Hermes Helmet

Hooray!  This is my 300th post!  To celebrate, I’ve dressed up in the 1950s finest.  This will be a bit of a different post in the way that the only thing me-made is a curious hat.  My dress is the true big deal here, though…it is an “Anne Fogarty” label!  Not only is it currently my most prestigious true vintage garment, but it is such a learning experience to examine, as well as a wondrous treat to put on.  This dress gives me a dream figure, and I hope my little handmade hat is the proper extravagant finishing touch to such a formal outfit!  More about that later.

For those of you that do not know who this dress’ label refers to, Anne Fogarty is summarized as “an American fashion designer, active 1940–80, who was noted for her understated, ladylike designs that were accessible to American women on a limited income.”  She was discovered because someone had the open-mindedness to see her potential, and she learned as she worked her way up…a true American story.  Her designs emphasized femininity especially seen in her “famous paper doll dress”, also the reason I am so excited to have found this dress in my size.

The dress I have on is a great example of the “tight bodice, wasp waist, and full, ballet-length skirt supported by layers of stiffened petticoats” which were the trademarks of an Anne Fogarty “paper doll” dress, seen as an American and inexpensive option to the Dior silhouette popular since the late 40’s.  I remotely dated my dress to the early side of the mid-50’s, and the happenstance of finding a similarly designed frock in an advertisement from 1955 has concreted my assumption.  There had to have been yards upon yards of rayon satin finish taffeta needed to make this dress with such a full skirt that is over and above a circle shape, so a ‘reasonable’ price must still have been expensive.  My Grandmother’s brooch even matches the one in the advertisement!

Fogarty seems to receive harsh flack in any write-up nowadays on account of her book, “Wife-Dressing: The Fine Art of Being a Well-Dressed Wife”.  I think this is sadly unfair because it not only overshadows her wonderful, resourceful career but, as a product of her times, it is going to naturally have stereotypes.  However, in my opinion, there is still a lot of good said in her book that can be relevant and followed today, just as her designs have such a lasting beauty and magnificence of craftsmanship that the couture world (or anyone interested in sewing) of today would do good to look and learn from.  We seem to live in a world where the runways have become a place to make a statement, show one’s art, entertain extravagantly, or display an idea, making it less about presenting something truly wearable to any but rich starlets who have somewhere to go in view of the paparazzi.  Goodness, with some of Balmain’s Spring Couture 2019 models going topless and the last few years’ trend of sheer fashions (these have a ridiculous amount of nothing there), even what clothes do come out of high design still make women practically naked!  One cannot put on a dress like this Anne Fogarty creation and – miss in some way – the covered up, but still sexy as all get out, appeal of a body sculpting garment which can craft a tasteful yet enticing figure with superior quality of artistry, yet still be accessible to an everyday fashionista.

Taking pictures of a solid black dress is very challenging, so we didn’t even really try to take many detail shots, but I can tell you about them instead.  The most obvious and perhaps the most confusing is the drop-waist/skirt seam.  The curving is ingenious, especially taking into account the many tiny cartridge pleats that comprise the skirt attaching into that seam.  Yes, it is not plainly gathered…mind blowing!  There is no boning of any kind for this bodice, but from the bust down the inside is double layered of fabric and all the princess seams double stitched and pressed out.  It kind of just molds my body into shape as I zip it on (there is a sturdy metal center back zipper).  Granted, I did follow Anne Fogarty’s advice and wear a petticoat with a vintage, strapless, full body corselet under this for the full and properly 50’s experience, and I actually lose a few inches in my waist!  She seemed to recommend two petticoats under her dresses, but this dress already has one built into it, made from the same material as the dress itself.  The skirt seams are almost all on selvedge seams, while the rest are simply pinked.

The upper bodice is very classic 50’s – kimono sleeves with a parallelogram underarm gusset so I have full arm movement (amazing for a fancy dress).  The neckline has a rolled edge which ends up looking like a collar.  There is a plunging back which more than accounts for the high covered front.  The bodice also has the very tiniest of flaws in this otherwise amazingly excellent condition vintage piece.  There two are pinhead size holes at the left front chest which I really wonder if they aren’t from a brooch, making me kind of feel badly for adding one myself.  However, I am careful to not poke roughly through the fabric.  The nature of this dress’ fabric is so stiff, tightly woven, and structured it is perfect for a design like Fogarty’s but it keeps frays in check.  I think I’ll leave those little spots be as they are.

Now, to talk about the hat I made since you get to finally see it best from behind!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a thick vinyl faux crocodile skin, ivory with gold foiled accents

PATTERN:  McCall’s #1571, year 1950

NOTIONS:  all I needed was thread, some cotton and interfacing scraps, and some wire for the “headband” that is part of the lining…

TIME TO COMPLETE:  this was made in about 4 or 5 hours

TOTAL COST:  I spent $5 for a half yard of the vinyl, and only used half of what I bought, so I suppose this hat only cost me $2.50!  I should just be able to squeeze in a little fancy purse out of what’s leftover, to be made in the future (but I will probably choose a view from an OOP Vogue #7354).

This hat ended up in a whole different direction than I originally intended, but that’s okay – I love it just how it is better than I had imagined.  The pattern I used actually came from my mom’s pattern stash.  I doubt it came from her mom or has a story behind it or I probably would have heard about it by now, but I’m now thinking I should ask her just in case there is a tale that just hasn’t come out yet.  Even with my small changes to the pattern it still is classic 50’s style of full crown coverage.  Only, here it received what I see as an avant-garde upgrade, too.

At first I sewed the hat up just like the pattern designed (sans lining) and it turned out mimicking something between a religious bonnet and a swimmers cap.  It completely covered my ears and hair.  Bummer!  Although difficult to sew on my machine, I was super excited because the three layers came together quickly.  It did fit my head quite well once I top-stitched the seams down (by hand).  The front needed to be pruned down and given interest to be made fashionable.

My solution was to work with what I already had.  The side curves had “wings” cut out of them.  The “wings” are still attached to the hat at the inner corners at the top of the head, and were left free of the lining when I stitched it around the edge.  The wings are tacked down on the sides of the head further back and decorated as you see them with vintage metal shoe clips.  This way, without adding anything new or doing drastic changes, there is room to show my ears and hair as well as have a sort of interesting underlying theme…my post’s title gives that away.

You see, Petasos is the closest thing that my hat reminds me of.  An ancient petasos was a metal helmet worn by a member of the Athenian cavalry, and it later became associated with the god Hermes (also later known as Mercury to the Romans) when it had the side “wings” on it.  Hermes was the messenger god as well as “moving freely between the worlds of mortal and divine”, and to accommodate his quickness, his petasos became more streamlined to the head, too, besides losing its wide traditional brim.  He was also the god of commerce, his very name under the Romans is related to the Latin word for “merchandise”, so anything of monetary value, especially precious metal and coinage has been associated with him.  My 50’s hat oddly aligns with all of this.  Its construction is plated, in a mock form of those crescent-shaped overlapping pieces which can be found on the back of an armadillo or on a knuckle in medieval armor.  I never really meant for such an association…the wings I added to my hat do add a lot to the original frumpy design and seemed like a natural adaptation.

Sometimes I do believe there is a lot of either subconscious planning going on or projects just make themselves what they are supposed to be.  Whatever the case, and whatever connotation my hat has, I always like what I make best when I don’t try too hard…thinking that is!  I just make beautiful and creative stuff that I do need more often than not and always do enjoy even when it’s made for others.  Makers gotta make, as the popular saying goes.

There are some designers that I can associate myself more easily than many others, and this is so with Anne Fogarty’s story and beautiful creations.  I don’t ever really go out for the purpose of buying vintage (I like to do controlled browsing), and goodness knows I don’t have enough fancy occasions to wear nice stuff to, but this was in my size by an well-known designer and it was too good of a deal to pass up.  As I have said in past posts (here and here) where I addressed the care for, benefits, and details to true vintage, this dress is worthwhile alone by being something I can learn from and aspire to.  Let me know if you have a garment that has a quality or story that has taught you something, or at least inspires you to create!

I am so happy to be writing my 300th post to all of you.  Thank you for all the comments and support you have shared with me along the way.  I pulled out the good stuff for you this time and hope you enjoyed this slight change of pace.  Here’s to many more blog posts yet to come!

’73 Coat-style Shirt Dress, a Turtle, and a Belt

This is a complimentary layered outfit of three pieces, working together as an effortless way to stay warm in the cold a la early 70’s style.  Three of the major pattern companies contributed towards my outfit – Simplicity, Burda Style, and Vogue – to spread out my contributing sources.

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This is also one of those fun oxymoron outfits where I find alternative ways to wear garments taken for granted…my shirt dress is actually worn like it’s a coat.  It is a heavy denim, flowered and all.  It’s like I’m bringing the flowers from out of season to the sleeping winter landscape.  My turtle neck top is not at all dated but actually quite enticingly fashionable, and it’s neither fit on its own for the very cold temps, mostly just a perfect layering piece, especially with its short sleeves.  The jeans were made by me as well, from a pattern of a different era (blogged about in a separate post here).  I can even eliminate the extra layers underneath and wear the shirt dress with my vintage 70’s heels and a neutral belt for a dressy outfit at the other end of the spectrum (seen down later).  Yeah, I love to mix things up and break boundaries – a least a bit when it comes to the clothes I make!

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This outfit is made for Allie J’s “Social Sew” for the month of January 2017 “New Year, New Wardrobe”.  There isn’t much I intend to change for this coming year’s sewing, social-sew-2017-badgebesides filling in new dates of historical sewing (teens era, and early 20’s), and continuing to try new techniques and having fun doing unique and meaningful outfits (loose resolutions, I suppose).  I feel that this outfit applies to the monthly theme because the dress was a U.F.O. (unfinished object) as of 2016 fall, and I was starting new tackling it and finishing it so as to be happy with it.  This outfit further applies to the monthly challenge because I have been meaning to make these items for a while, like since 2014 for the dress and turtle.  70’s style is still “in” so I guess there’s no time like now to just get around to a long intended project.

THE FACTS:simplicity-5909-yr-1973

FABRIC:  The Dress:  a cotton floral denim which may have a hint of spandex; The Turtleneck: a lightweight polyester jersey in a blue navy, leftover from my 1971 “Bond girl” dress; The Belt: a thin jersey backed vinyl, grooved and a bit weathered like a skin, in a cherry red cranberry color

PATTERNS:  The Dress: Simplicity #5909, year 1973; The Turtleneck: Burda Style #114 A, from December 2014, online or in their monthly magazine; The belt: Vogue #9222, from 2016, View vogue-9222-year-2016Eburda-style-turtleneck-114-a-dec-2014-line-drawing

NOTIONS:  I had (believe it or not) everything I needed to finish all this on hand already without needing to buy more than an extra spool of tan thread.  I used three different colors of bias tape (whatever was on hand), used a vintage metal zipper for the back of the turtleneck, and used vintage buttons and the belt buckle from hubby’s Grandmother’s stash.dsc_1033a-compw

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress was halfway made in October and November of 2016, and completed this year, finished on January 20, 2017.  I’m guess-timating a total time of about 25 hours spend on the dress.  The belt was made on October 21, 2016 in only 3 hours, and the turtle top was made one night the week after that in about 3 hours, as well.

THE INSIDES:  The dress is nice inside with bias binding, the top is left raw for the inside edges, while the belt has cut raw edges, too, finished off in my own special way (addressed down below)

TOTAL COST:  The vinyl was a remnant bought on double discount at Jo Ann’s Fabric store – a total of about $4 for one yard, so there’s plenty left over for a purse, yay!  The other fabrics were something on hand for so long I’m counting them as free.  Thus, between the vinyl and the thread, this outfit cost me about $6.  Sorry, allow me to pat myself on the back for this one.

I am so, so happy to have finally found a use for this floral denim.  It had been in my mom’s fabric stash since I can remember, then she gave it to me for my stash and I had no intention or even remote idea of what to do with it for so many years.  There were 4 freaking yards of this dated-looking flowered denim that could be from the 80’s for all I know.  So when I happened to notice my Simplicity #5909 1973 pattern having a similar looking fabric, I was sold.  Choosing the ankle-length, long-sleeve option was a give-in to use up all of the bolt, as well.  I might have been taking an easy road to follow an existing drawing, but – hey, at least I found a use for what seemed doomed to be an ugly duckling in my fabric stash!

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Making the shirt dress was technically not hard – it fits me great out of the envelope with no real fitting.  What was difficult about it was dealing with the large amount of such a heavy fabric.  Marking all those pleats and buttons all the way down was exhausting.  Besides, the stitching required to sew this fabric hog together was boring, straight, and monotonous, especially when it came to the long side seams.  Just trying to stitch on it was its own problem.  Half of the time it took me to stitch was I think spent throwing and pushing around fabric so as to even get it laid out right just to sew on it.  I’m not meaning to complain, just wanting to throw this fact out to anyone who is thinking of making a 4 yard denim shirt dress, too – you’ve been warned what you’re in for.  Like I say, though, it’s worth it in the end.

I’m loving the features of the shirt dress.  Of course it has the large collar lapels that are so traditional on 70’s clothes, but this collar also has an all-in-one collar stand.  There are separate chest front and back shoulder panels which keep the upper bodice flat, without the pleats of the bottom 2/3 of the dress.  There are long horizontal knife pleats in pairs all the way down the hem, four in both front and in back.  The extra wide cuffs have a lovely double button closure, with a continuous lap opening (for which I merely used pre-made bias tape rather than self-fabric).  A baker’s dozen of camel-colored vintage buttons complete it.

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This dress pattern’s long version was definitely designed for a woman with weird proportions – tall women with petite length arms.  I am about 5’3” and I had to do a 4 ½ inch hem to have it fall at my ankles.  However, the sleeves were so short, and I had to add one extra inch in length to make them appropriate for my arms (and my arms are a ‘normal’ length, not petite).

The denim is soft with the little bit of stretch, but still heavy, so in lieu of interfacing I chose only to use a medium weight, non-stretch 100% cotton.  It stabilizes the cuffs, collar, and upper back and front bodice panels with making them stiff.  I do have to laugh at how much of a rustle my dress makes when I move.  The fabric is not a heavy of a denim as my husband’s Levi jeans, but it sure does make a heavy, sort of muffled static “white noise”.  Definitely not the best dress for sneaky espionage work…no possibilities of quiet stealthiness in my denim coat-dress. I’m just doing some silly reflection.  It is a great winter dress!  Someone that recently gave me a compliment on my outfit commented that you just can’t find anything like this to buy – yes, that’s why I sew!burda-style-turtleneck-114-b-dec-2014-model-shot

The other great chill buster that keeps me cozy is my lightweight turtleneck top.  I figured the turtle pattern would work well with my 70’s dress because the Burda model picture looks very late 60’s with the equestrian-style helmet/hat, her long hair, and A-line pleated skirt.

This was so ridiculously easy to make I couldn’t stop voicing my amazement for a while after I finished – just a few hours and voila!  Of course, my top was made up more quickly without having the full long sleeves, but even still this is a great pattern.  I barely had a yard of the interlock knit leftover and I was able to make this!?  I’m so tempted to whip up a dozen of these turtles in every variety – quilted knit, sweater fabric, sheer fancy stuff, and more especially I’m hoping to find a funky printed knit for a true Space Age look to go with my ’67 jumper.

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The long sleeves are something I do love, but they have more of a 1930’s look so I might end up using them as a replacement on an old-style elegant Art Deco dress in the future.  I will say the body runs small – I almost wish I had went up a size…but hubby’s happiness with how it looks on me makes me say, “Nah, I picked the right fit…”

dsc_1027a-compwThe back neck exposed zipper is sort of mixed feelings sort of thing for me.  I love the modern way it looks even though it is a vintage 50’s or 40’s era notion.  I do not enjoy how it almost always gets caught up with my hair even though I close the zip with my head upside down so my hair isn’t in the way.  Oh well, win some, loose some – I cannot think of a better solution so I’ll shut up about it.  Hint, hint – when in an adventurous mood, you can even wear the back neck unzipped and the stand-up collar lays flat on the chest for a completely different appearance to the top!  O.K., now I’ll move on.

Another amazing thing to this outfit is the belt.  Look at that asymmetric loveliness!  It’s freaking awesome.  I look at it and can’t believe I made it, it seems so professional.  This is a really great design and it has wonderful shaping for around the waist – this is not a straight rectangle sort of pattern.  Belts might seem hard to make or even mysteriously different and even intimidating (working with vinyl or leather), but all of that is blown away by using Vogue #9222.  The instructions are clear and all the designs are so neat I intend to make all of the views available.  In your face ready-to-wear, store bought belts…I can make something better than you, you are often only half belts, with elastic across the back.  My belt is all belt, 100% my style and my make!

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My only caveat is that I wish I had extended the length of the belt to go up to the next size.  Cutting out a paper pattern on a slick vinyl leaves room for shifting and a small margin of error.  In order to get the two belt pieces matching together, I had to trim them down slightly, and thus I ended up with a belt that was a little smaller than the pattern intended.  This is why I recommend adding an extra 4 or so inches to the belt length going around the waist.  You can always cut some off, but you can’t add it on, especially when it comes to vinyl.dsc_0002a-compw

I was able to machine stitch most all of the belt, but I used a tiny ‘sharps’ sewing needle to hand sew on the buckle and the belt loop.  I did not want to test four layers of vinyl on my machine so I did not fold in the edges of the seam allowance.  I left the edges raw and tried something experimental.  Taking a hint from store bought belts, which have some sort of seal along the raw edges, I used a matching colored nail polish (yes, fingernail lacquer) to paint over the edges of my belt, both coloring and sealing them at the same time.  It’s a rather permanent option, nevertheless I did see some faint rubbing off of the nail polish onto my dress after one wearing.  So – it’s not perfect, but an easily available solution that I am happy to see worked out so well.

This was the first time making grommet eyelets and I think they are a success.  I have tried before again and again to get metal grommets to turn out right, but that was experimenting on fabric (for a corset) and this time they came out much better in the vinyl.  It was like a boost of confidence I needed, feeling that ‘o.k. I can do grommets, I understand how they work now’ so maybe, eventually I can have them turn out well for my future corset.  Does anyone have any tips to share about the keys to successful metal grommets or even what to avoid?  Should I add some glue to the back (to keep them in place) and can you replace one if it gets wonky (or does that not work)?  Just wondering.

dsc_1041a-compwI hope this post has inspired you to see outside of the traditional box for sewing and making every day-type of clothing items.  There is so much room for inventiveness when you make things yourself, the sky’s the limit!  A dress that is a shirt-dress worn like a coat, a belt finished-off with nail polish…a girl’s gotta do what she has to do when she gets an idea with a sewing machine, some material, and extra time on her hands!  Yup, I live on creativity and can’t stop.

Do you, too, have any big hopes for making some neat things this year, something which gets you all amped up just to think about it?  Do you too have some ‘ugly duckling’ fabric around just waiting for the ‘right partner’ in the form of a pattern to complete it (or did you ditch it)?  What is your favorite way to put yourself together to combat the cold weather?

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