“Laundry Day” Dress

Have you ever had those days where you have errands to run and things to do but you want to be casual and comfy yet not completely dressed down?  No matter how nice it still appears, this is another much needed, throw-on, chore-time dress…yet it’s still vintage!

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Here’s a dress from 1948, something late in the 40’s and not yet 50’s, that now, re-made and sewn with modern fabric, becomes a frock for current times!  The lovely ribbon-like seersucker fabric of the dress is effortless to wear and take care of (it’s meant to be wrinkled, for goodness sakes), making this one of my wardrobe’s go-to, easy-wear pieces for those “laundry days”.  The cream, white, yellow, and green tones are a lovely combo that has a cool mental ‘feel’ for warm weather, yet pairs well with many cardigans and blazers in cooler temps for a multi-season garment.  What more could I want from a dress?!

Betty and Peg Braden - 1948, smaller picTo put the icing on the cake, this dress looks much like one worn by my Grandmother, as seen in her high school pictures.  She was 18 in 1948, and there are several pictures of both her and her sister from that year lounging around the high school campus with her books, both wearing matching, striped, button front dresses.  Her mother, and herself as well, were good at sewing whatever they needed, so I’m DressLikeYour Grandma Challenge 2017 badgecurious as to whether or not their two dresses were made by them.  My Grandmother’s dress, in particular, (on the left) has the most fun with stripe placement, most similar to my dress.  Her dress and mine even have the large, handy horizontally striped hip pockets, too!  This is a lovely knock-around-town dress, so I perfectly understand her style in these pictures now.  I guess it’s no wonder this dress is part of Tanya’s “Dress Like Your Grandma” sewing challenge.

THE FACTS:

McCall 7212, year 1948 day dress,pFABRIC:  a 100% polyester seersucker, with the bodice facing and pocket lining cut from a scrap of 100% cotton

PATTERN:  McCall #7212, year 1948

NOTIONS:  all that I needed to buy was a pack of buttons, but the bias tapes, thread and hook-and-eyes were already on hand

TIME TO COMPLETE:  not long – 7 hours.  It was finished on August 23, 2016

THE INSIDES:  Every edge is cleanly and easily finished off in yellow bias tape. (In this detail pic, you can also see my “fake” feature at the waist – there might be a button and a button hole on the outside, but there is really only a hook-and-eye inside to keep things stable.)

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TOTAL COST:  This fabric has been in my stash for as long as I can remember (it was in my parent’s fabric stash first).  Thus, I’m counting the fabric as free, so all that this dress cost was the pack of buttons…$2.00!

I actually hated what I saw of this dress as it was coming together.  It did fit perfectly in the size that it was, and it was mildly challenging yet easy enough to be fun.  It’s just that the dress ran so darn long…as in ‘evening length’ long.  I know that fashions from post-WWII were much longer, more mid-calf than the actual early 40’s shorter knee length of my dress.  However, this was the only length that I felt looked good on me and did well for the dress, too.  I’m not one to try to be so authentic to every detail at the cost of sacrificing my taste and my style and happiness with making a garment.  The shorter length also solves a few issues as well.  Yes, there is a deep 8 to 10 inch hem on my dress, and –no- I did not want to cut it off because it makes the poufy, lightweight fabric hang nicely and it also results in a completely no-see through skirt (which would have been a glaringly obvious problem otherwise).  Guess I was ‘taking down two birds with one stone’ as the saying goes!  After all, I did have four yards of this fabric so I might as well keep it on the dress rather than in my ever growing scrap pile…

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The hardest part about making this dress was deciding on the buttons – of all things.  It took me a week to figure that out.  I even ordered matching green buttons…which I didn’t use.  I looked through my substantial and varied button stash from Grandmothers on both sides of the family, and still nothing seemed to be ‘the one’.  This is when hubby came to the rescue.  He enjoys browsing through button collections and frequently has a good eye for my projects.  He said I needed to go with something not distracting from the rest of the dress, but extremely plain, basic, and mundane, so I picked out the cheapest bulk pack of what were labelled as “sweater buttons” at the fabric store.  I think he nailed it here.  Where I would be without his help sometimes, I don’t know.  (Don’t tell anyone that my man goes with me to the fabric store!)

Instead of choosing the high, choking, buttoned-up-to-the-top view, I chose the option that has the slot-type of neckline with buttons starting at the middle of the chest.  However, I still thought it looked a bit confining so I merely have both sides of the neckline flipped back as if they are lapels and only temporarily tacked into place.  Guess it’s a good thing after all that my cotton facing for the bodice matched with the dress so well!  I think the lapel neckline softens and lends more of a relaxed casual air to the dress (which I want) than the proper and perfect drawn cover version on the envelope.

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I sort of feel bad that I did kind of copy off of the cover by using a green striped fabric.  At the same time, I don’t feel guilty.  You see, after looking around at all the versions of this same sort of style of dress (and there are lots of them believe me, dating from about early 40’s to 1950s, at this Pinterest page of mine), I realized that many of them were in a green striped fabric of some sort.  As I figure it, I am going along with a late 1940s trend, not just copying the cover to give me a good reason to use up a long-time occupant in my fabric stash, ahem.  Besides, I did find ‘proof’ that this type of ribbon seersucker was around years back.  Granted they wouldn’t have had a fabric made from polyester in the 1940s, but look at this old original 30’s dress for sale at Emily’s Vintage Vision’s Etsy shop – doesn’t that type of fabric for the bodice seem so very similar to the fabric for my dress?

DSC_0257a-comp,wWe were happy to chance upon a vintage Laundromat in one of our shortcuts to get from one errand to the next.  Funny thing is, I found out that day this dress actually repels water and keeps me dry.  I suppose the tight polyester and rippled seersucker keeps the water rolling right off.  Later on, at a “Steak n’ Shake” for lunch that day, when my dress did get wet from my water glass, the fabric sort of “held” the water and kept my under layers dry.  This is one weird but awesome fabric – I haven’t had another material act like this.  Now, the only problem was making sure my natural fiber wedge espadrilles and braided cord belt didn’t get wet, too…

At the onset of this sewing project, I was aware that I have a similarly styled dress dated to the year before, 1947 (see it here).  It does have the same slashed neckline and pockets, but with the stripes and buttoned front, this post’s dress is different, after all.  This is a look alike to one my Grandma wore anyway, so that’s a big win.  Maybe this is just a trend of the post war that I like.  I know the large pockets are a big draw for me.  Do you have a certain style niche in the history of fashion that you especially love for one reason or another?  Do you too find yourself copying envelope cover images more often that not?

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“Wilderness Stripes” – A 1944 Day Dress and a Hat Re-fashion

The varied colors of the forest are layered like a sedimentary rock in this year 1944 dress I made. Earth tones, leaf tones, and a basic white found on mushrooms or in the sky can be found on my casual and comfy vintage dress. For a complete outfit, there is even a special hat re-fashion I made to match…one with an open brim which now lets the sunlight in! Hint, hint, there is something also very forest related in plain view on my dress – look at my close-ups and if you’re not a pro at seek-and-find I’ll reveal it down later 😉

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This dress is such an effortless piece, more like a past make, my 1945 “Daily Life” dress.  Having a dress (and hat) that looks nice while making me relaxed enough to play in the outdoors (where I enjoy myself the most) is indispensable to one like me that adores vintage fashion.

The soft rayon is a dream to wear and the pockets are so fun and utilitarian. Style features on the pattern I used are rather unique to one made from “Hollywood” or “Du Barry” pattern brands. No classic ‘40’s blousy waist with gathered shoulders’ or ‘slim lean shape’ here – only tailored darts, unfussy seams, and basic simplicity (many other “Hollywood” and “Du Barry” patterns I see are princess-style fitted and traditional convertible collars). The Rayon print I chose is bright, and makes the most of my pattern and my sewing capabilities with its stripes.

100_6322-cut-compMy dress, hat re-fashion, and shoes are all late war, mid- 1940’s. It is also more of a youthful, almost “junior” look, especially with the hat (more down later). That youthful aura is ‘saved’ by the totally edgy and adult wedge sandals with studs. Footwear with platform soles, with studs, and in sandal form were a fashion forward trend in the 1940’s (see Lauren‘s blog post here for more) in some part brought on by rationing (see this ad here or this Time Life picture of alternative material shoes from 1943).  Although accurate, my shoes are new re-makes (“Cherub” by “White Mountain” brand – most comfy and soft and in real suede).

THE FACTS:

FABRIC: a 100% rayon challis for the dress; a 100% paper hat for my re-fashion, bought ready-to-wear100_6213a-comp

NOTIONS: The thread, bias tapes, and shoulder pads sewn into this dress were from on hand already. The side zipper was newly bought to match, and the buttons are a vintage find purchased a few months back. The hat’s ribbon was from my stash on hand

PATTERN: Du Barry #5840, year 1944. (DuBarry were a branch of Simplicity patterns, printed for about 15 years and sold only at Woolworth ‘five and dime’ stores, info from here.)

TIME TO COMPLETE: Total sewing time was probably 10 hours, but contemplating the layout before cutting must have taken 2 hours in itself. The dress was finished on October 1, 2015.

THE INSIDES: Inside is a combo of some French seams with mostly bias bound seams.

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TOTAL COST: Not counting the buttons (since they were bought a while back, and just to have on hand), my dress cost me a total of about $12 or less for about 2 ½ yards of clearance fabric, the bought notions, and hat.Aug. 21, 1943 ad for General Tire in the Saturday Evening Post

As neat as my dress turned out, I originally intended on the stripes in the fabric to go vertically up and down on my dress rather than how they are horizontally. It was an embarrassingly brainless mistake…I was so completely wrapped up in making sure the stripes all lined up and adding on the slight grading needed, I forgot to change the direction of the stripes. Duh! Oh well, I still totally like it, I’m just frustrated I didn’t see what was in my face. It’s hard for me to admit, but clueless moments do happen and at least I didn’t make a mistake that rendered my dress unwearable…finding those ”silver linings”, you know!  Now my dress’ stripes are more like the one seen in the 1943 General Tire ad at right.

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Making my first “Du Barry” pattern was a happy experience. The dress construction was super easy (yes, even though it’s an unprinted pattern) and I liked the instruction sheet. Nevertheless, I found the sizing to be very large, as in a whole size too large, at least. I had to bring in the side seams about 1 inch on each side and the dress is still generous on the top potion. The hem too was very long – I had to make a 6 inch hem to get my dress the length you see. A hem this large would never have been war-time ration acceptable, I know. As my first “Du Barry” creation, I can’t say anything definitively but I wonder if this is a tendency of this line of patterns. Does anyone else know…what do you think about “Du Barry” sizing?

Here’s another question – have you figured out the forest item which is on my dress? It’s100_6320a-comp my vintage buttons! They’re like giant acorns. The way they are grooved reminds me of the stripes in my dress. They also match with the era, as well as matching theme-wise. On a practical scale, there were three of these acorn buttons (just what I needed) and the only remotely matching color on hand. They are not really “working buttons”, as my dress is loose enough with such an open neck that I sewed down the front by merely stitching them down through all layers. Nevertheless, these acorn buttons are a special find, very pretty, and a nice statement piece.

I could not for the life of me decide what to do when it came to choosing what bias tape to use to enclose the raw edge of the neckline (as the instructions recommend doing). Do I want the possibility of the bulk and further stripe craziness with self-fabric bias taping? Maybe. Do I want a contrast? No, I didn’t want to highlight just one color from the print and limit the sweaters, belts, shoes and accessories which I could wear with it. Thus, in the end, I abandoned all of my ideas, stitching bias tape down and turned it under like facing. It sort of makes a blunt finished edge which I’m not sure if I like, but I didn’t decide what exactly to do. The neckline is nicely simple and dramatically open with a nice finish inside, so it good enough for me for now. There might be changes to the neckline in the future.100_6319-comp

Check out those pockets! Could something so useful be so neat? Yeah, only in the 1940’s. My dress’ skirt stripes are matched across under the pockets (quite hard to get right). Harder sewing techniques are only seen as a challenge to me, one which hopefully improves my skills and learning with each attempt.

100_4868-compMy hat was such an easy and cheap re-fashion. It was bought for one freaking cheap dollar anyway! Luckily it was actually paper to make it a bit more authentic, since straw imported from Italy ceased in 1940. Luckier still, the hat was assembled of woven strips stitched together so my refashion was simply a matter of unpicking thread from the crown to a certain point. The thread used for the stitching on the hat was thick cotton thread, and what I unpicked has been saved for use at a subsequent time.

100_6323-compBrowsing through the info and pictures on “Vintage Dancer” blog (page here), I decided I wanted a sort of cross between a “Roller Hat” and a “Bonnet Hat”, with an open crown. Once I unpicked the hat to make the new open-crown, I had several ideas of how to accessorize the hat but liked them all so I went non-committal and simply have the ribbon as you see it pinned into place inside. You’re probably thinking, “There she goes again with more indecision.” I figured it was a matter of which outfit I wanted it to go with or which “look” I wanted. The simplicity of the wrap-around ribbon style you see goes well with my bold, busy dress print. However, I also had planned on having the ribbon end pinned at the center front crown, then going across the top of my head to separate and tie in a bow at the back crown, but this only made me appear as a 1940’s school girl junior (cute, but not exactly what I wanted). I was also tempted to further the forest theme by adding on a corsage decoration of leaves and such to my hat, but no – I’ll make a floral corsage at some point, I think, but pair it with another outfit. There are so many styles and options with 40’s hats, I’m envisioning more effortless hat re-fashions such as this one for me to make in the future.100_6312-comp

There is a literal wilderness out there of ideas, inspiration, pictures, patterns, fabrics, and techniques when it comes to the realm of sewing. It can be hard to swim through it and find what fits for you and your particular project, like me trying to decide how exactly to refashion my hat or make my dress. Enjoying the process and just going for what seems best works for me…but it is intimidating that there is so much fun and creative things to do with so little time! What do you like to conquer in that ‘sewing wilderness’ – challenging techniques, tricky fabric prints, detailed designs, or novel ideas? I enjoy making anything, but specifically relish in sewing projects with a relaxed lived-in, easy comfort and fine details. What makes you happy to sew?

A 1940’s Faux-Alligator Leather Purse

I have now made a few hats (see here , here, and here), and found them so much easier than expected, so next I’ve experimented making a purse. My vintage purses do get used but are too old and nice for daily wear and tear, so my natural recourse was to make my own. This purse was easy to make on little fabric and therefore easily replaceable…I’ll just make another! Yet, because I made it myself, I know it’s sturdy and should last through more wear than I would want a vintage purse to endure – an authentic vintage accessory with newly made, personalized benefits!

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You can see my purse being used and co-ordinated with an outfit in this post of my entry for Emily’s Vintage Visions “Fall Color Photo Contest”.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  It is a fake-leather with an “alligator skin” finish. The lining fabric is a basic black cotton broadcloth. The bottom panel circle is supported by tarlatan.

NOTIONS:  None were needed to buy…this purse was made from what was on hand.

PATTERN:  The pattern is a free download which can be found at “Sew Vera Venus” on her “Free Patterns and Tutorials” page.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My purse took a handful of hours spent on two afternoons for a total of about 6 hours. It was finished on October 7, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  What insides? The lining covers all.

TOTAL COST:  Well, I bought the fake-leather from Wal-mart. It was 60 inch width, for a price of $8 a yard. I only bought ¾ of a yard (about $6), and I used only half of a half of what I had to make my purse. The lining came from scraps on hand, and tarlatan is something I always have on hand now, too, so my total cost was insanely cheap – about $1.50.

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Everything about my new purse just tickles me…I’m so pleased with everything about how it turned out. The finished size proportions are perfect for me – it’s large enough to hold my wallet and favorite basic items but still small enough to not be an awkward bulky box, overwhelming my outfit. The handle is convenient, easy-to-hold, and just long looped enough to sit on my shoulder (not preferred, but thankfully an option if I really need it). Best of all, this purse is an extremely economical fabric needy pattern, in other words you don’t need much at all to make it – two small trapezoid squares, two small long rectangles, and a tiny circle. It’s so basic, simple, and absolutely amazing.

When enlarging the pattern on the photocopy machine, I actually enlarged the pattern an extra 10% more than directed just for good measure. It seems that many vintage purses are generally too small for my taste, but until I made this purse, I sort of resigned myself to that fact. Unless you want a pouch, satchel, or cross-body style, which does keep items as compartmentalized to my taste, that’s how handbag styles were during the 1940’s…on the small side. I don’t think women carried as much as women do nowadays and it wasn’t the same things that were in purses 70 years ago, anyway. This purse that I made is my perfectly pleasing in between size.

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I did find the instructions for assembly a bit too crafty oriented. I practically disregarded instructions and made my purse by true sewing construction methods. For example, the ties are instructed to be made by turning cutting one tie from the fashion material with the other “raw” side as a grosgrain ribbon. They say to turn the edges of the fashion material in and basically cover those raw edges with the ribbon by gluing the two together. Now, I cut two of each tie from the fashion material (my faux leather) and sewed the two together, right sides in, just like regular ties for belts or garment sewing. Then the ties I made were turned inside out (this was hard considering the thickness and stiffness of my material), with the edges rolled out and top-stitched down. My Hubby thinks that constructing the purse using sewing methods makes this purse look much more finished and professional. Gluing the straps together makes it obvious to the sight of others how it was put together, whereas making them like ties, with the raw edges inside, is mysteriously and smoothly put together. Besides these reasons, constructing from a crafty approach provides a finished purse that will not hold up as well for as long as a time – gluing edges cannot be stable as covered, stitched edges.100_6251a-comp

I also have a beef about how the circular bottom is gets constructed according to the instructions. They tell you to make this sort of pocket inside the bottom where you can slide in your chosen means of stability, such as a round of plastic or cardboard, before adding in the lining to close it all up. Really? After making my 1940 velvet hat, and after looking at other authentic purse patterns, adding tarlatan (or some sort of horsehair interfacing/stiff muslin) to the bottom circle is the best and clearly more authentically 40’s option. Tarlatan is easy to sew and work with, doesn’t add much extra thickness, is washable, but keeps a crisp, flexible stiffness perfect for the purse bottom. Tarlatan is mostly to be found in art supply stores nowadays.

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My purse is actually the first of my projects where people who compliment me on it do not believe me when I say that I made it. I have to explain myself a few different ways (such as “Yes, I started with fabric and a pattern”), or I get looked at like I’m crazy, or I’m just disregarded, but nobody yet has easily accepted the fact I made my purse. This says something that I like about the right way to make this purse pattern.

100_6389-compSewing with this fake-leather was wonderful and so much easier than expected. I am impressed my 1980’s Brother machine handled it like cutting through butter (it’s those all metal parts and the “thick fabric” setting). I did use pins to help keep the pieces together, I just kept the pins in the seam allowance area (which was ½ inch, for your F.Y.I.). My purse was entirely sewn by machine, excepting the little decorative tab which goes across the front crisscrossed ties. The tab was sewn down by hand.

Custom sized pockets are sewn onto the lining inside at the back panel (the one with the fold over top and longer strap). I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a one month newbie to an android smartphone (not exactly my decision), but this large and skinny brick doesn’t fit well now in smaller purses. Thus, I made sure to have a pocket which would fit my two high-priority modern “needs” – my phone and my lipstick. I took an extra button placket piece from another project and applied it to my purse lining before sewing it, making sure to leave enough room along the edges and bottom for the seam allowance. Oh, the irony of a pocket for a smartphone going into a vintage purse…I love it!

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Adding in the lining was the most complicated part, but it was fun. You place the finished lining back to back with the finished bag, mirror image style, and sew along the arched box top flap and partly into the front straight edge. Make sure to get a sharp edge where the flap edge and the front straight edge meets – this is where the top folds over and without a nice corner you might end up with too much of a gap. I snipped the curves, trimmed the seam down, and turned the lining inside the purse to top stitch the edges down. This step is like magic…I said to myself, “Cool! One step and where did the seams go?!” The front straight edge seam allowances where tuned in and double top-stitched down for stability.

100_6288-compStaggering the lining at the bottom helped the lining hang like a second skin, with no major difference between the two layers. On the side seams of the main body towards the top edge I made the seam allowance the same as the faux-leather (in order to sew them together) but down towards the bottom I went up a ¼ inch. On the bottom of the lining, the circle had a ¾ inch seam allowance while the joining main body had a seam allowance of 5/8 inch. Sounds weird, probably, but it really works well, and I must have some super technical spot in my head for it to make me so pleased.

Besides my changes in construction and personalization touches, this really is a great pattern, so deceptively perfect for beginners to purse-making like myself. Purses and hats might feel intimidating (they do for me), but I find approaching them from a sewing perspective helps. After all, they get sewn together just the same as garments…they just turn out really special and you end up “wearing” on yourself them differently than clothes 🙂pin combo pic-comp

To instantly glam up this purse, it’s as easy as adding on a pin or a shoe clip to the front tab, like the pattern shows. Here I tried a shoe clip and a vintage pin. I can also see a flower corsage going on the front, too, maybe with a purse made from another material other than faux leather.

Now, I love perusing through pictures of patterns…hey, what vintage sewer doesn’t?! Most especially I love the ingenuity of World War II era 1940’s purse designs, whether made already (vintage originals) or at the simple pattern stage. I notice that many of the ways the purses are shaped and close on themselves are strikingly similar to oriental designs and origami folds. Seeing their creative methods of closing sends fireworks of ideas and inspiration ideas in my head.

40s purses combo #1262mcall & 1945 Vogue #3029Granted there isn’t enough time in anyone’s life for them to make everything for themselves, just know that if you can sew, you can make a purse too! Purses are pricey nowadays, and rarely have everything I like (size, pockets, color, and material) in one item. No more – there isn’t any reason to feel compelled to drop a whole lotta dough on a purse if you can make your own just how you like it! My next goal is to make a green faux alligator skin purse to replace one that fell apart on me. Keep watching my blog for more unusual sewn accessories.

For One at the Home Front: a Man’s 1943 Flannel Plaid Work Shirt

There are the honorable men who helped World War II to be fought…and then there are the men (for one reason or another) who had the often over-looked position of keeping the home front with the women, children, and politicians. Those at the home front did not win awards or medals, but helped keep the wheels running for the country the soldiers left behind, making sure their nation was there for them when they returned from active duty. This part of World War II was brought to my attention by making a vintage pattern, believe it or not. I made (as my title states) a 1943 flannel plaid work shirt for my husband, as authentically possible and practical for me the seamstress.

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I would like to use the opportunity this creation presents to remember and address a subject of the men who stayed behind in WWII, and also the masculine fashion which prevailed in the mid-1940’s.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC: a 100% cotton blue, navy, and white flannel plaid. A small amount of black cotton broadcloth from my stash was also used to line the back shoulder yoke inside.100_4745a-comp

NOTIONS: Hubby enjoyed rummaging through his Grandmother’s vintage button stash (which I now keep) to find 10 total matching white buttons which he liked for his shirt – sleeves, lapels, and front. The interfacing and white thread needed was on hand already.

PATTERN: Simplicity #1961, year 1943

TIME TO COMPLETE: The total time was about 25 hours or more. The shirt was finished on March 8, 2015.

THE INSIDES: Every raw edge that isn’t the hem or isn’t already covered by lining or the design of the shirt (such as the cuffs), is finished in French seams. If I’m going to make him a shirt, I want to make him a really good one…’cause I can and ’cause I care (high mushy factor but true).

100_5904a-compTOTAL COST: The flannel was bought at Hancock fabrics on a big discount at $2.25 a yard. Since everything else for the shirt was on hand, and as I bought all the under 2 yards of fabric on the bolt, I only spent a total of $4.50. I think this total makes hubby even happier about this project…wouldn’t you?

100_4954-compBoth the proportions and the cover drawing of this particular pattern that I own has led me to some interesting conclusions. Firstly, let’s look at what’s apparent. The cover drawing top half shows two men facing the viewer, comfortably middle aged perhaps, both with a “grown-up” moustache and the left one having slicked back hair streaked with grey while the right has a pipe. The other man not facing the viewer is, to my eyes, a young adult/grown boy, dapper healthy and cheerful looking. I see a discrepancy here – what is not drawn are the 20 to 30-something year olds who were the ones sent away to fight the battles and see the action. Secondly, the sizing of my pattern is a small and the given proportions are quite petite. My hubby has arms that need a 34in. length sleeve, and a neck that is comfortable with a collar which is a 14 ½ in to a 15 something inch. The neck, the chest girth, and the shoulders all fit him as is, but the pattern’s sleeves needed a whopping – inches added to the length. Now I know hubby’s finished shirt fits more snugly than a traditional 40’s shirt should, and I know men’s 40’s shirts seem run roomy (that was the ‘look’ of the times), which is why he got away with fitting into such a small size, although he is lean anyways. However, my patterns sleeve length tells me that the small size was catered to one not fully grown yet – a teenage boy who would have been home because he was under 18 years old, one of the two age groups I figured from the cover drawing.

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Here’s a family photo. My hubby’s Grandfather, who was in the war, is in the middle in his uniform, with hubby’s great-uncle, who was about 17, on his left in the flannel plaid shirt. This is year 1944.

Amid the flurry nowadays of learning (and amazing) at how people of the 40’s rationed, scrimped, saved, and “made-do” to help their soldiers, I’d like to point out that the needs of the men who stayed behind were thoughtfully not neglected by the pattern companies, apparently. I’m impressed. I know from learning first-hand about family history on both sides that men who were in their prime of life, and did not fit in the two “classic” categories shown on the cover of my pattern, did stay back from being sent overseas, too. According to page 6 of the American Population Reference Bureau report on the military, “The World War II armed forces represented about 12 percent of the population and included about 56 percent of the men eligible for military service on the basis of age, health, and mental aptitude.” This means about 44 percent of American men didn’t serve active military service. Thus, I am curious about the size proportions of the medium and large to my pattern – are the next two sizes up for adult men with dramatically longer sleeves than the small or are shorter arms something of the 1940’s or just of this pattern? I can see some sizing on the back of my envelope, but a full sleeve measurements would fully prove my thoughts. After all, this pattern reminds me of a true “working man’s shirt” in the “lumberjack” style, with lots of generous pockets to make it even more useful and practical. Men’s vintage duds just isn’t around still like women’s vintage clothes – men wore their stuff (especially the practical ones) until it couldn’t be worn anymore. I’m so happy to find patterns which help me fill in today for what is missing from back then.

100_4958-compSpeaking of fabric rationing and pockets from the paragraph above, I was working with some major discrepancy of flannel to make this 1943 shirt, leading to some slight adjustments to the pattern. Not too often do I come across an exact fabric match to a pattern envelope drawing, much less at a cheap not-to-be-missed price, and also have it be something hubby actually liked, as well – a very rare combo! It was almost painful to hear at the cutting counter that there was just under, yes…under, 2 yards for me to make a plaid-matching, long-sleeved shirt. Augh! I don’t know why this is a habit, but it seems as if the fabrics which get chosen for hubby’s shirts are so far always way too small of yardage. I have to make the gears in my brain smoke just to make things work out (see his 1953 shirt). Oh well – I mark it up to, “it keeps me creative” (I have to reason with myself). Anyway, I did squeeze in all the pieces with a few necessary compromises which hubby is happy have – chest pockets and their flap closures are smaller all around by 5/8 inch with the hem shorter and rounded up into a point at the side seams. The shoulder tops were taken in ½ inch to eliminate drooping sleeves and keep the seam at the true shoulder. No compromises whatsoever were made as to the grain line or matching up the plaid, and I am shamelessly proud at the results, especially working on such an impossibly short amount. I’d like to think the most hardcore 1940’s era rationer would be proud of me, too.

100_4959-compNow, I’m not called “Seam Racer” for nothing, however I really slowed my pace down while working on this project, enjoying all the fine details and getting things as perfect as I could make them. Attaining “perfection” is a hard goal to set, but I wanted hubby to have a really nice shirt – besides, I have a tendency (for better or worse) to make things hard for myself.
Let me define some of the details put into my hubby’s 1943 shirt so you can look for them in our pictures. There are rounded off sleeve cuffs, for a subtle dash of personality. There is an ultra-wide collar, more akin to what I also see in the decade of the 1970’s. The classic back shoulder panel is there, fully gathered across the lower piece below to complete the vintage look. I top-stitched everything in white for a contrast/utilitarian appearance, and made the shirt insides special for hubby in French seams not seen in ready-to-wear. He chose a medium weight interfacing for the cuffs, collar, and button-hole closure edge. I chose to use the “wrong” non-fuzzy side of the flannel as the right side out to keep his shirt looking a bit more crisp and less likely to “pill” up or look worn before it’s time. This “new” “vintage” shirt is meant to last a long time!

100_4952-compThe detail that was the source of the most thought, time, and stress for me was the duo of flap patch pockets on the chest. This was the first time I had done this kind of pocket, and I found it to be a tiresome, exact technique but very rewarding when finished. The placement in the front didn’t leave much room for error without becoming immediately obvious. This is why I left sewing on the pockets with its flaps and closures for the very last step after the rest of the shirt was done. Not meaning to complain, but matching the plaid of the pocket with the rest of the shirt and the flap closure section is one thing…however, there was the button and button-hole closure to center. I felt like these pieces were a bit fiddly and rather tiny to turn, sew, and generally work with, so I am quite impressed and amazed when I see flap closure patch pockets on our son’s child-size shirts. Hubby is happy with the pockets, even though I still doubt whether or not they’re centered, so if it’s good enough for him, I’m happy, too.

After hubby wore the shirt a few times, I went back to the few minute scraps leftover and added little triangular inserts to fill in the upper corners of the shirt-tail arch. These are intended to give him just a little extra ‘forgiveness’ in the length. Now, the shirt won’t show his undershirt as easily when it is pulled out from his pants or even left untucked. Each triangle fill-in piece is doubled up and lap-stitched under the existing hem of bias tape.

100_4960-compHubby has yet to own a pair of vintage 1940’s pants, so his shirt is often worn with classic jeans. The jeans give his 1940’s shirt a sort of quintessential look in my mind, making them not so obviously vintage. Jeans are not too far off in era-appropriateness, although, because they have been a staple in the world since the 1800’s when the Gold Rush happened, as the best wearing and longest lasting bottoms. As a daily-life, work-wear men’s garment, my hubby’s 1943 flannel shirt seems appropriate to be paired with jeans, besides the fact the combo of flannel and soft broken-in, quality jeans is quite cozy.

The Marvel television show “Agent Carter” has offered some enticing eye-candy of Agent Carter Cast with Stan Leehandsome menswear styles which I have seen recently. Some of the masculine characters wore authentic vintage pieces, while others wore well sourced and excellently tailored new replicas, but either way, I love the way “Agent Carter” presents the variety of styles available for men during the 40’s, a subject often overlooked in lieu of women’s fashion. Go to this “Hello Tailor” Blog interview with the designer of “Agent Carter” where she talks about sourcing and styling the men for the television show.

1943 mens fashion-magazine ad & Spunrayon shirtsFor a man of the decade, there was the classic mid-40’s relaxed look of lumberjack shirts and blazer jackets, and also “new” post-war casual look of sweater vests and pre-1950’s “University-style” sweaters, which did or did not need a tie and “braces” (suspenders). The dapper style was there for men, too, with endless opportunities for self-expression by choosing classic ties or art ties, old style-plaids or newer brighter colors, double-breasted or single-breasted suits, and multi-pleated or darted flat fronted pants (more fashion forward). Knitwear men’s shirts, precursor to the modern polo, were also being worn by men in the 40’s, as well as more artificial man-made fibers, just like for women of the 40’s. Nevertheless, there is some things that do not change about 1940’s men’s clothes – high/natural waist pants with boxy shirts with large collars. Knits and plaid, new and classic…it all stood side by side offering a man of the 1940’s more personality with his wardrobe than many people realize.

Men’s vintage wear might be rather non-existent as far as surviving, but with knowledge, a 100_4957-comprealization, and respect of the past, us seamstresses can change this and bring back men’s ‘chic’ fashion from the past. Men deserve to have the same admirable classy personalization of individual fashion like what was available in the 1940’s. Here in this post, I feature a 1943 shirt for my hubby so relaxed it becomes a part of him but so classy and tailored I hope the vintage style and hand-made quality quietly stands out. I can’t wait to make him a different vintage project. If you sew and have special man in your life, what about honoring the past, catering to individual style, and expanding one’s talents by finding a pattern for you to create a “new” vintage garment with me and bring back a style and variety so lacking today?!

1944, Piped, in Periwinkle…My Easter Dress!

Oh, and I can’t forget, there is another “P” to my dress – a pocket! Oh boy did I wear some rich and vibrant colors for Easter this year to brighten up my spring, although I had the new grass and magnolia trees for competition! Pop goes the Periwinkle…and the orange, and the white, and the fuchsia!

100_4877ab-compThere were a number of sewing “firsts” for me when making my Easter dress. I had fun with adding a “baker’s dozen” worth of vintage shell buttons all the long way down the front. To date in my sewing, this dress has the most buttons used and button holes made on a garment. My Easter dress also is my very first full button front dress. This was even my first try, and a successful one at that, doing piping to “accentuate the positive” to the pattern design, dating to 1944. 100_4895-comp

Three years ago, my Easter outfit was a design from the 20’s (my hankie-hem 1929 dress), and last year I made a dress from a 1935 pattern (posted here). This year I went for the 1940’s, because I wanted a decade succession up each year, and because of my excitement for the 40’s due to my “Agent Carter” sew along. By the way, I already have my 1950’s Easter outfit picked out for next year 🙂

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% rayon challis, bought at Hancock Fabrics as one of their new spring offerings. It reminds me so much of the fabric drawn on the dress of the lady on the left of the pattern front.

NOTIONS:  I bought most of what was needed for this dress – fabric, thread, and the piping. The interfacing and the shoulder pads were on hand already.  The buttons came from hubby’s Grandmother’s stash, which I now have. They are slightly heavy carved shell buttons with a glazed shiny top.  

Easter dress pattern front-comp.jpegPATTERN:  McCall’s 5668, year 1944

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Not too long but longer than “normal” for me, maybe 20 hours. It was finished on March 31, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  So nice…I love them this way! On account of an addition which was purely my idea, the waist band is covered smoothly inside with a second waistband cut out made to be an inner “facing” piece. Every other seam, except for the hems of course, is in French seams. The extra time spent on these finishes is so worth it when you see the insides putting it on.

TOTAL COST:  about $12

As much as I like this dress as a project, I really still am not sure how much I like it actually on myself, but I think this is merely because it is a new style. I’m not accustomed to having my waist so accentuated (with the piping in the waistband), but you know your waist is traditionally regarded as one of your shape’s best assets. After all, there is the famous song “Ac-cen-tchu-ate the Positive” which was published and recorded in the same year as my dress – 1944. So, I might as well follow those words and highlight my shape and the pattern’s style in one move! 100_4885-comp

However much I like the dress on me, one of the major selling points to make this dress so very special is the fact that it is (as far as I know) my only local vintage pattern which has actually stayed in town the past 70 years. Through an old receipt found inside the envelope of pattern, I can see the original place of first purchase in town and narrow down the year of purchase by a note written on the back. Then I happened to find and buy it about 10 miles away from the store on the receipt…talk about localized! I can’t do this exact sourcing with any other pattern in my stock. Dissemination of patterns through online sellers, vendors, and such seem to me to make sure that many patterns do not stay where they came from. After having so much enjoyment finding this 1944 McCall #5668, I now feel that this fact is rather a sad necessity for getting old patterns bought and sold.

100_4879a-b-compHappily my research into the pattern’s history through the receipt helped me discover something new about my own city and about the turnaround of old patterns. At the top of the receipt, it is a little faded, but I can still read “Sears, Roebuck and Co. retail store, Grand Blvd. and Winnebago St.” My scan didn’t pick up as much as I can see on the real receipt. There is a date of “March 2” with no year. The total amount of purchase shown comes to $1.35. At first, I talked to my mom, because she grew up not too far from that area and her mom worked in retail department stores. She remembered going with her mom to this store, where some good memories were made. Then, I looked up on my favorite preservationist and architectural appreciation web sites for our town and found this page showing pictures of the building and telling the sad story of how the Art Deco building had been neglected, unwanted, and torn down years after its closing in 1993. Now that I could place the location and store this pattern came from, I assumed it was bought in the year of the pattern, 1944, until I saw a handwritten note of “McCalls P. no. 5948” on the receipt back.Sears store receipt - back & front-comp Now I have done the best internet searching I can do, and I find no records, no picture, or anything of a McCall pattern by that number. However, I do possess a pattern with a very close number, McCall #5946 (see the post of my “Daily Life Dress”), and this pattern is from the next year after my Easter dress, year 1945. This presents so many questions. Is it possible this 1944 McCall #5668 pattern was bought in 1945? Did patterns stay out for purchase years after release, or was this something that happened just during war-time due to the smaller amounts of available resources for consumers and companies alike? I know I’ve definitely noticed a boom in patterns and styles in the year 1946, so did some of these patterns which had been out to buy for most of the war get shelved at that time? What is this mystery pattern the purchaser wrote on the back of my receipt? I wonder. If anyone wants to join in with me and help me answer some of these questions, you’re most welcome.

100_4889-compNow that I’ve addressed the “travel history” of the pattern, I’ll tell you making the pattern for my Easter dress was really pretty easy, requiring no extremely complicated skills. I merely made things harder (but a lot nicer in the end) for myself by deciding to add in the piping and extra inside waist facing. The most time consuming parts were the ones you would expect – the French seams, the piping, and the buttons and their holes down the front. Also, interfacing was ironed onto the wrong side of the front waistband, the self-facing half of the fronts (bodice halves and skirt halves), and the back facing piece. This type of iron-on interfacing (done for my 1946 Yellow Knit Top) is tricky and time-consuming but it really helps get sharply turned edges on a material as drapey as rayon challis.

100_4890-compThe dress was made exactly according to the pattern, except for one fun personal change – the chest tucks at each side of the neckline are facing out, where you can notice them, rather than the conventional inward facing. This makes them more like pin tucks, and much more decorative, than regular tucks. I figured they would also complement the angles of the square neckline I chose. Wearing a square neckline is real pleasure, too – and a nice oddity in my wardrobe. It nicely frames the face, I think, making this dress, together with the bold, bright floral fabric, not a frock for the wallflower side of me.

The top half of the dress turned out more blouse-y and generous than I anticipated. Oh well, this gives me room to move my arms easily and wear some vintage figure enhancing lingerie. I did also sew in rounded, softened silhouette shoulder pads which fill in the dress’ top and nicely shapes the droopy fabric. At least, the bottom half of my dress turned out fitting snugly comfortable. I was afraid that the skirt section would be a close fit which would end up pulling at the buttons. Whenever I see this, I imagine a button popping out at me.

100_4919a-compNot too often do I have a larger lot of vintage buttons, and I was excited to be able to use 100_4917-compup a “baker’s dozen” of 13 shell buttons. They all are a little different in character, but that’s what makes them special. Button number 13 wasn’t actually needed by time I hemmed the dress, so it is sewn in to the bottom side seam as an extra “just-in-case” one. The waistband middle was way too thick for me to even remotely consider making a workable buttonhole there – it might break my precious special vintage “buttonholer” machine. So I just did a once around to make what looks like a buttonhole there and sewed the button directly down. There are double heavy-duty snaps to keep the waist band securely closed. When the dress is on me, no but you will know the difference.

100_4847-compThe piping really is the small addition to this dress’ design that makes the whole thing go up a notch in style. Why have a separate waistband designed in the dress and let it get lost in appearance?!? This was my first time sewing with piping, and I am relatively happy at how I did wedging it in the seams. I wasn’t sure how to even make it work, until I had the idea to use my invisible zipper foot on my 1970’s Brother sewing machine. I suppose using a zipper presser foot is a simple cheater’s way of doing something without an expensive specialty part, but, hey – it worked great! It took lots of pinning, measuring, and slow stitching to reach the point where I was happy with the piping…and I am my own worst100_4918-comp critic. I must admit I wasn’t 100% happy with the “Wrights brand” piping tape, but I don’t really know if there is any other option out there to buy. I’m not meaning to complain, for after all, all’s well that ends well, especially when the addition of piping helped my dress turn out better than I had hoped. As a last minute “after-everything-else-is-done” decision, there is also piping added along the top opening of the pocket. Otherwise the pocket would have been lost in the rest of the dress. Never underestimate the beauty and utility of having a pocket.

100_4892-compFor Easter, I totally splurged and chose my own gift to wear with my outfit – new shoes! I did not know until a few days before Easter if my dress would be done in time, and so I decided at the last moment to order my shoes from ModCloth. They are the “Say It with Sophistication Heel in Ivory”. The employee I spoke to on the phone was extremely kind and helpful, even giving me a free “rush” 2 day delivery upgrade on my order. I was so tickled! My shoes look so high heeled, but they are really the most comfortable heels I’ve worn in a long time. I love all of Chelsea Crew’s brand shoes and have several, but this pair is lovely – nice details and oh-so-very 1940’s. They are the perfect complement to my dress even though in reality they are a darker ivory color than I expected. I’ve seen old originals which look just like these…Chelsea Crew did a good job imitating those old beauties. By the way, the grass in our pictures really isn’t fake, just the first new grass of spring.1940's green snakeskin leather strap heels100_4900a-comp

Spring rains are necessary for such lovely grass but it made the ground mushy where I was posing. My heel sunk right into the ground and I totally felt stuck and frustrated. Pulling my heels out left me with a yucky plug of mud, ruining my “perfect Easter outfit” look. Nothing mars the prettiest Easter outfit like an ugly scowl as hubby caught in this picture. A passing man that was jogging on the trail behind me (which you can see his feet if you look by the tree) filled in the words for me, yelling out an exaggerated, “Eww, yuck!” It was quite embarrassing, funny, and totally memorable.

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