Runway Relaxation

Only a fishing spot in the middle of a pond could provide such a relaxing method of modeling my casual dress on the “runway” of a boardwalk.  I just can’t help but think of songs like, “Under the Boardwalk” or “Sittin’ on the Docks of the Bay”.

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This dress does not have the best fit and is not one of my better projects (in my estimation), but I don’t care.  It’s still done well, and was a quick and fun sewing project that gives me an easy garment for lazy days and playtime.  No pressure, just pleasure – this is one project where I let my “hard-on-myself” standards go, and it really feels good.

THE FACTS:100_5406a-comp,w

FABRIC:  a lovely half rayon modal and half supima cotton blend knit. 

NOTIONS:  I already had the thread and interfacing needed, but, in lieu of buttons, I went and bought the things to add on snaps down the front placket.

PATTERN:  McCall’s 6747, year 2013

TIME TO COMPLETE:  I took a total of about 6 hours to make the dress and another two hours to install the snaps.  It was finished on June 13, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  left raw and loosely stitched together

TOTAL COST:  I didn’t care to wait to get the best price and risk losing my chance to buy the fabric.  Thus, for a total of 2 yards I spent about $12 to purchase this fabric from the now defunct Hancock Fabrics.  The snap installing pliers and necessary supplies were bought from Wal-mart for about $20, but it really free because I used a gift card to pay.

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Some words need to be said about the fabric.  A modal and cotton blend has great qualities, and is indeed lovely to wear because it has a fluid drape, like a rayon challis perhaps, but the added stability of it being a stable knit helps it keep its shape.  This particular content blend also feels so breathable, lightweight, and comfortable on the skin, that even in warmer weather, my striped placket dress still is cool to wear with its long maxi length and ¾ length sleeves.  (I also like to protect myself from the sun, too, and don’t mind covering up to do so…anything to avoid sunscreen – yuck.)  Then, in chilly weather, the fabric’s brushed feel makes it cozy, while the neutral tans and brown on the fabric work for spring and fall.

However, on the flip side to all the positives just mentioned to the fabric, but it is a bit stressful to sew.  It seems that the way the chains form into a tight knit together with the fine rayon and cotton makes for a delicate fabric which acquires holes and tears very easily.  From my experience, I notice that both 100% cotton knit and 100% rayon knit also have the tendency to be similarly delicate to sew, but combined together make for an unpredictable character under your machine needle.  I used a medium weight, knit fabrics needle for sewing my dress, and I do not think a professional might have used much else, but as it was, if the machine came down on a chain of the knit the wrong way…whoops!  Then, there’s a minutely small but still unwelcome hole.  This same thing happened, as I mentioned above, to the rayon knit of my yellow 1946 blouse and my cotton knit Doris Day 1947 blouse. Boo hoo.  Apparently, this is where a small amount of “Fray Check” liquid comes in handy if I can’t screw up my eyes for some incredibly tiny stitching.  I just can’t win ‘em all.

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I changed the layout of this pattern to accommodate the way the stripes of my fabric were laying and the fact I only had two yards.  Vertical stripes as wide as these cannot go horizontal and look good…and I wasn’t going to try and see otherwise.  Luckily my fabric was 60 inch wide and so my dress’s hem and top (shoulders and neck) were at selvedge and selvedge.  I was thrown off with the sizing of this dress being a non-number sizing, merely an extra-small, small, medium and so on.  I was in between so I went up to a small, but now I wish I would have went up another size all over, maybe more so for the sleeves.  I will have to remember this about the sizing since I want to try this pattern again for a top.  Nevertheless, I’m happy enough with how this dress turned out.  I’ve got other striped dresses and the stripes in this close fitting dress shows off body curves far more than a baggy frock would anyway.  I’ve got curves…why hide them?!

 

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This was my very first placket and I feel like I graded pretty well in my own report card.  However, the pattern’s instructions might have been better than to leave the raw edges exposed, but hey, with knits raw edges are o.k. anyway.  (My successive plackets sewn into woven fabrics all have enclosed seams.)  The placket pieces and the neckline facing were both cut out of one solid color stripe for some fun symmetry.

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Taking things to another innovative “first” for me – I did snaps!  Installing the snaps took maybe as much time as my total to make the dress itself, but since it was a quick project I wanted to spend some “extra something” to give it a special touch.  It was rather unnerving to actually go ahead and place the snaps in my good fabric of the dress because there’s no room for a major mess-up.

Not knowing where to start, I bought the only option available at the current sewing supply sources – a bench press style kit which had the pliers and a dozen lovely pearl-topped snaps.  I experimented on some scrap fabric with similar thickness as the dress’ placket and found that making snaps is hard and tricky!

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At first, we (meaning I had my hubby do the brunt of the squeezing of the press) found that not putting enough pressure into the snaps makes them not even hold together…but, we later found out (on my dress’ snaps, bummer) that too much pressure is also bad.  Squeezing the press too much smashes the snap backs to smithereens and mars the pretty pearl tops.  Apparently there is a fine line of how much pressure to apply for the perfect snaps.  A fabric store employee told me about another option – a method where you tap with a hammer twice on the snaps set in a base, more like eyelets…but I can’t do eyelets all that well on fabric (I’ve tried) so that might not work for me.  Oh well, I still like my snaps, think they will stay through wearing and washing, aaaand gives my dress a touch of ready-to-wear.  I’ve had compliments on this dress, and it’s always, “No way – you made that?!”  You bet.  This feels so darn good.

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My necklace is special to me.  Ever since my first visit as a pre-teen, I’ve loved the “Gem and Mineral” shows and exhibitions which go on in our town, where you can find out about the rocks and geology of our earth.  There I can just look and learn but also buy amazing, special, related items at reasonable prices, as they are coming from the vendors who make and/or source the gifts.  My all-time favorite gemstone is malachite, the first in my rock collection.  Finally, I recently bought myself a jewelry piece of it…the heart shaped pendant you see in my pictures.

100_5585-compWhat would a fishing pond be without duck bottoms!?  Aren’t they cute!  A family of ‘quackers’ were piddling around me during the photo shoot and the little ones kept dunking for a meal, entertaining me.  Hopefully the duck parents don’t mind me sharing a picture of their kids’ rears.  Nature can be so relaxing – helped out, too, by a carefree handmade dress to make one feel wonderful!

“Laundry Day” Dress

Have you ever had those days where you have errands to run and things to do but you want to be casual and comfy yet not completely dressed down?  No matter how nice it still appears, this is another much needed, throw-on, chore-time dress…yet it’s still vintage!

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Here’s a dress from 1948, something late in the 40’s and not yet 50’s, that now, re-made and sewn with modern fabric, becomes a frock for current times!  The lovely ribbon-like seersucker fabric of the dress is effortless to wear and take care of (it’s meant to be wrinkled, for goodness sakes), making this one of my wardrobe’s go-to, easy-wear pieces for those “laundry days”.  The cream, white, yellow, and green tones are a lovely combo that has a cool mental ‘feel’ for warm weather, yet pairs well with many cardigans and blazers in cooler temps for a multi-season garment.  What more could I want from a dress?!

Betty and Peg Braden - 1948, smaller picTo put the icing on the cake, this dress looks much like one worn by my Grandmother, as seen in her high school pictures.  She was 18 in 1948, and there are several pictures of both her and her sister from that year lounging around the high school campus with her books, both wearing matching, striped, button front dresses.  Her mother, and herself as well, were good at sewing whatever they needed, so I’m DressLikeYour Grandma Challenge 2017 badgecurious as to whether or not their two dresses were made by them.  My Grandmother’s dress, in particular, (on the left) has the most fun with stripe placement, most similar to my dress.  Her dress and mine even have the large, handy horizontally striped hip pockets, too!  This is a lovely knock-around-town dress, so I perfectly understand her style in these pictures now.  I guess it’s no wonder this dress is part of Tanya’s “Dress Like Your Grandma” sewing challenge.

THE FACTS:

McCall 7212, year 1948 day dress,pFABRIC:  a 100% polyester seersucker, with the bodice facing and pocket lining cut from a scrap of 100% cotton

PATTERN:  McCall #7212, year 1948

NOTIONS:  all that I needed to buy was a pack of buttons, but the bias tapes, thread and hook-and-eyes were already on hand

TIME TO COMPLETE:  not long – 7 hours.  It was finished on August 23, 2016

THE INSIDES:  Every edge is cleanly and easily finished off in yellow bias tape. (In this detail pic, you can also see my “fake” feature at the waist – there might be a button and a button hole on the outside, but there is really only a hook-and-eye inside to keep things stable.)

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TOTAL COST:  This fabric has been in my stash for as long as I can remember (it was in my parent’s fabric stash first).  Thus, I’m counting the fabric as free, so all that this dress cost was the pack of buttons…$2.00!

I actually hated what I saw of this dress as it was coming together.  It did fit perfectly in the size that it was, and it was mildly challenging yet easy enough to be fun.  It’s just that the dress ran so darn long…as in ‘evening length’ long.  I know that fashions from post-WWII were much longer, more mid-calf than the actual early 40’s shorter knee length of my dress.  However, this was the only length that I felt looked good on me and did well for the dress, too.  I’m not one to try to be so authentic to every detail at the cost of sacrificing my taste and my style and happiness with making a garment.  The shorter length also solves a few issues as well.  Yes, there is a deep 8 to 10 inch hem on my dress, and –no- I did not want to cut it off because it makes the poufy, lightweight fabric hang nicely and it also results in a completely no-see through skirt (which would have been a glaringly obvious problem otherwise).  Guess I was ‘taking down two birds with one stone’ as the saying goes!  After all, I did have four yards of this fabric so I might as well keep it on the dress rather than in my ever growing scrap pile…

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The hardest part about making this dress was deciding on the buttons – of all things.  It took me a week to figure that out.  I even ordered matching green buttons…which I didn’t use.  I looked through my substantial and varied button stash from Grandmothers on both sides of the family, and still nothing seemed to be ‘the one’.  This is when hubby came to the rescue.  He enjoys browsing through button collections and frequently has a good eye for my projects.  He said I needed to go with something not distracting from the rest of the dress, but extremely plain, basic, and mundane, so I picked out the cheapest bulk pack of what were labelled as “sweater buttons” at the fabric store.  I think he nailed it here.  Where I would be without his help sometimes, I don’t know.  (Don’t tell anyone that my man goes with me to the fabric store!)

Instead of choosing the high, choking, buttoned-up-to-the-top view, I chose the option that has the slot-type of neckline with buttons starting at the middle of the chest.  However, I still thought it looked a bit confining so I merely have both sides of the neckline flipped back as if they are lapels and only temporarily tacked into place.  Guess it’s a good thing after all that my cotton facing for the bodice matched with the dress so well!  I think the lapel neckline softens and lends more of a relaxed casual air to the dress (which I want) than the proper and perfect drawn cover version on the envelope.

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I sort of feel bad that I did kind of copy off of the cover by using a green striped fabric.  At the same time, I don’t feel guilty.  You see, after looking around at all the versions of this same sort of style of dress (and there are lots of them believe me, dating from about early 40’s to 1950s, at this Pinterest page of mine), I realized that many of them were in a green striped fabric of some sort.  As I figure it, I am going along with a late 1940s trend, not just copying the cover to give me a good reason to use up a long-time occupant in my fabric stash, ahem.  Besides, I did find ‘proof’ that this type of ribbon seersucker was around years back.  Granted they wouldn’t have had a fabric made from polyester in the 1940s, but look at this old original 30’s dress for sale at Emily’s Vintage Vision’s Etsy shop – doesn’t that type of fabric for the bodice seem so very similar to the fabric for my dress?

DSC_0257a-comp,wWe were happy to chance upon a vintage Laundromat in one of our shortcuts to get from one errand to the next.  Funny thing is, I found out that day this dress actually repels water and keeps me dry.  I suppose the tight polyester and rippled seersucker keeps the water rolling right off.  Later on, at a “Steak n’ Shake” for lunch that day, when my dress did get wet from my water glass, the fabric sort of “held” the water and kept my under layers dry.  This is one weird but awesome fabric – I haven’t had another material act like this.  Now, the only problem was making sure my natural fiber wedge espadrilles and braided cord belt didn’t get wet, too…

At the onset of this sewing project, I was aware that I have a similarly styled dress dated to the year before, 1947 (see it here).  It does have the same slashed neckline and pockets, but with the stripes and buttoned front, this post’s dress is different, after all.  This is a look alike to one my Grandma wore anyway, so that’s a big win.  Maybe this is just a trend of the post war that I like.  I know the large pockets are a big draw for me.  Do you have a certain style niche in the history of fashion that you especially love for one reason or another?  Do you too find yourself copying envelope cover images more often that not?

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Candy Stripe Blouse

dsc_0976-compwI don’t know about you, but we have plenty of candy leftover still from Christmas (and even a little from Halloween).  Among the candy, we had so many candy canes we actually were able to decorate the tree with them!  Now that the tree and Christmas are past and out of sight, we have to work on finishing those candy canes still around.  Well, how about instead taking care of some scraps of red and white candy striped fabric?  As one who’s not that crazy for sweets (I know, call me odd…), this ‘sewing option’ to finishing off some ‘candy’ is my kind of thing!

Hubby thinks of the hospital volunteer “Candy Stripers” when he sees this blouse.  I know the two share similar fun red and white stripe usage, but they technically wore pinafore-style jumpers and my garment is just a blouse.  Still, both a pinafore and my 1940 blouse are peasant themed, and a rather “cute” (yuck – hate that term) style which tends to make one seem younger than one’s actual age (I don’t need help there).  Both are from the same decade – my pattern dates to 1940 and Candy Stripers originated in 1944.

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However, my blouse has something extra to it that makes it uniquely special in its own way, apart from any history or style or whatever.  It is made from fabric given to me by my Grandmother.  This post is in memory of her, as she is now deceased as of this past weekend.  The fact that the fabric for my blouse was from her gave me some stress and self-inflicted pressure, at first.  I wanted to make the very best I could with what she gave me, but I realized when planning to make this blouse that she would want me to only enjoy and be creative with what she gave me, and nothing less.  I felt the fabric and the pattern were made for on another, so it must be the best re-use of her scraps – I am quite pleased with my blouse, and thankful for her always encouraging appreciation of my talents.  She was seamstress herself, as was her mother, too, so she had some awesome and useful sewing related items she was sweet enough to want to see what I would do with.  Grandma, this blouse is for you!

dsc_0974a-compwThe date of this design (as I mentioned above) is 1940 – thinking back, my Grandmother was 10 years old that year.  To make this blouse all the more poignantly related to Grandma, the family (myself included) suddenly realized, while looking at pictures of her long life over the weekend, how very similar her face and mine are to one another.  Goodness, we seemed to have more in common than I knew.  She was such a lovely woman, always with a kind word, a smile on her face, a thoughtful act, and a love of nature and of family, just to name a few qualities.  I just hope I can be more like her, not just in face, but in person, too.

THE FACTS:hollywood-1991-year-1940-envelope-front-compw

FABRIC:  a 100% cotton flannel scraps, from the stash given to me from my Grandmother; linings and facing are cotton broadcloth scraps from on hand in my stash

PATTERN:  Hollywood #1991, year 1940

NOTIONS:  The only notion I bought was the trio of front buttons; otherwise, everything else was from on hand – the thread, bias tape, and hook-and-eyes

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was relatively quick – 6 to 8 hours were spent to make this blouse and it was completed on February 4, 2016.

TOTAL COST:  Just the buttons were bought (modern & basic red half-ball type) , so only a few dollars in total

This was a fun, intriguing, yet challenging project all-in-one.  I had plenty of inspiration that I had found for late 30’s and early 40’s striped blouses (many of which can be found on this Pinterest board of mine) so it was just a matter of choosing a combo of directions 100_6728a-compwfor each section of my own blouse.  This part was quite the memory game, trying to remember which pattern piece was for which section of the blouse and trying to lay it out in the intended stripe placement, all the while remembering to match lines!  At first, it seemed I was quite limited as to what I could do because the fabric was a scrap piece, all cut up already in odd places.  But, some mind crunching and much switching around of pattern pieces (again, like a puzzle game) and I was able to get what I intended, with only the blouse bottom waistband being necessarily cobbled together from four individual parts to make a whole.  In all, this was another “close call” sort of project where you cut the pattern squeezed onto the fabric so much so that you barely have a few inch scraps leftover – so difficult but these kind make the most of every inch of fabric.

As was the case for other Hollywood patterns, this blouse again ran large.  I know it seems it is supposed to be quite poufy and generous by design anyway, but I accounted for it by slightly downgrading with bigger, more modern, seam allowances.  My only complaint to this top is that the button front neckline does not give me enough room for my head.  I am able to put the blouse on as you can see, but getting it on is like some sort of skin pulling, “second birth” experience (sorry ‘bout the mental picture) that leaves the tasks of fixing one’s hair and applying make-up to be something that comes after being dressed.100_6948-compw

The awesomely full and puffy 30’s style sleeves are my favorite part to this blouse, besides being proud of the matching I achieved in the arm pleats on the side (see right picture).  Also, this is the first Peter Pan collar that I really actually like on myself for some reason.  The controlled, even fullness of the bottom band is easy to wear – nothing to come un-tucked!  The flannel keeps me just warm enough on chilly days but the short sleeves prevent me from being overheated when being inside.  In all, this blouse is a great wear, so comfy with full movement, bold statement striping, and a vintage look that is a good kind of unusual.

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In order to avoid a side zipper being too stiff for the side closure, I buried my intolerance for hand stitching and sewed in snaps.  The snaps keep the bottom blouse poufing out like it should above the bottom band.  A strong waistband hook-and-eye holds the waist 100_6946-compwtogether.  Sometimes I tuck the waistband into my bottoms (as when I wore my 40’s style denim skirt) and sometimes I leave the blouse band out (as when I wore it with my 40’s jeans), and I can’t decide what I like better.  The blouse appears more like an Eisenhower-style jacket when untucked and closer to a blouse when tucked.  Either way, I guess I do need to find more than just navy and denim bottoms to match with my blouse, at some point.

This last mention is no big deal, but I wish I had thought about “setting” the colors before100_6949a-compw I washed the blouse fabric.  It was a crisp red and white originally with a generally smooth feel, but after washing the flannel its brushed finish fluffed out more than expected and the red leaked slightly into the white turning some stripes into a faded pink tone.  The color problem is not something obvious enough to really show in our pictures, however I wish I had thought of it beforehand and am keeping this lesson in mind for the next bold two-tone fabrics that have to make their way to the washer.  Any suggestions on how to do this “setting” of dyes that leach?  I have seen salt water soaks being recommended, but does anyone have first-hand tips to share?

I attempted to channel to quaint hairstyle on the cover of the pattern envelope with a simple ribbon headband.  In the one set of pictures I even tucked my hair up to have more of a late 1930’s look, then the other pictures have my hair left down long for more of the ‘40’s young lady’ look.  It was after the pictures for this post were taken that I saw these old photo booth shots of my Grandmother in 1940 when she was 10 (center) and some others as a teen in post WWII times.  In the 1940 pictures, she had her hair short and curled, wearing the same ribbon-headband-with-a-little-bow just like me, but the teen pictures are pretty alike, too!  These old photo booth pictures make me see similarities between us all to well…

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There are many ways to remember the past, but remembering it through fabric is kind of special.  You get to wear it, do creative things with it, and it can be seen in pictures for a long time after.  Admittedly, there is nothing that can beat a memory but clothing certainly can add to that recollection or bring it back.  This might not be the best garment I’ve made but the special background to it makes it pretty great to me.  Now that the time for stories coming directly from my Grandma is past (sadly), I’ll keep paying attention to my her pictures and maybe I’ll see a glimpse of what she made with the other part of the fabric I used to make the blouse in my post.

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My 1951 Tabard “Spider Dress”

What has eight stringy ‘legs’ and likes to come out when it’s warm?  Me in my 1951 pullover dress, that’s what!  If you were thinking of a spider, you’re right on, too, for this dress is like a secret spider in disguise.  Humorously coined by my attentive hubby for someone like me that is terrified of spiders, I consider this dress’ nickname quite oddly catchy.  With all the lovely colors in my dress, the exotic print, and black dashes, I tend to liken this dress to the large and special “golden silk orb-weavers”.  Look for me in my “spider” pose later on down below in the post and you’ll understand.

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My dress saw its debut at our church’s summer family picnic.  It was perfectly comfy for eating lots of food outside in the grass.  This also explains the bright painted daisy on my cheek!

This design is not exactly part of the pattern and was not originally intended but became a very pleasing way to “save” a fitting mistake I made.  I personally think my dress turned out better and is certainly more interesting the way I made it!  It’s “tabard” look is still authentic for the 50’s, though not as well known, so I’m glad to have a more unusual style.  Its easy fit makes it effortless and a go-to piece for the warmer months.  Plus, it is from a year that I hadn’t made anything from as of yet. Score in more ways than one!

THE FACTS:100_5209-comp

FABRIC:  100% cotton for the printed fashion fabric and a cotton/poly blend broadcloth for the black sides

NOTIONS:  Nothing but thread was needed here, and that’s an easy one to have on hand!

PATTERN:  Simplicity #3612, year 1951

THE INSIDES:  The original seams to the dress (the center back and center front and the shoulders) are in French seams.  The seams to the waist and the side panel inserts are covered in bias tape.

100_5345-compTIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress “as-is” according to the original pattern was done in a matter of 2 hours.  Then to change it and adapt it how you see it now, took me another 3 hours.  It was finished on June 3, 2015.

TOTAL COST:  This was a cheap one at only $1.25 a yard for just under 2 yards – a total of $2.50!  The black broadcloth was on hand in my stash so I’m counting that and the thread as free.

I started this dress on the wrong foot I guess, for it was one of those ‘sudden inspiration’, impulsive, ‘got-to-finish-it-now’ kind of projects.  This is not bad, but sometimes this situation makes me forget things that are important.  I saw the fabric, immediately knew 100_5324a-compwhat pattern would be right for it, and as soon as it was washed, the fabric was down under the tissue pieces ready to succumb to my scissors.  Add in an energy-filled 3 year old running around the house chasing our seriously freaked out dog (both of whom would not give me space) and I mistakenly doubled up on the amount I needed to take out of my chosen pattern.  Instead of 2 inches I took out 4 inches.  DUH!  I did think the waist seemed quite small, but I actually didn’t realize my total mistake until the dress was whipped up in the matter of one evening’s work of a few hours.  Yes, the pattern is incredibly easy, which duped me into thinking, “I can do this even with distractions…”  No, I can’t, apparently.  These oversights do happen, however, and I was not put down, surprisingly (I must have been in too good of a mood that night), determined to make the best of it.

My fabric had been bought as part of a clearance clean-out when my favorite fabric store was closing, so going back for more was out of the question.  However, looking at the dress, I realized that a whole dress out of the one fabric was too much, like a sensory overload of busyness.  Perhaps maybe my “mistake” was for the good of the dress, after all.  I knew I liked the way the center vertical seams matched and my inner seams were too nicely finished to unpick them anyway.  My best option was to add something in down the sides.

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Now, I didn’t want my dress to obviously look like I threw something into the sides, so I decided to go with making it go for a “tabard” look, where the front and back are like scapular flaps that hang from the shoulders with what should appear as an under-dress.  I went into length about the “tabard” style in this post and see Simplicity #4123 for some of my inspiration.  Among all the color tones in the print, solid black side panels were chosen in order to contrast with the ivory background and show off the side ties.  Ah, yes, the ties (two pairs on each side) are what makes me like a spider, makes my dress more obviously a tabard (even for a fake), as well as versatile for dressing.  A zipper just seemed complicated for this simple dress and fitting the side panels just looked weird – I tried it.  So, the side panels were just kept as slightly tapered rectangles with ties to pull in the dress and fit it to myself.  It’s great – I just pop on the dress and tie it as I like.  So many vintage dresses are like a circus trick to put on, and this one is a nice break.

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A few additional changes were made early on to the pattern.  In lieu of facing around the neck, I kept things simple and made my own bias tape from the printed cotton.  Also, I included one of the two inseam pockets.  Only one, yes, because I originally thought I was making the dress “as-is” with a zipper in the side, so to keep things simple but still practically utilitarian, I only made a pocket in the right side.  When I started to re-made the dress I briefly thought about adding in a second pocket, but I am right-handed anyway and don’t really carry that much with my pockets, so…nope!

100_5331a-comp1951 is rather too early for a French twist but the early 50’s did have elegant upswept hair-dos for longer hair, thus my hair is like a cross between both styles.  Starting with the top half of my hair, I tightly twisted it into a long rope then pulled it up towards the sky, and back down and under itself, pinning this down.  For the bottom half, my hair was divided out into about three sections which were also tightly twisted into ropes and spun into bun-like “bird’s nests”.  Even the front face portion was waved and then twisted, too.  This is just an experimental style but it seems to fit with my dress and it kept my neck cool in the heat!

Hubby made a passing joke about my being the nursery rhyme “Miss Muffet”, sitting outside in this dress attracting a spider to “sit down beside” me as I’m wearing an arachnid-inspired garment.  Ugh, luckily that didn’t happen.  Besides, I’m not crazy over cottage cheese, “curds and whey”…

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Here’s my spider pose!  Boo!  (I love how this picture shows the lines of the fabric mitering into the center waist.)  Now do you see my dress’ eight “legs”?

“Wilderness Stripes” – A 1944 Day Dress and a Hat Re-fashion

The varied colors of the forest are layered like a sedimentary rock in this year 1944 dress I made. Earth tones, leaf tones, and a basic white found on mushrooms or in the sky can be found on my casual and comfy vintage dress. For a complete outfit, there is even a special hat re-fashion I made to match…one with an open brim which now lets the sunlight in! Hint, hint, there is something also very forest related in plain view on my dress – look at my close-ups and if you’re not a pro at seek-and-find I’ll reveal it down later 😉

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This dress is such an effortless piece, more like a past make, my 1945 “Daily Life” dress.  Having a dress (and hat) that looks nice while making me relaxed enough to play in the outdoors (where I enjoy myself the most) is indispensable to one like me that adores vintage fashion.

The soft rayon is a dream to wear and the pockets are so fun and utilitarian. Style features on the pattern I used are rather unique to one made from “Hollywood” or “Du Barry” pattern brands. No classic ‘40’s blousy waist with gathered shoulders’ or ‘slim lean shape’ here – only tailored darts, unfussy seams, and basic simplicity (many other “Hollywood” and “Du Barry” patterns I see are princess-style fitted and traditional convertible collars). The Rayon print I chose is bright, and makes the most of my pattern and my sewing capabilities with its stripes.

100_6322-cut-compMy dress, hat re-fashion, and shoes are all late war, mid- 1940’s. It is also more of a youthful, almost “junior” look, especially with the hat (more down later). That youthful aura is ‘saved’ by the totally edgy and adult wedge sandals with studs. Footwear with platform soles, with studs, and in sandal form were a fashion forward trend in the 1940’s (see Lauren‘s blog post here for more) in some part brought on by rationing (see this ad here or this Time Life picture of alternative material shoes from 1943).  Although accurate, my shoes are new re-makes (“Cherub” by “White Mountain” brand – most comfy and soft and in real suede).

THE FACTS:

FABRIC: a 100% rayon challis for the dress; a 100% paper hat for my re-fashion, bought ready-to-wear100_6213a-comp

NOTIONS: The thread, bias tapes, and shoulder pads sewn into this dress were from on hand already. The side zipper was newly bought to match, and the buttons are a vintage find purchased a few months back. The hat’s ribbon was from my stash on hand

PATTERN: Du Barry #5840, year 1944. (DuBarry were a branch of Simplicity patterns, printed for about 15 years and sold only at Woolworth ‘five and dime’ stores, info from here.)

TIME TO COMPLETE: Total sewing time was probably 10 hours, but contemplating the layout before cutting must have taken 2 hours in itself. The dress was finished on October 1, 2015.

THE INSIDES: Inside is a combo of some French seams with mostly bias bound seams.

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TOTAL COST: Not counting the buttons (since they were bought a while back, and just to have on hand), my dress cost me a total of about $12 or less for about 2 ½ yards of clearance fabric, the bought notions, and hat.Aug. 21, 1943 ad for General Tire in the Saturday Evening Post

As neat as my dress turned out, I originally intended on the stripes in the fabric to go vertically up and down on my dress rather than how they are horizontally. It was an embarrassingly brainless mistake…I was so completely wrapped up in making sure the stripes all lined up and adding on the slight grading needed, I forgot to change the direction of the stripes. Duh! Oh well, I still totally like it, I’m just frustrated I didn’t see what was in my face. It’s hard for me to admit, but clueless moments do happen and at least I didn’t make a mistake that rendered my dress unwearable…finding those ”silver linings”, you know!  Now my dress’ stripes are more like the one seen in the 1943 General Tire ad at right.

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Making my first “Du Barry” pattern was a happy experience. The dress construction was super easy (yes, even though it’s an unprinted pattern) and I liked the instruction sheet. Nevertheless, I found the sizing to be very large, as in a whole size too large, at least. I had to bring in the side seams about 1 inch on each side and the dress is still generous on the top potion. The hem too was very long – I had to make a 6 inch hem to get my dress the length you see. A hem this large would never have been war-time ration acceptable, I know. As my first “Du Barry” creation, I can’t say anything definitively but I wonder if this is a tendency of this line of patterns. Does anyone else know…what do you think about “Du Barry” sizing?

Here’s another question – have you figured out the forest item which is on my dress? It’s100_6320a-comp my vintage buttons! They’re like giant acorns. The way they are grooved reminds me of the stripes in my dress. They also match with the era, as well as matching theme-wise. On a practical scale, there were three of these acorn buttons (just what I needed) and the only remotely matching color on hand. They are not really “working buttons”, as my dress is loose enough with such an open neck that I sewed down the front by merely stitching them down through all layers. Nevertheless, these acorn buttons are a special find, very pretty, and a nice statement piece.

I could not for the life of me decide what to do when it came to choosing what bias tape to use to enclose the raw edge of the neckline (as the instructions recommend doing). Do I want the possibility of the bulk and further stripe craziness with self-fabric bias taping? Maybe. Do I want a contrast? No, I didn’t want to highlight just one color from the print and limit the sweaters, belts, shoes and accessories which I could wear with it. Thus, in the end, I abandoned all of my ideas, stitching bias tape down and turned it under like facing. It sort of makes a blunt finished edge which I’m not sure if I like, but I didn’t decide what exactly to do. The neckline is nicely simple and dramatically open with a nice finish inside, so it good enough for me for now. There might be changes to the neckline in the future.100_6319-comp

Check out those pockets! Could something so useful be so neat? Yeah, only in the 1940’s. My dress’ skirt stripes are matched across under the pockets (quite hard to get right). Harder sewing techniques are only seen as a challenge to me, one which hopefully improves my skills and learning with each attempt.

100_4868-compMy hat was such an easy and cheap re-fashion. It was bought for one freaking cheap dollar anyway! Luckily it was actually paper to make it a bit more authentic, since straw imported from Italy ceased in 1940. Luckier still, the hat was assembled of woven strips stitched together so my refashion was simply a matter of unpicking thread from the crown to a certain point. The thread used for the stitching on the hat was thick cotton thread, and what I unpicked has been saved for use at a subsequent time.

100_6323-compBrowsing through the info and pictures on “Vintage Dancer” blog (page here), I decided I wanted a sort of cross between a “Roller Hat” and a “Bonnet Hat”, with an open crown. Once I unpicked the hat to make the new open-crown, I had several ideas of how to accessorize the hat but liked them all so I went non-committal and simply have the ribbon as you see it pinned into place inside. You’re probably thinking, “There she goes again with more indecision.” I figured it was a matter of which outfit I wanted it to go with or which “look” I wanted. The simplicity of the wrap-around ribbon style you see goes well with my bold, busy dress print. However, I also had planned on having the ribbon end pinned at the center front crown, then going across the top of my head to separate and tie in a bow at the back crown, but this only made me appear as a 1940’s school girl junior (cute, but not exactly what I wanted). I was also tempted to further the forest theme by adding on a corsage decoration of leaves and such to my hat, but no – I’ll make a floral corsage at some point, I think, but pair it with another outfit. There are so many styles and options with 40’s hats, I’m envisioning more effortless hat re-fashions such as this one for me to make in the future.100_6312-comp

There is a literal wilderness out there of ideas, inspiration, pictures, patterns, fabrics, and techniques when it comes to the realm of sewing. It can be hard to swim through it and find what fits for you and your particular project, like me trying to decide how exactly to refashion my hat or make my dress. Enjoying the process and just going for what seems best works for me…but it is intimidating that there is so much fun and creative things to do with so little time! What do you like to conquer in that ‘sewing wilderness’ – challenging techniques, tricky fabric prints, detailed designs, or novel ideas? I enjoy making anything, but specifically relish in sewing projects with a relaxed lived-in, easy comfort and fine details. What makes you happy to sew?