“Retro Forward” Burda Style – ‘The Starry Night in the Day’ 1957 Casual Set

Picture a breathtaking scene of a pastel colored, dramatic sunrise, eclipsing a lovely clear night sky setting of stellar sparkling in lieu of the light of day.  Such a sight is sadly not to be seen most mornings.  I see such a sight sometimes in our winter season if I suffer through the misery of waking up extra early and bundling up to brave the elements.  Now, I can at least wear a vintage-inspired set that calls such a display to mind for me!  To me, it has all the elements of one of my favorite paintings…”The Starry Night”, painted by Vincent Van Gogh in 1889.  With a richly cobalt textured “sky” behind me, and colorful, swirling bursts of movement above a creamy pastel palate below, this Burda outfit is a means for me to wear art in my everyday life.  Sewing can be an art form in itself, anyway.

My first, real, riveting fascination with this piece from Van Gogh was through “The Christmas Wish” episode of the infant videos, “Baby Einstein”.  When our son was one year old in 2013, we were given a handful of “Baby Einstein” DVD’s, and he would be just as relaxed and mesmerized as I was watching them.  They would show details of “The Starry Night” by Van Gogh along to the music of “Für Elise” by Ludwig van Beethoven.  This combo of picture and music has henceforth been intertwined in my mind, which associates both with something lovely which puts me in a happy place.  This is partly why it seems so very fitting for me to take an old maternity tunic, and turn it into something which completes this artwork inspired outfit.  My second and strongly passionate reason for saving my old maternity tunic is also the fact it is an old “Made in the U.S.A” garment, besides the wonderful feel and print of the fabric.

Just as Van Gogh conveyed the sky abstractedly in his own personal way, I too probably see the world of clothing differently (I’m sure) than others.  In my opinion this is due in no small part to my ability to sew and my studyies on history.  In a sea of grey, black, browns, and whatever colors are popular with the dye lots for RTW any given year, I enjoy choosing a variety of colors.  The world around us is full of color and beauty, and we all have our own individual beauty and personalities, so why not give that awesomeness it’s just manifestation through what we are wearing?!  I wanted new skinny pants that were not another dark color – and how could such a lovely color not make me happy (especially with matching footwear)!  The shop that my pants’ twill came from as a stunning variety of incredible colors, so why not pick some out for yourself and make something special that’s all “you”, like I did here!   

Funny thing is, it seems as if the Versace line and I were of the same mind (though I made mine first)!  Check out how scarily similar this outfit is from their Spring/Summer 2018 ready-to-wear collection!  Look – it’s the same high-waisted, figure-hugging styled bottoms, in the same orchid-toned purplish pink…with matching shoes, too!  In honor of the 20th anniversary since Versace’s murder, his sister has brought back a style for next year that commemorates both the styles of the 90’s and influential celebrities who were his friends.

However alike, my trousers are actually sewn using a true vintage 1957 release from Burda Style, while my top is only very vintage inspired.  (I do see a slight 50’s air in a number of Versace’s items.)  I’d like to think vintage offerings that come from modern patterns definitely help past eras transcend time to meld perfectly into contemporary wearing.  Burda Style especially does a good job at “updating” the image of vintage re-leases!  Designers’ rehashing the details and trends from the past also creates a whole new appeal, too, whether people recognize it or not.  What goes around comes around is certainly true in fashion.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:   Pants: 100% cotton twill, in 7 oz. weight with a brushed finish on the ‘right’ side, bought from “ebpfabric” on Ebay (here is the listing); Top: a 63% polyester, 32% rayon, 5% spandex jersey knit refashioned from an old maternity tunic of mine.  Some polyester jersey knit scraps leftover from this last Burda make went towards the facing for the neckline

PATTERNS:  Burda Style’s “High Waisted Trousers” #129, from April 2015 with Burda Style’s “Princess Seam Boatneck Top” #104, from February 2014

NOTIONS:  I needed to buy the zipper for the pants, but otherwise the elastic, thread, bias tape, and small finishing notions were all on hand for everything else.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The pants took over 20 hours – I stopped counting after that amount!  They were finished on May 31, 2017.  The top took maybe 3 hours to make after maybe 3 hours of decision making about how and where to cut it out!  It was sewn in one afternoon, on June 13, 2017.

THE INSIDES:  Pretty nice!  The pants have every seam edge individually covered in bias tape, while the blouse’s insides still have some of the original serging (overlocking), but the rest are merely double stitched over.

TOTAL COST:  I am counting the top as free because it originally came from a thrift shop, probably for a few dollars, almost 6 years back now.  The pants cost me just under $15 for both material and zipper.  That total is probably just as much as I would pay for the cheapest pair of RTW skinny jeans, so I’m counting that price as an awesome deal for the fit, quality, and fulfillment of personal taste that has went into my pair.

I will say first off before any nitty gritty construction details that I absolutely LOVE both of these pieces.  These two projects might be the most versatile and my favorite Burda Style makes in a while.  The fabrics are first rate quality, and the designs of the patterns something not too readily found in RTW.  That said, they were challenging to make.  The top tested my mind trying to fit in the pattern pieces on the existing garment, while the pants were horribly drafted (for me at least), requiring some pretty tiring fitting.

Now, as for any Burda Style pattern, printing and/or tracing is necessary to have a usable pattern to lay on your desired fabric.  My pattern was traced from the downloaded and assembled PDF bought at the online store but if you have a magazine issue, use a roll of medical paper to trace your pieces from the insert sheet.  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size and add in your choice of seam allowance width.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped.  Sorry to repeat something you might already know, but this is just an “FYI” for those that don’t.

I’ll start with the bottoms.  I must say they do run short.  I cut them the given length of the pattern, and I really didn’t have any room for a hem besides a slight bias fold in for them to come to my ankles.  This was the perfect length, but I wouldn’t have liked it any shorter.  I’m about 5 foot 3 inches height so anyone taller than that, figure in to make the hem longer.

As I wanted a perfect body fit and ultimate practicality for the pants, I simplified the design just to the bare bones.  A summary of my changes are no in-seam side pockets, no ankle zippers, no fancy waist facing, and a zipper right where I can see it…in front.  For my next pair of pants from this pattern, I think I will draft a conventional zipper fly, but for this first pink pair they have an invisible zipper up the front to make them easy (versus up the center back as the pattern suggests – how awkward).  To support the top of that zipper, inside at the top there is a small strip of cotton velvet ribbon (for softness!) to act like a tab placket, with a waistband hook-and-eye to close the waist.  The waistband itself was made by stretching a strip of ¾ inch elastic down to the top edge, then folding it in twice and stitching that down for a wonderful body hugging, but stretchably comfortable and smooth-waisted option.

Go ahead and call me “granny pants” because these are wayyyy high up on my torso!  I like them that way.  Come on, ladies, honestly – I’ve heard the truth from many women I’ve talked to in in town who’ve told me they like my pants.  Nobody really likes to spend their entire day picking up their drawers every time they move or bend!  I know I don’t like the feel that my clothes are falling off of me.  With high-waisted pants, there is no awkward bulge in the wrong place (muffin-top, anyone?) just smooth waist and hip complimenting.

Hips are an excellent pivot point in women’s garment design and the decade of the 1950’s used that point to perfection – that wide spot we all love to hate comes in handy when you think of it as an anchor point.  A garment with a central mainstay above hips will stay in place…on ‘em, style has more of ‘sliding’ effect without the right styling.  Now granted, if you want something that sits at the hip, that’s fine too.  I wore everything at my hips as a teenager and still wear hip-hugging pajama bottoms.  I just think store offered RTW generally doesn’t offer much that will be most complimentary to an individual figure when it comes to a variety of pants’ fit, at least not like something made for oneself.  Only you know your body the best, and embrace that in whatever you feel makes you the best.  I like to go with my hourglass shape, and let my hips and high true-waist anchor my pants on my body, whatever the negative connotation for this fashion.

Keep in mind the fabric I used for my pants are non-stretchy – the twill material has little to no give like a knit might.  A really good, sturdy, quality twill that feels and performs like a denim that will hold its shape is what I wanted and used – especially since a material like this is impossible to come by in any in town store.  A non-stretchy woven is what the pattern called for anyway.  I can definitely see this pants pattern being much easier to make in a knit and turning out fabulously, so there’s a lot of versatility here.

The real secret to my fitting technique was to sew the center front (with the zipper) and the center back seams, then turn the pants inside out and have the side seams and inner leg seams pinned to fit around me.  This was a bit more challenging than it had to be because I was working on it by myself, but I really think this is the easiest, quickest, least painful way to get a body fit.  It would definitely be even easier with someone else’s assistance.  Once a good fit is pinned into place I marked the seam lines on both sides with water soluble disappearing ink pen, following that line for my stitching and washing it away afterwards.

As my fabric has no stretchy ‘forgiveness’, just to be on the safe side in the unforeseen chance that my body changes and I need to refit these trousers, I left a wide seam allowance…not a whole lot, but 5/8 to ¾ inches along the sides and inseam.  The thick denim would feel and fit a tad better I believe without the wide seam allowances, but having the possibility to keep what I made (and love as a wardrobe staple) for the long-term is something more important to me.

Speaking of items that endure from one’s wardrobe, I’ll move on to the top re-fashion.  My first step was to cut off the elastic empire waist for the tunic.  The body of the tunic became the bodice for my new top while the bust and sleeve sections managed to also be the new top’s sleeves.  Only because of the skinny princess seamed panels was this able to be fit in on what I had.  I did have to shorten the length of the hemline by two inches, but luckily that was the only way I had to “give in” and make a change for this re-fashion to work.  I like a shortened length anyway!  Too much fabric in the body might distract from the lovely off-shoulder sleeves.

The sleeves are really made of interesting pattern pieces of small rectangles curved dramatically on one side…and it turns out just wonderful!  I can completely adjust where I want the sleeves to sit on me for a slight change of look – I can pull them completely off the shoulder, or pull ‘em up like “normal” sleeves, but where they naturally sit on me is right over the angle where my shoulder ends and my arm begins.  Now, the back neckline did turn out a tad generous and it sometimes looks like a draped neck, but I’m okay with that.  The one major caveat is that strapless lingerie or a bandeau bra is needed with this style.

Both of these pieces can be similarly found in vintage patterns and some vintage reproduction garments, which why this is included as part of my ongoing “Retro Forward with Burda Style” post series.  The pants are already vintage from 1957, I know, but I’ve seen several patterns that remind me of their same style (see McCall’s #9221 from 1952 and McCall’s 4024 from 1957) so I just had to share!  In fact here is an interesting article to read, making me think that my pink trousers are technically “cigarette pants” or “stovepipe pants”.  The blouse seems to be a recurring style in the decade of the 50’s except they seem to call it, “a scoop neck, with cap sleeves set into armholes”.  See Vogue 8100 from year 1953, Vogue 9643 year 1958, an unidentified 50’s playsuit pattern, and “Unique Vintage” company’s 1950’s Marilyn top in either plus size or misses size for a few examples.

Ever since the most recent total solar eclipse several months ago (we were in the path of totality), I can actually look at this set’s inspiration in a whole new ‘light’!  That afternoon for us was truly a starry night in the daytime!  On a factual level, did you know Van Gogh actually painted “The Starry Night” from mental picture, as it was done during the day?  So my title is right on!  Do you have any artwork related creations!

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Going Rockabilly in a Pair of Simple Denim Cut-Offs

After last week’s first episode of the television series “Sun Records”, I’m totally in the mood for the 50’s, especially the rockabilly style (what I see as combination of both early rock and roll crowd and the spirit of a rebellious but fun loving teenager).  Enjoy this while it’s here because you won’t see much rockabilly here on my blog.  Thus, here’s a quick post on some easy denim pants sewed using a popular Butterick ‘Gertie’ pattern.  This post of these jeans is my monthly submission to the March 2017 “Wardrobe Builder Project” at “Petite Passions”.

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Kind of like flappers and fringe of the 20’s, I personally don’t regard the Rockabilly branch of the 50’s as a mainstream part of the decade’s fashion although it has taken over much of modern “vintage” culture.  From what I have read, the rebels, pin-ups and the tough crew have had far more attention due to Hollywood, the ‘shocking’ factor of what they were showing off, and modern perceptions than the position they really held in everyday dressing of the 1950s.  However, it is an important, if small, niche in fashion that boldly shows how culture, music, and clothing styles go hand in hand throughout history.  To read more, visit this page at The Vintage Fashion Guild.

My pants are worn with a store bought tank and a thrift store belt and shoes.  A lovely ruffled authentic vintage 50’s blouse (given to me from a friend) completes my rockabilly look with its red plaid.  The flat heeled shoes mellow the outfit a bit, hopefully, but I did like sporting a bold pompadour roll with a ponytail!

THE FACTS:butterick-5895-cover

FABRIC:  100% cotton lightweight chambray denim

PATTERN:  Butterick #5895, a ‘Gertie” pattern from 2013

NOTIONS:  I bought the bias tape as I generally do not sew with red and therefore do not have much in my stash except for a few vintage packs.  The zipper, interfacing, and thread needed were on hand already.  

TIME TO COMPLETE:  If I hadn’t needed to do unpicking these jeans would have practically made themselves up!  These were made in about 5 hours on May 13, 2016.

dsc_0132a-compwTHE INSIDES:  So fun!!!  Every raw edge is individually bound in skinny bright red bias tape. 

TOTAL COST:  Under $10

These denims are simple because they are like a bare bones version of real jeans – closer to plain pants really.  No bootie cheek pockets, rivets, and contrast stitching here, my dear readers…and I like mine this way.  This makes them ultra-versatile enough to work with anything under the sun from modern to vintage of many eras (speaking of which I did wear them a layer under my 70’s shirt dress).  In the summer these are my favorite bottoms to my 50’s bra top.  Of course, this pattern is wide open ready for personalization, such as adding on one’s own pockets and details or even sewing this in a stretch rather than a woven!  I love the possibilities of this pattern and will definitely be using again…maybe with a fun colored denim next time for a really modern look!

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As basic as they are in style, they were just as quick to sew.  However, the real shocker to this pattern was the excellent fit.  This Gertie pattern is the first modern pattern for pants/trousers that I have found to have a truly vintage type of fit.  I didn’t do one single fit adjustment (besides my normal grading up for the hips) and they’re like they were made for me.  I found true-to-life bootie room, and a comfortable inseam, as well a good room for my power thighs.  This doesn’t hide the body, but fits the body in true rockabilly spirit where the women showed off their shape through a skimming fit (think of wiggle dresses) and peek-a-boo features of their clothes (like the tie off crop top included in the Gertie pants pattern).  I think Gertie’s pattern has the perfect balance of close fit combined with enough ease to be comfortable.

The high waist is much appreciated here but for some reason my waistband has the aggravating tendency to roll and wrinkle.  I used a stiffer interfacing but the waistband continually needs straightening out unless I’m wearing a belt.  And yet, a belt doesn’t work too well on its own because I don’t have carrier straps to keep it in place…at least not yet.

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As much as I love the pockets I do find a weird pull at the side seam corners of them.  The pants have such a snug fit I can’t really put anything bulky inside the pockets either, but there is enough room for a to-do list or a handkerchief.  Some of the weird pulling could be because of the zipper in the side seam.

The pattern originally called for (of all things) a zipper down the center back bootie seam.  I have seen this in a few vintage pants patterns, and I did put it in that way at first but found it just too weird, odd, and embarrassing.  This is why I buckled down to unpick (something I hate doing) so I could sew the zipper in the left side instead, like conventional pants.

dsc_0050a-compwWithout being rolled up higher, the original length of the pants’ hem is ankle skimming on me.  I like the cuffs better mostly because it shows off my fun bias binding and is more rockabilly, anyway.

Now, where’s my opportunity for a motorcycle ride?!  Can I ride with a young Elvis please?  Maybe, I’ll just have to settle with some good listening of some 50’s Memphis blues music or old time Patsy Kline country classics – always great, anytime.

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‘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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Men’s 1971 Skinny Stretch Jean Pants

Some decades of the 20th century have been more accommodating than others when it comes to skinny or not-so-skinny guys who want their clothes to fit closely. The decade of the 1970’s was one of those eras where clothes fitted more like a second skin, or at least showed off the shape of the body, for both men and women alike. Think of some of the stereotypical popular fads of the times – super short “short shorts” and “hot pants”, knitwear, and chest baring tunics. What I will feature here, is also popular in the 70’s but unfortunately not as well-known as bell bottoms – men’s skinny pants in the straight “broomstick” style.

100_5874-compMy hubby was in need of new jeans, and, being a seamstress, I understood this as an opportunity to take on a challenging project. Using an old Kwik-Sew pattern and some stretch denim, here is the happy success of my effort to fit my “thin man” with some pants that fit him better than anything a store can offer. These pants are full of “first times” for my sewing experience, but hubby is very happy with them and I do not feel like I could have done better.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  A brown stretch denim, with a nice medium weight, smooth feel, and slight white “pebble” appearance from the weave underneath when you look at it closely. The fiber content is 60% cotton, 36% polyester, and 4% stretch. The inside bottom half of the pockets is made from a cotton/polyester broadcloth, in a dark brown color, which came from my stash on hand.

NOTIONS:  I used white thread to make a fashionable contrast, and I always make sure to have plenty of white thread on hand. I also used interfacing and a sliding “waistband style” hook-and-eye from on hand, too. The only notion I did buy was the metal “jean zipper” for the front fly.100_5726-comp

PATTERN:  Kwik-Sew #322, year 1971

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The jeans didn’t take me as long as I expected – a total of about 18 t0 20 hours. They were completed on July 16, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  Left raw but evened up and stitched together cleanly. I didn’t want to overwhelm my machine with thick seams or my skills with too many new skills by doing lapped seams, like I would have liked. Each seam is double stitched, with the crouch seams triple stitched next to one another for stability.

TOTAL COST:  The fabric was bought from Hancock fabrics, and cost (on clearance) about $7 in total for the 2 yards needed. The zipper cost an added $2.

From looking at 1970’s catalog advertisements and patterns, I see that the “broomstick” skinny straight leg style seems to keep to earlier in the decade (the ads I see are primarily from 1971). According to the blog “DressThatMan” they were a product of the Glen Oaks Company from New York City and ran quite expensive figuring prices with inflation calculator – about $140 in today’s money. The pattern used for hubby’s pants is not truly a “broomstick pants”, but they keep with the style. Broomsticks, like the Kwik-Sew pants, had a slightly higher waist than most pants from the 1970’s, and this is what my hubby is looking for in fit…no droopy drawer’s teen fashion here please! Broomstick pants were advertisement from 1971 for Broomsticks Men's Slacks. Broomsticks Slacks were a product of Glen Oaks in New York Citystretchy, again like hubby’s new pants, except for the fact that his are from a stretch denim, and the Broomsticks were almost always a polyester thick ponte-style knit. Bell bottom trousers usually swept the floor as they were meant to be worn with platform shoes, but the broomstick pants were higher hemmed, meant to be worn with flat dress or casual shoes for “the cool stud who wants to look experienced”…as I sum it up looking at the attitude of the old Broomstick ad models. I’m assuming my hubby doesn’t necessarily want to fill in “the cool stud” summary, but he does want some pants with a normal hem.

So many of the ads for Broomsticks terribly (and awkwardly) portray their product in a very obvious “girl magnet” or “sex appeal” direction (see this page for more 70’s bad adverts). I suppose direction of selling line is on account of the close-fitting knit, but I really wonder, as these pants aren’t heard of much, if their method of advertising failed the Glen Oaks Company before it started (like I could have told them). It’s a shame. The 1970’s could have actually had a fairly normal trend with the Broomstick pants, because after all, did bell bottoms actually look good on anyone?!

1971 Men's Fashion Ad, Montgomery Ward, Knit Slacks&Hubby's pictureI love how hubby’s Kwik-Sew jean pants have subtle retro features that speak of attention to detail while remaining utilitarian. There is a long 9 inch front fly in the front for the closure, angular slant front pockets, a wide waistband, a duo of back welt pockets with darts above them under the waist. Vintage enough to be different, straightforward enough to still be in fashion, and stylish enough to make a great pair of pants on trend. As I see it, clothes that are personally sewn necessarily have to look good – when the person wearing it feels good in what they are wearing, confidence is like icing to a cake!

My correct surmise was that starting with a pattern from a decade and a style that caters to a close fit for skinny guys would give him the custom fit he and I like to see. Thus, I really did not make any tailoring changes to the pattern before cutting. Fitting the pattern around him beforehand seemed to indicate they would be his size exactly as they were with no adaptation…and that turned out completely correct! I did measure the pattern waistband piece to figure out what would be the finished size so that the correct size could be chosen for my man. I really didn’t want my efforts to end in a fail or require too much adjusting. My measuring revealed that the finished waistband ended up about 1 inch below the size chosen. For example, the size 32 (which I made for him) finished up as a measurement of 31 ¼ inches. This size verses finished measurement difference is probably because the pattern is designed for stretch fabrics but also achieves that ‘snug and skinny’ 1970’s look.

100_5871a-compI really could not be happier with the pattern. This is the first Kwik-Sew pattern I’ve used, so I have no idea if the modern ones are different or the same, but this one was wonderful. The construction methods were ingenious and great, working out very well for a nice final product. There wasn’t a fabric layout on the instruction sheet, which was mystifying, but not exactly needed, but I did have to think clearly as to what grain and quantity were directed on the pattern pieces. I also felt like they did not make things any harder than they had to be when doing things as tricky as the zipper fly and welt pockets. But they were very clear and thorough nonetheless. Using the pattern was different, but that’s not a bad thing. 100_5733a-comp

A whole page of the instruction leaflet was dedicated to how to sew with knits, as in “what presser feet to use” and “what seams to use”. I never seen a “roller presser foot” like to one recommended and shown, nor have I seen one such thing shown in a pattern’s instructions before now. Do any of you my readers know about such a thing or happen to have and use one, so that you can tell me how well it works and if it would be worth my investment to buy such a sewing aid? I’d like to know if it is good for gripping fabric or is it good for going over thick seams…maybe both.

Sewing the front zipper fly and the welt pockets was an interesting experience. The way of constructing both amazes me. In my head, I can’t help but think, “Who came up with this intelligent design?!” I can say now that I definitely want to do a zipper fly again, and can also feel confident, too, as to how it will turn out after having the good luck to get it right the first time. As for the welt pockets, I have no inclination to do these again as I found them tiring, but I will sew them in a jacket or bottoms if called for because they did turn out in the end. Fold in, sew down, fold up, pull down is a short incomplete summary of the silliness to welt pockets. There was a lot of self-induced pressure on myself to get everything right on this project, which I didn’t need, but it gave me the drive to sit down and to both the zipper fly and the welt pocket duo each in their own solid cut of solid, focused time of clear-headed thinking. I spent a two hour slot of just working on the zipper fly, and on the next day, another two hours solid were spent on the welt pockets.

100_5883c-compOne of my friends at the local Hancock Fabric store once encouraged me to try a zipper fly, telling me it’s really not as hard as it seems. She was definitely right. It might seem convoluted and non-sensical the way the zipper goes in, but if I thought long and hard enough it kind of did make some sense enough to follow instructions according to the letter…and you know, it did work out! I had read through other directions for zipper fly insertion, but for some reason, even though Kwik-Sew’s flyer wasn’t picture heavy, I understood it this time. I will refer back to this pants pattern’s instruction sheet for the next zipper fly I sew.

100_5729a-comp-comboCrouch inseam construction for hubby’s pants was different, as well. Each of the four sections was sewn separately. I can see that this would make it easy to adjust the fit, however adjusting was not needed for my guy fit in them as they were.
These pants were made really long – and I mean that in the extreme! Hubby is on the taller side of the norm, and, as it was I folded out 3 inches from the height at the pattern stage, with another 3 inches hemmed up after the pants were done. Anyone with a height that tall and a waist as skinny as the pattern’s proportion is not the norm, I believe. The un-altered pants leg length is the one curious part of the pattern.

100_5872a-compJust like for the perfect knit wrap dress, keeping certain parts stable and preventing them from stretching was necessary for these 1971 pants. Firstly, I added stay tape netting strips into the seams around all the pockets. These spots are the primary place for the chance of being pulled out of shape from much use, but the last place you want that to happen. The stay tape didn’t add any bulk either.

The pattern called for interfacing the waistband, which leads me to talk about how these pants were made to accommodate his personal taste. I let hubby pick which weight he wanted, and he chose the lightweight over the medium. These pants needed a stable waist for them to stay up in place. Men don’t have hips like women, remember. Belts or braces (that is suspenders) seem to help them keep their pants from drooping. I might be the one doing the sewing, but I realize how things are different when sewing for someone else – my taste might not make someone else happy to wear as much as catering to the preferences of the wearer. Everyone has their own personal style that needs to be respected – what the ready-to-wear stores have to offer you doesn’t honor individuality.

100_5876-compThus, as much as I loved the clean and bold plain waistband on him, he really wanted to wear a belt on the trousers. Even an interfaced waistband wasn’t enough to keep them up…the bane of skinny men is droopy drawers, I suppose. To start, I made small ½ inch piping tubes, and stitching them flat (this was hard working with the denim, actually). Belt loops were sewn down in four places, at the two spots in the back where the darts (above the welt pockets) join into the waistband and at the two spots in the front where the pocket joins up to the waistband. So that the loops wouldn’t jar with the appearance of the waistband they were sewn down with the stitching flush horizontally with the stitching on the waistband. If he has to have belt loops, these aren’t too bad in my opinion – but he’s quite happy with them. That’s good.

Now that I’ve mastered pants for myself (see here and here), and now for my man, you might think I might rest with that…but no…I thrive on a challenge. I have a vintage corduroy and an old 1940’s pattern for some overall pants to make for our 3 year old son. Growing boys are their own sort of challenge! Look for his bottoms coming this winter. Pants sewn by me for the whole family!

1940’s Arch Waist Blue Jeans

My new found enjoyment wearing (and success in making) my first pair of vintage pants gave me gusto to jump in to fill a gap in my wardrobe: comfy, casual vintage inspired jeans. Jeans are something I’ve learned to do without, mostly because it seems near impossible to find a pair that fulfills all of my requirements – room in the bottom area, vintage appeal, tailored details, and a waist that really sits at the waist, all the while being complimentary on myself. Whew! No…it’s way more fun and appropriate for me to make my own jeans.

100_4458I now have the ultimate vintage jeans, perfect in every way possible to my own discriminating taste. I also feel I’ve found the happy medium between loose comfort and tailored fit. Hopefully I can inspire others with this post to turn to their inner talents and provide for themselves, creating their own personal style to appeal to their own unique individual taste. Do not rest dissatisfied with wearing what doesn’t fit or suit you – be the one to make that change!

Now for THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  A 100% cotton mid-weight denim, in a medium blue wash. It was bought from a Jo Ann Fabrics store.Simplicity4044

NOTIONS:  All I needed to buy was a zipper for the side. The rest of what I needed – the interfacing, hook and eye, and thread – was already on hand.

PATTERN:  Simplicity 4044, a 1940’s outfit reprinted with a modern date of 2006

TIME TO COMPLETE:  These jeans were a breeze to make once I got past the fitting and adjusting of the pattern. I spent maybe 2 hours of time to customize the pattern, and then only 5 hours to cut, sew, and finish the jeans. They were done on February 6, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  …left raw. This denim has a tight weave so it really doesn’t fray much on the raw edges.

TOTAL COST:  I paid half price for the denim, and the jeans only took 2 yards to make, so my total (with the zipper) was only about $8.00. Pretty good, huh?!

The Simplicity #4044 pattern I used for these jeans was even easier than the other Simplicity pattern (#3688) used to make my first pants. Although it is unfortunately out of print, it seems readily available to purchase from many different sellers. I bought mine from Etsy.

I did a bit of research to be able to pin down exactly what part of the decade of the 1940’s might be the source for this pattern, Simplicity 4044 reprint. At first, I was focused mainly on the arch-waisted style, but looking into the design of the jacket happily co-ordinates with the years I found for dating the waist style. There is a McCall #6019 pattern for a skirt and bolero jacket, and it has an arch-waisted skirt front with arched/scalloped pocket detail on the jacket as well. Now the skMcCall 6019 two-piece bolero suit year 1945 - Advance 3964 suit set year 1945irt detailing is similar to the pants and skirt waist of the Simplicity reprint, as are the jacket sleeves, but the skirt box pleat is a change and bolero style is missing. Now let’s look at a pattern in my collection, Advance #3964. The jacket in this pattern is almost exactly the same as the design in the Simplicity reprint, with its paneled sleeves and long jacket front and single button waist closure. What I find interesting is that the pattern I gave as similar examples, McCall #6019 and Advance #3964, are both from 1945. This paneled, streamlined jacket style is very much a war-time design – it was in skinny and small pattern pieces meant for going towards re-fashioning an existing man’s suit. The skirt style of center front box pleats were a staple of the years 1942 to about 1945, with basic, full,Grace Kelly teen model pic 1947 - line drawing for Simplicity 4044 reprint A-line styles not as frequently used, so Simplicity 4044 throws my fashion reasoning off just a bit. Nevertheless, I have a strong “guess-timation” here that Simplicity 4044’s pieces are from late war-time, definitely 1945. Simplicity probably did not reprint a McCall or Advance pattern, so I’m assuming there is an original pattern I’m missing out on highlighting here. However there’s one more piece to my puzzle. The picture you see on the side here is from 1947 of the young, then teen model, Princess Grace Kelly wearing bottoms with an arched-front waist, setting the possibility of the fashion of Simplicity 4044’s set back even more to post-war fashion.

100_4482This time around for making trousers, I read up and informed myself on better fitting techniques, ways to understand the shape of your body, and how to do a full booty adjustment, which I needed. None of this is for the faint of heart, so if you’re squeamish about knowing the shape of your booty and the true measurements of your body, I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t like what I found out either, but…hey – the way I see it, I am how I am, and I’m healthy and happy so I shouldn’t put myself up to some artificial standards.

My primary step was so have a second pattern “victim” to cut and mark up at will. Only the top half of the pants pattern (both front and back) was copied on a machine so I could have a paper version. I also had to choose sizing first off, too. I was in between sizes for the waist so I stayed in between, but went up in size for the hips and carried that size all the way down the pants legs. As my jeans turned out just a tad too roomy in the waist, I think going down a size might be a good idea for anyone else in between sizing because this pants pattern is generous and, without a set waistband, these pants need to fit well to stay up. Of course, there are always “braces” or suspenders to fix droopy drawers!

100_5346a-compNext, I used two sites to guide me in my pants adjustments – “Sew Your Boat” blog – on a ‘BBA’ and Colette’s tutorial on “Pants fitting basics” (although Colette’s “Pants fitting cheat sheet” is good info, too). After reading through “Sew Your Boat” post, my first step was to find out the shape on my booty and see if the fullest part back there is low hanging so I can know where to add the necessary room. I did her “aluminum foil roll shaped around the crouch line” trick…and yes it is weird and funny, yet it works. You look at the shape of the foil and think, “This is me?” At least I knew exactly how to shape the booty of the pants because now I had a template. Next, I did the “slash and spread” method. I had the finished garment measurements of the unaltered garment and compared them to my measurements with added generous ease, and compared the two to see how much room to add in the “slash and spread”. I supposed I rather ran high on the measurement combo of my measurements + ease, so I chose the happy middle between that and the finished pants measurement – a total add in of about 1 ½ inches, slightly more or less. Finally, I used the booty form to do a finishing touch-up shaping of the “slashed and spread” back half pattern piece. The front piece was relatively left untouched except for the bottom point of the crouch (top of the inner leg seam). That part was re-drawn just an inch lower to make a wider dip of a curve so as not to have a drastically baggy bottom. All in all, my effort and figuring here completely paid off with exactly the fit and feel I had hoped to find…sewing bliss!

100_4474With this much done, the pants were cut out and constructed as instructed. I simply overlapped the paper top half over the tissue bottom half to come up with one whole pants leg pattern and cut it that way. As my fabric was 60 inch width, I was able to actually use less than the 2 yards asked for, and now I have a nice chunk of about ½ a yard of denim to use for another project. This pants pattern does have a side seam, and there are small tucks in the front, and small darts in the back, so there are a few no too complicated steps and details to accomplish when sewing the preliminary steps.100_5344a-comp

The trickiest part of the jeans were the arched front detail, but as you get into it, it is not as hard as one might expect. The arched front, together with the facing that finishes the inside, only requires taking one’s time to be precise with the stitching (and marking beforehand). I was impressed at how well the facing matched up and stabilized the waist of the pants pattern– sometimes small facing pieces can, if they are a tad wonky, throw everything off.

Words cannot describe how incredibly pleased I am with everything about my 1940’s jeans – from the fabric to the fit but especially the pattern. I do find the appearance of the pants on myself to be not exactly as complimentary as I had hoped. However, they have such a subtle unique vintage quality to them, one which does not scream vintage but still speaks of style. I cannot but love them. I also cannot wait to make the jacket pattern from the same Simplicity reprint as my pants – I even have a lovely Glen plaid fabric slated to make a suit skirt/jacket set, hopefully for this coming cold season. If you don’t have Simplicity 4044, and happen to come across it for sale, snag it and let me know what you make from it!

I couldn’t resist going with the whole Captain America/”red-white-and-blue” thing to pair with my jeans. A favorite past project, my 1943 cotton basic blouse, was worn with my jeans, layered over my favorite captain America tee shirt. I felt like some secret superhero opening my top to show off my Captain America shield tee underneath.

100_4466Do you have an article of clothing that you have conquered when it comes to fit and understanding? Be it pants, shirts or knit fabrics, the world of sewing and the fabric arts is always there to provide a challenging, interesting, and creative project for those willing to tackle it – never a dull moment necessary!