An “Audrey’s Style” 1953 Gingham Blouse Re-Fashion

Audrey Hepburn in slim cigarette pants and crop topThe year 1953 was an important year for the popularity of the British actress Audrey Hepburn with the release of the movie “Roman Holiday”; 1953 was also the first year the “Utility Scheme” of clothing rationing was over for post-World War II Britain. Complete rationing wasn’t over in Britain until July 4, 1954, and the fashion industry was rearing and ready to go with a new trends, among which was the popular Audrey Hepburn’s style of casual chic – skinny leg cropped “cigarette pants” and flat loafers or ballet shoes. Skinny tops or cropped tops were often worn from the waist up with this style of dressing from the waist down. Large gingham was also branching out beyond homespun wear and tablecloths, seeing new popularity starting in 1950 and lasting through the decade. Therefore, I have re-fashioned a modern blouse into something hailing back from the early to mid-50’s to honor Audrey’s classic, effortless look.

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Just to clarify, my gingham blouse is the only part of my outfit that is made. The skinny fit black cropped pants are mine from about 20 years ago, bought RTW and still fitting, yahoo! The turquoise hat seen in some of my pictures is an authentic vintage 50’s item, in beautiful felt and with a velvet brim. Please notice my necklace of a charm-sized pair of golden scissors – it’s my new favorite silent “spokesperson” for my love of sewing!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  One “Mossimo” brand gingham tunic shirt, bought maybe 10 years ago from our local big box store “Target” in a girl’s size XL (extra-large). Its’ fabric is a nice and wrinkle-free 100% cotton. Underside the collar is a basic black poly/cotton blend broadcloth, made from scraps on hand.100_6372a-comp

NOTIONS:  I only needed thread…always kept on hand.

PATTERN:  Vogue #7975, a year 1953 pattern

TIME TO COMPLETE:  I took one evening to make this re-fashion, maybe 2 or 3 hours on October 16, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  Nothing special…raw and loose.

TOTAL COST:  Zero! A re-fashion made with everything which was on hand is the best new item because it is free and oh-so-sensible!

As I think I’ve mentioned before, there are indeed forgotten and untouched spots in the racks of clothing in our house. I’m pretty sure most of us all have this same condition. In my case, I seem to always gravitate to the wearing the garments I made or at least tailored and altered (for good reasons which you can probably figure out), rather than wearing any RTW store bought items. Thus, sometimes when I want something new to wear, rather than turning to my fabric bins I attack those uninteresting store bought items in my wardrobe to turn them into something I actually do want to wear. I figure the more I keep up this practice, I am going to have a complete wardrobe of all handmade garments I do want to wear. Not that it’s a bad thing to donate, but I am keeping out more clutter from the overloaded amount of unwanted and unloved clothes besides merely being thrifty. I have something on hand already…so I’ll enjoy the challenge of transforming it into something which fits and looks better than the original. It’s like shopping without spending anything! “Make do and mend” ideal isn’t just for the 1940’s era. If more of us used our existing sewing skills to not just make but also tailor and transform our existing wardrobe items, I think more happiness with what we have and more satisfaction with our personal style would prevail.

100_6367-compIn any case, the original blouse no longer fit my shoulders too well and I wasn’t happy with the overall look. Besides, its proportions were all off. My first thought was the one I went with for my re-fashion – to take advantage of the multitude of pin-tucks. I remembered I had a special pattern with some awesome pin-tuck details from the 1950’s, which was the era I wanted to go with the “new” blouse anyway. Bingo! It’s like figuring in that the pin-tucking part was already done for me and it was perfectly similar to the pattern the way I laid it out.

I made the new shoulder line begin at the old bust line, thereby cutting off half of the pin-tucks on the chest. The original pattern was designed for a separate button placket to be sewn on, just like on my original blouse, so I figured that into the pattern as already done and left it untouched as it was. An existing button was lined up at about 5/8 inches down (my chosen seam allowance for this project) from the center front so I have a closure at the very top of the finished neckline. 100_6370a-comp

The back lines of the new blouse needed to be lined up with the front, and this was quite challenging. You see, both front and back I wanted (actually needed) aligned because I was keeping the existing side seams untouched. The shoulder seam and collar of the new back panel were so much higher than the front for fitting purposes, but thankfully, I was left with just enough of the old horizontal back shoulder length to use for the collar.

Fitting in a new armscye was tricky because I also was keeping the sleeve seam untouched. What I did was roughly measure around the length of the armscye on the sleeve to get an idea of the finished circumference. Then I laid out a measuring tape to the same circumference from front shoulder seam down and around up to the back shoulder seam, marking the path of the u-shaped dip with chalk. Next the shoulder seams were sewn together and the sleeve then set in. I know this might not be the best or most professional way to do this, but you know it worked and provided me with a perfect fitting shoulder. I do a good amount of what I do in sewing by some sort of instinct, naturally knowing in some 6th sense how something will fit and/or work. What will work for me might or might not work as well for others, but at least I can explain my process to you. Getting how you did something “out there” is always good for others to know, whether it worked out in the end or not, for knowing and trying is part of learning in the sewing experience.

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Pin-tucks leftover from the front of the blouse were included in the front corners of the collar closest to the center. Black broadcloth is on the underside of the collar just out of necessity because there wasn’t enough original gingham for another collar, but this was no problem…a few scraps sufficed to cut out something so small. I left out interfacing the collar because I wanted to keep my blouse nice but easy and casual. Where the collar joins to the blouse, the seam is invisible because it’s hidden inside. It was sewn like many collars – one side is sewn to the blouse, the other side’s seam allowance is turned under and both top-stitched down “in-the-ditch” for a flawless finish. The little notch in the pattern’s collar design was rather hard to get sharp enough as I would have liked and, even if I don’t make this pattern again (unlikely), personally I’d like to try like this collar again, if only to redo it. I think it needs to be re-drawn into a more dramatic arch to get a more dramatic notching, as it seemed to me that no amount of clipping close to the stitching can get a good inverse corner following the existing seam allowance. Nevertheless, this collar is subtle but still special, especially with the several rows of pin-tucks across the ends.

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At first, I had planned on a contrast collar, either a lace one trimmed in bias tape or a broadcloth one, both in black. I still sort of wish I had gone with my first thought for a more modern, punk style blouse. However, I was left with enough extra self-fabric, so “Hey…I might as well match,” was in my mind. The matching collar sadly disguises to notched detail and the pin-tucking added. It also seems to make for blouse a bit more cute, and “baby-doll-ish” than I had expected, although making my new blouse more period accurate and more suited to being Audrey Hepburn’s signature “Gamine” style.

“Gamine” is a French word, according to Wikipedia, originally meaning “urchin, waif, or playful, naughty child”. It can be dated back to about 1840, but it wasn’t until the last 80 years it has come to be known according to its English meaning “a slim, often boyish, elegant, wide-eyed young woman who is, or is perceived to be, mischievous, teasing or sexually appealing”. Most of us know of the “Gamine” look of the 1920’s (flappers), but it really wasn’t until Audrey Hepburn’s popularity in the 1950’s when this term became more of something which conveyed a strong sense of style and chic.

The specific “Gamine” style Audrey had in the 1957 movie “Funny Face” was something Funny Face poster 1957 - Audrey Hepburn's costume test for 'Sabrina' from 7-21-1953which she originally refused, especially in regards to the white socks, according to a firsthand movie tidbit from the Director which you can read here. Previous to “Funny Face”, this general style of body hugging bottoms and simple understated coordinates was launched by Audrey in the 1954 film “Sabrina”. Her flat shoes do a lot to keep her style sweet and classic versus heels (which would instantly create a pin-up, bombshell aura). Interestingly enough, the second actress which popularized flat shoes, Brigitte Bardot in the 1956 movie “And God Created Woman”, gave flat shoes a sort of “hot and sultry” look, so I suppose it depends somewhat on the wearer what ballet shoes can do to an outfit. Ballet flat shoes, or slippers, have been around for a very long time in some form or fashion, in old Roman times but especially in the 1600’s being worn for men and women alike until resurfacing again in the 20th century with Hollywood’s help. For myself, I’ll admit that with my tiny feet, I love wearing simple flats. I’ll also admit I am part tomboy, but not enough to fully pull off the “Gamine” look in this post’s pictures…at least I tried! It’s sort of like attempting a conflict of interests trying to be an individual while copying someone else, isn’t it? It’s fun, though.

Do you have a style icon that is incredibly interesting to you? Have you carried over that particular style in your clothing and/or sewing?

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Geometric Lines of the Times – My 20’s Inspired Tunic

Here is one project that couldn’t help the way it turned out!  It was one of those special garments that kind of makes itself…and in this case, that is a VERY good thing.  I merely knew what era I wanted (the 20’s), knew what color (mustard yellow) and fabric (linen blend) I wanted to be working on, then, with plenty of fashion research, did whatever seemed right.  I can’t lay claim to any one specific pattern or garment as an inspiration.  The finished tunic is simply my best expression of the Art Deco styling I love about the 20’s.  There is a one-of-a-kind historical accuracy about this tunic that seems so perfect for our modern times just as well as 90 years ago.

100_2199a     This is the second 20’s inspired tunic top I have made.  My first one can be seen here.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  I used 3 1/2 yards of a 62% linen/38%rayon blend fabric.  It has a loose weave, almost like lightweight burlap (perhaps you will notice this in some close-up shots), and has a slightly scratchy, natural feel to it.  The color is a unique mustard yellow that has a bit of green undertones in the shade. 

NOTIONS:  I only needed thread, so, with such an odd color, I did buy one matching spool of Dual Duty thread.   I also bought a pack of golden yellow pearlescent square buttons for the back closure.

B6140Butterick 4230PATTERN:  I used a modern out-of-print pattern to make my tunic, on account of its similar fit to 20’s style clothes.  It is a Butterick 6140, year 1999, view F, shortened and without the pockets.  I also used one of my favorite patterns, a Butterick 4230, year 2004, for the long bell sleeves.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This top was unbelievably quick and fun!  It was done in a total of 10 hours, and it could’ve been less but I took my time enjoying this project.  My 20’s tunic was done on December 3, 2013.

THE INSIDES:  The neckline is self-encased by the second layer of fabric (the tunic’s main body is double layered).  The side seams and sleeves are French seams, the back center is a clean finished (turned under), my shoulder/sleeve seams are raw zig zagged edges, and the bottom hem is covered by brown lace hem tape (see right picture). 100_2589

TOTAL COST:  somewhere around $15.00

HISTORICAL ACCURACY: Relatively accurate; I built upon ideas from old original posters.  (The posters below are “Australian Home Journal, March 1, 1930” and “L’Echo de Paris” newspaper fashion page from the 20’s)  I believe I only used sewing methods and fabrics that would have been available for the 20’s/maybe early 30’s.  I also opted for a simple self-fabric loop and button closure since zippers (or technically slide fastener) were not widely accepted yet in the 20’s. 

100_2592    The basic tunic, like I mentioned above, went together in such a flash you could’ve blinked and missed it.  I made some slight changes to the construction to suit my needs, such as doubling up the main body of the tunic and shortening the dress pattern to a hip skimming length. Double layering the body helps my 20’s tunic hang better and it guarantees no see through.  Besides those reasons, I was able to easily make a cleanly finished neckline without facings.  How?  I sewed the four shoulder seams (two on the ‘lining’ top and two on the ‘good side out’ top) first, then sew the entire neckline and back button placket with the right sides together, and wrong sides out.  When the right sides get turned out, the neckline merely needs a top stitching to cleanly set everything  in place, and the rest of the tunic (side and back seams, hem, and sleeves) goes together as normal.  I have done this “doubled-up” method to other projects (link here and here) so as to simplify an already easy project.  I love anything that helps me make the most of my time!

My Butterick 6140 had never been made up yet, and I’m surprised that such a gem in my pattern cabinet never got noticed before.  Such a basic pattern has great potential in my eyes, especially knowing now that it fits me “to a T”, needing no adjustments to be my instant perfect size.  There is just enough ease in this dress pattern to really be a pullover (perfect for the relaxed 20’s styles) without any difficult wiggling to  get into it, either.  You bet I’ve got a few knockout 20’s dresses in mind to make using some spruced up reincarnations of the dresses from Butterick 6140.Home Journal 1920'sParis 20's drop waist dress poster

At first I had planned on adding a bow and/or a collar once my basic tunic was sewn together, like the three poster ladies in yellow above.  But once my tunic was together, a bow at the neck just didn’t seem like it would work well, and I began tending towards taking a different style, a simple Art Deco.  I loved the vertical stripes on the dress of the lady in yellow (from the “L’Echo de Paris” poster).  I still wanted the brown/yellow day suit combination on the left half of the “Home Journal” poster.  Over the course of a few non-sewing days, I did some passive brain crunching to figure out a simple, decorative way to add a Deco design.  Self-fabric tubing and ribbon were some of my first ideas of what to add to my tunic, but I was wanting something more simplistic.  Using tiny pin tucks to jazz up my tunic gives me the perfect answer to my design desire.  The pin tucks also give me a combo of both inspiration poster pictures – I get to be truly authentic while also true to my personal taste.

Art Deco designs are characterized by rich colors, bold geometric shapes, and anGatsby line preview embrace of technology, as seen in many architectural designs.  For a recent reference, see the line designs of the opening credits (see left small picture) in last year’s “The Great Gatsby” movie.  With this in mind, and with my adoration for the mathematician/designer Vionnet, I made the measurements and lined pin tucks on my tunic very precise, symmetrical, and exact. My sleeve hems end at 1/2 inch above the tunic hem, to compliment the tunic and create a square look.  Remember, my back neck closure is also a square button.  The ‘V’ neckline adds another geometric shape.  The two rows of pin tucks are on my left side, and 1 1/2 inches apart from each other.  The first row starts 1 1/2 inches away from the center of the tunic.  What number do you get with 1 1/2 inches times two?  That’s right, the horizontal pin tucks start at 3 inches up from the bottom hem.  How’s that for someone (like me) for whom math isn’t a strong point.    100_2190

I did the lines of tucks on the front only, at first, then, after talking it out with my hubby, decided to extend the lines around and back up again.  My left sleeve also was bestowed pin tucks when I discovered it was slightly longer than my right one.  I guess I had done a slightly imperfect hemming job but it was turned to my advantage because the tucks made the sleeves equal in arm length and matching with the design on that side.  I measured and double checked to get the sleeve tucks perfect and I’m proud of how cool it turned out.  The horizontal pin tucks on the left sleeve lines up exactly with the ones on the left tunic side, creating the illusion of a continuous line when my arm hangs down (which you can see in the 100_2585apicture, if you look closely).  A corner turner was a necessary staple to keep the two layers of fabric together to make all these pin tucks at only 1/8 inch big.  The tucks are also tapered to end at the neckline as well as on each side of the side seam because these spots were too thick to go through (see small picture).

100_2201     Modern RTW items helped my tunic turn into an outfit.  A staple in my closet – an Old Navy brand skirt – became an era appropriate match for my tunic.  With the skirt’s “high-low” hemline, bias cut, and knit fabric I suppose this outfit I put together would be a late 1920’s style.  Check out my shoes!  They are “Maxin” by Chelsea Crew, found at ModCloth or DSW, to name a few providers.  Bought at a good price, my shoes are so comfy!  I think they are THE piece that ties my outfit together with my tunic, both era wise (having the 20’s t-straps) and color wise (very rarely do my shoes exactly match when it comes to such an odd color).

Our photo shoot location was at two 20’s/30’s era buildings a few blocks away from our home.  It’s so fun to try to match my outfits I make with era appropriate locations around our town; it gets us out to explore and pay attention to what’s in our own town!  Several passerby’s who saw our photo shoot really seemed to enjoy watching our photo shoot and I hope I brought to life a past era for them.

I certainly enjoy imagining myself back 80 or 90 years ago, when these buildings were new…I’m hoping I would fit in wearing my handmade tunic.  The thought of “would I fit in if I were in year -” is my true historical test for my creations.  I happily feel that my geometric pin tucked tunic passes this test.

100_2183      The picture above is showcasing a very decorative doorway lintel, dating from the 20’s/30’s.  This is the second photo shoot taken under a Deco doorway lintel found in our neighborhood – the first pictures are at my “It’s De-Lovely” blog post.

In this second picture, I’m posing in front of a different building, dating to the 20’s, carrying an old original sign, “Frank Hardt Memorial Medical Building”.  It is our photo shoot’s second building (and also in our neighborhood), still serving to fulfill medical purposes as a family owned pharmacy which has proudly been around for 80 years.

100_2210    What’s cool is how it’s actually hard to tell the two buildings apart, other than these two last pictures.  Both buildings share the same builder, even though they’re a half mile apart!  You just can’t get a better example of Art Deco architectural art in the area where we live, than the two buildings which we included in our photos.

Strutin’ My Feathers – A 1937 Pin-Tucked Satin Blouse

The peacock and his feathers have long been very symbolical, and its popularity seems as immortal as its typology.  However, in the 1920’s, the peacock began a new emergence of popularity.  Suddenly it’s fan shape and distinctive eye feathers were reproduced everywhere – in fashion, as decorative building motifs, and even as bouquets.

Peacocks have a very personal connection for me and my family.  My mom was once chased down by a peacock, and my dad can do a peacock call all too well.  When I was little, my mom also hand made a very elaborate peacock costume for me one Halloween. (She sewed me a train with more than a dozen long peacock feathers that I could lift up by my wrist bands…so creative!)  Therefore, it was a no-brainer when I saw a peacock printed fabric – I had to buy it.

I bought that peacock fabric and transformed it into something from an era suited to the peacock’s popularity.  Using my favorite (and only) original 30’s pattern, I now have a wardrobe go-to favorite.  I believe my 1937 blouse puts together a smashing vintage look as well as offering the best fit and comfort ever!

100_1892THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a matte peachskin silky print, 100% polyester, bought from JoAnn’s

NOTIONS:  I had the cranberry thread, clear snaps, and bias tape; I only bought 2 packs of see-through orange ball buttons, a cranberry colored zipper for the left side opening, and brown roping

PANTONE CHALLENGE COLORS:  Emerald green, Mykonos blue, and Koi (orange) all in small, but frequent patches throughout the fabric print

PATTERN:  McCall 9170, with the date of January 1937 stamped on the envelope flapMcCall 9170

TIME TO COMPLETE: 8 or 9 hours stretched out over the course of a week; it was finished on March 20, 2013

THE INSIDES:  French seams on every seam, except for the bottom hem and the sleeves, which are covered in Koi colored bias tape 

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FIRST WORN:  to church on Palm Sunday, with the green, bias cut wool skirt seen in my pictures (we had a heavy snowfall earlier that morning)

WEAR AGAIN?  YES! YES! YES! Love it!

TOTAL COST:  $20 or under

I really have almost no Fall/Winter/Spring blouses in my wardrobe.  That’s what helped cinch the decision to just make the top, actually the long sleeve version, with out the whole big project of the rest of dress to sew with it.  Besides, I wasn’t quite sure how this pattern would run -big or small – and I didn’t want to fiddle with it enough to find out ahead of time.  In the end, my peacock satin blouse did run small, but just small enough to still get a perfect fit.  This was one of only a handful of projects which did not need a single touch of adjustment…made just for me!

100_1887     The construction details and the sewing method of putting this blouse together greatly impressed me.  This McCall’s is an ingenious pattern, much better than modern patterns, with an assembly that teaches some excellent new and not as commonly used techniques.

First and foremost, I enjoyed doing the old-fashioned way of sewing the sleeve placket.  The finished look is smooth and unique.  It totally makes up for the extra time spent.  In the pictures below I am showing you how I did the sleeve openings.

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In the left picture, I have the small facing square, right sides together, with the tabs at the end of the sleeve matching.  I have stitched in the shape of a long and skinny U, then sewed a line down the middle of that U.  In the right picture, I have cut out closely around the middle stitch from between the U stitching.  Next, I turned the facing square wrong sides together, top stitched around the opening, and stitched down the turned under edges of the facing.  See the picture below right.100_1130

Both sleeve ends get gathered into cuffs that are designed to look more like cufflinks.  The instruction sheet said nothing about adding interfacing to the cuffs, and they are fine without it, but I will add it if (or when) I make this again.  In lieu of button holes I sewed on clear snaps, under where the button is sewn on,  to keep my ‘cuff links’ together.  If I ever find some cool vintage cuff links I might end up adding button holes, but snaps work just fine for now.

100_1897     The collar placket was the most time consuming and challenging part of the satin blouse. It required lots and lots of hand stitching with some intermittent hand picking of seams.  The whole thing was so twisty I had to do much stretching and clipping of curves just to achieve the lapped seams needed to tack the collar to the bodice.  Then, I had to sew on self-fabric facings to the entire collar!

100_1894    I took my time to get my corners just right on this ’37 blouse.  My picture at left does show off my gathered pouf sleeve caps, but the picture below especially captures the most tricky corner of all – the one where the front and back plackets meet, around the bottom of my neck.

I saved the loop closures for the buttons for last, wanting them to be more a decoration and not just purposeful.  My knowledge of tying ship’s knots was utilized for the loop closures.  I finished off the ends with Fray-Check and securely sewed them down.  I love how the fancy loops bring attention to the button placket in a good way, showing off my skills and hard work.100_1895a

Did you notice all the small pin-tucks, front and back?  There are 4 down the front (two on each side) and the two down the back meet each other and open up in the middle so I can move my shoulders freely.  The far front bodice tucks actually conceal a cleverly placed hidden dart.  There  is a bust shaping dart sewn first, starting from the top where the placket gets sewn on and ending at the bust point.  Only then do I sew the pin-tucks down.  How very clever!  The bust gets shaped from the chest area so as to take nothing away from the trim, but slightly blousy shape of the rest of the top.

We have a large but beautiful building used as a telephone company switchboard hub, just a block or two away from where we live, with numerous Art Deco details all over the window moldings and especially the railings. This is where we took these pictures.  Looking at our pictures when we came home from this photo shoot, we realized the railings match the feathers in the fabric of my blouse.  The same brushed, feathery shaping is shared in both.  What a happy coincidence!

100_1885     I like to show you some bonus pictures of my 1937 blouse, just for fun.  Hopefully our pictures convey how well fitted, smartly designed, and extremely comfortable my blouse is for me to wear.  My blouse is one of those projects that reminds me of something –  I’m so blessed to be able to sew my own clothes.

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