Shopping at the Old Arcade

Most people generally know twenties clothing as being tubular with drop waists.  Many also frequently think of the twenties as having beading, sheer fabrics, and fringe, but that was for evening and special occasion.  However, do you know what the turn of the decade, year 1920, actually looked like for everyday wear?  When I started doing research on this I was surprised.  Very high waists, overly exaggerated hips (many with ruffles and ridiculous pockets), slightly awkward long mid-calf length hems, and loose but lovely bust-less blouses.  Yes – this was the year 1920, when women were wearing fashion which was both a carry-over from 1918 – 1919 that was also finding its way for changing up styles in a new decade.  Here is my sewing creation interpreting the year 1920, as a woman in her nice, almost sporty, and nothing-too-fancy clothes to go do some window shopping.
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Actual teens era/1920s hand painted glass buttons (close-up picture here on my Instagram) were included on the blouse I made, as well as several hours of decorative hand stitching on both neck and sleeves.  My hat is a thrift store purchase, which already had straw flowers, but I piled on a wide lace band and silk flowers for an old fashioned style.   I also made the skirt and the purse, as well as some of the authentic lingerie I’m wearing underneath.  This ensemble did not look right (silhouette speaking) until I had the correct undergarments, so I will definitely show you what I wore (and made) in a future post.

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Period authentic doesn’t have to be old-fashioned or un-wearable today.  Because it is all cotton and not body figure conscious, this is really quite comfy to wear.  Sure, it’s different, but yet lovely and tasteful enough for me to only receive kindly smiles from strangers who saw me.  I love the subtle complexity, the understated richness, and the odd femininity to the style of my 1920 pieces.  The ideal of beauty and the popular silhouette for women has changed so much throughout history, and this is just another incarnation that I am glad to have learned to appreciate through sewing it for myself!

THE FACTS:McCall 9412 & Pict.Review Overblouse, both ca. 1920, fm Past Patterns

FABRIC:  100% cotton specialty twill for the skirt, 100% cotton for the blouse, and a tapestry remnant (mystery content) for the purse lined in a burgundy Kona cotton leftover from this project.

PATTERNS:  Past Pattern’s No. 8268, Ladies’ Overblouse, from Pictorial Review circa 1920; a Past Pattern’s No. 9412 “Ladies’ Skirt with Hip Pocket Effect” from McCall Company circa 1920 , and a Vogue 7252 year 2000 patternVogue #7252 from the year 2000 for the purse

NOTIONS:  The notions for this came from everywhere.  The detailed, Art Nouveau-style brass buttons were a Hancock Fabrics’ store brand item, bought when the company was closing, while the old vintage blouse buttons were from our favorite antique store.  Most everything else needed was on hand – I even had the tassel for the purse in my stash!  

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The skirt was made in about 6 hours and finished on October 21, 2016.  The blouse took 8 to 10 hours, with 4 more hours for the hand embroidery, and was finished on February 26, 2017.  The purse was made in about 2 hours on February 28, 2017.

TOTAL COST:  The skirt’s fabric was bought at the now defunct Hancock Fabrics for less than $2 a yard…and I only needed 2 yards here.  I have 2 something extra yards still left for another (upcoming) project.  The blouse’s cotton was bought at JoAnn’s fabric recently for maybe $10.  The brass buttons were expensive even with the Hancock Fabrics closing clearance – maybe $17 – while the old buttons on the blouse were only $5.  The tapestry brocade came from I don’t know where from I don’t know how long ago, thus I’m counting it as free, but the cord handle was bought at JoAnn’s for about $4.  So, my total is about $40 something.

DSC_0232,p,a-comp,wWorking with patterns this old presented plenty of unknowns, but the primary one was in regards to fit.  What kind of body, what kind of peculiarities, and what ease do these patterns account for?  It’s one thing to get something to fit, but historical garments need a particular fit (as well as the right underwear) to be authentically worn.  I did have the assurance that my pattern came from Past Patterns Company…every single garment I have made from what they offer is a wonderful success I am most happy with.  No wonder they’ve been in business almost 40 years!

Let me start by talking about the bodice.  After some figuring, my estimated bust measurement of the blouse pattern as-is (in the size 38 to 40 bust) is 45 inch around.  This led to my figuring the wearing ease to this blouse was about 5 inches over and above the bigger of the two sizes (bust 40).  I can see that the bust is supposed to be bloused and roomy (over a flat chest) so I went down to a generous measurement for myself and ended taking out a total of 4 inches around hoping to end up at what would be the next size smaller for this pattern.  The side seam allowance is 1 whole inch so I figured I had plenty of room to fix a wrong calculation is sizing, but still…it’s easier to  take out some extra than it is to be stuck with a garment which ends up too small.  I totally feel like I nailed the right fit!

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I realized that this is an overblouse that I am not wearing as an overblouse.  This is not the first time I have made an over blouse only to wear it tucked into a skirt – see this 1958 project.  When I received my pattern in the mail Saundra Altman kindly included a tutorial page on how to add in a stay-belt inside the blouse.  As I am just getting the feel for teens and early 20’s dressing, I kept the construction of my blouse simple from the waist downPerry, Dame & Co Catalog, New York styles, fall and winter 1919-1920 because for now I plan on only wearing it as you see it.  At some future point I hope to make a year 1920-style pleated skirt and wear this same top as a proper overblouse, and at that point I might come back and add the welt pockets and a stay-band to the waist.

I did use my oldest (1930’s) sewing machine to do all the button holes along the front opening, but I also splurged and used all cotton thread and self-fabric bias tape for the neckline.  After I had made the button holes I decided I really didn’t want to subject the buttons to the wear and tear of pushing them through every time.  So, I still sewed two at a time connected like link buttons but they’re on there permanently for now, and if I want them off I’ll just cut the linking threads.  I did try to make these buttons linked by a metal loop with a connecting chain but I had disaster strike doing that.  The back loop on one broke by cracking right off, but it is a molded part of the rest of the button so it cannot be fixed unless I glue some loop or such on it.  I never guessed these were as fragile as they seem to be.  Until I figure out how to add something to the back of this broken button, I will sadly made-do with one at the top closure.  This is the risk of working with, or even wearing, old original items from many decades back – they are unique and fragile, but deserve to be seen nonetheless, so using them is a risk that also could only garners appreciation.

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My decorative hand stitching is I know not the best compared to many others, but this is so much better than I used to be able to do.  Whatever my skill, the stitching does take my blouse to the next level, I think, besides show casing an old time-honored practice that modern garments are so far from.  Hand stitching was very much needed here because of the rather plain color of the blouse’s cotton.  I made my own design, and after several unsuccessful Art Deco drawings I settled on the softer more feminine floral on my blouse.  After all King Tut’s tomb would not yet be discovered for a few years from 1920!

The skirt probably would’ve fit me pretty much as-is, but I did add one extra inch to the waistband only to be on the safe side for fit.  I did not change the rest of the skirt because I wanted the gathers to be a bit looser.  Looking back I wish I had made no gathers across the center front of the skirt – the pockets and the hip panel would look better.  No matter, I like it just the same! DSC_0297a-comp,w

The skirt did not need any special closures for the left side opening – the placket kind of conceals itself because of the side seam pleat overlay.  Only hook-and-eyes keep it together at the waistline.  The waistband is quite neat.  It is a two inch band against my skin on the inside, with a 4 inch waistband gathered horizontally on the outside so it looks like a cummerbund belt.

DSC_0220a-comp,wTrue to the era, the back of the skirt is just a long rectangle for a small taste of the slim and skinny.  What a contrast for the front!  Along the front geometric pocket edge I made my own self-fabric “ribbon” to decorate, finish, and stabilize the edge.  At first I tried a brown velvet ribbon for the edge, but, no – I didn’t look good so I took it off and went with the matching fabric.  This pocket edge needs to be stiff enough to stick out on its own and define the hips so I was tempted to add interfacing.  My skirt’s twill fabric was thick enough that three layers along the edge (1 – the skirt, 2 – the ribbon edging seam allowance inside, 3 – outside of the ribbon edging) was plenty good.

Needless to say, as much as I love pockets, these take the cake! My skirt’s pockets are like mini suitcases.  I can keep everything in them and it doesn’t even make a difference the skirt is so roomy and meant to be billowy.  Yet, the only thing that mystifies me about my 1920 outfit is the pockets, mostly because the purses and hand bags were so tiny!  Pockets and purses were still relatively new items to 1920, and both signifying the independence and progression of women, but to go overboard with such a contrast between the two in interesting to me.  As you can see, I did take a slight shortcut and have the pocket opening close with a snap rather than a real working button and button hole.

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Patterns for both the skirt and the blouse both seemed to run very long.  I made the shorter length of the overblouse, which was just over 10 inches shorter than the full-length option, and it is still falls about mid-thigh on me.  For my skirt, I took out 4 whole inches from the length because as-is the pattern falls to floor length (I’m about 5’ 3” height).  Now, take into account the fact that these two garments are meant to have deep hems, especially the skirt.  My skirt does have a wide 3 inch hem to it which helps to weigh it down properly besides bringing it to the proper just-below-calf length for the year 1920.  Skirt and dress lengths of 1920 seem to be just enough to show the ankles, just enough to move freely in, and a tad shorter than just a year or two before (1919-ish).1916 purses

My purse is something so easy but I’m so tickled at how lovely and cute it turned out.  The pattern I used is a real unknown gem with lovely designs straight out of the teens and 20’s.  I remember my mom and I being so excited when this came out!  Look at this comparison between a 1916 handbag poster for comparison.  In a 1926 catalog, I’ve even seen a strikingly similar version to “View C”!  They are all really quite simple designs but I like the fact they give the tracing designs for all the beading and decoration.  My purse doesn’t hold much but came together so quickly.  Trimmings and de-luxe materials seems like the way to go with this pattern and a remnant was all I needed.  I will definitely be using this again!

In the 1920’s, handbags were often just enough room for a few small essentials (including lipstick and keys) and often geometric in shape, like my own vers ion.  Mine is probably way too stuffed than what a 1920 woman would have carried, yet as it was I didn’t have room for everything I needed!  Also in the 1920’s, handbags weren’t necessarily meant to match with an outfit but carry their own tasteful, individual, and often ostentatious flair…quite different from modern times!

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By making my purse (a ‘reticule’ style) from tapestry I am harkening back to a popular type of “daytime” purses of the 1920s – ones made of richly complex fabric carpet bags and delicately flourished needlepoint.  Handbags from these materials seem to either be meant to show the wealth of the one possessing it or the talent of the maker, as many of these types of purses were often handmade by either the woman herself or someone for the company that sold it and some were quite expensive.  By having a decorative tassel at the center bottom point I’m aiming to narrow this to a primarily early 20’s piece.  To read and see more, this “Vintage Dancer” page has a wonderful overview of all the ways 1920’s women carried what they needed.  There is so much history to this littlest part of my ensemble!

All the materials I used for this outfit are just a dream to wear and were wonderful to sew.  The twill for the skirt is a lovely weight and hand – almost as heavy as a denim, slight body, but drapey and soft enough to hang nicely.  The low-key design of the fabric adds interest and keeps the olive and brown tones to it from being too drab.  The cotton of the blouse is so soft it doesn’t really wrinkle all that much and it’s just sheer enough to be pretty.  The tapestry of the purse is so rough, textured, and stiff it provides a nice contrast to the blouse and skirt.

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The place of our photo shoot is something quite special.  Not only is it a city landmark and the town’s best example of Gothic Revival architecture, but it is a National Historic Landmark.  I’m talking about the St. Louis Arcade/Wright Building, opened in year 1919 as one of the very first indoor shopping areas of its kind in the country, a very early, but much more elegant version of the modern American suburban, indoor, covered “Mall”.  Just think how extraordinary this is from a historical standpoint – plans for this steel and stone skyscraper was begun in 1913 before World War I and many of the materials needed for this building were rationed.  Federal officials closed and postponed many construction operations during WWI.  It is rumored that the principle contractor apparently had a simultaneous deal with the government at the time, so I suppose he was able to pull a few strings.  The Arcade was the tallest building in the world for a number of years.  Besides, the architect, Tom Barnett, was something quite important nationally.  This multi-story hall was recently renovated (after being vacant for several decades), preserving much original pieces so that the Arcade can still give visitors a taste of what it might have been in its heyday when people came here for high-end purchases such as jewelry and fine china.  Being able to walk through and visit places like this in period authentic clothes makes sewing this outfit a very worthwhile experience.

DSC_0295aa-comp,wP.S. Good news…you don’t necessarily have to sew if you want this ‘look’!  ReVamp vintage has re-made an amazing year 1921 oversized pocket skirt very similar to my own, the “Prudence” with brownish olive twill and lovely details!  Although, there are a few ways to wear a modern take on such a style – “Dress Romantic” on Etsy marketplace has a neat version that’s my favorite!  As for ready-to-wear 1920 style blouses, ReVamp has lovely options but any loose modern blouse with lace and/or feminine details would work – my favorites are this Anthropologie yellow blouse, this J.Crew cream colored pleated neckline blouse, or this sheer smocked neckline top.  There’s always old originals out there, too, (like this one) for a taste of the real thing!  Will you be channeling the early 1920’s for yourself, or have you already?

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Year 1933 McCall’s Reprint Set

With all my recent criticism of modern “Big  4” pattern companies’ reprints of old original patterns, my budget is nonetheless limited when it comes to buying all the old sewing patterns I would like.  (Guess you can tell my ideas are bigger than my budget!)  Thus, in the spirit of being open-minded as well as needing a resource for more variety of past years to sew from, I do still use the re-releases with some misgivings.  Recently, in my effort to understand and sew the early 1930’s, I have used two of the first releases from McCall’s “Archive Collection” – a skirt and tie-front blouse for an ensemble from 1933, worn with my vintage 30’s Dr. Scholl’s brand shoes.

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Both pieces, and particularly the blouse, do have the classic 30’s look of easy sophistication with ‘simplicity-yet-smartness’ of its design.  Both are feminine and flowing yet a bit structured in their own way.  The blouse is one of the many designs of the early 30’s which had interest going on over both the chest and neckline (visit my Pinterest page for some visual examples).  Adding such details gave illusionary body lines, as well as ways to play with dramatic, inventive, interesting, or just plain weird ideas of how many ways to avoid a plain fronted blouse or dress. This skirt, as well as my previous 1930’s skirt, is in line with the style of Lucien Lelong, who in 1925 debuted his “kinetique” line of clothing.  Lelong over saw the creation of slim silhouettes with inset pleats that would pop open when the wearer was in motion but fall back into place at rest (quote from page 82 of the 2014 book of the FIT museum exhibit, “Elegance in a Time of Crisis, Fashions of the 1930s”).  This outfit is from the beginning of “sportif” clothing – the first modern means of dressing with both comfort and style for a new-to-the-30’s type of female…an active, independent, and collectively important woman.

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THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The Blouse – a 100% cotton Swiss dot fabric in a deep dusty peacock turquoise color; mccalls-6993-7053-ca-1933-pattern-compThe Skirt – a heathered tan oatmeal-colored 100% linen 

PATTERNS:  McCall’s #7053 for the blouse and McCall’s #6993 for the skirt, both “Archive Collection” patterns circa 1933

NOTIONS:  I used all of what was on hand – a vintage metal zipper for the skirt, vintage bias tape given to me from my Grandmother for the skirt, as well as thread and interfacing that I had already.

dsc_0519a-compwTIME TO COMPLETE:  Pretty darn quick – the blouse came together in 4 or 5 hours and the skirt in about 5 or 6 hours.  The first was done on September 23 and the second on September 26, both in 2016.

THE INSIDES:  The blouse inside is left raw (it doesn’t fray) and the skirt is clean inside with all bias bound edges.

TOTAL COST:  Both fabrics were bought when Hancock Fabrics was going out of business so both fabrics were only a few dollars a yard.  My total is probably about under $20.

I am quite happy with my finished outfit.  My all over outfit is completely authentic to the times with the fabrics I chose (especially the Swiss dot), the colors will span seasons and match well with what else I have in my closet, and the fabric textures add interest.  Early 1930’s patterns from the time of the NRA are expensive (to me), a bit harder to come by, and considered more collectible (at least from what I see) so this outfit is a welcome and oh-so-very wearable addition to my wardrobe of this decade.  I am itching to make the other long sleeve cowl neck view on the blouse pattern – it looks just as practical yet lovely for my growing amount of 30’s clothing!

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However, I do have lingering doubts that these are 100% true carry-overs of 30’s patterns as they are quite fabric hogs.  I know the 1930s patterns demanded more fabric than a 1940s pattern, but this was still Depression times and almost 3 yards for a blouse seems like almost too much.  I am not certain my claim is worthwhile because this was the era of both an aura of elegance and superficial extravagance, even if only to “keep up appearances”.  I have read other bloggers who have mentioned ad-for-1933-achive-collectionthis seeming incongruity of era and fabric demand seen on the envelopes.  These 1933 pattern re-issues also include a vest and a jacket, but each were released as their own individual pattern.  (Why? To make us spend more money?  It’s quite rude to do this for the Archive Collection when the regular patterns have sets in one piece!)  I am guessing this whole 4-piece suit could have been in one complete pattern set originally – this was common practice in the early to mid-1930s.  I have yet to find the original for these patterns, so for all I know I’ll have to believe McCall’s…for now. 

I did have some problems with the fitting of both pieces – they seem to lack good fitting in odd places and run quite large!  I needed to dramatically take in both the blouse and skirt as well as add more darts and shaping.  Generally, I made the same sizes I would have chosen had these been McCall’s traditional modern pattern, and the blouse and skirt are not the same as them nor are they the fit of old 30’s patterns I have sewn up before.

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First of all, the skirt needed more curving added in to both make the hips and waist smaller and more fitted.  Even with an extra two inches taken out, I still could have taken out more and curved in the waist better because it has a weird placement on me.  I sewed my “normal” McCall size – that’s what makes this fit so weird.  Since the waist is not fitted to my body while the hips fit better, this skirt hangs from the hips while the waist kind of floats in place.  Anyway, it is comfy being loose, and what I feel with the fit is (I think) not noticeable on me.  The cover drawing makes it look like the waistband panel should be snug and at a high point across the middle…I wish I would have achieved that with my version.  I tried to do so, I really did.

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Secondly, the blouse’s shoulders were incredibly droopy on me.  As the perfect fix, the back of the blouse has a Y-shaped dart system where the horizontal “arms” of the Y come up and over my shoulders and down into the wrap front.  The blouse is designed with a Y paneled front, why not do it to the back when it is the best option to achieve a well-fitting blouse?  Of course, this blouse is supposed to be loose and kind of baggy, but too much hanging in the wrong places and a garment just appear poorly made.  Once ironed, my Y darts became invisible – yay – and each dart picked up the shoulder by an extra 2 inches to make the lantern sleeves puff out over my elbow right where they should be.

dsc_0485a-compwWhen the front wrap ends are held out they look like some sort of wings.  I think they are pretty and a good kind of different but having a blouse with fabric hanging down the front does take a little getting used to.  When I sit down at a table with food in front of me, I have to remember to place my arm across my front to keep my blouse’s fabric from dipping into the plate and making a mess.  The same thing goes for being over a sink to wash my hands.  I have heard this pattern design referred to as always wearing a napkin under your chin to catch any mess and generally be in the way.  I do not think it is as bad as that – the wrap front with its hanging ties can be tacked down permanently if you would so like because you do not need to undo it to put the blouse on oneself.  This doesn’t need any zipper or closure, for goodness sake!  For as easy to make as it was and as lovely a blouse as it is, this pattern is definitely worthwhile…as long as you’ve got 3 yards of fabric for it.

We kept with the time period with our background and went to take our pictures in the Continental Life Building.  It is a scrumptious Art Deco gem which was built in 1930.  It has had a tumultuous history and more recently saved from demolition by being turned into an apartment complex.  The lobby that you see behind me is such an over-the-top way to give a visitor their first impression – so classic of the wonderful architecture of the 1930s.  I just love the awe and tingling happiness it gives me to be in these types of buildings, especially when I’m in period clothing!

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In the competitiveness and eagerness to move ahead and be “modern” it seems many towns, especially ours, glazes over architectural history as if it was a hindrance rather than a necessary link to connect us with the past.  This can be the same situation when it comes to clothing styles seen in the stores to buy.  Past fashion trends are always being re-used and re-hashed but once recognizing where they came from and why they were first used, the reason to admire or wear a new type of detail becomes a source of learning, knowledge, and sense of the bigger picture.  (Hint – has anyone else seen a whole lot of 1930s era sleeves on the fashion scene since the last several months?!  Check this out for one example.)  Somehow, I feel like I’m doing both the building and my outfit due appreciation when I am able to pair a ‘me-made’ outfit with its time period counterpart place…and learn in the process.  Also, I guess I’m just venting appreciation for every historical gem of a building that gets saved, just the same as for every vintage fashion trend treasure that gets re-made, re-worn, loved and respected anew.

The Outfit of a Christmas Past

Some of my pre-blogging outfits are like ghosts peeking out to appall my current taste in clothes when they are seen from a less frequently visited garment rack or out of a storage bin.  Others, in good number, are still worn by me and occasionally trickle visually onto my blog.  These ones are the ultimate tried and true standbys in my closet, and although I have some reservations about them deserving to be on my blog, this site does feature things I made and if these garments have lasted me this long…hey I’ll give them their moment in the spotlight!

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Here’s a Christmas outfit I made for myself back in 2006.  I must say this is one I am still quite proud of – besides, it has good memories attached.  My aunt’s house was being featured in a Christmas neighborhood tour, and I was delighted when she chose me to be the guard/helper for the occasion.  Being one who sews, of course I used this event as the perfect reason to whip up a new outfit (the one in this post).  How could you get any fancier than two lovely tones of velvet?!  Also, too, I figured correctly that the velvet would keep me warm the week after for the midnight church service my parents and I attended that year.  Even with my coat on, you can still see the prettiest feature of my skirt sticking out from underneath since it’s so long.  Oh yes, I was doing some calculating with this outfit, and it might be a bit dated, but it’s still a winter winner!

My hat was bought to match my outfit, a Christmas gift that same year (2006) from my thoughtful dad.  It has a velvet ribbon around the base of the crown to continue the theme of my outfit.  My matching boots leather suede “Hotter” brand, a gift to myself a few Christmases back.

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THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The skirt is a 100% cotton velveteen, lined in cling-free polyester;  The top is a polyester stretch crushed panne velourB4230-knit bell sleeve-shawl collar-topbutterick-3654-year-2002-bias-flounce-hem-skirts

PATTERNS:  The skirt used Butterick #3654, view C, year 2002, while the top is from Butterick #4230, view B, year 2004 (whose bell sleeves went onto this 20’s tunic and this 1970 dress).

NOTIONS:  Just basic stuff from on hand was needed here – thread, elastic, bias tapes, and some spare ribbon.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Neither of these took very long to make, but I do not remember exactly anymore – I’m guessing about 5 or 6 hours for the outfit.

100_7051a-compTHE INSIDES:  Both top and skirt were made at my parents’ house so I took advantage of her serger (over lock machine) for all around cleanly finished edges.

The patterns for the top and skirt are great – easy, quick, fit right on, and turning out exactly as pictured.  There is a refreshing lack of both facings and closure notions.

My top was made without any changes or adjustments but now I wish I had lengthened the bottom hem a bit.  The bertha-style collar has the tendency to curl, but I believe that is 100_6986-compdue to the panne velour…it just loves to curl like holiday ribbon run over the edge of a scissor.  Bell bottom style sleeves prevent this top from being worn under a sweater, kind of a bummer because the poly panne is a lot thinner than the skirt and not as warm.  Besides, the panne has a nap that seems to go in every which way at once so it sticks like Velcro to whatever clothing is over it.  This is the only down side to this top, really.  Otherwise, I do love how this is a dressy top without being stiff or stuffy.  Mostly, I believe I choose this ivory panne because I love how the look of it reminds of the beauty of a cold frost spreading, crusting and settling over a window on a cold winter’s day – part of the reason we took our pictures in a snow shower!

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My velveteen skirt had several issues along the way to as you see it now.  When I was first making the skirt, I had miss-read the proportions and lengthened the skirt.  However, it didn’t need it so I ended up taking out the added inches by making a folded over band above the bottom bias flounce.  I think the skirt looks all the better with that band above the flounce.  A few years later, I finally got around to refashioning the waistband so it wasn’t an all-around elastic band-type.  There are two off-center darts down from the front of the waistband so the belly will be smooth, with the elastic going around the back and sides from front dart to front dart. Last year, I realized one of the front darts were crooked and longer than the other, so I adapted that.  The lining inside is free hanging attached at the waist of the skirt.  Its hem ends at just above the bottom flounce of the velvet skirt because when I walk the ruffle above my feet flips up in a rather curious but pretty way.  If the lining was lower than the flounce it would show when I walk.  This might appear a simple skirt, but it has seen its share of tweaking through the years I’ve worn it.

100_7000a-compThis outfit brings to my mind a topic I’ve wanted to bring up on my blog.  You see, when a garment is made by me, I make sure I both like it enough and that it fits me well enough that it gets worn for as long as it will last.   This includes any mending, repairs, fitting adjustments, and even includes the possibility of re-fashioning.  I crafted it for myself and spent the time and money on it, thus I feel no one else but me is better qualified or has more vested involvement to make sure a handmade garment gets loved and appreciated.  Granted some of my past makes are eye-sores to me now, way beyond any ideas of re-fashioning at the moment, and make me shake my head at what I was thinking.  At the same time, I will admit I do like keeping these currently unworn eye-sore garments because it helps me see how creative and individual I’ve been with my fashion all these years and (most especially) see how far I’ve come with my skills.

100_6984a-compAm I just a lone wolf doing this long-term interest in one’s own wardrobe?  This idealism is mostly associated with the war-time rationing efforts of the decade of the 1940s, but I do not see why it should be so ‘cubby-holed’.  Modern “fast-fashion” has no staying power – it comes and goes out of fad every few months, it is commonly made with extremely low quality, and is not made to your fit and taste like a sewn garment can be.  No wonder charity shops are overflowing with unwanted ‘stuff’.  Handmade garments have more lasting qualities, so why give up on them and get rid of them like any old “ready-to-wear”?  Even if you do have store bought garments, or even vintage pieces, you can still take care of them to keep them in fine order rather than letting a fallen hem or frozen zipper be forgotten by being donated away.  In my early 20s, experimenting with store bought clothes which did not fit me well was how I taught myself the ins-and-outs of tailoring.  Sure, clothes might be a cheap commodity nowadays, but it wasn’t always so.  If you have them, use those awesome sewing skills of yours to do more, given the time and gumption of course.  If you don’t sew, it never hurts to learn how to create with scissors, thread, paper and fabric.

What do you think?  Would you rather start anew with a project?  Working on something existing can drag one down.  Does the thought of fiddly repairing send chills down your spine?  Do you (like me) rather enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you invested in your wardrobe after a garment repair has been made?

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Belated Easter Sewing – Part Two of a 50’s Suit

This year’s Easter outfit from earlier this year’s spring left me with a lovely year 1954 reversible jacket and an exact one yard of lovely boucle suiting leftover.  Another dress I made this spring (yet to be posted) also left me with another one yard that seemed like it would match well with the suiting.  Humm…seemed like potential just waiting for the making.  I just couldn’t help myself but to continue the mix-and-match properties of the jacket and make a different look composed of separates from ’56 and ’58.  I’m so pleased to get further use out of my fabric leftovers on hand and give my jacket something else to match with.  The 50’s really can provide some effortlessly lovely pieces when you don’t have generous cuts of material!  I feel so put together in this!

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My jacket is was made earlier for my Easter suit (as I mentioned already) from a year 1954 Simplicity #4793.  Thus, if you think about it, my outfit in this post skips every other year through the middle of the 50’s.  I suppose this would be plausible for a lady of the 50’s to do something like this outfit, perhaps she might add to her wardrobe as the years went by with one more simple-to-make piece so as to keep up with the styles of the times.  I think it works well together – especially when I add a vintage headband-like netted hat, elbow length gloves, cat-eyed sunglasses, and my wonderful “Hunter” turquoise B.A.I.T. brand heels!

THE FACTS:

simplicity-1732-year-1956-teen-slim-skirts-front-coverFABRIC:  The boucle for the skirt (and jacket) is a rayon/acrylic blend; inside the skirt is a polyester cling-free lining leftover from on hand in my stash; the blouse is a cotton gabardine (leftover from another project yet to be posted).

NOTIONS:  I had all the bias tape, zippers, interfacing, and thread that was needed

dsc_0172a-comp-wPATTERNS:  McCall’s 4605, year 1958, view B, for the top; and Simplicity 1732, year 1956, view #3, for the skirt

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was a fast outfit to make – the skirt took me 6 hours and was completed on March 22, 2016 while the top took me maybe 4 hours and was finished sometime in April 2016.

THE INSIDES:  So nice!  The skirt is fully lined and hemmed with bias tape while the top is French seams with bias hems and edges.

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A classic pencil skirt is more or less about one yard of fabric very simply wrapped around and darted to make an awesome basic wardrobe staple every bit as suitable today.  With such a basic design, it’s all the little details that make pencils skirts stand out to me in the 50’s.  This skirt is no different even for being a “teenager” pattern.  Look at all the cute options on my Simplicity 1732 – you can bet you bottom penny that I intend to try that suspendered jumper option, as well as the asymmetric front pleated style.  My skirt version definitely has subtleties – two cute little pointed tabs out of the front waist darts and a triangular closure tab at the center back waist.  Aren’t they cute?!  At least I think so.  Sure they might emphasize the hips but this is the 50’s after all and the top I chose is meant to balance things out.

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My skirt’s tabs co-ordinate perfectly with the tabs on the top.  The tabs are small enough not to make my set too matchy-matchy.  The pattern originally called for one tab at the neckline and one above the hemline.  Since I planned on generally wearing the top tucked into bottoms, I switched things up and had the two tabs together at the neckline going opposite ways.  There’s more interest this way.  However, I suppose I sort of ruined what this pattern really is designated to be – a “Misses Overblouse” as the envelope back says.  The definition of an “overblouse” is “a blouse usually fitted or belted and worn untucked at the waist.”  Oh well, so much for that…the irony of the situation makes me shake my head at myself.  I suppose view C in blue on the far right of the pattern cover is fully an overblouse with its belted-look bottom, all buttoned down.  This just goes to show your sewing is whatever you choose to do with it.  Learn from it, be proud of it, and (most importantly) rock what you’ve made when you wear it!

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The large square neckline is of course the other main feature to this design.  It’s sort of hard for me to wear something this wide and it doesn’t always stay straight or necessarily lay flat on my smaller shoulders.  Nevertheless, it is flattering (so I feel), different, and classic of the 50’s to widen the shoulders and neckline… it also helps create a visual trick which slims down on the waist (always good).  This combo of my skinny skirt and square neck top looks similar some dress designs already out there – Butterick 5032, a reprint of a 1952 pattern, as well as Simplicity 2233, a pattern from 1957 or 1958.  Yet, there is something that still seems slightly 60’s about this to me, too, maybe it’s the cover hairstyles…oh yeah, well it is from ’58.

I must say the top, for being such a simple pattern, was really somewhat of a problem.  Getting the top fitting right was difficult. I kept taking the darts and the side seams in a little at a time again and again in between trying it on until I got tired of this.  The pattern was supposed to be my size and an overblouse is supposed to be fitted but I just couldn’t get this top to really contour to me as well as I would have liked.  Next time I make this (and I do want to try some of the other views soon) I will take out maybe and inch from the center front and back to bring to neckline and darts in more.dsc_0171a-comp

Complicating the simplicity of the making of this top was the pattern itself.  I’ve seen McCall’s patterns between late/mid-50’s until the mid-60’s have this “Easy Rule” feature on them and I do not like it.  There is so, so much type and explanations covering the entire pattern pieces making it hard to see what is going on.  If it is too hard to see the basic stuff like darts that are needed on a pattern what is the use?

There are just a few special touches and tweaks to the skirt I would like to mention.  I did change up the pattern just a bit when it came to the back slit.  Originally the back slit was supposed to be more like a box pleat opening, but I’ve done these before and besides the boucle seemed too thick for something like this to turn out successfully so I merely made a basic, fully opening slit.  I don’t mind showing a bit ‘o leg!  Extra pains were taken to hand sew a blind hem to the skirt…and this from one who cannot do hand stitching.  Luckily pencil skirts have short hem circumferences.  I needed to make a really wide hem – it turned out ankle length before finishing…way too long!  Finally, I enjoy the bright, rich green lining inside the skirt.  The pop of color makes me smile every time I put my skirt on.

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It never ceases to amaze me at what can be made from fabric cuts leftover.  At the same time one can only keep so much stuff on hand.  It’s hard to find the balance of time, ideas, storage space, and places to wear one’s projects.  I don’t really see any one yard patterns offered anymore…unless they’re vintage, especially between the 1930’s and 1970’s.  I think one yard cuts need to be advertised and better known to help us who hold onto our leftovers (and those who have a great fabric stash) go through our store without too much effort!  Even without extras on hand, buying one yard is generally a practical purchase whether the fabric is on the expensive or cheap side of the wallet.  Style doesn’t have to be short because of the amount of the fabric, especially with mix and match pieces.  Do you use one yard patterns, or not?  Do you also sew sets that match?

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A Hybrid 40’s Blouse and Denim Skirt

Interested?  Basically, using two mid 1940’s patterns, I drafted a mixed-breed WWII era blouse only to add some beautiful features to it and make it not 1940’s at all just so I can imitate Marvel’s Agent Carter.  My skirt is completely modern with timeless features which co-ordinate perfectly with current or 1940’s dressing styles.  I’m absolutely loving the versatility and comfort of my blouse and skirt!

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From a historical standpoint, you might say I had misdirected principles here…although I’m not too far off in accuracy.  However, being creative and having fun is to me one of the most important factors to sewing for myself or anyone else…enjoying yourself!  I also am one of Agent Peggy Carter’s biggest fans, and I am more than happy to rock what she wears, too.  So – here’s to enjoying my own style “a la Carter”!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC: The blouse: a thick and luxuriously soft 100% cotton.  It is a line of U.S.A. made “Country Classics” cottons available at JoAnn’s Fabrics.  The Skirt: a 100% cotton lightweight indigo wash denim…so nice it doesn’t really look like denim.DSC_0272-comp

NOTIONS:  None but thread and a little interfacing was needed for both projects and these notions were on hand, as well as a zipper, hook-and-eye, and vintage buttons from hubby’s Grandmother’s collection.

PATTERNS:  The blouse: a combo of Hollywood #1318, year 1944, and a McCall #5946, year 1945; The skirt: a year 2001 Butterick #3134

Butterick 3134 year 2001 coverMcCall 5946, year 1945, and Hollywood 1318, year 1944-compTIME TO COMPLETE:  The blouse was done quicker than the blink of an eye in one afternoon and evening of 5 hours on March 14, 2016.  The skirt was made in about 5 hours and finished on April 13, 2016.

THE INSIDES:  Nice!  All seams on both the skirt and blouse (except for the armhole/sleeve seam) are finished in French seams.

TOTAL COST:  On sale with an extra coupon, my blouse’s American fabric (being the only cost) was about $5.00 for one and a half yard.  My skirt’s denim cost about $10.

Happily, our new cable provider has given us the option of being able to record HD channels on TV, and we’ve taken advantage of this to have the whole “Agent Carter” season 2 recorded so we could watch it (and I could study the fashions) all we wanted.  After much pausing, playing, and rewinding, I figured out the details of my chosen-to-imitate blouse and skirt from Episode 2, “A View in the Dark”.

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First off, Peggy’s blouse is most definitely a much finer material than my own – it’s probably silk or at least a very fine rayon by having such a soft shine and lovely drape.  Secondly, her blouse has several rows of ruching or shirring across the upper shoulders, with a V-neck and three squared buttons which looked like shell.  The back of her blouse has an upper shoulder yoke with a lower bodice section with has about three or four pleats coming out from under the yoke.  The sleeves are puffed with a small box pleat at the center bottom hem.  The color my blouse and Peggy’s is pretty much exact – a soft aqua tinted baby blue.  Now her skirt looks like it has six-gores, with bias flared bottom and hip shaping.  The waist is high and arched in the front over the belly.  The material is nicely flowing…just lovely details in all, enough said.

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Now, as much as enjoy being in Peggy Carter’s shoes I still need to stay “me”.  Thus, I downgraded in materials from rayon or silks, which probably were the fabrics of the originals, to cottons and denim so my look-alike outfit is completely practical for my life.  Vintage styles are so good for offering luxury that is classy and put-together with the comfort of modern lazy-day clothes.

The blouse is a combo of two patterns which I previously made with great success (posts here and here) and they are one year apart (’44 and ’45) so I felt confident that this could not go wrong with this mash-up.  To start, I overlaid one pattern over/on top of the other so as to make my ownDSC_0088a-comp design from there.  I wanted the main body to me more or less like the Hollywood pattern in overall length and hip width, while the bodice of the McCall dress pattern was my guide for the V-neck and the shoulder gathers (shirring or ruching as it’s called).  The most challenging part was to try and define a set-in shoulder seam on the McCall pattern as the sleeves are a continuous part of the dress in the original design.  The sleeves for my “Agent Carter” blouse came from the Hollywood pattern as I knew they were loose and comfy.  Halfway down the shoulder seam of the back bodice, I drew a line for a shoulder yoke above the line and a detailed lower half.  For the lower back bodice, rather than cutting on the fold I made a center seam and added about 3 inches in a parallel block extending down the center back so I could do a box pleat.

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I’d say my blouse is a success.  There are lovely details in both the front and back, so any way you look at it, the blouse is pleasingly detailed.  The back box pleat gives me comfortable reach room and adds a masculine touch while the front has a complimentary V-neck and delicate shirring (8 rows of it) for a ladylike touch – a mix of both worlds…much like the life of Peggy Carter.  There is a similar blouse pattern from Burda Style, sans shirring and with a collar, for a lovely “as-is” option to making your own Peggy Carter blouse.

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Now, I am a bit confused though because her blouse that I imitated here is from a TV series Vogue S4223, early 40's -B1192 year 1941-compwhich supposedly takes place in 1947, but everything about this blouse is late 1930’s or early 40’s.  I have found images of patterns with box pleats in the back bodice but they were from the late 1930’s or very early 1940’s, and the same goes for opulent shirring except it started early on in the 30’s.  So my blouse is actually accurate, just a more or less mystery year as Peggy wore this in 1947 and I used ’44 and ’45 patterns to make a blouse for a period much earlier.  Oh well, it fits, it’s comfy, so versatile, and completely makes me happy!

DSC_0205-compMy skirt was super easy to make and is equally awesome as the blouse, I must say!  With the skirt being so simple, I spent the extra time to make fine finishing inside and to re-draft for some lovely generous pockets…a handy must!  Yes, the pockets were not a part of the original design, but were easy to add into the side front panels.  I simply drew in the pockets were I wanted them to go, added in the seam allowances, and cut the side front panels into three portions instead of one (an upper pocket panel, the pocket itself, and the lower skirt panel).  The pocket upper edges go at an upward angle toward the middle panel and are re-enforced with seam tape while in the stitching process to prevent any stretching.  I also added 2 inches the length of the pattern to get a skirt which has better total knee coverage (and make it more mid to late 40’s).Joan Bennet 1940's in pants with sweater and sunglasses

Originally wanted a closer fitting skirt with a flared bottom (like Peggy’s and like “Physics Girl’s” Simplicity 2451 skirt).  I was really considering using a Simplicity #4086 (out-of-print, year 2006) from my stash, but I wanted my skirt to actually sit at the waist and not the hip like the other patterns I was considering.  The pattern I used is also more classic and easy to move in with an A-line silhouette that changes to a fitted flare appearance as I move or as the wind blows.  Here is a link to my favorite version and best review for the skirt pattern, this is what really sold me on this out-of-print gem.  My inspiration for adding in the pockets, besides utility and practicality, came from a combo of the pattern “Physics girl” used and this picture of actress Joan Bennet.

DSC_0273a-compI went all out with my Agent Carter fandom and was wearing her “Red Velvet” lipstick from Beseme Cosmetics and “Cinnamon Sweet” nail color from OPI.  I can’t say enough good things about both products so I’ll just say they are wonderful.  OPI nail polish is deep color, with a great brush and long wearing.  Sometimes with a nice top coat I get a week out of my OPI colors and they self-heal with a touch-up over small chips.  The Beseme lipstick is thick and rich and also long lasting – the best ever!

Some factories from the old industrial district of our town, the Carondelet neighborhood, became the backdrop.  I was trying to re-create the feel of Peggy visiting the Isodyne Factory in the episode where she wears my inspiration outfit.  The blue factory is an authentic Post WWII building and the lovely sky was trying to match me in tone, too.  Even buildings meant for basic or industrial uses can have their own special rugged beauty in my eyes.  We had fun with this photo shoot so look for more of these Carter inspired pictures on my Flickr page soon.

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I hope this post inspires you to try that adventurous mash-up of patterns so you can wear that lovely inspiration outfit that strikes your fancy.  Every “franken-pattern” I do has some sort of frustration, disappointment, and confusion – but see what you can get when you don’t give up!  Put your own personal touch to it, enjoy the experience, and give it a go!  This is the best examples of one of the reasons for sewing – making a one-of-a-kind garment which is exactly what you wanted to wear.