“No Chance! No Way! I Won’t Say It…”

…I won’t say – out load – I’m in love…with 1990s fashion, that is!  (Congrats to the person who can already recognize the song reference!)

Such news is a bit awkward to admit for me but it is a wholehearted truth now, especially after making this post’s project.  The dive of renewed interest in the classic Disney princesses last year via sewing my “Pandemic Princess” series of course necessitated acknowledging the fashion of the 90’s.  This ‘confession’ in my fashion taste comes only a few years after I reluctantly acknowledged I had fallen for the 80’s back when I made this Givenchy suit (posted here).  Then, my 1996 Emanuel Ungaro suit anchored my positive views of that era.  Previous to a year ago, I have not sewn anything from the 90’s since I was a teenager.  Ah, what am I turning into!?  This time, I can be completely justified in blaming my change of heart on the intensely independent, highly charismatic, acutely cynical, and generally unrecognized princess Megara of the 1997 animated film “Hercules”.  

Meg inspired me to make a flowing, Grecian-inspired maxi dress which highlights her trademark colors of purple and golden yellow, using both a soft polyester print and a sewing pattern from the era of the 90’s.  My dress – like Meg’s – has an empire waist, skinny shoulder straps, long and curving princess seaming, and an ankle skimming length.  Yet, true to the gunge fad of the era from which the movie was released, I am not content with it to be just a sundress.  I’m wearing this as a jumper layered over a slouchy, dated, thrifted turtleneck.  Practically speaking, this dress is too pretty to keep for just the warm weather anyways! 

However, the real inspiration which helped me channel my Meg dress was the character Phoebe (portrayed by actress Lisa Kudrow) from the television show “Friends”.  A sundress over a knit top is 100% Phoebe’s style!  Fashion aside, I believe Phoebe to be Meg’s 90’s twin in traits and personality.  (Seriously, though, I could see them liking the same assorted, haphazard fashion, too).  They both have a sarcastic, dry humor because they see the world free of rosy tinted glasses after having become very street-wise.  They both are admirably, boldly unafraid to speak what is on their quick-witted minds.  Nevertheless, behind the jaded outlook, both women are still soft-hearted, innocent, and sentimental.  Phoebe is my favorite character out of “Friends” and Megara is the Disney ‘anti-princess’ who has more recently earned my high esteem for being “a big tough girl” who can “take care of herself”.  This outfit of mine compliments the strong and soft sides which I share in common with both spunky screen ladies.

Funny enough, the statue behind me in the garden is Juno, the Roman equivalent of Hera, queen of the gods in Greek mythology.  In the myth and not the Disney version, Hercules was the son of Jupiter, the supreme god of Olympus, and Alcmene, a mortal married woman.  Juno, the wife of Jupiter, hated Hercules because he was the most famous and successful of Jupiter’s numerous illegitimate progeny.  I could only image what a first meeting with Hercules’s family might be like for Megara.  Nevertheless, I imagine Meg could hold her own very well with the militaristic Juno.  Even though my background setting isn’t as classical as I would have liked, I do enjoy the subtle nod to the Hercules by including Juno.  That not all, however!  At the same Botanical Garden, we also found a fountain of Persephone, the wife of Hades and the Queen of the Underworld.  After the foul way Hades used Meg when he had her under a soul bondage, the myths seem to show he had learned how to (somewhat) respect a woman by the time he married Persephone.

I want to give a shout out to the seamstress Eszter (on IG here @em_originals) for encouraging me through the power of a good review to use the dress pattern I did.  Don’t you just love it when someone else has – and makes something of – the same vintage sewing pattern as one you have on hand?  It always feels so remarkably serendipitous.  She thoroughly and kindly answered my questions about what fabric she used and how her version came together.  Go take a look at how lovely her dress looks on her (see it here)!  Good things happen when sewists unite! 

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 90’s era polyester leftover from lining my 1996 Ungaro suit; fully lined in a beige polyester cut out of some microfiber bed sheets

PATTERN:  New Look #6306, year 1994

NOTIONS NEEDED:  I needed lots of thread and two zippers (I’ll explain why further down)

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress took me about 20 hours’ worth of time and it was finished on November 4, 2020.

THE INSIDES:  The inner raw edges are left raw but there is a full body, floating lining which covers up the mess.

TOTAL COST:  practically free!!! Read on…

How I acquired the base materials for my Meg dress is a bit of an odd story.  Firstly, the printed fabric was practically free, being donated to a $1 a pound rummage sale.  The lining was a dirt cheap find of some gently used bed sheets.  Then, the pattern for this was actually picked out of the alley’s dumpster behind our house.  I couldn’t just leave a perfectly fine sewing supply behind when it was just an arm’s reach away…for free!  At first I was overly curious to find out who nearby sews like me (so I could meet them) and then I was struck by the fact that this single pattern was thrown away.  The fashion of the 90’s wasn’t always great but also wasn’t 100% trash.

It’s semi-explainable (especially when it comes to the 1920’s to 40’s) how certain eras of original sewing patterns have expanded in popularity and pricing in just the past 10 years yet it’s also odd how other eras remained static.  The 90’s and 2000 era patterns are clearly still underappreciated, largely disliked, and yes – often very recognizably stereotypical in styling.  Yet, now that my 1993 vehicle can officially register for “antique” license plates, it has made me think past the wry laugh and personal offense that news caused me.  I do see 90’s styles creeping into the RTW offerings and oddly being picked up by the younger generations who know nothing of the era like those of us who lived through it.  1990s logos, shows, and trends are as vintage to my 9 year old son as the 1960s were to me as a child.  My view of what constitutes “vintage” has been slowly changing along with my growing fascination for 1990s fashion.  I am understanding more than what meets the eye, and growing beyond my set prejudices towards how I regard the fashion of a decade within my lifetime.  I am not the only one, though.   

Colleen Hill is curator of costume and accessories at the prestigious Museum at FIT in New York.  Her upcoming, critically acclaimed special exhibition is entitled “Reinvention and Restlessness: Fashion in the Nineties”.  I recently received my order of the companion book to the exhibit and have since poured over the rich content.  It portrays a restless decade where the last 10 years before the turn of the century were “modern to retro, from glitz to glamour, from puritan to pretty, from military to minimal, only to max out at the finale with an opulent flourish of beading and a rash of irony.”  (Quote from Harper’s Bazaar writer Marion Hume’s December 1999 editorial.)  What I found the most interesting was the chapter on “Retro Revivals”. 

“Fashion historians often distinguish between the terms: ‘retro’ is generally used to describe clothing that was worn within living memory, and ‘historical’ encompasses influences from the more distant past” the book says.  Sadly, it doesn’t distinguish where “vintage” falls.  The book goes on to quote art historian Elizabeth Guffey, “Retro considers the recent past with an unsentimental nostalgia.”  So does this make the 90’s vintage to me and not retro, as I am nostalgic about growing up in that era while my son views 30 years ago in a curious but unsentimental way?  The quote continues, “It is unconcerned with the sanctity of tradition; indeed, (Retro) often insinuates a form of subversion while sidestepping historical accuracy.”  Ah, yes I do take a more accurate sewing outlook on my 50’s era and older things I make, but what if I do the same for my 90’s projects?  This post’s dress is sewn with a fabric and pattern truly from the era.  “1990s fashions were at once looking back and planted firmly.  Were creators scared of the future or simply celebrating the past?  It appears to be both” said the 90’s design critic Herbert Muschamp

No wonder I appreciate the 90’s!  It is a decade peppered with the influences of the past 20th century’s fashions, all of which I already sew, wear, and love.  I already frequently find a way to put a vintage spin on the modern clothing I make.  Furthermore, it is relieving to now embrace the styles and the modes of dressing from the 90’s that I admired on others and wanted to sport, but was too awkward or not in the right place to do so.  I also enjoy appreciating the last great era for USA made clothing and a recognizable continuity for long-standing design houses, as well as the beginning of an individualistic approach to fashion.  Thus, to me, based on where I am in life and the way I approach 90’s fashion, I am calling it vintage.  This might not be your view and that is fine.  After reading the FIT museum book, I believe that placing this era is up to each person’s interpretation.  If you haven’t noticed the subtle changes to my site happening in the last few months, I would like to point out there is now a decade page for my 1990’s creations added to the header bar of my blog.  I’m so happy to see it there and might add some of my teen years’ makes (which I still wear) on that page in the future.

That being said, I could not get away from a soft demonstration of one of the decade’s earliest and most memorable trends – grunge.  I never had and have not yet found the courage for a full blown embrace of the trend because I never liked the music scene tied to it, but deep down I’ve always still liked elements of it.  Grunge is about practicality over image, economic sense with second-hand items, and comfort pieces.  I wore a loose fitting, rayon knit turtle neck I picked out at a thrift shop back in early 2000s, so it’s possibly from the 90’s.  My little ballet flats have been with me many years, too, and I love the low-key toughness of the multiple buckles.  I am not above loving what I have on hand for many years.  My earrings (from this local shop) were the only new purchase for this outfit – they have Herc’s dad Zeus’s logo lightning bolt coming out of the cloud of Mount Olympus.

Grunge was a very anti-establishment movement, and designer Mark Jacobs (for Perry Ellis), actress Winona Ryder, and “Sonic Youth” band bassist Kim Gordon all were prominent influencers in the trend.  Part of Grunge for women was the wearing of pretty floral dresses from decades before in such a way that you pair them over a tank and pants with chunky black boots, a denim jacket, and a chunky sweater.  The Gunne Sax and Laura Ashley dresses of the 80’s were part of this, as well as the floaty vintage frocks of the 30’s, or the printed tees of the 60’s era.   The height of the Grunge aesthetic was short lived, though.  My FIT museum book “Fashion in the Nineties” says that Vogue editor Anna Wintour expressed relief in a 1994 letter to the editor, by saying Grunge was drifting out of fashion.  The way I interpreted my Megara dress hits all the right notes of 1994 fashion.  Granted this is a date 3 years earlier than the “Hercules” film, but as I associated my inspiration with Phoebe from “Friends”, which began in 1994, that year seemed like a good date to go with.  The year 1994 has so very many designs which are so similar to the point of redundancy – empire-waisted maxi dresses with princess seams.

After all of my rambling on about the era and provenance of it, this dress was actually very simple to sew.  It was a bit time consuming because of all the long seams, the full lining (which was merely a second copy of the dress), and the tiny hemming required.  Even still, I can’t believe I made a completely bone-headed mistake in the midst of construction.  I forgot to combine the back bodice pieces with the back skirt before sewing in a near perfect hand-picked zipper. 

Not every day is my best day, and some days I am just lucky to have the family’s basic necessities taken care of…but I was still devastated by my oopsie.  I powered on in the most non-impactful way by merely adding in a 5 inch separating zipper to the back bodice segment of this dress, above the lower 22 inch zipper.  Yes, I do end up with two zippers up the back.  Yes, I feel terrible about this.  There were tears involved.

Nevertheless, I am proud I made the best of it, resisting the urge to throw it across the room and give up, because I love this dress.  I don’t think the dual zippers are even noticeable, after all.  The fit to the pattern was spot on and I think the hem flaring looks spectacular.  My dress makes me feel very tall, elegant, and curvy.  I garner so many compliments when I wear this!  I can’t wait to continue to wear it as a sundress this summer.  Copying Meg’s manner of styling gives me the best excuse to also brush on my favorite purple eye shadow colors and draw my best winged eyeliner, too. 

The 1997 animated film “Hercules” was very much a product of its time – it references the “Buns of Steel” exercise videos as well as Nike’s famous Air Jordan sneakers,  the muses are merely a jazzy version of the group En Vogue, and then – for goodness sakes – Michael Bolton sings the theme song!  There was no way an ancient interpretation was going to be as wearable as a 90’s manner of looking at Megara, the human princess of Mount Olympus.  The fresh new write-up for the film was not remotely mythological accurate, after all, but still a fun kind of different for Disney’s Renaissance period.  This dress (jumper, depending on the weather) similarly has to be one of my most enjoyable and out-of-the-ordinary kind of ‘practical royalty’ make for my “Pandemic Princess” series.  Here’s a toast to the sassiest Disney princess of them all!

Putting a Vintage Wiggle into a “New Look”

New Look 6045 cover photo     I have owned the New Look #6045 pattern since it came out three years ago, and I have always adored it, waiting for the right circumstances and fabric to come along.  This past year’s Fall season provided me with the time and opportunity to finally whip up my fun and versatile version of the pattern.

We chose a modern outdoor sculpture in front of The Marianist Art Gallery as the photo shoot location.  I enjoy seeing how the modern art brings out the fashion forward vintage appeal which I intended to combine in my draped neck dress.

My dress has already seen much wear, and that is always a good sign!  The luxurious feel of the fabrics used, the ease of care, and the perfect weight of my dress make this my go to frock when I want to look nice and get dressed up easily during the transition weather of Spring and Fall.  I’ll add a nice sweater if it’s chilly out and I’m ready to go!  Another big bonus with this dress is all the color matching opportunities…they provide endless possibilities.  Every time I wear my dress, I seem to find some more items (shoes, tights, jewelry, sweaters) to co-ordinate together with my dress.  Please notice the necklace I’m wearing…I made it myself of sterling silver findings and Garnet gemstone chips.

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THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  My dress’ fabric is a super-soft brushed 100% polyester, which has the look and feel of being a rayon challis (that tricky imitation poly!).  I or my hubby found it in the “Spot the Dot” super clearance section of Hancock Fabrics store.  It has a beautiful blend of colors: a mustard golden yellow, peacock turquoise, burgundy red, light aqua, dark brown, and a grey taupe.  For the lining, I chose a fine 100% Bemberg rayon, in a dark dusty blue color.  The Bemberg rayon was something I happened to find when searching for a matching lining at Hancock, too.

6045line drawingPATTERN:  New Look #6045, year 2011, View B dress except with the longer elbow length sleeves of View A

NOTIONS:  I needed the normal notion, a long 20-something inch zipper for the center back, but this time I also bought matching thread and a washer from the hardware store (I’ll explain later in my post).  I had just enough bias tape on hand, as well.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress was finished on October 8, 2013, after 10 to 12 hours of work (enjoyment) time.

THE INSIDES:  Every seam, except the armhole/shoulder seams, are covered in either matching bias tape or nice seams.  The armhole/shoulder seam was left raw with only zig zag stitching along the edges, to keep this area pliable and willing to give a little…making it more comfy.  I did this same thing to the shoulder /armhole seams of my 1940’s Bow-Neck Satin Dance dress (link here); raw edges, stabilized with some stitching, make for a more comfy seam when I can’t do French seams.

TOTAL COST:  I really don’t remember any more;  I do think the total was under $15.

For this pattern, aside from adding length to the hem, I actually did everything as-is without any personal touches or changes to the design. Quite unusual for me, but I figured, why mess with a good thing?  That was reason number one for making no personal changes. Besides, reason number two was a pretty strong reason as well.  My sewing machine, a wonderful Singer older than me, went into “intensive care surgery” at the repair shop right after I started putting my New Look dress together.  I really wanted to finish my dress project and not be stuck with no sewing to do (a seamstress’ nightmare!) so used my backup sewing machine.  I wasn’t sure of what it was capable of and it seems rather picky, needing a more delicate treatment than what my Singer receives.  Thus, having a nice straightforward pattern was perfect for my needs at that time.  I made lemonade out of lemons, though, by focusing on what things my backup machine could do differently from my normal machine.  I always try to use every sewing project as an opportunity to try and learn something new.

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The draped neck is no doubt the highlight of this dress – it was my favorite part to sew as well.  The upper front bodice pattern has the drape as being one piece with the neckline, so it made for an interesting shaped piece.  Looking at many dresses from the 1930’s, when the draped neck styles were a big thing, it seems like the drape has always been the same design: an extension of the neckline so it is a sort of self-facing by falling inside.   Some other patterns have a very big drape with an inner cowl facing sewn on as a separate piece.  With further research I discovered that there are several different shapes that can create a draped neckline, and there are even a few Threads magazine articles (such as in the January 2014 issue, page 22) which shows you how to transform any pattern into a draped neck design.  The pattern of this New Look 6045 dress is designed to involve pleats at the sides (where the shoulder seams are – see picture above) to manipulate the fabric at the neck.  This way it does not solely rely on the “true” drape of one solid piece of fabric or a certain bias of the fabric.  No matter how the draped look is achieved, regardless, that name still applies.  I hope to create more draped neck fashions now that I know how much I enjoyed sewing and wearing such a style.

100_2154     There was a trick of the trade, so to speak, which helped immensely to create a wonderfully successful draped neckline – an inner weight!  (See the picture at right of my dress turned inside out.)  I first saw this method used on a 1930’s evening gown which was highlighted on the back cover as the “Up Close” feature of the March 2013, issue #165, Threads magazine.  Page 28 and 29 inside show the details of the dress, highlighting the different bias cuts of the dress and showing pictures of a small weight, covered in matching fabric, to keep to cowl drape hanging well and in place.  Have you seen Vogue 1374?  It is a 1930’s style gown, designed by Badgley Mischka, with a giant draped cowl on the back of the dress.  Anyway, this pattern calls for a nickel (yes, money) to be sewn into a tiny tab at the inner center on the back drape, so it gets gently weighted 100_2156down in place.  For my dress, I went to the hardware store an picked out a washer, cut out a circle of the flowered fabric twice the size of the washer, did a running stitch around it, then pulled it in to gather it around the washer.  I tucked the raw edges in and stitched the center closed through the center of the washer.  However, as the washer would no doubt rust if it went through the wash with my dress, I merely used a safety pin to keep the washer in place at the center inside of my draped neck.  (see the left picture)  I am so very happy with this technique!  Every time I see a draped neck item in a store, I always check and say, “I thought so!  No drape weight.  People don’t know what they’re missing.”

The fit of the sizes given for the dress seem to me to be pretty much right on.  You wouldn’t want this dress to be too baggy or roomy at all, anyway, because then the neckline wouldn’t look like a drape as much and the overall effect of the style would not be achieved.  The model on the cover of the envelope has her dress with a little more ease than the way my version fits, and I intended on making mine with a bit more extra room.  I’m o.k. with how mine fits…it makes it more appealing to my husband…but I can’t eat a very large filling meal when I’m wearing this wiggle-style dress.

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The sleeves are the one thing that I knew for sure would fit me exactly since I already used them (in a shortened length) on a creation I made a while back, my Green Plaid Cotton Dress.  New Look 6045 is one of the rare patterns which I found for me to NOT have restricted reach room or skimpy sizing when it comes to making a sleeve which is actually easy to move in while wearing.  The sleeve pattern is actually very nicely roomy and well shaped (I think), especially for someone like me that has thicker upper arms.  Has anyone noticed any other additional New Look patterns having roomier sleeves than what “The Big 4” patterns seem to offer? 100_2159

Ah yes, I saved the best for almost last!  This dress has on it my first, and so far my only, blind hem.  Since I was using my backup machine, it only meant reading the manual and adjusting the dials for me to have access to doing a blind hem.  Now that I am sewing on my standby Singer, I get…’lazy’, as I call it…and never feel like dragging out my backup machine and setting it up just for that reason even though I have thought of adding a blind hem to more garments than this one dress.  As beautiful as the blind hem turned out at the bottom of my New Look wiggle dress I should get the gumption to do this sewing method again.  With this dress, I figured it would be easy (and it was) to try out the blind hem mostly because the bottom hem is not full, thus the length of what I sewed was not over-much.  The majority of the work was the measuring and pinning of the hem differently than the normal ways to which I’ve become accustomed.  Whoever thought of this type of stitch and hem was a genius – or maybe just an engineer.  Either way, I found it so cool how the stitches just disappear discreetly into the fabric when the hem gets pulled into place.  I love to add special touches to everything I make.

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Just a few more details on the dress deserve mentioning.  My back zip was sewn in a different, more conventional, industry-type of style.  I usually install my zippers in my very own distinct personal style, which is more tight, sturdy, and invisible.  Again, however, as I am sewing with a different machine, I went ahead and used the zipper foot that was available and made the zipper with a large, more open fold just like you see in store bought clothes.  I like the finished look of the zipper placket, and it certainly is different among my creations, but I don’t expect to do a zipper like this again. (I might, but I’m just sayin’…)  The bottom hem of the sleeves also have some special, but tiny, detail – a tiny notch at the inside seam point.  I don’t see a strong utilitarian need for this tiny vent, and i was slightly miffed at the extra time and trouble it took to finish.  Doing those notches did indeed teach me an excellent method for clean finished cuff ends with a slit; I used my knowledge learned to do the sleeve ends of my 1946 Red Wool Suit Dress in a better way.  Finally, notice the kick pleat slit at the back.  If the pattern hadn’t had this type of slit in the design I probably would’ve added it myself because kick pleat slits are so much more decent while providing no less ease of movement.  This dress is hot enough (he, he), I don’t need it to have a racy view all the way up my thighs.

My strong suspicion that the New Look pattern had a definite vintage flair was finally verified just a week after I completed my dress.  I was so surprised to see an almost exactly designed dress worn on a young girl friend of the handsome Ronnie Burns during a Burns and Allen T.V. show.  It can be seen on “The June Wedding” episode, aired on June 16, 1958.  Again, as always, the Burns and Allen T.V. Show has given me Jane & Roger cropsome inspiring fashion ideas and style validations for the decade of the 50’s.  It says something about the dress design for it to be good enough to be worn on screen to one of the top rated T.V. shows of the 50’s, and worn by a pretty and “modern” University of California young woman.

Interestingly enough, after some further Google image browsing for 50’s/60’s draped neck dresses, I noticed yet another similar outfit worn by the character of Jane in the T.V. series Mad Men.  I love how her dress (see picture below) has a similar groovy, swirling type of modern floral as the fabric’s pattern.  Her dress, though, has a draped cowl neck going on in the front and the back – so cool!

Butterick 8307 50s draped cowl back cocktail dress          Just prior to this post I found a pattern for sale that also reminded me of my dress, as well as the two other dresses referred to in Mad Men and The Burns and Allen T.V. show.  The pattern I saw (the  picture at right) is a vintage 1957 Butterick 8307 with a wiggle cocktail shape and a draped cowl neck along the back.  (See this pattern’s wiki page here)  There are so many more versions of this style of neckline than I had realized before!

I wonder how ‘original’ the dress can be for 2011, as is supposed to be a “Project Runway” creation.  Hmmm.  Whether or not the design idea was borrowed from sources such as what I’ve pointed out, I love the finished result.  I see it as an overlooked vintage style dress that makes me feel so fashionable and good looking, if I must say so myself!

Find more hidden vintage-inspired details in modern fashion for yourself and help bring back those classic styles with your own sewing!

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Believe It Or Not…It’s My Favorite Re-Makes

Since last year when I began sewing more often (that is, every week), re-making a pattern is a rarity so far. I like to use a pattern piece here or an idea there, incorporating a little of every other pattern into most of my projects. When I have a nice, full file cabinet of patterns yet to make, there has to be a real winner among them to deserve a reason for a repeat. I like variety in my clothing, and thus my favorite patterns which have been remake gladly look totally different from one another.

It actually feels quite nice to depart from vintage and explore my own modern, updated style! Nevertheless, after missing out on the Sew Weekly Gatsby Challenge in early September, both of this post’s project ideas surprisingly came from looking at a lot of 20’s to 30’s patterns, Deco photography, and fashion posters.

Here, I made a casual ‘Saturday style’ t-shirt knit dress.  It was made by magically combining two patterns together – a top pattern and a skirt pattern turned into one dress. Not that I’m short on dress patterns right now. I just wanted a challenge and had a vision of an idea – a modern vintage dress with echos of an older vintage…the 1930s. Both eras had some timeless styles. Now I brought them to the 21st century.

Then because I had the pattern out of my cabinet and wanted to try it as a top only, I made a fancy black sequin re-fashion from an over-sized, sloppy craft t-shirt and some party material. This one is versatile, believe it or not, pairing with jeans, a denim or a dressy skirt, and even going nicely under a blazer. The way it reflects the light means that I am bringing a party with me wherever I go! This is much better than glitter.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC: for the dress- a thin, loose, and somewhat unsubstantial, but very soft, cotton knit and a soft beige stretch lace for back and pocket – both from stash and so basically free; for the sequin top- a craft store T-shirt, found in my stash, but bought about 5 years ago for $2.50, and 1 yard of sequin netting fabric, bought recently for $9 something; the chain necklace and bracelet- put together by me and bought at JoAnn Fabric store for $6.30

NOTIONS: I had the proper machine needles, seam tape, and thread already; I just bought some black bias tape for $2 or less

PATTERNS: McCall’s 6623, year 1979, for the top, made twice now, as you can see in this post.  New Look 6470, year 2005, for the skirt (used three times now), to make two skirts back 10 to 7 years ago (not blogged yet), and then for the franken-patterned dress in this post.

TIME TO COMPLETE: for the dress- about 5 hours, finished on Oct. 5, 2012; for the top- about 5 or 6 hours, finished on Dec. 20, 2012

THE INSIDES: for the dress- the seams are just zig zagged together nicely, as the knit fabric did not want to be ‘restrained’ too much into a perfectly finished seam; for the sequin top- I am so proud of this part! I sewed hem tape into the shoulder seams, sewed bias tape around all the other seams, and hand sewed a line of bias tape along the inside of the neckline. My extra work is SO worth it…because there is no itchiness from the sequins!

FIRST WORN: for the dress- worn on a Saturday outing to visit antique malls and look for treasures (home stuff and old patterns); for the sequin top- over to my Aunt and Uncle’s house for a Christmas get together. This is my new go-to ‘casual but still fancy’ top for the holiday season.

For both creations I did the same pattern combo. The New Look skirt pattern was only used as a ‘benchmark’ for the perfect hip fit, since I used it for the dress. My chosen skirt pattern was layered over my top pattern at 1 inch below the waist, since the skirt hugs the hips a bit. The cutting instructions were improvised by me in order to match with the layout of the top. The skirt piece is supposed to be cut on the bias, however, I simply folded the full skirt pattern in half to cut on the fold. This way I come out with a one-piece dress and a great base measurement for my top. I usually don’t throw cutting and grain line instructions out the window but this was a happy experiment. Then I just did free hand grading in between sizes…I know where I need my clothes to be forgiving 🙂 You can see a little of what I did in the picture below.

My T-shirt dress is remotely like 1930s era day dresses by the way it has a long bias ruffle slanted up one side of the hem. In early fall, I actually had too many ‘nice’ dresses, and I needed a casual dress that would also stretch my sewing capabilities a bit further along. When I finished my dress, I knew it wasn’t my coolest project, but I ended up feeling like I could really sew anything if I sincerely tried.

The special detail to both this dress and shirt is a very fun back bodice detail. Presenting a good image as you walk away or turn around is something unexpected but always lovely. 1930s styles used such a detail frequently to great advantage. Adding a super soft stretch lace in the open back solves any drooping off of the shoulders and (I think) lends a special, enticing touch to what might otherwise be drab. I certainly find myself not wanting to cover the back up with a sweater! Besides, I needed a way to make a dent in a large cut of this stretch lace. I really don’t remember why I bought so much, but I am sure I’ll use it in some future projects again.

I did layer some lace scraps over the dress’ little self-fabric chest pocket to add a little extra interest and unite it with the back detail. A pocket may be little but this pocket is not too small to still be useful. I can still keep a hair band, some bobby pins, or even a small to-do list in this dress’ one. Pockets are sooo handy and a definite necessity to any garment.

Unfortunately I don’t have a picture to post of the skirts I made years ago from the New Look 6470 which was used to make this dress. The one skirt I made then must have turned out alright since I remember a clothing store worker complimenting me, even though, (STUPID ME) I used a woven navy/white tweed for what is a stretch pattern. Oh well. I think I buried it amongst clothing stuff somewhere in my parents’ basement back then when I realized I wasn’t happy with my sewing skills. I will keep looking for both skirts, or a picture at least…

20s-Chanel-sequin-dress

My black sequin top was an idea spawned from admiring a Target sequin tank, and telling myself, “Hey… you can make your own, but better!” Soon after, I found an over-sized T-shirt on hand while going through my old stuff. Then, I was crazy enough to buy bags of sequins and plan on (yeah right) sewing them on by hand, in a decorative Art Deco design. Wow…I am ambitious sometimes.  At right is one of the ideas I was working from: a Chanel beauty of a 1920’s dress.

My plans drastically changed for the easier when I found a sequin-covered ‘fabric’ netting on a trip to the fabric store. I suppose it came in for the holiday/New Year’s sewing. I pulled it off the rack and couldn’t wait to get it cut and take it home. The fabric store employee might have had something there, when she hesitated to cut it, because cutting and sewing this sequin ‘fabric’ was so much more of a mess than any fur I have worked with in the past. The sequins would pop and jump at every cut I made, even hitting me in the face. Those sequins were sticking to my skin and left a messy trail everywhere I would work with my top.  I found myself growling, murmuring complaints, and breathing heavily in frustration while sewing or working with the sequin fabric.  This is rarely how I create. I know some sewing bloggers get driven into a very especially “unwelcoming” mood when working with sequined fabric, and now I can commiserate with them.  However, I am not discouraged from sewing with sequins again!

I will finish writing this re-fashion story short and sweet. I cut all original seams off of the t-shirt, only keeping the sleeve hems. Then I re-cut the pattern top exactly as I did for my dress, and cut another front piece from the sequin fabric. The sequin front piece was pinned onto the T-shirt front, then I re-sewed the whole top back together, stabilizing seams.

Next I used chalk to draw my own plans onto the back of the dress. I took advantage of the wide netting edge along the selvedge to fill in a large open back, similar to the lace in my knit dress above.

Voila! I like how it is, as it is, so I plan on using the sequin bags for another Art Deco type dress.

I kept switching between needles the whole time I was piecing this together, using the sharp where ever I was sewing through sequins and using a knit ball point where I was only sewing on the T-shirt knit. I hope this was the right way to work, but I don’t see how I could have done it otherwise.

Just a little FYI : I did a ‘sort of’ funny mistake when I finished sewing this top. When I was done, I was so excited to try it on and I completely forgot there was one last pin on the inside armpit seam. OUCH! I had one long, swollen scratch that luckily didn’t bleed much. My husband actually thought it was rather funny that my scratch was in the shape of the letter Z…the Mark of Zorro, maybe?!  It makes me want to get out my old black and white Zorro movie (a little tip – the 1940 Tyrone Power version is my favorite)!

Here is an outtake of me enjoying my new top and playing cool with the contrast of the sequins against my red sports car – the inspiration behind my logo!

If I don’t make one more post before the end of the year, Happy New Year everyone! Here’s a toast to another great year of sewing ahead. Cheers!

The “Lake Girl” Wanna-be 40’s Satin blouse

I suppose I am stretching the rules a bit at first glance with my submission for the “Wardrobe Staple: Shirt Challenge”. However, my husband made the point that while shirts are not blouses, perhaps all blouses are shirts. Despite this confusion, at least this IS my new dressy ‘wardrobe staple’ and I am VERY proud of how my blouse turned out. I love to wear this!!!

100_0747THE FACTS:
FABRIC: ivory crepe-back satin ($6.75)
PATTERN: Simplicity 3688, a 1941 re-issue (99 cents) for the blouse; New Look 6000 for cuffs

100_0694NOTIONS: ivory pearl buttons ($1.75), metrosheen thread (around $2), tidbit of cording (20 cents); already had interfacing and sharps needles
FIRST WORN: to a concert with my husband; I finished the blouse on Oct. 19, 2012, sewing the loop closure and the buttons just 45 minutes before leaving time…close call.
TIME TO COMPLETE: I took my time, as this was my first time sewing with satin-so this was an experiment in preparation for another project with satin. The cuffs took longer to make…so…at least 8 hours to finish, maybe 10

I had been wanting to make this pattern for quite a while, but never found the right fabric looking on my own. On one visit to the fabric store, I showed off my S36688 pattern, asking for recommendations in a wear-with-all ivory color. Michelle, the employee, showed me this soft and silky satin with the mind-blowing suggestion to switch the sides of the fabric. I had no idea this fabric could have no “right side”- apparently it was all a matter of taste. Michelle’s suggestion really made this blouse such a winner! I had already planned on adding cuffs from my New Look pattern, so I made the cuffs and the top bodice panel in the crepe back. This crepe/satin side switching seems to highlight the neat design of the blouse and break up what could have been too much shine.

100_0750The pattern was made as is (besides the cuffs), and it was both a breeze and a delight to sew together. I was doubtful at first, thinking it would be big on me when I saw the generous ease, but it fits nicely and comfortably, with the cute waistline darts to bring it in.
I love the pleats/tucks at the top of the shoulders on the sleeves. I’m thinking those darts are meant to be filled in with shoulder pads.  I might add them at some point, but I don’t want an 80’s look mixed in with the 40’s.

The cuffs fit onto the sleeves like they were made for this pattern. Also, the whole interfacing and straight points on the cuffs turned out very well for me. I even cut out a second bias neckband, cut it in half lengthwise, hemmed the pieces, then sewed the strips over each cuff/sleeve seam inside for a smooth, professional look. A button is sewn on each side to simulate fake ‘cufflinks’!
After I made this blouse I was disappointed to see not many raving reviews among Sew Weekly. Meg the Grand was pleased with her version of this blouse, while Debi Fry and Liz seemed o.k. with it but less than pleased with the envelope picture. Oh well, the blouse does refuse to stay tucked in when I move, just like Liz had said. As for myself, the pattern envelope screamed “Veronica Lake”- and that in itself was reason enough for my interest.

100_0748Simplicity 3688 reminded me of Veronica Lake’s train traveling outfit in the black and white 1942 movie “This Gun for Hire” (the first major film together for actor Alan Ladd and Ms. Lake). This pattern’s ensemble isn’t exactly her outfit, just similar (in my opinion) style-wise, so don’t tell me I’m wrong if you watch the movie. Besides the movie and pattern sharing the same original release date of 1941, the envelope model also has a good Veronica Lake ‘peekaboo’ hairstyle going on there. I’ve attempted to imitate the peekaboo lately, but, if I try harder, I will do Ms. Lake’s hairstyle yet.

Hollywood tidbit: It’s amazing how her fame was so short lived (1940-1949) and revolved around her hairstyle. She couldn’t dance or sing- but her appeal alone got her far. Her long, blond ‘peekaboo’ hairstyle was so widely imitated that she was asked to cut her hair for the duration of WWII since such a hairstyle was seen as hazardous to females working around machinery. She boldly made a public service video to address the safety subject with her hair pinned up.veronica lake in war helmetveronica lake with hair in gear pole

She may have been the most famous actress during the war. She vied with Dorothy Lamour for some influential roles. She herself said that if she hadn’t been such a rebel she might have gone far, but she didn’t want to be a Hollywood puppet, and held onto her freedom without regret. It’s a shame she’s been labeled so maliciously now by history.
Speaking of short, the main reason why Veronica Lake was paired so often with Alan Ladd is because he was about 5’5″ and she was 4’11”!  At left is a publicity shot of Ladd and Lake from “This Gun for Hire”.

VeronicaLake-picSo, anyway…back to my sewing. I have a full shot picture – and a humorous shot of the back of the blouse.

My husband didn’t tell me till AFTER I posed that my skirt label was showing. Very funny…but it happens, so it’s kinda cute. While trying to be fashionable, I go tell the world my size – just lovely!  Visit my Flickr page Seam Racer for more pictures.

100_0749