Face Value

Yes, this is a cliché phrase but oh-so-appropriate for this post’s project.  You can’t judge a book by its cover, so the saying goes.  Well, even a line drawing to a garment design, heck – even the finished garment itself – can hide construction secrets…I’m specifically talking about the good and wonderful kind.  This jumper is definitely a case in point!

It’s made of a warm and soft common flannel made to look like a much fancier woolen suiting, with pockets and a front closure that are really not workable, and a back zipper that you can’t tell is really there (that’s why they’re called invisible, duh).  This garment carries a vintage vibe yet is a very modern release.  The pattern itself is called a deceiving “Waistcoat Bodice Dress” to designate that it is a jumper made to look like a dress that has a vest-style top half.  You’d never guess how I finished the inside, either.  Confused much?  All you really need to know is that I love this make!  It came together wonderfully, is freaking cute, and is crazy cozy for chilly weather.  It really brings a jumper to another level, and makes the most of its on-point details.

This was made as my last 2018 “Burda Challenge” make for the month of December.  I know, I’m running late to post it on my blog, but better late than not at all!  I HAD to make this Burda “Jumper Dress” after seeing their version paired up with the vintage 1963 ruffled neck “Beatnik Blouse” which I had made in November.  However, the jumper has such great wardrobe potential for me that it matches up to almost every other winter blouse I have, especially the Burda scrunched neck Turtleneck.  I paired it in these pictures with an older RTW blouse which I felt brings out the 1970s vibes that the jumper has…besides, it is more paisley and it brings out the turquoise in my outfit (one of my favorite colors!).  I am wearing my Grandma’s vintage 70’s drop earrings, and some modern T-strap wedges to match.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% cotton flannel printed with a navy, tweed-like, imitation texture pattern; fully lined in both cotton and polyester…reasons explained down later

PATTERN:  Burda Style #109 “Waistcoat Bodice Dress” from August 2018

NOTIONS:  All I needed to complete this was luckily on hand – thread, a bit of interfacing, cotton and polyester lining remnants, an invisible zipper, and true vintage buttons from the inherited stash of hubby’s Grandmother

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was whipped up in about 8 hours and finished on January 5, 2019

THE INSIDES:  Full lining means smooth insides with nary a seam showing…I love it!

TOTAL COST:  The flannel was found at JoAnn, and it was on sale on top of a coupon, so with the free scraps I had on hand for the lining, this cost about $15 or less.

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 inserts in the magazine issue, but most other patterns are available online as a downloaded PDF that needs to be printed out and assembled together.  What works best for me is to use a roll of thin, see-through medical paper to trace my pieces out.  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size.  Some people add in your choice of seam allowance width directly to the pattern while some as they are cutting out the fabric pieces.  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.

When tracing it out and doing the cutting, I realized the individual pattern pieces themselves seemed quite small and easy to work with.  I was almost doubtful that they would turn out a garment which would actually fit a normal human body.  But, yes – it did turn out beautifully without any confusion or problems.  The sizing was right on, and it came together rather quickly…I actually spent just as much (maybe more) time on the finishing touches.  The fabric appears so dressy and I wanted to keep up the sham by taking the extra time to invisibly hand-stitch all the edges together, even on the pocket flaps, as well as the inner linings.

The only tiny thing that I did change to this was the button placement.  I felt that three buttons down the front mock closure is overkill, while free-flapping pocket flaps are weird without buttons.  The buttons that were in my stash on hand which I did like for the jumper were only four in number anyway.  I wasn’t only justifying what I had on hand, though!  If you’re going to make part of the ‘dress’ look real, do it all the way.

Flannel is one of those “sticky” fabrics (like corduroy) that need a lining to hang gracefully or have the proper body, especially if one plans to wear more winter layers under them.  I find that the more flannel gets washed it loosens up and changes shape, and I didn’t want that to happen to this jumper…at least the top half of the body.  This, I lined the waistband and above in an all-cotton broadcloth which also sticks to the flannel, keeping it in its original shape, besides feeling sturdy and warm.  I did iron a 3 inch width of interfacing to the wrong side of the flannel all around the entire neckline before sewing together to also help keep the flannel in check.  However, for the skirt portion I chose a silky buff finish polyester.  The skirt is slim and cut on the bias so it has a lovely body-hugging shape that is slimming.  Choosing a poly to line the skirt keep it flowing and cling free when I wear tights or even pants under this jumper.  As the skirts (lining and flannel) are cut on the bias, I have left the hems unfinished and raw.  The bias keeps them from fraying so they are good as they are with no hem confining the shape there!

I had been saving this projects flannel for a vintage winter shirtdress, complete with faux leather accents as I had imagined.  However, a jumper is a more versatile in between the choice of wearing either separates or a dress, and – as I said at the top of this post – this Burda one is so smart!  It really lets the blouse underneath still shine (most jumpers don’t do that) by having an open front bodice that is shaped so well by panels and darts it actually stays in place nicely over one’s curves while being so open in styling.  I’m such a sucker for clothes that are chic enough you forget to realize they are both cozy and comfy at the same time.  Things are not what they seem at first view when you sew…especially when you’re talking about something off of my machine tables!  Tell me about a sewing project of yours that has some great surprises to it!

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Oktoberfest “Black Forest” Dirndl

As a girl of strong German heritage, and 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! Each piece is separate for ultimate mix-and-matchability, so 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 being named in Roman times.  The cultural dress and traditions of this region is likewise very old, and the rich dirndl customs associated with it have been around for the last several centuries.  Thus, I find it so sad that an established manner of local dressing, an organic means of freely expressing cultural identity, temporarily became twisted by Hitler, 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 this can painful, but this is an outfit made to honor a woman I don’t know 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 about his mother. 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. Terrified and crying, she was forced to lead the town’s parades, forced to wear what they chose, and be the “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, she was so sad through that ‘perfect’ smile – that image is burned in my memory. And you think image crafting and body shaming is hardcore today…!  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.

I had no idea before hearing his emotional maternal story that a “Black Forest Maiden” was so forced on women and young girls who happened to fit the “faultless” Aryan mold, much like living out a punishment.  As if the way we are made is by choice!  Instead we have been incessantly fed a need to change one’s own inherent individual beauty for ages.  I have read that blond hair dye was extremely popular and encouraged back then for the brunettes, and posters and publications pressured a certain living ideal, too.  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, and be happy celebrating heritage the way I choose in the fall, but making this dirndl reminds that was not always the case.  This is why I did not strictly adhere to the “Black Forest” ideal with my outfit – this is (to me) a freedom-of-expression version for a non-pale skinned, brown hair and dark eyed girl like me of today.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  all fabrics are authentic to a vintage dirndl of the times – cotton for the skirt and a ribbed cotton velveteen for the vest, lined in basic broadcloth

PATTERN:  Simplicity #4230, year 1942

NOTIONS:  I only wanted to use supplies that were on hand already, and all I absolutely needed to buy 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 one copy of mine 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, 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.

The bodice vest’s novelty velveteen – already thick, sturdy, and lovely to touch – was fully lined and fully interfaced with sew-in muslin so it would end up almost like a corset, or at least a very substantial jacket weight.  Lining 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 red trimming (meant for single ladies) and my vest is primarily black.  There is a matching color separating front zipper wedged in the middle to close the front of my dirndl vest.  Happily it is not very noticeable at all.  I really considered a laced up front, but 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 go above par. 

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.

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.

An apron is a must with a dirndl!  I am using a handcrafted fine cotton apron 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 day is a very wearable new version that reminds me of the apron I would have preferred to wear (but wouldn’t dare out of respect) – my Great-Great Grandmother’s apron handmade apron from circa 1890 (pictured at left).  This family history treasure was made on her way over to the United States, and the fine details are mind-blowing.  Just studying it is improving my sewing skills by practicing to imitate such tiny, regular feather-stitching on other items.

I do intend on sewing up the dirndl vest’s matching underblouse in a sheer white organdy just like the cover shows, but I ran out of time for this weekend.  It will be made soon, anyway, and be ready for next year.  Until then, 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 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 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 and coffee on hand to enjoy with him every Sunday after church.  My husband’s paternal side had originally settled in a city actually called Germantown, with 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.  So why did I not make a dirndl earlier than now?!