Hollywood 1944 Scalloped Front Blouse

This blouse may be a basic white, but it is anything but plain. It has a character that reminds me of how vintage patterns conveniently brought movie star glamour to the populace for a decent price. Who doesn’t have a film fashion crush in some way or another? So…bring on the Hollywood patterns!

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Hubby said, “Strike a ‘Peggy Carter’ action pose.”  This is my interpretation.

100_4940-compMy Hollywood blouse was directly inspired by a newly modern “icon” of the vintage world – Agent Peggy Carter. She wears the most simple but beautifully classy blouses, many with amazing collars and appealing details such as contrast top-stitching, pretty buttons, or special sleeves. There isn’t a blouse in Peggy’s wardrobe which I’ve seen yet that looks like mine, but it has the same feel to me of special touches and unique design. This is why I chose to make a basic white blouse superbly snazzy with a scalloped front collar pattern. Here’s to both the red, white, and blue and the power of a strong woman clad in 1940’s fashion!

THE FACTS:

100_4818-compFABRIC:  It is a rayon, cotton, polyester blend “linen-look” line of fabric from Hancock Fabrics store.

NOTIONS:  I had all of what I needed on hand – the bias tape, buttons, and thread.

PATTERN:  Hollywood #1318, year 1944

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The blouse took me about 4 or 5 hours to make and was finished on March 17, 2015.

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THE INSIDES:  All edges are bias bound.

TOTAL COST:  Under $10

Being detail-oriented, this pattern was great for fulfilling my enjoyment of tricky time-consuming tasks which tests my skill (like all the scallops). Beyond any pleasing features, this was also compelling as it is the first Hollywood pattern which I’ve sewn. Hollywood patterns are often considered rarer (compared to Simplicity or McCall) and are slightly harder to find due to the fact that they were only made between 1932 to about 1947. Those patterns with a famous radio or movie name and face in the star on the envelope front are more special than those without. I must admit I have mixed feelings but am overall pleased using a Hollywood pattern. Its instructions were laid out differently, in a way I found a tad confusing and not as clear as they could have been. The finished blouse did seem to turn out on the generous side, too – not something I find in vintage patterns too often. I’m wondering if this tendency to run a bit large is connected to Hollywood patterns, because it certainly doesn’t have to do with the fact the pattern is unprinted (as surmised after making many other unprinted patterns). I do find their designs lovely, so I shall see what happens when I sew up the other handful of Hollywood patterns which are in my collection.

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Being an unprinted pattern using the “punched out holes” method, the scalloped front edge took a ton of marking. I just kept filling in hole after hole after hole! Then I ended up with what looked like a big connect-the-dots puzzle. The pattern piece layout guide on the instruction sheet clarified any confusion I had, but I just needed to think of how the finished product needed to look to figure it out anyway. It might sound hard but it was really fun! The only not-fun part was snipping the curves and turning them right side out into perfect half circles. Every time I do this much snipping, I always save the zillion of tiny triangles leftover…someday I hope to do something wildly creative with all these little pieces of fabric confetti.

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The instructions did not call for interfacing or any kind of stabilization, and although I know old vintage patterns leave out many basic elements of sewing because women “knew” what to do already, I left it out. I wanted my blouse to be easy care with a soft appearance, and interfacing would go against that aim. The neck and collar edges are faced, but not interfaced. I merely used a tight stitch length to keep the fabric from stretching and make my time to sew those amazing scallops not spent in vain.

100_4915-compI am impressed with the ingenuity of the sewing method to the collar. I believe it is a sort of a simple “waterfall collar” and is cut as one with the blouse front. The self-collar is cleverly manipulated so that it turns, gets slashed and darted so that it goes towards the center back neck, making the collar naturally lay open the way you see it. This part was tricky, and I got it wrong at first (due in part to the slightly unclear instructions), but with some unpicking and a little re-stitching, it came out right. Vintage patterns are so smart, they never cease to amaze me.

Down the front, the buttons are antique real mother-of-pearl, carved into a nice smooth knot with a deep inner cut out where they get sewn down. Sure the buttons are ivory on a white blouse…but I don’t care. I love how the buttons feel so cool – sometimes even cold – to the touch, much like how marble stone or metal keeps a differing temperature than the air around it. When I feel this it makes me aware of how special this blouse is to me. It has something about it you just can’t find anymore and knowing sewing can bring vintage back. However it does make me a bit apprehensive to clean this blouse in the washing machine on account of the buttons. They are extraordinarily thick nodules, otherwise I’d never have put them on in the first place. So far so good, but now that I’m talking about the buttons I don’t feel like pushing my luck and it might resort to hand washing from now on.

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My blouse goes with many different bottoms, but I like it best with a basic color skirt, such as navy blue so I can wear red accessories and feel like Agent Carter. However, for Easter 2015’s daytime ‘visiting with family’ I changed into my white blouse with a bright plaid skirt (modern thrift shop find with 40’s details) and an authentic vintage 40’s hat.

Do you have a favorite blouse which has some detailing which makes you feel special just to put it on – is it simple or snazzy? Do you also have a garment that you made in imitation of someone in Hollywood? Does imitating that Silver Screen starlet inspire you to attempt sewing a challenging garment? (This has happened to me on a few occasions already!) It’s amazing what we who sew (or knit) will do in order to make real our dream garment, isn’t it!

P.S. This blouse was part of an “Agent Peggy Carter” ensemble which I put together for being featured on “PopWrapped – Fan Tribute” (see the post for this here).

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“Retro Forward” Burda Style: Scrap-Busting Bustier Dress

Ah, yes – fabric scraps. I don’t know what they mean to you or if you even keep any, but my fabric scrap bins are a seamstress’ version of a gold mine. They silently scream out to me a siren’s call of the allure of an interesting project. Being able to use up every last inch of my fabric as well as re-incarnate something from past projects with a new makeover is a very fun and enticing duo which leaves me with a very happily successful feeling if my ideas turn out alright. This post’s dress is the product of one such idea born from the “call of the scrap bin”.

100_5751a-compOur photo were taken at the local park’s handball court. Handball isn’t something I do. My hands take a beating enough from sewing and typing so much, but, when the courts are not in use, they did make for a clean and sporty backdrop as well as a nicely contained area out of the weather for our 3-year old to run back and forth to burn off extra energy!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The fabric is a trio of fabrics with similar contents. The floral skirt portion is a linen-look polyester cotton blend, the middle is the same fabric just in a plain white color, and the top bra-like part is a 100% cotton denim. The floral skirt was made from one yard leftover from my 1961 Party Dress, the white linen-look is leftover from a 1940’s blouse (not posted yet), and the denim is from my 40’s arch waisted jeans.  My lining fabric is a 100% cotton bleached muslin from on hand.

Burda Style Color Blocked Sheath Dress 6-2015 #114NOTIONS:  I only needed thread and a zipper, and I had these on hand already.

PATTERN:  Burda Style Color Blocked Sheath Dress #114, from June 2015

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Altogether, the dress probably took me a total 8 to 10 hours of time. It was finished on July 23, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  Most all of the inner seams are covered by the lining, except for the skirt seams which are bias bound.

100_5798-compTOTAL COST:  Just about nothing is the monetary total when using scraps like I did here. Buying from scratch wouldn’t cost that much anyway because of the small amounts needed.

Similar to my Burda Double Layered Tops, this dress is another change of fabric types: its pattern called for material with stretch and I made it work for the opposite…a woven. Actually I made the mistake of not noticing the pattern was for knits until my fabrics were cut out and ready to be sewn together. To compensate for this I sewed all the vertical seams in small ¼ inch seams and doing so actually gave me just enough extra room for my dress to fit perfectly. My pattern, as I traced it, originally gave 5/8 inch seam allowances, which I kept on all the other horizontal seams. Besides the change of fabric from a knit to a woven, my only other change was to raise the neckline about an inch higher and spread this up halfway in the straps – it’s so much better for me this way!

Burda Style Bustier Dress 6-2015 #112Now, my dress is part of what Burda Style labels as a “master piece” to the June of 2015 release of patterns. Using the main design of this dress, there are a very close variations, with a few features added or subtracted to the pattern to make several differing styles, such as the “Bustier dress #112” and the “Corset dress #113”. My dress follows the pattern for the “Color Blocked Sheath Dress #114”, but as my project highlights the bust panel more than in the model picture, I still think of it as a “Bustier dress”, like #112.

My pattern had come from the European magazine issue, but a downloadable version is also available on the Burda Style website. Either way, the Burda patterns (for those readers who don’t know) need some assembly and tracing before being ready for layout on your chosen fabric. A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped. This is the stage where I pick out my size, tracing out only the size I need to use, including any grading and adding seam allowances.

100_5759-compThe pattern itself was actually pretty easy, just a tad tricky and time consuming. The tricky part comes from two parts: when you have to turn the shoulder ties right sides out and then when you have figure out which bodice middle pieces go which direction and where. The ties are small work and the middle sections require a close visual inspection, so neither part is impossible to accomplish. I myself had to unpick a few times to get the middle sections seamed up correctly together. The dress’ darts and many seams make for the time-consuming part, as well as the fact there is a full bodice lining going inside to face all the raw edges. I don’t recommend leaving out the inner lining because it does provide a more stable garment, a better shape and hang, no see through when your middle panels are light colored like mine, and also very nice finish. Believe me here – after all I did try on the dress (just to see what the difference would be) with just the top lining and didn’t like that at all until fully lined. As tricky as the middle lower bodice panels made the construction, I admire shaping of this section – it has a curving which I normally see on many patterns from the 1950’s. Real shaping means a piece of clothing made for the curves of a real woman, unlike many patterns from “The Big Four” which are more straight lines than anything else.

100_5753a-compNotice the darts which tailor the back of the dress skirt section just above the booty. They slant at an angle between horizontal and vertical coming out from the center back where the zipper is installed. I love this part of the dress! My lower back just above my booty is a spot with a lotta’ curve which I always have to watch out for in making my own clothes. Oftentimes I get wrinkles at that spot in my clothes from the wrong fit before I tailor them and this Burda dress with its special darts is the answer to my ‘problem’. I’ll have to remember this new kind of dart and add/adapt it into other patterns, too.

The skirt’s shape is slightly tapered in much like a pencil skirt, but the back vent helps keep it from being confining. Happily the back vent is a fold-over kick-pleat style so it is generously cut yet still decent.

100_5755-compThe shoulder ties are the unique feature that really makes an already cool dress go up a notch in style. Truth be told, I did have a hard time tying the two knots in such a way so that they were not uncomfortable. I had to tie knots that were relatively flat like a box and find the right length for the straps at the same time. Some trial attempts and frustration was involved here…

Shoulder ties are nothing new as a style feature but still special, popping up in fashion though the past decades. In light of my “Retro Forward with Burda Style” series, see my collage with patterns from the 1930’s and up. I love the way the 30’s did tie shoulders such as New York #238 and McCall #7746, from 1939. The 1940’s don’t seem to have as many tie shoulders, but look at Simplicity #3833, year 1941, and a Mail Order pattern for two examples.New York #238 30s sundresses-McCall 7746 yr1939 button front sundress with tie shoulders-40s Mail order playsuit-Simplicity 3833 yr1941McCalls 3514 50's Bateau Neckline Tie Shoulders, Wrap Around Dress&McCall's 7148 from 1960sThe 1950’s have a plethora of examples of tie shoulders (McCall’s #3514, for one), as do the 1960’s (see the McCall’s #7148). Basically the only decade tie shoulders don’t seem to me to be prevalent are the 1990’s.  Out of all the decades, I see the heaviest influence of the era of the 50’s, though, in this Burda dress.100_5750a-comp

I don’t know how much shoulder-ties on garments are utilitarian, versatile, or pure gratuitous, but it certainly makes things interesting and fun, adding a bit of interest in a place not as commonly expected. “Fashion” might come and go, but “style” persists through the test of time. If the shoulder tie feature has lasted most of the 1900’s, than there must be something worthwhile. Once you make one, you might be unsure (as I was), but I hope you’ll tend to agree with me that shoulder tie garments are worthwhile and a very good different. Different is good for me in my sewing…I think it keeps skills sharp and piques interest.

I don’t mean to dish out a selling line to you good readers, but – really- there a lot to offer here with this dress. Anyone who has a stash of relatively small portions that could use a makeover and thus see the light of day (this is many of us, I’ll bet) should definitely consider this Burda Style pattern. This in itself will make any “stash-saver” happy and think of it as a big “mix-and-match” game. Also, any woman who has curves, too (and isn’t that every) will benefit from the illusion of the panels and their shaping. Besides all this, it’s not all that hard to make. You’re using a style history-tested and proven worthy. I’ve told you enough about my own take on this pattern, so here’s you turn. Try it for yourself and let me know so I can read what you think of your own version. I love seeing other people’s creativity.burda butier dress gif 10times 25%

Speaking of creativity, I’ll end my post with my first attempt at a gif file. It’s kind of like a happy head shake.

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This post is part of my “Retro Forward Burda Style” series.

A ‘Double-Duty’ 1931 Day Dress

This “new” vintage dress which I have recently made is an all-around transitional piece, in more ways than one.  It offers a print and fabric and colors all perfect for the varying temperatures of both fall and spring.  At the same time, as a vintage/historical garment, my dress is a mix of styles and fashion ideals which were used through three decades: the 20’s, the 30’s, and the 40’s.  Wow…that’s a lot to go into something to wear!  It might be unusual, and certainly different – but a neat different.

100_3967a     Two different fabric types and the ability to snap on (or off) matching long sleeves make this 1931 dress a versatile winner in my wardrobe.  My dress has the appearance of a separate blouse and a skirt in one neat vintage project. I really love the way I can dress for cooler weather without wearing the “traditional” dark colors associated with it (see this post for another floral fall/winter dress of mine).  This is an all-around comfy, easy-care, nice but casual dress.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The olive green bottom half is in a rayon poly blend linen-look fabric, while the top bodice and sleeves are in a peach floral Swiss dot cotton.  The lining for the bodice Swiss dot fabric is a orange-peach cotton broadcloth.  All of these fabrics were bought at Hancock Fabrics store.  My 1 1/2 yards of peach Swiss dot fabric was bought 7 to 10 years ago.  It’s been in my stash for a while, and I am very glad to find such a wonderful use for it – finally!  The linen-look fabric was bought spring of 2013 (last year) when I had originally hoped to get around to making the dress.  This year (2014), I bought the broadcloth for the bodice lining.

NOTIONS:  I had on hand an old 30’s buckle, the thread, interfacing, bias tapes, and snap tape that I needed.  Buttons for the long sleeve cuffs, extra snap tape, and a side zipper were the only notions I had to buy.

PATTERN:  a year 1931 McCall reprint from Past Patterns #6611, a “dress with waist yoke” in several sleeve and fabric combination options

100_3995TIME TO COMPLETE:  Well, 8 to 10 hours were all it took to finish the dress, and it was done on August 23, 2014.  The matching long sleeves took at least 10, maybe 12, hours to be finished on October 3, 2014. 

THE INSIDES:  All seams except the side seams and neckline are covered with bias tape.  The neckline is self-enclosed by the lining (I’ll explain later how this worked) and the side seams are left raw to eliminate extra bulk and to make it easy to do fitting adjustments.

TOTAL COST:   As the Swiss dot fabric was bought so long ago, I’ll count it as free.  As for the only expenses, the linen-look for bottom and the other notions I bought, the grand total probably comes to $12.00 or less.

The main body of the dress, without the sleeves, was very easy and quick in coming together.  As you can see in the pattern picture above at left, the assembly instructions were themselves very simplistic – just one page of layout breakdown with about 8 sentences of directions.  However, looking at the dress pattern pieces together with the ‘cover envelope’ picture rather makes construction self-explanatory.  The only construction detail that is entirely up in the air for you, the seamstress, to decide is how to put the dress together.  A basic, but semi-thorough, knowledge of different seams is needed to know (for instance) that the middle front and back panels of the dress are best when added to the skirt in a lapped method.  Bias tape was also wonderful to cover the curvy seams of both the inner edges of the middle section and the bottom hem to what is a half-circle skirt.

100_3972a     I love how these old patterns allow you to learn, expand, and use your sewing skills by providing such simple instructions.  I feel it gives seamstresses more respect than laying out some detailed, dreary, and possibly confusing directions.  Granted, I know complicated instructions are needed and quite useful sometimes.  It’s just that sewing in an advanced form used to be common knowledge years ago, thus old patterns were created for such a person.  Those of you that feel comfortable with your skills, will also enjoy making these old patterns with simple instructions.

There are only just a few points in constructing my 1931 dress where I deviated (just a bit) from the assembly diagram to personalize and accommodate my taste.  To start with, I sewed the front and back neckline first – yeah, first.  I wanted the neckline to be nicely self-enclosed in between the Swiss dot and lining cotton by sewing the seams right sides together, clipping the curves, turning out, then top stitching in place.  As I had raised up the scoop neck by about 1/2 inch, I had trouble fitting my head through, so I had to unpick several inches in from the neck to add a snap placket to the left shoulder seam (see picture below).  I hate sewing in snaps…this part of the job was tough.  The length of the skirt was also extremely long which necessitated a chop off of about 3 1/2 inches to reach the proper mid-calf length.

100_3993     Fitting is very important when it comes to making this pattern reprint.  The dress needs to be slightly roomy everywhere else except the hips. I saw on the front of the ‘cover envelope’ drawing that the pattern specifically pointed out that “this garment fits closely at hips”.  O.k., I thought to myself, I need to grade the pattern down to my size, so I’ll make sure to get close but maybe just a little big when it comes to the fit.  You can always take something in, but when something too small…well that’s a problem.  Just so as to make fitting this dress to my body easy, I did something different from the construction instructions – the entire front pieces and then the entire back pieces are sewn up in two separate, full dress length panels.  This method left the two side seams (with a zipper in the left hip/waist) the very last thing done to complete the dress.  With three sections composing the length of the dress, there would be no way to adjust the sides if done otherwise.  In the finished dress, my down grading sizing turned out fitting perfectly, but I finally realized (once it was on me) how important it is to fit snug on the hips.  The bottom skirt is rather heavy, and, without the tight hip fit, the whole dress gets weighed down, thus losing the proper “blousing out” of the upper bodice.  There is a delicate balance trying to find a good hip fit for this dress – tight enough to hold the dress where it should be but not too tight to rip seams or make the dress wrinkle up uncomfortably.  After a handful of trial and error attempts, I feel I have found the perfect hip fit (for now at least).

100_3986a     Having a belt, especially when you can use an old 30’s buckle like I did, also helps to hold the dress up in place and balance out the harmony between the two fabrics.  I finally did an experiment with the belt I made to match my dress, one which has been in the creative “back-burner” of my mind.  Before I sealed off one end, I slipped in a venetian plastic window blind slat in to the long belt tube.  Of course the blind slat is stitched in place at the ends, but at least this way I have a bendable but sturdy belt on which there is no top stitching or interfacing.  It sounds strange, I know, but it works, and I like my idea…although I probably will not do it again.

I really find the silhouette of this dress even more dramatically interesting with long sleeves.    This dress does nothing for the bust or the shoulders (a very 1920s characteristic) while the long vertical emphasis of both the fit and the design of the main dress body stresses the hips (also of the 20’s) and lengthens the body (late 20’s).  With the long sleeves on the dress, they further the vertical emphasis, but widen it slightly, by beautifully drawing attention to the hips in a very unique manner.  I can’t figure out the reason for the three horizontal pin tucks – I can only think that they balance out the vertical lines of the dress.  The little bias flare of the bottom gives it a slight 30’s touch and the blouse top with its kimono sleeve style and U-neckline is definitely very 40’s (see my version of this blouse).  Besides all the styling, the use of Swiss dot fabric is very authentic for the era.  See this post by Marianne at Fintage for a classic example of the 30’s beautiful use of Swiss dot fabric.

100_3757     When it came to making the sleeves, there are absolutely no instructions whatsoever.  As long as you know how to make sleeve cuffs, this is not a problem – how to achieve the look of the cover drawing was the cause of consternation.  The pattern pieces do not clarify how many pieces to cut out of the cuff and the sleeve band.  Thus I ended up cutting out four of each cuff and sleeve band (two for each sleeve) and one each of interfacing.  According to the cover drawing, the cuffs looked like they are supposed to be in a turned back style, so I was going to face the cuff and sleeve band pieces with interfacing inside to achieve that look (see the left picture).  I believe my method to be the correct way to have done the sleeve cuffs, and, although I can’t guarantee this, the way they turned out is truly lovely with the way they curve.  The stable sleeve cuffs make for a nice finish for the poufy “bat wing” style sleeves above them.  At first I was concerned that the sleeves hang too low on my arms by the way the seam ends an inch or so below my elbow.  Looking at the cover envelope drawing again confirmed for me that they are supposed to fit that way.  The sleeves take a bit to get used to once they are on just because I’ve never had anything like them, but it doesn’t take long to love wearing them!

Tiny 1/4 inch coral pink buttons close up the inner cuff of my sleeve band.  Since I didn’t included a closure method when the cuffs were made, I got inventive to make something work.  Braided thread loops are great but are time-consuming.  Time was something I wanted to cut down on at this point.  So, I threaded a tapestry needle with 1/8 inch light pink satin ribbon and wound it through the cuff seams making three loops.  It looks dressy and it was easy at the same time.

100_3991     My idea for snap on and snap off long sleeves came from seeing this feature on an old 1920’s pattern.  How ingenious and versatile, I thought!  Nothing extraordinary was needed to do – the short sleeves were hemmed like a normal sleeve, and the long sleeves had a small band sewn on to both finish the edge and give room for the snap tape.  Sewing on the snap tape to the sleeves and getting both sides to match snaps was a long, time consuming, hand sewing torture that was made better by getting it done in the car.  Nothing like getting the most out of my passenger time to get my hand sewing done!  It really made all that hand sewing fun to do it in the car.  I want to do more sewing during car trips!  I’m wondering if a 1931 lady would have been able do sew as a passenger in their cars.

This project was unknown territory for me. It certainly brought me out of my comfort zone which is a good thing.  I thrive on a challenge and it helps me hone in on my skills.  My 1931 dress is one that is a surprise to me.  Every time I wear it out and about, I get a bit unsure and self-conscious thinking that it is too-vintage or unusual, but then I always seem to receive a positive compliment.  All I know is I think I’ve re-discovered a piece of history long over looked and forgotten.  I’m a lucky girl to get to make and wear such a piece.  Anyone care to join me and sew up their own version?

100_3978     Our photo shoot’s backdrop is a neighborhood apartment complex, which has the name “Crystal Tower” due to a superb use of decorative glass in the vitrolite tiles and blocks.  It is wonderful example of how everyday living had a touch of Art Deco glamour in the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s – the three decades included in my dress.  Perhaps, if you search in detail behind me in our pictures, you should see the “Crystal Tower” logo with its nautical cursive theme.  Even though the building was actually built in 1940, towards the end of the Deco style period, the building materials and design had been used similarly for a decade or two before, so our backdrop is authentic to my 1931 dress (historically speaking).  There is an excellent blog page at B.E.L.T. Stl which shows more details of the “Crystal Tower” apartments, if you’re interested.  For using such a homey, down-to-earth place for a photo shoot, I certainly think it neat to see such forethought and attention to detail in vintage construction.  Look forward to more of these Art Deco era living places in some upcoming blog posts.

As always, please check my Flickr site, Seam Racer, for more pictures.

A 1961 “Party Dress” – It’s “Sheer” Fun!

Who doesn’t love a party, especially when it involves making and wearing a fabulous frock?!  Our son’s birthday celebration afforded me a very good reason to whip up a fun, fresh, and unique 1961 pattern labeled as a “party dress”.  I used an old original pattern which provided me good practice at re-sizing (as it was for juniors) and an opportunity to work with new techniques by using different material.  The finished product is wonderfully feminine and my unique personal interpretation of a popular retro/vintage fashion.  I certainly love to be able to find reasons for wearing a dress like this!

100_1498     New fabrics revolutionized clothing and fashion styles between the 50’s and 60’s.  Petrochemicals provided easy wash, easy care Nylon,(Polyamide), Crimplene (Polyester), and Orlon (Acrylic mix) fabrics in a variety of pastels and fun colors.  It is definitely not the world’s most comfortable line of fabric.  However, there is almost nothing more symbolic of the retro era than a sheer dress with a contrast underneath and an uber-gathered skirt.  I am so happy to have re-created another small piece of fashion history!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Overdress: a sheer 100% polyester organza-type fabric in a cranberry color;  Underdress: a linen-look rayon/cotton blend fabric in an pastel floral print; Lining for the bodice: white matte finish polyester scraps coming from off of a rummage sale bed skirt – leftover from lining my 1940 Vintage Vogue #8811 (link here).

S3769NOTIONS:  I bought about 10 yards of cranberry satin ribbon, matching thread, and a zip for the back.  I already had a bit of pink bias tape, off-white thread and  plenty of clear “plastic” monofilament thread, as well.

PATTERN:  Simplicity #3769, year 1961, teen and junior “Party Dress” (the large picture at right).  I found it at a rummage sale for pittance – only a quarter!  For the sleeveless floral under bodice to the dress, I used the top half of a modern pattern, Simplicity #1876 (picture below left).  I was going bold here…a strapless under bodice was entirely my idea, and not in the old pattern.Simplicity1876

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress was finished on May 17, 2013.  My nearest guess as to the time spent on my dress from beginning to end is 20 hours, maybe more.

THE INSIDES:  My sheer retro dress has nicely finished insides, and that was difficult to do considering all the waist gathers.  The side bodice seams are the only ‘unfinished’ seams, but they are double zig zag stitched along the raw edge.  Otherwise, the skirt seams (for the under and over dress) are in French seams, all the nylon edges have a satin ribbon edging, and the linen underskirt has a wide 3 inch hem (see left picture).  The inner waistband is covered in pink bias tape to ensure a comfortable feel despite all the bulk.  My sewing machine impressed me…if it can sew bias tape onto the already super thick, double fabric, tight gathered waist section, well my Singer is a true trooper and can indeed sew through anything I put under it!  100_1504

FIRST WORN:  to a vintage/retro car show displaying old classic models, held at a local antique shop’s parking lot.  In the main picture above, by the way, the car behind me happens to be an uncommon beauty: a Nash Metropolitan car, year 1960.  

TOTAL COST:  I don’t exactly remember anymore, but I think the total was close to $25/$30.  All my fabrics and supplies were on clearance but, since I needed a lot of yardage, the prices added up.  My finished dress was well worth it!

Mad Men 60's variety dresses_Trudy in poufy dress combo      I had some strong inspiration shooting off fireworks of ideas in my head, allowing me to see ahead of time exactly how I wanted my finished “party dress” to look.  My first inspiration was when I saw a beautiful 1957 dress on display (see right side of picture duo) at an exhibit in our town’s History Museum.  The exhibit was called “Underneath It All”, and it showed the history of the items women wore beneath, how they created a certain image, and were tied to both fashion and historical events.  When the timeline came to the 50’s, it addressed the Famous Dior “New Look”, and the example on display was a summer batiste dress, by Josephine Scullin, with a bluish/aqua/purple floral under a solid sheer aqua.  I had to make a dress like this for myself – crinoline slip and all!  My second major inspiration is none other than the T.V. show Mad Men, much loved by many seamstresses for inspiring drool-worthy 50’s to 70’s fashions.  The character of Betty especially loves to wear the classic style similar to my “party dress”, but other actresses also wore similar sheer floral frocks (see Trudy in the ivory floral dress at left picture).

100_1503     Just look at that beautiful dip of the back neckline!  Personally, I love this feature along with the classic almost way off the shoulder fit of the kimono sleeves.

I really thought ahead before and while making this dress.  At the pattern stage, I had to add inches at the waist, adjust the position of the bust (as the pattern was for juniors), and take out a whopping 10 inches from the huge skirt panels to reduce the overabundance of gathers.  I tried to use a spray adhesive to tack the sheer panels to the matching under pieces, but I think taking the time to do basting worked out better here anyway.  The floral under bodice’s boning was eliminated since I planned on having it supported up by being invisibly hand tacked to the organza bodice.

100_1506     I was very conscious of the weight that would be put on the delicate bodice and shoulder seams, seeing that they are only the sheer organza.  A delicate satin ribbon facing goes under the sleeve, neckline, and shoulder edges for a smooth, non-itchy feel which would fashionably support the barely there seams.  The entire hem of the organza over skirt was also hemmed with the ribbon…I love the resulting look but, believe me, the work was long, frustrating torture.100_1505

The only fitting that was needed on my “party dress” after it was done was to fix some slight gaping along the sides of the bust and under my arms.  I came up with my own out-of the-box idea.  Sewing in bias tape “channels” along the top inside edge of floral sleeveless under bodice, I started from the side of the center bust to under the armpits and fed through elastic.  The elastic channels gently gather in the excess fullness without confining the bodice at all.   Gathers surprisingly also gave the dress’ top half some added complimentary shaping.

A simple sash tie belt was made to wear at the waist of my dress.  The pattern called for these two giant sashes to be made and sewn into the side seams, so one could wrap them around the dress and tie into great big bow.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to want this feature on this dress, much less be committed to it by having them in the side seams, so I left them out.  However, I do still have enough sheer fabric to make the cummerbund sashes.  One day I would like to sew them up, tack them to the sides, and see what that would look like.  The giant sashes might give the “party dress” a completely different appearance I might love…an update will be posted here if that happens.

My crinoline petticoat under slip helps create the proper shape to my “party dress”.  I bought it here at Unique Vintage and I really how soft it is with the layers of ruffles.  It features a draw cord waist that tends to loosen a bit as I wear it, no matter how I double tie the bow.  So I added little loop at the inside waistband of my dress so I can connect the petticoat and the dress together.

100_1502     I did cover all the sheer seams in fray check just to make sure they don’t end up with a big run or rip too easily.  So far so good!
Someone gave me a wonderful compliment one day when wearing my “party grace-kelly-rear-window combo picdress”.  She told me my dress reminded her of something Grace Kelly wore in the Hitchcock movie “Rear Window”.  I went home and did an internet search on the subject and did find a dress quite similar in my respects (deep V-back, sheer poufy overskirt) to my own “party dress”.  See the picture below.  Grace Kelly also wears another dress in “Rear Window” with a similar sheer bodice which is strapless underneath.

      I hope you have enjoyed my post and get inspired to make your own wonderfully fun party attire.  Now all that is needed is a party!

I will post more photos soon on my Flickr page, Seam Racer.

The Tap Dancing, Scalloped Collar Dress from “The Artist” Movie

Out of all the Silver Screen look-alikes I have made yet, none have been as rewarding to see finished, as fun to wear, or as tiresome to make as my newest Hollywood imitation: a dress from the movie “The Artist”.  This dress is also one my best fitting creations, amongst my modern and vintage sewing alike.  I simply can’t help but break out and dance like Peppy in this dress, especially since I now have a good excuse to wear my tap shoes!

100_1980a     Peppy Miller, played by the actress Berenice Bejo, is the one of the main characters in the 2012 movie “The Artist”.  It is a silent (music only) film in black and white.  The movie spans the years of 1927 to 1931, and, as IMDb sums it up, “The Artist” is about how “a silent movie star meets a young dancer, but the arrival of talking pictures sends their careers in opposite directions”.  My dress, which I carefully copied in many details, is seen in a tap dance scene towards the end of the movie, thus it might be more of a 1931/1932 era outfit.  For being a rather small production film coming from an independent/private company, “The Artist” won 5 Oscars and numerous other awards, especially the Academy Award for Best Costume Design.

Peppy sure is a natural when dancing with George Valentin ( played by Jean Dujardin) and together they make me smile as well as desire to learn some of their tap moves!  Here’s a original shot from the movie to show you where my inspiration has come from for my dress.

the-artist21     Well what do you think?

100_1982bTHE FACTS: 

FABRIC:  a linen-look fabric, half polyester and half rayon, in a bight turquoise color – I bought 2 5/8 yards at Hancock Fabrics

NOTIONS:  I bought from Hancock Fabrics 15 yards of a flat, stiff, white trim, called ‘President Braid’, 3/16 inch width;  I also bought a zipper and a spool of matching thread

PATTERN:  as the base for my ‘Artist’ dress, I used a mix of 3 patterns: Simplicity 3827, year 2007, view B, for most of the dress;  Simplicity 4365, year 2005, view B, for the godets added into the bottom dress seams;  Simplicity 3092, year 1949, view 1, for the scalloped collar.  I drew my own pattern for the white trim design…I’ll explain more about this down lower.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  I spent at least 25 hours (counting sewing only time) to complete my dress, all worth it in the end.

THE INSIDES:  fairly nice…all seams are clean finished or flat felled, except for the side seams and the inside edge of the neckline.  Those two seams are double zig zagged along the edge because those spots needed to move and stretch a bit.

FIRST WORN:  to this photo shoot then over to my parents’ house to show this off!

TOTAL COST:  just under $30

The main body of the dress was made using the Simplicity3827 because it had theSimplicity3827 dresses exact under bust shaping, six paneled skirt, and neckline as the movie dress.  Only one change was made – the hem of the shorter dress was lengthened just a few inches to land upper mid-calf on myself.  I must say, this is a wonderful pattern!  It is designed very well, the sizing is right on, and the fitting is oh so comfy.  I especially like how clean and non-bulky were the small armhole facings (for the sleeveless option).  Also, my side zip in this dress turned out so well it’s nearly invisible.  I already have plans to make the longer length, 3/4 sleeve version of this pattern in another fabric from my stash.Simplicity4365 godet skirts

I chose the godet pattern piece for view B from Simplicity 4365 (in picture at left) because this piece was longer and not as wide as the godet for D, E, and F skirts.  Paying close attention to the design of Peppy’s dress, the godet points on my dress end/start right at the spot where the leg bends at the hip.  Several inches had to be taken off the bottom of the godets for them to hit at this point in the seams and even up with the dress hem.  Four godet pieces were cut: 2 for the front and two for the back.  After doing a few of these type of godet pattern pieces, such as for my recent “Water for Elephants” 1931 dress, I feel those tricky points are done quite well, especially the inside (see pic below right).100_2019

The collars were by far the most tedious and slow specialty work I have done yet to date.  Adding the trim to the collars got old really quickly, mostly because I had to be so exact but also because it was hard to see any progress made to the dress…I just wanted it done!  I should clarify why I’m using the plural ‘collars’.  It’s because I had to make three full sized collars, with trim sewn on, to decorate the neckline of my ‘Artist’ dress.  Thinking outside the box has again produced great results for my sewing.100_1985Simplicity3092 blouses fm 1949     My decorative collar is based on a pattern from an old original 1949 Simplicity 3092, click here to see the Wiki page of this pattern.  The one scalloped collar piece of View 1 is supposed to go around the whole neck, but that same pattern piece is the exact length from the center back of my ‘Artist’ dress to the center front of its V-neck.  So I took the collar pattern from Simplicity 3092 and copied it to have a paper version that I could draw and score and mark up all I wanted.  I felt like an engineer drawing out the design for the collar scallops – first I traced out the grid of some graph paper onto regular paper, then used a compass to have even arcs and even spaces between the arcs.  For my design drawings to fit in curves of the collar, I had to enlarge my scalloped design on a copier to 135% bigger.  Now I was able to trace my scalloped design directly onto my copied pattern piece of the collar, making sure to keep the design from going over the seam allowances.

See the picture below to get an idea of what I did to a basic collar.

100_2044     All the tiny triangular shaped clippings leftover from shaping the scalloped collar edge are all saved, kept in a clean baby food container, and I hope to make my own lace with them.  The current edition of Threads magazine #169 has a tutorial on how to make your own lace using fabric scraps, thread, and wash away stabilizer.  I love to find creative ways to use leftovers from other projects!

100_1952     My mind ruminated over several different ways to add the scalloped design to the collar, but anything that involved hand-stitching was gladly eliminated, and, as it turns out, the president braid I used worked great…I hope it washes well too!  I used my sewing machine to add the white braid trim and held the pieces in place with extra long pins while I worked. EACH collar took me FOUR HOURS of work, from the cutting to all the trim sewn on.  Believe it or not, each collar also used up 3 5/8 yards of trim.  I could only sew on the collar in 1 1/2 hour intervals – it was all that my shoulders, hands, and patience could stand in one dose.100_1961

The center front fan is simply one of the three collars, for which I folded the scallops together and sewed from behind to pinch out the excess plain fabric.  It was hard and frustrating to sew from the wrong side, along the trim, but not catch the trim.

The center of the scalloped fan is covered with a rounded end casing to cover up any messiness and give me a nice flat center spot to sew the front buttons down.  After trying my scalloped fan on my ‘Artist’ dress, I ultimately decided to cut the extra end trim off (you can see my cutting line of chalk in the picture) and shorten it so it wouldn’t be so overwhelming and cover up the front bodice as much.  By the way, the buttons I used are small, with a pearlized textured top – these were fished from my stash by hubby, and are most probably vintage originals.

I did hit a bit of a problem after doing the trim on two collars.  I ran out of white braid!  I called all over and no one was helpful over the phone, so I went out myself, and found some more to finish.  Whew!

100_2017     My long right and left collars were sewn down to the neckline just at/below the dress’ facing, with the white braid ends tucked under so there are no raw edges showing.  I couldn’t really pick a color to use for top-stitching down the collar, so I used clear filament thread…nearly invisible and so non-historical, but don’t tell anybody because it worked out great anyway.    The collars matched together perfectly in the front as well as the back, as you can see from my picture.  I’m showing off my tap shoes in this picture!

100_1981     We had the perfect era-worthy backdrop for the photo shoot of my ‘Artist’ dress.  The Deco designed tiled wall you see in the background is only a number of blocks away from where we live, and it is covered in decorative work from top to bottom -so pretty!  The entrance wall in our pictures is by far the best part of the building, I think.  I wish new buildings were made this beautiful but I guess that’s what makes these old buildings special.

I really enjoy my ‘Artist’ imitation dress – it’s a very different 30’s style.  This project was one of the few that totally surprised both me and hubby because we really couldn’t see it coming together until it was together.  Then we realized what I did.  I feel so good about this dress that I have everything on hand to make at least two more imitation outfits of Peppy from “The Artist” movie.  Keep on the lookout for them to appear in my blog this winter.The_Artist_photo_Peter_Lovino_copyright_WarnerBros2

Peppy Miller is a character with an amazing, happy personality, and I tried to convey some of this in our pictures of my movie dress.  Perhaps I was feeling in character a bit too well, and we got quite a number a great shots with a little too much spunk on my part.  If you would like to see more pictures of this dress visit my Flickr page (click here for link).  Just believe me, I really wasn’t up to too much, even if I look full of it…

If you haven’t seen the movie “The Artist” for yourself, please do; if you’ve seen it already I hope you enjoyed it and recognize my dress.

100_1972