The Pink Polka Dotty Dress

For as much as I love everything about the 1940’s wartime styles, I also love the contrast that the post WWII fashion offers.  It is a lovely in-between the 50’s extremes of femininity (either big, poufy skirts or slim wiggle versions) and the rationed utility clothing.  I mean, this post’s year 1948 dress is 40’s still, yet I can have a full skirt in a midi length, softer shoulders, and extra details which demand excess fabric.  Yes, very early 40’s frocks also had only some of these qualities.  Yet, the post-war period had streamlined, elegant looks while the pre-war time had many folk inspired styles often with exaggerated features.  This dress is the best of what came both before and after it, in my opinion!

Even though this dress is in my least favorite print – polka dots – I am naturally disposed to favor it, probably no matter what pattern it is made from.  The fabric has the prettiest light pink and a very rich, purple-tinted burgundy!  They fall directly in my “favorite colors” range!  The whole ensemble is finished with some true vintage gloves, pink pearl earrings which had been my Grandmother’s, a retro scarf (which had been my mom’s) as my belt, and a little 1940s original hat in the same tones.  I have a recipe for a total mood booster.  To go full matchy-matchy, I even have a vintage post-WWII rayon blazer which further pairs beautifully with my dress, only it covers up the details so I saved it just for cold indoor air conditioning or a cool breeze in the shade.

THE FABRIC:

FABRIC:  The polka dot fashion fabric is a polyester crepe, with a satin finish.  It is partially lined in both a cotton-polyester blend broadcloth as well as an anti-cling polyester.

PATTERN:  McCall #7226, year 1948 ( I never cease to be shocked at the completely sheer black version on the cover!  In 1948, really?  I love it!)

NOTIONS:  Just plenty of thread and one side zipper was all that I needed to whip the dress up!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress was finished on September 21, 2018 after taking about 20 hours to finish.

THE INSIDES:  The entire raw edges are covered by full lining.

TOTAL COST:  The fabrics for this dress had been with me long enough to no longer remember when they were bought, so let’s just count this as a free stash-busting project, shall we?!

The most obvious, glaring difference than any 40’s pattern which came the previous 6 years was the great number of pattern pieces and the extra fabric they required.  The back of the skirt section is a flared out version of the classic three piece which is the same as most of all 40’s dress patterns.  Yet the front has 7 panels which get wider as they go to the hem for a fantastic sweep which is so perfect for twirling!  The bodice back is like a bloused out version of a 1950s kimono sleeved block, and so is the front underneath the three wonderful layers of horizontal pleats!

This was as easy to sew together as it is a breezy and effortless joy to wear.  As the polka dots are randomly spread all over I made absolutely no attempt at any matching, totally taking the laidback route.  The skirt is more so.  The cut on sleeves with the deep cut armholes are unconfining.  I adapted the pattern so that the zipper would open up all the way under the arm for no need to wiggle into a dress with a limited side closure.  My choice of lining also adds both comfort and simplicity.  I detest the feel of raw polyester on my skin and hate the static cling it builds.  Lining the entire dress made it opaque and eliminates the need for an extra slip, of course, but adding a cotton blend to the bodice is for pure comfort while the anti-cling poly cuts out any problems with static.  I do like a ‘throw-it-on-and-out-the-door’ kind of dress which is classy in an instant yet feels as nice like a nightgown.

There is always something surprising to the construction of a vintage pattern.  They almost always have some little detail that is put together so much smarter than it seems at first glance of the line drawings.  In the case of this pattern, it was the pleats on the front bodice which were the ingenious detail that surprised and amazed me.  The bottom two pleats are drafted into the bodice front.  You have to stitch (wrong sides together) a certain amount away from the two marked foldlines and let the pleats hang down before sewing to the side seams.  Yet, the top “pleat” is really a fake, but realistically a two ties which get sewn into the top horizontal neckline seam.  Half of each tie hangs down free at the center front so they can be drawn into a bow.  As I said, things are not as they seem in vintage patterns…they are better than they first seem!

This is the perfect 3 season transitional piece.  Now, with the chilly spring days, it is just as perfect as crisp fall days with the darker burgundy background color (especially with the matching vintage jacket).  It is lightweight enough on its own for summer, too!  I have found myself reaching for it again and again after I’ve sewn it.  Some of the things I make just immediately transition into a being a piece of my everyday wardrobe and this is one of them (versus projects that wear out of that ‘just made’ status through time).  This is why I forgot to post it until now.  Oh, I am so behind on posting sewing goodies like this one!  So, no matter what is going on in the world, and no matter whether I am staying home looking not at all as magnificent as I would like, I have stuff up my sleeves to post of past fabulous times dressed in fabulous clothes to share.

Down on the Polka Dot Range

There are so many things I have planned in my sewing queue, that many get shelved for the future out of necessity to make way for what I do want or need to make at the moment.  Although I am “Seam Racer”, one can only make so much in a month or year!  I have never liked the idea of myself in polka dots (yeah, call me weird), yet sewing a polka dot blouse has been on my “list” now for several years.  After seeing a lovely rich navy shirting in my local fabric store recently with polka dots in a size that finally pleased me, I snapped it up and decided now was the time to whip that long awaited blouse up!

With the Burda Style 2018 Challenge going on, I immediately had the perfect pattern in mind for it, too, to make my at-least-one-a-month goal.  I love the seaming to this finished blouse, which I highlighted with piping.  It has an ever so slight nod to western fashion, with a touch of menswear in the detailing.  This is a great, first-rate pattern, one that you don’t need much fabric for (on account of all the piecing), and I am so absolutely thrilled with the finished result!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a super soft, 100% cotton shirting in polka dot, with a 100% rayon challis to line the shirt panels inside

PATTERN:  Burda Style pattern #117, from January 2018 –  View A is the “Blouse with Embroidery”, while View B is the “Pleated Blouse” (but they’re really only tucks down the front actually!)

NOTIONS:  I bought the piping pre-made, and had to buy the buttons new to match as well.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  8 to 10 hours – it was finished on March 21, 2018.

THE INSIDES:  Most of the seams are covered by the lining for the shoulder and chest panels inside, as well as the button panel piece, but the other seams are French seamed.

TOTAL COST:  Since I bought this with a discount (at my local Jo Ann’s Fabric store) and I only needed 1 ½ yards, counted with the piping I bought this blouse cost me $12.

Now, 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 came from the monthly magazine issue, using a roll of sheer medical paper to trace the pieces out from the insert sheet, but if you buy from the online store, you download, print, and assemble the PDF file you receive first.  It’s at this preliminary step that I pick out my chosen size and add in your choice of seam allowance width (I normally add in 5/8 inch allowance), but others do this directly on the fabric as they are cutting out.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide attached helps immensely for adding on the seam allowance easily.  Sorry to repeat something you might already know, but this is just an “FYI” for those that don’t.

As much as I love the detailing and complexity of the original design, I did not think the front tucks suited a polka dot and nor did I feel like doing all the decorative stitching at the moment anyway.  Thus, my blouse has been simplified down to the major seam lines only.  Yeah, call me lazy, but deep down it was a styling choice.  Seeing how happy I am with my finished blouse, I do not expect this to be my only time using this pattern, so next time I hope to go for a solid with lots of add-on interest in front, as originally designed!  I’m also envisioning a full-out Western version in two colors with chest pockets on the front panels!

To eliminate the vertical pleat-looking front section, I took the pattern piece that was sectioned off to shape the tucks and added it directly to the bodice front at the pattern stage.  This way I had one solid piece to cut out from fabric.  The pattern originally has you cut out panels for those tucks, mark the large sections every so far apart, and fold and stitch.  Then you take those panels and cut them out according to the shape of another pattern piece, the one that I added onto the bodice front tissue.  Adding the panel to the bodice front was a bit tricky because there is a gentle, inward tapering curve, starting about 7 inches down from the top, to the front bodice where it meets the button placket.  This is indistinguishable until you get out your ruler, but nicely shapes the blouse over the chest.  I merely slashed the add-on panel for the tucks to curve it in with the shape of the bodice before taping them together.

I made no adjustments besides grading between sizes for the hips to the waist and above, and this fits impeccably.  There are no bust darts, and this blouse is so very long and simple in shape, with an arched shirttail hem.  Nevertheless, I find it to be a nice in-between tent sized and fitted.

The sleeves are not restricting, there is plenty of reach room.  They are roomy yet tapered and I love the pleating into the skinny button cuffs.  Granted the tiny work of the bias covered cuff opening and the skinny cuffs were sort of tricky, fiddly work, but I found that grading down the seam allowance with a scissors helped immensely.  I did not even need to lengthen or shorten the sleeves!

The collar too, came together perfectly and looks impeccable, if I do say so myself.  It has a small collar and then a collar stand for a very structured, yet not overwhelming neckline.  As I sew so many vintage pieces, I am so used to large collars, or at least the more commonly found convertible, wing, or cut-on collars that I am taken by this one.  It keeps a subdued place alongside all the piping I added in the seams.

I neglected to even so much as bother to try and figure out how the instructions told me to do the invisible button placket.  I just made it on my own, however it made the most sense.  After making this Burda dress, with its invisible hook-and-eye placket, I discovered I’m just better off just using my sewing and engineering sense.  I cut one button placket for the left side, and two for the right, as this would have the buttonholes which needed to be covered by an extra panel.  Now, I did use lightweight interfacing for all three pieces because with all of the plackets and the piping, I figured it could easily become too stiff.

To keep the two right pieces straight in my head (but also because I ran out of fashion fabric), the under placket which would have the buttonholes was cut from the solid lining fabric.  Each of the three pieces were folded in half to make the plackets, but the invisible one (out of the solid fabric) with the buttonholes was trimmed (by 1/8 inch) along the long seam allowance so it would be slightly less wide than the over placket, and therefore be truly invisible.  For the left, the placket was sewn on, folded in half and seam allowances folded in and top-stitched down to cover raw edges.  The same was done for the right side, except there were two plackets layered together.  Lastly, I hand stitched the invisible placket to the over placket in between each of the buttonholes.

It was funny, yet not funny, how impossibly hard it was to find matching navy buttons.  Have you ever realized what variety there is in the color navy?  There is the popular navy blue, which is bright and has a good amount of true blue (royal cobalt blue) in it.  There is another navy color I found that has a dusty, grey tone to it.  And then there is a navy color that is almost a blue-black…and this is the tone that was crazy hard to find in a basic shirt-button, ½ inch style.  I had to buy this “craft” multi-pack of 50 something different colored buttons just because that was the only pack in any fabric store in town that had the black undertone navy blue color I needed.  Even then, the navy buttons were labelled as blue.  I know we all see color differently, but there are so many helpful means of standardizing color today, you’d think it would carry over into helping us who sew find the buttons we need.  Maybe match the numbers for color with the numbers for the thread offered…or maybe just follow Pantone’s charts?  I never knew the color differences of navy could be that frustrating until I needed to finish a sewing project.  Many varieties of thread colors are offered nowadays, but not as many button colors.  What do you think?

This blouse may be the beginning of a conversion to liking polka dots after all, but I still think I will be selective with the colors and sizes I prefer.  Whatever – I do love my new blouse!  I have been on a blouse making spree for the last 6 months (making way more than have shown up on the blog in that period of time) and with this one, my “kick” doesn’t seem to be waning…yet!

1976 “Disco Dots” One Yard Blouse

The more I sew, the more I am amazed by the amount of wonderful projects I can make from one yard or less of fabric. You really don’t need that much material to make something incredibly useful, interesting, and all-around great! Here is a post about my latest “one-yard-wonder”… a classic sleeveless button front blouse from 1976.

100_5858a-compTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  One yard of a basic 100% cotton

NOTIONS:  All that I needed was on hand – the interfacing, bias tape, thread, and buttons.Simplicity 7353 yr 1976 pattern from my M-I-L

PATTERN:  Simplicity #7353, year 1976, from the collection of my mother-in-law

TIME TO COMPLETE:  From start to finish, the blouse only took 5 hours, and it was finished on August 4, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  So nice! All seams are finished in French seams, and the hem and armhole edges are covered in bias tape.  The facing edge is also covered in tiny 1/4 inch bias tape (see picture below).

TOTAL COST:  The fabric was bought from Hancock Fabrics for $5.00 or less.

100_5903-compMy blouse’s fabric was part of a three part set of matching prints, all in the same color scheme – one more of a large solid polka dot, one part floral/tiny polka dot, and the broken circle combo of both that was the print I used. My friend, the Hancock store employee, helped me decide which of the three to pick out for myself…thank you! I am so happy with my choice.

Originally, I picked out the fabric for my blouse because it reminded me of a print drawn on the cover of a 1960’s reprinted pattern, Simplicity #1364, but I had a “feeling” that the print needed a different, more funky design to go with it. After all, I have always admired how sleeveless shirt blouses look so cool and summer-appropriate in the warm weather months, but I did not yet have anything like it in my closet. Thus, between the right “feel” for the combo of design and fabric, the desire to make a different type of garment, the attraction of using a pattern from the family’s collection, and the ideas that the material brought to my mind, I made the project the way that I did.

100_5857-compNow the 1970’s were the height of the Disco era, and this culture was a large influence for my blouse. I personally enjoy the disco era music and songs, perhaps because I grew up hearing those songs from the late 60’s to 70’s through the vinyl records of my parents, who are (in my opinion) an awesome dance couple knowing all the best moves. The year after the date of my blouse, 1977, was the release of the famed “Saturday Night Fever” movie, which seems to have a fad all its own. However, the children’s cartoon character Snoopy was what anchored my impression of the Disco Era in my head when I saw the Saturday Night Fever Movie Soundtrack record cover&Flashbeagle VHS cover“Flash Beagle” episode as a little girl. Even though the Snoopy episode was from 1984, it was based on dance classics such as “Flash Dance” and “Saturday Night Fever”, and my parents had the Snoopy VHS at home so I could watch it again and again (you can watch it yourself here). The print of the cotton, with its broken ridged circles in boldly bright and rich colors, reminds me of two things classic to the Disco Era: vinyl records and light-up dance floors like the ones in both “Saturday Night Fever” and “Flash Beagle”. This is how I came to the nickname “Disco Dots” for my new creation…and it makes me smile! 100_5860-comp

I found the pattern to be easy and straightforward, with the pieces matching/fitting together very well. My sole minor complaint is that the armholes turned out quite small, but this is nothing new – many patterns’ armholes seem snug to my larger upper arms, so I don’t know if this had to do with the pattern or just me. Look at those darling options with the pattern. If I get the notion, I might pick a contrast fabric and make the collar/head scarf to match my blouse. Wouldn’t View 1 (top center) be great in a lightweight flowing crepe or chiffon, perhaps in a retro floral like in the drawing?! Simplicity #7353 probably will have to be used again soon.

Simplicity 7353 yr 1976 pattern back from my M-I-LThis is my first 1970’s blouse and it has helped me get the big picture on how blouse trends change while staying the same. I have patterns in my stash for blouses in every era from the 1910’s to nowadays, and have made blouse from most of the decades in that time frame. I see slight and subtle changes to adapt to the differing popular silhouettes for each decade, giving room and shaping where needed to achieve the decade’s ideal. I also notice each decade of the 20th century having blouses with special characteristics of prevailing design use, such as a large variety of interesting collar styles in the 20’s, unusual sleeves in the 30’s, gathered shoulder fronts in the 40’s or kimono sleeves in the 50’s (to list a broad and brief summary of the variety), but behind all the details I still see a basic blouse construction with facings, similar collar insertion, and a button closure whether in the front, back, or side. This 1976 blouse has a long bodice length, with little shaping besides the bust darts and back neckline darts, buttons all the way down to the bottom hem, and gi-normous collar lapels.

100_5863-compI am so awed by the oversized collar – I love it! It is so large the collar tips extend over edge of the sleeve. Looking at the pattern cover envelope drawing, it seems the collar needs to be worn folded over higher behind the neck, so I ironed it down like that so it would stay. Hey – it did work to help the collar not hang over the armholes and it look really cool and subtly special.

After the giant collar, my favorite part about my blouse is how the buttons are a lovely toned-down light blue, a match for the bright colors in the fabric. They came from the stash of Hubby’s Grandmother to make this blouse a very special project in combination with the pattern coming from my mother-in-law.

100_5853-compPerfect for pairing with a multitude of solid skirt bottoms in my closet, this blouse is a new staple. I have one-color skirts in all in interesting colors and silhouettes and my blouse looks good with so many of them, I haven’t yet decided which is my favorite. It’s so fun every time I wear my blouse to change things up and pair it with a different skirt, shoes, jewelry, and possibly a sweater once the weather turns chilly. Versatile pieces are so great! In our pictures, I’m wearing my blouse with a – brand cotton twill skirt, bought years back. I love the way the bright pastel lime green is so unusual and fun for summer.

My next post will continue the 1970’s decade, but here’s a teaser – it will be menswear. Both this post and the up-coming next post share the same colorful background location of the side wall to the South-Hampton Art Studio-Gallery.

Retro Rewind – a Modern 60’s Style Babydoll Blouse

Some clothing creations of mine I like almost instantly, while some others just have to ‘grow’ on me a bit before I can say I like it on myself.  I was so proud of hitting my 50th sewing project mark with this little blouse, but the 60’s inspired top itself took some getting used to.

Baby doll styles have never really appealed to me.  However, I don’t like to be stuck in a style rut and I am willing to try new things.  My version of a 60’s Baby doll blouse has finally won me over, and I have a few great ways of accessorizing and matching it.  The thrifty part of me also makes me want to brag about how this blouse is made entirely from scraps and remnants… so the total cost is so cheap but inventive!

100_2033aTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% cotton remnant (.89 of a yard, to be exact) in a white polka dot print with an aqua background, bought on sale at JoAnn’s;  for the collar, I bought a 100%cotton quilter’s Fat Quarter

NOTIONS:  I had everything I needed;  I always have interfacing, the back button came from my stash, and then there was enough matching thread and aqua bias tape leftover from being used towards working on these two apronsI also used a small potion of the braid used on my “The Artist” Movie copy cat dress

100_1289PATTERN:  Simplicity 1693, view D.  I have made this pattern before, in a different view with modifications, as my ‘Great Gatsby 20’s satin tunic. 

TIME TO COMPLETE:  not long, maybe three of four hours;  it was finished on my birthday this year (early August 2013)

THE INSIDES:  every seam is sewn in French seams, except for the inside collar edge which is covered in bias tape

TOTAL COST:  the fabric remnant was 1/2 price, and the Fat Quarter was only 99 cents, so my total cost for this blouse is only $4.32.  This top has Wal-Mart prices with high-end quality.

     Even though my Baby doll blouse is a different view than the last time I made this pattern (which was for my 20’s satin tunic), I still did the same minor adjustments and came up with the same wonderful fit.  I made two sizes smaller for the bust darts and cut a bit generously around the back bodice shoulder area, but otherwise I made my correct size (with grading, of course).  I will certainly make more of this pattern, with another different variation, it’s such a great go-to standby, easy to change, easy to wear, and quick to put together.100_1766

I did find out that .89 yards was too much of a tight squeeze to ever try again, especially with sleeves, but, as always, I made it work.  Do not try this at home!  As you can see in the picture at left, the little bit of fabric left above where the tunic was cut, went towards fudging in the sleeve pattern.  Our dachshund is the black thing in the corner…he’s always on the lookout for interesting smells!

My short sleeves would’ve appeared funny any shorter than they already were, so I wanted to add an elastic placket.  Merely using the hem for elastic casing does not appeal to my sewing tastes too often, and I also added a casing for the elastic cuffs of my tie-neck knit dress.  Then, I happened to find some aqua double fold bias tape in my stash of “Wright’s” brand trims.  It matched the aqua background of my fabric, and I had just enough leftover from the two projects it went towards already, my re-fashioned vintage apron and it’s matching mini apron.

After using the leftover aqua bias tape towards the sleeve elastic casings, I still had a small strip.  I hated to not find a way to use up all of the bias tape.  When I tried on my blouse, it was still missing that “something”, so the small leftover strip was cut in half widthwise and sewn up into ties for the front.

100_2040a     I am so proud at how perfectly I matched up the front designs of the collars on my blouse.  The fat quarter was more of a stiffer cotton than the cotton for the body of my top, but therefore perfect for its use.  I love how the design on the fabric of my collar is a wild match which makes my top much more fun and retro than if I had chosen a single color.

A simple button placket went into the back button closure of this Baby doll blouse.  Since I had cut both the front and the back bodice pieces on the fold, I put in a vintage style placket, the kind where you cut out a rectangle, hem three edges, sew it down around the slash marks, then turn right sides out and top stitch down.  I did this same method for my 1937 Peacock blouse (see my post for a visual explanation).  The aqua button is from my vintage stash, and the loop is a tiny cut of 3/16 inch ‘president braid’ used to make my “The Artist” Movie imitation dress.

100_2042     Please excuse the wrinkles…wearing 100% cotton is great but a short trip in the car can make its mark on it too soon.

That’s all folks!  See my Flickr page (link here) if you would like to see more pictures of my 60’s style blouse.

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