Bloody Blitzkrieg Dress

“We have to move on – all of us.”  – Peggy Carter, in Season 1, episode “Valediction”

Starting off a whole new year always can be a basketful of emotion – including forethought and contemplative hindsight…and new, calculating, resolutions which may or may not result from the previous two.  Whether you are upbeat or downbeat, I’m letting some of Peggy (of Marvel’s “Agent Carter” fame) inspire me with a dress she had on while uttering her best, most inspirational quotes.  I’m including one especially in my mottos to remember for the New Year as I wear a sewn “Agent Carter” look-alike 1940s burgundy wool dress with Peggy’s trademark floral pearl earrings (also self-made).

Just busy doing filing work at the S.S.R. office…

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“I know my value…” is perhaps the best line Peggy is known by from Season one.  This is a short, to the point one-liner which needs some potent self-confidence to pronounce properly.  Knowing one’s own self-worth and humbly but proudly believing in it is invaluable.  Hmmm…sewing for oneself also provides a healthy dose of self-assurance (from both the creative “high” and the new dress excitement).  Thus, here’s a newly made, awesome Peggy Carter dress to help me not just “step in her shoes” but step into wearing her clothes!  It’s like understanding a character on the inside by starting on the outside.

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She needed to be authoritative to hold her own in the 40’s when it was primarily a man’s world, so for her undercover mission to “rescue” Steve’s (I mean, Captain America’s) blood in Season 1’s episode “The Blitzkrieg Button” she went with a strong rich sanguine colored dress.  The center of her chest is tightly held together yet pulled open, like her emotions, while the rest of the dress is simple and subdued with the vintage pearl buckle and earrings giving just enough class.  I adhered very closely to the inspiration dress designed by Gigi Melton, even using wool crepe, while still basing it off a mid-1940’s vintage pattern (with significant re-drafting and re-sizing).

THE FACTS:simplicity-1016-yr-1944-wiki-pic

FABRIC:   2 yards of 100% wool crepe with burgundy Kona 100% cotton to line the dress bodice

PATTERN:  Simplicity #1016, year 1944.  My copy is actually a Juniors’ half-size 12 pattern that I bought for cheap because of its size and because it was missing pieces.

NOTIONS:  I had everything I needed on hand already from awhile back, all I needed halfway through was an extra spool of thread and a zipper.  The buckle is vintage carved shell.  The flower backs that are put between my ear and the pearl of my earring are simply buttons (LaMode style #46455).

dsc_0998pa-compw-peggyTIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress took me at least 20 hours (I stopped counting after that) over the course of a week and a half (much longer than my ‘normal’ time spent on a dress).  It was finally finished on January 11, 2016.

THE INSIDES:  I started off with good intentions, so all the skirt seams are French.  Then, I realized this project was involved, so I went to bias bound seams for all the main edges (side seams).  The armholes are left raw…just wanted it done enough to wear when the end was in sight!

TOTAL COST:  The wool was bought on clearance for dirt cheap when there was a Hancock Fabrics store closing in 2015.  I believe the fabric was two or three dollars a yard – insane, right!!!  This is why I got about 5 yards…enough for a dress and a vintage coat (to be made yet).  The lining for the bodice was a remnant bought at Jo Ann’s Fabric for only 4 dollars.  So I suppose my dress came to a total of about $10 with everything, notions included.

First off, making this dress was a beastly affair, one that I wrestled with insensibly for being such a basic shape.  This was a hard way for me to start off my new year of sewing.  The pins keeping it together scratched me mercilessly, the seams of the lined portions were too thick, the dress kept falling off my machine into a dusty corner of the basement, and almost every dart had to be adjusted and taken in many times post-completion.  This isn’t counting the unpicking (which I absolutely hate doing) plus the few times each day (between working on it) that the dress needed to be tried on just to see if my adjustments did the trick.  In all, it gave me trouble in every which way…all except for the neckline, which was the trickiest part as well as being the self-drafted part, and it turned out great.  It figures.  You know, I can take a difficult project, or even a challenging one, but one that refuses to co-operate no matter what I do is almost more than I can handle.  No kidding, sometimes fabric can seem to have its own mind.  Weird, huh?

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The wool crepe itself was great to work with, wonderfully smooth, free of itchiness, and flowing.  I know, bad me – a 40’s dress out of such a fine fabric would probably not be seen in the real WWII times unless you had a stash or saved up bunches from rationing in other departments of life.  However, it was the perfect color match to Agent Carter’s original dress, besides being something I both had plenty of on hand and never sewn with before.  All this is aside of the practical fact it is both soft and warm, perfect for the near freezing winter we’ve been having so far.

It was very serendipitous for me to have found several points of reference to go on helping me draft, make, and base my dress on authentic history.  Even finding these attributes were part of the reason I decided to go ahead and make this dress (which had been on the “back burner” of my mind since Season 1 in 2015).  I figured I had enough help and ideas to go on and another Agent Carter dress is always a good thing for me to have – so why not?!  Please visit my Pinterest board of inspiration for this dress to see the patterns and pictures that motivated me.

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Hey, Peggy’s dress and my own even wrinkle the same way…

This dress might not be “up there” as one of my awesome creations, but to me it has all the best that the 1940s has to offer for modern wearing.  It has simplicity of style enough (especially the back view) to be classic and not too obviously vintage, like some 30’s or 20’s fashions.  It also has practicality with the sneaky low-key pockets, ease of movement front pleats, basic short sleeves, and high neck for both warmth and demureness.  Yet, there is a subtle alluring factor keeping the dress so feminine – the low slashed front opening with interesting pleating.  I think the floral of the earrings and the pearl of them and the buckle breaks things up (besides dressing things up) just enough, with the rich deep color and different finish of the fabric lending a richness.  Not meaning to toot my own horn here too much, but, hey – I guess it shows how much I really like this dress!  All that effort was worth it for me to end up with something like this.

dsc_0991a-compwAs the base for my dress, I was looking for a very basic mid-WWII pattern with a high neck that had a tie.  I found it in Simplicity #1016 and my first step was to trace out a copy on sheer medical paper then hack, resize and adapt it.  Being a teen size, I added a swath of horizontal 2 inches above the bust, under the chest, right at the level of the bottom of the armhole to bring the bust, waist, and hips down to the right proportions.  This sort of adjustment has always worked before when I’ve re-sized Juniors’ patterns from the 60’s and 70’s, and it worked this time for the 40’s too!  Then I added in an overall 4 inches to be on the safe side since it was for a tiny size.  As I was working with a copy, I had leeway to add in the inches properly, vertically across in increments and not just on the center or on the side seams.  I believe my problems with fitting came merely from the pattern running large and me not completely accounting for the extra room coming from the front details.  The junior-to-adult change was right on.

dsc_0960a-compwFinally, I re-drafted to add in the pleats.  The inspiration dress had ties pulling the chest opening open, sort of like ties on curtains, but I wanted something sewn in place to give the same immovable illusion so I drafted slanted, sun-ray-style, open pleats underneath.  I had done similar pleats when I made my 1940s dance dress, Simplicity #1587 (posted here), in a different direction but I just studied how it was drafted and turned it around (like figuring out a puzzle piece) to see how it would work in a different angle.  Then I chose how wide I wanted the darts, how far apart, and how long then slashed and taped accordingly.  Looking at the envelope backs of my inspiration patterns also helped justify that I was on the right track.  When it finally came to stitching the front bodice together, it was an awesome moment when I realized that not only did my drafting work but sewing is like working on a flat plane yet seeing through it to create in 3-D.  Sewing is really so insanely awe-inspiring…some times more than others make me perceive so much.

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The neckline ties were still sewn on as the pattern originally planned, except I folded them in, tacked them down, then brought them back out from inside to form the band that seems to ‘pull back’ the pleats along the chest opening.  It was almost more hand sewing than I could handle invisibly stitching the tie strips in place arching upwards along the neckline.  The tie strips wrap around to end lapped over one another at the back neckline.

Agent Carter’s original dress has a full back zipper as the method of closure – seen in adsc_0995a-compw fleeting screen shot when she hangs up her coat in the S.S.R. office (on the episode “Blitzkrieg Button”).  Now, I hate to criticize full back zippers in 40’s dresses because I’ll confess to having sewn them in some of my own garments, besides the fact that the original dress by Gigi Melton is too lovely to find fault with.  However, with all the fine details to my dress (much hand sewing, wool crepe fabric, etc.), I wanted to go all out authentic 40’s and have only the side zipper in conjunction with a working front closure in the neckline details.  Ugh, was it tough to figure but there is a hidden hook-and-eye where the neckline meets.

Now, besides the front neckline, I also changed up the pattern a bit more by eliminating all the small gathers and sewing darts in the same place instead, both above and below at the waist in the skirt and in the bodice.  This smoothes out the silhouette and makes it simple and unfussy, like Agent Carter’s dress.  This was not a problem anywhere else but in the skirt front.  I made darts at first, but after the rest of the dress was done, I went and made two knife pleats in the front instead.  These type of pleats in the front of skirts and dresses were used more in the early 40’s before rationing started being enforced, but these are only two in number and not very deep so these are a plausible effect to a 1944 design – the pleats also compliment the neckline!

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At first, I considered leaving out the pockets, but they are discreetly unnoticeable on this dress and always so handy!  They were sewn as if in a really basic welt pocket method and yet sort of like a facing – right sides together, sewn in a small loop, slashed and turned in to the wrong side.  Then half of the entire pocket was sewn to itself and turned towards the middle.  Easy!  I’ve never seen pockets like this yet.  They’re not hidden by some clever trick or made to look like part of the design, just basic and practical.  I love the 1940s!

What I don’t love about the 40s is the harsh facts of the bloodier side to the decade, like the Blitz that the dress I made is remotely associated with.  England endured the Blitz admirably.  Germany, late in the Blitz, began to start dropping some its very successful heavy high explosive bombs, showing their aptitude for forward thinking inventions.  Both sides came after each other hard with the best of what they had – and sadly many people suffered in between.  Peggy’s dress and my blog title is not trying to be flippant about the blitz or England.  On the contrary – just as what happens in Peggy’s ‘life’ when she wears this dress, much of history is sad, powerful, and full of emotion but good nevertheless to learn of and re-visit at times.  Fashion is intertwined with history…the combo of a dress just as strong as the woman who wears it can do big things.

dsc_0972a-compwEvery woman could do with a little bit o’ Peggy in their life – it’s lovely.  I’m going to miss not having a Season 3 of “Agent Carter” this 2017.  She might not be relevant for this year but her message and persona is always appropriate.  We need non-super-power, down to earth, heroes like Peggy, onescreen-shot-close-up-in-bedroom-comp who can help you with her own attitude and outlook not just someone up on a pedestal, unattainable.

“I know my value…anyone else’s opinion really doesn’t matter.”  It was an attitude like this that got Britain through the awful Blitzkrieg.  It is always important and supremely empowering to believe with Peggy you do not need the world’s support to see yourself as awesome and capable.  Thank you, Agent Carter, for the reminder.

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“Jump-ing” Into the New Year

It’s been a few years since I made my first jumper – a vintage, warm and cozy fashionable (yet unusual) piece of clothing.  As I don’t want my single jumper to get lonely in my closet, I made a second unusual and very fun vintage jumper to kick start my sewing for this year of 2015.

100_4552-comp     Does it look like I love it?  I do!  It’s a little bit of mod and bold and uniquely complimentary all at the same time.  Ah… most importantly it is warm and versatile winter wardrobe piece.  Also, it was a stash busting project!  I have to laugh, though, at the fact that my jumper is turquoise in color.  Looking at the amount of projects that I make in this color, I guess some things don’t change in my sewing habits.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  I don’t really know, but at the same time, I do know.  I’ll explain.  This jumper’s fabric totally seems like a felt by its thickness and composition, but it also feels like a flannel by its softness and brushed pile.  So, to explain, I’m rather confused, but I’ll call it a felted flannel (if there is such a thing).  The content is probably cotton, but there might be some polyester or even acrylic in this fabric.  This felted flannel is backed in a 100% polyester, cling-free, matching colored lining for a smooth feel and fine finish.100_4600a-comp

NOTIONS:  Everything but the zipper down the back and front button came from on hand.  The zipper and button were bought from Hancock Fabrics, with the button being “fiber-optic” from their own “Lauren Hancock” brand.

PATTERN:  a year 1967 junior’s pattern, Simplicity #7255 (I love the studded gloves drawn on the center model!)

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My jumper was made in no time – maybe 5 hours or less.  It was finished on January 10, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  So professional and perfect, because of the very nice construction methods directed in the instructions.

TOTAL COST:  The felted flannel has been in my stash for as long as I remember, and the lining was bought a few years back, so I’m counting both as being free.  All the expenses are from buying the zipper and the button, which is a total of $3.00 or less…cheap, huh?!

Notice that this pattern is a “junior’s” sizing.  So I went back to the same method of adjusting the bust/waist/hip lines as for my last late 60’s junior’s pattern, which you can see by clicking here.  For that first junior-sized dress, I added in 2 inches horizontally at the high chest (above the bust) to lower all the bust/waist/hips at the same time.  After all, I measured and found out that the distance between the main sizing points is correct, just where those spots hit needed to be brought lower.  That same adjustment was done to this jumper pattern and, again, the fit turned out perfectly.  The dip of the side opening falls at my high hip, the bottom point of the front piece ends below my hip, and the decorative button becomes my “fake” belly button – all as the pattern shows.  I know all this sounds strange, and maybe a bit weird, but, hey…the jumper is from the “Space Age” and I do say I like to try new and different things.

100_4564a-comp     Speaking of “new and different”, this 60’s jumper pattern introduced me to a completely odd and never-heard-of-before sewing term for a specific part of clothing – “plastron”.  The back of the pattern envelope States that “the lined jumper with button trimmed plastron has slightly lowered round neckline, very low armholes, back zipper, and top-stitching.”  Apparently the plastron is the downward arching piece which ends around my hip into a tri-pointed keyhole on the front of my jumper.  Now, what exactly is the plastron?  It does indeed sound like some sort of super cool science fiction space story word…sort of like the word “dalek” from the British television series Doctor Who.

From the research I have made, a basic definition for a plastron is more or less and interfaced chest piece that fills the hollow between the shoulders and bust (based on “The A to Z of Sewing” by Janome/uk.com).  However, “Gertie’s Blog for Better Sewing” quotes a 1947 book- here –where a plastron is listed as a type of a yoke.  A basic dictionary definition of plastron has several general terms showing how this article of clothing has been around since the middle ages when it was a front piece for armor, and later a defensive protection for the sport of fencing.  The basic idea of a plastron, a separate piece of garment meant for covering the chest/shoulders, was incredibly popular in the 1830’s into 1860’s as well (see this wikipedia page). During those eras, it was popular for women to appear to have wide shoulders, and also use pieces which covered, protected, or fancied up their bodices with such plastron style pieces as a fichu, or a tippet , or a pelerine (see this Pinterest page for a picture of a pelerine).  A pelerine appears to be the closest and1959 dress oldest thing to what we know as a plastron, being that they both are made from the same fabric as the rest the garment, are trimmed and decorated, and have a high neck.  Now, both you and I can properly recognize a style that has been used for many centuries.  I have a 1940’s plastron dress to post about soon and a few 50’s plastron dress patterns I would like to find (such as the 1959 dress at right), so keep watching for this neat style across the decades!

100_4566-comp     After my failure at attempting to make a funnel neck (back when I made this 1968 corduroy dress), I had little interest in making the pattern’s version with the high collared turtle neck.  Although it does look neat on the cover drawing, in all reality I don’t think I could pull off the collared funnel neck view, styling wise.  A turtleneck if definitely a necessary item of clothing to wear with this jumper, anyway, big funnel neck or not.  I have searched high and low with no luck at finding a wild colored paisley turtleneck like the one shown on the cover model at far left – but I do have another late 60’s pattern in my stash to make my own copy at some point.

Anyway, let’s talk about being economical!  Making this jumper using 60 inch width material took even less fabric than the amount listed on the back graph of the pattern envelope.  That is always a nice surprise to be able to make something great on so little fabric.  In total, I believe the jumper only used 1 1/3 yards.  The suggested fabric types also leave this jumper to be made out of practically anything a seamstress might possibly have on hand: cottons, synthetic blends, denims, fleece, linen, double knits, woolens, gabardine, and corduroy.  This is one sensible but strange pattern.

100_4557a-comp     The jumper itself went together in a flash, even with completely lining the insides and covering every seam.  I found the pattern construction methods to be amazingly smart, and for once I followed the instructions almost 100% (only once in a blue moon do I do this).  You sew up the back, connect it to the plastron at the shoulders, and also do the same for the lining.  Then, you sew the lining (wrong sides out) to the jumper fabric all along the back half of the armhole and all the way down and around the plastron.  Turn right sides out, top stitching completely around the edges except for a few inches away for the side seam edge.  Now the zipper had to be installed so the neckline facing could be sewn on.  Next, the bottom front of the jumper had the armhole edges finished off in the same way as the back/plastron piece, lining to fabric, wrong sides out, with right sides turned out and edges top stitched.  I covered the inner raw edge of the bottom front with bias tape before lapping the plastron over the lower front to make one whole piece.  To my happy surprise, the marks to match up the plastron on the lower front matched up so very perfectly, making things incredibly easy.  Last but not least, the side seams were sewn up in one continuous line of fabric and lining so that the top stitching around the armhole bottom could be finished.

100_44381960s vintage home sewing ad frm Miss Dandy blog Aug 7 2009      A 1967 poster for this jumper pattern was found on the internet, with the singer Beverly Ann as the “popular face” to promote sewing this project.  I find it interesting how just top stitching on the plastron in different lengths from the edge changes the jumper’s front.  In the old poster, Miss Ann‘s jumper has the plastron’s edges sticking out dramatically because I suppose it was sewn down about 2 inches in from the edge, looking like a real breastplate.  My own jumper was sewn about 5/8 inch from the edge, making seem to be more a part of the overall jumper.  I like both ways, and can’t decide which I like better, but as my jumper is made how it is, I’m suppose I’ve decided already 🙂

The last decision on the hem finishing was difficult for me because I wasn’t quite sure what length to choose.  On account of adding in the two inches to adapt in from a junior’s measurements to normal proportions, the bottom length came to fall a few inches below my knee.  The jumper, from the hips down, fitted like a very nice, straight pencil skirt, and I felt the hem would look best quite short.  Adding a little “hottie” factor would not be a bad100_4441 thing, anyway.  However, most people I know who lived the prime of their lives in the 60’s and 70’s seem to look back and cringe at the mini-mini lengths they wore for those decades…and I did not want to completely revisit those days.  Thus, my jumper is shorter than what I am used to, but still long enough to be conservative.  The lining is just an inch shorter than the jumper itself, and free hanging separately, attached at the side seams by thread chains.

100_4423     It is funny how just a little bit of different styling changes the theme of the jumper between blatantly junior’s into modern flashback retro.  Knowing about the styles of the era and observing the pattern envelope, I enjoy pairing matching/contrasting colors of my turtleneck and the tights worn with my jumper.  The different toned yellow colors as seen in these second pictures, together with my hair pulled straight back into a low messy bun and basic flat shoes, seems like the junior’s theme for the jumper.  I don’t need any help looking younger than I am.  100_4563a-comp

So, to make an adult theme, I paired it with my knitted beret hat, a basic white mock-neck top, cranberry tights, chunky socks, and suede boots.  This second modern adult theme is my favorite and warmest way to wear my jumper.  The boots you see are Italian leather and were my mom’s boots, bought for some ski trips she took with my dad in 1979, so they are about a decade off in years from the era of my jumper, but they add a special fun and warm touch to my outfit.

Even with being bundled up, I was quite cold in the picture at right and used my jumper as a sort of muff to warm up my hands.  Look for more pictures of the different ways I use and wear my jumper loaded soon to my Flickr page.

100_4433     Creating a garment like my ’67 jumper highlights one of the best benefits to making one’s own clothes – you can try new and unusual styles, something you can’t find or get to wear otherwise.  To me, making one’s own wardrobe is all about exploring one’s own tastes in style, attaining a fit uniquely one’s own, and finding enjoyment from being open to endless possibilities which come from fashion being in the hands of the individual. Being an individual keeps you from turning into a boring, uniformed robot, like so many who wear exactly what the advertising industry tells you is “the thing”.  Sure, I keep up with trends, but just enough to know what’s going on and recognize quality or a vintage style feature when I see it.  This 1967 jumper might be different…and I like it that way.  Will you help me end the fast-fashion, advertising-brainwashing of our modern culture and make your own wardrobe, too?

Leaf Piling in Plaid

Leaves can be the curse or the joy of the season of fall.  So also, plaid prints can be the bane or the delight of those who sew and work with fabric.  Either way, if you want to move on to other things, both have to dealt with at some point.  So why not enjoy leaves and plaid at the same time?

I chose a simple shaped year 1928 Past Patterns reprint to make an earth-toned plaid dress perfect for fall’s transitional weather.  The straight lines and simple shaping of a late 20’s dress was also perfect to take the stress out of plaid matching.  A giant sycamore tree supplied the leaves to enjoy and an old Art Deco vitrolite decorated building provided the time-rewind backdrop.

100_4117THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  My plaid dress fabric is an incredibly lightweight, semi-sheer 100% cotton.  The plaid pattern is woven as part of the fabric, which I suppose, combined with the natural cotton content, technically makes it a textile and therefore quite historical.  Then, I go and ruin the historical bragging rights of my dress by lining my plaid fabric in a modern 100% cotton broadcloth (although broadcloth isn’t too UN-historical).  As you can see, the brown cotton broadcloth also went towards making the side godet/gusset inserts and the necktie.  Both fabrics were bought from Hancock Fabrics store.  100_4129

NOTIONS:  I only needed thread, but later on, when I also needed a zipper, that was in my stash too.

PATTERN:  A Past Patterns reprint #2792, Ladies’ and Misses Dress with Kimono Sleeves: Circa 1928-1929″.  Simplicity 4365, year 2005, was used for the godets added into the side seams.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress was completed on October 13, 2014.  I spent maybe 15 hours to finish this project, not too fast but not over long of a time either.

TOTAL COST:  The plaid cotton was super cheap on their ‘spot the bolt’ discount – I got everything on the bolt (only 1 yard and 28 inches) at only $2.00 a yard.  The brown broadcloth was on sale for $1.99 a yard.  Altogether, my total for everything comes to about $10 or less.

The sizing for this pattern showed measurement which were way too large for my size.  Naturally, I thought, “o.k, it needs to be graded down”.  I was technically right, but boy was I wrong.  However, this dress is another happy case of a mistake turning into a ‘design opportunity’, making my project even better than originally imagined.

100_4125     It seems that 20’s patterns have their own funny way of fitting…like, not at all!  No, really, they are based on straight rectangles, with no accounting for the reality of womanly bust/waist curves.  This fitting coincides with the ideal shape for the 20’s: a flattened bust and an elongated waist-less silhouette which focuses only on the hips.  Fitting was tailored in a unusual, unique, and subtle way that I myself have a hard time attaining in my 20’s projects, especially for my tango knickers.  From my experience, a 20’s pattern technically needs to be a size or two too large for you to fit…I am not joking.  I have a few late 20’s original McCall patterns, and they fit the same way – if you make sure the bust fits, then the rest of the dress (outfit) won’t fit, and it’s not just because of my hips.  Women are naturally hip dominant.  That being said, 1920’s patterns run tight in the hips, large in the bust, so you naturally have to go up in the era’s sizing.  Then, it might just lay on the body the way it should for the era, as long as you provide the proper 20’s shape underneath.  For example, the bust of my finished dress originally did not fit (it was too tight) when worn with a modern brassiere.  You have to wear something that flattens or at least offers low support to get the proper 20’s look and fit when you’re lacking period authentic foundation garments.

100_4019     Even though it was not completely the right move, I am proud at how well I figured the down grading of this 20’s pattern.  I divided the amount to take out in two (actually four) increments vertically between the aches of the dropped waist.  My picture shows grading for one of the bodice pieces.  Look how perfectly rectangular the piece is shaped, like I mentioned above.  Actually, grading down gave me just enough room to squeeze in all four pattern pieces into my small cut of plaid fabric.  Remember…I was only working with 1 yard and 28 inches of a 45 inch width fabric – yikes!  I folded the selvedge edges into the center and was thus able to place all four pieces (a front and back bodice, a front and back skirt) on a fold edge.  I would never have thought something like my finished dress could be made from so little fabric.

Here is a pattern which practically had no thorough assembly clarification as do modern instruction sheets.  There is merely a short paragraph and a picture or two to guide you, even less than the little that was given for my last Past Pattern, my 1931 dress.  As long as you know sewing and construction methods comfortably well, Past Patterns’ 1928 dress pattern should be rather self-explanatory coming together.  My method was to prepare both the skirt front and skirt back, as well as the bodice front and bodice back.  Next the bodice front was lapped seamed on the skirt front, and the same for the back sections.  Next the full front and full back were joined at the shoulder seams so I could do the neckline facing slash and necktie.  Finally the side seams were completed last…this was when I tried the dress on myself and realized (oh no) it was way too snug of a fit to be a proper 20’s silhouette.

100_4122100_3997     Ah ha!  No sweat – I had the ideal happy solution for the snug fit in my head!  Many skirts and dresses between the years 1910 to 1930 used godet inserts, a triangular piece of fabric usually set vertically into the hem of a garment to add fullness.  Their use faded somewhat in the 40’s and 50’s, and were mostly forgotten thereafter.  See the 1910 ladies walking skirt, this “Stylish Woman of 1928 in Day Dress”, or Eva Dress’ 1930 Dinner Gown, and also my own “The Artist” movie look-alike dress to see uses of godets through the 1910’s to 1930’s.  Thus, a godet was the perfect solution in more ways than one to fix the fitting issues of this 1928 dress of mine.  The use of the side godets being in the contrast on my dress also lends my dress a sort of “tabard” appearance, another fashion style used intermittently all the way from the Middle Ages into the 50’s and 60’s.  (See this 20’s style tabard dress and this 1963 dress for two examples)  Beyond all my historical proof, I love the way the brown godets were the model fix for a perfect fit, giving me a graded amount of extra room.  I personally think my dress looks better with the contrast godets than if it was without.  Between you and I, however, I did opt to add a zipper in the left side for ease of dressing.  The zipper is pretty invisible (I think) sandwiched in between the dress and the godet fabric under my arm.

I want to make a point that I found the dress length to be very, very long.  I had to make a 5 inch hem to bring it up to a decent 20’s style length.  The arched hip/skirt seam seems to fall in the right spot on my body so I really don’t think the dress needs to be shortened from out of the bodice area, just from out of the skirt section itself.  There is a blind hem done at the bottom of the skirt to make the large 5 inch turn up invisible.

100_4109     Using plaid for this Past Pattern makes sewing the dress extremely fun and easy.  Folding in the box pleats was merely a matter of matching up lines of the plaid.  This minimized the necessity of full chalk markings, which, in the end, saved some time.  Now you can see how the dress was quite easy and not too challenging to make, but a tad time consuming at the same time. 1926 vertical jabot dress pattern ad-cropped

My plaid 1928 dress is ridiculously fun and extremely comfy to wear – totally an easy play, shop, work, and general do-it-all in vintage style type of garment.  The only thing that stumps me is the decision to tie or not to tie the long neckband.  It looks so cute both ways!  According to this vintage 1926 magazine ad for a pattern, it looks like ladies wore it both ways.  Which way do you like?

There are plenty more pictures, especially some extra detail shots, on my Flickr Seam Racer page.  Also, if you’re interested (like me) in some amazing history tidbits, pop on over to ‘History Orb.com’ (link here) to get some ‘wow’ moments as you run through the info.

Year 1943 – My “Workday Style” Plaid Skirt

I have found that, for myself, once a weakness or fear is conquered in regards to a certain sewing skill, that it then becomes something very enjoyable to do.  Such good feelings happen because I end up with more confidence towards something which had been a boundary.  I don’t want any walls to hold me back from what is possible.

This plaid 40’s skirt falls into that rank of “confidence building projects”.  I wanted this to be a very casual, comfortable, unassuming wartime wardrobe staple – and my finished skirt most definitely fulfills all those wishes.  However, at the same time, I am hoping that my 1943 skirt has a special classiness that shows in the time and attention which I spent in meticulously matching all eight plaid panels.  So many RTW (ready–to-wear) store clothes sadly lack precise matching of fabrics which are plaids or stripes, and I hope that a skirt like mine inspires others to see at least one obvious benefit to making clothes for oneself!

100_2691aSimplicity 4602 cover drawing     Here in the above picture, I am aiming for a “Bomb Girls” or a sort of “Rosie the Riveter” look, as if I just got off from ‘work’ at the late Art Deco style factory building where I’m posing.  My blouse is also from a 1943 pattern, but it is a Simplicity #4602, (left picture) blogged about in a previous post (click here for link).

The waist band is a wonderful and unique 40’s design.  It was a bit more complicated to get it right than I realized, but it was still easy enough.  There is a similar skirt worn by the actress Ginger Rogers in the 1940 movie “Lucky Partners”.  Unlike my skirt, her look-alike skirt was part of lucky partners 2a suit and in a solid color, but the high, curved waistband is the same.  The pattern for my “workday” plaid skirt comes from a vintage Hollywood pattern which doesn’t have a famous actress or a movie directly associated with it, only the “four star” guarantee that it is a high fashion (for ’43) and quality design.  I would like to think I have found one source of design inspiration for the pattern used for my plaid skirt by finding the renowned Ginger Rogers wearing a similar style feature (see the scene in the right picture where she’s with actor Ronald Colman).

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The olive plaid fabric for my skirt has been in my stash for as long as I remember, so I am making a calculated guess as to what it is made of.  I am almost 100% sure it is a rayon and linen blend, and it might even have cotton, but there is definitely no synthetics.  The plaid fabric’s raw and nubby hand, soft drape, and open weave characteristics are very similar to the fabric I used for my “Geometric Lines” 1920’s tunic top.  However, my skirt doesn’t wrinkle as easily as the fabric for my 1920’s tunic, so I know there’s another unknown fiber in the content.  Whatever my fabric is made of, it is very comfy and easy to wear, but wrinkles like crazy when it’s washed and looks like it got rolled in a ball when it’s dry.  Ironing is a must!  The skirt is lined in a beige/tan color polyester (I know, ‘modern’) cling-free lining, which came from my stash as well.

NOTIONS:  Besides buying a zipper for the side opening, I had everything else I needed on hand: thread, interfacing, waistband hook and eye.hollywood1117_yr1943

PATTERN:  Hollywood #1117, year 1943. (I want to use this pattern to make the short sleeve ruffle blouse, too!)  I used a modern, basic, two piece skirt for the lining.  It was a pattern I have used before, Butterick 4522, year 2005.  This skirt is cut on the bias so it would ‘move’ and flow well underneath.Butterick 4522 skirts pattern yr 2005

TIME TO COMPLETE:  From start to finish, my plaid ’43 skirt took about 6 to 8 hours.  It was finished on April 6, 2014.

THE INSIDES:  The raw edges are finished like they would’ve done it in the 40’s – just a simple zig zag stitch along the raw edges of both the lining and the plaid fabric.  Self-fabric facing inside covers up the raw edges all along the waistband, while the lining covers up the inner seams to the plaid fabric.  The side opening edges were turned in and sewn down to make a clean edge before the zipper went on (see picture).  A large sliding style hook and eye holds down the waistband extension.   

100_2699FIRST WORN:  A vintage market fair was the first place I have worn this 1943 skirt.  I wore it with the ’43 blouse, just as you see it paired in my pictures.  I got a number of compliments from vendors who seemed to appreciate the fact I was dressed in authentic vintage.

TOTAL COST:  The only money spent on my skirt was from buying the zipper, and everything else was completely from my stash.  Thus the total cost is at $1.00.  There’s 40s frugality!

The Hollywood pattern I used for my skirt is my second unprinted pattern to use.  The white blouse I’m wearing in my pictures is the first unprinted pattern I’ve done.  I’m really liking unprinted patterns…or at least getting used to them.

I had to be quite careful to label which pattern piece was which, since the pattern has four skirt panel pieces (eight fabric pieces).  All those panels actually helped me match up the plaid, as well, since I got to use all the balance marks to align the lines properly.  The pattern also really impressed me with beautiful shaping and curves built into the pattern pieces around the hips and waist, especially around the side seams and…ahem…the behind.  I don’t see such beautiful details in modern patterns too often.

100_2696a     I had to grade up because my pattern size was too small.  The total amount I needed to add was four inches, but, breaking it down between the four skirt panels makes it much less intimidating.  A scant 1/4 inch was added to both sides of each skirt panel pattern piece to add up to a total of four extra inches. This wasn’t a big deal until I had to adjust the waistband.  I made a paper copy of the original pattern piece for the skirt then worked on grading up the copy.  I marked the front center, back center, side seam, and the rest of the spots where the skirt panel seams meet at the waistband.  Then I split the skirt waistband at each of those places where I marked so I could spread it open in intervals of 1/2 inch.  For some reason, adding only 1/2 inch to the waistband where each skirt panel comes up did not get the tabs to match up.  Only when I added 3/4 inch at the center front, center back and side seam did the waistband match the skirt.  You can see my grading work to the waistband in the picture below at left.100_2688

Lightweight interfacing had been ironed on to the back of the waistband pieces, even though the instructions made no mention of doing this.  I am so glad I did that step, because it helps the waistband keep its unique shape instead of wrinkling up.  After trying on the skirt before adding the waistband facing, I unexpectedly realized I needed to further adjust the fit for the curved panel to succeed.  I added a tiny 1/2 inch dart to the waistband side seam, while the each of the two waistband tabs at the zipper opening had 1/4 inch darts added right where the zipper meets.  The darts brought the waistband in slightly, shaping it to a woman’s curves, otherwise it would have stuck out stiffly like an ill-fitting corset.

100_2701     Two inches were cut off the bottom of the hem to bring it to a good length at my legs and make it even with the hem of the lining.  A longer length seemed to make the skirt appearance a bit more dowdy.  Besides, the shorter, below-knee, mid-calf length I chose would have been just right for the activities appropriate for a 40s woman wearing a skirt like this: gardening, biking, shopping, and the like needed to be done while still looking feminine.  I sewed a small 1/4 inch hem on my skirt, which brought it even with the lining hem by about a 1 inch difference in between the two (see above picture).

100_2698a     Throughout the entire construction process of my 1943 plaid skirt, I was very skeptical as to whether or not I would hate, love, or merely tolerate the finished garment.  About 90% of the time I was generally on the ‘hate’ or even ‘merely tolerating’ side of emotions.  However, as usual for many garments I’m skeptical towards, once my skirt was done and mRosie-the-Riveter-poster-satched up with shoes, belt, blouse, and even the right hairstyle, I could smile and honestly say I really love it!

Wearing my “workday” outfit put me in the mood to do my very own  “Rosie the Riveter” poster imitation.  I even turned our picture into black and grey tones to get an even better 40s feel to it.  Look at my muscle!100_2694-b     I am planning to build upon my 1943 skirt, adding to the aim of it being the foundation of a wartime wardrobe of easy separates.  Thi100_2851 yr 1941 suit sets coming Fall season, maybe early September, I would like to use another vintage pattern I own – a year 1941 Simplicity 3961, in the right picture – to sew up a suit jacket or suit style top to wear with this plaid skirt.  I have a nice rayon gabardine or linen in mind for the fabric, and either an ivory, a brown, or an olive green for the color of the suit jacket or top from Simplicity 3961.  I think a suiting separate will easily take my “workday plaid” into a higher “Sunday-worthy” sort of classiness.  The versatility of my new skirt is endless!

My 1946 Cotton Dress – It’s a Wrap!

There is faux fur, there’s faux leather, and a multitude of other imitation items, among which I have made myself a faux wrap dress.

This dress is made from one of my vintage original patterns, still in good condition for the year 1946.  I am proud of how well I redrew/re-graded this pattern to my size measurements – it gave me good practice in drafting and fits like it is made for me, which is true.  Another great point for this dress is the on trend color scheme (it has the Fall 2013 Pantone colors of ‘Linden Green’ and ‘Carafe’ brown), which makes it an excellent season transitional piece for my wardrobe.  All this ‘wrapped’ up into a soft and comfy cotton gives me one winner vintage 40’s creation!

100_1939bTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  3 yards of quilters 100% cotton, in a green floral ‘JoAnn’s exclusive’ print, which has been in my stash for as long as I know, so I’m counting it as being free;   1/2 yard of a mint green 100% cotton broadcloth, coming from a gallon bag of scraps bought at a resale store

NOTIONS:  I bought two spools of matching thread and a zipper;  I already had interfacing, snaps,  and the tan mini rick-rack, which was a great vintage original find (I’ll tell you more below).

McCall's 6724 -year 1946PATTERN:  McCall 6724, year 1946 (is it just me, or does the lady in black look like she’s wearing a bracelet around her neck?)

TIME TO COMPLETE:  no more than 5 hours of sewing…it went together in a blink of an eye!  I finished it on September 3, 2013

THE INSIDES:  they are done the old fashioned way: merely zig-zag stitched along the edges.  There were too many  corners and curves to do French seams.  Look at the back waistline detail of the V-point – so unique, pretty,  and dramatic as well as tricky.100_1987

FIRST WORN:  to my dad’s birthday party on September 9th

TOTAL COST: about $5

One of the things about finding and buying vintage patterns is the disconcerting fact that it might not be in your matching size.  I’ve been putting off sewing up my ’46 mock wrap dress since last year’s Spring on account of the re-grading and re-drafting which needed to be done.  Now I am happier that I’ve finally completed this dress.  Notice how the envelope drawing shows an insanely skinny “wasp” waist, not to mention it being two sizes too small for my body.  Using brown paper grocery store bags (free!), I traced the original pattern pieces, with all markings, against the glass of a window during the daytime – a natural light box.  Then I measured and redrew in the right amount of ease for the hips, waist, and bust to fit me.  Now I have a “new”, not-as-fragile copy of my old pattern plus the good feeling I get from both the perfect fit and knowledge learned.  Not a touch of fitting was needed which means I might be gaining confidence in my own pattern drafting.  This is the third project I have redrawn and resized for myself.

The layout of the pattern pieces was arranged a bit strange and complicated according to the instruction paper.  Leave it to me to find my own way of doing things!  I spent 3 hours trying to figure out the best way to fit all the “on fold” pieces in as well as all the others.  Very difficult, I must say, considering the enlargements that I needed to add to the pattern.  The large, strange shaped front drapery piece was throwing me off – I would arrange everything on my fabric, study it, then walk away to do stuff around the house while thinking if my figuring was correct.  The only way all the pieces fit in was by shortening the dress length so the hem ends right where the drapery ends, which look I like much better anyway.

100_1942     A mint colored scrap of broadcloth which I had on hand went towards lining the back of the bodice and was used to make the  fabric belt, also.  Why did I do this?   I lined the back bodice so I could have something to tack the neck facing onto and also eliminate any see through issues.  As far as the belt goes, I made the belt out of the mint broadcloth scrap because I literally could find no way to fit the pattern piece in on my floral fabric.  Besides, a matching/contrast color seems better for a belt with this dress anyway.  On account of only having scraps to use, I had to cut out the belt in two halves and sew up a center seam.  Talk about making do!  I really like how the belt ends fan out – what a fun design lacking in modern patterns.

The mock wrap has some smart design elements.  The two front bodice pieces had three tucks at the one end, which together made a dart which matched with each other as well as matching to the back bodice.  My dress’ front under skirt section has darts sewn in at the waistline for shaping, just like any pattern.  But the drapery is cut on the bias and as it gets stretched across the waistline…voila!  The darts matched up perfectly and the drapery fits nicely over the tummy, using the bias of the fabric to achieve a nice fit and hide the under skirt darts.  Notice there are three darts sewn into the side of the skirt drapery too.  All edges have facings sewn on them for a nicely finished look but – oh – were those facing pattern pieces were a bit unexpected.

100_1943     In the close-up picture above, I hope you can see some details.  Soft greens are highlighted by subtle touches of a Carafe brown in the printed fabric of my dress.  You might notice my small tuck sewn in vertically along the side of the bodice darts.  Ah, yes, I suppose I did do a slight fitting alteration – I took in the wrap part slightly so it would lay nicely across my chest instead of poufing out.

As I mentioned earlier, take note in the picture of the tiny rick rack along the front edge of the mock wrap.  They just don’t make rick rack that small easy to find anymore.  How it got on my dress was a happy circumstance.  Without a front decoration my dress seemed more like a nurses uniform.  This tan tiny rick rack matched so well, better yet, is a vintage find that was bought at THE SAME STORE from which I bought the pattern used for my dress!  The rick rack was truly dated, wrapped around the piece of an old cereal box.  It seems the notion and the pattern were just made for one another!

100_1949     I’ll tell you one thing, I am DONE with those silly side zips that end a few inches below the armpit and only make you wiggle and struggle just to get your dress on yourself.  For this dress, I extended the zipper all the way up to under the armpit.  A small piece of bias tape was used to make a double snap placket to keep the zip closed and protect my skin. (See picture at right)  Doing full side zips this way is the new normal for my vintage dresses from now on…I love it.  It’s so easy and much more handy to slip into…why not!!!  It’s either this tactic or back zippers.

My automatic reaction to the tricky V of the back waistline was to do a lapped seam.  However, I though better than to change the pattern.  Just reinforcing the point with stitching then clipping to open the point worked out quite well.  To my surprise, neither of these sewing steps were mentioned in the brief instructions…maybe it was assumed the sewer would know what to do. 100_1948

The curve of my lower back is a spot that fits funny in many other patterns, but fits great at the dipping V back waistline of my mock wrap dress.  The picture below may not be the best; however I hope you can see something from it.

Come to think of it, this mock wrap dress is actually the second dress I have made from the year 1946.  My first one was a Vintage Vogue reprint, #8728, with the gathered bodice, click here to view this project.  Both my 1946 projects have good things going for them: great comfort, season spanning, and a simple classy design.  I can now understand why dress patterns such as my mock wrap and the Vogue gathered bodice were popular among women of the 40’s – a lady can look nice and comfy with out necessarily feeling dressed up!

100_1940