‘Gene Tierney’-esqe 1940’s Lumberjack Shirt and Trousers

It’s way too fun to let myself give in to my strong tendency to do pretty dresses.  With the weather turning chilly, I could use something different that isn’t quite so dressed up to keep me cozy.  So, now that I’ve been recently realizing the beauty of 1940s casual wear, through the inspiration of actresses Gene Tierney,  Ava Gardner, and Hayley Atwell (a.k.a. Agent Peggy Carter), I took two mid-40’s vintage original patterns from my stash to make my own downtime wear from the past.  There is something a bit timeless, tasteful, and special about a set of “down-time” clothes made in vintage style that modern ready-to-wear cannot have.  The 1940s can make wearing a man’s style look so ladylike!

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1946 is the magic year for my blouse.  Not only is it the year for the pattern of my blouse, but it is also the year of my inspiration.  Gene Tierney wears a lovely flannel shirt in her Noir movie “Leave Her to Heaven”.  Once I’d seen this movie, it has tendency to gene-tierney-leave-her-to-heaven-year-1946-see-classiq-me-style-in-filmcropuncomfortably stay in back of my mind and the fashions are equally memorable in a better way.  Luckily this movie was specially made in color (a rather special practice for the times) and I was so happy to find a plaid in a shockingly close color scheme.  Ava Gardner also wore a nice flannel blouse in her gritty part in another 1946 movie “The Killers”, as also did Paulette Goddard in the 1948 movie “Hazard”, though as both films are in black and white I don’t know the true colors.  You can visit my Pinterest page for “Ladies Lumberjack Blouses in the 1940’s” to see pictures of all movie inspiration mentioned for this blouse, as well as others, too.

peggy-and-sousa-promotional-imagecompBoth actresses Tierney and Atwell wore perfectly fitting bifurcated bottoms in colors, as did Marvel’s television heroine Peggy Carter.  They all put the “class” into “classic”.  Peggy wears such wonderful trousers during the exercising of her duties on the job, and although the inspiration garment came from her Season Two (year 1947), she is often stuck in the past.  Thus I feel using a pattern from an earlier date (1943) suits appropriately.  My spin on feminine menswear from the 40’s is completed with nail polish (Cover Girl XL nail gel in “rotund raspberry”), red lipstick (Cover Girl Continuous Color in “vintage wine”), my sole Bakelite bracelet, and a simple ponytail!

THE FACTS:mccall-6709-year-1946-ladies-lumberjack-shirt-compw

FABRIC:  BLOUSE – 100% cotton flannel, with cotton batiste scraps for lining the shoulder placket; PANTS – a mid-weight denim, 60% cotton, 36% polyester, and 4% stretch.

NOTIONS:  I relied on what was on hand and actually had everything I needed – the thread, interfacing, bias simplicity-4528-ca-year-1943-compwtape, zipper, waistband hooks, shoulder pads, and buttons (which came from hubby’s grandmother’s stash).   

PATTERNS:  McCall #6709, year 1946, for the shirt (view B belt looks like the modern Vogue #9222) and Simplicity #4528, year 1943 for the pants

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The pants took me about 5 hours in all from start (cutting) to finish, which was on March 4, 2016.  I spend maybe 30 or more hours to make the flannel shirt, and it was done on April 27, 2016.

THE INSIDES:  The denim of the pants was too thick to add more bulk with edge finishing, so they are left raw.  The shirt is nicely finished in either French seams or bias bindings.

TOTAL COST:  The denim was on clearance when the now defunct Hancock Fabrics was closing, so it cost maybe $6 for only 2 yards.  The flannel came from Wal-Mart and cost $7.50 for 2 ½ yards.  So my outfit cost less than $15 – good deal, huh?!

The shirt was a bit of a time consuming trouble to do all the details while the pants were so easy and quick.  Both the patterns fit me right out of the envelope no changes and no real fitting needed…it’s so nice when that happens!  A decent number of the 40’s patterns run small for me so I went up in size for the trousers to have a good comfy fit, especially as I was planning on tucking my thick flannel shirt in the waist.  Lumberjack shirts are often roomy, so I actually went smaller by finding a pattern in my exact sizing and making wider seam allowances.  Both steps were good ideas though the pants are a tad baggy when worn with lighter weight blouses.

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My flannel blouse served as an experimental piece on which to attempt two techniques for the first time before doing them on some upcoming projects.  As the back has a separate shoulder placket, and I did not have enough fabric to do something special (like mitering the plaid into V), I made my very own corded piping using self-fabric to make sure that dsc_0236a-compwseam has a special touch.  Making my own piping was not hard – it was fun actually!  All it took was a little extra time but is so worth it in the finished appearance.  I even cut the strip of fabric for the piping on the bias for more contrast.  See – the plaid is cross-grain.  Also, I found out how to do sleeve openings with a pointed over-and-underlapped placket.  They turned out great, but now I know what to do better next time.  Making these plackets became challenging with the flannel becoming so thick with multiple layers in one small spot, and they were barely all my machine could handle to sew.  I really do love the look of this kind of placket – so professional and finished looking, and special, too, as it was also cut on the cross-grain!  I can’t wait to try out these two techniques again.

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Most of the other skills that were needed to make my flannel blouse had already been done for my hubby’s 1943 flannel shirt as well as my “Saddle and Lace” Western-style tunic. This shirt has the collar stand all-in-one with the collar (like the tunic), a favorite feature of mine.  This makes for a smooth and unfussy neckline besides making it a bit less extra seaming to make.  My hem is arched into the side seams, shirt-tail style, though it is lacking a small patch at the inner arch, like what hubby’s shirt has.  On my shirt, the patch pocket (yes, just one) with the flap closure was every bit as stressfully detailed to match as last time I made them on my hubby’s shirt.  Just because I’ve done some techniques before doesn’t mean I like doing all of them any better for sewing them again 😉

dsc_0423-compcombowThe buttons on my shirt are vintage, as I said they come from the stash given to us of hubby’s Grandmother, but what era I’m not sure.  These buttons came in the number I needed, but they are also tiny and feminine, which is exactly what I wanted for the shirt, although they do kind of make it hard to button through the thick flannel.  The buttons had been coated with an imitation pearl stuff, but as most of it was coming off anyway, I used a pocket knife to take all of the coating off to have the buttons be a creamy white as you see them.  They are all kind bumpy on top with three small hills on each.  Does anyone have any idea what era these are from?

The shoulders are a bit droopy and I think they are meant to be like that but I did try todsc_0430a-compw prevent an extreme case.  I sewed the top shoulder seam in a ¾ inch seam allowance but as the sleeve was still over-long for my arm, I also made the cuffs in half the width they were meant to be.  Thin cuffs do look a bit different but I think this is a good save versus having the sleeves end up looking way too big for me.  I also added thick ½ inch shoulder pads inside the shirt to further structure the blouse’s silhouette, because the droopy sleeves fit better with them and also…this is the 1940’s after all!  Out of everything else on the shirt, it’s the shoulder pads that make me feel like this shirt is more like some sort of loose, unlined jacket.  I find it so funny how ginormous thick shoulder pads fit in so well with 1940’s fashion, they actually look good, and fit in to the garment’s style so well.  You’d never have guessed huge shoulder pads were in there, would you?

My trousers are so freaking awesome, I can’t praise true 1940’s high-waisted pants enough.  My last attempts were done using reprints of old patterns from Simplicity, and although they turned out decently enough, they seem modern and pale in comparison to the real vintage thing.  The reprints (especially Simplicity 3688) don’t have a proper vintage high waist, good crouch depth, and proper hip room that this old trousers pattern has to it.  The envelope back calls the set “pajamas” but I technically think that this set of tunic blouse and trousers is actually like a house outfit, probably worn as an option to the house dress.  Regular ‘blouse and slacks’ vintage original patterns for women seem to sell for more than I can reasonably spend, so this pattern is my affordable substitute.  The design is probably a bit more simplistic than an-outside-the-house pair of slacks, but they fit me better than I could have ever hoped for so that’s reason enough for them to deserve to be worn to be seen!

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The only small thing I did change was to transform a full dart out of the pattern’s prescribed knife pleat.  Just to be on the safe side, I added about 2 inches to the hem of the pants, but as they turned out, I didn’t need that extra length, so they have a very wide hem – no so 1943 at all when excess fabric like this would have been a waste not allowed by the war rations.  Next pair (yes, I am definitely making another) will not have the added length and wide hem – the pattern is just fine for me the way it is.  I have found a body match in this 1943 pants pattern.dsc_0306-compw

My trousers have seen so much use since I finished them, but here’s a different perspective yet.  I think they looked best the way I styled them to wear to our town annual WWII re-enactment weekend several months back.  I wore my white scalloped front blouse with the trousers, a leather belt which matched my studded wedge leather sandals, pearls, clip-on earrings, and a netted snood I my hair.  A re-enactor told me he thought I looked like I was dressed up like I was a French civilian.  My hubby can be seen in his recent lucky find of a never worn, Eisenhower-style, military suit set (just need to hem his pants…).  These service suits were being worn on limited personnel in 1943, but became standard issue after November 1944, so he and I are not too far off in time frame.  If I am re-enacting a French civilian, maybe I can play the part of the bride that he met while serving the European front of the war.

Do you, too, have some “inspiration icons”?  Do you sew your own casual wear, weather vintage or modern?  Have you, like me, happened to find a magic pattern that seems as if it was meant for your body?

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!  Here’s to best wishes for good eats, good times, and good memories!

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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.