Wrap Around the Border Print Dress

I suppose I’ve been watching Wheel of Fortune, the game show of hidden words and phrases, to come up with this post title!  It’s a “Before and After” line.  No really, border prints are my newest fascination this year.  When I’ve combined such a fabric with a wrap-on vintage dress pattern, my post title somewhat sums up the awesome result.

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Of all the dresses I have made yet this year, this is the dress that is hands down my favorite – that’s saying a lot!  It doesn’t sit in the closet for very long and gets worn almost every other week.  It is the perfect balance for me between fun yet classy, professional yet casual, cheery yet uniquely subtle, and totally easy to dress in yet body complimentary.  This dress is made with my ultimate favorite fabric –rayon challis – and although it is a wrap dress with no zipper, sewing it was still a very good challenge (which I love).  It fits me so well and is comfy as all get out.  I think that about covers all I could possibly want out of a dress!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% rayon challis, with a small scrap of cotton for the neckline facing

Simplicity 5034, ca. 1963, the wrap-around dress, comboPATTERN:  Simplicity 5034, year 1963

NOTIONS:  Nothing but thread and a little interfacing were needed, which I had on hand

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress was finished on March 21, 2017, after about 7 hours of time spent on it.

THE INSIDES:  I began by making all seams bias bound, but then I saw a few holes in the rayon so I lost heart to make extra effort on the insides and left the skirt seams raw and unfinished.

TOTAL COST:  This border print rayon was bought as everything was on clear-out when Hancock Fabrics was going out of business.  It was an awesome $2 a yard for about 3 yards – a total of about $6!

The fabric is mostly red, white, and navy blue making this my un-official Independence day dress for the “Colors of the Flag Challenge”, also known as the “4th of July Proud Dress Project”.  That’s why I paired my red coral bead necklace (made by me, as well) with my comfy and lovely leather B. Makowsky red patent, 60’s style pointed flats.  However, there are also small tinges of turquoise and golden yellow.  Also, when you look at it, the print is really three leaved clovers, like the wild and neglected greens which grow in my country’s roadsides, cow-fields, and backyards (in our case).  Now a plant that gets eaten, stomped on, and neglected has its time to look beautiful.

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The border print was only printed along one selvedge, and it is just about the widest I have seen (about 20 inches deep).  So out of all the inspiration images on my Pinterest board for border prints, I went with a basic layout of keeping the border along the hem and the sleeves.  I also, went for a longer midi length to this dress just so I could use as much of the full border print as possible.

Now, for being from 1963 this doesn’t look like the conventional 60’s dress does it?!  This is a tricky deceiver, again proving to me that the more I look at the early to mid-60’s, the stereotypical hippie style that this era is most known for was certainly not at all around until after the halfway point in the decade.  Before 1966, the overall era is still strongly influenced by the 50’s.

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This wrap-on dress pattern is also something I have had my eye on for the past two years before now.  Finally, I can actually have a wearable garment from my long awaited pattern!  It was one of those patterns I know I’m intending on buying, only it carries a price tag I’m not willing to accept.  So then I wait and selectively stalk the internet every so often just to find one (finally) find at a steal of a price.  I have a number of patterns that I’m doing this same ‘waiting game’ for, and I usually do end up finding an awesome deal eventually.

The actual sewing was quite easy, but the skirt waist pleats more than made up for that!  More on that in a minute, because before that the bodice, it’s facing and sleeves, then the full skirt piece with its pockets had to be sewn together.  The ‘side seams’ are not really on the side; they are off each side of the center front.  A few inches next to those seams, the pockets get set in like somewhat like a cross between a welt and a button placket.  With the skirt piece prepped, I now had one gi-normous rectangle to work with taking up my entire kitchen floor.

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Now, I have seen a few versions made from this same pattern, and most of them were fails because of the pleats.  I totally understand why!  The waist pleats tested the limits of my sewing understanding, and were actually blowing my brain.  This pattern is so ingeniously designed, but the most amazing details are so low key the dress only has an aura of classy simplicity.  To sum things up, a handful of pleats get made first, then another percent of the pleats are made over the ones already made, while rest of the pleats get layered in a opposite direction over only a few of the existing pleats.  I needed the skirt pattern laid out just under my fabric skirt so I could mirror the instructions because no amount of marking kept thing straight, and even still I barely made the pleats correctly.

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At first, the tailoring seems haphazard with no rhyme or reason but once the skirt was on the dress it suddenly made sense.  They were all carefully placed, after all – there are two darts at the skirt were it wraps under to keep things smooth, the biggest pleat layers are at the front hips to ‘hide’ the welt pockets, while the most basic pleating is at the back skirt wrap.  What I cannot figure out yet is the pouf of the pleats seen on the cover – perhaps that ‘look’ comes with a petticoat or using a stiffer fabric?

There are a few details worth noting about this pattern, so that if you do snag your own DSC_0361a-comp,wversion –and I recommend you do – you will be informed.  First of all, the bodice is quite long compared to other 60’s era patterns.  I realized that fact only after I was finished with the dress.  It is really close enough to not be something causing me to unpick and re-sew or detract from my overall fit.  As long as I keep decently good posture (which I should be doing anyway!) the waist is at a pretty good spot, but for my next version (Yes! It will be in cotton, too) I will shorten the bodice at the middle.  The center front neckline, for as high as it already is on me, was actually lowered by about ½ inch.  As much as I love a beautiful boat neckline, this is again something I am ok with as it is, but will slightly change and re-draft differently next time.

Finally, the V-back neckline does have the tendency to gape open and droop off the shoulders without some sort of small help.  My immediate step was to add snap-closed lingerie straps at the tiny shoulder seams to hook onto my underwear.  However I wanted another option not including anchoring the dress to my lingerie, so I sewed the tiniest size hook-and-eye that I had to the back neckline edges where they cross.  The DSC_0363a-comp,whook-and-eye was sewn just underneath and at an angle to the very edge to keep a natural, un-recognizably “tacked down” appearance to the back neckline, and they are just enough that I really don’t need to use the lingerie straps.  Yay!  Fitting crisis averted, style lines kept unaltered, and easy fixes found.  Although this wrap dress hasn’t got a zipper, it does end up having a great fit I never thought possible with a garment that just is thrown and tied on!

This is a project that definitely made me ‘work’ in a good way for a final garment that I love and feel proud wearing.  I would have never guessed a dressy house frock would have given me such a challenge but that is the awesome beauty of using vintage original patterns.  They always have much more than meets the eye…you just have to dive into them to find what good surprises they have to offer.

Speaking of surprises, my dress doesn’t exactly have as much of an overlap to the wrap as I would have liked and it does sort of open up to a ‘surprise’ flash when the wind blows.  Sometimes I safety pin the flap down, but most of the time I don’t…and then this can happen.  I hope the secret message of this photo tells all!

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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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Year 1933 McCall’s Reprint Set

With all my recent criticism of modern “Big  4” pattern companies’ reprints of old original patterns, my budget is nonetheless limited when it comes to buying all the old sewing patterns I would like.  (Guess you can tell my ideas are bigger than my budget!)  Thus, in the spirit of being open-minded as well as needing a resource for more variety of past years to sew from, I do still use the re-releases with some misgivings.  Recently, in my effort to understand and sew the early 1930’s, I have used two of the first releases from McCall’s “Archive Collection” – a skirt and tie-front blouse for an ensemble from 1933, worn with my vintage 30’s Dr. Scholl’s brand shoes.

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Both pieces, and particularly the blouse, do have the classic 30’s look of easy sophistication with ‘simplicity-yet-smartness’ of its design.  Both are feminine and flowing yet a bit structured in their own way.  The blouse is one of the many designs of the early 30’s which had interest going on over both the chest and neckline (visit my Pinterest page for some visual examples).  Adding such details gave illusionary body lines, as well as ways to play with dramatic, inventive, interesting, or just plain weird ideas of how many ways to avoid a plain fronted blouse or dress. This skirt, as well as my previous 1930’s skirt, is in line with the style of Lucien Lelong, who in 1925 debuted his “kinetique” line of clothing.  Lelong over saw the creation of slim silhouettes with inset pleats that would pop open when the wearer was in motion but fall back into place at rest (quote from page 82 of the 2014 book of the FIT museum exhibit, “Elegance in a Time of Crisis, Fashions of the 1930s”).  This outfit is from the beginning of “sportif” clothing – the first modern means of dressing with both comfort and style for a new-to-the-30’s type of female…an active, independent, and collectively important woman.

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THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The Blouse – a 100% cotton Swiss dot fabric in a deep dusty peacock turquoise color; mccalls-6993-7053-ca-1933-pattern-compThe Skirt – a heathered tan oatmeal-colored 100% linen 

PATTERNS:  McCall’s #7053 for the blouse and McCall’s #6993 for the skirt, both “Archive Collection” patterns circa 1933

NOTIONS:  I used all of what was on hand – a vintage metal zipper for the skirt, vintage bias tape given to me from my Grandmother for the skirt, as well as thread and interfacing that I had already.

dsc_0519a-compwTIME TO COMPLETE:  Pretty darn quick – the blouse came together in 4 or 5 hours and the skirt in about 5 or 6 hours.  The first was done on September 23 and the second on September 26, both in 2016.

THE INSIDES:  The blouse inside is left raw (it doesn’t fray) and the skirt is clean inside with all bias bound edges.

TOTAL COST:  Both fabrics were bought when Hancock Fabrics was going out of business so both fabrics were only a few dollars a yard.  My total is probably about under $20.

I am quite happy with my finished outfit.  My all over outfit is completely authentic to the times with the fabrics I chose (especially the Swiss dot), the colors will span seasons and match well with what else I have in my closet, and the fabric textures add interest.  Early 1930’s patterns from the time of the NRA are expensive (to me), a bit harder to come by, and considered more collectible (at least from what I see) so this outfit is a welcome and oh-so-very wearable addition to my wardrobe of this decade.  I am itching to make the other long sleeve cowl neck view on the blouse pattern – it looks just as practical yet lovely for my growing amount of 30’s clothing!

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However, I do have lingering doubts that these are 100% true carry-overs of 30’s patterns as they are quite fabric hogs.  I know the 1930s patterns demanded more fabric than a 1940s pattern, but this was still Depression times and almost 3 yards for a blouse seems like almost too much.  I am not certain my claim is worthwhile because this was the era of both an aura of elegance and superficial extravagance, even if only to “keep up appearances”.  I have read other bloggers who have mentioned ad-for-1933-achive-collectionthis seeming incongruity of era and fabric demand seen on the envelopes.  These 1933 pattern re-issues also include a vest and a jacket, but each were released as their own individual pattern.  (Why? To make us spend more money?  It’s quite rude to do this for the Archive Collection when the regular patterns have sets in one piece!)  I am guessing this whole 4-piece suit could have been in one complete pattern set originally – this was common practice in the early to mid-1930s.  I have yet to find the original for these patterns, so for all I know I’ll have to believe McCall’s…for now. 

I did have some problems with the fitting of both pieces – they seem to lack good fitting in odd places and run quite large!  I needed to dramatically take in both the blouse and skirt as well as add more darts and shaping.  Generally, I made the same sizes I would have chosen had these been McCall’s traditional modern pattern, and the blouse and skirt are not the same as them nor are they the fit of old 30’s patterns I have sewn up before.

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First of all, the skirt needed more curving added in to both make the hips and waist smaller and more fitted.  Even with an extra two inches taken out, I still could have taken out more and curved in the waist better because it has a weird placement on me.  I sewed my “normal” McCall size – that’s what makes this fit so weird.  Since the waist is not fitted to my body while the hips fit better, this skirt hangs from the hips while the waist kind of floats in place.  Anyway, it is comfy being loose, and what I feel with the fit is (I think) not noticeable on me.  The cover drawing makes it look like the waistband panel should be snug and at a high point across the middle…I wish I would have achieved that with my version.  I tried to do so, I really did.

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Secondly, the blouse’s shoulders were incredibly droopy on me.  As the perfect fix, the back of the blouse has a Y-shaped dart system where the horizontal “arms” of the Y come up and over my shoulders and down into the wrap front.  The blouse is designed with a Y paneled front, why not do it to the back when it is the best option to achieve a well-fitting blouse?  Of course, this blouse is supposed to be loose and kind of baggy, but too much hanging in the wrong places and a garment just appear poorly made.  Once ironed, my Y darts became invisible – yay – and each dart picked up the shoulder by an extra 2 inches to make the lantern sleeves puff out over my elbow right where they should be.

dsc_0485a-compwWhen the front wrap ends are held out they look like some sort of wings.  I think they are pretty and a good kind of different but having a blouse with fabric hanging down the front does take a little getting used to.  When I sit down at a table with food in front of me, I have to remember to place my arm across my front to keep my blouse’s fabric from dipping into the plate and making a mess.  The same thing goes for being over a sink to wash my hands.  I have heard this pattern design referred to as always wearing a napkin under your chin to catch any mess and generally be in the way.  I do not think it is as bad as that – the wrap front with its hanging ties can be tacked down permanently if you would so like because you do not need to undo it to put the blouse on oneself.  This doesn’t need any zipper or closure, for goodness sake!  For as easy to make as it was and as lovely a blouse as it is, this pattern is definitely worthwhile…as long as you’ve got 3 yards of fabric for it.

We kept with the time period with our background and went to take our pictures in the Continental Life Building.  It is a scrumptious Art Deco gem which was built in 1930.  It has had a tumultuous history and more recently saved from demolition by being turned into an apartment complex.  The lobby that you see behind me is such an over-the-top way to give a visitor their first impression – so classic of the wonderful architecture of the 1930s.  I just love the awe and tingling happiness it gives me to be in these types of buildings, especially when I’m in period clothing!

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In the competitiveness and eagerness to move ahead and be “modern” it seems many towns, especially ours, glazes over architectural history as if it was a hindrance rather than a necessary link to connect us with the past.  This can be the same situation when it comes to clothing styles seen in the stores to buy.  Past fashion trends are always being re-used and re-hashed but once recognizing where they came from and why they were first used, the reason to admire or wear a new type of detail becomes a source of learning, knowledge, and sense of the bigger picture.  (Hint – has anyone else seen a whole lot of 1930s era sleeves on the fashion scene since the last several months?!  Check this out for one example.)  Somehow, I feel like I’m doing both the building and my outfit due appreciation when I am able to pair a ‘me-made’ outfit with its time period counterpart place…and learn in the process.  Also, I guess I’m just venting appreciation for every historical gem of a building that gets saved, just the same as for every vintage fashion trend treasure that gets re-made, re-worn, loved and respected anew.

“Iris Garden” Burda Style Dress

Like a garden that emerges from its winter slumber to become a lovely surprise, this dress also took a different direction from what I originally planned but turned out nice in the end.  I feel like I’m wearing the season of spring with my dress…if that is remotely possible.

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I originally hoped to make a new Burda pattern into an art dress, one that would remind someone of a stained glass window.  However, to make the garment aesthetically uniform and complementary for my taste I had to combine two patterns to give the dress a new bodice and finish it as you see it. I am still a bit disappointed to not be able to make an idea that I had in my mind, but I’ll still try to scratch that itch.

As for this dress…well, all’s well that ends well, I suppose.  My hubby calls the dress ‘cute’ or ‘sweet’, and it is so comfy with my favorite colors I will admit.  Also, iris flowers are in my “favorites” list of botanicals since they are akin to the fleur-did-lis and King St. Louis IX, patron of our town.  I personally find it just mediocre and rather un-exciting as compared to other projects, nor does it come at all close to the avant-garde design I had planned.  However, I do love a dress that appears quite nice but actually feels on myself like a lazy day Saturday garment…this is that kind of dress.  Can’t beat that!

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I do have a really interesting bodice left over to work with and I could use your help and input as to what to do with it (you’ll see it further down and I’ll still give it a full review).  Please let me know what you think!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The trio of solid colors in the original but unused bodice are all cotton sateen.  The bottom skirt half is a quilter’s cotton, “Deco Delight” “Iris garden” designed by “Fabric Freedom” in London, England.  The current dress bodice is a cotton knit with a slight pebbled silver sheen printed on the good side (leftover from my camouflage knit dress).  The facing for the neckline of the current bodice is from a scrap piece of polyester crepe back satin in light pink, also.

A-Line Cocktail Dress 03-2016 #122NOTIONS:  I had the seam tape, piping, lining, a 9 inch zipper, and thread needed on hand already.  I just had to go out to buy an extra pack of piping.

PATTERNS:  Burda Style’s ‘A-Line Cocktail Dress’ #122, from 03/2016, found online or in the monthly magazine, and Burda Style #7301, a paper tactile pattern (not online)Burda Style 7301, vintage style dress with arched neckline

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The original piped bodice took me about 5 hours, while the skirt took maybe 2 hours, and the new knit bodice took me about an hour and a half.

THE INSIDES:  I kept things simple for the inside and its finishing.  Everything is double stitched but left with raw edges.

TOTAL COST:  The “Deco Delight” fabric was a special order off of the internet and 2 ½ yards cost me about $30 (yikes!).  As my chosen Tiffany print fabric is from England, I had a hard time finding an American seller…this is reason for the higher price.  The pink knit was from my scrap bin, and the sateen fabrics were all on hand already, bought to be made into other projects, so I just cut small bits from those bolts for my Tiffany Art dress.  Thus they cost pittance in the scheme of things.  So I guess my dress cost me about $35.00.

As for any Burda Style pattern from online or out of a magazine, printing and/or tracing is necessary to have a usable pattern to lay on your desired fabric.  My “Cocktail Dress” #122 pattern was traced out from the insert sheet of the magazine issue using a roll of medical paper but you can also buy it, download it, and print it out from Burda Style’s online store.  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size and add in your choice of seam allowance width.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped.  Sorry to repeat something you might already know, but this is just an “FYI” for those that don’t know.  Now, none of this is needed with a paper tactile pattern (which is sold through Simplicity, I believe) – all seam allowances are included and it’s a regular conventional pattern (to me in America) except for the European sizing.

This dress’ original pattern has good points to its style but the fitting definitely has fair share of problems, too.  Firstly, I found the bodice design just lovely but so sadly lacking in the proper curving in the right places.  The outward curve isn’t nearly properly generous DSC_0337a-compenough for the bust, while (without adjustments) there is an awkward pucker on the upper chest.  It’s like the bust went into the wrong place – even I know it’s not parallel with the chest just below the collarbone.  As you can see in my picture, starting at 4 ½ inches down, I had to unpick to straighten out the curve ¼ inch in to eliminate the pucker.  Also, I had to add in darts to the top back bodice (close to the neck) and the side bust (by the front underarm).  The back neck darts are about ½ inch by 4 inches long while the bust darts are about 5/8 inch by 3 inches in.  These darts do make it a bit more of a snug fit, and it’s already a tad snug for I think the bodice runs small, but a least it’s a tailored fit now.  For the good points, the skirt is quick and straightforward.  Although the bodice isn’t hard to sew besides the bothersome fitting, the skirt portion is easy and fits well with the sizing DSC_0433-compright on.  I made the skirts’ front box pleat fold a bit crisper by finishing off the bottom hem before adding in the insert, and hemming the pleat insert separately before sewing it into the rest of the skirt.  There’s no continuous horizontal seam to interfere with the vertical seams of the box pleat the way I did it, but it doesn’t have to be done this way.

I am tickled by the way the skirt holds a surprise in its design with the center front box pleat.  When I’m just standing you’d never guess the box pleat would be there, the skirt appears to be knife pleated with a bell-flared silhouette.  Then, all of a sudden if I move or kick up high – surprise, there’s more fabric to come out of it’s hiding like the magic skirt that never stops expanding.

One Burda pattern went towards fixing another Burda pattern!  The “Cocktail Dress” is an odd mix, I should have seen this misfit coming but the lovely solid color of the model dress deceived me.  The bodice is overly modern and dramatic (especially the way I made it) and the skirt is more classic with enough going on too, but in a separate more feminine theme especially with my floral printed cotton. The replacement bodice from the Burda paper pattern was so super easy with sizing right on and lovely details.

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I personally think this bodice is the correct pairing for the skirt and does wonders to the silhouette.  I went back to what I know about creating a visual deception of wide shoulders of the 1940’s and 1950’s to balance out a pleated or full skirt.  Thus I knew I needed a pattern with a wide neck, preferably simple, to complement the skirt and slim the waist…thus I went for a kimono sleeve bodice with a sweet neckline arch that reminds me of the femininity of the overall dress.  The only adaptation I did to accommodating adding this bodice to my existing skirt was to extend the bottom by and inch so the dress’ horizontal center would fall at a high waist rather than an empire height.  Now, I have a dress which visually takes off pounds from my figure – yay!DSC_0455-comp

Besides switching bodices, the zipper closure was moved to the side underarm, rather than having it down the center back.  This side zipper placement didn’t mar my plan of adding in piping to the bodice seams, but as that bodice wasn’t used it made for a nice clean garment design keeping the zipper on the side.  I also didn’t line the bodice – either of them.  I did not want to restrict what stretch I had in the sateen of the piped bodice – and besides, I do not know exactly what to do with it yet anyway.  The pink knit bodice needed to be lightweight and thin so as to give let the bottom skirt half give it the right pull from below to hang right and stay in place on my shoulders.

Now what do I do with the piped tri-colored bodice?  As you see it, the edges are currently unfinished and there is no proper closure.  I really do like it, I spent enough time to make it and finally got it to fit me just right I want to do something interesting with it.  The bodice almost reminds me of a swim top or cropped sports tank the way it is like a second skin and has the streamlined contouring design.

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Do I just keep it has a separate crop top to pair with whatever for the bottoms?  Should I add in a short separating side zip or just have hook and eyes?  What bottoms will go with this – a high-waisted skinny pencil skirt (like Butterick 6326) or shorts or what else?  Do I turn the top into the bodice for a dress (and what kind of dress) or maybe a jumpsuit?  I know I’ll figure these queries out but I can’t put a finger on the right idea yet, so I’d be grateful if you can help me by sharing your ideas and thoughts.

“Retro Forward” Burda Style – an “Optical Illusion” Inverted Pleat Dress

Some things are not as they seem in the world.  The sewing craft is a master at perfecting smart and sensible trickery with creative pattern designs but when combined with an illusionary fabric…bam!  Get ready for some seriously fun confusion in the form of wearable art.

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Oversized pleats – a simple staple technique – go on overkill and completely make this Burda Style dress unique but incredible comfy.  I might look nice in it but it is so easy to stay in and so swingy and feminine!  The relaxed fit and flowing silhouette is a nice change from many of the tailored garments I so often make, but this dress still has its own complimentary shape that took some getting used to.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The printed fashion fabric is a unique polyester sheer.  It is made like a delicate woven, the way it acquires runs easily, and it has a sort of flat “grid-like” design in the fabric (apart from the print) where every other block is sheer and the others are solid.  I do not know what this kind of fabric is and I’ve never again (yet) seen anything like it…one of the reasons I’ve held onto it in my stash for maybe 10 years.  The lining is a solid black poly pongee.

Burda Style Ikat Dress 108A 10-2012NOTIONS:  I had the thread, bias tape, and zipper on hand already.  I did have to go out recently and buy the aluminum chain (more on this later).

PATTERN:  Burda Style’s “Ikat Dress” #108A, from October 2012   

THE INSIDES:  All bias bound.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress was more involved than I’d originally thought (with the lining and the fitting) so it took me about 15 to 20 hours to make.  It was done on November 16, 2015.

TOTAL COST:  Both fabrics were in my stash together for maybe a decade so I’m counting them as free, with my only expense being the chain, which was around $5.00.

As for any Burda Style pattern, printing and/or tracing is necessary to have a usable pattern to lay on your desired fabric.  My pattern was traced out using a roll of medical paper from the insert sheet of the magazine issue but you can also buy it, download it, and print it out from Burda Style’s online store.  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size and add in your choice of seam allowance width.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped.  Sorry to repeat something you might already know, but this is just an “FYI” for those that don’t know.

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The fabric’s print calls to my mind the psychedelic era of the 60’s or 70’s, like what I would imagine some trippy vision of a dance floor would look like to someone on a ‘high’.  It also reminds me of the checkered pattern used in car racing (with red rather than the rust orange in my fabric), like in the modern “Speed Racer” movie where he’s driving so fast the block print swirls and twists before him like he’s burning up the track.  But, in the back of my mind I can’t help but think of it being an   evil harlequin print (like in Cezanne’s painting).  Harlequins (especially the English ones) are masters at trickery and disguise, making what you see and what is really going on two different things.  They also wear a print which has a similar pattern as the one on my dress…even though it’s bold and eye catching it also deceives the visual perception, much like the “dazzle camouflage” used on ships in World War I.  So, with the “dazzle”, “psychedelic”, “harlequin” print (whew) of my fabric, my dress’ pattern further confuses things by having a bodice that looks like one piece at first, to open up leaving one to figure out where the fullness came from…at least this is how I see it without relying on knowing how it was made with tricky inverted pleats and sneaky fabric!

100_6967a-compGoing into this project, I really wasn’t sure if the fabric would be too much for the pattern design or vise-versa.  Actually, I really didn’t like it once it was made – as in “not liking it so much I was ready with both scissors and a new pattern to cut it into a new design” dislike.  I was attached to the fabric after holding onto it for so many years in my stash and it is a unique material, so I really wanted to pair up the perfect project if I was going to use it. However, once my dress was worn and the hem tweaked a bit (more about this later), I was totally won over.  After all, the Burda pattern is four years old now, and I don’t like the print they used.  Also, the more ‘dated’ a pattern becomes (different from vintage), the more I have to think beyond what I see in the cover example to come up with something different.  It’s unnerving for me to take a chance on my more special fabric (like this one) with a bold design idea, but becomes fun and worth it in the end.  Truthfully though, if I was to see this dress “ready-to-wear”, I have a hunch I wouldn’t like it half as much as I do because it was self-made. 100_6977-comp

Back to practical construction info, this dress was pretty much made as-is, with no changes to the original design and cut out according to my traditional sizing as-per Burda Style.  Oddly, it turned out quite generous in fit and way too long in the hem length.  The dress still fits me a bit roomy, but I took in maybe an inch or so on the sides and made a wide 4 or 5 inch hem.  The ¾ sleeves also ended up more of a bracelet length, but once they received a large hem, they look more like a flared end sleeve much like another Burda pattern I made before, the “Comma Dot” pleated placket dress.  I did leave out the pattern’s given neckline facing and instead used a simple line of bias tape.  This switch turned out to be a rather bad idea as the neckline is a wide boat neck, but I made it work.

100_6958a-comp100_6954a-compThe large bottom skirt hem came in handy for me to fix a problem I had with the dress.  You see the lightweight fabric of my dress and the large flowing skirt portion below made me step in the shoes of Marilyn Monroe at her famous “over the air vent” picture in the white sundress where her hem indecently wants to go up to the level of her waist or higher.  Yes, whenever the wind blew I found my hands automatically going down to keep my dress’ skirt in place…nobody wants to wear something so fussy you have to be self-conscious in.  So, I’d remembered hearing of such a thing as a metal chain along a hem to weigh it down, so I went to my local fabric store and bought aluminum (which won’t rust) ¼ inch chain.  At first I tried several different methods of stitching it to the hem, but the chin only felt cold against my skin and wrinkled up the hem.  Luckily, the large hem to the dress provided a perfect “pocket casing” to hold the chain loosely and out of sight off my skin.  I measured the circumference of the hem 100_6979-compbottom and transferred that to the chain, then dropped it into the hem “pocket casing” through a little opening in the stitching.  Once the chain was wound through I used my jewelry pliers to reconnect the chain at the same circumference as the hem, dropped it in, and sewed up the hem hole.  Voila!  I couldn’t ask for a better solution.  Now, the wind my blow, but it will only succeed in filling up my skirt to look like a bell.  Silly wind – can’t make me flash anyone anymore!  I also have an even better swishy swing when I move.  Yay for new tricks of the sewing trade!

I did use an old sewing trick to help, as well.  The markings of the pleats were not showing up on my crazy print, and since the print was slightly sheer I completely lined my dress in a black liner with an equal amount of weight and hand – poly pongee.  Yes, this step of lining my dress took me twice as long, but the finished product makes it worth it in the end.

This dress is definitely part of my “Retro Forward with Burda Style” blog seriesSimplicity 9861 yr 1972 pleated bodice dress with yoked chest, Simplicity 7633 yr 1968 inverted pleated bodice dressAlthough my Burda project is modern, I tried to channel the era of the late 1960’s with it…something between an ‘op-art’ dress and a less-sweet twist on a ‘baby doll’.  It is in the “Flower Child” era (late 60’s and early 70’s) where I see the most sewing pattern designs using inverted pleats in a fashion similar to this post’s Burda dress (see just two of the many examples I found).  However, on a different vein, the way the bodice is smartly constructed with a bodice-shaping dart hidden in the last pleat near the shoulder, and made above the bust on the chest, is exactly the same method as a year 1937 McCall #9170 which I have already sewn from (post here).  Ingenuity never goes out of style!

A small, metal walled, color blocked maze in an art themed park is the background setting to our pictures.  I thought it helped me blend in, but compliment and contrast in theme, idea, and colors with my dress.  Now you see me…now you don’t, just like the pleats in my dress!

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