Conifers are the mysterious ones among their fellow hard woods, the trees – they stand fully clothed when others go naked in hibernation. They jealously kill the grass over their ‘feet’, have unfriendly prickles for ‘leaves’, and cast mellow, unholy shadows when they are planted in a huddle together. Their perennial greenness is cheering, though – providing color and shelter outdoors in winter, the resiliency they represent ends up decorating our living quarters at the holidays! Combining an overcast rainy evening with a patch of winter green becomes embodied together in this comfy set of viridescent and navy hues.
After my last 1940s suit from post WWII times, I’d like to share another focused on a slightly earlier time frame of the late 30’s to early 1940’s. The now past holidays for all things green (St. Patrick’s day and Christmas) originally inspired me to keep to a certain color scheme linking each piece together. This set is sans jacket, but at least it does have a statement hat! This is also put together (like the last one I posted) with a mix of re-fashioning and sewing from scratch. Just the same, it is also for winter, again composed of a span of years and fashion influences, and has a blouse pattern from 1941 as its common separate. A vintage look, or a new outfit is only a re-fashion or a simple sewing project away! This was relatively easy and fun to whip together, with only one pattern needed and lots of inspiration. I do like to keep my styling connected to the past for the best practical glamor.
FABRIC: a semi-sheer 30% silk/70% cotton blend for my blouse, a cotton flannel for my skirt, and a poly felt for my hat
PATTERN: Simplicity #3714, year 1941, for the blouse. The skirt was made with no pattern. The hat is loosely based off of Vogue #7464, view D
NOTIONS: I bought the base for the hat at Wal-Mart (sounds weird, but I’ll explain down below), but everything else cane from my stash – the buttons are vintage “Schwanda” brand from the 1950s, the zipper is vintage (metal teeth), the wire for the hat came from hubby’s workbench, the interfacing was scraps on hand, and matching thread was already here.
TIME TO COMPLETE: The blouse was made in about 15 hours and finished on December 18, 2017. My skirt’s re-fashion took me about 6 hours, while I spent no more than 4 hours to make the hat – both finished only days before Christmas 2017.
THE INSIDES: French seams for the blouse, bias finish for the skirt
TOTAL COST: The hat cost me a total of $5; the blouse cost me $6 for two yards; I’m counting the skirt as free as it had been on hand for so long. Thus my total outfit cost is under $12 – how awesome is that!
Although this is a winter outfit, these pieces are quite versatile on their own, especially the lovely blouse in its soft silk blend ordered direct from China! The way silk breathes and adjusts to one’s body temperature makes it fabulous and perfect for any and every outdoor or indoor climate. When combined with the easy care and softness qualities of cotton, it is such a winning blend (would be perfect for some heavenly bedsheets!). This blouse can definitely be dressed up but also be quite casual, especially when used as a layering piece under a sweater. Having semi-transparent sleeves keeps me covered in a very lightweight, yet dressy way that also both keeps me at a good temperature and are easy to roll up to short length for summer. I am slightly obsessed with its creamy celery green color and loving what it does for my light olive skin tone. This blouse is really the one new piece of my outfit that will be a dependable workhorse in my wardrobe, besides being the one linchpin which inspired the whole set’s idea.
The rest of my ensemble is from items on hand – even my true vintage gloves and earrings but especially in regards the skirt! Originally, it was something I haven’t put on in years, though I did wear it many times when I was in my early to mid-teens. I was more of a wall-flower then, not as comfortable in my skin, and was always cold in the winter. If I went out in the cold, I liked my skirts long so I could wear boots and pants underneath, and I liked them basic because I probably preferred to keep my coat on (whether inside or out) and not be seen anyway. The skirt was ankle length, A-line shape, with a wide elastic waistband and in-seam pockets on both sides. Yet, it was not worn enough to pill up or look as well-loved as it was…prime for a refashion. I know the skirt is definitely for cold temperatures being a flannel, yet it’s lightweight enough to not completely be a one season piece, either…which makes my sewing the most bang for the little time spent to freshen it up. A good rich toned plaid is one of the many fabric weaknesses of mine, and perfect for the 1940s, so a basic WWII era skirt it was going to be so it could match with my silk-blend blouse.
The pattern for my blouse has been used twice already, for my basic brown version and my “Leave Her to Heaven” look-alike. I have this pattern down pat, but I love it no less for being the third time around…it’s a winner. However, I did decide to tweak it a bit. I spread the fullness of the thick single shoulder darts into three tiny darts of descending lengths which get shorter as they get closer to the sleeve caps. It is an understated detail that feels very feminine and tailored. I also added a bit more length in the sleeves with a little more fullness. The sleeves are single layer of fabric so they are slightly sheer and delicate, perfect for the puffier shape. The main body of the blouse has been double layered so that it would be both opaque as well as darker in color. Instead of cufflink holes, as I do on most of my dressy blouses, I chose some wonderful pastel flower shaped buttons from my Grandma’s stash. They really emphasize the creamy, bright color of the fabric in a way that cheers me up in winter and makes it perfect for summer, too.
My skirt was a pretty basic re-fashion, all I was basically doing was reshaping it. I cut off the elastic waist first (keeping the side pockets), then chopped of only enough from the long hem to make a new, wide, interfaced waistband. However, I needed to tailor the waist before adding that waistband! This was the tricky part, trying to figure out how to take the waist in and how much to bring in. This step took way too long and caused a lot of unpicking. I had plenty of other more interesting ideas (pleats, a placket) that I tried before I settled for the basic, darted straight line skirt style you see. Just a simple hem made, the zipper and waistband set on and my refashion might not look that dramatically different from its the original state. It was merely fine-tuned and I hope classic enough to not just be a “vintage” style item. Just imagine my skirt paired with tights on my legs and platform shoes or slip-on mules topped with a modern oversized sweater and a big belt…yup, it should be pretty variable.
Now, my hat is definitely and unequivocally old-style. I have long admired the late 30’s (see this article) and early 1940s oversized drama hats. This hat style seems to go by several names – most frequently called either the pancake hat or beret. It just kind of subconsciously seeped into my realization to just start with a placemat. It’s round and lightweight and the perfect base for that kind of hat, but then again this is not the first placemat hat I’ve made (see this one here). First I covered the hat in felt, but that was way too plain. I had to spice it up. I pleated the felt in an Art Deco style throwback in three tiny pintucks that angle in to disappear before they reach the other edge. Art Deco details persisted through the 30’s into the post-WWII times, mostly in the built environment, so the pintucks call to mind my love of architecture. A sculpted hat is sort of like architecture the way they are structured works of art, sometimes reaching for the skies, and craftily perched on the human head the way buildings cling and hold onto God’s good earth no matter what the angle. I actually need my giant hat pin to keep this one on my head.
I wanted to make sure the placemat kept its shape, so, before I sewed the bottom half of the hat to it, I hand tacked an electrical wire to the underneath edge. This was a good idea that ended up being a bad idea. Electrical wire was the scrap I most immediately found on my hubby’s workspace and it was much too heavy for the job…why I need my hat pin. I should have used my lightweight floral wire instead (as I don’t have any proper millinery wire). We live and learn, and although this was not the best success, it is neither a failure. It is a very wearable experiment that I love. It turned out 100% better than my husband had expected and cost me pittance so what could be more awesome than that?! I now had the perfect finish to my outfit and tried a new hat style I have long admired, besides learning what to do the next time! The little silly hat front décor is straight out of my head, also made out of the same felt, and merely something cute and decorative to break up the overwhelming shape.
I love practicing the idealistic challenge and thrifty, global conscious practice of taking my wardrobe from years past and things on hand to use with my talents to update it for my current life and fashion tastes. It’s not because it’s the new “in” thing to do, though…neither are we on that tight of a budget. It’s purely because I want to. I have been doing this for so many years, way before it was a trend, I am used to looking for what is on hand before I buy. My husband calls it a version of shopping…where I go downstairs and rummage through my stash of unworn, but sentimentally attached garments I no longer want to wear the way they are to find something “free” to rework it and feel like I end up with a “new” piece of clothing. Add in a fully new, made-from-scratch item, like my blouse, which was easy and fast to make in a natural fiber, and top it off with a luxurious statement hat made from ridiculously simple home decorating supplies on hand…and I get my fashion and overall creative fix satisfied. You don’t need much money or supplies to be crafty and start sewing. There’s a bounty of stuff nearby somewhere just waiting for a second chance.