1941 Convertible “Pinny”

Sorry, but this is not a name for an unusual kind of motor vehicle, it’s just referring to an unusual, yet very useful and attractive kind of garment which I have made!  I now have a pinafore dress whose “top can come down”.

Don’t take that the wrong way – all I mean is that this 40’s pinafore has been made so that it can come apart to be two separate wearing pieces if I so desire.  After all, as much as I unabashedly wear this pinafore set out and about, I’ll admit it’s not something I’d want to wear in its entirety in every social setting.  This way, I really don’t have to change completely…just change tops for a new and updated look.  Such a dress, made the ‘convertible’ way, completely transcends the almost 80 year time gap, making it truly something that is ultimately useful and sensible…the goal of a pinafore anyway.  I believe I have nailed a way to bring the pinafore to the modern wearer.  I managed this outfit all on 2 measly yards, too.

Guess what makes this even more up-to-date?  There is a hidden division to this pinafore where the top and the skirt attach at the waistline – above it is authentic to year 1941, below it is a modern Burda Style pattern.  Together, they both complement one another to the point that they even the other out, like a good marriage.  I see the modern bottom making the vintage top more like a trendy “Shabby Chic”, and the ’41 pinafore top bringing out subtle past references from the current design.  Separate, each of the two pieces work well with others (in my wardrobe I mean) making sure one or the other sees the light of day more frequently than not.  As much as I make what I like, I do always try to make garments that are still practical on some level to keep things from just hanging in my closet.  After all, there’s no use in making something to wear if you won’t wear it, right?  And remember – having the gift of sewing open up the opportunity for limitless ideas and customization.

If you haven’t seen my previous post, or if you haven’t encountered this weird ‘thing’ I’m calling a “pinny” (which is short for pinafore), I’d recommend you head on over a read it, please, for an explanation. Face it, a pinafore is smarter than modern clothes anyway, because at least it has giant pockets that really do fit a smartphone (little would a woman of the 1940’’s have guessed such a use)!  It’s every bit just as comfy, probably more so in my estimation, and a lot more fun!  Finally, the way I made it, all I can say is thank you to the person who invented snaps and hook-and-eyes, however, because otherwise this two-piece dress would not have been possible!

In most pictures, I am pairing the pinafore with a vintage rayon scarf to keep my hair in place, and a vintage necklace of mother-of-pearl oblong beads with matching mother-of-pearl carved earrings from my Grandmother.  My newest favorite shoes, lovely Re-Mix “Dara” 40’s style wedge sandals in burgundy red, are a comfy and colorful option for casual class!  I am also sharing some other photos of just a few of the endless outfits that match with my new favorite me-made – this pinafore!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  2 yards of 100% rayon challis floral in rose garden print, with a solid navy 100% cotton broadcloth for lining the skirt pockets and underside of the pinafore top body

PATTERNS:  Advance #3152, year 1941, for the top pinafore bib half, and then Burda Style’s “Pocket Skirt” #105, from February 2017, for the bottom half

NOTIONS:  I used a card of size 2 snaps as well as 4 of those flat, slide-closed, waistband-style hook-and-eyes around the waist.  I used PLENTY of navy thread, and a little interfacing along with some mesh netting as another kind of stabilizer (more on this down later).  There is a vintage metal zipper for the pinny bodice, and a modern zipper for the skirt (even my zipper choices attest to the fact of which part of my dress is vintage and which is not).  Everything I used was extras on hand and came from my stash.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was made in July 2017 in about 15 to 20, which is not bad at all for all the gathering and extra trouble to make this into two separate garments.  This sound cliché, but to tell you the truth I wasn’t really counting time because I was enjoying myself…until it came to the snaps and hooks…ugh!

THE INSIDES:  So nice and clean!  All seams to the whole dress are either covered by fabric facings or in bright, rich burgundy red bias tape.  I do love the flash of color the bias tape gives when my tiny hem is seem as my skirt blows or I sit and bend over.  Surprise!

TOTAL COST:  This fabric was bought from Jo Ann’s store for about $12 and the cotton was just a few dollars more.

After my recent jumpsuit that I divided up into two pieces, I kind of knew the premise of how to make my pinafore a two-in-one.  The biggest complications were the facts that both top and skirt of my pinafore needed zippers, and the droopy challis wasn’t going to cut it as stand-alone ruffles without a supple support.  The skirt was whipped up first – practically a few hours in one afternoon – and then the pinny came in second.  As I was making this pinafore, I was severely doubting whether this was a total waste of time.  I’ve never really made a pinny before, unless you count my Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz” apron, so how did I know that I would love it once it was done, tried on, and accessorized?

The pinafore pattern I used was in a size too big for me, and, from my experience, smaller brands like Advance run on the large size.  However, as this should also have the capability to be worn over a blouse and be loose and comfy anyway, I only cut off 3/8 inch (the seam allowance amount) from the side seams and it still ran roomy with my sewing in ½ inch allowances.  I went a size up than my “normal” Burda Style skirt size, to match with the roomy waist of the pinafore top.  The generous waist pulls in nicely with a belt when worn alone, and doesn’t need pulling in when it’s attached as part of the whole pinny.  The awesome belt loops save the middle of my divided pinafore.

Technically I could count this as part of my ongoing “Retro Forward with Burda Style” blog series because the skirt’s lovely arched pockets have continuous cut-on belt loops for the waistband much like several 40’s patterns I have come across.  Advance 4344 or Vogue 7519 have very similar pockets.  I faced the entire wrong side of the pocket in the navy lining cotton, and it’s a good thing because the pockets have a wonderful flare out to add shape to the skirt silhouette besides also making sure they don’t get lost amid the rest of the busy print.  I added a center back belt tab to the waistband as well, to make sure wearing a belt actually keeps things in place.

Those awesome ruffles are hiding a neat trick I tried out for a new kind of interfacing.  In order to make the rayon challis keep its shape without the stiffness or fuss of applying interfacing, I used wide mesh tulle netting.  I’m talking about that see through stuff that is in a million different colors, and is formed in honeycomb design.  I bought some already to use as crinoline for another project, and it worked well.  For the pinafore, navy tulle is in the front center and back center panels of the bodice, sandwiched in between the rayon and the navy cotton lining, giving the body a nice semi-firm bib fit which would gently keep its squared off shaping.

There is a layer of tulle in each of the over the shoulder bodice ruffles, as well, in between the lining and fashion fabric similar to how I did it for the body panels.  Because I under stitched the ruffles’ outer seam allowances to the lining cotton, the outer edges are thread free, clean edges.  I was initially worried at how the tulle would gather along with all the layers in the ruffles, but sewing them was no harder than any other gathering I’ve done.  The trick to having the ruffles lay perfectly over my shoulder, away from my head, was to direct the seam allowances the right way for this on the inside and then invisibly “stitch in the ditch”, through all layers – floral rayon, tulle, and cotton lining – at the base of the ruffles to keep everything in place.  Keep in mind the pattern never said to do most all of these steps that I’m explaining – the tulle interfacing, lining the ruffles and bodice, and even stitching through the seam lines – but my pinafore top is so much better for it.  Sometimes overthinking can get me into trouble, but this was a case of merely thinking a project through, I believe, from how well my ideas worked to improve some potential ‘problems’ with my fabric choice.  Sometimes, I do believe sewing is truly a branch of engineering.

I can find no clear explanation for the very frequent use of ruffles on pinafores, other than the fact that it probably comes from their relation to both the child’s garment as well as the folk-influenced fashion of the dirndl.  1940s pinafores, peasant styles, and dirndls all can employ ribbons, lace, rick-rack, felt appliques, or embroidery for optional decoration so ruffles on a pinny were probably added for the same reasons as the rest of the embellishments.  Remember that even though a fashion dirndl is officially a skirt, the Germanic form does include a bib-suspender combination which unifies the whole thing, and the blouses to be worn under them could have the frills instead.  Peasant blouses and dresses can be somewhat obnoxious, oversized, and frilly like a pinafore, too, besides the shared fact that the adolescent crowd made them popular.  Even if adults wore these fashions they were supposed to bring on a ‘youthful’ connotation.  The cross-over is unexpected perhaps, but worth consideration, I believe. I’m guessing, though, the use of these embellishments for a pinny could merely stem from the simple desire to jazz up a basic garment meant for work and maybe play.

The system I devised to close and connect the waists of the two-individual pieces into one might look and sound like a convoluted mess – but really it’s not!  Both the top and the skirt each have their own side zippers, with a hook closing tab at the end like any garment.  The bodice closes on the right while the skirt closes up the left so that the two zipper wouldn’t end up overlapping each other.  In between the two sides of my waist, is a predictable pattern of two snaps and two hooks as well for each front and back, with one extra under the center back skirt belt tab.  That’s about 9 extra closures!  All of this hand sewing and measuring needed for this finishing of the horizontal waist band connections was such a pain in the neck, I really was gritting my teeth not to give up on my idea completely.  Finished now, I’m in no hurry to do this again but as much as I love the versatility of this divided set, my guess is that I’ll do this kind of thing again soon enough.  Many bib-style pinafores were button on and off in the 1940’s, but I wanted something that would give a stronger hold like the combined effort of hooks and snaps.

You might be wondering, “How does she get this thing on like that?”  Quite simply, much like any dress, except that the front waists are hanging separate and the back waist is still connected as one.  Once on me, the bodice is zipped up, the front waists are connected together around over to the other side of me where the side skirt zip is then closed.  Nothing quick, but it’s not complicated or fiddly – just methodical and definitely sort of a unique experience.

If you follow my Instagram account, you might have seen back on March 14, I posted a picture crushing over this dress’ fabric right after I bought it.  Then, I planned on pairing it with an orange/peach coral toned polka dot cotton for a matching blouse.  Yes, I still am holding to my plan – it’s just that with so much else to pair this dress and its separate pieces with, I’m in no hurry now to make the polka dot blouse.  When I do sew it up, which I plan on that being no later than spring of next year, it will be made using a vintage Simplicity #4734, year 1963 “action-back” bowling blouse, to totally see how far this set can work with any decade of fashion.  I have high expectations it will work…this set keeps amazing me.  It literally works with just about anything and has unlimited styling capabilities.

Hollywood has not shied away from using pinafores on their best actresses with amazing, complimentary success.  The 1940’s seems to have the most instances so I will focus on actresses and films from this era, with half of my inspiration in this pinny post, and the other half in my next.  First, the cheery and beautiful Donna Reed can be seen in a 1940’s picture wearing a pinafore dress very similar in style to my own.  Next, there is a lovely Loretta Young who wore a classy and dignified long length pinafore in the political version of a Cinderella-story movie, “The Farmer’s Daughter” from 1947.

Finally, the best I saved for last – the 1942 movie “The Major and the Minor” with Ray Milland and Ginger Rogers.  This hilarious film has the best and the most examples of pinafore wearing in any movie I’ve seen yet – I counted at least 5!  What I appreciate about the pinafores in this movie is the persona Ginger Rogers puts on with the pinafores she wears.  Most of the time her pinnys are worn when she attempts to be mistaken for a 12 year old, but towards the end of the movie she dons a pinafore smock to be mistaken for her own mother!  Being an awkward, no-makeup wearing pre-teen is not something anyone can think of as being the elegant Ginger Rogers, but her talent is supreme, so her pinafores ended up giving me a good idea of how a pinny is youthful, but still can be styled well enough for an adult woman to be charmingly complimentary.  I see the sheer plethora of pinafore styles (each of them is different) as a tribute to her face and figure, the costume designer, and the fun, playful theme of the movie.  I am amused at how a slightly different style of pinafore is used to designate her as being dignified, comfortable, and respectable older woman – different pinafores for different duties and different places in life.  How interesting – I wonder if this was the case in real people’s social world, too!  Either way, thank you, Hollywood for helping my inspiration!

For some modern options, Simplicity Pattern Company has recently been offering pinafores, smock dresses, and apron-style garments with the Dottie Angel patterns, such as #8186, #8230, #8438, and #1080.  Even Burda Style has an apron-style top – Pattern #132.  For more pinafore inspiration throughout the past decades, please visit my Pinterest board.  Until then, my next pinafore post will be following soon!

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Parallel Geometry

I am certainly not a math loving person – yet I do greatly enjoy using it so precisely in sewing.  Even more so, I enjoy seeing how manipulating the basic shapes and parallelograms of geometry can create a garment that customizes to the human form.  I know – I’m weirdly technical sometimes.  Nevertheless, it’s true.  Some form of math can find its parallel in fashion, in art, in nature even.  There are lots of angles, geometric shapes, and fashion parallels in these photos of my new, but vintage, multi-season blouse.  How about a seek-and-find of some sort?

I really tried something different with some of the styling and accessories here.  I am completely loving it and it seems many passer-bys that day did too from the amount of compliment received!  This blouse is from 1941, still technically pre-WWII for an American like myself, when many of the styles of the era still had strong fashion influences from the previous 1930s.  The analogous black, white, grey, and cream colors in my outfit make this for a very undecidedly fall or summer set.  Since I am all about finding a confusing balance, apparently, I just went with it by adding a 30’s Tyrolean hat (a re-fashion by me, post here) with a snood in my hair, my Grandmother’s WWII star pin to keep my collar closed, her vintage long gloves and earrings, with reproduction skirt and shoes (B.A.I.T. Halina pump).

The amazing Tanith Rowan and her bringing back “Snoodtember” for 2017 was a big impetus to my even trying the combo of both snood and hat to match this outfit.  Her post for “Snoodtember” of last year (as seen here) and the amount of images from circa 1940 gave me a reason to break out my little used snoods and one of my favorite me-made hats to help date my new blouse a bit better by adding some vintage character that is not seen enough, in my opinion!  The transition periods between decades are generally so very interesting to me, anyway.  Most of the times they leave a lot of room for personal interpretation (while still being historical, if that is your thing, as it is for me many times).  A little bit from the decade ahead, a bit from the decade past, and there you have an outfit from a perfect tossed up mix of two sets of 10 years.  I am happy to have found a new way to enjoy and interpret the early 40’s, which I sew a lot from, with the combo of hat and snood.  This won’t be the only time either!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% rayon challis, bought from my local Jo Ann’s Fabric Store

PATTERN:  McCall #4520, year 1941

NOTIONS:  Nothing but thread and scraps of interfacing were needed here, and I had all of that on hand.  A vintage metal zipper from my stash on hand went in the side for the closing.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was a relatively easy and quick blouse – it was made in about 4 hours and finished on June 16, 2017.

THE INSIDES:  All lovely French seams with a bias covered hem.

TOTAL COST:  This was something I recently bought from Jo Ann’s in the last few months.  Actually, to tell you full the truth, this is something my 5 year old son picked out.  Yes, he enjoys going to the fabric store and many times if he’s not socializing with employees, he likes to pick out fabric, mostly for me, and sometimes for himself.  This rayon was something I let his taste be the judge of…and I think he did a pretty good job here!  I guess what I do is rubbing off on him!  Anyway, I bought 3 yards of this fabric, intending on making this into a dress before I thought the fabric would do better as a blouse.  I spend maybe $15 in total, but used half (1 ½ yards) so I could give the other half to my best sewing friend.  I can’t wait for us to have matching blouses together!

This is a great cheater’s pattern to have a top which looks like a traditional pointed collar blouse without being one.  No buttons needed!  Unfortunately the fabric pattern kind of hides the lovely placket detail so as to see everything of what’s going on.  There is a wide, squared off collar placket which gently angles up to the upper shoulders.  Depending on how deep of a chest exposure wanted, the placket can be left as it is for a deep V, but I prefer it pinned closed halfway up, the way you see it in my pictures.  Either way it’s pop on, zip up the side ready to go!

The smartest point about the placket is actually on the inside which no one sees.  The edges to the facing half of the placket are slightly wider to easily cover the raw edges.  Vintage patterns constantly surprise and impress me with their ingenuity in regards to the little things.  It’s the little things, though that sometimes make all the difference.  The small detail to the placket facing saved me time from hand stitching the placket down.  I could merely invisibly stitch “in the ditch” around the placket and easily catch the edge underneath, too.  I even left off my customary top stitching on the outermost edges of this collar, a rarity for me to do on a blouse, but the stiffer interfacing and a good ironing give a very polished look to the collar with no visible stitching to ‘mar’ the smoothness.

This placket-collar style must have been popular – and I perfectly understand why after making one myself!  I’ve seen each of the major, as well as some of the minor, pattern companies have a version of this neckline throughout the early to mid-1940s.  (See McCall #4130, year 1941; Du Barry #5785, year 1944; Simplicity #3900, year 1941; Hollywood #903, year 1942; and a re-printed De Pew #3504, year 1939 French pattern)  I realized after seeing a few of the other pattern covers that apparently this neckline style also seems to fit nicely under jumpers, vests, and sweaters without the “distraction” of buttons– part of the reason, no doubt, that it was popular apart from the ease of dressing and making.  I am really tempted to try the lovely striped version on the cover of my pattern but the perfect matching along the collar placket and bodice would probably blow my brains to pull off…still, I’d like to try at some point.

This is a very generously wide, loose, and sort of baggy blouse when it comes to the width across.  One can see this a bit more obviously from the back or when my arms are up.  However, this does make for a very comfy blouse.  The rayon is so flowing that however generous, it looks good.  A blousey 1940’s top needs to have something slimming or at least waist defining worn on the bottom half I’ve figured out.  My modern, vintage-style, A-line black skirt matches well, but my Burda Style black pants match well, too, as well as some neutral and grey bottoms.  Yay for a new staple separate!

A pattern which fits as-is straight off of the tissue is the best find ever!  I did lengthen the bottom hem just to make sure my blouse stays tucked in, but other than that I made no changes because this pattern was in my perfect size.  I suppose I could have added stiffening to the sleeve caps so the trio of darts (VERY early 40’s trademark, by the way) would not look so droopy, but I didn’t…I might add that later.  I also made the ¾ sleeves because I figured this will make this blouse more versatile.  After all, when it’s warm out, I frequently find myself rolling up the sleeves to short sleeves anyway.

Did you find some of the other geometric shapes on and around me?  My fabric is a grid of floral diamonds.  The 1910 to 1920 era building behind me is rich in square, rectangle, and octagon shaped brinks in a lovely glazed coating.  Fancy brick work is what my hometown historically did best out of the whole country, and that’s a fact – not just a brag!  I could name off a few more mathematical co-ordinations around me, but I’ll leave them up to those who want to find them.

For some vague reason this outfit reminds me of something that has a very European vacation flair.  Tell me if I’m crazy.  Maybe in my mind that’s just where or what I’d like to be doing at this moment instead.  Maybe just a great outfit in the right location in my own town is taking me back in time mentally a bit…to a past period in history where I wouldn’t be the only one dressed like this!  Oh well.

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The “… So Many Raindrops” Dress

This might be weird to make a parallel, but rain is kind of like sewing to me – it’s refreshing, relaxing, beautiful, sometimes messy, but always the water for creative growth.  So why just stay inside on a rainy day?!

Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to go out in a pouring, thundering rainstorm in a white dress (of all things, va voom!) but I didn’t want the wet weather to ruin my plans for wearing my newly finished project that weekend.  The print does remind me of raindrops, after all, trickling down, beading up as they occasionally do, while they take their gravity guided course.  This was my first light colored, early summer worthy garment that I made for this year.  It is a Burda Style dress with subtle, but interesting design features that was as easy to sew as it is easy to put on, all of which I really appreciate.  This might not be my best dress for this year, but it is a comfy, different, pretty dress that is versatile…and it’s out of my favorite material, rayon!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% rayon challis, a Kathy Davis Designer brand print, bought from Jo Ann’s Fabric Store

PATTERN:  Burda Style #102 A, Tie Waist Dress, from March 2016

NOTIONS:  Nothin’ but white thread, a small scrap of bias tape, and a hook n’ eye!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress was whipped up one afternoon, May 25, 2017, in about 5 hours!

THE INSIDES:  All French seams…

TOTAL COST:  Maybe $10 to $12

I have been seeing this style of a loose, knee-length dress with a side seam attached waist tie offered here and there through other pattern companies throughout this year (see New Look #6519 for one example), but Burda did it first in 2016 with this pattern.  In my opinion, I like this version the best, out of all the look-alikes I have seen.  And yet, I am not used to a dress that does not have a whole lot of fitting, so even though I wanted to whip up a version of this the minute I saw the pattern on the cover of the March 2016 magazine, I was unsure.  With the dress pattern simmering on the back burner of my project queue, it eventually won out, as I suddenly decided this spring season to cave in when I saw what I (finally!) felt was the right fabric for the design.

All the fullness is in the front.  This includes the fanned out pleats in the neckline and the excess which allows this to be a pop-on, no closure dress which is pulled in by the waist ties.  However, the back is so slim, trim, and fitted with darts, with a shaped waistline and small knife pleats at the neckline for shoulder freedom – it’s like two different dresses front and back!  The wrap-around bottom band unifies it all in my mind.

Rain water flows horizontally for a city dweller like me when it’s rushing through a street gutter, so the bottom panel has the blue “raindrops” running opposite the rest of the vertical direction on the body of the dress.  I also choose the same horizontal layout of the ‘rain print’ for the set-in waist ties, like a little rivulet running through my middle.  (I know I have a weird rhymes and reasons for my sewing choices sometimes! Whatever feels right inside!)  The print is so low-key, this play on thought process and the direction of the print is not as apparent as I would like, and yet I think something dramatic (like bold colored crazy stripes) would have been too much…so, I’m generally happy with it the way it is.

The best part to the dress is what I changed, in my opinion!  I extremely simplified the design by eliminating the center back zipper, opting for a front neckline closing instead.  It is just a strip of wide bias tape, stitched in a loop, snipped through and turned under with a tiny hook-and eye at the top corner hidden under the facing edges.  Besides making this dress quicker to sew and get dressed in, the front slit placket keeps the closing easy where I can see it, as well as freshening up the very high and conservatively designed neckline.  I decided after cutting out from the fabric to do this closure-free adaptation, otherwise I would have cut both the bodice back piece on the fold to eliminate the seam where the zipper was designed to be.  It was still a good thing that I cut this dress pattern out the way I did because I had enough left over to squeeze out a much needed new pillow case for my side of our bed!

I’ve never seen sleeves like these that have a shoulder cap with a shaping dart to get a curve over this angle of the body.  The darts start from the shoulder seam end and taper into the middle of the upper sleeve.  This is very interesting and different, yet not as effective in shaping after all as I would have thought.  However, it’s always nice to have a change and try something different!  In hindsight, I now wish I would’ve checked ahead of time and adjusted the overall fit of the shoulder and sleeves.  The shoulder seam is a bit short compared to the somewhere in between generous and spot-on fit of the rest of the dress.  I also wish I had given myself more reach room under the arms.  If you make this pattern, I suggest you raise up the side seams and make the sleeve seam longer at the armscye (maybe by about ½ to 1 inch) to have full movement for yourself.

To more than make up for any ‘meh’ feelings toward the dress, I paired it with some awesome accessories that are favorites from my wardrobe.  Firstly my necklace is from my beloved Grandmother’s jewelry collection, and it’s just so different – I love it.  My shoes take the cake though.  They are all leather, inside and out, and Clark’s brand so well made and so comfy.  These are something I splurged and bought for myself (much to my mom’s dismay) with my birthday money, about 17 years back.  Sorry mom, sometimes that monetary gift cannot be saved when a one-of-a-kind pair of shoes comes one’s way!  I think this was my first major indulgence in my taste for interesting shoes…and these take the cake. Why? They actually have jewels set into the bottom of the already decorative sole. Yasss!  I must admit I do like to kick up my heels, cross my legs, and overall let the soles be seen when I wear these, judiciously I might add, but I do not save them…they need to be enjoyed!  Hubby says these shoes remind him of the words in a song by Paul Simon, “People say she’s crazy, she’s got diamonds on the soles of her shoes.”  Thanks.  No, but this is not the only way I’ve accessorized it – every time I wear it (which is frequent) I have tried different jewelry, shoes, sweater (or jacket) combos, and even tie the belt differently.  This dress is like the unlimited “I can go with anything” go-to dress that just keeps making me glad now that I made it.

On to other tunes that I do like and cannot help but sing when I wear this dress –they are “Raindrops” of 1961 by Dee Clark, Enya’s “A Day Without Rain” and her “It’s In the Rain”, and finally (my favorite) Engelbert Humperdinck’s version of “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head”.  And then there’s the amazing “Isn’t This a Lovely day To Be Caught in the Rain” with Fred Astire and Ginger Rogers. I know there’s plenty of other popular classics which mention rain, but these are my personal picks!

Just like a living thing cannot go on without water, just so I seem to survive in a different way on the creativity and self-expression that the outlet of sewing has to offer.  This is why it makes total sense for me to combine rain and sewing in one project.  I’m surprised I haven’t done this combo earlier!  Perhaps this post can even encourage you to not stay inside on that rainy day, but get out and make the most of it…just don’t necessarily wear white in it like me unless you really intend to!

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India’s independence, 1947

What better way to celebrate 70 years since India’s independence than with a culturally-influenced vintage 1947 dress which commemorates that momentous year.  Not only did I find a lovely, symbolical, amazing border print rayon challis for my India’s tribute dress, but I came up with (what I’ll admit) my most creative use yet of both a sewing pattern and fabric print.  More often than not, the ideas that pop in my head surprise myself,   especially when they come out as planned!

This dress deserved the trip to visit and appreciate our town’s Hindu Temple, one of the largest of its kind in our country.  It is a stunning piece of architecture and the most appropriate place I could think of locally to observe an event that impacted the religion and culture of India.   For those of you reading that know about this point in history, yes, I know it technically wasn’t just India that received independence (due to Jinnah), and yes, I am fully aware of the strife, turmoil, genocide, and hard times that both preceded and followed August 15, 1947.  I enjoy history and learning – it is the opposite of a chore – so I have read and researched an overwhelming amount of information regarding all areas relating to India and Pakistan’s freedom.  But don’t worry – I will not fill up this post with all of that here.  I only want to let you know how much depth and appreciation for a culture and an event from their past has went into this dress.  Designing, sewing, and posting about my Indian-influenced 1947 dress is not just about a creativity I am proud of doing, it also a manifests my deep amazement at what determination and a belief in one’s convictions can do for people…in this case, India 70 years ago.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% rayon challis, bought from “Simply Fabric of Oakland” Etsy shop

PATTERN:  a Marian Martin pattern #9208, year 1947

NOTIONS:  All I needed was thread, a bit of interfacing in the form of cotton broadcloth scraps, and a zipper – noting odd or out-of-the-ordinary, so it was all on hand already.  I’m still on the fence as to whether or not to add in shoulder pads!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress was made in about 15 hours and finished on September 2, 2016

THE INSIDES:  Nicely French seamed

TOTAL COST:  As you can see on the site, 3 yards of fabric (I bought plenty extra to have more of the border print) cost me $18 – so reasonable for as silky the quality is and how unique the print is!For some reason this pattern seemed to run very large.  Most of the mail order and now-defunct companies such as Du Barry, Hollywood, etcetera, frequently seem to run generous, but this pattern was technically an inch smaller than my real measurements (32 bust), and it sewed up as if it was a 35 or 36 bust with a very long waist.  I had to take out almost a whole two inches off of the bodice bottom just to have the waistband come close to my true waistline…and it still is not as high as I would like.  Of course, rayon challis is so drapey and flowing it can make a garment seem a bit bigger than if the same was sewn in a cotton or some such stable woven.  However, this one was a true oddity I believe, and as cool as the design is, the sizing and some of the balance marks were just plain off.

Mail order patterns I see are rarely officially dated.  Most of the times I go by postage stamp codes and style lines, with the occasional notes scrawled down which sometimes have a date.  From my research, the postal stamp is mid to post-WWII, with this asymmetric paneled style being so very specific to circa 1947, as well as very frequently used for Marian Martin line.  (See my Pinterest board “Asymmetric” for examples.)  There are some dresses and patterns similar in the years 1946 and ’48, but the average year comes back to ’47 and with my India-theme going on, I am going with 1947 for this project.  Besides, the silhouette is lean and elegant to this dress, and the full, quarter circle bias skirt in the front only (yes! so lovely) is something obviously later post WWII, when fashion was gearing up for a whole ‘new look’ of the 50’s.  The ‘straight off the heels of rationing’ patterns of 1946 would never have a skirt like this one…the likes of which are not to be seen since pre-WWII, year 1939 (such as my Whitney Frost “Superior” dress).  I originally had the notion of making this dress pattern a full wrap-around button down designer-knock-off design, like this one in the book “Forties Fashion” by Jonathan Walford.  But, no, not this time around…This dress is sneakily not draped even though it looks like it – it is actually asymmetrically paneled, sewn like that with the borders facing in.  The only true drape is in the back – a separate sash attached and hanging down from the one shoulder to anchor at a loop in the opposite side’s waistband.  This I added…it was my own idea both to use extra fabric (practical level) and to make it closer to a true Indian garment, one that would be appropriate for religious occasions (culturally respectful level).

My fusion of western and cultural influence in my dress is not just something from me – it is something that the most well-known (native, non-British) ladies were doing at the time in post WWII India.  One of the most inspirational women of our modern times actually gave me the idea for this outfit – Maharani Gayatri Devi, princess of the Indian princely state of Jaipur.  Many of her most well-known pictures (such as the early 40’s ones by Cecil Beaton or the one I’m including from The Calcutta Telegraph, 1945) show her wearing a sweetheart neckline dress, with a sari sash across the front, a look I sought to imitate by having the border print swoop directly parallel with one angle of the neckline.  She was a successful politician (winning in a Guinness recorded “world’s largest landslide”), and a supporter of the cultural arts and learning for girls, so she was much more than just a pretty face, although she was known for her beauty and fashion sense.  Also, post 1946 saw a boom, a resurgence of the already steamrolling Bollywood business and famous actresses such as Nargis all could be seen post WWII wearing dress styles very similar to my own – especially in the 1949 movie Andaz.

The border to this fabric was lovely – multi-layered like a sedimentary rock and therefore very useful for many purposes and fun to play with.  The border started along the selvedge with the dark green strip, which I used as the waist band for high contrast.  Small snippets of the green can be seen on my one shoulder and at the bottom asymmetric hip seam, but I didn’t want that color to stand out as much anywhere else besides the waistband.  Next, come layers of dizzying, fanciful, decorative scroll work and relief images, such as one would find on a building.  These layers were lined up with one side of the sweetheart neckline, and the asymmetric front dress panels.  Boy, was this step tricky!  I actually miss cut, and luckily I had just enough extra fabric to make a new bodice piece.  The border on the upper bodice piece dissipates down, while the lower hip panel has the border going up towards my head, making the whole of my front middle appear as if it’s a swath of a sari wrap.  The only full border is on the long sash that I made.  This sash come from the one shoulder which has the border print, and it can hang down loosely, but I mostly like it when it drapes across my back, made possible by looping into a small bias tube casing I added in the waist of the opposite side, where the side zipper closes.

The fabric’s background is equally as lovely and intricate, but the toned down colors of khaki and white hide the print which adds to the symbolism of the dress.  If you look closely there are ceremonial decorated elephants in white!  Elephants definitely one of the animals of importance to the culture of India, partly – no doubt – due to the fact Ganesh, one of the best-known and most worshiped deities in the Hindu pantheon , has the head of an elephant.  However the pachyderms on my fabric are so fancy they are they look like the ones paraded through festivals, such as the Dasara festival at Mysore or the amazing Tysar Purim festival.  Elephants are at the entrance of the temples and were heavily used for construction of large structures such as temples and palaces.  They represent some wonderful attributes, such as strength and prosperity, and the rare white elephants (like on my dress) actually represent rain to India’s culture.  Luckily, it wasn’t inclement weather for our pictures, only a lovely sky to match the “Krishna blue” on the Hindu temple behind me.

To match the rich, dark colors in my dress, I wore my B.A.I.T. “Violet” peep-toe heels in forest green.  This is a killer 1940’s style heel that is synonymous with Agent Peggy Cater, used (in a navy blue) for the first season of the Marvel television show Agent Carter.  These are not that comfortable at all, and the ball of my foot aches and my toes sort of go numb after only several hours of wearing…not good, I know.  However, I got a good deal for these and they do match with a lot in my 40’s wardrobe, so, for relatively short periods of wearing, these shoes are awesome.  I put a lot of thought and detail into my hairstyle, too, although you can’t really see it in the pictures.  It is a mix of ethnic and 40’s, just like my dress – each side has a twist up which ends on top my head, with victory rolls and pompadour rolls front and back, sort of like this picture of the actress Brijmala.  With my ethnic brass hoop earrings, my outfit is set!

Sadly, I do not have enough places or reasons to wear my Sari inspired dress as often as I would like.  It is not something that fits many general occasions.  I think I will just have to put it on and wear it when I want to – there is no sense making something I love otherwise!  Often times, the vintage pieces I wear get people I meet and even random bystanders around me to make comments, ask me questions, and get a conversation going.  I like this, even welcome it – it is an opportunity I enjoy.  Hopefully, this dress will give off the same mojo as my other vintage outfits (whatever that is…) and get me and others talking.  We do have some very good friends that are just like family – they have parents who lived through the years of change in India, as well as distant relatives still in India – so this dress, and my research associated with it, will hopefully lead me to have an understanding of their culture like never before next time we talk.

I hope this post has inspired and informed you a bit regarding a little known facet of history which has had so much to do with making the modern world be as we know it today.  Please take a few moments on this anniversary of India’s independence to look up some extra info if you’re really motivated!  Let me suggest the short and sweet “Rarely Known Facts About India’s Independence and Partition” or the chock full of videos and pictures “Five Things You Didn’t Know About India’s Independence” for starters.

As always, thanks for reading!

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A Duo of Handsome Wing Collar Shirts

…for two handsome guys – my dad and my husband!  It does come in handy for me when their presents are garments that both men are almost exact in body type…and therefore size, too.  Thus when it came time to figure out gifts for them last year, I sewed up two shirts from the same vintage pattern, but choose two different fabrics and prints to accommodate for personal taste.  There isn’t anything like a custom, personalized gift to make someone’s day, and I love doing that for people as special as both my dad and my hubby.

What I used here was a ‘tried-and-true’ pattern that has previously helped me sew this unusual shirt for my hubby, a Butterick #7673 from 1956 (see facts below for a picture).  This time I used the second, completely different view which has something called a “wing collar”.  The collar is a wonderful kind of subtle different, yet I LOVE how its ‘wing’ name coincides all too well with the kind of shirt I made for my dad in particular…

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Out of the wide and varied store of awesome knowledge that my father has in his head, he is amazing when it comes to World War II airplane history.  He had previously raved to me about a co-worker of his that had such an impressive plane print shirt, so he himself gave me the idea.  I set about to comb the internet and after an exhaustive, long drawn out search, I found the one perfect print that screams “Him” to me, and boy – I found it!  His shirt is a cotton print which combines his expertise in camouflage prints with his knowledge of WWII planes.  The aerial view of the ground, in brown tones, looks like a camouflage when you focus on the planes, which are all-American, like us!  My dad (and I, too) love, love the mix of bomber and fighter planes so much so that we are frequently caught looking down at his shirt when he wears this!  Distracted much?  The basic, soft cotton of his shirt makes it very ‘everyday wearable’ for him, and the print can definitely a conversation piece for him – something he can all-around enjoy!

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I am completely tickled by the close matching down the front of the shirt where it buttons.  Whether you believe me or not, the matching was a lucky surprise.  You see, I figured I wouldn’t be able to pull a full match off without blowing my brains, so I didn’t try, but it still happened anyway!  I did meticulously match up the left chest pocket, so that it is nearly invisible.  Finally, I added a cloth “made with love” label inside for a true gift message, too!

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My thought process and motivation behind making hubby’s shirt was different than my dad’s, but similar in the whole “gift” idea.  You see, ever since my first few dresses inspired by the Marvel television series Agent Carter, he started bugging me with hints about something for him inspired by the same show.  He’d remind me that if I’m going to be Peggy Carter, there should be an Agent Sousa (her romantic interest), and who better for role that than him?!  Well, yes, (I’d roll my eyes and sigh), I suppose.  Being set in California post WWII, Agent Sousa often wore Hawaiian print casual shirts, and as that was something my hubby certainly did not possess, the ‘vacation-time to relax’ vibe of a tropical shirt is what I wanted to channel.  I wanted to not just give him a new shirt, in a new style and print, but also lend the shirt itself a relaxed ‘feel’.  I did all of that by choosing a new-to-him fabric to enjoy which would dress up his casual shirt – rayon challis, my own favorite!

Now, as this was to be his shirt, I let him be the one to pick out the print.  I found a bunch available online and both he and I were undecided about two, so we bought both!  He preferred a rich orange background tropical print rayon (bought from this shop), with Agent Sousa in tropical shirtHawaiian and bird of paradise flowers spread out in a large scale.  He also liked (but I preferred) a print closer to a shirt worn by Agent Sousa, one that seems more ‘California’ to me – the one you see in this post.  I love the rough, tree bark effect of the background and two colors of palm tree silhouettes.  He will still get the other Hawaiian print sewn into a shirt soon enough, but for now he is happy with the one that makes him more like Agent Sousa, and one that we both picked out!  Besides, there was enough leftover of this tree bark-palm tree print rayon to actually made myself a sort of matching, summer, 50’s blouse, too.  Granted we haven’t yet wore our tops in the same fabric at the same time…but it still is kind of cute to know I made a ‘his’ and a ‘hers’ version.DSC_0580a-comp,w

What I’d like to point out is that this men’s shirt design is also unusual in the way it has no shoulder placket.  The back is one full piece, with no darts, tucks, or pleats of any kind, and it extends all the way up to the center top shoulder seam.  How easy and simple can you get?  That’s what makes this design of shirt just perfect for novelty prints, in my opinion.  Not that style lines are bad, but in this case they do not get in the way of the fabric prints and make complex matching one of the last things to concern yourself about.  Between the back and the simple, faced, all-in-one “wing” collar, this is a very easy and quick pattern to sew.

DSC_0579a-comp,wBoth shirts were cut out the same, like an assembly line, except for two small tailoring points.  My dad has smaller shoulders and is shorter in height than my husband, so the length I added to hubby’s shirt was taken out as well as the extra 5/8 to extend the shoulder width.  Any other differences had to do with the material and how it needed to be treated.  My dad’s shirt, being cotton, got flat-felled seams and a bias bound, shirt-waist style hem.  Hubby’s shirt, being a slinky rayon, received French seams, and a tiny ¼ hem around the straight edge bottom.  My dad’s shirt buttons match the background of his cotton print – they are basic and two-toned brown.  My husband’s shirt buttons are rather nice, pearlescent basic shirt buttons for a slight, but not flashy, contrast.  As suits a vintage shirt, all the buttons are vintage, or at least retro, from the stash of hubby’s Grandmother.

I like how this post presents a good example of how the choice of fabric dramatically changes a design.  (McCall’s Corporation just presented and example of this on Instagram.)  It is the same for all patterns – the choice of texture, color, and ‘hand’ of a material all makes important variations.  Sometimes these variations can be a surprise or planned depending on whether or not you are working with a fabric that is new to you or one that is akin to a well-known friend.  Either way, sewing offers endless opportunities for creative fun and expression starting at the fabric level!

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Men, at least the one’s I know, are so hard to be models!  My husband is not comfortable being pointed at by a camera, but he did his best for me here for this post and accommodates his seamstress like a good man.  I didn’t even bother to ask my dad because I know him and didn’t even want to try and convince him, too.  Believe me, though – my dad’s shirt stands perky (keeps its own shape) and is awesome against his darker skin tone, suiting him well.  One model is enough, because anyway…these shirts look even better in person.

This men’s vintage pattern NEEDS to be reprinted (hint, hint McCall corporation).  If I knew how to make this happen, I would.  Out of all the patterns I’ve come across, I am never more serious than about this one.  For those who sew, these shirts are fun to make because they are creative, incredibly easy, and a nice change from the traditional collars and plackets.  For the guys who would only be on the receiving end, this is the kind of shirt where you will feel special in it, and if you hang around one person for about 5 to 10 minutes length of time, you will get a curious, interested question about your collar.  Then comes the time to do the seamstress a favor in return as part of your answer!  It’s a win-win all around.100_6215a-comp,w

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Plane shirt – a quilting 100% cotton; Hawaiian shirt – a 100% rayon challis

PATTERN:  Butterick #7673, year 1956

NOTIONS:  Nothing but thread, bias tape, interfacing, and buttons were needed, and I always have this stuff on hand!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Each shirt took me only 4 hours to whip up, and both were finished up about August 23, 2016.

DSC_0340-comp,wTHE INSIDES:  French seams for the inside of the rayon shirt and a combo of flat felled and bias bound seams are inside the cotton one.

TOTAL COST:  The plane print cotton was bought off of Ebay and more than what I normally spend or even would like, but as it was for a present I felt it was worth it to get something so appropriate for someone.  The two yards of rayon for the Hawaiian shirt came from “Simply Fabric of Oakland” (see it here, if you want to buy some, too) and is lovelier than the normal Jo Ann’s store rayon – very silky with a slight sheen.  So pleased with my present purchases, I’m not really counting!