“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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Field of Flowers

When I think of the crossover time between the decades of the 1960’s and 1970’s, what tends to come to my mind are the classic historical features for the time – “flower children”, the “Space Age”, “peace and love”, calls for freedom, and (in fashion) loose, flowing, romanticized dressing in all man-made materials. I hate stereotypes for history, but in this post I will combine all of them into one new, different, and amazing project from 1972 – the “Wrap-and-Go Pantskirt”.

100_5434-compBy the way, my top is not handmade, only the bottoms. My red star studded top is an oldie but goodie that finds its way out of the closet every year’s Independence weekend in July.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC: a slightly shiny, 100% polyester Butterick 6720 envelope front with drawing

NOTIONS: I needed none to buy, but all that is needed is thread, a small cut of elastic, a hook-and-eye, and about a yard of ribbon.

PATTERN: Butterick 6720, year 1972. As far as I can tell, this pattern was perhaps released originally in 1971, but for one reason or another, it was re-released 1972 with a different cover to the envelope.

Butterick 6720 envelope front with picturesTIME TO COMPLETE: I only spent about 2 1/2 hours to do my finishing, but I can’t imagine it taking too long for my mother-in-law to do her part of the pants (I’ll explain more of this later). What takes the longest about making these pants is the large amount of fabric that is close to being a single cut. My new Pantskirt was finished in mid-June of this year, 2015.

THE INSIDES: This polyester does not fray, and the whole garment is supposed to be loose and flowing, so the edges are appropriately left raw.

TOTAL COST: Zero for me. I will explain the reason why in the paragraph below. Just to estimate fabric amounts, the pattern does calls for about 3 yards for the long ankle length version, and about 1 5/8 for the short version.

Butterick 6720 envelope backThis project is most unique in the way it is really a combined family effort. My mother-in-law recently hauled out her fabric stash for me to go through. Digging around in the boxes of fabric scraps one night led me to find what I thought was a large cut of classic 70’s polyester in an even more classic bright and floral print. When I opened it up…hello! It was actually a half-finished project. I immediately recognized it as the “Wrap-and-Go Pantskirt” and my mother-in-law recognized it as a project she set down years ago. The only reason I knew about such an unusual piece was because just the week before I had intended on buying the pattern for the wrap pants, only to pass them up and consider buying at another time. In lieu of buying the pattern, I was overly recompensed and excited by my mother-in-law letting me have the pants to finish and wear.

The pants had been pretty close to being finished when I received them. The crotch seam was stitched closely and clipped well, making for a nice and stable support for the whole project (just lettin’ you know she did a nice job). The back half of the waistband had also been completed, with elastic in the casing and a large hook and eye to close at the back. All I really had to do was a few things to make the pants wearable. I hemmed the bottom up 4 whole inches, I brought in the back waistband elastic to make it tighter, and ran a grosgrain ribbon along the front waistband casing. The last thing the project needed was a really good overall ironing job to get out the creases set into the fabric from a few decades of being folded and smashed in a box.

100_5441-compNow, In case you don’t understand the simple creativity of the pattern, below I will layout the creative process that is “getting dressed” in the “Wrap-and-Go Pantskirt”.

First, you find the back elastic waistband and hook that closed behind you with the crotch seam raw edge facing in against your skin. The rest of the garment is either on the floor or, if you hold the front waistband, in front of you. Your back half has an open slit flapping in the breeze below where it’s hooked closed.

100_5452-compThen, in order to wrap it around you, find the front and the crotch seam, and put these through and between your legs towards the back of you. Now your front half looks like pants but the behind is still open.

100_5448-compFinally, the front waistband is wrapped around from the back and tied together in the front middle. I adjust the gathers along the ribbon belt so that most of the fullness is towards the back because I like the behind to have extra room and my belly to look flat (who doesn’t).

100_5453-compThat’s it! When worn, these pants remind me of a pair of 1930’s beach pajama bottoms. They are wonderful in every way imaginable. The only way they could possibly be better would be if they weren’t in 70’s polyester…but then they wouldn’t be 70’s pants, would they? The wrap part to the front also sort of flies open as one walks making the pants feel so very elegant and comfy, even in the heat of summer. For beginners wanting to make pants, I would think the “Wrap-and-Go Pantskirt” would be perfect because it is a wrap, and there is forgiveness in the fit and design which doesn’t require perfect tailoring. Minimal sewing and only one real seam make this pattern super easy for the novice seamstress (or one who wants a simple project) while still seeming complicated on account of the style’s design. Tricky thing! What more could I ask for but more reasons to wear these out and about.

100_5443-compHowever, when nature calls, it is even more of a creative process to try to go use the facilities in a public place without picking up everything disgusting off of the floor and back onto yourself. For this photo shoot, I couldn’t really show you how the project goes on very well in any public place, and there is too much fabric with not enough light to take pictures inside. So, to go with the whole “hippie” and “flower child” idea and give me people-free room to partially undress, we shot our pictures in a field (forest out cropping) filled with Queen Anne’s Lace flowers. Little did I know that demonstrating the Pantskirt would also scoop up a generous amount of pests – skin sucking Chiggers, as a matter of fact. The pictures are perfectly what we hoped for, but, oh…was I stupid. Sweeping the Pantskirt open then wrapping it closed in a field was equal to laying out a buffet right in front of the pests, then tucking them in so they’re nice and comfy to stay awhile. I am still scarred from their generous bites and I itched for a week. The things I do for a good picture! Freedom, peace, flowers (and bugs) all seem to have their time together when mid-year kicks in!

100_5447-compI am missing out on the skimpy wrap bandeau top by not having the “Wrap-and-Go” pattern, but the same thing can be achieved with a large square scarf. I will be having a post about vintage inspired scarf ideas, showing the various ways a large 36 inch square was worn from the 1920’s to 1950’s, and a bandeau top like on Butterick 6720 will be in there.

Knowing that freedom is celebrated in many countries in the beginning of July, here’s hoping everyone had (or will have) a safe and happy Independence celebration.