Remnants, Scraps, and Leftovers, Oh My!

With the refashions and sewing projects which need small cuts that I’ve been doing lately, some deep questions have arisen in head.  Primarily, what constitutes a fabric remnant?  When is a scrap piece of material considered rubbish?  When it is no longer useable?  Who is the judge of that?  How has our estimation of when the leftovers from creating a garment are considered unusable changed over the years and why?  Is figuring out such questions another key to truly sustainable fashion and new creative possibilities?  I have a feeling these questions are not easily answered nor can they be figured out in one blog post, but perhaps this outfit project is a small example to part of the solution.  It is made from two less than one-yard linen remnants and a handful of notion scraps, for an on-point 1960s era set which defies the modern disregard for its ‘waste’.

Only half a yard of 45” width novelty linen fabric was turned into this interesting pop-over crop top.  Just under one yard of linen became the slip dress to complete it.  If a remnant can make a full garment, should we still consider it scrap fabric?  My last post featured yet another half a yard top.  I suppose remnants used to be considered as those tiny pieces that became 1930s era crazy quilts, the stuff that is thrown away at all the sewing rooms, fabric stores, and homes of other seamstresses I know.  I love how the end of the bolt is a gold mine waiting to be dug because they are almost always deeply discounted and do work with more sewing designs than realized.  The 1940s, 50’s, and 60’s were really good at having sewing patterns that boldly advertised they would work for one yard or less.

Having more than a yard to work with is needed for many sewing projects, but it is not automatically a necessary luxury.  Refashioning my unwanted clothes, or taking the time to mend and alter, is on equal par with the indulgence of making just what I want to wear when I make it work with unwanted scraps.  In my mind, it’s because I like to be responsible and caring and appreciative of what I have.  I can turn this outlook into something fun and creative, catering to my individuality, by being the maker of my own fashion.

To continue this handmade, sustainable, and thrifty outfit theme, I would like to also point out that I also made my necklace out of a cheap, assorted bead pack I found on sale recently.  I am freaking infatuated with purple and pink, and lately orange as well, so this whole outfit is like my dream colors…but purple is my hands-down favorite.  Thus this necklace set is my new favorite accessory!  Each of the two necklaces are separate so I can wear the assorted seed bead one with or without the fancier, Czech glass, detailed one for a flexible look.  I brushed up on some beading skills learned back as a teen and had a blast making these necklaces.  I get to wear just what I imagined for a fraction of the cost and much better quality than I could possibly find to buy.  My bracelets and earrings are true vintage.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% Linen all around, so pardon the wrinkles!  The top is from a novelty, multi-color, open weave linen and the solid under dress/slip is a cross-dyed semi-sheer linen is a reddish pink color.

PATTERN:  a true vintage McCall’s #8786, year 1967, for the under dress/slip and a Simplicity #1364 “Jiffy” blouses from the year 1964 (originally Simplicity #5262)

NOTIONS:  Everything for this outfit was scraps from on hand – the thread, bias tape, interfacing, and ribbons!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Both were made in only about 2 ½ hours each, and were finished on August 15, 2019.  These were definitely easy and quick projects!

THE INSIDES:  As linen frays something awful and that fraying gets scratchy, my top is bias bound while the dress is French seamed.

TOTAL COST:  The linen for the top had come from JoAnn, and was only $2.50.  The cross dyed linen slip dress had been purchased for a few dollars as well when Hancock Fabrics had went out of business.  All together, the whole outfit cost me $6 at the most!

This is an awfully good classic, proper set for coming directly from the late 1960s!  The only slight giveaway to its era origins that I can see is in columnar, straight-line silhouette of the slip dress and the boxy shape of the top.  I love how cool and comfortable the set is and how versatile each item is on its own.  The underdress goes well with my modern bias flounced wrap dress, yet I do have some sheer pink floral chiffon in my stash to come back to this pattern and make the matching given overdress.  It is humorous how confused the 1967 pattern seems to be at what exactly to call what it has to offer – is it a camisole top dress, a slip, or just a dress?  The top goes with all sorts of bottoms, but especially my 1980s pink shorts!  These particular linens are such soft, sweat-wicking champions that layering them up like in this outfit is not a problem but rather feels quite good.  You just have to roll with the wrinkles, though!

I did just a few adaptations to the pieces’ to both make them fit and be as easy to go on as they are to wear.  First of all, the slip dress was in junior petite proportions and a too-small-for-me size.  Thus, I had to readjust the bust-waist-hips spacing and grade up at the same time.  Luckily this was a really simple design – one front, one back, a few fish-eye darts for shaping, tiny spaghetti straps, and a wide neckline facing.  I went a bit over and above what I needed in extra inches because I wanted the slip dress to be a closure-free, pop-over-the-head type of thing.  If I was planning on wearing this as both a dress on its own and as a slip, I didn’t want a stinkin’ zipper in the side.  I already have a 1940s and a 1950s slip that both have zippers, so I’ve been there and done that.  This linen was too soft and wonderful to confine into a zipper anyway.

Going along with that aesthetic, I went up a size larger when cutting out the top (and was forced to make it shorter based on the half yard I was working with).  I wanted it to be closure-free and easy, breezy, too.  It’s such a refresher to do without a zipper.  I really don’t mind sewing them in at all and they are a must in the structured garments I love to wear, but it is nice to do without both from a maker’s standpoint and as someone who likes simplistic fashion sometimes.

A few little details were all my two pieces needed to elevate this basic set to a chic, coordinated set.  To tie the slip dress in with the top and also make it look a little less plain, I used two random pieces of leftover ribbon from my stash for decorating along the hem.  They secretly cover up my hem stitching!  The lavender velvet ribbon is true vintage and all cotton, still on its original card, and out of the notions stash I inherited from my Grandmother.  The cranberry sheer ribbon is modern, leftover from this dress project made many years back now.

My top needed something to pull the boxy shape in just a tad, so I stitched a button down at the bottom point of each side seam then made a thread loop three stripes away to pull the hem in.  I love how this ‘fix’ compliments the striped linen by making a lovely V at the side seam point (where the bust’s French dart and my back pleat is pulled in).  This ‘fix’ is nicely non-committal, too.  I can also wear it either way – full boxy or slightly tailored when buttoned in.  The notions I used were two leftover buttons I had cut off my son’s worn-through school pants before they were thrown away.  I’m proud of how I let very little go to waste around here!

“The Frade”, a stash swapping website where you can buy/sell/trade fabric, yarn, sewing projects and all sorts of maker supplies, states the statistic that approximately 15% of fabric is wasted when a garment is cut and made.  I do not know if they were referring to the industry or homemade clothing, but from the layout suggestions I see on modern patterns, for one example, I would personally think that percent would be much higher.  As long as grainlines are followed I see no reason for following a computer program’s suggestion for laying out pattern pieces on fabric compared to ‘playing Tetris’ to find an economical fit for minimal waste.  On average, I find I can make most patterns work with at least a half to ¾ yard less than the suggested amount needed on the envelope chart and end up with about 5% or less leftover.  Of course, all this does not apply to many vintage patterns, especially from the 1940s when they knew how to make the most of what they had on hand.

Sustainable fashion practices when sewing new from scratch might be more of a challenge or test of both patience and skill, but the results are worth it in the end.  Voracious fast fashion is ruining the world we live in and destroying appreciation for quality.  According to this article at the Fast Company, “the average number of times a garment is worn before it stops being used has gone down by 36% over the last 15 years (yay!), and yet many consumers wear their items for less than 10 times.”  This is bad news for efforts to limit waste in the fashion industry (info also quoted here @RightfullySewn)”  because over the last 15 years, clothing production has doubled.  There is a problem.

Whether or not we go through sewing projects just as fast as we might with store bought fast fashion, we sewists have the perfect opportunity to be smart about what we make, just as open to the kind of accountability we want – or should expect – from big business.  We can create with supplies that are either vintage, secondhand, or in our stash, and make items with a quality that we will enjoy for years to come.  We can mend when it is needed, tailor as our body demands, and finally recycle in one of the many modern means when all of those options are not viable.  Please, I beg you, choose natural fibers, anything other than a plastic or chemical based material.  We who sew have the answer to sustainable fashion just by our creative capability, and sustainable fashion absolutely needs to happen.  Might I suggest there is a duty attached to sewing, because ‘with knowledge comes responsibility’ as the saying goes.  Maybe we can kick start that with a change of mentality towards the good old-fashioned regard of remnants.  A good creative challenge never hurt anyone, either.

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A Very Mod British Summer Sun Suit

I am truly infatuated with shorts-inclusive vintage play sets this year!  After my 1940s set a few years back (see it here), and then the 50’s (posted here) and 80’s (previously posted here) sets from this 2019, I’ve now also rounded out things by whipping up a 1960s sun suit, as well!

This set is a special oddity in my sewing – its pattern is a little known “Le-Roy” brand printed by the Associated British Paper Patterns Company out of Bletchley.  (I am rather confused by an English pattern having a French name, though!)  This is only the second English pattern I have used (first one here) and certainly the only one of the brand I have in my stash…but then again I haven’t seen many of Le-Roy designs for sale either.  I picked this one up on a whim for a steal of a price years back and I’m so glad I did.  I definitely want to come back to this pattern in the future and make the tunic length overblouse, too.

Unfortunately, the rarity of the brand makes it hard to date precisely, but the trend for this type of set and the styling on the envelope is the key.  My estimate for this is that it is possibly as early as 1964 yet no later than 1968.  Why do I believe this?  The famous actress Audrey Hepburn wore a very similar two piece sun set in the British 1967 movie “Two for the Road”  We all know how fashion likes to follow what is seen on the stars and starlets of the silver screen!  Yet, my Simplicity brand calendar of vintage pattern cover images has an almost exact two piece summer outfit labelled as the year 1964 on the page for August 2019.

So my visual proof gave me a 5 year range, and I channeled it by using the print that I did.  After all, if you just had the line drawing to reference, this play set is not all too different from a two piece summer set from the 40’s or the 50’s (scroll through this Pinterest board of mine to see).  Thus, I felt I needed the material to be the visibly identifying factor (besides the close fit) to testify to its publishing date from very modern-looking 60’s era.  As luck would have it, the FDIM museum (in Los Angeles, California)recently shared through their Friday “Unboxing” videos on Instagram a designer Emilio Pucci blouse from 1967 with a geometric, two-color green print over a white background.  Seeing that reminded me so much of the leftovers to some modern designer pants I made a while back.  I just had to make what I feel is a perfectly Mod era outfit for a British style summer!  I’ve made so many dresses from the 60’s era this is such a fun kind of a change!

These two pieces were an under-one-yard, scrap-busting project that also now gives me full outfit options to some pants I made years back from the same material.  There is nothing quite like matching mix-and-match separates to make me feel like I am both ready for a trip and completely up to rocking this summer!  This is what optimizing one’s fabric stash looks like.  The ¾ yard leftovers from these Odeeh designer Burda Style pants were just enough to squeeze in these little pre-70’s short shorts and a crop top reminiscent of a vintage-style sports bra.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% cotton duck cloth for the printed portion of the set, a 100% satin finish Pima cotton for the solid contrast, and a bleached cotton muslin for the lining material to each piece

PATTERN:  a mid to late 60’s LeRoy #3195

NOTIONS:  I had to custom order the little 6 inch separating sports zipper for the crop top, but otherwise I had all the thread and interfacing I needed.  The shorts have a true vintage metal zipper, painted in a lime green, also from on hand out of the notions stash in the drawers of my 1960 Necchi sewing machine cabinet.  I figured it was probably era appropriate!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The hand-stitched zipper took an hour and a half to sew in itself, but the overall two pieces were finished on July 12, 2019 in 15 to 20 hours.

THE INSIDES:  all covered up by full lining

TOTAL COST:  Next to nothing!  As I was using scraps from another project that was made several years back this is pretty much free in my mind, excepting the $8 zipper.

This was easy in theory to make.  The tricky part was nailing the fitting.  The underbust seam had to be snug enough to stay down but not tight like a bra.  I did not want the shorts to look like any other ill-fitting RTW item I have tried and left behind.  A quick tissue fit revealed this was pretty much spot on my size, but when working with a new pattern company and aiming for a very tailored fit I always give myself some extra room in seam allowance.  Technically this should have been a bit large for me going by their size chart, so I’m assuming either the company’s designs or merely this particular one ran small.  In a few places – such as over my hips – I had to bring the seam allowance out to only ¼ inch so I am so thankful I gave myself some wiggle room when I cut.  That was not an easy thing to do.

I might have made this set on ¾ yard, but with the extra room I added when cutting, every piece ended up touching the other.  This is always a bit unnerving because there is absolutely no room for error and I have to think of everything.  I do not encourage this.  When it does work out, however, such an economical pattern and fabric layout is the source of both relief and self-amazement, not to mention the euphoric happiness great stash-busting can bestow!

Contrasting the shorts hem and top neckline with a solid was sort of a semi-stash busting effort, as well.  It all started with some satin-finish Pima fabric bought for – but no longer needed – as a lining under a sheer silk.  It has now been tentatively slated to be pleated 40’s era shorts in the future.  The edges of the cut length were sacrificed as part of an experiment before committing to a whole garment in such a color.  You see, I have never really been a fan of chartreuse, but I know it seems quite popular and a sought after color amongst vintage enthusiasts.  I do like myself in yellow and in green individually, but both combined in one shade is something that makes my skin look sickly.  However, I know never to say never!  Using a bit of chartreuse as the contrast “edging” for these two pieces was a good trial to see how if the color in small amounts is more tolerable…and I do believe it is!  Anything in a satin Pima cotton will be beautiful, though.  The true shade on the end of the bolt in the store was marked as “pistachio” but as it is darker and more yellowed than the lime green in the print, I see it as a chartreuse in person, not captured by the pictures.

The design itself was very basic.  Yet, between a good handful of darts on both the shorts and the crop top as well as fantastic real-life curves tailored into the seams I think such a simple little set ends up with a great fit I really never expected.  I like the way there was a lack of a waistband yet the shorts still hug my true waist.  The way the wide U-shaped neckline really squares up my shoulders and frames the face…and is easy to dress into with the front zipper!  Cotton duck can be rough and aggravating on the skin and the background of the print is white after all, so even though the instructions tell me to make a full lining I would have done so anyway.

I feel happy and confident in this play set in just the way I had dreamed of and only half-hoped for.  My squishy midsection makes me feel naked when I think about what I am wearing and become self-conscious.  My bigger booty and power hips and thighs have always made me self-conscious, too, in close fit bottoms, even more so in shorts.  That, combined with the fact I have never really found a pair of close fitting bifurcated bottoms – short or long – that could fit me, have made me shy away from such a thing in the mistaken belief they would not work for me.

Well, this is why I sew.  I am able to make what I want to wear and do so in a way that actually fits me and compliments me.  After a sewing a few skinny jeans that I love (posted here and here), this set was an opportunity to redeem something I never supposed I could or would wear and enjoy.  I believe fashion should be glorious fun, thoughtfully interesting, and individually personalized if anyone is going to feel truly comfortable in it.  It has to be an extension of oneself.  Achieving such a sweet spot with certain items that people are unsure about from the beginning – whether it’s someone who doesn’t like skirts or (like me) with a play set such as this – and ending up totally won over enough to feel as if you suddenly have a new type of garment that you can love your body in…that is when fashion helps you be your best self.  I am showing more skin than I am normally comfortable doing, but between my maker’s pride, the fun colors, the curious oddity of the fashion, and the joy of something new, I love myself in this Mod British summer sun suit!

A Boxy Bouclé Refashion

Let me start off this post by saying I have an explanation for the relative quiet on my blog through February.  My husband and I went on a trip to Colorado!  We both like getaways in January or February, and last year we went to Florida.  Yet, he loves ski areas and picturesque snow, while I…not so much – but I do love a good fashion related exhibit.  Our preferences were combined into one by our visit to Denver and Winter Park.  I had the opportunity to see the much touted (and no longer open) “Dior: From Paris to the World” exhibit at the Downtown Art Museum as well as experience my first visit out west!  The mountains were breathtaking in beauty, the air and water so fresh and invigorating, and my wardrobe was all me-made, cozy, and fun.  Our stay (and photo shoot backdrop) was the best we’ve had at the amazing historic Brown Palace Hotel.  This leads me to the main point of this post!  It is not only to say look out for more posts on my recent travel wardrobe, like this one, but also to muse over the thought of doing an overview of the Dior exhibit as well as make a few inspired pieces.

However, this post’s me-made garment is a simple and out-of-my-ordinary-style refashion which combines a sequin bouclé remnant and a tee now too small for me into one warm and snazzy boxy top.  It was a last minute make before the trip that only took a few hours to whip together yet got rid of two random, unwanted pieces from my scraps pile.  This was my wardrobe option for staying casual yet stylish, warm yet fashionably dressed, and newly handmade all the way!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The bouclé is a wool and acrylic blend with sequins interwoven with the black and true navy blue yarns; my top is a printed 100% cotton knit

PATTERN:  Burda Style no.6983 pattern from March of the year 2013 – I do believe this pattern is both out of print and not available on their website, but the new no. 121 from the March 2019 issue is very similar (without the cowl neckline)

NOTIONS:  I needed only basic stuff to make this – thread and bias tape – all of which was on hand

TIME TO COMPLETE:  It was finished on February 7, 2019 in only 3 awesome hours!!

THE TOTAL COST:  The bouclé remnant cost $5, and the top, being in my wardrobe for over a decade now, is as good as free by now…so this cost as much as a new but basic cheap RTW top but looks oh-so-much better!

As I mentioned above, the knit top has recently become too small on me to be comfortable, primarily in the arms, so I was limited to mostly the body for what I could use.  Thus the middle main body of the top was chosen to be re-cut into wide and comfy sleeves.  The bottom hem was used to be the sleeve hem for a nice finish, which is why I only had room to make ¾ sleeves.  I did still save the original top’s old skinny sleeves, hoping to use them to make cool seam allowance binding on something else in the future.  Hey – every scrap can go towards something in my house!

I did not have enough fabric in the sleeves to add the cowl neckline originally included in the patterns design.  I was sort of considering on fudging something together like it, only without the double layer of fabric.  In the end, I’m still holding onto the top’s old sleeves and wearing my already made Burda Style turtle top as an under layer for both warmth and to get the slouchy neck without the stitched-on commitment.  I can wear this top by itself with an open neck for slightly chilly days or when I just don’t mind showing a flash of skin above my middle.  I also have the option of layering.  I love versatility in garments and most of the time being practical is balanced with high-falutin’ ideas in my brain.

The half yard bouclé remnant was at least 60” wide so I had something more than just a pittance to work with thank goodness.  It was bought because I loved the fabric, but I only went for the discounted remnant because with a regular price of $20 a yard…well, I just don’t spend that on fabric unless I have a really good reason (which is not that often, maybe a few times out of a year).  I have too much of a stash to work on, instead!  Anyway, with both selvedge edges folded into the middle, I had two seamless edges available to cut on.  My neck to waist measurement is 15 inches, so at 18 inches for the half yard I figured it was safe to plan for a cropped length top.  I choose the Burda Style no. 6983 pattern as it was simple, a pattern in my stash I have been wanting to try, and it seemed to have generous sizing perfect to be a pullover.  Crop tops might not be the most ‘on trend’ right now, but then fashion is all over the place currently (in my opinion) so anything really goes.  I suppose it’s better late than never.

The fit was very generous!  I chose my “normal” size and it was still very wide.  Part of this was the intended design, especially since it has the dropped shoulders to accentuate the boxy shape.  For anyone who wishes to make this pattern, I would recommend going down a size…it will still be loose and boxy just not so overwhelming.  Otherwise, I would recommend going with my adaptation.  The size I had cut out only appeared like a garment made for someone bigger than me so my solution to fix what I had was to add a box pleat to the center neckline at both front and back.  This brought the shape in dramatically, but I really love how it gave the top much needed interest.  Also, the pleat nicely shapes the boxiness into more of a waist complimenting flare out on the sides of my body.  This is hard to show in pictures, it only really shows when I move.  This top literally needed those box pleats in more ways than one.

In order to not waste precious inches off the bottom to do a hem (which would be too bulky anyway), I did the classic Chanel type of frayed hem which has become a trademark of her designer tweed, four pocket boxy jackets.  It is easier to do than it might look.  The main intent is to ‘finish’ the edge to allow a controlled fraying.  For my last Chanel-inspired creation, I used the selvedge to stick out over a finished hem, but this was not going to work here with a different material finish.  I used bias tape to sew on in a double running stitch just above a ½ inches worth width of fraying.  The bias tape underneath acts like a bumper to keep the last loose layers of bouclé sandwiched in place under the tape without appearing like there is anything there.  I’m dying to try this hem again on my next bouclé garment.

There is nothing like a traveling to make me feel like something new, no matter how simple, and the only way to that (for me) is to go with me-made.  My clothes show their worth and have the chance to shine on our travels, becoming linked with special times and memories.  However, it is bigger than that.  The cheap knit top I refashioned isn’t really much, it is up to 15 years old, shrunk and misshapen, so if it had come directly from a resale store I probably would have never considered making a fresh use out of it.  However, that top had been worn on some of my dates with my husband before we were married, when we were just getting to know one another.

Perhaps it is silly of me to remember little details like what I was wearing, but this is just why refashioning is so important.  Clothes are intertwined with our human existence, whether thought about or not, and they carry a story with them.  So – in order to save that story and continue it, to do every possible little action towards ethical fashion for a healthier world, and to stay creative and resourceful is only the beginning of why I made this odd and unassuming top.  The same goes for almost every refashion I do.  On its own, I would probably hate this style on myself, but the way I approached it makes me loves the fresh change about it.  The ability to sew is so beautiful and it takes projects like this to keep me thankful I have the ability for it.

…To Peplum or Not to Peplum Is the Question

One would think that it is only living things that would be able to make up their minds.  In the case of this year 1945 dress, I feel the pattern’s design could not make up its mind whether or not it wanted a peplum, and what styling it really wanted.  Being a pattern for teens and juniors, it totally makes sense to be a bit mixed up…since those of the “in between years” are being overwhelmed by everything!  Now, with some dramatic re-sizing and re-drafting, some cheaply priced wool suiting, and an old unwanted skirt from my basement to re-fashion, I think I’ve hit the right balance to rock this War-time design as a grown woman, ready to flaunt the cold of winter in panache.  Of course, a pair of killer 40’s style ankle strap shoes also completes my power 40’s outfit – they are velvet fabric reproductions from Rocket Dog.

This dress was actually my Christmas outfit for this past 2016 holiday, but I think the plaid has enough small amounts of other colors in it that, together with the navy it is paired with, keeps things relevant for most all of fall of winter, as well.  If I want it more holiday-ish, I can pair my dress with more red items or even browns or goldens.  Women of the 40’s loved to use plaids (especially teen girls), so I’m focusing on that rather than my mental query that I might be wearing some sort of Scottish plaid (which is why my bottom half is in a solid).  Reds and blues were popular colors for teens wear in the 40’s after all, too, so although this is my “adult” dress I am sticking to colors and fabric types “traditional” for the pattern’s intended audience – juniors, that is, those of the 14 to 18 crowd just as they were officially being known as teenagers (see info source here).

This dress is also my first time making a vintage garment where the print (or at least the contrast fabric) is just in the bodice and nothing else.  I’ve always admired those kinds of two-fabric clothes, always wondering if they would work for me…now I know they do!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The solid navy skirt and sleeves are in a 95% wool/5% polyester blend suiting from Fashion Fabrics Club in town.  It has a textured finish much like a gabardine.  The plaid, re-fashioned from an old skirt no longer worn, is a half and half rayon/poly blend with twill finish.  It’s label inside read as “Robyne’s Dream“, “Made in the USA”, and I believe this is from the 90’s.  I have seen this style of red, forest green, yellow, white, royal and black plaid labeled as a “Prince of Wales” design. The waistline and the peplum are lined in a basic, navy blue, all-cotton broadcloth, merely scraps on hand.

PATTERN:  McCall’s #6297, year 1945

NOTIONS:  I had everything on hand in my stash that I needed here – thread, a zipper, bias tapes, interfacing, shoulder pads.  The three buttons down the front are vintage pieces from hubby’s Grandmother’s stash.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress was a last minute decision and was started the week before Christmas and took about 20 hours’ worth of time.  It was finished just before leaving for Midnight church service, December 24, 2016.  Whew!  I was ‘cutting’ it close, ha ha!

THE INSIDES:  All cleanly bias bound.  Strips of 100% cotton batiste are used as facing for the inner waistband for a lovely smooth feeling against my skin.

TOTAL COST:  I am counting the plaid fabric from the re-fashioned skirt and my cotton lining scarps as being free, as well as the notions from on hand, with the wool only costing $2 a yard.  My total for this dress is about $3 for only a yard and a half of the wool I used…how awesome is that!?

This project is one big hooray for re-using and re-fashioning!  As I’ve discussed past posts, my wardrobe is something I consider long term, and if I do not wear or am not happy with an item, it is re-done and cut into so it can used differently ‘til it is 100% what I will use or wear.  Why can’t unwanted clothes be treated as a commodity (defined as in “useful or valuable item”) for creativity just the same as a newly cut piece of fabric, the way I see it?  Anyways, this skirt had been an occasional favorite when I was between 10 and 15 years of age, but for the last 10 plus years it has been in my fabric stash waiting for a new incarnation.  Something from when I was a teen, becomes a new garment for grown-up me, sewn from a pattern catered for teens.  Oh, the irony…

My original skirt before re-fashioning was a simple long bias skirt with a gathered elastic waist.  Thus, I had a good amount of fabric to work with, but the skinny width was restrictive.  This is part of the reason why the plaid is not as perfectly matched as I would have liked and also the fact it is on the bias…although I do like the look of the plaid cross-grain!  Cutting off the two side seams and folding the length over on itself, I had just enough as you can see.  The front half of the skirt became my bodice fronts, while the back half was enough for the bodice back, peplums, and a neckline tie that ended up making piping for instead. So close!

For some reason, the envelope and instructions to this dress are one of the most fragile in my pattern collection, but the tissue pattern pieces are seemingly fine.  Just in case of a damaging accident, but also since I knew I needed to both add in several inches for size (29 inch bust, yikes! so small…) and bring the dress to some adult proportions, I traced all but the skirt and sleeve pieces onto new, semi-sheer medical paper.  In case you didn’t know, any pattern from about the early mid-1930’s up to about 1946 that are marked “Junior Misses” will be every short in proportions and used “as-is” are only sized for an under 5 foot tall person or an under sized teen.  Most of the time I have to add in a good 2 or 3 inches horizontally to bring ‘sleeves-bust-waist-hips’ all down.  It’s kind of what is done to make a pattern appropriate for someone tall, and opposite of what needs to be done to fit someone petite.  Yet, as I demonstrate, these juniors’ patterns are very usable for those are willing to do the ‘work’ of dramatically grading and re-sizing.  However, doing such an effort (in my mind) can only be a good thing – it brings new styles to suddenly be available to use besides teaching bunches about working with patterns.

The original cover drawing is quite cute – and I do not do outright “cute” if I can help it.  Both neckline options are the nails in the “cute factor” coffin (I generally find it hard to like a Peter Pan collar on myself), so they were the first to go and be re-drafted while I was tracing out a copy of the tissue pieces.  I originally figured on making an open V-neckline, and adding in straps that would twist and criss-cross across the chest opening and come back around to button back down on the same side – very military-like and strong, similar to Simplicity #1539, also from 1945.  Well, I guess you can tell I didn’t end up sticking with that idea – not here at least, but hopefully in the future on another project.  My neckline was the very last thing that I figured out before the dress was fully finished.  In the end, I merely took the lapels I drafted as self-facing and made them into a small, slightly pointed, turned back collar instead.  I like the simple subtlety of it, even though it was not at all what I had planned for at all.  There’s enough going on with the rest of the dress, so I felt it needed something non-distracting but still dramatically plunging for a not-as-conservative, grown-up touch.

What is not so obvious but remarkably lovely to the bodice is the way the bust is shaped by a vertical shoulder pleat.  This so completely exaggerates the shoulders as only the 40’s can do – I love it!  It really does wonders to complement the waist, especially since there is a set-in waistband to define the middle of this dress.  The fold of the shoulder pleat on my dress ends so precisely at the seam of the shoulder/sleeve, it was bit tricky to sew around without catching it…a bit of unpleasant unpicking made things alright.  It’s rather a shame that this detail is only in the front (much like the peplum, I guess).  Nevertheless, I still wanted a very defined line at the end of those shoulder edge pleats so there are ½ inch shoulder pads inside.  I always find it so curious how well gi-normous 1980s shoulder pads seem to be made to go inside many of my 40’s fashions.  Except on the occasional dress, I think the WWII years’ silhouettes are just lacking some sort of potent, calculated, confident fullness without emphasized shoulders.  I have seen similar vertical running shoulder pleats on many 40’s patterns circa 1945 – a McCall’s #6102, McCall’s #6902, and Simplicity #1891, as well as a modern (retro-inspired) pattern Butterick #6363, to name off a handful.  Also, for some hard-copy examples, here’s a photo of a mid-1950s wool dress, an extant 1940’s rayon crepe gown, my own Chanel-inspired 1967 linen suit set, and an 80’s chiffon dress, (notice the varied fabrics and years).  This ingenious method of bodice shaping is too good a detail to keep to only one decade.

With such prominent shoulders, I softened the sleeves by not sewing them as set-in.  The sleeves were sewn to the bodice much like on a man’s shirt, connected together at the shoulder so then the entire side seam – from sleeve hem the bottom hem – is stitched in one long continuous seam.  The sleeves are quite deeply cut, similar to this 1946 blouse that I’ve already made.  My sleeve ends taper to being fitted at the elbows but nonetheless these are very easy to move around for full movement and reach room – much appreciated.  Reach room is something I generally do not find modern patterns have unless I alter them in some manner.  Reach room is under respected…if something is good enough to make and wear, accepting being restricted with basic arm movements is something no one needs tolerate.

I was originally very hesitant about sewing on the skirt’s peplum flaps, but I’m so glad they turned out to be something new to like!  Apparently the odd, front, half-peplum design was a quietly popular yet not mainstream style for the mid-decade.  Besides seeing front half-peplums on Juniors’ dresses in my 40’s Sears catalog, the character of Rose from Season Two of the Marvel TV show “Agent Carter” is wearing a lovely drapey rayon dress in this same style.  Even Simplicity pattern Company released their own half-peplum the same year (1945) as #1357.  For one more tactile example, here’s an awesome vintage original half-peplum dress, in a wonderful novelty print, which had been for sale on Etsy.  I certainly don’t “get” the “why” of the style, but since before this dress I’d never really tried a peplum before, I figured half of one might be an easy way to acclimate myself to them.  Turns out this is not all that bad because being anchored on all but one edge prevents too much “pouf” of the peplum flaps.  Still, I generally do not like corners being cut, “party in the front, business in back”, or “coffin dresses” (as they are distastefully called when everything is in the front and the back is totally neglected).  However, technically the back of my dress is not neglected at all – it does have the plaid bodice, too, and the lovely classic 1940s tri-panel skirt back.  There is still one extra touch I added that makes sure the details from behind are just as nice as the front.

Self-made, matching plaid fabric piping runs along the bottom seam of the set-in waistband.  This was actually my hubby’s idea…I’ll give him the full credit for this great custom notion for which I was doubtful about at first.  I did not have the right thick cotton cording on hand for the piping so instead I used several strands together of thinner cotton cording on hand that we use to hold plants upright in the garden.  A bias strip of fabric was then wrapped around the piping and stitched down using my invisible zipper foot (just like what I demonstrated in this post).  This piping made installing the side zipper a bit challenging, and it’s not the best closure I’ve done…but it works to close the dress just fine and that’s good enough for me.

I guess it’s not all that surprising that this sweet vintage style for young ladies and teens is so strongly adult in its attribution – in 1945, women on the cusp of growing up were receiving more representation, acknowledgement, and opportunities, all with greater diversity, that year than ever before.  Firstly, 1945 was the year of a historic Miss America Pageant Competition.  That year of 1945 was the first year the winner was offered a school scholarship as her prize, rather than gifts of an item to wear or travel packages.  Year 1945 was also the first year that a young lady won who had been a Collage Graduate, but more significant was the fact that the winner, Bess Myerson by name, was a Jewish American.  She used her fame for so much good – raising awareness to biased prejudice, as well as helping out the last of the war effort, and later as a New York Politician.  Teen-age girls must have been a big enough “thing” in American after all to get a long article in Life magazine for December 11, 1945 (read the whole thing here, pages 91 to 99).

Furthermore, the magazine Seventeen had just begun the October of the year before (1944) and in 1945 were really gaining influence and gumption to speak out for their intended audience, “the age when a girl is no longer a child, yet isn’t quite a woman.”  Periodicals focused only on Hollywood stars and starlets were going out of favor and Helen Valentine, who, after starting out at Vogue, had already begun Mademoiselle: The Magazine for Smart Young Women by 1944. Seventeen was started by her as a magazine meant to be a teenagers’ voice, a benchmark for thought, and a place to bounce off ideas, so much so that they were not scrupulous about mentioning heavy world affairs and controversy.  By the 1950’s, Seventeen quickly moved from Valentine’s original focus on service and citizenship toward themes of fashion, sensuality, and body scruples…more like magazines of today.  See this amazing web page for more early history of Seventeen magazine.

Young ladies of 1945 and after were influencing history like never before.  I hope a lovely dress style like the one I made for this post might be just a small example of that fact.  Teenagers’ clothes of today generally strike me as disrespectful to their potential and distasteful to their capabilities.  Sloppy clothes, ones trying to be overly “on trend”, or the large majority of clothes which have writing or characters in the most surprising places all seem to put them in a box of what society expects them to feel and react – and many end up never growing out of those attitudes and habits.  This is in no small part (in my opinion) to the incidental that what one wears can impact how we think of ourselves.  Not every teen or 20 something is an electronic addicted being with an I-don’t-give-a-blank level of respect.  They need a constructive way to build their own entity.  Let me share a Helen Valentine quote from the book Fashioning Teenagers: A Cultural History of Seventeen Magazine.  After seeing the 90% of teens at the 1945 opening of New York’s U.N. building, she said, “People have an idea that the only thing they’re interested in is their next date, but it isn’t so. They (young people) are really thinking about very important things and we ought to be thinking about them in those terms.”

Vintage clothes for the middle years strike me as giving them a taste of their future in their own special way, with some small detail of the features of the clothes styles they grew out of so as to not forget where they are and where they have been in life.  It’s like their fashion and not just their education was attempting to transition them into the confidence of independent and capable decisions while allowing them the fun and freedom that still part of their life.  Their ideas and habits are the future we all have to deal with.  May teens of today wear clothing that is respectful of their place in the world every bit as much as fashion of the past has done.

My Quadruplets of 1950’s Grannie Pannies

Just in time for the holiday of hearts and warm feelings, I’ll reluctantly post about four versions of some super easy 1950’s style full coverage under panties. These knickers were so easy, so fun, and a practical indulgence…how can I not gush!

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THE FACTS:

FABRICS:  All four are stretchy knits, just with varying fiber contents – 100% cotton, cotton and spandex blend, 100% rayon, and a polyester lace.

NOTIONS:  In order to make these panties sensible and practical I used all of what was on hand, including dis-assembling another unwanted pair of underpants.

PATTERN:  The pattern was free from the blog “Sew Vera Venus” (scroll down and look for the title “50’s Style Under Pants”)

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Each pannie took more or less 2 hours. My first pair was made in early April 2015, number #2 and #3 were made December 28, 2015 and #4 were made on Jan 8, 2016.100_6719-comp

THE INSIDES:  Each pannie has a French seam for the center back, with all other seams covered by the crouch lining and the edging.

TOTAL COST:  Nothing! Free, free, free!

With the pattern being a free download, the quickness of its construction, and the simplicity of its design lending itself to being made solely from scraps, these underpants are the best thing ever in my book. I actually could just keep going and make plenty more – one from every knit or pretty stretchy fabric that I have leftover…perhaps I’ll do that. I really don’t mean to sound like a cheap freak, or stingy, but this pattern really does make underpants that are the most comfortable I’ve ever had. There is one exposed seam, making it easy and comfy on the skin. As is, they are full coverage, and come to a real waist height (they’re only hip huggers unless you adapt the pattern). Ready to wear doesn’t offer enough which falls at a normal waist height so I really appreciate finding these.

The only real trick to making your own underpants seems to be acquiring the knack for understanding how to figure the right measuring of the elastic. You have to take out a few inches (more or less depending on the fit you want) and when it gets sewn on it gets stretched out further, so it’s like a silly balancing act. Each kind of elastic acts differently as well. I had to spend the extra time to do some sort of unpicking on almost every pair of pannies to get the elastic just right for my liking. That’s just the critical perfectionist in me…*sigh*.

100_4920a-compMy first pair of under pannies is pretty just being basic, in my opinion, but I did use some fabric markers to draw my own decoration. This one was made out of 100% knit left over from my Doris Day “Romance on the High Seas” movie look-alike blouse. For the finishing, I went with the seemingly “traditional” lingerie elastic. Mine came from an old 1980’s packaged “kit” which I’d been holding on to in my stash – it has a lightly wider length for the waist and two slightly less wide lengths for the leg bands, both with decorative looping. I’m unimpressed with this kind of elastic. The decorative looping unraveled off after only the second washing…pooh, pooh. Otherwise, they’re still great.

100_6722-compMy second pair of knickers is my ultimate favorite. They are made from 100% rayon knit, leftover from making my 1946 high draped neck yellow blouse. The waist of these is cut slightly below the natural waist. As I mentioned in the “notions” part of “THE FACTS”, a ‘like new but never worn’ pair of panties provided me with the leg elastic which went on my newly made pair. Hubby was extremely generous to do the unpicking apart of the old panties and elastic for me. He also unpicked the raw fabric off of some matching stretch elastic in my stash (something I’ve been holding on to for maybe 10 years which came off of the bottom of a tank top). He says he likes unpicking, but I’m thinking he wanted to see me finish my pair of undies, the sweetie! We find it interesting how both re-used elastic pieces match so exactly. Perhaps it’s because they came from the same store (Target), but there is a 5 years difference between the dates of purchase.

100_6726-compWhatever the reason for a happenstance of matching, I love the finished product. The fancy lace and the light sheer knit makes this pair the prettiest in my opinion. Having a rayon knit against the skin is the most enjoyable and luxurious feeling ever – it’s so soft, yet stable, that it’s a treat to wear. Whenever I feel them on me, it makes it smile ‘cause it’s a happy sensation (like a warm bubble bath) but most of the time they’re so lightweight I don’t feel them. Rayon knit undies are a very fine, indeed. If you have any of this fabric, use it to make some underwear for yourself and you’ll feel like your fabric’s giving you a really nice hug. Now, I have an early 40’s nightgown I want to make out of more rayon knit in a lavender color.

100_6718a-compMy third pair is also made from leftovers to the last mention project, my 1946 yellow blouse, except this was the basic white, part spandex lining. It is jazzed up with some fun color courtesy of the trim. I used a pack of vintage nylon stretch lace (with a copyright of 1971) in a bright lime green for the leg opening. I have another pack of this same 1971 stretch lace in a bright magenta color…can’t wait to use this on another pair of panties…maybe made of pink knit? Anyway, the waistband is a light yellow modern elastic in a “fold-in-half” style. It has a sort of indentation running through the middle of the length and a soft satin finish, both making this easy and comfy option. This pair is my most full coverage due to the ultra-stretchiness of the fabric.

100_6886a-compMy fourth panties, but probably not the last, are fun and playful, but my least favorite. They are made with polyester stretch lace leftover from my 1979 T-shirt knit dress. The lace had some weird stretch that didn’t lend itself well to stretching one it was stitched, even with the proper sewing methods of pulling the fabric as sewing and using a “lightening” zig-zag stitch. Due to lack of any more stretch lace, I made binding strips from the same self-fabric for the legs and the waist. However the only way I could get the panties to stretch enough to go on me was to sew the waist binding only part way around the sides and back leaving a raw, turned under patch in the center front for a few inches. I used the cotton crouch from a ‘like new but never worn’ pair of panties (the same ones the elastic came from for panties #2) to go into my lace undies, but the lace is still slightly itchy on my skin.

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The back view…

The pattern is one size, but with limited seams it should be cinch to grade up. Simply add in some length through the center front and center back, extend the buttock coverage as needed, and heighten or shorten the waist as desired and I would think that would do it!
“Grannie Pannies” is not the most complimentary name for these underpants, I know, and the shape might not appear as the hottest little number. However, vintage styling does things right so many times and these 50’s underpants with a 50’s flair are no exception. Even if you don’t want full coverage, the pattern is free and can be made from scraps in about 2 hours, so adapt it…what’s the risk?!

In stores, underwear can become quite pricey, so now that I’ve made my own and know how easily they can be sewn, where’s high cost coming from? I’ve noticed in the last 6 or so months a striking increase in people making their own lingerie and underwear, so I’m happy to see the sewing world taking matters into its own hands and discovering the joy of making your own intimate wear.

My foray into the world of making intimate underwear wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be (I’ve already made vintage underpinnings with my #1 and #2 tap pants and my tango knickers). As you can see, I enjoyed myself, otherwise I wouldn’t have made multiples of panties! Comfort and practicality never was so satisfying. Now I think I have the gumption to try more complex lingerie. I’m thinking maybe brassieres and a garter belt will be fighting to be next!