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