Dust Bowl Dress

Of all the times that were tough to live through in the last 100 years of American history, it was the 1930s in my opinion.  Yes, the 1940s were no doubt hard as well with the rationing, and every decade has its struggles and challenges, I am sure.  From what I heard from my Grandmother and from reading old periodicals of the times, however, it seems that the 1930s was a struggle just to make it through each and every day.  There was an alarming lack of jobs, and therefore a battle to get the money and food you needed.  It challenged all ages to see how much you could do without and yet still survive, with the goal of ‘making it’ although (for much of the Depression) no certain end was in sight.  The 1940’s at least had ‘the war’ and ‘those serving’ as its definite goal.  Sorry to be bleak but facts are facts to me.

Nevertheless, fashion of the 1930s seemed to generally have the intent of telling the opposite story and conveying an everyday beauty that did not necessarily scrimp because of the pervading conditions of the times.  A certain elegance was expected to be kept up.  All of this was rubbish in the face of the “Dust Bowl”.  It was just clothes on one’s back and a gritty, plain old effort to live, breathe, and eat.  Most of us have seen the famous government sponsored photographs of Dorothea Lange (the picture above is only one of many). If you haven’t, well you should.  This situation in the lives of our poorer fellow men, women, and children is frequently forgotten in the popular 30’s glamour.  Hopefully, such is acknowledged in my newest vintage-inspired sewing of a comfy and very un-pretentious feedsack printed cotton house dress, topped off with a basic, crushable, bright blue hat.

As much as I like dresses, this was out of my comfort zone, even though I have been planning on making this project for the last three years.  I do love useful and practical dresses, because a good part of my life does not call for the lovely, elegant clothes I desire to make and wear.  Thus, when a recent trip to the country we were planning gave me no excuse to put it off any longer, I whipped this dress up (because it was easier than I had expected) and loved wearing it (because it is so comfy and cool for a summer day)!  Of course, no proper 30’s dress for a day in to sun is complete without a hat, I whipped up a wonderful Depression-style hat to match too!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Dress – 100% cotton; Hat – a dense, low nap, polyester velvet for the visible exterior and a poly lining for the inside crown

PATTERNS:  Dress – Burda Style “Drawstring Dress with Peter Pan Collar” pattern #123, from April 2014, for the dress; Hat – Simplicity #8486, the “Snow White” 80th Anniversary pattern

NOTIONS:  Everything I needed for the dress was on hand as this was a long awaited project (mentioned above) – the oversized rick-rack, the thread, and interfacing.  The two buttons are true vintage from the stash of my hubby’s Grandmother.  The hat only needed supplies on hand – interfacing and thread.  The ribbon around the hat is a true vintage cotton velvet supply from my Grandmother’s stash.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was a one evening project.  It was made in about 5 hours on July 20, 2018.

THE INSIDES:  cleanly bias bound

TOTAL COST:  As the dress’ fabric was bought a few years before I came up with a plan for it (which was 3 years back) I no longer remember how much I paid for this.  I do know what store this came from though – the selvedge says it is a JoAnn’s Fabric Store Exclusive print.  The velvet was on clearance at JoAnn’s and 1/2 yard only cost me $4.50…and I still have enough for another hat!

Why was the dress out of my comfort zone?  It is just almost too homey and old fashioned for my general taste with most of what I make and wear.  Yes, I this is definitely NOT my first time sewing with a feedsack print (see my first, second, and third here), but this dress style fits in so comfortably with the fabric that my new dress doesn’t seem all gloriously bright and shiny but already broken in, as if it has already been loved and used for some time yet.  This is a good thing, and what I wish more of my makes felt like this, but I am not used to it.  Now that I have such a kind of dress, I don’t know what to think, but the cute practicality, cheery details, and simple femininity of it wins me over to loving it.

 Also, I generally want an authentic vintage style that is just as attractive and wearable for today, and although this is definitely suitable for today and will be worn with a maker’s pride, it is more obviously old-fashioned (the way I made it) than much of what I create.  There is no fashion-forward style I can point out, or designer influence here, just an everyday sensibility and a taste for the finer things on a very utilitarian level.  This kind of dress was what many women wore in the 1930s.  Not every woman looked as elegant as we might be led to think, especially when so many necessary duties of living were much more toilsome than today. (Washing is just one example…machines to do the job still required much hands-on attention and personal time to get clothes clean!)  A dress like this one was what was worn to get done those jobs of cooking, cleaning, and such.  It definitely had it place then and I’m enjoying finding a place for it today, too.  A frock like this makes house work or casual time feel much more elegant than doing the same in t-shirt and jeans for me.  This very appropriately part of my ongoing blog series “Retro Forward with Burda Style”.  It is also part of my one a month” pledge for the Burda Challenge 2018.

Now, as for any Burda Style pattern, printing and/or tracing is necessary to have a usable pattern to lay on your desired fabric.  My pattern was cut out from a downloaded PDF assembled together after being printed out onto paper, but it can also be traced, using a roll of thin, see-through medical paper, from the inserts in the appropriate magazine issue (although the older issues are harder to find).  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size.  Some people add in your choice of seam allowance width directly to the pattern while some as they are cutting out the fabric pieces.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped.  Sorry to repeat something you might already know, but this is just an “FYI” for those that don’t.

Looking at the finished garment in the example picture for the pattern on Burda’s site, I chose to go down a size for the bodice half and went up a size for the hips.  This was a good move because I have a great fit – originally, above the waist is generous while the hips are quite snug…too snug for the hip pockets in my opinion!  This why I left them out and opted for something more authentic, which also happens to be so much more fun – a fancy patch pocket.  I drafted my own rectangle for this, something about the size of my hand, and then added to the top a parallelogram which was a diagonal half of the square.  This was cut out in both my print and the contrast solid, with both facing one another, so that the point could be pulled down to become pleasantly, complimentarily noticeable, and trimmed with rick rack along the angled edge.  The pocket pulls the grey touches in the dress’ collar and waist ties together as a whole quite nicely.

There were a few things I left out and added on to the dress (besides the pocket). I did lengthen the hemline by 5 whopping inches.  This way I was able to use the selvedge along the hem and save myself a finishing step.  I wanted a dress that was closer to a true 30’s mid-calf length – I do find this length quite complimentary.  Besides, it keeps my knees covered (I’m self-conscious about my chubby knees) and yet is not long enough to get in the way of my ankles.  I also left out the sleeve ties because I disliked the idea of something that fussy.  Trying to fix something on one’s sleeve with the opposite arm is tough – I’ve done that before.  There is enough interest going on in the bodice with the collar and crossover placket that a basic hemmed kimono sleeve suits it better, I think.

The collar came together nicely, but boy was it a long and unusual pattern piece.  I was halfway expecting a very wonky fit, but no – it turns out a lovely face-framing shape which creates a wide neckline.  I love how the wide open neckline prevents this dress from being too conservative, also.  The only minor complaint is that it lays funny in the back half of the neckline.  After I had stitched the rick-rack under the edge, I was forced to sew the collar to the dress for about 6 inches across the center back.  I also found out that the wide open neckline reveals the bias facing used to finish the collar and neckline edges along the inside.  Luckily, I used a matching grey, but this is an important word of warning to anyone else who might consider making the pattern.  Definitely use a facing material that you won’t mind if it is seen because this design makes it visible.

Normally, I am not one for gathered waists, whether they be drawstring or elastic.  Anything that adds bulk at my waist – no thanks!  This was yet another ‘out of my comfort zone’.  However, I gave this one a try and I am quite happy with it.  The instructions had said to sew the casing on the fabric inside (wrong side) at the waistline, as the dress’ only real seaming (besides the sides) are on the upper chest (bodice) – there is one continuous piece for the entire dress body.  Instead, I sewed the waist casing on the outside (visible side) since I had cut that piece out in the matching dress fabric.  Then the tie for inside the casing was cut and made in the contrast grey.  Yet, rather than having the ties come out of the casing at the center front as the pattern directs, I also switched the opening to the center back.  Waist casings always seem their bulkiest at the spot where they open.  The nice casing is mostly covered up because the ties are so long I can wrap them around to the front…kind of like having a belt attached – so easy.

Last but not least, I’m not forgetting the hat!  On its own and how they style it on the pattern cover, this hat does look a bit cheesy.  However, once I had put the ribbon band on, had my hair styled, and wore it with the dress, it looked a lot better to me.  I think you really need to use a quality material for this hat for it to turn out plausibly and not seem like a costume prop.  Otherwise this is a great hat that has just enough of a brim to keep the sun off my eyes yet not be overwhelming.  It is crushable, sized well, and fits nicely on the head.  It was super easy to put together, even with doing a full lining and interfacing all of the pieces.  A hat project this successful that only took a few hours is an awesome win even if it’s not a new favorite accessory.

My major tip to have this hat turn out is to use alternate interfacing.  I used a stiff heavy weight sew-in interfacing and sandwiched it in the brim while I went with a lightweight iron on for the head crown pieces.  This is important – you want the brim to have the most body (you really shouldn’t have a wonky brim here…this isn’t the 70’s).  Yet you need a soft crown that isn’t completely floppy either.  Two weights of interfacing for the different parts of the hat work great.  What really finished off the hat and gave it the perfect fit and shape was doing a full crown lining, too.  In lieu of sewing the lining into the hat when the brim and crown were sewn together, and then finishing the headband seam with a ribbon (as most hats have and as the instructions direct), I merely turned the lining’s seam allowance under and invisibly had stitched it to the edge of the hat body.  Sometimes hat bands can be scratchy on the forehead, and I don’t have the proper Petersham ribbon on hand anyway.  Having the lining start immediately makes sure this hat slips on and off my head without messing up my hair at all and feels quite good on the forehead.  I was able to make the most of the car ride into the country by sewing the lining down while being a passenger!  Ah, the benefits of being a modern vintage seamstress.

As much as we take advantage of our modern machines today – why, I used the sewing machine to make my outfit, the radio to keep my ears occupied while working on it, the computer to see the program for the day, and the car we used to get to the event – I find it funny that the ingenuity and efficiency of the old 100-something year old farm equipment we saw still is a marvel.  And yet, it is these same technological advancements in farming that were blamed for causing the “Dust Bowl” era storms.  The efficient and deep cuts such farm equipment made into the ground broke up deep roots that held the dirt together and made quick work of something much more grueling done by hand giving farmers the opportunity to forget to rotate fields with rest.  This weirdly made me reflect on what the unfavorable aftereffects might be from the technology we take for granted today.

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“Retro Forward” Burda Style: Kimono Jacket

Why is it that the nicer or the more unusual the fabric is, the more pressure there is to choose the perfect pattern to make something of it?  Sometimes this pressure can sadly prevent me from getting around to sewing projects I would want to pick up immediately!  At the same time, I do try (unsuccessfully at times) to avoid the stereotype pitfalls (such as copying the envelope cover, for one) and stay creative with my makes…true to my own tastes and ideas.  However, I cannot resist some killer vintage inspiration!  This perhaps sort of explains why I made the quick and sudden decision to use a very special and unusual rayon fabric to make a somewhat simple, unfitted, unlined jacket.  Sewing this had went against my normal practices for my sewing, but I love the outcome.

This jacket amazes me by the way I went from each end of the emotional perspective from its beginning being sewn to the final photo shoot.  I started out as very skeptical of the pattern and rather dismissive to the fact that it vaguely appealed to me, only because the sizing was for tall women (which is definitely not me).  Then, finding a Burda Style contest became the other enticement to try this pattern.

After the jacket was done (in one evening, mind you!), however, I was disappointed when trying it on.  Not that it didn’t fit and turn out great – I was tired, it was a late night, and didn’t know what to pair it with, nor did I know if it looked complimentary on me.  After a good night’s rest and a new perspective the next day, I happily found several neat combinations my jacket can be paired with (in this post, a “White House, Black Market” strapless brocade dress is worn underneath).  I finally felt justified for my time, effort, and sacrificing of my precious fabric with my going out on a ledge here.  Besides, I am still trying to have a good relationship in completely liking and understanding peplums, and how they do work on me.  This was like an “I’m getting to know you, peplum” project.  Now, I am actually a bit frustrated in a good way because I love my new jacket and want to find occasions and opportunities to wear it.  This is a good problem, though, I suppose!  Can’t let a new favorite just hang lonely in my closet, now can I?!  Especially not when it’s made of fabric like this!  (Pictures don’t do it justice, by the way.)

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  A 100% rayon, with a slight, soft, crushed wrinkle throughout.  It also has a dull metallic (like an oil slick kind of sheen) finish on one side with a crepe-like matte finish on the other.

NOTIONS:  I had the thread, elastic, and hook-and eyes needed on hand already.

PATTERN:  Burda Style “Short Sleeve Jacket with Plunging Neckline, #107, 04/2015“

TIME TO COMPLETE:  I only spent about 4 hours to whip this jacket together, not counting taking care of the pattern (tracing and re-grading).  It was finished on July 29, 2015.

TOTAL COST:  This fabric was bought on deep clearance when my favorite Hancock Fabric store was closing.  I bought 2 yards of this fine specialty fabric for only about $5.

The pattern for this jacket can be found in their May 2015 magazine, on the insert page for tracing out or at their online store as a buy-and-download printable PDF file.   It was originally part of the “Design Academy“ Collection” (one of my favorite Burda pattern collections! I have made 4 of them…), but then it was up for everyone to try and make to have a chance to be the new “cover” in their “2nd Ultimate Member Model Challenge”.  If you visit the page for the jacket pattern, you can see that I didn’t win.  Nevertheless, I have my own prize…I was prompted to make something I would definitely not have tried on my own gumption, something that I am glad I have to wear after all is stitched and written!

It is a pattern made in tall sizing, which is one reason why I dismissed it at first as I mentioned above.  However, I figured out the proportions for tall as compared to myself looking over their measurements chart and suddenly the sizing made sense.  What I needed to do was the opposite of the up-grading I’ve done for juniors’ designs – I add in 2 inches between the shoulders and waist for petite and juniors’ patterns so this tall ladies’ pattern needed 2 inches taken out instead, between the same spots.  Folding out one inch at a time in two different horizontal segments did the trick, at the chest and just above the waist.  I did also lengthen the peplum by about two inches as well so I would avoid having it too short to completely cover my hips.  I didn’t want the peplum to pouf out awkwardly, but it’s still so gathered, in the back of my mind, I secretly wonder if it really sticks out like some sort of ballet tutu anyway (so I think in the back of my mind).

Styling can be deceiving, but this is a ridiculously simple and easy to make jacket.  It is unlined, and there are only 4 major pieces to use.  The lapels are all-in-one with the front and only an easy facing finishes it off (I used the matte side for a cool contrast).  There is no expert tailoring needed.  It is comfy, loose and unstuffy yet looks put together and fancy in a nice everyday sort of way (meaning, it can look just as good paired with jeans and a tank or over a good dress)!  This is why I feel this pattern is a good opportunity to use a really nice fabric.  As much as I try to save those complex or even stunning designs for equally killer fabric, this jacket has convinced me there is another option.  Choose versatile and easy-to-make patterns which both will let the fabric shine and will see more use than that special-occasion-only jacket.  Besides, using a simple design makes things more fail-proof, somewhat…or so we can hope, right?!

Kimono sleeves always make for such an easy bodice assembly, great reach room, and complimentary curving for the shoulders.  Kimono sleeves in the fashion world necessarily have no direct association anymore to the traditional Japanese garment that it uses in its label.  Now a kimono sleeve is commonly meant to designate a sleeve that is drafted as one with the bodice, with no armscye, and a deep taper under the arm that usually ends at the waist.  This double interpretation is so ironic especially since the word “kimono” literally means thing to wear” or “clothing”!  As Kimono sleeves do offer a looser arm and bodice silhouette, they were a frequent feature used in many women’s garments of the 1950s.  This is why a 50’s suit jacket in a strikingly similar green was my main inspiration (as seen on the far left, below) which gave me the gumption to use my precious fabric.  It wasn’t the only one, however, the many other wide lapel, waist closure, kimono jackets and blouse-like wraps of the 50’s I was finding gave me the strong feeling that this is very vintage-inspired, which is why I am including this project in my ongoing blog series “Retro Forward with Burda Style”.  Peplums, too, were a preferred feature to the 1950’s when exaggerated hips were wanted to contrast visually with the tiny wasp waists women were expected to have.

However, at the same time, as I said, there is a blousiness to this Burda Jacket – a lack of the impeccable body fit that much of the 1950’s was all about.  So – I also see an influence of the 1980s and early 1990s on its style.  Technically, these eras are now over 25 years old, thus as weird as this feels to me, they are vintage now!  Peplums were also a feature of these two eras, most especially the 80’s, but the clothes in general were a lot baggier…even when they were generally fitted.  Suits of that time were not the impeccable outfit that you were supposed to sit pretty in.  They were unassuming and meant to move with you…the feeling I get when wearing this Burda Kimono jacket.  My preliminary inspiration might have been 50’s, but I think the 80’s and 90’s influence wins out here with the shiny, bright, almost neon green of my jacket.

The most challenging part of the jacket was figuring out the closure method for the double-breasted wrap-front waist.  Not that it was really that hard, either.  It’s just that the elastic gathered waist added an element of difficulty.  The waist seam made its own casing for the elastic when you sew it down, so luckily there wasn’t any more bulk than there needed to be and that was pretty simple.  I didn’t want buttonholes to pull on buttons, or snaps that could pop apart, so I used the most basic hook-and-eyes that I had (about ½ inch, large size 3) to make sure the closures wouldn’t get buried among the gathers.  I used the spring of the elastic to work in my favor here, because hook merely has to find the eye and I let go – the elastic pulls it closed for me!  The first inner hooking was easy because I just had to find a comfy fit around my waist, but with the overlapping second hook it was much trickier.  You need to keep a certain amount of the elastic to still stretch between the two closures to make the waistline seem evenly gathered.

I stuck to the casual feel of the jacket and left the inside edges raw and free, to do their own ‘thing’.  My reason for doing so at first was because I decided to add one more project to the sewing contest as well and I only had one more night to get it done.  Nevertheless, the fabric really doesn’t fray that much but for some weird reason, I – the perfectionist herself – actually like the soft, imperfect, and handmade feel of seeing and knowing those seams are left as they are.  Yes, as I said up at the top of my post…this totally is not my normal sewing practices.  You know, though, it feels good to change things up and gain a new perspective!

Making a style you’re unsure towards is hard enough, then to turn it around and actually find a way to have it work for you is a difficult and satisfying thing to achieve.  For a seamstress, taking the time to make a new style, especially when it needs a tricky size adjustment, or using a special fabric which would not be seen otherwise, is both a perk of sewing one’s own wardrobe and a scary challenge because it opens you up to the possibility of either failure or success.  Luckily this project was a victory, but if it wasn’t, I would have worked my way through it because an idea (and a good fabric) is worth it.  Keep those ideas coming everyone and don’t be afraid to make something out of that notion that popped into your head!  Nothing in the sewing world is off limits to have a crack at if you put your mind to trying and succeeding.

A 1920s Aesthetic for Today

It has been a while since I have posted anything 1920s here!  Unfortunately, part of the reason is not only the fact that the decade’s silhouettes can be hard to love on myself, but also the fact that I want something from that decade to wear today without looking like I am doing historical re-enacting.  It seems to me that something pre-early 1930s can easily be obviously vintage.  I generally love to bring my vintage style into my everyday life and wardrobe in a way that keeps it modernly appealing yet still true to the history of the decade’s fashion.  This is a hard balance to find all the time, which is why you don’t see as much 1920s things in my list of makes…and also why I am posting (with great excitement) about my newest Burda Style dress!

I somehow feel like life is so much more fun, free, and easy in this dress.  There are no closures (zippers, or the like) needed with the bias crossover bodice.  It is a popover dress that is flowing, comfy, unconfining, and freshly different.  I absolutely LOVE the garment make of mine.  It embodies the late 1920s crazed hype that lived life to its fullest – and foresaw many of the modern conveniences (television, computers, etc.).  The late 20’s overdrive (1927 to the crash of 1929) produced both short above-the-knee skirts and many avant-garde inventions that would not been seen for many decades later.

This era of the 20’s had an amazing modernity that I feel has been captured by this dress.  There is a zig-zag print on the skirt to pay homage to the hardened, mathematical form of Art Deco that flourished in the time.  The bodice is a mock-wrap to pay homage to the popular fashions of the few years before (1926 and 1927).  It’s also made from a soft textured gauze which reminds me of the lace, sheer, and interesting fabric bodices of many fashions in the 20’s.  The high-low hem with a fishtail skirt ‘train’ is later, very 1927 to 1929, though (see this post for more info).  All of these years are my favorites to this decade.  So – yes – this dress is a rather accurate combo of everything I love best in the 20’s from an unexpectedly modern source!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a cotton gauze for the bodice, with a poly blend gabardine for the waist ‘belt’, a poly print lined in cotton muslin for the skirt

PATTERN:  Burda Style #118 “Wrap Dress” from April 2015

NOTIONS:  nothing complicated was needed to finish this – just thread and scraps of interfacing

TIME TO COMPLETE:  maybe 30 plus hours…it was finally finished on May 28, 2018

THE INSIDES:  a combination of French, bias bound, and raw seams

TOTAL COST:  This is a project that spanned 3 years, so I do not remember anymore but I know it didn’t cost much with 1 yard for the bodice, and about 2 yards for the skirt, with only scraps left over from these two projects (here and here) for the contrast belt.

My 20’s style dress project counts for my monthly “Burda Challenge 2018”, my ongoing “Retro Forward with Burda Style” blog series, plus the “Sew Together for the Summer of the Wrap Dress” challenge.  Now, you might say this is only a mock wrap and not a proper wrap dress.  Well, yes and no!

The name for the pattern is “Wrap Dress”, for the first thing.  More than that, though, the full ‘lap’, cross-body, tie-on dress that we tend to think as a proper wrap didn’t quite look the same 90 years back.  In the 1920’s, a wrap dress was a garment that was often faking it, with a cross-over bodice, a one-piece skirt, and a sash or tie of some sort on one side to continue the deception.  A mock wrap to us of today was a full wrap dress in the 1920’s.  Not only this, but mock wraps were immensely popular in the decade anyway, even in the blouse or jacket form.

By the next decade of the 1930s, wrap-on dresses were normally a one piece, full tie on garment, closer to what we are used to today, with a caveat.  They were often reversible and considered more of an apron or pinafore like garment meant for housework or grocery errand duty…the hum-drum efforts which only result in sweat and grime appearing on one’s clothes.  Many of these full wrap-on dresses were called “Hooverettes”, after the American president at the time of the Great Depression.  These were like a gloried robe for women to iron easily and look sensibly cute yet incredibly comfy to do all the things that the hard times required of them.  With the rationing of the 1940’s, an easy-to-make full wrap-on dress was glamorized even further to being included as possible for evening looks (with the right fabric).  The 1950s and 60’s widely used wrap dresses with great ingenuity in many of their designs, but Diane Von Furstenberg and the trending Boho Hippy look in the 70’s democratized the wrap dress as we know it today for all shapes, occasions, and materials.  Yet, according to this article, even for Ms. Furstenberg, her early “wrap dresses” started off as a cross-over top paired with a skirt!

Now, for as easy as this dress is to wear and put on, it was one of my most difficult makes, especially among Burda patterns.  As you see the dress now, it is in its re-fashioned form.  Yes, I do re-fashion my own makes…I’ll do whatever it takes to save a project and turn it into something I love!  So, this dress is not the original design – very close but still slightly adapted.  I did make the dress according to the pattern back in 2016 (at left), and it did turn out well after some difficulty with the curved, drop waistband.

However, as nice it looks on the hanger, the final fit on me was less than complimentary.  The gauze had more of a give/stretch than I expected, the dress’ fishtail train hung past the ground on me, and the drop waist back was way below my booty.  I really didn’t like that much of the contrast waistband, after all, too.  I did like the general shape, the colors I chose, and the print/texture combo.  So, the dress had been saved to sit in my “projects half finished” pile (which is quite small, I can brag) for these last two years until I felt I had the right idea of how to re-work it.  No wonder it feels so good to finally wear this!  This dress makes shaking my booty so good looking with such a swishy skirt!

A good drop waist dress should fall (in some small portion) somewhere through the hip area, slightly above the true hip line yet at least 5 inches below the true high waistline.  It technically should not be much below the bend of your body when you sit, from my understanding.  Thus, to ‘fix’ my dress, I figured on leaving the hem alone and making a new straight line (taking out the curved “belt”) across and around the mid-section, parallel to just below the bottom of the front contrast waistband.  I did want to keep a small portion of the contrast “belt” to transition the two fabrics with a solid color and give the appearance of a mock half-belt panel.  It was sure tricky to straighten out the skirt in turn around the back with that amazing bias to the skirt!  In the 1920s, the waistline traveled all over from very low to almost non-existent, but this dress’ waistline is a slightly higher, later in the decade style to match with the skirt.  Otherwise than this re-fashion step, I kept the bodice as it was except for pulling up the shoulder seam slightly.  To keep the full skirt weighted down nicely (so it wouldn’t turn wrong way up like Marilyn Monroe over an air vent) and keep it opaque, I fully lined it.

This dress’ skirt does need a tiny 1/8 inch hem so that it doesn’t get stiffened at all.  At the same time, such a tiny hem on a skirt like this was a major pain.  It might not be immediately obvious, but the length of hemline just seemed to keep going, and going…but all that turns out well in the end is worth it in my opinion.  Do tiny hems wear you out and seem overly tedious like they do for me?

It was entirely my idea to make a long tie piece and stitch it to the left side of the bodice, thereby continuing the mock wrap dress deception!  I especially like how much this little touch adds to the dress.  This is again another true 1920s feature, as most of the era’s mock wraps had ties on the corresponding side to continue the illusory appearance.  To me, the tie also adds a touch of asymmetric that was also so popular in the 1920s.

Somehow it seems so much easier for me to interpret a modern take on the 20’s when I am starting with a pattern from today, versus starting with an old original pattern.  I almost always recommend others to use vintage patterns because I think that they offer so much to learn from and have better details.  However, there are so many modern patterns that have veritable 1920s features if you know what to look for.  This presents two interesting points.

Firstly, here I am saying it’s hard to make an old 20’s pattern look modern, yet I’m also saying that many modern fashions (patterns and ready-to-wear) have very 1920s features.  Perhaps the era between WWI “The Great War” and the Depression of the 1930s has more in common with us of today than we think.  Looking at old fashion plates or extant garments might not make this as obvious as it could be…it just takes the styles of today to give us a new perspective!

Secondly, this proves how important it is to pepper one’s awareness of current styles with a knowledge of fashion history.  A good overall view of the big picture might just be something specific to me as others have told me, but looking around and seeing the beginning of a trend is always a good idea. Actually, style is something that seems to only be recycled over and over again the more one sees.  Besides, often finding the source, or at least seeing the ways a detail is re-interpreted, is fun, interesting, and always worthwhile…not to mention the benefit of giving me more ideas for my projects!  Don’t be afraid to dive into some fashion research next time you start wearing the “newest” thing and find out the reference of where it came from!

“Retro Forward” Burda Style – ‘The Starry Night in the Day’ 1957 Casual Set

Picture a breathtaking scene of a pastel colored, dramatic sunrise, eclipsing a lovely clear night sky setting of stellar sparkling in lieu of the light of day.  Such a sight is sadly not to be seen most mornings.  I see such a sight sometimes in our winter season if I suffer through the misery of waking up extra early and bundling up to brave the elements.  Now, I can at least wear a vintage-inspired set that calls such a display to mind for me!  To me, it has all the elements of one of my favorite paintings…”The Starry Night”, painted by Vincent Van Gogh in 1889.  With a richly cobalt textured “sky” behind me, and colorful, swirling bursts of movement above a creamy pastel palate below, this Burda outfit is a means for me to wear art in my everyday life.  Sewing can be an art form in itself, anyway.

My first, real, riveting fascination with this piece from Van Gogh was through “The Christmas Wish” episode of the infant videos, “Baby Einstein”.  When our son was one year old in 2013, we were given a handful of “Baby Einstein” DVD’s, and he would be just as relaxed and mesmerized as I was watching them.  They would show details of “The Starry Night” by Van Gogh along to the music of “Für Elise” by Ludwig van Beethoven.  This combo of picture and music has henceforth been intertwined in my mind, which associates both with something lovely which puts me in a happy place.  This is partly why it seems so very fitting for me to take an old maternity tunic, and turn it into something which completes this artwork inspired outfit.  My second and strongly passionate reason for saving my old maternity tunic is also the fact it is an old “Made in the U.S.A” garment, besides the wonderful feel and print of the fabric.

Just as Van Gogh conveyed the sky abstractedly in his own personal way, I too probably see the world of clothing differently (I’m sure) than others.  In my opinion this is due in no small part to my ability to sew and my studyies on history.  In a sea of grey, black, browns, and whatever colors are popular with the dye lots for RTW any given year, I enjoy choosing a variety of colors.  The world around us is full of color and beauty, and we all have our own individual beauty and personalities, so why not give that awesomeness it’s just manifestation through what we are wearing?!  I wanted new skinny pants that were not another dark color – and how could such a lovely color not make me happy (especially with matching footwear)!  The shop that my pants’ twill came from as a stunning variety of incredible colors, so why not pick some out for yourself and make something special that’s all “you”, like I did here!   

Funny thing is, it seems as if the Versace line and I were of the same mind (though I made mine first)!  Check out how scarily similar this outfit is from their Spring/Summer 2018 ready-to-wear collection!  Look – it’s the same high-waisted, figure-hugging styled bottoms, in the same orchid-toned purplish pink…with matching shoes, too!  In honor of the 20th anniversary since Versace’s murder, his sister has brought back a style for next year that commemorates both the styles of the 90’s and influential celebrities who were his friends.

However alike, my trousers are actually sewn using a true vintage 1957 release from Burda Style, while my top is only very vintage inspired.  (I do see a slight 50’s air in a number of Versace’s items.)  I’d like to think vintage offerings that come from modern patterns definitely help past eras transcend time to meld perfectly into contemporary wearing.  Burda Style especially does a good job at “updating” the image of vintage re-leases!  Designers’ rehashing the details and trends from the past also creates a whole new appeal, too, whether people recognize it or not.  What goes around comes around is certainly true in fashion.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:   Pants: 100% cotton twill, in 7 oz. weight with a brushed finish on the ‘right’ side, bought from “ebpfabric” on Ebay (here is the listing); Top: a 63% polyester, 32% rayon, 5% spandex jersey knit refashioned from an old maternity tunic of mine.  Some polyester jersey knit scraps leftover from this last Burda make went towards the facing for the neckline

PATTERNS:  Burda Style’s “High Waisted Trousers” #129, from April 2015 with Burda Style’s “Princess Seam Boatneck Top” #104, from February 2014

NOTIONS:  I needed to buy the zipper for the pants, but otherwise the elastic, thread, bias tape, and small finishing notions were all on hand for everything else.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The pants took over 20 hours – I stopped counting after that amount!  They were finished on May 31, 2017.  The top took maybe 3 hours to make after maybe 3 hours of decision making about how and where to cut it out!  It was sewn in one afternoon, on June 13, 2017.

THE INSIDES:  Pretty nice!  The pants have every seam edge individually covered in bias tape, while the blouse’s insides still have some of the original serging (overlocking), but the rest are merely double stitched over.

TOTAL COST:  I am counting the top as free because it originally came from a thrift shop, probably for a few dollars, almost 6 years back now.  The pants cost me just under $15 for both material and zipper.  That total is probably just as much as I would pay for the cheapest pair of RTW skinny jeans, so I’m counting that price as an awesome deal for the fit, quality, and fulfillment of personal taste that has went into my pair.

I will say first off before any nitty gritty construction details that I absolutely LOVE both of these pieces.  These two projects might be the most versatile and my favorite Burda Style makes in a while.  The fabrics are first rate quality, and the designs of the patterns something not too readily found in RTW.  That said, they were challenging to make.  The top tested my mind trying to fit in the pattern pieces on the existing garment, while the pants were horribly drafted (for me at least), requiring some pretty tiring fitting.

Now, as for any Burda Style pattern, printing and/or tracing is necessary to have a usable pattern to lay on your desired fabric.  My pattern was traced from the downloaded and assembled PDF bought at the online store but if you have a magazine issue, use a roll of medical paper to trace your pieces from the insert sheet.  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size and add in your choice of seam allowance width.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped.  Sorry to repeat something you might already know, but this is just an “FYI” for those that don’t.

I’ll start with the bottoms.  I must say they do run short.  I cut them the given length of the pattern, and I really didn’t have any room for a hem besides a slight bias fold in for them to come to my ankles.  This was the perfect length, but I wouldn’t have liked it any shorter.  I’m about 5 foot 3 inches height so anyone taller than that, figure in to make the hem longer.

As I wanted a perfect body fit and ultimate practicality for the pants, I simplified the design just to the bare bones.  A summary of my changes are no in-seam side pockets, no ankle zippers, no fancy waist facing, and a zipper right where I can see it…in front.  For my next pair of pants from this pattern, I think I will draft a conventional zipper fly, but for this first pink pair they have an invisible zipper up the front to make them easy (versus up the center back as the pattern suggests – how awkward).  To support the top of that zipper, inside at the top there is a small strip of cotton velvet ribbon (for softness!) to act like a tab placket, with a waistband hook-and-eye to close the waist.  The waistband itself was made by stretching a strip of ¾ inch elastic down to the top edge, then folding it in twice and stitching that down for a wonderful body hugging, but stretchably comfortable and smooth-waisted option.

Go ahead and call me “granny pants” because these are wayyyy high up on my torso!  I like them that way.  Come on, ladies, honestly – I’ve heard the truth from many women I’ve talked to in in town who’ve told me they like my pants.  Nobody really likes to spend their entire day picking up their drawers every time they move or bend!  I know I don’t like the feel that my clothes are falling off of me.  With high-waisted pants, there is no awkward bulge in the wrong place (muffin-top, anyone?) just smooth waist and hip complimenting.

Hips are an excellent pivot point in women’s garment design and the decade of the 1950’s used that point to perfection – that wide spot we all love to hate comes in handy when you think of it as an anchor point.  A garment with a central mainstay above hips will stay in place…on ‘em, style has more of ‘sliding’ effect without the right styling.  Now granted, if you want something that sits at the hip, that’s fine too.  I wore everything at my hips as a teenager and still wear hip-hugging pajama bottoms.  I just think store offered RTW generally doesn’t offer much that will be most complimentary to an individual figure when it comes to a variety of pants’ fit, at least not like something made for oneself.  Only you know your body the best, and embrace that in whatever you feel makes you the best.  I like to go with my hourglass shape, and let my hips and high true-waist anchor my pants on my body, whatever the negative connotation for this fashion.

Keep in mind the fabric I used for my pants are non-stretchy – the twill material has little to no give like a knit might.  A really good, sturdy, quality twill that feels and performs like a denim that will hold its shape is what I wanted and used – especially since a material like this is impossible to come by in any in town store.  A non-stretchy woven is what the pattern called for anyway.  I can definitely see this pants pattern being much easier to make in a knit and turning out fabulously, so there’s a lot of versatility here.

The real secret to my fitting technique was to sew the center front (with the zipper) and the center back seams, then turn the pants inside out and have the side seams and inner leg seams pinned to fit around me.  This was a bit more challenging than it had to be because I was working on it by myself, but I really think this is the easiest, quickest, least painful way to get a body fit.  It would definitely be even easier with someone else’s assistance.  Once a good fit is pinned into place I marked the seam lines on both sides with water soluble disappearing ink pen, following that line for my stitching and washing it away afterwards.

As my fabric has no stretchy ‘forgiveness’, just to be on the safe side in the unforeseen chance that my body changes and I need to refit these trousers, I left a wide seam allowance…not a whole lot, but 5/8 to ¾ inches along the sides and inseam.  The thick denim would feel and fit a tad better I believe without the wide seam allowances, but having the possibility to keep what I made (and love as a wardrobe staple) for the long-term is something more important to me.

Speaking of items that endure from one’s wardrobe, I’ll move on to the top re-fashion.  My first step was to cut off the elastic empire waist for the tunic.  The body of the tunic became the bodice for my new top while the bust and sleeve sections managed to also be the new top’s sleeves.  Only because of the skinny princess seamed panels was this able to be fit in on what I had.  I did have to shorten the length of the hemline by two inches, but luckily that was the only way I had to “give in” and make a change for this re-fashion to work.  I like a shortened length anyway!  Too much fabric in the body might distract from the lovely off-shoulder sleeves.

The sleeves are really made of interesting pattern pieces of small rectangles curved dramatically on one side…and it turns out just wonderful!  I can completely adjust where I want the sleeves to sit on me for a slight change of look – I can pull them completely off the shoulder, or pull ‘em up like “normal” sleeves, but where they naturally sit on me is right over the angle where my shoulder ends and my arm begins.  Now, the back neckline did turn out a tad generous and it sometimes looks like a draped neck, but I’m okay with that.  The one major caveat is that strapless lingerie or a bandeau bra is needed with this style.

Both of these pieces can be similarly found in vintage patterns and some vintage reproduction garments, which why this is included as part of my ongoing “Retro Forward with Burda Style” post series.  The pants are already vintage from 1957, I know, but I’ve seen several patterns that remind me of their same style (see McCall’s #9221 from 1952 and McCall’s 4024 from 1957) so I just had to share!  In fact here is an interesting article to read, making me think that my pink trousers are technically “cigarette pants” or “stovepipe pants”.  The blouse seems to be a recurring style in the decade of the 50’s except they seem to call it, “a scoop neck, with cap sleeves set into armholes”.  See Vogue 8100 from year 1953, Vogue 9643 year 1958, an unidentified 50’s playsuit pattern, and “Unique Vintage” company’s 1950’s Marilyn top in either plus size or misses size for a few examples.

Ever since the most recent total solar eclipse several months ago (we were in the path of totality), I can actually look at this set’s inspiration in a whole new ‘light’!  That afternoon for us was truly a starry night in the daytime!  On a factual level, did you know Van Gogh actually painted “The Starry Night” from mental picture, as it was done during the day?  So my title is right on!  Do you have any artwork related creations!

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“Retro Forward” with Burda Style – a Roomy Button-Front Dress

As much as I do like getting “dolled up”, there’s been times when I need or have to leave the house and do something without feeling much like getting put together.  Not that I take a lot of work to fix myself up, I just don’t leave the house too much looking like I rolled out of bed and sometimes I’d much rather stay in my cozy relaxed home lounge clothes looking like I really don’t care.  I’ll bet most of you, my readers have those times, too.  Well, I have now found a pattern to make myself a dress that is the perfect compromise – it’s every bit as comfy as a nightgown but a nice style for many occasions…all with a vintage flair.  Perfect!  How spoiled can I be making something exactly what I want so I can go out and still feel like I’m in house lounge-wear?!

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THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% cotton lightweight jersey knitlong-sleeve-dress-no-104-01-2011-line-drawing

PATTERN:  Burda Style “Long Sleeve Dress, # 104”, from January 2011

NOTIONS:  I had all the thread and interfacing I needed, but I did have to go out and find one more pack of matching buttons (I had some of the ones I wanted to use but not enough).

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress took about 15 hours to sew, and was finished on May 20, 2016.

THE INSIDES:  As this knit does not fray, I left all the edges raw.

TOTAL COST:  This cotton was bought at the now defunct Hancock Fabrics.  I believe I spent about $15 to $20 (with a discount), more than I normally spend for a dress but the fabric is such a nice quality.

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Burda Style has had this pattern out for a while now, hasn’t it?  This is a shirt dress that rather reminds me of a cross between the 1980’s and the 1940’s, which is why it’s part of my “Retro Forward with Burda Style” blog series.  I know the 80’s did often mimic the 40’s in many ways such as exaggerated shoulders, generously sized bodices, lovely sleeve cuffs, neckline details, and feminine menswear – part of my dress.  The 80’s and 40’s also made great use of jersey knits, except the skinny skirt and elastic waist sort of does sort of tip the scales in favor of the dress being in the decade closer to our own times, though WWII was all about combining comfort with style for women.  Even my shoes are a 1940’s style, vintage from the 1980’s.  So my verdict is non-committal – I’m happy with my dress whatever flair or style it might have.

dsc_0593a-compwI was originally going to line the knit but I’m glad I didn’t as it would have made the seams much too bulky and the dress too heavy.  Any fabric thicker than medium weight would not work here.  I also thought the dusty blue background and dainty small-print floral printed on the knit had a sort of quaintness which might bring out the vintage flair without being over-cute.  When I bought this fabric, my friend the store employee told me the color and print suits me well and I do very much agree with that.  The print unfortunately hides the special squared off sleeve design (see my layout of the bodice pieces picture, at left).  As my project looks finished, I now see the small floral making my dress seem more like a housecoat than something to be worn out and about, but oh well.

This was a bit of a challenging pattern to sew both on account of the decrepit instructions, the delicate fabric, and also because it is always a task to harness loads and loads of gathers.  For this dress there are tight, full gathers from the neckline, around the shoulder piece, and over to the other side of the neckline in a continuous and dramatic line.  Add in the fact of turning and shaping those uber-gathers into a definite shape and getting in down into a facing as well and there is a hand-stressing, time-intensive detailed area that used up all of my two boxes of straight pins just to keep in place for stitching.

dsc_0673-compwI messed up slightly on the shoulder panel and I do not feel entirely the one to blame (…although I did do the sewing).  The instructions didn’t give me something to help at this point, so here’s another ‘oh well’.  It still turned out o.k., I just would not recommended to top-stitch down the non-interfaced facing on top (from the visible outside) like I did.  I made it work, but doing so made the whole intricate panel with the dress gatherings harder to achieve.  Believe me, it would have been better the other way around.  The neck and shoulder detail on this dress is stunningly lovely in my opinion, and worth the effort…if only I had done it 100% right.  I think this is the part of the dress’ construction which takes just as long as making and cutting the rest of the dress combined.  It also is the base from which the rest of the dress hangs and (in my opinion) the primary focal feature.  (P.S., look how similar this dress bodice for sale on Etsy is to the one of my dress.)  I have an idea that the shoulder panel of this Burda Style dress would look lovely in a contrast with the right combo of colors.

dsc_0671a-compwI also adapted the sleeve cuffs (with another big ironic thank you to the instructions) due in part to another “mistake” of mine as well as tailoring the design to appeal to me better.  After two frustrating spells of unpicking stitches after mismatching the proper cuffs with the correct sleeves I realized I had sewn the arch of the cuffs inward to my body rather than outward, which I should have done.  I had had enough of futzing with things on the dress by this time and left them as they were.  However, I did not like how wide the cuffs were on my shorter frame and compared to the rest of the dress, cuffs which went halfway up my arm did not seem to work here.  Thus, I folded the cuffs back (just like the ones for my “Double Duty” year 1931 dress) and hand sewed a single elastic loop-and-button closure on each cuff to make them easy and adjustable.   These turned back cuffs make the enormous sleeves a bit more manageable for me and add another nice touch to the dress.dsc_0666a-compw

Besides all the little boo boos, I did some slight changes to the design.  First, I raised the center front neckline enough to add another button closure for a less revealing decollete.  Second, I switched up the skirt front pattern pieces so that the designated bottom hem became the new waistline.  As designed, the skirt to this dress is incredibly skinny at the knees and I saw a potential problem with walking, especially as the skirt buttons closed.  This step slightly widens the hem but keeping the back skirt design as-is still keeps the tapered silhouette and makes it easier to walk.  Granted, my dress’ skirt does open up above the knee at the thigh as it is, and I think this hint of hotness is need to save the dress from becoming overly conservative.  “She’s got legs…” and I know how to (subtly) show ‘em.

Finally, I left out the pockets.  Yes, I love pockets and rely on them more and more, making sure I have them in most of the garments I now make, but no – there’s enough poufiness to the gathered elastic waist I’m happier with the overall look with them left out.

The elastic waist does make this dress so incredibly comfy.  So, as much as I was doubtful I would like it on myself, the wearing of it wins me over.  I didn’t really bother with how the instructions said to make the waist because I had a method I wanted to use.  Similar to my “Ever Green” knit dress, I used the existing seam allowance of the waistband to sew a skinny ¼ inch casing for elastic to run through.  This method makes for quite tight gathering which isn’t too out of control as the casing is part of the dress, and anchored to it at both top and bottom.  The skinny elastic makes it easy to cover with a belt.  I sort of have a cheaters button at the waistband – a fake buttonhole with a button sewn to it.  The real working closure is a hook-and-eye.  This pulls the elastic waist together in a stable manner, versus a button closing.  I don’t want anything popping open on me while I’m wearing my dress…boop, surprise!  No, thank you.  That’s why there’s even a tiny safety hook-and-eye at the V of the neckline, just in case.

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All said, I really do like my dress very much, I just don’t feel that the amount of effort and frustration was worth this dress.  However, I find myself reaching for this more often than I’d ever had expected, so the usefulness and comfort which I’ve taken advantage of many times already does now make the effort worthwhile.  I am a very cold-sensitive person, and having my arms covered always feels quite comfy to me.  So, the loose sleeves of this dress is perfect for chilly nights during spring, summer, and early fall where I live, with the open, leg-revealing skirt keeping me from being too warm.  Here’s to a great one-step outfit, not too nice yet with casual ease!  And, here’s to a “new” type of clothing…what I call the “housecoat” dress, ideal for rolling out of bed and keeping the feeling but not the look.  The perfect dress for one’s needs can be so wonderful!

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