In the Military Style

So often we hear that imitation is merely a form of admiration, yet many times one does not feel like such is the case.  One only feels plagiarized, copycatted, or even misappropriated (when it comes to culture).  However, no matter how cliché, it is a very true that imitation is a form of respect when it comes to my own military-inspired style, especially when that involves either camouflage or anything related to WWII.  In this case, my post’s outfit includes both!  In honor of Veterans Day, and to find a way to express through fashion the admiration, appreciation, and respect I have for those who have served and are currently serving to protect all that we hold near and dear, I’m joining in – just a little – on their military style.

I am weirdly very preferential when it comes to camouflage and military greens.  Everything in either department all looks really good to my eyes but I do have favorites.  Wide and blotchy disruptive patterned camouflage in darker earth tones is my failing, hence why this pullover sweatshirt totally makes me giddy!  Along this vein, my true military favorite camouflage preferences are ones that are of a similar pattern – the 1942 WWII United States “Frog Skin” mottling and the 1937 dotted German “Platanenmuster” variations for vintage examples in my highest esteem, and the 1990s era “Central Europe Camouflage” of France, the “Desert Camouflage Uniform” of the USA, and even the “Soldier 2000” of the South African National Defense Force all following in second place.

Part of the reason for my pickiness probably has to do with my dad’s job (referred to here at the end of this blog post) but also I love a camouflage for how it can work for our local environment to make one blend right in and be ‘hidden in plain sight’.  At every WWII reenactment we’ve attended in our home state, the Germans are the ones hardest to sight when they’re sneaking up to ambush and a camo which succeeds that well impresses me.  Perhaps 90’s era camouflage gets to my heart because of memories.  My dad was working so much overtime during that decade to support our military as a government employee with a specialized job and my mom and I were going to events – me in a homemade “Betsy Ross” costume – to give our service men and women the encouragement and civilian support they needed in our own way.  I even was on the nightly news for such an event when I was 10!

My pants are the best of the best – they are true vintage WWII mens’ military bottoms!  My pair have a production date of 1947 stamped on the label, so they are a post-war production of the war-time style.  The label says they are cotton sateen, but I have ever seen such a study version of such a material.  They are super sturdy thanks to being as thick as a heavy wool yet extremely soft, well broken in (by now, they should be), and a joy to wear.  If they were not almost 80 years old I would want to wear them all the time.  The WWII military green colors are my favorite anyway.  Their olive greens are not overly dusty or are too dark.  A soldier would not like to hear this but I dare call the colors ‘pretty’.  Yes, this is one of my more eclectic outfit combinations – a little bit of modern paired with a truer vintage than anything I could make, also indeed a military style in more ways than one, as I said!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Two one-yard cuts of all-cotton knits for both the sleeves and the printed main body, fully lined in a lightweight polyester interlock jersey.  The cuffs and bottom band, as well as the neckline, are a heavyweight poly knit leftover from making this 60’s dress.

PATTERN:  Simplicity #1317, a year 2014 pattern

NOTIONS:  As this is a knit no interfacing was needed, just thread.  The decorative add-on studs were something I’ve had on hand for a few years, saving for the right project.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This only took me 3 hours to make and it was finished on November 8, 2018

THE INSIDES:  all cleanly serged (overlocked)

TOTAL COST:  The fabrics for this sweatshirt had been bought several years ago when the now defunct Hancock Fabrics was going out of business so it was really discounted…also part of the reason I had to make this on two small remnant cuts (I could not go back and buy any more).  The poly knit lining was a new purchase from my local JoAnn store.  The studs were from Hobby Lobby for a few bucks.  All supplies counted together, this sweatshirt probably cost me just about $20.  Pretty good deal, huh?!

Making the actual sweatshirt was a breeze.  It is so versatile – the velvet one on the cover compared to the more casual ones and the one with the fringe all show that this top can be anything you want it to be.  Two small remnant cuts were all I needed, don’t forget!  I took a bit more time on my sweatshirt to line it, but this could easily be a one afternoon ‘have it ready in under a few hours’ project.  Even better, all the reviews I saw online when considering this pattern looked so very good.  This is really a no-fail pattern…I would think even if you sew this badly it would still look great, I dare to assume.  A sweatshirt is such a chilly weather staple item, and with everything this pattern has going for it there is no reason to buy a RTW one.  I can’t wait to use this pattern again.

The only thing I did consistently notice was that the sizing seemed to run between true to size and a little small for most people, and I feel this is true.  I wanted a loose and relaxing fit for my camouflage version and I found just that by going up one whole size, so the fit much be right on.  There are two neckline options and I went for the more closed, rounded neck of the two.  I like that the neckline is close enough the keep me cozy yet open enough to not sense I am confined in it like most RTW sweatshirts.  I like when my collar bone is exposed and I can show off a neckline if I want or wear a turtleneck under this if I really want to layer up…all perfect with this.  Even the width and fit of the cuffs and bottom band are perfect, not too tight but loose enough to be comfortable.  This is an awesome pattern for a modern one, and this is coming from someone who primarily works with vintage designs and half expects to be disappointed by new ones!

I fully lined the sweatshirt for extra warmth, comfort, and a nicer appearance to the outer cotton knit.  I have used a similar all cotton knit for several projects now, and by now know the best way to go beyond my half-hearted hate of that material with the perfect pairing of a secondary fabric.  100% cotton knit is very finicky to sew, doesn’t drape well on its own, and has the tendency to be sticky”, both to itself and other fabrics and lingerie like Velcro fastening tape.  Pairing that knit with its opposite – a slinky poly jersey – is like a match made in heaven.  The two materials stick together, but the poly makes the cotton act and feel better than it is on its own.  Besides, a little extra ‘oomph’ in the seams actually makes the cotton easier to stitch together.  Check out how well such a pairing worked for this dress!  Now you know my hot tip, an insider’s secret.  You’re welcome.

Oh, how I love what I did to jazz up the neckline, if I do say so myself!  I love the look of studs but didn’t want the commitment of the true metal kind that cut through the fabric they sit upon.  A cotton knit like what I used ravels easily and acquires holes effortlessly, even from stitching.  I could not count on my fabric to stay together through washings with regular studs added so I used these plastic sew-on kind that I had been hoarding for the last several years.  They can also be considered as ‘sew-on stones’ or ‘backless buttons’.  They are frequently found in the button section of the fabric stores, after all.  I was tempted to go full bling and use all of them up but I spaced out half of what I had to strategically stitch down in place how you see them in my pictures.  Sadly, in most lighting they blend in a bit too well put they are a low key shine that I wanted to let my top’s camouflage take center stage.  Only in the glowing, golden hour of a late autumn sunset do the studs show off.

It is very important to be yourself yet remember to respect others.  I think forgetting such is where all sorts of problems stem from…be it wars or hurt relationships, sadness or anger, selfish politics or the whole slew of ill events and feelings which can happen in life.  This also applies to my pet peeve and the main enemy of truly original artists out there – plagiarism, copycatting, the stealing of ideas, and especially doing such for profit.  Closely related is the approbation of a culture, a certain way of life, or mode of dressing out of laziness to pursue greater understanding.  Not meaning to get too heavy here on the heels of Remembrance Day in honor of all the beloved veterans who have been taken from us, but I just wanted to clarify my military style is not at all meant to be a knock off of what the best humans our world has to offer wear in their official duties.  Let freedom ring, but also let kindness prevail.  Remember to thank a veteran, today and at any other time.  Let all people know they are respected and appreciated by what you do and say before they can no longer hear you.  So I’ll just post here about my love for camouflage out my awe and respect for the success and ingenuity of the brave military who need to wear a bit of ingeniously patterned cover to save their lives.  More power to them!  I want in a piece of that awesomeness and bravery if I do say so myself.

Wearing O’ the Green…1941 Military Style

As the perfect example of the modern opportunity to mash things up as one desires, I used a recent holiday – St. Patrick’s day on March 17 – as an excuse to wear a military-green 1941 vintage suit blouse I recently made to complete a set.  ThereAgent Carter badge.80 was a famous WWII B-17 G bomber called “Bit O’ Lace”…well, here I’m wearing a little bit o’ green, and a whole lot of cheer.

This is another post part of my “Agent Carter” sew along.

100_4793-comp     A good part of the decade of the 1940’s was consumed by the effects, and after-effects, of World War II.  It comes as a simple matter of fact that a good part of the fashions of the 40’s also took on a bit of a war-time influenced appearance.  I’m supposing adopting a military-influenced style was part patriotic, part necessity for the 40’s, but what’s to explain the prevailing popularity of combat style fashion even ’til today?!  Whatever the reason, those who have served, or are serving, to protect the country they call home should be flattered by the way that a military fashion style is persistently trendy.  Imitation is the best form of flattery, so the saying goes.

100_4783a-b-comp     My military 1941 blouse is an ironic mix of the bitter and the sweet, from a sewing point of view and from a historical tribute point of view.  From a sewer’s viewpoint, all quality materials went into this suit blouse, wool and rayon, with vintage notions and silk as the lining, making it like butter on the skin – all the very sweet part.  I also thought that this blouse’s high quality would come easier than if making a full out jacket…but, no, it didn’t.  This is the first half of the bitter part to my blouse.  I finally assumed that the styling would be incredibly slimming and easy to wear.  Not that it doesn’t fit me very well, because it does, indeed!  The blouse is just hard for me to feel like it, well, “suits” me (pun intended) and compliments my figure as much as I expected.  However, making one’s own clothes does have the advantage of trying new styles, and I have indeed worn other styles much stranger (such as this one or even this one).  So, my final happy resolution is that as long as I fits and feels good to wear, what do I really have to crab about?  I’ll just wear it and be happy, and let the Irish “cheery and positive” part of me shine!

100_4784-comp     Taking the historical tribute point of view, my military 1941 blouse is a quiet tribute to the bravery of “Our Soldier Dead”, as is said above the building in my background.  On a beautifully warm morning, my family and I visited our town’s Soldiers’ Memorial building, an Art Deco masterpiece built in 1938, and soaked up knowledge in the inner museum.  It is amazing to see all the bravery of our country’s soldiers remembered in one spot from 1860’s on to today.  Furthermore, my dad and my hubby are both entirely sucked in with interest to a shared gift of the book on tape of the story “Unbroken”.  The great “Liberator” B-24 bomber planes were key to the story of Louis Zamperini, hero of “Unbroken”, and so I wore an enameled pin of a B-24, a gift from my dad years ago, on my blouse as a quiet military/WWII remembrance.  It is sweet but sad at the same time to recount and remember such history.

100_4807-compTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  My suit blouse fabric that you see is a fine half wool, half viscose rayon blend, in a deeply dark forest green color.  It is a wonderfully smooth (meaning non-itchy), textured twill with a medium weight, a fluid drape, and a slight stretch.  As the lining, I chose a bright apple green 100% silk, “China silk”100_2851 yr 1941 suit set habotai

NOTIONS:  All my notions (except for thread, zippers, and shoulder pads) are authentically vintage.  100% rayon hem and bias tapes were given to me by my friends at a retro shop.   Thank you for that kindness!  The buttons are also vintage but from my inherited stash of notions from hubby’s Grandmother.

PATTERN:  Simplicity 3961, year 1941

TIME TO COMPLETE:  I’ve lost track of how much time was spent on this suit blouse…it seemed like the project that would never end.  I do believe it took more than 20 hours, but could have even took more than 30 hours for all I know.  My blouse was worked on every day over the course of a week and a half, which seems like a very long time to me, as I’m used to a project or two in a week.  It was finally finished on March 13, 2015.  (Much shorter completion time compared to my first suit set!)

THE INSIDES:  Very nice indeed!  The side seams and the sleeve seams are done in French finishing, while the sleeve and blouse hems and center front are covered in vintage dark green hem tape.  The inner neckline and armhole seams are covered up by vintage bright green bias tape.

100_4816-compTOTAL COST:  The wool/rayon twill was bought at Hancock Fabrics as an end of season clearance at only $2.25 a yard.  I bought two yards but actually used less than that (only 1 1/3 yd.), so the wool/rayon was less than $4.50.  The silk was ordered from Fashion Fabrics Club at about $22 for two yards.  I bought the thread and zippers from Hancock, to add on about $4.00.  So, my total cost is probably more or less $30.

All my preaching and facts aside the construction of my 1941 suit blouse was really easy, just time consuming.  The skirt of the suit has already been made and posted about (it can be seen here).  That bottom half was easy to make and fit well, so I felt assured of the fit to the top half and cut it out as is with no changes.  The sizes of this pattern are a size bigger than I technically need for my measurements, but I think this pattern runs a tad small.  There were only three adaptations I did make.  The first was to cut the sleeves out on the bias, for a non-confining fit which moves with my moves, rather than on the straight grain as instructed.  The second small adjustment was to snip off only 1/4 inch, starting from the underarm down to nothing at the waist, from the sides of the bodice front, to decrease the bust size to fit me better.   Thirdly, I eliminated the center fifth button/buttonhole in the middle of the front band.

100_4633-comp     My blouse seemed like some tiny thread monster with a giant appetite.  For such a little project, I went through so much thread!  My total spool count was just about three, and I still wonder where it all went, or if it weighs the blouse down.  Using up a lot of thread makes sense, as I had to baste the silk to all the pieces individually, make old-fashioned “windowpane” button holes, sew around seam allowances, and top-stitch the front piece in two double stitched rows.

100_4812-comp     Let me briefly highlight some of the blouse’s interesting features.  There are the traditional early to mid-1940’s style sleeve top darts, to create a very squared off, wide shoulder look, which I filled in with shoulder pads.  My long sleeves are very tapered and skinny at the wrist, having a trio of elbow darts, with a snap wrist closure, very similar to the sleeves of my red 1946 dress.  The bust darts are long French darts,100_4802a-comp which go across the bias of the fabric and start at the waistline from the side seams.  I have not yet seen French darts on a 40’s garment before (I see most of this feature on clothes between the 50’s to 70’s), but, nevertheless, it does always create amazing shaping in a very comfy manner.  A back neck zipper aids in slipping the suit blouse over one’s head, since there is a rather high V-neckline to the front.

100_4800-comp     My blouse has a side zipper, too, which incredibly amazes me.  What’s so amazing about a side zipper, you might wonder?  Well, the side seams have an incredible curve, with the height of the dip at the waistline, where the French darts come in.  If you’ve never sewn a closure into a curve…believe me you don’t want to unless you would like a big anvil to fall on you.  If you have done one, you’ll understand with me that installing a zipper into a curved seam is fully possible, just one big frustration.  I have done zippers like this before, but never with a curve so steep, and – for the first time in my sewing – I actually got quite foul, angry, and worked up into an exasperated sweat.  In disbelief, I read the pattern’s instructions and stared at the instructions, but yes…they said to insert a “slide fastener”, meaning a zipper, or snap tape.  As things turned out, I had to try four whole times both sewing down and unpicking to finally come out with a decently perfect zipper installation.  I was bull-headed enough to stick to getting it right, and boy did I learn from this experience!

The back neck zipper was no problem at all in comparison.  The instructions said to draft your own strip of facing, 3 1/2 inches by 7 inches, and sew this on, snip the slit, and turn inside like any other faced opening, then add in the zipper.

100_4810a-comp     The front panel band is THE piece that truly makes the suit jacket, I think.  After all, making that piece took up about one-third of the total time spent on my suit blouse as a whole.  The big irony of the front is all that time and effort goes into something purely decorative – even the windowpane buttonholes, darn it!  I like a challenge and test my skills, as well as constantly do things a bit differently, so I feel the extra effort was entirely worth it, in the end, especially since the panel band is on display in the front.  I do enjoy making this style of buttonhole, and, as this is the second time using them on a project, I am even happier with how they turned out than the first time (which can be seen here).

100_4814-comp     An interesting unexpected trick is involved in lapping on the front panel band onto the front of the suit blouse.  I was directed by the instructions to first completely finish the blouse (hem and all), and next work on the band making the button holes then turning under the seam allowance (1/2 inch), keeping a straight un-notched bottom.  The band gets sewn to the inside of the top, wrong side to right side, just stitching a small V around the center bottom (see picture).  You snip out the fabric from under/in between the triangle stitched at the bottom, so you can turn the front band to the right side.  This was a hard step because that spot is about the bulkiest spot on the blouse, as the center front seam ends there as well as the hem being turned up, too.  I was afraid the pressure I had to put into snipping through all those layers would get carried away, and snip too far to ruin my blouse just as it was almost done.  It worked out fine, as you can see, and with a little “Fray-Check” liquid on the inside points, the front panel band was lapped onto the front and top-stitched down in double rows (one 100_4803-compon the very edge and one 1/4 away from edge).

The lack of neck facing was a sort of relief.  It’s nice to have things done differently…it keeps one interest piqued.  Besides, I really didn’t feel like doing the hand sewing that would have been necessary to keep the facing down.  I used my vintage rayon bias tape, which matched perfectly with the silk lining, as a simple, skinny, bias facing.

We had the hardest time ever picturing the colors true to reality.  The sun was bright and overwhelmed the exposure.  Cloudy days are almost always the best time to get the real colors to show up in our pictures with our camera.  The best explanation I can give for the color of my wool blend twill is that it is the same color as my late 1930’s Kenmore Rotary sewing machine (see this picture).  It is not grey!  As for the true color of my silk lining just think of the color of some “green apple” flavored hard candy, and you should see the shade close to correctly.

100_4785a-comp     My hat is actually a mid-1940’s era piece.  I think the brown tone matches well enough, and the styling is close enough to work.  I love the interesting design of the fold-over pleats!Peggy and the Howling Commandos-cropped

Agent Carter took on a good amount of military clothes, with similar beautiful complex details, for “The Iron Ceiling” episode, fighting in Russia, as well as in the “Time and Tide” episode, where she explores the underground.  Check out my links and see how Peggy Carter uses items in her wardrobe already, to mix and match for a complete change up of appearance as needed.  (See my blog on the skirt of my suit for a different way to change up the look of one piece.)

Do you possess any military themed vintage notions, jewelry, or fabric?  Have you seen any of those “buttons looking like planes or studs that look like bullets” which I have read about in Chapter 4, “Independence and Limitations” of the book “Forties Fashion” by Jonathan Walford .  Make your own tough-and-feminine mix and share it here with me!