“Dark Academia” of the 1940s

This is just a small sampling of my favorite old books in our home library.

Of all the trends from the last couple years that I have been fully on board with such as Cottage Core (merely a ‘prairie dress’ revival) or the over-the-top decadence of a Princess inspired dress, there has also been Dark Academia.  Granted I am a bit late to have anything to show for this one by now, but the weather is gloomy and I am recovery mode from the last two years – so I am in the mood to share my darker toned, more serious themed sewing projects that have been hiding in the undercurrents. 

I do understand the Dark Academia trend because the aesthetic has been 90% of what I have been since I was a child.  Research always has been my forte, learning is a joy, and studying is the pursuit of my lifetime. More often than not you will often find me thinking inquisitively, reading intensely, writing furiously, or speaking passionately about many varied subjects.  Besides, having a basement that was a literal library of antique books makes Dark Academia not even feel like a trend to me but something natural. 

As it is nevertheless still going strong although no longer ‘new’, I might as well get around to show how I’ve been visibly channeling Dark Academia through my fashion with some of my older makes, such as this 1940s “poet blouse” from the previous post, seen also in my outfit here.  As is the custom for Dark Academia, this set is heavily inspired by the classic menswear of Britain in the 1940s, particularly the plaid suits of the Duke of Windsor (formerly Edward VIII) and the plaid styles seen on elite university campuses – such as Oxford – in the 1930s. 

I was actually inspired to sew my outfit soon after finishing my mid 1940s Glen plaid suit set (blogged here) back in 2016.  This set is actually made out of the exact same kind of luxuriously soft rayon suiting material as was used for my Glen plaid suit just mentioned.  I knew I was bound to love whatever I sewed of the material anyway but an unabashedly masculine interpretation of the rich plaid really made it interesting!  I delight in the juxtaposition created by choosing a skirt over trousers or plus fours (another campus mode and Edward VIII influence here), but it was really just a shortage of yardage which helped that decision be made.  Sometimes it seems as if the fabric truly speaks in regards to how it should be fashioned.

Being a favorite look of mine for winter that has taken too long to finally appear on my blog, you will see more than one way to work it as we have had a few different locations for our photos.  A black toned pairing of my set in a local book shop gives it the Academia Goth vibes, while a white me-made blouse (which I posted here) underneath when outdoors lightens it up to purely menswear inspired.  You should see what my red Agent Carter blouse (posted here) or even a beige blouse does!  It is truly versatile, so soft, quite comfortable, and fetching to wear I am so glad to have this vest and skirt in my wardrobe. 

THE FACTS:

FABRICS:  a plaid lightweight rayon suiting, complimented on the vest with a solid Kona cotton

PATTERNS:  Burda Style “Franzi vest” pattern #9302 and an old original McCall #6338 pattern from the year 1945  

NOTIONS NEEDED:  lots of thread and a good amount of interfacing combined with a card of buttons, carved abalone shell buckle, and a metal zipper – the last three items are true vintage from the 1930s or 40s

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The vest came together in about 8 hours on January 16, 2020.  The skirt was sewn much earlier on December 5, 2018, and was also sewn in 8 hours.  Both pieces took longer to make because I did so much hand finishing.

THE INSIDES:  So clean!  The vest is “bag” lined so there are no seams showing but the skirt has bias bound edges

TOTAL COST:  I vaguely remember purchasing this fabric many years ago at my local JoAnn store.  It was almost a remnant at a length which was barely over a yard, so I got it at a discount.  The cotton solid which was used on the vest was remnants on hand from making this vintage 50’s coat, so I’m counting it as free.  The notions were bought at a rummage sale for about $1.  My total was about $12 in total.

The book store’s kitty was such a dear to me!

The 1989 film Dead Poets Society as well as Donna Tartt‘s novel The Secret History, published in 1992, both telling a story that takes place within a group of classics students at an elite New England college, have been credited as being the inspiration for the Dark Academia literary genre.  It emerged as a subculture on Tumblr in the mid-2010s, then – during the past 2 years – exploded as a trend on the visual based TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. 

I never knew until recently that there was a term for old-style enjoyments I grew up with, so much so that if there was a checklist for Dark Academia I could fill in so many boxes.  Why, I have used an initialed wax seal kit for sealing special letters since I was a teen!  I excelled at my Latin studies and happily had read a good number of Classic literature in high school.  My proficiency at fancy lettering like calligraphy even eared me money for a time.  I have always had a weak spot for all plaids, but also always have been adding subtle Goth or punk undertones to my ‘modern’ style (I blame this on my teen music preferences for Evanescence and Avril Lavigne).  At the same time, I have also deeply enjoyed classical music since I was 10 and have worn glasses since about that age, as well.  See?  My list could go on.  Jump years forward to me as an adult, when I fully incorporated vintage style into my everyday wardrobe and begin wearing more historical styles, and I have Dark Academia down to a T…then realize there is a name for this kind of thing.  It feels weird to be called out so distinctly.

Depending on what influencer is channeling it, however, the trend can sometimes seem snobbish and exclusive, in my estimation, and some elements are problematic.  By romanticizing a time (Victorian) when the privileged society put an emphasis on liberal education, it can have classist undertones.  Also, it is important to realize that people can have an academic drive purely so they can better their professional or personal life.  To have one’s education be a mere pleasurable luxury is a Romanization longed for as an ideal for many (“beauty for the sake of beauty” as Nathanial Hawthorne believed) but made difficult to attain in a capitalist society.  Furthermore, the trend revolves around the handful of highest premier institutions – how many of us who actually strive to take advantage of higher education actually will be at Oxford or Harvard?  Not that to attend there isn’t indeed something to aim for or be proud of, but for most that is not an option.  I am just as happy at my local University.

Nevertheless, I live for the literary geek, driven studiousness, and fashion aesthetic parts to it but embrace a very modern, diverse interpretation of the term.  While the advantages of a real life book is never to be underestimated, I will be a ‘heretic’ of old-school learning and admit that a good amount of research can be done through a computer’s resources.  This has been especially necessary for me over the past few years in particular when ‘in real life’ was not possible.  A quest for knowledge and yearning to learn should be nourished in whatever form it takes so as to be accessible for all, regardless of one’s income or neighborhood.  As long as you know how to sort out misinformation or at least find what you are searching for, the internet is a library, too, just without a proper moderator.  Thus, I still have a preference.  To actually have the opportunity to experience what an old book can share is something tactile, memorable, and uniquely worthwhile…something I hope every one of you can find a way to enjoy if you so wish!

This outfit is something I wish others could experience for themselves, too, as it was pretty easy to make and incredibly fun to wear.  Sadly, though the patterns are not easy to find.  The vest pattern is a really oldie at least from 2007.  I believe I acquired it in 2012 when Burda advertised the pattern anew.  The fantastic part about it is not just how wonderfully curvy and fitted it is for the female figure but also the fact that the pattern had been a free PDF download.  That’s right – free!  Sadly that is no longer the case…the pattern is not to be seen on their site anymore, free or not.  My skirt pattern is a vintage original, and those are generally a gamble to try and find but an Internet search occasionally yields a couple copies for sale (I see a 32” waisted one on Etsy at the moment).  I heartily recommend both patterns, regardless.  They are came together without a hiccup with a true-to-size fit. 

Surprisingly, both patterns were so very economical, as well.  The skirt – true to 40’s era rationing – only needed just under one yard, which left the vest to be made with a third of a yard plus scraps.  It was perfectly doable, but still a bit of a squeeze.  I had to get inventive to fit in all the pattern pieces while also trying to match the plaid.  This was a very stressful step.  I laid down all the pieces for both patterns on my fabric and thought the layout over for a day, rearranging and adjusting each piece a little here and there during that time, before I felt confident enough to cut. 

Please notice that the skirt’s back kick pleat and the vest’s side panels had to be cut on the bias.  At first this was done out of necessity but I like it so much better than if I had followed proper directions.  So often the little make-do tweaks I throw into my projects become the best part.  Every little challenge that arises in my sewing projects forces my inventiveness, and I love that.  The bias kick pleat insert panel makes the feature more interesting than basic and helps it hang softer.  The bias to the vest breaks up the monotony of the plaid and gave me leeway to not match seams precisely (although I tried to anyway).  All is well that ends well, as the saying goes.

I did have to interface the every individual piece of the vest as well as every dart and seam to the skirt.  This suiting was a bit lighter in weight than its Glen plaid relative and would pull apart too easily.  Luckily the fit was not snug.  I used a medium weight cotton interfacing for both vest and skirt, and it kept the slippery, shifting fabric in its correct shape for the vest construction in particular.  After one wearing of the skirt I soon found out that just ironing down the interfacing over the darts was not enough, so I stitched them down, hiding the stitching within lines of the plaid. 

To continue stabilizing the fabric at all points of stress, I made a decorative choice for the center point of the skirt’s back kick pleat and chose to embroider an arrowhead as a bar tack anchor.  It is a subtle touch that keeps the fabric together in the loveliest way possible.  I chose to use a satin finish embroidery floss in a deep red for the arrowhead to bring out the color undertones of the plaid.

Nuances to the skirt include a deep 5 inch hem to help weigh down the lightweight material, a center front decorative vertical pleat, and a pointed waistline button placket.  I hand stitched the entire hem, zipper, and waistband because (at first) I couldn’t find a thread color which would blend in.  Then it was because I am a stickler for how going the extra mile elevates a handmade garment from merely made to finely crafted. 

This idealology extended to the vest…completely hand stitched except for the lapel flaps and inner seams.  Nuances to the vest are otherwise much more simplified than the skirt.  There is no real (meaning properly faced and pad stitched) collar lapel – it is merely an extension of the inner full body lining.  The waistline lapels are also for faux pockets, just for decoration purposes, sewn down with a button.  I seriously debated about making welts so I could have real pockets, but my dislike of sewing welts won over the decision.  At least the back waist strap is real and working, with an old buckle cinching in the fit of this curvy vest.  The fitted cut is so impressive on its own, and needs just a bit of help from the back buckled belt.  Such a tailored fit drawn for feminine curves helps this set be so sharp, stronger in impression than just a “wearing my man’s clothes” kind of look.  The practical straight cut of the skirt with its fine detailing is something strongly reminiscent of great vintage suit.  Altogether, it comes together for a tight outfit, no matter how I style it.     

It is said that the general shutdown of in-person learning at schools prompted the resurgence of Dark Academia.  It was supposed to be a push pack from the challenges presented by virtual learning and a nostalgia for how classical schooling used to be, even if that look back extends to the not-so-distant time before the use of the home internet.  Just think back to the effort and restrictions of finding information when books – or people with the knowledge in books – where only available during business hours, by phone, or in-person visits.  It is not that school from home is without great challenges – believe me, it was tougher than I ever imagined it would be for our son – but many complaints of virtual learning seem negligible in hindsight.  Channeling vintage fashion as one of the many ways to connect to that old style of learning is great for me because that completes what I grew up with.  It helps me feel more connected with Generation Z, for sure!  I find it incredibly interesting – and flattering – that the younger generation wants to connect to that.  I’ll join in anew with them on it!

Oktoberfest “Black Forest” Dirndl

As a girl of strong Germanic heritage – and as a lover of vintage fashion – an old-fashioned ethnic outfit to celebrate Oktoberfest has long been on my to-make list, and is now, finally, a reality!  Here’s my year 1942 dirndl. Even though the pattern I used called for this to be a dress, I made two separates for ultimate mix-and-matchability, so I can wear each on its own in the future or change up my dirndl in the future. This is something I am so happy with…it tuned out every bit as wonderful as I imagined.  Prost!

I was inspired by the traditional late 30’s/40’s “Black Forest Maiden” when making this.  The “Black Forest” is a very ancient, forested, mountainous region in southwest Germany.  It was already named in Roman times.  The cultural dress and traditions of this region are likewise very old, and the rich dirndl customs associated with it have been around for the last several centuries.  

Dirndls are an established manner of local dressing, an organic means of freely expressing cultural identity, for Bavaria, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and more. Thus, I find it so sad that dirndls became twisted by Hitler before and during WWII. They were a mode of dressing used to suppress and subjugate women nationally in the late 30s and early 40s.  As a girl with very German roots I recognize that interpreting a dirndl via 1942 can painful. However, this is an outfit I made to honor a woman with a story I will never forget.

At a WWII reenactment two years ago, I met a wonderful, friendly, and knowledgeable man with a thick German accent. As we chatted, I seemed to bring to mind something for him by wearing my vintage garb, and he proceeded to tell me I reminded him of his mother. My vintage 1940s outfit was similar to the way she dressed when she moved to France with him after the war. You see, she was 11 or 12 when Hitler started his invasions, and the local Nazi Youth Movement chose her as the town’s “Black Forest Maiden” since she had the “perfect” body, hair and eye color as designated by their twisted idealism. Terrified and crying, she was forced to lead the town’s parades, forced to wear the traditional folkwear they chose, and be their “mascot” with her official photo. When I was shown that woman’s picture from back then, in her beautiful dirndl vest, with her stereotypical ‘Gretchen’ braids, I noticed a great sadness in her eyes despite that ‘perfect’ smile – her image is burned in my memory. And you think image crafting and body shaming is hardcore today…!

I had no idea before hearing his emotional maternal story that a “Black Forest Maiden” was so strongly imposed on women and young girls who happened to fit the “faultless” Aryan mold. It must’ve been like a living punishment!  We have been incessantly fed a need to change one’s own inherent individual beauty for ages, though not to this degree.  I have read that blond hair dye was extremely popular (and encouraged) back then for the brunettes, while posters and publications pressured a certain living ideal, too. Anyone can read and research about this topic all they want, but there is nothing like a first-hand account from those who lived through those times to get the real stories of the past.  Luckily, I can choose to wear what I want today, and be happy celebrating my heritage the way I choose, but making a 1940s dirndl reminds that was not always the case.

When Austria was annexed in 1938 the Nazi’s enforced a ban preventing Jews from wearing dirndls, lederhosen, or Germanic traditional garments.  Many Jews of Slovak and Alpine nationalities had been successful and prominent designers, textile printers, and clothing creators many decades before the Holocaust.  Austrian Jews were extraordinary researchers of history, architects, and all sorts of amazing careers, as well, but it is ironic they were prevented from wearing clothing of their own heritage that they had a big hand in popularizing and crafting.  Women only had received the right to vote twenty or less years beforehand, too!    All the advancements that women of central Europe had been fighting for during the 20 years of the Inter-War period (and they were many) were threatened by the Nazi Idea of the model German woman.

All of what I have said above in the last several paragraphs is why I did not too strongly adhere to the “Black Forest” ideal with my set as you see it worn to the public Oktoberfest.  American Oktoberfests that I have attended in my lifetime are not always culturally correct or properly respectful of their heritage.  To wear a paled down version of an authentic dirndl as I am makes me the oddball of the occasion.  Yet, I am still more traditionally correct than the popular “bar maid” version of a dirndl costume, with its off-the-shoulder under blouse, cleavage revealing bodice, and short skimpy skirt.  Keep in mind my Oktoberfest outfit is also a strictly 40’s interpretation, which because of the date to it (1942), would not have too strong of a Germanic influence due to both Hitler’s actions and because of where the Allied nations were at in the war.

However, at home I did accessorize my dirndl in a way that would make it truer to the Black Forest tradition.  I am wearing a trio of collar, apron, and earrings which are true vintage, with the traditional silver lasso necklace, and a full black skirt for a complete change of appearance.  My blouse is the design that came with my dirndl pattern, made by me out of a sheer white chiffon.  It is something very special for me to be able to respectfully embrace a tradition of my heritage through my own interpretation, adding my own memories and provenance to a garment whose history is frequently either painful or forgotten!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  all fabrics are authentic to a vintage dirndl of the times – cotton broadcloth for the skirt with a ribbed cotton velveteen for the vest exterior, interlined in an open weave, medium weight canvas cotton interfacing, lined in solid black basic broadcloth

PATTERN:  Simplicity #4230, year 1942, from my personal collection of patterns

NOTIONS:  I only wanted to use supplies that were on hand already, and all I absolutely needed to buy new was the front zipper!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  It took me about 20 hours to complete and was finished on October 13, 2018.

TOTAL COST:  As everything I used had been on hand in my stash for at least a few years (yay for whittling down my hoard of fabric), and (knowing me) I probably got it all on a good discounted price anyway, I’m counting this outfit as free!

I had the best surprise as I opened up the dirndl jumper pattern, the kind which don’t come that often (and I believe I have seen and opened up a lot of vintage patterns in my life).  This particular one is in top tier condition.  It was still factory folded inside, no discoloring, smell, or brittleness and the trailing floral embroidery transfers were miraculously as pristine as the day they were made – never used and still shiny and waxy, beaded up on the tissue paper strips.  I always see transfer papers either missing, used already, or the ink dry and crumbly.  Needless to say, I really have no intention of actually using them as iron-on transfers, but it is neat and rather tempting knowing they are there and fully usable!  Perhaps once my commitment to full scale embroidery is more guaranteed in the future, I might make a copy of these transfers and try the design, but I would have to start such a project two seasons ahead at my rate and I have enough going on in my life to convince me otherwise.

For the bodice ‘vest’, I chose a novelty ribbed velveteen – thick, sturdy, and lovely to touch. It was fully lined and fully interfaced with sew-in stiff cotton muslin so it would end up almost like a corset, or at least a very substantial jacket weight.  The top half of a dirndl is called a bodice, not a corset, even if it may have very distant origins to them. It is supposed to be a substantial weight to keep its own shape, be sturdy without boning, and not be a substitute to a bra or corset. They were meant to be long wearing enough to endure and be possibly passed down to the next generation if fancy enough! After all, though, lining a garment is always such a nice and easy way for both a professional finish and a clean way to finish all your edges and hide all your seams!  It was chilly the day of our town’s Oktoberfest, so my vest kept my entire middle so warm I needed no coat.

As I am a married woman, I have no obvious red trimming (meant for single ladies) and my vest is primarily black.  There is a separating front zipper, matching in black, wedged in the middle to close the front of my dirndl vest.  Happily it is not very noticeable at all.  A laced up front is more of the Bavarian-Alpine variety of dirndl, and a Black Forest version is ‘plainer’ than that, often having buttons down the front and/or applied embroidery. As zippers were the latest and greatest fashion edge in the late 30’s, I wanted this traditional-influenced dirndl to follow suit.  Besides, a simple closing accommodated the fancy trim I planned on using.

The braided trim is complex and dramatic, perfect for a dirndl where your haberdashery cannot be too fancy or your details too scrumptious.  It is a Simplicity brand roll that I had bought on deep discount years ago.  It is something so novelty that I had no clear idea of what to use it on at the time, but as something like this is hard to come by – and normally expensive – I had to have it.  I’m glad I did, because it was meant for this dirndl…the 4 feet on the roll was exactly the length needed to go completely around the front and neckline edge.  Even an inch less would have not worked.  It is a cotton rayon blend of a white satin soutache-style rope braided with multiple strands of twisted black rope which reminds me of what is on decorator’s tassels.  As much as I wanted a quick and easy way to attach the trim down, I put up with hand-stitching it down for a precise placement with threads unseen.  I am in amazement at how this special trim made my dirndl vest so easily go above basic. 

My skirt is self-drafted of a 40’s reproduction print.  The color is not as green as I would have liked, but neither is it solidly turquoise.  Whatever the tone, happily my skirt is very much a copy of the skirt and apron colors worn in the West German movie “The Black Forest Girl”, made in 1950.  The story for this movie is based on the operetta “Schwarzwaldmädel” by Leon Jessel, who died in the same year as my dirndl pattern – 1942. A married woman was allowed shades of green for her skirt besides black.

It’s merely your basic gathered skirt, and for a good amount of pouf I brought in just over twice my waist length into a very nice, 1 ½ inch wide, lightly interfaced waistband.  In order to use the whole of my fabric with minimal cutting, I hand-stitched down a 12 inch hem to shape some fullness into the skirt, weigh it down, and keep it opaque.  There is a true vintage metal zipper in the side for an old-fashioned touch.  It should definitely be a great basic wardrobe staple during the spring and summer worn on its own with a tee or blouse apart from this dirndl.  I hope to make another skirt like this one, using a completely different print and material, to see how that changes the overall feel of my Germanic outfit.

This is the family heirloom apron from the side of the family which came over from Germany.

An apron is a must with a dirndl!  The white apron I am wearing is a handcrafted fine cotton one that my mom had ordered from a vintage reproduction company, so it is not of my own making, but the details are just what I would want to pair with my outfit.  There is crocheted lace and both pintucks and ½ pleats for more texture and interest to the outfit.  The apron I had on for the Oktoberfest event is a very wearable new version that reminds me of the apron I would have preferred to wear (but wouldn’t dare take out) – my Great-Great Grandmother’s apron handmade apron from circa 1870-1890 (pictured at left).  This family history treasure was made while on a boat, immigrating to the United States, and the fine details are mind-blowing.  Just studying it is improving my sewing skills by prompting me to practice imitating such tiny, regular feather-stitching on other items.

I did intend on wearing the dirndl vest’s matching underblouse just like the cover shows, but I ran out of time to finish it completely for this weekend.  You can see the post of the blouse’s making here, where it is worn by itself with some 40’s style pants.  Instead, I wore a fine linen blouse already in my wardrobe, one that has lovely floral-and-vine shadow work along the neckline, visible above the sweetheart neckline of my dirndl vest if you look closely.  The earrings are vintage from my Grandmother (on my father’s side).

There is heavy German influence on all sides of my family, and around the last turn of the century they had immigrated over (before the First World War, when eight million German-Americans comprised this country’s largest non-English speaking group).  This was at a time when being a “Hyphenated American” was paramount to asking for the finger of suspicion to come to you.  Yet, during the First World War, when Ellis Island immigration was high, about 20 percent of all Americans who answered the call to arms were foreign born.  Quick assimilation was important to “Hyphenated Americans” for both their safety and because of their likelihood for a successful new start.

Even still, our families have not forgotten our past heritage over the last 100 plus years.  My dad has memories of going to Oktoberfest celebrations as a child in his little Lederhosen, and his Grandfather – who operated his own bakery for many years – always had stollen cake and coffee on hand to enjoy with him every Sunday after church.  My husband’s paternal side had originally settled in an immigrant city that has German still on the tombstones and street signs.  Conversely, our relatives did their part for America fighting against the Reich in both wars.  The German influence that still surrounds me in the Mid-Western United States where I live is all good stuff – stately, impressive churches, strong homes made to last, delicious and hearty food, creative micro-breweries, beautiful winery vineyards, and happy, down-to-earth, hard-working people.  I’m now asking myself why did I not make a dirndl earlier than now?!

Star Wars, Pinball, and Year 1974 Cozy Layers

The title might seem like an odd combo, but bear with me here…it is all connected, at least to me with this newest outfit.  In this post, I’ll proudly reveal myself to be a big fan for the decade of the 70s and its amusements – something that many vintage bloggers as well as those who lived in that decade seem to generally not share in common with me.  As one who is at the age to have totally missed that era, I can feel a connection to the decade of disco music, pinball machines, bell-bottom pants with platform shoes, and Star Wars because all these things played a big part in my parents’ lives.  What they were “in to”, I saw in old pictures, records in the basement, and clothes or memorabilia in a forgotten closet – and all that was cool and interesting to me.  Parents are interesting anyway, right?  Reasons given, I’ll move onto what I actually made.

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Inspired as I was to make things for Allie J’s “Cozy Layers” Social Sew #8, I might have went a bit over the top here.  Anyways, let me present my 1974 waterproof jacket, easy 1974 knit flared jeans, and a draped sweater vest.  Whoever says winter dressing is no fun hasn’t worn these kind of garments!  These pieces are so fun and warm…and handmade;)

THE FACTS:butterick-3914-late-1973-or-early-1974

FABRIC:  Pants – a cotton polyester blend brushed double knit in what looks like a denim finish; Jacket – a olive green snakeskin print vinyl with a knit backing, a poly micro suede and a basic polyester for the lining, and a fleece sandwiched in between; Vest – a poly cotton blend sweater knit for the draped front and the leftover poly micro suede for the back

mccalls-4052-yr-1974-cover-compwPATTERNS:  Pants – McCall’s #4052, year 1974 (love the whole play suit separates – lots of options here); Jacket – Butterick #3914, late 1973 to simplicity-1588-view-aearly 1974; Vest – Simplicity #1588, view A, year 2013

NOTIONS:  I only used what thread, interfacing, and other notions from on hand.  The pants button came from the stash of Hubby’s Grandmother so it might be vintage.  I only bought a metal jeans zipper for the pants.

THE INSIDES:  Most seams are bias bound on the vest, the pants edges are left raw, and the jacket seams are covered by the lining.dsc_0777-compw

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The vest was finished first on November 21 after only 3 or 4 hours, the knit jeans came second being finished on November 22 after 3 or 4 hours, and finally the jacket was done on November 28, 2016, after about 15 hours.

TOTAL COST:  The denim knit was something I bought about 5 years back so I don’t remember where it came from or how much I spent for it.  All of the rest of the material for this outfit was bought about 2 years back when there was a Hancock Fabrics store closing, so it was incredibly dirt cheap.  In all, not much fabric was used here – 2 yards of each fabric, except for ½ yard of the vest sweater knit, and voila!  Look what I came up with!

I won’t bore you too much detail in this post about sewing and construction details because not only are there three me-made garments here, but also one of them was tricky and complicated (the jacket) while the other two (vest and pants) were super easy.  I must say I am very pleased with all the patterns, especially the vest and pants.  The jacket is great, too, don’t get me wrong, and surprisingly warm for being a not-too-heavy of a weight.  My only reserve is that I am doubtful whether or not I paired the right fabric (the vinyl) and pattern together.  My hubby makes me feel better by saying that the material would have been hard to work with (and it was) no matter what pattern I’d have chosen, but this style is uniquely neat especially with the raglan sleeves.  The vest is more of a novelty item, but I am realizing it will go with more than what I first thought, mostly because I like it so much!  However, one can never beat an easy creation that looks so good and fits so great, so the jeans are the ultimate winner, especially for being so basic and versatile.

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dsc_0796a-compwI will go over each item briefly to comment of the fit and anything I changed.  First comes the vest.  I made a straight size small and found that I should have graded a size up for the hips the same way as I do for regular garments such as blouses and dresses.  The neckline of the draping were taken in by an extra inch to make for less of a droopy wrap, purely personal taste.  A facing of the micro suede used for the back was drafted from the pattern for the neckline edge.  I found the back of the vest to be quite long, ending at the bottom of my behind…not flattering.  So, to vent my frustration waiting for our Thanksgiving guests to arrive, I unpicked the bottom hem and re-sewed it 2 inches shorter in the back of the vest.

I love the texture and interest of this vest, besides the fact it is a wonderful weight to wear.  It keeps a chill out of my middle but yet the lack of sleeves keeps me from rey-in-the-force-awakenscropover-heating inside stores and homes.  I’ve always associated vests with the outdated 80’s things (like boxy front-halves of a weskit) that I wouldn’t be caught dead in, but now that I have a fashionable vest, I may have to re-think the value of this kind of garment for winter layering.  The funny thing is, this vest made in this desert sand khaki color, with its rough texture, and criss-cross design totally reminds me of the outfit for the lead character “Rey” in the 2015 Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens”.  I know it’s not exactly the same thing but I believe you can definitely tell where I see similarities.  This vest, though modern, also reminds of the creative and interesting, bold but relaxed style that see in 1970’s dressing.

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My idea to whip up the pants was spawned of all my ideas from and of the vest.  All of my previous pants have all been made of woven fabrics so I went for a thick denim knit sitting all lonely and forgotten in my stash for the last 5 years.  Now I’m glad I never sewed it up into a dress like I had originally planned because these 70’s pants are way hotter…oh, and comfy.  Everything I love about vintage 1940’s trousers is combined with my love for the 70’s here – full and wide legs, true waist, chic styling, and perfect fit.  Add on a body skimming booty and less excess fabric around the thighs and welcome to the disco era.  My favorite part is the lack of both the conventional waistband and the front placket here, replaced with a simple loop and button above the zipper.  It makes for a very clean look that’s so easy.  The instructions showed to sew in a ribbon waist, but I used some wide non-roll navy elastic instead and I think this turns out much better and is a better (and more forgiving) fit.  The best part?  These pants are a perfect fit for me without a hair’s breadth of change…go vintage patterns!

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These pants make me feel very tall, skinny, and all legs.  This was the 70s ideal body type anyway, and I like the feeling because in reality I normally think of myself as short, not skinny enough, and definitely not very leggy.  I kept a very long hem on my pants so as to wear my new 4 inch platform strappy heels.

After making year 1974 pants, I remembered a project waiting in the wings downstairs for the last several years.  This, together with the thought of another cozy layer to add to the 70s gloriousness, and I reached for the jacket project.  This was rather an exhausting project that I don’t know I was ready for, but it should see much use in the next few months, starting immediately.  There are some things I wish I could have made to work out better, but I am just proud at my first official coat and my first sewing with this kind of vinyl.  I do love the slightly golden sheen to the snakeskin print and the waterproof protection without looking (and sounding) like a plastic raincoat.

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The most stressful part of sewing this coat was the thought that I only had one shot to get things right…unpicking and re-stitching wasn’t really possible here because once a hole is made, it’s permanently going to be there.  Also, the vinyl was sticking to all the metal parts of my machine so I had to sandwich a layer of wax paper around the coat’s seams at almost every stitch so it would glide under the presser foot.  This wax paper method worked like a charm, and was easy to take off, it just was something else to add to the difficulty level.  So, in total not only did my stitching have to be accurate, and I was limited to my use of pins for seams (reverting to clothes pins), but I had to sew between wax paper.  This coat must have given me at least one grey hair.  My only change was that in lieu of gathers under both the front and the back yokes, I made my own pleats – two ½ inch ones on each front and one giant box pleat down the center back.dsc_0776a-compw

My two giant pockets are lined in a remnant of a 1970’s curtain which I had on hand from a buying someone’s small fabric stash at re-sale store.  It was so bold and fun, I also added bright green bias tape to finish in inner edge.  No one will ever really know it’s there, but I like how the print makes me smile whenever I see the funky brightness inside my pockets.

I still don’t know how to close the coat – any suggestions?  I don’t like it belted and it is warm enough that a little air actually feels good.  I’m beginning to think I should just leave it open and casual.

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1974 is an interesting year for me to channel.  My dad graduated that year from high school and (among other things that happened) he became a lover of the pinball machine.  Every chance we could as I was growing up, my dad and I would hover over and eye up every pinball machine, with the occasional dropping of a quarter to do a real play.  I always saw my dad as a champ at the game and he still enjoys playing when he can.  Luckily there are some game lounges around in our town nowadays that are much more respectable than those of the pinball culture 40 years back.  1974 was also the year the California Supreme Court ruled that pinball was more a game of skill than one of chance and overturned its long prohibition, opening the way for general acceptance of this form of amusement nationwide (info from here).

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So much of this outfit is due to the influence of my dad.  He still has some of his 70’s bell bottoms, though he got rid of his platform shoes, trench jacket, and elephant pants years back.  Now his daughter has her own version of what he used to wear, sorry dad!  He loved Star Wars and bought me many of the toys and even watched the movies from the roof of their house on the drive-in screen which had been up the street.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree I guess.  Star Wars is still around on screen, and the 70’s style is coming back today, and retro amusements are just as fun, so it’s hard to resist re-visiting my dad’s past with my own handmade twist.  This one’s for you, dad, hope you don’t shake your head at this…just smile.

And now for some Star Wars light saber fun with my own son before bed time…

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