My “Naomi” Dress

Many times when I want to try something experimental in my fashion, I like to start with something I’m not as completely invested in as a sewn ‘from-scratch’ garment.  Therefore, if I don’t find something unwanted from my existing wardrobe, I often resort to re-sale and thrift store offerings.  They are low-cost, there are a plethora to choose from, and I feel like I need to do my part in making a dent with the unwanted and uninteresting leftovers from our modern fast fashion industry.  Here is my latest re-fashion attempt, made for a special family occasion.  As a frequent vintage wearer, I am rather surprised how taken I am by this…it makes me feel so on trend with all the latest off-the-shoulder looks this summer!DSC_0923a-comp,wMy husband actually thinks it reminds him of the character Naomi from the television series “Mama’s Family”, although my dress is green and not her favorite shade of yellow.  For some reason, this attribution to Naomi makes me sigh, half-smile, and feel ever so slighted even though I know she was a great character in her own right.  Hubby is right, though, this is something she would totally wear!  I mean, she even wore an off-the-shoulder dress for her wedding to Vint!  Yet, do I think this dress reminds me of the peasant and hippie styles of the 1970s and 80’s especially with the hem ruffle, but maybe it’s the vintage lover in me which only wants to find a past decade to associate with.  I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to peek-a-boo shouldered garments, starting from the late 20’s ‘til now, as well as a board for the Peasant look, if you’re interested in looking at more past twists on this modern trend.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a rayon knit big-box store sundress 

NOTIONS:  nothing but some thread…

PATTERN:  none – this was all my own inspiration!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Making this dress took me about 2 or 3 hours and it was finished on July 5, 2017.

THE INSIDES:  cleanly overlocked (serged)…more on this below.

TOTAL COST:  I only paid $2 for this dress about 2 or 3 years ago

I have been waiting for the perfect re-fashion idea to hit my mind for the few years since I bought this dress.  After simmering on the back burner of my projects list, it was only recently that I suddenly came up with this idea which felt ‘right’.  I went with it (as you can see), and was so pumped to dive in that a picture of the original sundress was forgotten before it became re-fashioned.  Oh well – it was very boring and basic after all.  The original dress was just an empire, under bust sundress with spaghetti straps and very long skirt which had two ruffles at the bottom hem.  There were inseam pockets – one on each side – at a very awkward, low hip spot.  It was pretty much shapeless and uncomplimentary, but the fabric is a wonderful rayon knit with a nice color and print, so I figured it was worth saving.

My first step was to cut off the bottom of the two large hem ruffles.  Most of this became the shoulder ruffle.  I couldn’t have asked for an easier refashion here – I kept the gathers at the top of the ruffle when I cut it off, so all I had to do was hand tack it to the spaghetti straps and the neckline front and back centers.

There was just enough left over from the shoulder ruffle to make a new, wide, middle body waist band so I could have more shaping than just the high empire seam (which gets covered by the ruffle anyway).  The skirt was cut off at the empire seam and my new middle waist panel was sewn in there instead.  It extends down to my natural waistline so the skirt could be re-sewn on at that point.  I did cut off an extra several inches from the top of the skirt portion, just so the inseam side pockets could be at a natural height for my hands at mid-hip.  Next, this was stretched while sewn onto the bottom waist seam of the middle body panel, giving the dress a nicely controlled and loosely gathered skirt.

As this is a ready-to-wear item originally, I departed from my normal dislike of serging (overlocking) seams and thought I would give it a go again just to match with the rest of the finishing inside the dress.  This is a knit so I figured I probably would not need to really change, adjust, or otherwise tailor this too much in the future…but hey, this was cheap enough to buy and no skin off my back if it didn’t turn out.

Since I do not have a serger, I made a visit to my wonderful neighborhood sewing room.  It’s a place equipped with every sort of machine, notion, fabric, pattern or necessary supply I could ever want sewing-wise and the best creative, happy, and friendly atmosphere one could ask for…with a kitchen and wash room to boot.  I pay a ‘per hour’ rate and get sewing done while relaxing and enjoying the company of interesting, fellow sewing enthusiasts.  There are many such places popping up all over – I suggest you search and see if there is something like this in your town…if there is, please support it; if not at least do what you can to connect with other sewing friends!  Apart from my diversion in topic, I now had the perfect reason to spend more time at my local city sewing room, and used the sergers and large cutting tables there to make and finish my dress.  I totally had much more fun making this dress than it is to wear it.

Don’t get me wrong.  My dress is great, and I do like it, but I am not just 100% won over by this off-the-shoulder trend.  I plan to try some more versions yet, to find one I like the best.  As elegant and airy as it is, I feel like I’m always loosing something down the sides of my arms…apparently I’m not used to it.  For those of you that do wear these off-the-shoulder fashions, I need to ask you some questions.  Do your ruffles ever happen to have their hems roll up on you when you lift your arms up?  (This is a “problem” with my dress.)  What do you do if you are chilly – do you like sweaters, loose shawls, or jackets over your off-the-shoulder ruffle fashions?  (I haven’t yet found something I like to cover my arms against some air conditioning which is cranked up like the inside of a refrigerator.)  Also, to get technical, does anyone know whether an off-the-shoulder ruffle is really a sleeve or not?  Just wondering.  If anyone can let me know what they think or know, it would be much appreciated.P.S. – Does anyone else (like me) get the biggest kick out of the character of Naomi from “Mama’s Family”?  I just couldn’t achieve her second season massively fluffy hair the day of our pictures, unfortunately…

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Teens Era Transitional Suit Set

As of this past April, my country of America began commemorating a century since we entered into World War I, when we added our hearts, efforts, and supplies to the rest of the nations who had already been fighting.  As someone who sews and likes to dive right into history, I guess it’s no wonder I took to making my own outfit from the era as my effort at remembering history.  Besides being commemorative, our local art museum hosted an exhibit linked to the era of my outfit, “Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade”, and it gave me an actual destination to wear my historical garb.  Their “photo opportunity wall” was the setting for many of our pictures.  You see how I blend right in at a 1912 Millinery Parlor shop?  Also, the newly released “Wonder Woman” movie, which has a WWI setting, was the final odd but added impetus behind making my suit set.  My reasons are varied, but deeply rooted in the history that I love.

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1912 to 1914 was a true transitional period of history and my outfit, as I planned it, intends to pay homage to this.  1912 is roughly the end of the Titanic era, in which fashion still gave a clear visual definition of who was in and who was out of money.  1914 marks the beginning of World War I and the founding steps towards democracy of fashion and greater freedom in many realms of life.  I realize I am riding a fine line between pre-WWI and post WWI with my outfit but it has been two years in coming, and I couldn’t be happier with my first foray into both sewing and wearing teens era fashion!  During those two years, my outfit has been well-researched, long thought out, and lovingly worked on for a while now.  Most all of my details are tied to a historical fact.  Now I feel as if I have a historical statement piece with a story to tell about the history Great War.

Of course the best way to place myself in the shoes of a woman from circa 1914 was to go all out and do my outfit authentically from the inside out.  Yes this means the underwear, the corset and the whole bit!  You can see my past post about the under layers here, although I have yet to post about the teens era slip I have since made to complete the underpinning ensemble.  Without the right underpinnings my set did not have the right silhouette, nor did I have the correct posture, ahem.  Wearing a long line corset does make me realize just what a no-slouching posture really is, and it makes me appreciate the comfort of actually sitting in a chair to relax, not just the dainty ‘perching’ that I do in my teens corset.  Plus, it smoothes out all the ‘bumps’ that were undesired for the times, something which modern underwear only ‘supports’, if you know what I mean!

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I believe this combo of blouse, jacket, and skirt (not forgetting the hat) is technically called a “walking suit” even though a slim hobble skirt is not the best for walking.  Yet, I did not find this fashion as confining as many humorous cartoons (such as those by the satirist Benjamin Rabier) and other images make them out to be.

Circa 1914, the hobble skirt was widely worn, yet was being frequently and publically made fun of.  Then there was Paul Poiret, who backtracked on what he claimed he created and introduced the freedom and progressiveness of harem pantsJeanne Paquin, the first major female courtier, is supposed to have created a version of the hobble skirt which included pleats for ease of movement for the new, more active woman.  My own skirt is a combo of Paquin and Poiret – it has a trio of asymmetric pleats that are stitched down halfway up to free up my knees.  The world itself was fighting for the death of the skinny hobble skirt.  Active women who become a part of the workings of society were sorely needed and anything whatever fashion stood in way of that was destined to depart.  A suit such as mine was meant for a time in history when a woman of society was merely meant to be a figurehead and present an ideal image of her status.  By 1914, such a suit set was in its last, glorious, waning sundown.  Wearing this outfit was nothing too terribly uncomfortable, but it was a bit confining in its own right, which did take some getting used to.  It helped me realize why the fashions of the 1920s came about.

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When the newly enlisted soldiers left on the boats to go off to the Great War, many ladies wore their best “going away” clothes.  Not only was it dressing up to see their men off, but it was also one last big splurge, or indulgence, before buckling down into rationing and a full-hearted war effort.  I think this set certainly falls into the “going away” category!  I had ideas for even more finery I could have added, like a pocket watch, extra pockets, and more buttons.  I might get to that yet, but for now what I have is something finished and totally wearable.

DSC_0151-comp,wThe Great War had far-reaching implications on the previously active global import/export marketplace, thus there was an absence of much that had to do with the clothing, fashion, and textile industry.  Imported dyes, which had been coming out of Germany, became rare thus leading to a more frequent wearing of black and neutrals.  This is besides the fact that many people (especially mothers, wives, and sweethearts) were in mourning, anyway.  My own outfit greatly reflects this historical point, by using primarily black and grey tones together with two neutral cream colors to calmly brighten things up.

The war effort also caused heavy rationing/unavailability of leather, wool, and cotton (which, among other materials, were going towards supplies such as uniforms and tents).  Ladies had to wear more silks, with the occasional rayon blend (invented in 1910). Heavy rationing applied throughout many countries and America wasn’t excluded, but it did have situations a bit easier comparatively.  Straw, with some linen, were also somewhat rationed, so substitutes from paper were invented in counties like Russia and Germany, and “Jean cloth” (yes, denim) was resorted to as a leisure cloth.  At the beginning of the war, however, most walking suits still tended to be in “practical” and breathable pure linen.  As I am in the USA, I felt it would be fitting for me (if I was living back then) to have such a set as mine in linen, lined in a very basic cotton.  Non-war effort cottons like gingham and batiste were nonetheless used and still popular for housedresses, anyways.  Many women who weren’t involved in manual, farm, or food related work were enlisted into the textile industries or assigned to convalescence and hospital needs sewing, so I imagine access to rationed fabric was not entirely off-limits for all women.  Thus, my outfit is a mix of some fabrics and materials which would have been a luxury and some which would have been used for an authentic early war-time suit.  Restrained opulence was common with early and mid WWI clothes (see this for one example) since – after all – old habits die hard.  The Titanic era didn’t go down overnight like the famous ship did…

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Asymmetric designs were incredibly popular at this point in fashion, being used on blouses, skirts, suits, and dresses for both day and evening – no doubt from the Art Nouveau influence.  The asymmetric trend probably had to do with the ‘new’ draping of fabric on the body (Grecian idealism) for evening and tea gowns as well as an elegant and avant-garde desire to break away from the sweetness of the Edwardian period before.  I wanted my suit set to have some asymmetric loveliness…I do love how the trend continued into the 1920s, 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s so strongly.

Even during WWI, common luxuries could frequently be taken with neck line collars, since they needed such a small amount of material.  This is why my single asymmetric collar with matching sleeve cuffs are from an expensive, all-cotton, burnout velvet tapestry.  My top collar is from the same fabric as my skirt to add continuity to the outfit, plus I see it as a practical, “making-do” touch to use up every last scrap!

IMAG0287a-comp,w“Making-do” was greatly encouraged in many aspects of life, more so when it came to fashion, especially when it came to hats.  Headwear was a necessity that a lady would not do without and publications of the times stepped up to the need to show how homemade hats could be done easily, inexpensively, yet with a no less fashionable appearance.  My own hat started out as an inexpensive, basic floppy-brimmed hat blank bought from Wal-Mart…of all places.  (Pardon the pins in the picture at left – it was here a work-in-progress.)  It is made of a thick 100% wool felt so it is an accurate and proper hat making material, just something that might have been an expensive luxury for 1914 – all the more reason a woman of those times would have re-fashioned it herself!

Feeling united with the war effort extended into the modes of fashion with many hats and clothing mid or late in WWI possessing details which had a very obvious, albeit past, military influence.  Napoleonic Era hats were frequent, and I channeled the old-time tricorne hats with my own re-fashion (although I know it’s probably more 1917-ish to do this).  My favorite part is how my hat looks so different from every angle it’s seen.DSC_0172-crop-comp,w

The top heavy, floral, opulent picture hats of the early teens were shrinking in size by the time the decade was nearing it midpoint.  World War I nudged hats to become more compact, with many non-flower related decoration and interesting features to the brims.  They were often trying to create more of a straight-line silhouette to the rest of an outfit…pretty much like my own hat does (especially thanks to the feathers)!

The overly frequent and outlandish use of birds on millinery in the decades leading up to WWI led to many protective steps to ensure the survival of many kinds of flying creatures, the most well-known being the founding of the Audubon society.  At the turn of the century, the Audubon Society offered 5 public lectures on such topics as “Woman as a bird enemy”. In 1910, the Audubon Plumage Law reigned in extravagant millinery practices harmful to wildlife, which is why I’m using humane but no less elaborate pheasant feathers.

There are a few modern re-makes that I snuck in to help complete the overall outfit.  Firstly, what you see under my suit jacket is more like the sensible and fully wearable option to the little neck dickies in the Butterick pattern.  I am wearing a full blouse, something that is a modern re-make my mom bought for me maybe a decade ago.  I am sure as fashionable as a woman of circa 1914 might have been, no doubt she would have appreciated the practical option of taking off her jacket, versus the façade of the neck-only dickies.  My blouse has a hidden button placket up the front, which would have been in the back for a true-vintage piece, but this is undetectable enough to not detract from my overall authenticity.  At my neck, I am wearing a “Downton Abbey” brand brooch I had bought from a Department store years back.  I think it is the perfect touch!  My glass bead earrings are from my Grandmother’s jewelry collection.

DSC_0199a-comp,w,cropFinally, my boots are something that I found at Wal-mart (of all places) about 17 years back.  They are only vinyl, yet they do have working grommet and hook closures plus a semi-French heel, so close enough is again wonderful.  Not that I wouldn’t be willing to spend a bit of money to have my ideally perfect outfit…but when I have items ‘close enough’ on hand already, that’s even better because what I’ve been holding on to for years can get its long-awaited opportunity to be useful and shine.

THE FACTS:Butterick 6108

FABRIC:  Suit Jacket – 100% linen exterior and a cotton lining with a combo of cotton brocade and linen for the collars; Hobble Skirt – 100% linen; Hat – Wool felt hat blank

Past Patterns hobble skirt pattern-compPATTERNS:  Suit Jacket came from Butterick #6108, a 1912 pattern; the hobble skirt was made using a Past Pattern, a copy of a Pictorial Review #5462, circa 1911 to 1913; the hat was self-drafted from looking at era authentic fashion plates and photos

NOTIONS:  Surprisingly, much of what I needed came from on hand, as it needed not all that odd of supplies.  I went through lots and lots of thread (of course), and I covered most all the inner seams of the jacket in bias tape.  The skirt’s inner waistband has a ribbon from my stash, and hook-and-eye tape (which I always try to keep on hand) goes in the side closure.  Vintage fancy buttons for the skirt pleats look as if they could be authentic jet, but they’re only deceptive plastic.  They came from the stash of my dear departed Grandmother.  Cotton interfacing (another vintage notion I always try to keep on hand) went into the collars and sleeve cuffs.  The only notions I had to buy was the frog closures for the jacket, the pheasant feathers (from Hobby Lobby), and the hemp ribbon (found at the Dollar Store).

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The skirt was made first, and was finished on March 28, 2017, after only 8 hours.  The jacket was done on April 20, 2017, after only 20 hours.  The hat was made on April 21, after only an hour or two.

DSC_0184,a,p-comp,wTHE INSIDES:  I finished everything so nicely in bias tape.

TOTAL COST:  The linen for the jacket exterior was made from a combo of one vintage tablecloth (found at rummage sale for $1) and a one yard cut of linen bought at Wal-Mart about 17 years back (old enough to be counted as free).  The cotton jacket lining was on sale at Jo Ann’s Fabrics for $2 a yard at 4 ½ yards (about $9).  The damask collar was $10 for half of a yard (coming from the expensive home furnishings section) and the grey toned linen for the skirt and single jacket collar was also only $2 a yard, bought when Hancock Fabrics was closing its business ($4 for only 2 yards).  The frog closures actually came from the button section, and so were a bit more expensive.  The supplies for the hats cost me a total of only $20.  So…added up, this outfit is a total of about $50.  Not a bad price for not cutting any corners with what I wanted!

DSC_0187-comp,wAs to the actual sewing, each piece really easily came together.  Making each was no harder than regular sewing and, when I think about it, actually more fun and informative!  The biggest challenge to making this set was the fact that I had to put on all the appropriate matching under layers (meaning the underwear combo, corset, slip, and blouse) each time I wanted to try on my suit jacket and skirt, see if they fit, and tailor them appropriately.  If I was going to do what a woman of those time would have done, fitting the suit to any other shape would have been pointless – a modern shape has too many buldges.  This caveat was not all that bad as it sounds.  Sure it was a bit of a bother, I was dedicated.  You know, the best part is it got me used to dressing into and wearing the Titanic era garments, so much so that it was not all that odd when I actually got around to wearing the full outfit out and about in public.

DSC_0193a-comp,wI found the fit of both patterns to be at generous.  The skirt pattern ran a few inches big and I had to make a giant pleat/tuck kind of adaptation down the center back as a fix, while the jacket was just a tad generous so I went down in size to find my perfect fit.  Other than this tip, my two garments needed no other change and were made as-is.  The skirt needed a giant 8 inch hem, but the wide hem helped properly which down and round out the bottom like interfacing.  Keep in mind that the teens era skirts have longer backs than fronts as the corsets were designed to smooth out the bum and back curve so they naturally sat higher from behind.  As I am quite skinny in my corset, I had to even out the hem, anyway.  The jacket sleeves were slightly brought closer into the armpit for more reach room – and yes, I do have full and comfortable movement!  I suppose I could have shortened the sleeves for my lightly petite frame, but they’re ok.  I did add a ribbon closure inside the jacket to help keep the wide open neckline closed better, with a small hidden hook-and-eye at the point where the asymmetric collar ends.

My biggest shortcut to sewing the jacket was to line each ivory linen jacket piece with the black lining.  I didn’t want any seam allowances showing through the light colored linen. Backing the pieces in the back knocked out ‘two birds with one stone’ by providing opacity and lining.  I just then finished off the seam edges with bias tape and top-stitched them down in their proper directions.  Not the best way, I know, but it gets the job done almost just as nicely yet quicker.  I do not like to take more time than is reasonable on an outfit that will not see all that much wearing.

(I’d like to title this next picture, “Hello ladies, may we chat?”)

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I originally planned on a fully hand-made, from scratch millinery creation for the hat to match my outfit, but I was running short on time before the event I was to attend.  This is why I re-fashioned a hat.  The wonderful Tanith Rowan (blog here) was of assistance to be at this step, and even provided a few helpful links to free newspaper archives for some awesome yet relatively easy patterns from 1912 and 1913.  I have plans for those hats yet on another future teens era project, but for now I think this hat is just what my outfit needed.  No kidding – my set was “meh” or even “good” but still missing something until I put the hat on and it turned into amazing!  The power of hats is truly underrated.  They add so much to an outfit and a person…and with a hat like this, it can even add height when you have dramatic feathers!

If you’ve made it this far reading, thank you for joining me on my tirade about my efforts to make the perfect World War I commemorative outfit.  I have a special Pinterest board dedicated to my inspiration for this project – please visit it here.

So much of what has happened in the past is linked to why things are how they are in the present and clothing can be used as a tool to help tell such a story.  I like to share how my sewing skills help me accomplish that.  Look for more (and perhaps less involved) WWI era and older historical clothes to come here on my blog!

“Cross My Heart” Agent Carter Dress Re-fashion

The Marvel Comics heroine Peggy Carter deserved to have more luck in love than heartbreaks, but either way the people she cared for were a major driving force behind her life.  Perhaps no other dress so blatantly shows Peggy’s ups and downs in love with such a fashionable, classy, yet visible way as Season Two’s “Better Angels” (episode 3) frock that I recreated for myself.  I know this is sort of weird to feature such subjects of grief intertwined with affection now that the holiday of love and friendship is here.  However, matters of the heart are powerful things and I can’t think of a stronger (if imaginary) woman than Peggy Carter.  My dress does have a rich, bright red and is elegantly perfect for a night out.  So, happy heart day to all of you and those who are part of your life!

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A quite plain and slightly ill-fitting knit dress had been in my wardrobe hanging unworn for the last few years.  Slackers gathering dust and taking up space are not to be tolerated – we do not have the room for useless items!  It was high time for it to give me a reason for it to stay, and I figured it was basic enough for a re-fashion as it was still in good condition.  I realized it was in a lovely rich navy, one of the colors Peggy wears the most frequently, especially paired with red for a patriotic nod to her dearest Captain America.  The original dress also happened to remind me of a silhouette which would be something I could picture on Agent Carter – body hugging with a lovely bias flared skirt.  Thus, it occurred to me to attempt to make one her bolder garments I’ve long admired, as I had a short cut to easily make something I wasn’t willing to take the time to make from scratch!  Besides…I found a better fit and lovely re-use for something that I wasn’t wearing and enjoying otherwise!  I feel like this one of my best, easiest, and most fun of all my re-fashions so far.

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THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% cotton knit “Land’s End” dress bought about 10 years back with the added bright end panels and contrast being a 100% polyester interlock bought at JoAnn’s Fabric Store

PATTERN:  None!  All personal drafting  

NOTIONS:  All I needed was thread, and I had that…

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was so quick to make it felt almost too good to believe!  It was made in two evenings for a total time of 8 hours.  I was finished on November 17, 2016.

THE INSIDES:  The original dress had overlocked seams, which I kept, but the rest of the new seams did not unravel so I left them raw.dsc_0611a-compw

TOTAL COST:  maybe $10 at the most

On a night out together, a girl friend of mine helped me pick the contrast fabric for my re-fashion.  She couldn’t have chosen better!  My navy dress is a matte finish cotton, so together we figured I needed a knit (of course) which had a lovely satin shine for a smartly contrasting perk.  Both of us decided the bright red (which I would never ever wear alone) was the right tone over the deeper shades.  I bought way more than I ended up needing in the end, so I plan on convincing hubby he would wear a shirt I might make for him out of this interlock.  We’ll see what I end up really doing with the leftover red knit.

First of all, the original dress’ fitting problems were the odd placements of both the waistline and the sleeve hems.  The waist was too low to be an empire, yet too high for a natural middle placement, while the sleeves were like a slightly short bracelet length with a bulky, fake button placket keeping them unnaturally below my elbow.  The sleeve fix was easy – I shortened them above the button placket to hem them so they fall above my elbow.  My re-fashion plans also fixed the waistline problem perfectly and immediately by adding in the belt-like panel.  It brought the skirt to fall at the natural waistline and connected perfectly with the weird empire seam of the bodice.  The new red arched front belt-like panel is double fabric layered for stability and top-stitched onto the blue dress.  There is one center back seam to the belt as I designed it.

1940s-dress-w-green-panel-side-pin-fm-augusta-auctions-junior-house-cotton-40s-skirtThe skirt portion was the best part.  Drawing the curve of the red swirl panels was so fun!  I might have gotten just a bit carried away and added more of an arch to the panels than Peggy’s original dress.  My dress panels go from the front right side’s off-center over to the left side seam, while Peggy’s dress has panels that go a straighter down with a slight curve to one side.  I believe my dress panels’ sharp angles are the main reason for the slightly weird wrinkling going on with the red parts, combined with the fact I cut the insert sections on the bias and sewed them in as a double layers of fabric.  However the “faults”, I so love the red swirls on the skirt portion!  They make my dress have such movement when I walk I feel so elegant – static pictures do not do this dress justice.  I have been able to find only a few extant original vintage garments which have a similar bias, color contrast, swirled panels.  The ones I have found have been from the 1940’s but, to me (going with my gut), this dress appears to have a strong late 30’s influence, especially with my 30’s re-make Aerosoles strap heels.  Needless to say I’m a big fan of this fashion detail.dsc_0086a-compw

The toughest parts to this re-fashion was adding on the red interest strips that give the continuous crossed-heart all the way around the bodice.  The fabric is so silky it was hard to pin into a defined, consistent band.  Bias strips of the interlock resisted being ironed into a single fold shape, and I couldn’t use a hot iron, either.  I just had to pin like crazy and do a butt-load of eye-balling in between measuring to check the placement.  The dress was hung up at this step and I would look and look at the bands ‘til I was cross-eyed and I knew I just had to stitch them down soon or I’d never wear it.  I’m still not sure the bands are as precise as I’d like but – hey, if only I would notice any ‘imperfections’ that’s totally good enough!

The bodice bands are continuous around but pieced to apply. I started at the center back above the red waistband and went all the way to the opposite shoulder for each side.  Then, the back neckline band is another continuous piece from shoulder to shoulder.  I probably could have done better had I done hand stitching to the bands, but this re-fashion was not meant to take too long in time so I merely did machine stitching (which was another frustration in itself).

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By time the bands were sewn on, the dress became a bit of a challenge to wiggle into for dressing.  With all the top stitching visible and the looser cotton knit, my dress needed to look dressy as well as keep its shape so I used small straight stitching.  The ease of dressing was something I was willing to give in on for the nice stitching and assurance of stability for many wearings (and washings) to come.  Adding in a zipper was not an option here.  After all, most vintage garments are a circus trick to get into anyway…I’m used to it by now, just so long as I don’t pop any seams.

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I know my dress is not a carbon copy and I want it that way.  The original dress as designed by Gigi Melton is (I believe) wool crepe, with petal sleeves, low V-neckline as well as a bottom hem red band to differentiate itself from my own version.  I greatly respect the ingenuity of Gigi Melton to find so many lovely 30’s and 40’s inspired ways for Peggy to wear her classic colors of red and navy!

There are other bloggers who have done a symbolical low-down of my specific Agent Carter inspiration dress, so I’ll defer to “Hard Boiled Meggs” if you want more of that, and please do visit if you’ve seen Season Two.  Here’s a link to Megg’s specific post about Episode 3 (the one in which my inspiration dress can be seen), but her post on Episode 2 and Episode 9 further explain the crossing over her heart.  Here’s an official photo gallery to see more from the source of some of the screen shots I shared.

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My photo backdrop is meant to mirror the sumptuous, curious, and spacious setting of the Stark mansion where Season Two saw much of Agent Carter’s time.  We went on a visit to the Samuel Cupples Mansion on the grounds of Saint Louis University.  This historic home is the epitome of luxuriousness which its remarkable amount of fireplaces – 22 spread out over a total of 42 rooms and three floors!  This place now serves as a gallery for SLU’s collection of fine and decorative art dating from before 1919.  The ample space inside made it challenging to have the right light so the colors look a bit different in each of our photos.

This dress reminds me of so much.  Firstly, it reminds me of how one can be vintage without going hard-core by taking a mere feeling, an inspiration, or even a silhouette and blending it with what’s out there today for a mainstream form of the past that is beautifully unique.  On a more personal level, by jogging to mind Peggy Carter, this dress further reminds me to enjoy and appreciate every minute of the time spent with the people in my life.  Taking time for someone is a priceless gift that goes both ways, and Valentine’s Day isn’t the only day for doing sweet things.  Cross my heart – take my word for it.

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“On The Sunny Side” – a Casual, Lace-Collared 1920’s Dress and Re-fashioned Cloche Hat

“It will help us every day, it will brighten all the way, if we keep on the sunny side of life.”  So goes the chorus from the song popularized in 1928 by the famous Carter family, but the song is also known for being in the year 2000 movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”  This song, the movie, and the general time frame of both have inspired me to make a bright and daily-life type of summer 1920’s dress together with a hat re-worked into a 20’s cloche.  There isn’t anything like a great outfit that you love to be in to help brighten up a disposition and add to a great day.

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A vintage tractor show in a small town only a day’s trip away was the catalyst behind my creation.  The occasion was a dusty, farm-centered, old-timey day of laid-back enjoyment which completely reminded me of something out of the depression-era dust bowl, the general setting of the movie, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”  I don’t know what was brighter that day…my dress or the summer sun.

B6140THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% rayon challis in a bright coral with a vintage cotton collar

PATTERN:  Butterick # 6140, year 2004

NOTIONS:  I had all the thread and bias tape needed, but I had to go out and buy the blue ribbon the day before my dress was worn.  The collar is from my stash, as was the hat ribbon and button (which was from hubby’s Grandmother).

100_5735-compTHE INSIDES:  French seamed

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress took me about 8 hours, and was finished the day before the event, July 18, 2015.

TOTAL COST:  maybe $15

I had been sitting on the idea for this dress for a while but when we decided at the last minute to go to the vintage tractor show, it gave me the reason to whip this up from off of my sewing table.  I am glad I had a reason to wear it because it seemed harder in the thought process than it was to actually make it.  This is the cutest loose fitting sack dress I could have ever imagined.  My dress being from the 1920’s is (I suppose) the only way to reconcile mentally my wearing something so generous.  My cloche hat doesn’t do much for the sun but is a good match for what I believe is a decently historically accurate 1920’s ensemble.

The-Artist-Costume and drawing by Mark BridgesMy preliminary inspiration was from a Hollywood source –Bérénice Bejo’s character Peppy Miller in the 2011 movie “The Artist”.  Our first sight of her in the movie is when she is wearing a jacket over a dress very similar to the one I made.  The movie dress, however, has long sleeves with a sleeveless vest/jacket, but to make my outfit versatile, my dress is sleeveless and a long sleeve jacket will be sewn later.  I even tracked down a costume sketch so I could see all the original colors which I stuck to as well in my version.  Part of the reason for the use of odd colors on the movie dress was so that things would show up a certain way in grey toned colorless film.  Nevertheless, the early/mid 1920’s into the 30’s are classic for pairing and using bright and unusual colors (reflective of the positive outlook of the times, see this as one example), so as wild as a bright salmon peach and royal blue sound, there is a high probability they were matched.  Honesty, I love the finished look.

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To start with, I used my easy, two-piece, fall-back basic Butterick for my 20’s shift silhouette.  It has been used with great success already for two other 20’s era creations – a blouse and a satin dress.  This time, I had to do some detailed adjusting of the neckline so it would suit my chosen lace collar.  I also opted for the easy and quick bias facing for the neck and arm hole finishing as the rayon is a bit sheer.  A deep hem was made so as to weigh down the dress a bit. 100_5737a-comp

With the dress done in a jiffy, I figured out how I wanted the center front skirt insert to be pleated and made a draft from plain paper – a box pleat in the middle and plain knife pleats on each side.  Then I made the real version of the pleated skirt insert and top stitched it down before cutting away the dress fabric behind.  This process reminded me of opening up a window.  That was all!  With only some quick hand tacking of the add-ons, my dress was done in the blink of an eye.  Many mid and late 20’s dresses have similar center front skirt interest which adds room to move.

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My parents (on occasion) pick up vintage items they know I don’t have but are uniquely special, such as collars and unique notions, with the occasional accessory.  Making this dress gave me my first occasion to use my now substantial lace collar collection, all found by my parents.  I believe this particular collar that I used is not too old, but I really don’t have any idea besides I think it’s hand crocheted.  It is so lovely the way it has such detail and I love the pointed dip in the center back.

Adding a lace collar made me rather seriously reluctant for the first time…I felt like I was doing vintage quaintness overload.  Now I mostly sew and wear vintage, and wearing the 20’s styles is obviously from the past so I really shouldn’t care.  However, out of all the trends that have made a resurgence, lace collars have not strongly come back and in my mind I’ve always seen them as too cute to handle on anything other than little girl clothes or a civil war era dress.  However, I did feel like this dress needed that collar, and if ever I was going to try and wear one…this was it.  Somehow, I think the plainness of shape and bright color to the dress saves the collar from becoming what I so feared.  Whatever it is, I do like it and already have plans for my other lace collars.  I’ll be like the anti-trend setter…

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The neckline ribbon is merely pinned in place with a safety pin because I really don’t think modern satin ribbons wash well…and I don’t want to try just to find out.  After having the rest of my dress be vintage appropriate materials (rayon and cotton), I regret having a poly satin ribbon, but I have limited resources and my dream materials might have to stay that way.  The ribbon does have a nice dull shine and it does give my dress the right amount of cheery fun.

100_5720-compMy hat is my first attempt at re-fashioning head wear.  I don’t think it’s too shabby.  My methods were primarily sewing and folding rather than soaking, re-blocking and shaping.  It was a cheap basic shaped hat originally, similar to the hat I used for this re-fashion.  My problems with this hat are purely on account of me – 20’s hats are so darn close fitting and my hair gets so frizzy on hot, humid days that there is no room to hide all my locks!  I can get away with this somewhat with winter cloches because the wool sticks to my hair, but this straw one does not.  Besides, I need my glasses to see and for some reason this hat interferes with my eyewear.  However, my hat is a success and fills in a niche by completing my 20’s wardrobe for summer.

I did not cut into the hat at all but folded in the back brim into the crown.  The sides are folded like tacos and covered up by the ribbon.  Everything is invisibly hand tacked own by clear filament thread.  Eventually, I might like to rip all this apart and do a better job (because I can) but it would be easier (and more fun) to probably just make a new hat.

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Technically, I believe the tractors behind me in most of our pictures are not really my dress’ era but probably 40’s or 50’s.  They did have some breathtaking 1910 to 1915 still working steam powered tractors for some historical awesomeness.  Although my hat is breathable straw, standing next to piping hot steam engines running in the height of summer was a bit overwhelming, but without the cloche my outfit suddenly had a 30’s aura.

100_5699-compWatching those old machines still working makes me realize how the times before ‘The Depression’ had such a swaggering confidence.  1920’s ingenuity is often overlooked because it is so far back and different than our modern technological advancements but most of what we take for advantage has its roots in the 20’s – television, synthetic fabrics, traffic signals, sunglasses, refrigerators, washing machines, and frozen food, to name just a handful.

The 1920’s definitely has a sunny side…

Warm Weather White…Topped Off!

A sundress, to me, is a sort of ‘default’ summer garment.  Sure, it can be changed up and made in a million different ways and (don’t get me wrong) I do love a sundress.  However, when Allie J. had her June ‘Social Sew’ with the theme of “sun dressing”, there was something in my mind that told me, “You have plenty of sundresses…that’s an easy thing for you to fall on…pick something you don’t have, something new and different that still means summer to you.”  O.k., I’m always up for a challenge.

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So, I have make a bright white year 1934 blouse and re-fashioned a modern sun hat into a vintage one.  With my wide cuffed driving gloves, a two tone belt, and my already made mid-30’s basic black skirt (posted here) I have a new basic toned summer outfit.

My blouse was so easy that I want to whip up about a baker’s dozen and is so comfy that I want to wear one on a regular basis (also why I want multiples)!  There’s only one yard needed, anyway.  On its own, I think the blouse is not obviously vintage, which is interesting as it is from a very old date in an era known for “stand-out” designs.  Most importantly, this blouse is the ultimate summer blouse for me – just enough to keep me effortlessly classy and covered up in old style while staying cool as a cucumber!  Nailed it!  With an awesome one-of-a-kind hat to keep the sun out of my eyes I am ready for the heat.

THE FACTS:DuBarry 1114B, year 1934, envelope front-comp

FABRIC:  The blouse is a 100% cotton with all over embroidery in a “hibiscus flower” pattern, the hat is modern in a 100% straw content

PATTERN:  Du Barry #1114B, year 1934, for the blouse and my own design for the hat

NOTIONS NEEDED:  Nothing but the basics are needed here – thread, bias tape, and buttons, all of which were on hand.  The hat refashion needed something special besides water and clothespins…I’ll explain down later.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  only 3 or 4 hours from start to finish, which was on June 24, 2016.

TOTAL COST:  The embroidered cotton was bought as a one yard discounted remnant at JoAnn’s store, so it only cost me $8.50.  The hat was given to me as a present from my mother-in-law.

Not only is the pattern I used for my blouse a Du Barry line (harder to find, made between 1931 made 1947) but it also has the “NRA” symbol, something limited to years 1933 and 1935 as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal Depression Era initiative.  Also, each garment in this three piece ensemble of skirt, blouse, and jacket has basically only three pieces for a ridiculously and deceptively easy outfit.  This is very utilitarian but lovely in its details.  I mean, just look at that jacket, too, with its two tone scarf closure!

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The main drawback is that the only way this pattern was affordable was because the instruction sheet was missing.  So far, I made it by without the instructions and I think the blouse is the hardest item from this pattern’s trio, but I would still love to know exactly how I was supposed sew it ‘cause it was slightly tricky.  Yet there was nothing some ingenuity couldn’t make work.  At the front neckline edge, where the blouse bodice joins to the all-in-one shoulder/sleeve yoke there seems to be some sort of tuck or dart called for, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure it out no matter how I tried.  What small tuck I did make all but disappeared, leaving a small bubble behind when I finished the neckline.  My hubby figured out that perhaps the bow (which I left off, as you can see) hooks and hangs from this bubble tuck, so perhaps it is meant to be there.  Between the embroidery and some steam from my iron the bubble has disappeared already, but I would love to see the instructions showing how this was supposed to work.

DSC_0759a-compLook at the odd pattern pieces!  The shoulder front/back yoke is the most unusual one – it is cut on the fold and darted so it is all-in-one, including the sleeves.  This is actually the first blouse pattern where there are separate pattern pieces for both the right front and the left front.  Those two pattern pieces are identical, the button holes and the buttons are just marked differently, so I’m kind of counting them as one piece despite them being cut separates.  I left out interfacing because I wanted an easy, quick blouse without being stiff or prissy. DSC_0806-comp

The hem has a shirt tail bottom, which I haven’t seen much of in vintage women’s’ blouses.  The ends are rounded off which I think is so cute!  I had tried to hem the ends under but with the embroidery in the cotton it turned out much too thick especially for a blouse that is meant to be tucked in.  So I merely finished off the raw edge with some double fold white bias tape giving a clean-looking hem, with a hint of a contrast, and a flat edge.

DSC_0804-compAs this blouse was just so quick and easy with its insides left raw (the embroidery keeps the cotton from fraying), I compensated by making bound “windowpane” buttonholes.  There are only three of them down to the waist so it wasn’t overmuch.  Making any more than five bound buttonholes starts to become more of a chore for me…but the promise of the finished project always gets me through any tough spots.

I love how the embroidery keeps the blouse from looking as sheer as it really is but I think the neckline somehow turned out a bit low.  I also don’t understand why the sleeves don’t look quite as wide as on the cover drawing, but oh well, they still are great.  Happily, this blouse goes with so much in my wardrobe, and works with my 40’s bottoms, as well as McCall 375, 30s hat pattern&Jaya Lee Designs on Etsylooking remotely modern.

Speaking of modern, the hat from my mother-in-law was originally such a bland, un-interesting piece, so very forgettable, it’s no wonder she didn’t want it.  I had to make it special, but also something I needed to go with my wardrobe, something I was lacking…a 30’s style summer hat!  My inspiration for this re-fashion came from browsing through pictures, old catalog re-prints, patterns, and online vendors.  The early 1930’s hats all had small brims and small crowns (many with ridges) worn over closely cropped or tightly curled hair.  Time to soak and re-block.

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A large tub of plain water was the starting point.  The lace was taken off and the plain hat was soaked for about three hours to soften it.  However, there is a clear glaze covering the straw which made things challenging.  The glaze still kind of flakes off like falling snow when I wear it.  Nevertheless, I was able to pinch out two giant ridges running the length of the crown, held in place while the hat was drying with clothes pins and wave clips meant for vintage hair-do’s (available online or at salons).  The brim was un-rolled and pulled down at the center front and center back as well.DSC_0801-comp

Some unique lattice-cut ribbon from my stash was folded in half for the band and a simple double bow was made from the full width.  The ribbon is kept in place with a straight pin because I want the option of easily changing my mind 😉

It’s fun to stray from the norm, especially since I can make whatever comes into my head!  I found a new way to rock the summer.  I hope I’ve inspired you to look into re-fashioning those ‘blah’ hats to your liking.  Have you used your creative juices to make something especially different that means summer to you?  Or have you, like me, found a new amazingly simple blouse that is perfect for you from an unsuspecting pattern?

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