, look at the lovely details to the rest of the front!  The tiny stripes matched up pretty well, and all the seams matched up impeccably.  This dress’ stripe paneling reminds me of something along the lines of two of my favorite American designers/dressmakers Elizabeth Hawes and Muriel King, both of whom I admire for their stunning mitering methods (among other things).  Mitering, often understood as a woodworking term for right angled joints, was appropriated by dressmakers in circa 1934.  Its earliest proponents outside of America were the French couturier Marcel Rochas and a young Balenciaga. (Info from the book Elegance in an Age of Crisis from FIT.)  However, Elizabeth Hawes used a bulls-eye pattern on the bias in the middle of the torso for a 1936 dress, a method very similar to the styling of this McCall pattern.  Not meaning to brag, but the tiny, muted color stripes of the linen I used for my dress also reminds me also of the subtlety of Balenciaga’s cotton 1938 dress.  If I can sew for myself anything that I feel can “knock-off” the designers that both I and history admires, that’s a big win!

Not to divert from my glowing praise, but my second complaint with this vintage reprint pattern was actually the same fitting problem as their other year 1933 re-issue (McCall #7053).  They both turn out to have a very droopy shoulder seam in their kimono sleeves, which makes me think it is something that McCall’s does to the patterns and not the patterns themselves.  After all, their Archive patterns are not really re-prints…from my understanding they are new drafts off of images and/or line drawings of old patterns they had issued in the past.  I have sewn using vintage original patterns from both 1931 and 1934, both of which have kimono-style sleeves, and neither of them have given me the same problems I have with the 1933 McCall’s Archive issues.  However, it is an easy fix.  I sewed the long kimono shoulder/sleeve seam about 2 inches further in from the original 5/8 seam allowance.  That’s a lot, isn’t it!  This dress was severely droopy.  The sleeves are very open anyway so taking out some doesn’t make much of a difference.  When I sewed the sleeve/shoulder seam in smaller I also straightened it out – originally it has a dramatic curve that I think does not work out at all.  The weird puckering curve in the shoulder seam is a big, obvious turn-off on the model version of the envelope cover.  Other than the drooping shoulders, I did find the body of the dress to fit pretty much true to the size chart for the bottom half, and slightly a size big for the top half.

Many 1930’s dresses have a very figure hugging bias which I’ve heard many women say won’t work for everybody.  This one seems to have a bias grain just gentle enough for shaping yet not enough to be overly clingy.  The best part about the bias in both the skirt and the bodice is there is no closure needed!  That’s right – no zipper, buttons, hooks, or snaps.  It’s just plain easy.  I know the instructions show a center back zipper, but those can be hard to do on oneself and sometimes also hard to keep the top pull from sagging down.  I believe McCall’s threw the back zipper in to ‘modernize’ the design.  The dress stretches wider easily from the smart grain line layout so why a zipper?!  I see how the zipper weirdly bubbles out and warps the loveliness of the bias on the back of the model’s dress on the pattern cover.  “Keep things simple, silly” (to put it mildly) is an engineering principle that is worthwhile to remember when engineering clothing, too.

This McCall’s pattern is not the best re-issue of a vintage style, but it does make for a very nice dress, with designer touches that is highly underrated once you get past its “meh” cover and fitting issues.  This is a good pattern I would recommend everyone to have on hand to try.  Once you make one successful version, I believe you will use it again, as I plan on doing.  Don’t let the sole sleeve version deter you – there are many types of sleeves that could be added to a short kimono style like this one.  There are no closures needed and deceptively easy to sew.  Do you need any more reason to try this one?  Come on…I want to see many more inspiring versions from all of you talented and lovely bloggers out there!

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Princess in Purple – a Two-Piece Formal Set

I for one cannot fathom the popular princess craze for little girls…pink and sparkles, oh my!  Nevertheless, as much as I despise the whole commercialism of it, I’ll sheepishly admit I know I have some inner princess to me.  I must have – why else to I keep going for long full, swishy skirts, love to dress up, and make and wear fancy clothes even when there is really no event to wear them to?  I even remember as an early teen, I made myself this skirt for my birthday…it was ankle length, full, with a sheer small floral cotton over a darker blue lining and I sewed ribbons to hold the fullness back like a bustle.  I felt like Cinderella in my head…oh the things I’ve been happy making and wearing for myself!!!  I think this is (finally) a classy and adult version of princess dressing for me.

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As this season is Prom time and also officially “National Princess Week”, I thought I would post about my newest, formal, princess inspired creation.  My outfit is both vintage and modern inspired, in varying tones of my favorite color purple, and pretty much made with no pattern and no occasion to wear it to.  I just made it because I wanted to, and it made me happy to make something that I half-envisioned wearing in a dream.  Man, where’s my fairy Godmother to magic up a ball for me?  Granted I’ve already found (and married) my “Prince Charming”.

Speaking of hubby, he finds it funny that “National Princess Week” comes just before “National BBQ Week”.  He thinks maybe the two weeks can coincide with a “BBQ princess picnic” – and all I can reply to this is an eye roll and a mental picture of a recipe for a dress disaster.  What do you think?

THE FACTS:

FABRICS:  a purple poly crepe and blue navy chiffon for the skirt with a magenta pink lace and matching buff satin (leftover from making this hat) for the top.  All fabrics were bought at my local JoAnn’s Fabrics store from their special occasion collection.

Simplicity 1690, Leanne Marshal yr. 2013PATTERN:  Simplicity #1690, a Leanne Marshal pattern from 2013 for the top while the skirt was self-drafted by me

NOTIONS:  I only used what was on hand, but this didn’t require much – specialty colored waistband elastic in navy (leftover from this past skirt project), thread, and hook-and-eyes.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My outfit was finished on August 8, 2016.  The lace top was made in 2 or 3 hours while the skirt took me about 5 hours.

DSC_0017a-comp,wTHE INSIDES:  Nice!  The way my skirt fabrics were cut the selvedge edges are along the hem and waist – the waist is covered with elastic while the hems are turned under into tiny ¼ inch hems.  As the side seams of the sheer and crepe layers are separate, they are French finished.  The top is bias bound.

TOTAL COST:  I really don’t remember exactly how much I spent, even though I recently bought it.  Perhaps I really don’t want to count costs for this one, but it probably wasn’t over $40…

I keep seeing this combo of crop top and full, long skirt popping up everywhere – in some e-mails from Mood Fabrics, in clothes and department store catalogs, in the front window of local formal/bridal shops, and in pattern re-leases.  It seems as if I started seeing such a trend when this past New Year’s celebration fashions were coming out and it has extended into and through the current Prom/school dance season.  I do like the idea of having an easy to wear and/or make option to traditional dresses, especially when it is no less ‘dressy’!  The basic design idea is really simple, too – hey, most ladies have ‘done’ skirts and tops at a regular non-dressy setting – and more body types can fit into a two-piece.  With a such a divided formal set, any little details, every variance of material, and fit differences all can be mixed and matched to have every set different and personalized to each body.  Sorry to ‘sell’ this trend, I just think it is awesome!

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When making my own set, I found that the tops need very little fabric while the skirts are fabric hogs (obviously).  I assume this is why so many of the crop tops to such two-piece formal sets are made of a more stunning fabric than the skirt – you can even out the scales when you pick an expensive material but can make something out of only half a yard of it!  Not that the bottom half isn’t worth it either.  Maybe a de-luxe taffeta skirt might look awesome on the right body/person/with the right color but then you’d need a basic, simple top.  I was tempted to go for the stiffer taffeta skirt-basic top combo, but the inner princess in me called for a swishy bottom.  A lovely lace in the fabric store won me over, too, to the idea.

Very easily do I tend to the color purple…in all its shades.  I still have it in this outfit, it’s DSC_0005a-comp,wjust more disguised!  The inner, lining layer of my skirt is purple, yes, but the sheer, true-blue navy over that combines to make a lovely and new color that changes up my fascination.  (My Anne Klein kitten heels match the over-layer blue, by the way.)  Purple is after all an intermediary between blue and red – so the navy sheer and bright pink are the opposite ends of the spectrum for my lining.  Purple is associated with royalty, making this even more of a princess-y outfit.  Did you know that “in fact, Queen Elizabeth I forbad anyone except close members of the royal family to wear it. Purple’s elite status stems from the rarity and cost of the dye originally used to produce it” says ‘LiveScience’.  Here’s your history nugget for the day…and a reason to buy more purple along with me!

So many patterns for these long full formal skirts called for about 3 yards of fabric.  As I was buying double fabric for my skirt, I did not want to buy or deal with that much fabric.  After all, I was trying to make an idea in my head and sewing it for myself…so why should I confine myself to a pattern at all?  I bought two yards of my skirt fabric and figured things out from there.  I have long been admiring 60’s and 50’s full, pleated skirts that over emphasize the hips and make the waist high and skinny.  Check out my Pinterest boards for some of my inspiration both modern and vintage.  Then, I just used mathematics to make my skirt.  My skirt fabrics were cut on the fold created when the selvedges were lined up (laid out), so my skirt is 30 inches long by four total yards width around.  I know what my waist is and I knew the length of the fabric I had to work with, thus the pleats were figured out the calculating way.

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Double pleats on top of pleats? Yes! I started with deep, sewn-in tucks at the line of the inner fold of the first pair of center pleats, both front and back.  These sewn-in tucks control the fullness of the skirt, keeping in place the under layer of pleats in place so the second layer of pleats can lay right.  You can only see the sewn in pleats when I swirl and my skirt becomes as full as it can be, like in the picture above.

DSC_0019a-comp,wThese double pleats of course make the skirt quite heavy so I chose a decorative elastic waistband to hug my middle tightly.  My problem was how to get it on easily?  I made my skirt have a front closure opening through the middle of the pleats.  It closes with a line of three large hook-and-eyes hidden under the fold edge.  I like to add a brooch or decorative pin over the closure just because it makes the waistband look like a belt, and I do have so many of those sorts of add on pretties.  However, the waist front is also fine without it too, and I’m so glad my hand-sewing is invisible.  Sewing through all the layers – two thicknesses of elastic with all the fabric layers doubled – was tough on my hands.  I was poked quite well a good number of times, as well.  Yup, this was another project I gave blood for…

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Now the top was loosely cut off of Simplicity’s pattern.  I choose the size larger than what I needed, on purpose.  I wanted a wide cropped top to widen my shoulders and emphasize the high waist of my skirt.  Then the hem was cut along the design of the lace a few inches above the waist.  Matching solid poly was cut into bias binding to finish all the edges – inner side and shoulder seams, neckline, and armholes.  Easy!  The only ‘fault’ to the top is that it is airy thin and light, moving around somewhat off of my shoulders sometimes, plus I have to be careful of what I brush against because of the open lace.  It’s just too pretty to find any real problem.  Underneath I’m merely wearing a tube top, but if I ever want a full coverage option, I’ll sew up a second top in a nude or matching pink color.

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Our photo shoot location is at someplace called Tower Grove Park, characterized as “the largest and best preserved 19th-century Gardenesque style city park in the United States”.  It is one of the landmarks to see in our town, as it has historical importance together with lots of spectacular sights (architecturally and in regards to nature).  Among those sights are all the elaborate Victorian pavilions and houses, two of which we captured as the background for my formal set.  For some reason I see Victorian architecture as grandiose, somewhat brooding, mysterious, and flaunting in-your-face elegance.  Those same adjectives can also apply to many of the castles and palaces that many princesses find themselves in…

Have you had a similar project where you made something full-blown fancy, just because you had an idea or wanted to make something specific to wear (occasion or not)?  Do you also find it hard (like me) to have more occasions to dress up?  So many events which used to be fancy are becoming so casual nowadays.  However, there is “National Princess Week” to give us girls of all ages a semi-legitimate excuse to ‘go all out’ the way that pleases your inner nobility.

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“Iris Garden” Burda Style Dress

Like a garden that emerges from its winter slumber to become a lovely surprise, this dress also took a different direction from what I originally planned but turned out nice in the end.  I feel like I’m wearing the season of spring with my dress…if that is remotely possible.

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I originally hoped to make a new Burda pattern into an art dress, one that would remind someone of a stained glass window.  However, to make the garment aesthetically uniform and complementary for my taste I had to combine two patterns to give the dress a new bodice and finish it as you see it. I am still a bit disappointed to not be able to make an idea that I had in my mind, but I’ll still try to scratch that itch.

As for this dress…well, all’s well that ends well, I suppose.  My hubby calls the dress ‘cute’ or ‘sweet’, and it is so comfy with my favorite colors I will admit.  Also, iris flowers are in my “favorites” list of botanicals since they are akin to the fleur-did-lis and King St. Louis IX, patron of our town.  I personally find it just mediocre and rather un-exciting as compared to other projects, nor does it come at all close to the avant-garde design I had planned.  However, I do love a dress that appears quite nice but actually feels on myself like a lazy day Saturday garment…this is that kind of dress.  Can’t beat that!

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I do have a really interesting bodice left over to work with and I could use your help and input as to what to do with it (you’ll see it further down and I’ll still give it a full review).  Please let me know what you think!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The trio of solid colors in the original but unused bodice are all cotton sateen.  The bottom skirt half is a quilter’s cotton, “Deco Delight” “Iris garden” designed by “Fabric Freedom” in London, England.  The current dress bodice is a cotton knit with a slight pebbled silver sheen printed on the good side (leftover from my camouflage knit dress).  The facing for the neckline of the current bodice is from a scrap piece of polyester crepe back satin in light pink, also.

A-Line Cocktail Dress 03-2016 #122NOTIONS:  I had the seam tape, piping, lining, a 9 inch zipper, and thread needed on hand already.  I just had to go out to buy an extra pack of piping.

PATTERNS:  Burda Style’s ‘A-Line Cocktail Dress’ #122, from 03/2016, found online or in the monthly magazine, and Burda Style #7301, a paper tactile pattern (not online)Burda Style 7301, vintage style dress with arched neckline

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The original piped bodice took me about 5 hours, while the skirt took maybe 2 hours, and the new knit bodice took me about an hour and a half.

THE INSIDES:  I kept things simple for the inside and its finishing.  Everything is double stitched but left with raw edges.

TOTAL COST:  The “Deco Delight” fabric was a special order off of the internet and 2 ½ yards cost me about $30 (yikes!).  As my chosen Tiffany print fabric is from England, I had a hard time finding an American seller…this is reason for the higher price.  The pink knit was from my scrap bin, and the sateen fabrics were all on hand already, bought to be made into other projects, so I just cut small bits from those bolts for my Tiffany Art dress.  Thus they cost pittance in the scheme of things.  So I guess my dress cost me about $35.00.

As for any Burda Style pattern from online or out of a magazine, printing and/or tracing is necessary to have a usable pattern to lay on your desired fabric.  My “Cocktail Dress” #122 pattern was traced out from the insert sheet of the magazine issue using a roll of medical paper but you can also buy it, download it, and print it out from Burda Style’s online store.  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size and add in your choice of seam allowance width.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped.  Sorry to repeat something you might already know, but this is just an “FYI” for those that don’t know.  Now, none of this is needed with a paper tactile pattern (which is sold through Simplicity, I believe) – all seam allowances are included and it’s a regular conventional pattern (to me in America) except for the European sizing.

This dress’ original pattern has good points to its style but the fitting definitely has fair share of problems, too.  Firstly, I found the bodice design just lovely but so sadly lacking in the proper curving in the right places.  The outward curve isn’t nearly properly generous DSC_0337a-compenough for the bust, while (without adjustments) there is an awkward pucker on the upper chest.  It’s like the bust went into the wrong place – even I know it’s not parallel with the chest just below the collarbone.  As you can see in my picture, starting at 4 ½ inches down, I had to unpick to straighten out the curve ¼ inch in to eliminate the pucker.  Also, I had to add in darts to the top back bodice (close to the neck) and the side bust (by the front underarm).  The back neck darts are about ½ inch by 4 inches long while the bust darts are about 5/8 inch by 3 inches in.  These darts do make it a bit more of a snug fit, and it’s already a tad snug for I think the bodice runs small, but a least it’s a tailored fit now.  For the good points, the skirt is quick and straightforward.  Although the bodice isn’t hard to sew besides the bothersome fitting, the skirt portion is easy and fits well with the sizing DSC_0433-compright on.  I made the skirts’ front box pleat fold a bit crisper by finishing off the bottom hem before adding in the insert, and hemming the pleat insert separately before sewing it into the rest of the skirt.  There’s no continuous horizontal seam to interfere with the vertical seams of the box pleat the way I did it, but it doesn’t have to be done this way.

I am tickled by the way the skirt holds a surprise in its design with the center front box pleat.  When I’m just standing you’d never guess the box pleat would be there, the skirt appears to be knife pleated with a bell-flared silhouette.  Then, all of a sudden if I move or kick up high – surprise, there’s more fabric to come out of it’s hiding like the magic skirt that never stops expanding.

One Burda pattern went towards fixing another Burda pattern!  The “Cocktail Dress” is an odd mix, I should have seen this misfit coming but the lovely solid color of the model dress deceived me.  The bodice is overly modern and dramatic (especially the way I made it) and the skirt is more classic with enough going on too, but in a separate more feminine theme especially with my floral printed cotton. The replacement bodice from the Burda paper pattern was so super easy with sizing right on and lovely details.

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I personally think this bodice is the correct pairing for the skirt and does wonders to the silhouette.  I went back to what I know about creating a visual deception of wide shoulders of the 1940’s and 1950’s to balance out a pleated or full skirt.  Thus I knew I needed a pattern with a wide neck, preferably simple, to complement the skirt and slim the waist…thus I went for a kimono sleeve bodice with a sweet neckline arch that reminds me of the femininity of the overall dress.  The only adaptation I did to accommodating adding this bodice to my existing skirt was to extend the bottom by and inch so the dress’ horizontal center would fall at a high waist rather than an empire height.  Now, I have a dress which visually takes off pounds from my figure – yay!DSC_0455-comp

Besides switching bodices, the zipper closure was moved to the side underarm, rather than having it down the center back.  This side zipper placement didn’t mar my plan of adding in piping to the bodice seams, but as that bodice wasn’t used it made for a nice clean garment design keeping the zipper on the side.  I also didn’t line the bodice – either of them.  I did not want to restrict what stretch I had in the sateen of the piped bodice – and besides, I do not know exactly what to do with it yet anyway.  The pink knit bodice needed to be lightweight and thin so as to give let the bottom skirt half give it the right pull from below to hang right and stay in place on my shoulders.

Now what do I do with the piped tri-colored bodice?  As you see it, the edges are currently unfinished and there is no proper closure.  I really do like it, I spent enough time to make it and finally got it to fit me just right I want to do something interesting with it.  The bodice almost reminds me of a swim top or cropped sports tank the way it is like a second skin and has the streamlined contouring design.

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Do I just keep it has a separate crop top to pair with whatever for the bottoms?  Should I add in a short separating side zip or just have hook and eyes?  What bottoms will go with this – a high-waisted skinny pencil skirt (like Butterick 6326) or shorts or what else?  Do I turn the top into the bodice for a dress (and what kind of dress) or maybe a jumpsuit?  I know I’ll figure these queries out but I can’t put a finger on the right idea yet, so I’d be grateful if you can help me by sharing your ideas and thoughts.

Rich in Jewel Tones…the 1950’s Way!

This outfit of both skirt and blouse is rich in mid-50’s style, deep color, quality fabric, and especially family memories and friendly connections. Would you believe two one yard cuts were all that I needed here? It’s true.

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Nevertheless, with two “Easy-to-Make” patterns I managed to have a hard time and make some “design opportunities” (a fancy phrase for a mistake). Sometimes with the simpler things there’s more room for error. What did go right for me is how the finished outfit turned out. It’s perfect for flaunting my curves through clothes that turn me into a classic retro 50’s hourglass shape!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  For the blouse: a 100% cotton, found in the quilting department in Hancock Fabrics. For the skirt: an extra thick 100% linen100_6054a-comp

NOTIONS:  I had everything I needed – thread, a zipper, interfacing, hook-and eyes, and buttons.

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PATTERNS:  The blouse was made using a “Quick and Easy” Butterick #7490, year 1955, and the skirt pattern was a McCall’s #9901, year 1954.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The blouse was not as easy as expected, so it took me about 8 hours to make, and the skirt had maybe 5 hours spent on it. Both projects were completed on September 11, 2015.100_6141a-comp

THE INSIDES:  My blouse’s fabric is such a tight weave cotton and (for a ‘quick’ pattern) I took too much time on it the way it was. Thus, the insides are raw. For the skirt, well…what insides?! This is a pun and rather ironic – I’ll explain lower down in this post.

100_6140-compTOTAL COST:  The linen was on an insanely super discount since it was a one yard remnant, and the blouse fabric was reasonable at one yard, too. In total I suppose my outfit cost me about $7.00.

The blouse’s fabric really looks like something better than just quality cotton. It is such a deep green that, as a one-sided print, the white underside shows bleed through dye marks from the other side. A metallic gold is printed on top of the design to highlight the print and make this fabric appear as a brocade (this isn’t the first imitation brocade I’ve used for a 50’s blouse). However, this cotton is so much softer than any brocade could ever be, yet stiff enough to give a ‘crisp’ appearance, perfect for the pattern. My skirt is a linen, which is already a very nice fabric, but this is a type of linen that I’ve never seen or felt before…very luxurious. Some linens can instantly become wrinkly, feeling very rough to the touch or scratchy and even stiff – not my skirt. As a mundane description, this linen could be a blanket, it’s so plush and pliable but so thick (about 1/8 inch). Having a loose weave helps the linen not seem so overwhelming, though. Together, the two fabrics are in a dressy ensemble making me feel oh-so-put-together. They also are a very comfy set that makes me conscious of some very nice material. It’s like a treat for me to wear.

100_6096-compFor some reason or another, I was a bit off while sewing these two pieces, and so some boo-boos were made. I made the best of the mess-ups, although my mistakes on the skirt could not be recovered. When this happens sometimes, I find it’s best if you just go along with your mistakes, and make the best of them by letting them become part of the design, as if it was something intended.

100_6055a-compAbove in “The Facts”, I mentioned the irony behind trying to explain how the inside of the skirt is finished. Well, there not a straight answer here, which is also directly part of my mistake. Somehow or another what was supposed to be the right side of the skirt became the wrong side, and the wrong side became the right. This might sound like an obvious thing I shouldn’t have missed, and it’s really not like me to do this. Here were some of the sources to my problems. The linen fabric itself has no right or wrong side but has the same finish and appearance on both sides, so the fabric was confusing me. The pattern itself is so simple. It is just like an enormous one yard square, to which you shape by sewing in a quantity of darts along the waistline, so it’s kind of like a wrap skirt. This made it hard to figure out sides, too, not to mention the possibility of my son running around inside with too much energy and my dog stepping on the fabric begging for attention. Cancel any undivided thought process. My mistakes with the fabric and the pattern would not have been a big deal if the vertical button plackets on the right and on the left side were not completely different from one100_6107-comp another – the right side with the buttonholes is half as big as the left side with the buttons. I did not realize my mistakes until all the darts were sewn and the interfacing ironed on – darn! The right still had to close over the left (I knew that much) but now the button placket is off center instead of centered. Oh well, it is now officially an asymmetric button front wrap…this is how I’m satisfying myself with the finished garment.

100_6106-compOfficially, there are no inside seams to the skirt and it is a very nice skirt, so mistake or not, I love it. The color and the weight of the fabric should make this an all-season piece. Happily, I looked at several other 1950’s era blouse projects I have lined up “yet-to-make” and they will all match with my royal blue skirt.

I did line the waistband and the front placket with a heavier weight interfacing than what I conventionally use. This makes the soft linen of the skirt adhere to the stiffer and straight lined look of the 50’s, at least in certain spots. The interfacing also makes my skirt extremely hard to button as do the backer buttons I added for stability. I found this out after the fact. Oh well – the skirt sure feels secure when it’s on me! To top off the whole project, the bottom edge was extremely wonky. Two inch hem here, three-100_6143-compsomething inch hem there – the line was all over the place! To have a straight hem I had to measure down from the waist all the way around and hang the skirt up while I sat the bottom of it hand hemming with a ruler at my side. Sorry if I sound like a ninny, but usually hems are much easier than this. That’s o.k., I was forced to give this skirt a nicely finished invisibly stitched hem finish like it deserved.

100_6105-compNow, the blouse has a wide bateau neckline, classic ‘50’s kimono sleeves, with what the pattern back calls a “pie-cut neckline with modified wing collar.” I’ve never seen a blouse with open lapels called a “pie-cut neckline” but it’s a cute term and I sort of like it because it reminds me of yummy food. The back design made me highly doubtful it would work with a closed end zipper ¾ of the way down the center. Below the hips the fabric is together. I wondered why there is this strange layout. Separating bottom zippers (like on a coat or jacket) were invented already, but maybe they weren’t readily available to the home seamstress or perhaps just too expensive or bulky to be practical. Anyway, the closed bottom to the top isn’t a problem – it just makes it more of a ‘step-in’ garment than something which goes over the head.

100_6109a-compMy main problem with the “easy” blouse was mostly because of a slight fault in my work of down grading the pattern to my smaller size. I figured out how much to take out and where to hack it out, but I didn’t re-slope the shoulders and take off some of the length. Thus, after my blouse was quickly done I realized there was too much room between the shoulders and the waist, creating a bubble sticking out of my back with the zipper. Yuck! So I went to work doing my least favorite thing to do in the sewing sphere…unpicking. I took apart almost all of the tricky facings and all of the zipper, then cut off about 1 ½ inches from the top edge to bring the neckline down. Now I could re-sew those tricky, sharp cornered facings and the zipper back down again for a no longer easy basic blouse. That extra time and effort sadly was really necessary or I wouldn’t like my new top and therefore not wear it – so is life with sewing! Tailoring takes effort but has its reward, too.

100_6116-compThe sources and history to both patterns is part of the “family and friends” goodness to this ensemble. The skirt’s pattern was found at a nearby vintage/antique store, and picked out by me on my birthday as my own present. On the front there is a stamp of “Goldie’s Department Store, Maplewood, Missouri”. Hey, hey, Maplewood isn’t too far from us. So I spoke to some family and did some Google searching about the town to find out a rich, local history to Goldie’s owner and it’s multiple stores in the area. The Maplewood location, burned down in 1966, was at a part of town that I already know and love to visit. My Hubby even remembers going to get his boy scouts uniform at one of the last surviving locations. Neat! This makes it a local pattern which actually stayed in town, and came from a store family members have memories of, just like the one I used for my 1944 dress (post here). The blouse’s pattern was given to me from a close friend of mine who shares many similar interests as myself, among which is sewing.

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Yup, this is me at 3 1/2 years, playing dress-up!

My blue wool hat is the most special part of my outfit. I’m so proud! It is from my Grandmother. This is the same hat I remember when I would go over her house as a little girl and play dress up with my cousins. She would let me put on this very hat, among others too, and now that she has given it to me, I can again wear it for some grown up serious dress up time. Unfortunately, my parents can’t find, but do remember a picture of a mini-me in this wool hat. However, I do have a picture of myself from one of those dress up parties (see at right). I suppose my love of having fun with fashion and enjoying making my own look hasn’t died back one bit since then. Thank you Grandma for those times…and the hat!100_6111a-comp

Our photo location was at a gloriously stern but bright early “Mid-Century Modern” building built during the boom our neighborhood experienced in the 1950’s. I think it lends my outfit a business-like, professional aura. Besides, I love architecture appreciation!

See? Money isn’t necessary to look like a million – just a little talent, a sewing machine, some ideas and creativity…viola! It is so much easier than many realize to personalize one’s style be the master of your own fashion and do it all on the cheap. Look what two one yard cuts of fabric did for me in this post. Do you also love the freedom and enjoyment which comes from sewing your own clothes? Better yet, do you also have a family memory attached to a particular outfit you’ve made?