“Retro Forward” Burda Style: Ruffled Halter Neck Sundress

I must confess, a sundress is something I very much enjoy making, especially when it comes to patterns with interesting details that challenge my sewing skills.

Fun, feminine, and perfect for scorching weather, the perfect sundress for me also lets my skin enjoy some air and sun…which is good for my spirits because I am by nature a warm weather-loving girl. My newest magazine from Burda Style, as well as a contest on their blog site and a “Sundress Sew-a-long”, enticed me to sew up one of their designs – a ruffled, halter neck, vintage inspired sundress.

100_5663a-compExcellent construction method laid out in the instructions, as well as a wonderful design, made sewing this sundress turn out as a satisfying success. The predominant details showing off are the ruffled and gathered elastic halter strap, the cut out and pleated bodice, and a full gathered skirt. The full lining of the inside makes for a clean and professional looking garment, not to mention being comfy on the skin. I’m very happy with my finished dress.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The floral fabric for my dress is a very lightweight and sheer printed 100% cotton gauze. It is hard to see unless I am in the outside light, but the print has a dark navy background with white flowers and a very faint pink center spot in the flowers. My dress’ lining fabric for the entire upper bodice half is a basic but soft white bleached 100% cotton muslin. The skirt portion of the lining is a 100% polyester pongee cling-free fabric.

Burda Style Ruffled Halter Dress 4-2015 #111A line drawingNOTIONS:  All I needed was plenty of thread, some stay tape mesh ribbon, and a zipper. The interfacing was omitted. The zipper was the only notion bought.

PATTERN:  Burda Style Halter dress with Ruffles 04/2015, numbers 111B and 111A. The difference I can see between A and B are one is shorter, one is longer. I chose a skirt length between A and B for my dress.

THE INSIDES:  Almost all inside seams are covered by the lining. The only slight change I made to the original instructions was to cover the waist seam in bias tape instead of keeping it under the skirt lining.100_5540-compTIME TO COMPLETE:  In total, I spent 10 to 15 hours of “enjoyment” on my dress. It was finished on June 20, 2015.

TOTAL COST:  I got by with 1 5/8 yard of floral gauze fabric for my dress, and the muslin and pongee linings came from my stash. The floral gauze had been bought at a Hancock Fabrics store a month before intended for another different project, so it was kind of on hand as well. Anyway, in total my dress probably cost (for floral gauze fabric and a zipper) a total of $15 to $20.

My pattern had come from the April 2015 magazine issue (cover image at right below), but a downloadable version ofApril 2015 Burda Style magazine cover the halter neck sundress is also available on the Burda Style website. Either way, the Burda patterns (for those readers who don’t know) need some assembly and tracing before being ready for layout on your chosen fabric. A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped. This is the stage where I pick out my size, tracing out only the size I need to use, including any grading and adding seam allowances.

For this pattern, I actually went down a size in everything from the normal size I choose for myself from Burda Style. Looking at the model’s version, I noticed it looked a tad roomy on her. I wanted mine to be tailored more tightly as I am generally on the small size when it comes to fit. Going down in size really gave me the perfect fit, I believe. Take note – the pattern is also sized for petites. I did not change this but made it “as is” since I am right on the high end of the height limit for that category. In my mind, see this pattern as decently easy to grade out of a petite size, nevertheless. Whether wrong or right, I would have added the necessary height into two spots: the lower bodice bands and the upper bodice just under the bust. I am happy with the height proportions of the finished dress on myself and think anyone about 5 foot and 3 to 5 inches can get away with it being petite.

100_5681a-compThere were just a few slight things that I personalized to make my dress. I wanted to go with the feel of the soft cotton gauze fabric and have a dress that has an overall softer and easy theme to the way it wears on myself. Thus, as I briefly mentioned above, I eliminated the interfacing called for in the entire bodice. My sundress still holds its designed silhouette, but it just makes it more of what I exactly wanted to make. There is stay tape in the seams to keep the cotton in its original shape since I didn’t use interfacing. I also 100_5541-compadded a small self-drafted bias tape to support and finish off the left side edges where the zipper gets inserted. The self-fabric edge tape blends right into the rest of the dress and is barely noticeable, but gives me a tad more comfort by providing a little more room as well a peace of mind that the zipper seam will not tear the thin fabrics of my dress. Also, as I was working with half the amount of fabric as the pattern called for, I was able to cut all the other pattern pieces out correctly by cutting out the halter ruffle piece on the straight grain (vertically to the selvedge) rather than the bias. The ruffle gets gathered anyway, so I figured correctly that changing the grain line wouldn’t affect all that much. Finally, as there is so much gathering at the waistband, I do have an exposed seam there but it is nicely covered in bias tape. No major design changes or alterations to the style was done otherwise.

100_5660a-compBurda Style’s Ruffled Halter neck dress pattern is challenging enough to be good to sew without being hard enough to be frustrating or impossible. The bodice and ruffled strap just came together before my very eyes after just doing the first few parts (1, 2, and 3), as you can see in my pictures. I did get lost as the how the exactly finish off the ruffles’ edge, so I decided to just make a ¼ inch hem. Having the strap be a bias strip with a ruffle, and then adding elastic and gathering it too is very intriguing and creative to me. At first, I was afraid the strap was going to be uncomfortable, tight, or confining to wear, but – no, it’s not at all! Burda Style’s measurements for the elastic length in the strap is perfect to be taut but still comfy in my opinion.

Combo pic of the first few construction stepsThere are two looks to the halter neck sundress. If I have the elastic in the halter strap lay flat along my neck at the top of the shoulders, then the ruffle lays down, nice and tame. If I roll the elastic up so the halter strap lays up against the back of my neck, then the ruffle is frilly and perky, like a modern Elizabethan ruff.

100_5691-compOn the Burda Style page for the pattern, there is this summary, “This dress will turn heads when you walk into the room. It has a close fitting bustier with a full skirt with wide waistband, like the iconic Fifties silhouette. The most eye-catching trait is the wide riffled RetroForward badgehalter strap that hugs the neck.” This summary obviously fits this sundress into my “Retro Forward” blog post series. To me (and hubby), this sundress seems like a mix of several decades of vintage touched with a slight futuristic appeal. I have not been able to find a clear past trend for ruffled neckline that wrap around the neck, except for some briefly recurring fashions of this style in the 1960’s and 1970’s (see this dress and this pattern). The trend of summer swimsuits and sundresses with an under bust cutout can be found through the 1940’s and 1950’s. There is a modern counterpart pattern which reflects the design of my Burda ruffled halter sundress – see Simplicity 1371. It seems that the “midriff ventilation” trend was most popular and widely seen between the mid to post-war 1940’s into early to mid-1950 decade. See my inspiration collage of patterns and old advertisements below for examples. The full skirt trend was also popular in the 40’s (and 50’s too, as an option to the “wiggle” slim skirts of the era), as was the wide close fitting waistband and pleated bustier center front detail.

1947 Peck and Peck striped summer playsuit fashions advert & 1948 Pedigree Bathing Suits vintage catalog adHollywood 1778 yr1946 playsuit with cutout in front & Hollywood 1353 Pinafore dress yr1944

My new Burda Style sundress is ready and waiting for warmer days and special occasions. I did get to wear my dress so far to some uneventful occasions in our first heat of the summer. Behind me in the pictures of our photo shoot, you can see some beautiful pink/peach Italian Travertine rock that is part of a distinguishing building in our town, the Lindell bank. So often it has the nickname of being the “Art Bank” because of its beautiful and obviously large statues flanking the sides of the building. I love how the muted calming colors of the building and the peaceful, nature-themed statues offer a moment of calm to what is one of the busiest trafficked intersection in our area.100_5666a-comp

Come to think of it now, the “Art Bank” reminds me of my new halter neck sundress. In the way the “Art Bank” behind me in my pictures is a thing a beauty that calms in the midst of chaos, so my dress instantly brightens up my mood when I put it on, besides making me cool in the heat and proud to be wearing a style you don’t see elsewhere. I love being an individual and my sewing helps me silently proclaim this statement. What do your clothes say for you about you?

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“Retro Forward” Burda Style: Blog Post Series Announcement

This is the premiere post to a new series I will be featuring intermittently on my blog over the course of the next few months. Burda Style patterns are my new favorite brand to use to make garments this year and I have noticed a definitive “modern-with-classic-vintage-style” in common with all of what I’ve made. Now, I’m not getting paid or getting any benefits for this featured series, nor is it a sponsored collection through Burda Style. I just would like to share with you what I see in these clothes patterns.

RetroForward badgeJust because you are in a garment with vintage design, doesn’t mean you have to necessarily look like a photo from the past. Now don’t get me wrong, that that’s a bad thing – I do full out authentic retro and vintage styles myself and am one of the biggest proponents for that, especially as a means of learning and understanding history. It’s just that this method of styling doesn’t appeal to everyone. Neither do you have to compromise on old time quality and style just to sew with a modern pattern, for there really are designs that still have those special details.

Thus, with this blog post series, I would like to ride a fine line and show both ways of how the integrity and creativity of past designs can be translated into something which can pass as current. No matter retro or modern, creativity is always the most beautiful way to interpret your personal style.

My “Trial and Tribute” 1940’s Suit Slacks

I had a lucky happen-stance
To fit into a pair of vintage pants.
I made them “according-to-the-letter”
And, happily, they couldn’t fit better-
The best surprise ever!

I suppose my ditty almost says it all…my very first attempt at making pants did indeed turn out amazingly well. Slacks have always been a great mystery to me and a source of mental terror, feeling like they are impossible to be made perfect. After seeing the plethora of fitting tutorials and reading through tailoring info for pants, I really feel like I bit the bullet and missed a guaranteed failure with these pants by doing not one iota of adjustments and coming out with a great finished pair. There’s nothing better than a success when prepared for disaster! Plus, now I have a new and different vintage clothing item to wear – 1940’s slacks – along with more confidence and knowledge than before! I learn by jumping in headfirst and just getting things done. Those of you who have done pants already might think I’m overreacting, but, hey – everybody has to start somewhere. 100_4212a-comp

badge.80This post is part of my own “Agent Carter” 1940’s sew along.  Join me by leaving a comment to let me know about your own 1940’s sewing project.

Making and wearing trousers was totally out of my comfort zone. I have never found a pair of ready-to-wear pants which actually fit me, stayed up on me, and came at my true waist well enough to actually be comfortable and enjoy wearing. Thus, I have conventionally found skirts to be more comfortable and versatile (probably always will), but sewing my own pants is helping me realize why women of the 40’s wanted to wear pants. I may be on my way to being won over to the Katherine Hepburn/Marlene Dietrich style of feminine menswear. These pants fit too snug for a proper, looser, vintage style, and yet they fit very well for a modern style, so there is more work and fitting to be done with my next pair of slacks. I feel they are a nice in between modern and vintage to introduce me to pants wearing.

Hepburn and Dietritch in pantsNow, maybe you can understand why these are my “trial” pants, as my title says. As my first slacks, too, they are also a “tribute” to (as I mentioned above) three leading ladies of the 1940’s, Katherine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, and Veronica Lake, all of who made history with their remarkable style and the confidence with which they wore that style. Personally, I am self-conscious about my thighs and rear end when I wear slacks, and I’d like to have a bit of the confidence of Hepburn to not be afraid to feel the empowerment, freedom, and confidence to be one’s self and be a strong woman. Hepburn’s style gave me the idea to pair my suit pants with my basic 1943 power blouse. I love to dress up and go fancy, so I have always admired how Dietrich was able to pull off both dressing in classy gowns and conventional women’s wear as well as wearing menswear while still looking attractively feminine. Dietrich inspired me to add my hubby’s suspenders to my outfit. Veronica Lake is my idol when it comes to the most beautiful hairstyle for long hair – I styled my hair as my best imitation of her “peek-a-boo” waves for this photo shoot. I feel badly about certain parts of myself (I think most people have this, too), and I, as a petite lady, appreciate the fact that, for Ms. Lake being such a tiny woman (only 4’11), fashion was worked in her advantage to compliment her in a way so that they made the most of what she had. Three history making women, completely different, come together in my own way with my pants project.

100_4217b-compTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The fabric is a 100% polyester suiting from Hancock Fabrics. The suiting both has a nice texture on top and a basket-weave design between the black and the deep purple colors. Simplicity 3688

NOTIONS:  I had the interfacing and hook-and-eyes needed for the waistband, as well as the black thread. Basically, all I bought was a zipper.  I have a deep suspicion I should have used buttons for the side closing, they might be more authentic.

PATTERN:  Simplicity 3688, a 1940’s reprint.  It seems almost every vintage blogger who sews has made a neat pair of these pants 🙂

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Even with my trial attempt and a few things to fix slightly, they were done quickly, after maybe 4 hours, from start to finish, which was on October 23, 2014.

THE INSIDES:  …basic and raw.

TOTAL COST:  For two yards, I paid half price – $7.50. I set myself up for a disappointment by choosing a fabric I really liked, but didn’t pay too much for it. Thus, if the pants were unable to be salvaged, I wouldn’t be put out (although I haven’t yet found an item I haven’t been able to recover).

I understand that for most people, making a pants pattern “as is” would not turn out a nicely fitting finished project. Thus, I would like to share the sizing I chose and the adjustments made in case it might help someone else. Just to be on the safe side, I ran on the slightly larger size range for below the waist when it came to cutting out. I made the corresponding size for my waist measurement at the waist and the waistband, but for the behind, crouch, and legs I went up a size. The waistband turned out fitting quite well, almost snug, so when the pants were finished I added a second hook and eye further out when I feel like I need some extra room. The inseam fit well but rather snug, so after the pants were sewn together, I decided to unpick the length from where my tailbone is to halfway up the front and slightly adjust. Instead of a wide ‘U’, which is what the inseam looked like originally, I cut a new lower inseam dipping 2 ½ inches lower where the inner pants seam meets. Now the inseam is closer to a curved ‘V’, but now I have just a tad more room – all that I need for my slacks to be just right!

100_4215compAfter briefly wearing my pants for the first time, I felt the waistband to be a bit wide and overwhelming. They tended to sit very high on my torso, even higher than my high waist. I did a quick and easy fix by merely folding the waistband in half inside the pants, and hand-stitching things down.

Hemming the pants was a very hard part for me to figure. Hubby’s help was needed for this step. I kind of felt weird for it to be so hard for me to find the right length to hem my pants, but a skirt or a dress is what I’m used to working with and they are so much easier. You can stand there and figure out where it falls, but for pants, the hem is at my ankles, and I can’t reach that far (no, duh, right?!), nor can I understand how to measure down from the inseam…see…I have to get used to sewing slacks. Every time I move the pants hem changes and moves too – even just bending over to look down changes things. Oh well. I’m just thankful for hubby’s help. Now, with these trousers, I have a sort of “bench mark” to go by to figure out the hem for my next pants.

100_4078Simplicity 322 & 3848 pants patterns comboTrying to do a Google search for the original version of my 40’s slacks, or even similar styles, afforded patterns from the early to mid-1940’s. I have already made the blouse (see the blog page for it here) from the same pattern used for my pants, and I had found out that the pattern (including the blouse, jacket, and skirt) was a reprint from the year 1941. Apparently the trousers were added to the Simplicity 3935 yr 1941 original envelopepattern’s ensemble from another different release. These slacks do not have front pleats and the slightly roomy fit of 1940’s casual bottoms, so I’m assuming they are supposed to be dressy, as I made them. However, as you can see in my post’s picture above, I tried wearing the pattern’s satin blouse with the slacks and thought it looked just so-so, not as great a combo as when worn with my cotton 1943 blouse. I have since made and found other blouses and tops that also work wonderfully with my 40’s dress slacks, making them more handy and versatile than first imagined.

Agent Peggy Carter took advantage of the versatility and convenience of pants many times when her job demanded a highly active, risky, or even professional situation. She owns the “wearing of the pants” with a confidence and realistic fit which is a beautiful thing. I especially love the way her pants seamlessly work into her existing wardrobe, mixing and matching with the blouses and suit jackets I see worn with skirts, as well. Oftentimes, I enjoy noticing that when Agent Carter wears her pants she takes on a slightly masculine touch to another part of her ensemble – like a chunky, leather belt or an over-sized military-style shoulder bag/pouch. Agent Carter’s slacks seem to fit more on the snug side, very similarly to my own. The “Black Widow” villainess Dottie also takes on wearing pants suits, in a very modern way, once she shamelessly shows her evil side at the end of the series. Women wearing pants had a significance in the 1940’s, and it is seen in the quiet undercurrents of both Agent Carter and in true history.

Peggy in pants - ValedictionDottie and the doctor,cropped

Taking photos for this post was an incredible amount of fun – so much so that my little man got into the whole “say cheese” thing (as he calls it).  I can’t help but feel great in these pants…and I think he caught on to my happy mojo.  I am a shorter average height and these pants make me feel tall, slender, and curvy.  How many pants for women nowadays are so tailored they get ironed?!

100_4221compBy the way, pardon all the terms I use for my newest creation, but is it “pants”, “trousers”, “slacks”, …or what?  I know there are several terms for bifurcated bottoms, and although all of the terms used in my post are probably appropriate, I have a feeling certain words are more traditionally suited to a particular use. I read somewhere (sorry I don’t remember) that “trousers” were for designating men’s wear bottoms, and “slacks” for women’s wear. When did the term “pants” come in and become popular, is my question, since this is the term I hear and see the most in our modern days. Your insightful comments are welcome.

Whatever the term, my new suit slacks are another victory over what had been a sewing hurdle, and another new thing for me to try. Now that I’ve become acquainted with pants, there a whole other world of techniques to I’m itching to try – front fly zippers, rivets, and hopefully men’s vintage trousers. The world of sewing seems to offer limitless possibilities, and my “trial and tribute” 1940’s pants just widened that vast realm a bit more. Sewing is indeed a wonderful worthwhile skill to exercise.

“Winter Mint” Dress Part 2 – Velvet 1940 Hat and a Belt

After making my suede 1942 dress, I was a bit stuck. I couldn’t figure out what colors or styles to accessorize with it. As is normal for me, if I don’t have what I need, I scrounge around the house, enjoying the challenge of crafting something from what is on hand. Thus, I was led to using another neat pattern, utilizing from my stash, and finding an exciting new way to make a belt. badge.80

This is another post that is part of my “Agent Carter” 1940’s sew along.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  For the hat, I used 100% cotton velvet scraps leftover from a skirt I made for myself back in 2006. Some cranberry anti-static 100% polyester lining that was on hand went towards finishing the inside of my hat. The belt is a thick vinyl, veined and slightly weathered surface, with a mesh fabric backing to it.

100_4515a-compNOTIONS:  Only extra thread and a buckle was needed to buy, as well as tarlatan (I’ll explain this later) for the velvet hat. The ribbon for the inner band of my hat came from my stash and the button is (I believe) Bakelite that came from hubby’s Grandmother’s collection; see the left picture.

PATTERN:  The hat: Simplicity #3323, year 1940 (look at the other amazing accessories – I want to make the purse soon) ; the belt: my own idea…in other words, no pattern.Simplicity 3323 'accessories to match your costume' yr 1940

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress’ belt was made in an hour or less, not counting time for glue to dry, in early January 2015. The hat was so easy, I shocked myself…it was made in only 3 or 4 hours, and finished on January 18, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  Hat finishing details are very nice and clean, with no raw edges – they are all enclosed and covered.

TOTAL COST:  The hat cost nothing because I used scraps from so long ago. The belt cost only a few dollars – we found the vinyl for it on clearance, and my belt was made from the leftover scraps of using towards another project. In total, I suppose we paid less than $5.00 to make these accessories.

My little one’s new toy chest had recently been covered inside with some vinyl hubby bought from the fabric store, and – what do you know – it was a very good matching color close to the satin side of my suede, with enough left over for a skinny belt. I cut out two strips of vinyl material the same length and width as another skinny belt which was on hand, and glued the two pieces together using “Shoe Goo” brand glue. For a while I considered sewing the belt strips together (too thick), but I ended using the shoe goo because it was easy, dries flexible, clear, and strong. The glued pieces were weighted down with boards for 24 hours before I hand sewed the one end under around my chosen belt buckle.

100_4531-compTo make the holes for the belt buckle to close in around my waist I went for a very unusual but highly successful tool – a bead reamer. I have had this reamer on hand for some of my beading/jewelry creating, to help with making holes in gemstones, rocks, and fine (but hard) materials I work with sometimes. My reamer tool comes with 3 different sized, diamond covered, conical-shaped bits, and is not mechanical, merely twisted or pushed by hand. It was perfect for making good sized holes without tearing the surrounding vinyl, like an awl tool did. I suppose I could have used a drill bit to mechanically make my belt’s holes, but a drill seemed like overkill and the reamer cut through the belt like a hot knife into cold, hard butter. Only by experimenting do we learn, and WOW…I had a happy experiment making my belt. I recently found some more vinyl in a different color and I’ve got some cool ideas coming!

100_4914-compAfter my happy success with my latest vintage hat creation, I was stoked to jump into making another. This one is also amazing! It seemed like I took a long blink and the hat was done – no kidding! It was so easy and foolproof I want to make more versions in denim, in satin, in anything pretty, versatile, and leftover in my stash. Perhaps the best part about my hat is the fact the pattern pieces are so economical, there is no need to buy anything to make it – scraps are plenty sufficient, no matter how worthless they might seem! The fabric I had left available to work with was more or less four 12 to 20 inch triangles. I can’t say enough good things about this new vintage hat of mine, except that – like I’ve said before – vintage really does things right, in the smartest way possible. There’s more to old patterns than meets the eye, too. I don’t see nearly as much of this old-time ingenuity in many patterns nowadays, and I don’t know about you, but I’d like to bring more of it back.100_4510-compThe amazing part of my hat’s styling and design is the way it becomes very necessary part of a wardrobe by being incredibly simple – an accessory that could seem like it would complicate things, becomes effortlessly convenient. I myself LOVE hats, and I will be the first to admit they are a sort of a bother. They take up plenty of space to store, don’t like being smashed, are something additional to remember when putting together an outfit, and (the final query) what really do you do with them when they are off your head? This one hat pattern answers all of those points just mentioned. This hat’s brim is soft enough to be rolled up, but the tarlatan in the brim still has enough body to keep its shape. The button-at-the-back headband style of fastening on one’s head and the open backed crown accommodates several different hairstyles. Most importantly it can be buttoned onto a purse strap or belt loop so that there is always somewhere to hang the hat so you don’t lose it when it’s not on the head. The crown is soft and the brim supple so it can’t really be smashed. Most of all, this hat can be stored flat when the crown headband is unbuttoned, making it take up as much room of a piece of paper. My new vintage 1940 velvet hat embodies the word “versatility”.

100_4511Originally, the choice of some newly bought suede leather casual/dress heels (Hush Puppies brand) inspired me to use the material chosen for my hat. Not only did this velvet fabric match my shoes color wise, it also is rather historically accurate, compliments the plush theme of my “winter mint” dress, adds a touch of glamor and richness, and thins out my extensive stash of scraps.

I was intrigued by the back of the pattern instructing the use of “tarlatan” for hat brim. At first I was considering just using some sew-in interfacing or something readily available and modern, but I actually just couldn’t do it. After using such a luxurious fabric and trying to be “historical” with my hat creation, I decided to use tarlatan and thus see what how the hat was truly meant to be both made and worn.

100_4508-compNot knowing where to even start finding or locating tarlatan, I began with an internet search. A rough technical definition for tarlatan would be that it is “a thin, plain weave, open mesh cotton textile finished with stiffening agents and sometimes glazed.” The plain stiffened tarlatan is the lightweight option, and the glazed version is more or less the heavier weight. As it turns out, tarlatan seems to be used more in the arts department nowadays, used for the etching process as a lint-free and scratch-free wipe. A slew of phone calls and tarlatan was located at a local “Dick Blick” art supply store, which was also the only one in town with tarlatan in stock. Even online, tarlatan seems to be sold in what they call ‘wipes’ (one yard by one yard squares). Lucky me…the “Dick Blick” store’s tarlatan had been in back store room forgotten and neglected, so it was still uncut, in one long roll. Hoping to use tarlatan for more projects to come, I took advantage of this find and I was able to get one long, un-cut, 2-something yard portion. Yay!  However, even more exciting was the conversation I happened to strike up with the store manager who was checking me out at the register. She (the store manager) apparently had used tarlatan herself for several amazing projects. She said she made herself her own super-fancy “Kentucky Derby” hat, as well as sewing together an authentic “Dior’s New Look” suit, with the tarlatan used to create the hip fullness and shaping of the jacket. Her husband even worked for Simplicity Pattern Company! Apparently there are more people around me that sew than I realize.

One last word about the tarlatan. I did experiment with it before using it for the hat. I used it in the waistband for my 1941 wool pleated skirt, in lieu of modern iron-on interfacing, and it worked out great. I even cut a strip and soaked it in a bowl of water, wrung it out, reshaped it and let it dry, just to see what type of abuse the tarlatan can handle. Surprise…it held up remarkably well, and even kept a good percent of its original stiffness (in other words the starched/glazing didn’t wash out). Tarlatan is also no trouble when it comes to actually sewing with it, too. I was afraid my machine’s needle would get stuck on the mesh weave, much like a having pin in the way.  Not at all!  Tarlatan really is wonderful to sew with and use.

Simplicity 3323 'accessories to match your costume' yr 1940 back drawingThis hat is so simple it really could be self-drafted. It is basically a crescent shape, cut twice out of your chosen fabric and once from the tarlatan, with four triangles, which have outwardly curved edges, to make up the crown. Those triangles are also cut out from the chosen lining for the crown. The brim is faced with the tarlatan sandwiched inside and the outer edge is finished (inner edge left raw). Next, the four triangles are sewn together, from the outer fabric and the lining, for the head crown, so they can be faced with back of the head opening edge being finished. The corners of the brim are folded in, and the brim and the crown get sewn together – voila! You have a hat! All that is left is to sew in the inner ribbon band (which covers up the only raw edges) and make the headband strip, tacking it in place and making the buttonhole.

As much as I wanted to do things perfectly, I still don’t have any proper Petersham ribbon on hand, so I made things work and used a ribbon from my stash. However, this is no ordinary ribbon, for me at least. I’ve been meaning to use this ribbon, with its swirling ancient Celtic-style designs, towards making my own version of Arwen’s purple velvet dress, from the third “Lord of the Rings” movie. As my pattern for the dress is gone and I’ve had the ribbon since 2003, I finally went ahead and used it for my hat. I know this story probably makes no sense to you, but it makes me feel good to finally use this ribbon on something. 100_4513-compPlease notice the lines of stitching along the outer edge of the brim and along the buttoned headband. I was terribly worried about getting the lines perfectly straight, and not wavy or wonky, and I think I succeeded decently. Those stitching lines are no doubt decorative but they also help tremendously to keeping thing in place. As much as I love the look, I can’t help but think of quilts and their decorative stitching when it see those lines of top-stitching on my hat. Oh, just think if those lines of stitching were done in a contrast color on say a white poplin version of this hat? Ah, I have so many ideas.

100_4945a-compI have seen hats similar to the one I made on other patterns, in fashion drawings, and also be worn in many movies, all in the mid to late 1930’s into the early to mid 1940’s. For one example, I will show you the actress Joan Blondell’s hat, from the Busby Berkeley movie “The Gold Diggers of 1937” (my favorite old film!). See the open back of the crown and where the brim ties together there is a hanging 100_4947a-comptassel?  Sometimes you McCall 4575 year 1942have to look closely to see that a hat is basically the same design, because often the brims were folded up and decorated with a brooch or pin, thus appearing completely different (see this pattern of mine from 1942 for a folded up brim, or Glenda Farrell‘s hat in “Gold Diggers of 1937”). Here’s the “versatility” factor again.

100_4507-compMy hair-do is an easy vintage style, one I call a “half-toilet bowl” (which is not a very complimentary label, I know). My hair style is now ever easier to make due in part to a new amazing gadget I recently found in a drug store. It is labelled by Conair as “Classic Vintage Roll”, a sausage shaped nylon netting rat with a tiny, but long, clear elastic running through it like a headband. In under 60 seconds, I pull the headband down on my head with the rat at the back of my head. Then, I tuck the hair up and around the rat and tuck the ends under, securing the rat down with a few pins. It is extremely comfortable and my new go-to piece to wear – and I am not in any way getting a perk for saying this either. I just thought others might like to know about this.

A turban out of scarf apparently was also another option to add style to my head but still FashionExpert,AnneEdwards,fromWomensMagazine,how-to-tie-a-turban,BritishPathe,1942keep it warm. This 1942 picture advertises how to do it but I tried and couldn’t get it right. I think there probably is a knack to doing it that I haven’t found yet, but I’ll keep trying. I have some pretty scarfs that are dying to be worn as the picture shows.

100_4509a-compHead wear and hairstyles are a whole other world of fashion and history. I don’t know if it’s “up my alley” to dive into this department, but it kind of does go along with wearing what I make and putting authentic outfits together. Whether or not hats and hairstyles rock your boat, please appreciate my work, my interests, and musings here. Perhaps I can inspire you to branch out and try something new and different and challenging…like I do! Believe me, when you’re done, you feel amazing.

“Winter Mint” Suede 1942 Shirt Dress

As refreshing as a soothing after dinner treat, this 1940’s outfit is a sweet thrill. Dating to the early 1940’s, my outfit is as much of a joy to wear as it was to sew and make. It is like a breath of an assurance for balmy weather, on account of the creamy pastel color of my dress, while still being prepared for the cold, because of my long sleeves, my hat, and fabric choices – all wrapped up in one plush, cozy, fashionable package.

100_4499a-compNot knowing how to pin down a descriptive title for the color of my dress, I coined it “winter mint” one night while talking about my project. I haven’t yet come up with a name for my hat, except for adjectives like “amazing”, “versatile”, “luxurious”, and “handy”. Even my dress’ belt was made to match the specific color and needs of my dress. This is the one outfit so far for which my own two hands have put together, from scratch, an entire outfit of clothes and accessories to wear with one another, contrast/compliment one another, and match in time and era.

badge.80This is part one of two blog posts. This post will focus on detail about my dress its pattern, and photo shoot location info. Part two will show info on my hat (how it was made and its practicality), how I came up with making a matching belt, and early 40’s hair fashion.  These two posts are part of my “Agent Carter” 1940’s Sew Along.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The dress is made using a 100% polyester micro-suede. One side is a lighter, more pastel tone with the fuzzy nap of the suede, the other side is satin finished with a darker tone. McCall 5040 yr 1942

NOTIONS:  Some thread was on hand already, I needed no interfacing, and the button is vintage from hubby’s Grandmother’s stash. Nothing but a side zipper was needed to buy.

PATTERNS:  McCall #5040, year 1942

TIME TO COMPLETE:  On December 29, 2014, just before the new year and in the heart of winter, I finished my suede dress after about 15 to 20 hours.

THE INSIDES:  The dress’ insides are left raw as the fabric does not fray and is very soft.

TOTAL COST:  For the dress, I used a Hancock Fabrics gift card (yay for great birthday presents!) to pay for my fabric, but the total cost (which I didn’t pay) came to about $18 for 3 yards.

I really can’t peg down this outfit…is it dressy, casual, somewhere in between? Whatever it is, I’ve got nothing like it in my closet before now, and I like having this dress on hand for easy vintage dressing. It seems hard to get those amazing vintage outfits which are practical for cold weather climates at the same time, but I think I found it here. The micro suede is polyester, I know, but what creative person could possible resist playing with the two tones of the right and the wrong sides, as well as LOVE wearing a fabric which feels so good on the skin?!

100_4504-compIt was quite tricky to figure out the right/wrong side configuration during the pattern layout stage so as to make to dress sections contrast one another. My capability of thinking clearly was put to the test, like when I layout out a pattern on striped or plaid fabric – no half-asleep mindless cutting this time, as sometimes happens for some projects that are super easy. The sleeve cuffs, the skirt pockets, the side bodice sections, and the neck collar were all cut out in the deeper-colored satin side of the fabric, with the rest of theMcCal 4998, yr 1942 contrast yoke bodice dress dress (the skirt pieces, sleeves, middle front and back bodice sections) cut to show the fuzzy suede side. With my chosen pattern having such spectacular designing and seaming, I had to show those features off.  Here’s the cover of another year 1942 McCall pattern (#4998 which I do not own) which shows a dress with very similar design lines with contrasting “satin and matte” sections, too.

I did find sizing and fit of this pattern to be not as predictable as all the other 1940’s McCall patterns I have made already. The pattern I had was technically my correct size, with the bust being an inch or so big, but I thought it was close enough. I added a tad more in sizing (1/4 inch) to the side seams of the bottom skirt half of the dress, and the top half of the dress had a small measurement taken out (1/4 inch) to the sides, from the waist up. Even still, the skirt portion still came out snug when it was finished, and I had to take out the ½ inch seams down to 3/8 or ¼ inch instead. Seams that small are pushing the limit of safety, but it’s all I could do to be comfortable with the fit…unless I eat a large meal and fill in any extra space! In contrast, the top half, waist-up portion of the dress turned out roomy and blousy, which is authentic in fit and appearance for the 40’s. Shoulder pads were added into the shoulders to fill in the blousy shirt dress top half, thus keeping it from drooping and defining the silhouette.

100_4519a-compSuch a loose fit for the waist up of my “winter mint” dress would not be minded so much, if only the shoulders didn’t fit me just slightly wonky by drooping lower than normal. Hubby says the droopy shoulders are there, but barely noticeable to anyone else. Isn’t that how it goes? Crafting one’s own garments often makes you your own hardest critic – I know this is the case for me. Sometimes, I mentally build up small points which fall short of my own high standards into a giant discrepancy. Hopefully some of you, my readers who sew, are also perfectionists and can commiserate with me here. In other words, my dress is just fine and perfect in its own right, I just need to quit being hard on myself while wearing it to completely be happy of the fit and way it was made.

The pattern never mentioned anything about interfacing in the construction and layout instructions, so I didn’t add any into the suede dress. I know old patterns, especially 1940’s and earlier, take it for advantage that a seamstress will know precisely what to do without needing to be told. However, I thought better than to add it anyway, liking to keep up with the soft and easy feel of the suede fabric to lend my dress a similar air. I also made my brown collared 1949 dress the same way as my new suede dress, with no interfacing in the collar and such. It seems appropriate for both of those dresses to be made this way, but it is not my normal practice for most of the collars and cuffs I construct.

100_4503-compLike most of the printed 1940’s McCall patterns I have seen, this McCall shirt dress also has its own subtle special features. Bust fullness is provided by four rows of ruched gathers in the side bodice panel. The sleeves end in satin cuffs, made to be closed with cuff links. There are handy set in pockets that are a bit too small to be 100% utility, but still handy. The pockets follow through with the bust side panel section, finishing that front style lines. The skirt front has a center box pleat, while the back skirt has the classic three panel construction of 40’s McCall patterns for great shaping over the posterior. Some of the seams and features to my dress were lost in the plushness of the suede fabric, so I wanted to mention them just in case they couldn’t be seen very well in our pictures.

I really do not understand the button and loop up at the top of the neck opening.  100_4523a I followed the pattern, but as it turns out the button and loop closes at the very closely around my neck, which I’m not 100% comfortable with for long periods of time.  Oh well!  At least I finally had the opportunity to use a single amazing vintage button from my hubby’s Grandmother’s stash.  It is a close match with my dress…actually just dark enough to be noticeable.  The button sort of reminds me of a yin-yang, but each side has an opposite slant and tiny grooves on the surface.

100_4522-compIn order to honor warmer weather with my outfit, I wore a pendant of a hummingbird, made from abalone shell and sterling silver. The day of our photo shoot was one of those late winter days that are suddenly balmy, becoming a teaser. No, I have time to wait for the little nectar loving hummingbirds to come, but they’ll come soon enough.

Our photo shoot location was at the front promenade to the Municipal Opera Theatre building in our city’ downtown park. Looking up information about it shows that it was built and opened in 1917, but we saw some sort of dedication stone on the front that dated 1939. Either way, this time period book-ended in the main height of the Art deco era (my favorite), so we tried to include some of these details in the background. My favorite part about the Municipal Opera are those doors, with their beautiful clean lines. The doors remind me of my dress – straight lines and a few curved lines, and something that makes me smile!

100_4493Have you made a garment that reminds of the very opposite season, like my “Winter Mint” dress? Maybe a summer pattern made to work for winter wear, or a winter garment made into summer appropriate colors, for only two examples of dressing for a different season. It’s nice to know the weather outside does not have control over one who can make one’s own fashion!

Peggy at Griffith interviewThis is also my first total foray into wearing solid, one tone color. I admire how Peggy in Marvel’s “Agent Carter” knows how to wear primarily solid colors so well, a “talent” (if you call it that) I have a hard time achieving.  Look at her amazing brown and pink shirt dress at left.  Floral and patterned fabrics are very attractive and appealing, so hard to resist! Do you like patterns or solids, and how do you like to best pair or accessorize solids?

Stay tuned for part two!