My “Conservative Gilda” Nightgown

The character of the woman Gilda, in the famous Rita Hayworth movie by the same name, is that of a bold woman, to say it tactfully.  In no uncertain terms, she is shown to the viewer – from that very first moment in the boudoir (watch it here on TCM) – that she is not scrupulous when using her female wiles for whatever emotional game or selfish desire she chooses to play upon.  The sheer tulle and off-the-shoulder nightgown says volumes.  Her character is so far removed from me, yet I love the relaxed, romantic aura of what she has on.  With a pattern already on hand that was quite similar, I hope to have tamed that famous Gilda nightgown into something more respectable.  Am I decent in this?  I think so.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% cotton flannel and a sheer polyester tiny tulle

PATTERN:  Hollywood #1479, year 1944 (I’ve already made the tied-front crop top here as part of a playsuit)

NOTIONS:  I had everything I needed for this on hand as it was all basic stuff – thread, some scraps of interfacing, and skinny elastic

TIME TO COMPLETE:  It took 5 hours to make and was finished on February 4, 2019

THE INSIDES:  French seams for the sleeves (including armscye), self-fabric bias binding for the neckline and bottom hem, raw edges for the long side seams

TOTAL COST:  The flannel was something I bought on deep discount when the now defunct Hancock Fabrics was going out of business – the tulle was just bought.  As the flannel was bought quite a while back for what must have been dirt cheap, I’m counting it as maybe $5 to $10.  Together with the $5 spent on the tulle, this is an under $15 glamorous steal of a nightgown!

This was a quick and ridiculously simple make for how nice it turned out.  Yet, at the same time it was a total fabric hog, especially since I chose the ankle length version (for both more warmth and elegance).  What is practically two giant rectangles comprise both the front and the back, taking up 3 ½ total yards of flannel!  This is partly the reason for the sheer sleeves – I flat out ran out of fabric for them.  However, hubby reminded me that sheer sleeves would bring my make closer to my chosen movie inspiration.  Two heads are better than one is a legitimately true phrase, but it’s always cool and surprising when that second brain – which isn’t sewing oriented – can be so helpful with my garment projects!

I chose tiny holed, super fine mesh tulle for the sleeves or a chiffon.  They have a bit more body in tulle to make for a nice blousing out above the cuffs which matches well with the heavier cotton body to my nightgown.  Chiffon can look droopy (as it does on the original Gilda nightgown), but that can also have its place with some styles.  Besides, something as slippery as chiffon did not sounds appealing to me on nightwear.  As sultry as that fabric can be, I think I understand the properties of chiffon and only imagined the fabric wrapping itself around my arms as I slept.  Whether that would happen or not, I didn’t take a chance.  The sleeves are two layers of tulle.  Two layers hopefully will be not as fragile as one seemed and lent more of a matching grey tone.

I have not been able to find any source which says what hue the original Gilda movie nightgown was, but for some reason (not just because it is in black and white) I picture it in a light color, close to no color.  Kind of like the ironic use of a pure and innocent white on Lana Turner in the movie “The Postman Always Rings Twice”, I could see the mischievous Gilda in a similarly demure costume to amplify her tempting, teasing demeanor.  Now, I could be totally wrong here, but anyway – these musings gave me a reason to use the material I did.  Flannel is my favorite nightwear material for lounging (used it for this nightgown already) and definitely more modest and practical.  While not as drafty or alluring as Gilda’s frilly, sheer gown, however, the print is pretty and delicate in the softest hint of a light grey scroll work motif.  I low-key complimented the print with the dove grey sleeves, but tried highlight it better by using a dark grey (albeit sheer, as well) ribbon as a belt.

The pattern called for a set waistband, one that either is elasticized or has a ribbon running through a sewn-on casing.  I left that out.  I like my waist free and unrestricted at night when I sleep, because this is still a nightgown that I am going to wear no matter how pretty it is!  Besides, I felt that seeing a ribbon around the waist, and not hiding it in a casing, would set a defined waistline better in this voluminous gown…hey it worked on Gilda!  Finally, having no set waistband is much more versatile, in my opinion.  I used a whole 3 yard spool for my ribbon tie because I absolutely love the way there are long ends that elegantly, dramatically flutter down, almost to the hem.

I kept the rest of the details as fuss-free as possible.  The cuffs around the wrist were instructed to be made like a regular blouse cuffs, but that is too much for nightwear.  I made them one piece and they just slip on or off of my wrist over my hand.  The neckline has elastic in the casing so I could easily wear this as a regular scoop neck or pull it off the shoulders for a full Gilda effect.  As the elastic is pretty thin and the neckline holds the entire weight of more than 3 yards of flannel, I have two strands of it through the casing.  In order to make the gathered ruffled neckline turn out (with the sheer material involved), I had to use more of the dress flannel for the casing and make a tiny “track” for maximum ruffling.  Thus, a thin, string-like elastic was the only way to go, anyway.  Simple, easy, so pretty, and timeless, vintage designs really know how to make nighttime clothes something to look forward to wearing at the end of a day!

This is the final post about the garments that I made for our trip to Denver, Colorado.  For these pictures, we were at our Alpine-style bed-and-breakfast the “Vasquez Creek Inn” at Winter Park.  The other garments I made for this trip included a refashioned boxy cropped pullover and a 1940s quilted jerkin with corduroy trousers.  Making a nightgown made me feel like I had a new, complete set for fun, fancy, or relaxing to bring with me!  Hotels are great for taking pictures of nightwear, anyway…they are an uncluttered, nicely decorated, different setting.  Not that our bedroom is an atrocious mess or not pleasant to see either, but we’ve already taken pictures there and as I’m not crazy about our old wallpaper, I didn’t want to do that again.  It’s always nice to take pictures where you’ve had good times away from home anyway, right?!

Simple Luxury – a 1940 Flannel Bias Nightgown

I’ve been wanting to post this for so long (two years), but it’s a nightgown so I don’t usually make sure to have make-up on and decently arranged hair in evening when I want to be cozy and relax!  This is the first part of a small three part February series of easy ways to do vintage for nighttime.  Emileigh of “Flashback Summer” blog beat me to the punch, and has a similar idea with her own “Lovely Lounging” series for February.

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Vintage fashion really knows how to make basic items so elegant and beautiful, and I think nightwear is one of the best examples of that, especially in the 1930s and 40’s.  Not that new luxury nightgowns cannot be found nowadays as well, but they tend to cost a lot of dough and are generally in static-attracting, non-breathable polyesters.  On the flip side, so many flannel nightgowns available (even today) are the “granny-style” Lanz of Salzburg type, completely vintage authentic, decent, quaint, and cozy.  Yet, I’m too afraid that a vintage one will end up tearing irreparably, so although they are so beautiful and still rather easy-to find in our town, I only own one and don’t wear it to sleep in.

100_4670-compwNow, the 1940 pattern I used for this nightgown’s post was so quick (a few hours), easy (only four pieces), required little fabric (just under 2 yards), and fits and feels wonderful to wear with the bias-cut skirt working in my favor.  This has the best of both elegance and warm comfort, not to mention it’s new and hand-made vintage.  I am totally hooked…I want one of these to wear every night!

Now you’ve also got a glimpse of our tiny 1930’s era bathroom, too.  Lucky for me I like lavender so much, since I see it every day!  We are proud to be one of the seemingly few homes in our primarily 1930’s/1940’s era neighborhood which still has many original features, especially in our bathroom.  We have lavender swirled Vitrolite tiles, powder grey/blue painted walls, and black and white tiled floor.  Odd combinations of colors were a popular craze starting in the late 1920’s…at least we don’t have colored fixtures, too!  Anyway, this architectural chat should postponed to get to “The Facts”.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% cotton brushed flannel in two prints – just under two yards of a purple and green floral with an aqua background, with an extra ¼ yard of a swirled purple print.

100_4669-compwNOTIONS:  Everything I needed was on hand already, only needs basic items: thread and bias tapes.

PATTERN:  Simplicity #3508, year 1940 (…this was such a lucky buy on Ebay, one of those where nobody bids and you get it for the dirt cheap starting price!)  By the way, look at this year 1940 Hollywood #544.  This Jane Wyman pattern is just about an exact copy of Simplicity #3508!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  From cutting out to finish took me about 3 hours.  It was finished on February 27, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  raw but nicely stitched over

TOTAL COST:  These fabrics were bought so very long ago (maybe 10 years back) from Hancock Fabrics, so I’m counting this as free.

This nightgown is a great example of a small niche in the decade of the 1940’s – pre-WWII times.  The fashion from 1940 to 1941 (and maybe 1942, for a stretch) has a very unique style in my eyes.  It shows strong influence of the styles from the decade before, the 1930’s, so much so that some early 40’s designs can be similar to as far back as about 1936.  Yet it is still the 40’s, too, so that lends its own touch to the styles.  The popular Tyrolean/Slavonic/Germanic designs of the late 30’s and the Latin American prints which spawned of the “Good Neighbor Policy” of 1933 was another way that influences carried over into the 40’s as well with such items as pinafores, peasant styles, dirndl-style embroidery, fun border printed skirts and dresses, Xavier Cugat music, novelty brooches, and unusual hats (like turbans, for one example)…this is just a short list.  Besides, rationing wasn’t in effect as of yet in America and our country’s designers were just beginning to hold their own against the other leading fashion headquarters of the world.  I see in the early 40’s a glimpse of something similar but yet apart from the rest of what 1940’s fashion became – it also gives me the sneaking haunch that had not WWII changed and influenced so much, the decade could have looked much differently than we know it.

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My duo of matching/contrasting flannel fabric has been something I’ve been holding onto for about a decade because I liked it so much and also because I wasn’t up for sewing nightwear until just a few years ago.  My original intent was pajama pants, but no – I have enough of them.  One night when I was in the strong mood to wear a vintage nightgown, I had finally felt I was holding onto the flannel long enough and laid my pattern and fabric out in the early evening and started cutting.  By late night (our bed-time) I had a new, glamorous nightgown.  Oh, thank goodness for uncomplicated, easy satisfaction projects!  I love it when you can start something and wear the results on the same day!  So many early 40’s patterns were labeled as simple-to-sew, when really they are complicated by today’s standards.  This nightwear pattern has no easy-to-make labeling, but it is truly a breeze.

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Perhaps the other best part was the fact there is no need for any closures.  No zipper, no snaps, no ties – the bias gives enough, and the pattern sizing is generous enough that this just slips on over my head.  No facings, either – just bias tape finished edges all around.  How easy can it get?  The flannel body keeps me warm enough, the sleevelessness gives me just enough to air to keep myself from being too hot, and if I’m chilly I’ll just cover up with my housecoat…another tease of what’s in the next post, sorry!

Before I forget to add fitting facts – this nightgown did run large (like 2 sizes too large).  Granted some extra room comes from the double facts that flannel gets larger as it is washed and worn besides extra ease needed to make this a slip-on gown (as I said above). However, I sewed a full front and a full back and then sewed the side seams as my last step so the fit is easily adjustable.  The nightgown pattern also was originally oh-so-very long.  I graded out about 10 inches from the length.  I do not need to trip all over an evening gown length just feel elegant in my bed wear! 100_6236-compw

The bottom hem band of contrast was added not so much to extend length (although I didn’t mind) but just to provide a matching contrast which would pair well with the tie belt.  I didn’t want just the aqua floral, not that it isn’t so pretty, but I had kept the purple swirl flannel paired with it for such a long time the two deserved to stay together.

As lovely and simple and quick as this nightgown was to make, this was (at the same time) another unprinted, hole-punched markings pattern where the pieces do not properly fit or match together.  The bodice needed to be cut smaller to fit into the skirt and the gathers didn’t seem quite equal, and I think this is mostly due to the skirt portion.  I have read before that unprinted patterns can be off-balance, because of the way they were made.  Large stacks of many, many layers of sheet are die cut and if you get one towards the bottom, its markings can be off – and anyone who sews knows that every little variation counts towards a successful finished garment.  Oh well, this is a simple enough design it was not hard to adjust, so I’m sorry if I seem like I’m complaining…just making an observation for you all just in case you happen to snag this pattern for yourself, too…and do buy it if you see it, and if it’s not too much for your wallet!

100_6224a-compwThere are plans in the works to use this pattern again, believe me.  Out of all the patterns in my collection, this one is a true asset in the way it is a good base, a tried-and-true starting point to tweak and draft off many other variations, especially some of the ever popular 1930’s era bias gowns.  Just imagine how this design would hang and drape in a lightweight sweater knit or a silk charmeuse for a dress version!  My immediate ideas for re-incarnations of my nightgown’s pattern are Simplicity #3835 (year 1941), one of these 1933 dresses or this 1935 evening dress (both from “Eva Dress”), and even this super elegant Butterick #5413 (year 1933).

For now, I just hope to make the bed jacket at some point to keep the chill off my arms when I don’t want the weight of a full housecoat.  I did make a bed jacket from a different pattern, modelling it over this post’s nightgown (link to see it here), but this was actually a present for my mother.

Stay tuned for the next installments of my vintage nightwear reveal.  Now, to decide which night wear project for myself to tackle next.  I actually have three in the queue – will you help me pick the next one?

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Wallpapering a Tent

The idea in my title might sound ridiculous but hey, what if you really felt comfy in the tent and wanted to stay awhile? What if that tent’s ocular pleasantries are a bit ‘dated’ but still ‘old-fashioned’ enough to be cute? Well…what if that “tent” I’m speaking of is something worn in the form of an over-sized vintage nightgown, and the “wallpaper” is a quaint but soft cotton? Bingo! Hello year 1969.

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This project was not my own choosing or doing, actually, but was kindly passed on to me by my mother-in-law. It was begun by her and completed up to the point before the marking of the pieces and sewing them together takes place. I was tickled, happy, and (later during sewing) slightly skeptical of the finished project, but now I truly enjoy the nightgown and am glad I got to finish it. The nightgown was even sewn on the machine given to me by my mother-in-law, one which had been her mother’s. My Grandmother’s stash gifted to me provided the lace. By using thread to link the past and present together, I get to wear a piece of the family’s memories.

THE FACTS:Simplicity 8457, year 1969 nightgown and bed jacket pattern

FABRIC:  It is a very soft but also quite sheer (va-voom!) printed cotton that might have a small blend of poly…but I’m not sure.

NOTIONS:  Every notion came from what I had on hand – two colors of bias tape packs, ivory thread, two buttons, and some lace (from my Grandmother’s stash)

PATTERN:  Simplicity #8457, year 1969

TIME TO COMPLETE:  As I mentioned above, the preliminary work was started for me, but what I did do took me about 5 or 6 hours to do. The nightgown was finished on February 19, 2016.

THE INSIDES:  I made sure all the edges are cleanly finished inside in either French seams or bias bindings.

TOTAL COST:  Zero!!!

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The size to the nightgown seemed to be a bit on the generous size for my proportions but having a roomy nightgown almost always is a good recipe for comfort, I figured. The original fabric pieces were cut out with a slight up-grading of about ¼ inch on all seam allowances. As the pattern was a size up than what I needed, I cut off the excess to make the medium precisely. Then, as the nightgown turned out, it is a good size for me. I have made several other Simplicity patterns from about 1968 to the mid-1970’s in a size medium, too, and they also fit me well. Hmmm…perhaps these run on the small side.

Luckily, the scraps that were leftover had been kept with the fabric pieces and the pattern. I needed those scraps for some pieces which hadn’t been cut out yet – a continuous lap-style placket for the front button closing and a neckline facing. With the scraps still available, I decided to go all out with the dated look and cut out a collar (which also didn’t come with the nightgown as my mother-in-law gave it to me).  My thought was, I enjoy collars, doing one wouldn’t take much extra time, and the large baby doll style was cute in the cover drawing. Nevertheless, I do not like the collar as much as I had hoped but it isn’t that bad, either. In the back of my mind I think the chest placket would look a bit basic or empty without it. However, the delicate lace around the collar wins me over to it.

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Speaking of the lace, my Grandma’s stash (as I said above) provided the most lovely, delicate, deep ivory lace that I could have wanted. It was a length which was just enough with perhaps 5 inches to spare for under the edges of both the collar and sleeves. Speaking of sleeves, they were originally cut to be quarter length but I shortened them by 3 inches. Cropped sleeves and the thin lace felt more in keeping with the rest of the nightgown to balance out the large amount of fabric everywhere else.

As easy as this was to sew together, it seriously was overwhelming and almost hard to find the seams when working with it at the sewing machine. There is so much fabric for the long length version…which is why it truly seems like a tent when I’m not wearing it. However, on me, the excess fabric seems quite nice and in proportion to the rest. This nightgown is an extreme example of how different something can look on its own compared to when on a body. When I held it up to show my hubby, he said the nightgown reminded him of something to wear to go camping. “Why?” “Well,” he came back, “if it wasn’t so thin, the whole family could stay warm under that nightgown.” That was a creative –albeit unexpected – thing to say, and funny to think about! I’m still laughing to myself just writing it! I think my calling the nightgown a tent had something to do with his idea…

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It actually took longer than I realized to wake up and hear the thought in the back of my head regarding the fabric’s print. I knew that the more I looked at the heavy layer of white in that repetitive vertical design I was always confused, like I was thinking, “this can’t be fabric”. The pastel colored bouquets in between the white swirls were the most annoying part of the print ‘til I was lying in bed on day and I saw the outdated floral wall paper on our ceiling (yeah, we need some renovations…). Eureka – wall paper! I’d finally pinned down what my mind was thinking without my knowing it. This fabric truly needs to have glue spread on the back of it and be pasted up on the walls of a movie set for a retro disco-era background…just don’t do that now that I’ve made something from it. Seeing remnants of this fabric actually got my dad to talk about memories of his Grandmother’s walls. Gosh, it’s amazing what a fabric can do.

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I did not follow the instructions as to where to work the button holes and buttons and decided to stick to my personal taste. A touch of claustrophobia keeps me terrified of anything which fits too tightly around my neck. Thus I left the chest free of buttons and only chose two over-sized pink pearl buttons to close the lower third portion of the placket. With no interfacing added into the placket (or anywhere for that matter), making a button hole in this thin fabric was a frustrating nightmare but nothing a little hand-stitching and some “fray check” liquid couldn’t fix. I’m still a bit frustrated that I took the time to make nice insides but sew such a crummy button hole. So goes life – at least this only happened to a nightgown and nothing made for wearing out and about.

DSC_0087a-compThis nightgown reminds me of an important point. Having one’s own taste is important, and recognizing that fact is even more so. Just because something is “out-of-date” or not conforming to what current trends tell us to put on doesn’t – shouldn’t mean you ignore your own likes or dislikes. To a point, those who rely on “ready-to-wear” are restricted but for those who sew…the possibilities for self-expression through what you wear are endless! When fashion is in the hands of one whose knows how to manipulate paper, fabric, and thread…THAT is a powerful, satisfying, source of enjoyment.

Sure this nightgown is odd, by hey, I’m glad to get to try it out and, gosh, it is comfy to lounge about and sleep in. It is so curious in so many ways, and between me and hubby we’ve thought of several ways of looking at it which make us smile. Since when is different bad?! So, in the end this is one of the strangest ways of liking an unexpected project. Who would have guessed? Perhaps a new and unexpected style might be just the “palate cleanser”, “trial for your skills”, “branching out of a style rut”, or “trip down memory lane” which shows you what you never knew you could like. Who doesn’t like something new?!

Plush Pillow Time à la 1971

So often nightwear is neglected in one’s sewing in favor of clothes that do get seen in public. However, why shouldn’t a seamstress treat herself to her own creations when it comes time to unwind and relax? She should…just finding the time is the challenge! I’ve already made a trio of pajama separates for my hubby using a 1946 pattern (blog post here). Now, it’s time for my own nightwear to come about 🙂

100_4287aWhat better pattern to reach for to make my first nightwear than a family pattern – one which has already been tried and true with memories attached?

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a polyester knit crushed panne velour – a fancy and soft cheaper modern alternative to real velvet. It is in beautiful ice blue color.

NOTIONS:  on hand already100_4264

PATTERN:  McCall’s #3035, year 1971

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Easy as pie! From start to finish, which was on December 12, 2014, my nightgown took maybe 5 hours or less.

TOTAL COST:  As the velvet was bought quite a while ago now, and all the notions were here, too, I’m counting this night gown as free! Zero cost! For anyone else, or if I had bought fabric and supplies, this nightgown still would be very reasonable to make, as it is simple and can be made with a small amount of fabric.

This night gown has been long overdue and years in the making. Back in 2006, I bought this blue panne right after making a fancy top for myself in the same fabric, just in an ivory color. It was then I discovered crushed panne velour to be an easy care, rich looking material. Even then I had plans to make this into nightgown, but I didn’t have a pattern assigned. The only thing I knew I had to have on my panne nightgown was very frilly, feminine, features. So, I remember rummaging through my mom’s stash and pairing my ice blue panne with some old-fashioned lace, the kind which has satin ribbon run through it, along with some skinny ribbon, woven with a floral vine pattern down its length. All these notions were still bagged up with my velour when my parents passed it from their stash to mine a few years back.

100_4293aThe McCall’s 3035 pattern I used for my night gown came to me from my mother-in-law. I asked if she remember this pattern, and – yes! It had been made out of a floral flannel, using the long and cozy view seen at the far right of the pattern front. However, when I had opened up the pattern to judge which view I was going to make, there were three fairly major pieces missing – the night gown back, the back neck facing, and the long sleeve. This meant I was a bit limited, as well as restricted because I only had two yards of my blue panne to work with for my night gown. The pattern pieces are luckily so very simple in their shapes, and do not need precise fitting, thus I was able to make things work.

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Check out those “panties” included in the pattern…so cute but hilarious!

Studying the cutting layout and pattern piece diagram, the back and the front pieces of the night gown’s body looked almost exact. As I was missing the back, I simply cut out two of the front (eliminating the front slash opening markings for the back). I really barely had room for the short sleeves the way it was, so the missing long sleeves weren’t needed. If I do make this pattern again with long sleeves, it would be easy to use a substitute sleeve from my cabinet of patterns. The length I chose for my night gown was more or less in between in long and the short versions…it was all I had room for on my fabric. The missing back facing was another easy fix (for me at least). I drew my own pattern piece based on the back yoke neckline’s shaping and width.100_4265

The night gown went together in a flash. Back and neck facing very nicely self-cover the raw edges of all the gathers from the lower night gown body. As much as I like velvet and/or velour, I do not know why there was no memory of all the terrible fuzz that gets everywhere as you sew. Literally, I had fuzz sticking to my hands and my nose, fuzz caking my feed dogs on my machine, fuzz covering the fabric edges making it hard to find the real ends. What a mess!

100_4292All the fancy trimmings were added after the night gown was done, except when it came to the sleeves. The sleeve instructions were showed to do them in a manner I’ve never seen before. How fun – something new! About 2 1/2 inches away from the sleeve edge, I sew down 1/2 single fold bias tape as a casing running parallel to the hem. Then the instructions said to measure a comfortable width around one’s arm, add the seam allowance to each end of that width, and cut the total length out of 1/4 inch non-roll elastic. The elastic is run through the bias casing (gathering the band) and tacked down so the sleeves’ seams can be sewn together. Ah, I didn’t forget to add the lace to the edge before doing the gathering! Having the elastic ends sticking out of the sleeve seam allowance is not the most comfy thing in the world to have under one’s arm, but it sure made for a different and challenging way to gather a sleeve cuff.

100_4283aI like the idea of living in everything I make myself. It really puts a smile on my face and make me feel self-sufficient. Besides, now I don’t have to be perfectly presentable and go out of the house just to wear my own clothes. It’s also nice to make a rounded out variety of garments. Being someone who sews on a weekly, almost daily basis, making my very own vintage night wear, especially one with a family tie, feels relaxing in its own right – though not something that generally is seen, it’s something made for me, to be myself in, and treat myself to a little luxury I would never buy (or find) otherwise. Pillow time here I come! I’m ready to unwind in my own premium, handmade style.