Meet Ana Jarvis

There is perhaps no individual so enjoyable and immediately likeable in the television series “Agent Carter” as Ana Jarvis.  (I’m not counting Peggy Carter or the delightful Mr. Edwin Jarvis, the two headliners for the show, in this comparison…they are of course fantastic in their own right!)  Ana was the devoted wife of Mr. Jarvis, the butler and all around assistant to the inventor Howard Stark.  Her escape from the Nazis in Hungary at the outset of WWII is a tear-jerker.  The character of the sweet, compassionate, and spunky Ana Jarvis really captured the show even when she was just a mention in Season One before we saw her in person for Season Two.  The very first moment we meet her on screen (played by the Dutch actress Lotte Verbeek) she is so full of life…and her bright and fun wardrobe choices reflect her personality.  Anyone who has a garter that doubles as a gun holster is definitely quite the character!  Check out the colorful recreations of Ana’s clothing choices that I have already made – my first, my second, and my third.

For that first sighting of Ana in “The Lady of the Lake” episode, she was wearing “Green Kimono” print rayon crepe blouse from fall 2014 made by the vintage reproduction clothing company Trashy Diva.  It was paired with a 1940s style box pleated pencil skirt in a complimentary green tone.  Her curly hair was twisted up to the top of her head, with hoop earrings and a simple necklace.  After years of searching, I am happy to have recently acquired a copy of the same Trashy Diva blouse Ana wears on screen (much thanks to a hot tip from a good friend) in both my size and preferred price range.  Then, just last week, I made my own matching green skirt to match.  Now I have a true-to-screen outfit of my very own!  This is so exciting!!  Most of all, it was simple to come together once I had the perfect Agent Carter RTW garment to come my way.  I can make a skirt – no problem!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  one yard of an all-rayon twill with a satin finish

PATTERN:  Simplicity #8508, a reprint from the year 1948, originally Simplicity #2323

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The skirt took me about 4 hours to cut and make, and it was finished on September 20, 2021

THE INSIDES:  clean as could be – bias tape covers the seams and vintage rayon binding covers the hem

TOTAL COST:  The fabric was bought at a rummage sale where material is sold by the pound, so this was probably only $1.00!

First off, I want to point out a few important things.  I have already harped on the pattern I used for the skirt in this post here, although most of my critique was directed at the suit jacket.  I have not used this pattern before now – in that post I was merely comparing the reprint with the original design and pointing out ‘flaws’ in its modern implementation.  Yet, at the same time, I heavily changed up the skirt pattern and rather used it as a guide for me to draft my own similar pencil skirt.  Thus, do not look at this as a true review of the pattern.  I was working with only one yard of material, when the envelope back calls for just shy of two whole yards!  Yeah, I was really stretching my ability to reduce a pattern’s fabric need here.  This was a case of finding the perfect fabric which also happens to be in the wrong amount (too little), and I was determined to make things work.  Also, I just love drafting skirts!

I only used the pattern as a guide to the general shape and fit I needed.  I layered the front and back pattern pieces together at the sides, matching up the seam lines but also eliminating the side seams.  Instead I traced out two side darts instead for shaping the hips – the space left open from matching together the side seams needed to be brought in somehow.  A small 7 inch zipper was hand stitched into the left side dart.  I also then laid out the center back on the fold rather than have a seam.  It has a straight seam anyways, as most 40’s skirts do, since all of the shaping is in the side seams and the over-the-booty darts which come out of the waistline.   Even if I wasn’t on a crunch to make this idea work on one yard I love the smoothness of paring down seams on such a luxurious fabric that is this rayon twill.  This is the way that the pencil skirts of the 1950s and early 1960s work – as few major seams as possible.

Finally, the center front box-style pleat had originally been mostly incorporated into the main body of the skirt but I did not have enough room on my fabric layout for that.  Instead, I cut the pleat to be its own panel.  It is seamed into the skirt down each side of the center front cut down the main body (so there are no seams within the pleat itself).   I based my new panel off of the small add-in piece given for the lower half of the pleat, extending it to run the full length of the skirt (from waist to hem).  This piece was cut out of the top half of the fabric leftover from cutting the main body – the benefits of working with a wider 60” selvedge.  My pleat panel was 22” wide at the hem, tapering to 18” wide at the waist, by about 27” long, the length of the skirt.  My new extended panel worked out better for the way I wanted my skirt’s pleat to open up at a much higher point, 7 inches down at the level of my hips, rather than the pattern’s markings for the pleat to open up lower mid-thigh, 7 inches above the hem.  I still kept the original pattern’s below-the-knee length, which is too short to truly be from 1948, yet perfect for Ana Jarvis’ early 1940’s aesthetic.  After all, Ana’s Trashy Diva blouse is listed as “modeled after a year 1937 vintage pattern”.

I was literally left with almost nothing left at this point, so I had to do multiple piecing to end up with a waistband.  The rayon is buttery soft, so with a bit of ironing out of the seams, and with interfacing attached to the backside, you’d never guess how I cobbled a waistband together.  This was practically a zero-waste project.  It also happens to go with SO many other blouses and tops in my wardrobe.  I’m wondering how I ever got by without this skirt before now.

The final silhouette of my skirt has a bit more of a ‘tapered hem’ than what the original would have been if I followed the pattern faithfully.  The center front pleat is much softer of a look – no matter how much pressing and steaming I did – than the seamed two-piece pleat the original pattern designed.  Nevertheless, I made this work on one yard and I adore the slimming, curve-hugging, comfortable and cute skirt I ended up with, even if it is different from the pattern.  Whenever I invest more than the norm of my own creativity into something, I enjoy it all the more…especially when it is Agent Carter themed!

To keep up the Agent Carter theme, I am wearing Peggy’s color of lipstick #104 “Always Be True”, the bright “Red Hot Red” by Besame Cosmetics.  This was a color which was part of the special “Field Agent” lip kit box offered through Besame several years back now.  In the series’ episodes, Ana shared her dress ideas with Agent Carter when she had events to attend and missions to accomplish.  I can completely see Ana being influenced by Peggy in turn with something like a lip color!  I am also wearing vintage mid-century hoop earrings and my reproduction Chelsea Crew brand double strap mustard yellow heels. 

I am happily surprised at how lovely the Trashy Diva blouse is – this is my first item from this brand.  The rayon crepe de chine is absolutely lovely, and the details are very nicely done.  The label says to dry clean it, but I washed this by hand in cold water with a gentle detergent (no long soaking) and it turned out just fine after drying it flat.  Although the insides are modernly overlocked (serged), I am pleased enough to feel like they are a good option to my own vintage sewing…and this is saying a lot!  They seem to either hold or gain in monetary value over the years so they are a worthwhile investment for your closet.  Rarely do I feature a ready-to-wear item along with my sewing creations in my blog’s posts, but there is a very good reason for doing so this time – because of Ana Jarvis – not just because I am absolutely thrilled with it!

It’s funny how a well-written, well-played fictional character can become seemingly real and larger than life.  Agent Carter as a series is the best example of this occurrence as a whole, speaking from my limited experience with television shows.  The helpful Ana Jarvis is a grounded, more pragmatic temper for many of the spirited personalities around her, especially when there are dangerous missions to undertake.  Even still, for all her practicality, she is wonderfully artistic and creative in her tastes and appreciation of culture.  Mr. Jarvis did a world of good saving her life and giving her his wholehearted love, and Ana in turn shares with so many others such admirable understanding and affection. Peggy might be the heroine of the series but Ana is a wonderfully relatable character.  I find it an honor to step into her place for a while through the wearing of her wardrobe.

Blue Rose of Unattainability

If there is anything that symbolizes the impossible, it is a natural blue rose.  A true color blue just isn’t genetically possible for the thorny flower.  The closest color naturally or scientifically created ends up as a lavender, or violet, or a sort of mauve-ish pink.  Sure, you can dye or paint a rose whatever color you may want, yet science has been beat so far when it comes to growing a rose in an azure tone. 

This is why a blue rose mural is the perfect backdrop for a finished sewing creation which was so very challenging for me to make.  I seriously had the “what if I can’t figure this out” thought during the construction process to my dress.  I was terrified I had met the project which would beat me.  As you can see, I ended up working through it successfully!  Besides, this dress is also another 1950s Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” motivated outfit as a follow up to my previous post.  I cannot just have one princess inspired garment, when it comes to my favorite Disney film, for my “Pandemic Princess” series!  The blue rose theme also lets my choice of color for Princess Aurora’s gown be quietly known.  As much as I love the color pink, her enchanted sleep was taken and awakened in her blue dress.  With her blonde hair, Aurora needs to leave the pink dress to Ariel, the Little Mermaid, in my opinion. 

White may be thought of as a ‘neutral’ or blank color but the funny thing is, I find it hard to find a pure white fabric that doesn’t have a blue undertone. This is a true rarity from a sewist’s perspective!  Only recently have I found out this occurrence is either due to a fabric treatment called “bluing” or an accumulation of acid in the water from deteriorating pipes.  It is hard to escape the frequency of blue in my wardrobe, even when wearing white apparently.  I went along with the theme and wore my blue tulle 50’s poufy slip underneath for full vintage drama.  With the subtle blue tint to the white, the wild rose flower all-over print of the fabric, and the elegant lines to this full-skirted, pretty frock I have an outfit that makes me feel like a princess in more ways than one.  The fact it is a hard won accomplishment to even be wearing this makes the wearing of it so much sweeter of a treat.  I found a different kind of ‘blue rose’ that is attainable…and I absolutely love it. 

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a super soft but thick Indian cotton bedsheet set

PATTERN:  Burda Style pattern #121 “Jacquard Dress” from February 2020, a ‘re-issue’ of a July 1957 “Burda Moden” design

NOTIONS NEEDED:  lots of thread and one zipper

THE INSIDES:  cleanly bias bound

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Not counting the time to trace and assemble the pattern, this dress took about 10 hours to complete.  It was finished on August 7, 2020.

TOTAL COST:  This bedsheet set was picked up at a thrift sale for $1.00…pretty awesome, right?!?

From the get-go, there are a few hurdles that set this dress pattern up to be challenging even before reaching the sewing and construction stage.  Firstly, the pattern pieces for this dress are out-of-control ginormous.  They are rather awkward shapes, too.  This was a big, exhaustive deal for me to trace out the pattern pieces form the small and cluttered magazine inserts.  I spent way too many hours bent over on the floor, tracing lines onto see-through medical paper, and taping pieces together.  The larger the pattern, the more I get confused over the lines, and there were several mistakes along the way.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a Burda Style pattern prepped because I add on the seam allowances as I cut.  An online version of the pattern would be a downloadable PDF that then needs to be printed out and assembled together, and this option sounded like too much paper for me to want to deal with. 

Laying out the pattern pieces on the bedsheets took up ALL of our living room floor.

Of course, all of these facts also mean that this design is a complete fabric hog.  You can only choose a fabric at least 60 inches wide (or more) and need about 4 yards.  A directional print or plaids were discouraged in the Burda info, for good reason.  My use of bedding with an overall print was perfect here.  It offered a lot of fabric in a wider width with a print that doesn’t overwhelm the dress’ design lines and all at a cheap cost.  Opting for a reasonable material rather than using any of the nice fabrics from my stash eliminated any extra stress on me to not mess up on this project.  The fabric was such a dense cotton it does have some structure to it – something very necessary for this dress – yet at the same time it is broken in enough to be so very soft and supple.  Yet, being a bedsheet, I could not tell grain line, just the bias, so I just followed the hem as it seemed the tightest woven direction of the fabric.  For this dress, cutting the bias correctly is almost more important than choosing a fabric with body, as the most interesting panels to this design are on the cross grain.

The Burda Magazine page sums this dress up as “a masterpiece” with its “couture draping at the neckline and waist…shaped in the fashion of a French triangular scarf.”  This is not just bragging on the part of Burda as I have come across a few designer couture dresses that have similar design lines with the ‘wrap-around-to-the-front’ skirt pleats that are part of the back skirt’s fullness.  Here is a 1950s Mingolini Guggenheim Italian couture gown and a golden 50’s cocktail dress from the RISD Museum of Costume and Textiles

The old original Burda Moden summary is a hilarious but still wise call back to 70 years ago in the way it warns “Never wear it in the morning, never combine it with a sporty coat and only wear it with at least mid-heeled pumps!”  To match, I am wearing reproduction “Miss L Fire” leather snakeskin and suede bow pumps and a vintage 50’s era netted hat. The earrings are vintage from my Grandmother and my pearl necklace is the same as the ones I gave to my bridesmaids for our wedding.

Let’s dive into the dress’s details, starting with the trickiest ones first!  There is a full ¾ circle skirt, with two pleated panels on each side that are seamed in with both the right and left back skirt panel.  Those panels wrap around horizontally from the side back, along the side waist, into and around the front draping.  The paneled strips are on the bias and actually one piece (cut-on) with the back skirt…and thus there are no side seams whatsoever from the waist down here.  At the center front, half of the back skirt’s incorporated panels (two on each side, remember) end by joining in with the waist seam.  The other half suddenly opens up to become unrestricted, individual tube-like ties.  These are then wrapped under and through the incorporated neckline drape, which is itself seamed into both the dropped shoulders and center front waistline. 

The skirt panels eventually end under a deep front skirt pleat on each side of the center front.  This way the entire front draping affair is one big interconnected “give-n-take” game, equally pulling on all parts of the dress and keeping everything in place.  My brain is still blown away over all this, and also rather stretched thin trying to explain how magical this Burda retro design is.  Not since I sewed this Jacquard dress using another Burda retro re-issue, which also happens to be from 1957, have I experienced this kind of intricacy in a pattern.

Under all of this complexity, the bodice is a basic dart fit.  A good starting point, a blank canvas, is needed for every masterpiece, right?!  There are several knife pleats in the back shoulders that open up to provide fullness for ease of “reach room” movement.  They also then become a low-key mimic to the more ostentatious origami-like folds to the front drape.  The center back waist has a pointed, lowered, dipped seamline, with an invisible zipper coming from that point up to the neck.  This dress has a slight ‘train’ to it and dips longer in the back by a few inches, nicely countering out the weight of the front and opening the pleats.  

I personally am not a big fan of the slight train.  It almost looks like I merely hemmed the dress wonky.  The train looks really odd when I wear this dress with a poufy petticoat, which I do on occasion when I desire a less of an over-the-top vintage appearance.  However, wearing a fluffy slip underneath is the only way to do this dress justice, otherwise I would suggest horsehair braid or another stiffening method to be added in the hem.  This is a couture dress – there’s no way around it, even though my version is in a fine cotton.  This dress requires plenty of time to perfect its details and master the silhouette.  There is no room for a half-hearted effort here, otherwise the dress will only turn out messy.  This is not a project for the faint of heart!   

It might be complex and fancy but this is also a dress which is comfy and very wearable, making the time and effort invested into sewing it very worthwhile.  It could equally be paraded down a red carpet or worn to a nice outdoor picnic party depending on the fabric chosen or how you accessorize it.  My one and only complaint is that the pattern’s sizing seemed to run smaller than usual.  I had to let out the sides and center back seam allowances to a scant 3/8” for a close fit in the bodice.  Otherwise, I wholeheartedly recommend this pattern in every way possible, even with its difficulties.  It is not for a novice, or even an intermediate skills individual who needs more than a words-only instructional text.  Yes, it may be a project that presents a challenge, yet it is worth it in every way when you end up with a dress like this! 

What is your “blue rose” – metaphorically speaking?  Do have a goal that seems an insurmountable hurdle, but you aim to conquer it?  Good for you – that is a “blue rose” kind of aim.  Do you also get annoyed at how blue all the white clothes end up?  Also, what do you think a blonde girl looks better in – blue of pink?  The funny thing is, these two colors were the choices (out of availability of the chosen dresses) I was down to for my wedding’s theme…and my two bridesmaids were both blonde haired.  They wanted pink to wear over blue.  I happily chose a soft pastel pink as the color scheme.  I will be following up this post with one more (final) “Sleeping Beauty” inspired project…and yes, this time it is in pink!

Effervescence

A dictionary definition says there are two sides to my title word.  It is defined as “bubbles in a liquid; fizz” or “the lively quality of vivacity and enthusiasm”.  Well, the word also happens to be the name for my dress’ fabric print…and it is every bit as lively as its name. 

I am pleased it is also a play on the two Pantone colors for 2021 – “Ultimate Gray” and “Illuminating” (bright yellow) – in a manner as trippy as a psychedelic Ishihara eye test.  This works perfectly for the decade of the 60’s.  I had to oblige my inspiration by using a vintage pattern to make this dress a reality soon than later.  I need the mood boost this color combo promises!  Pantone explains it thus, “”Illuminating” is a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, a warming shade imbued with solar power. “Ultimate Gray” is emblematic of solid and dependable elements which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation.”  Such a summary makes my dress sound like a grounded, tangible interpretation of effervescence to me, and I like the sound of that!  Add in a dash of turquoise – just about my favorite color – and I am a happy girl.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% cotton “Effervescence” design print in the “Riviera” color way by Amelia Caruso for Robert Kaufman  

PATTERN:  Simplicity #8591, re-issue of a year 1961 Simplicity #3782

NOTIONS:  Lots of thread, one 22” zipper, and some bias tape

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress would have been even quicker to sew if I hadn’t had fitting problems…as it was this was a reasonable 5 hours to finish.  It was done on June 18, 2021 and ready to go with me for a weekend getaway!

THE INSIDES:  cleanly bias bound

TOTAL COST:  For 1 ½ yards at 45” width my total price was $18.  My fabric was bought from “Bits & Pieces” shop on Main Street in downtown Hannibal, Mo.  I highly recommend their shop – it has high quality offerings at reasonable prices and excellent service!!

This is yet another experiment with a border print fabric.  This time I had the border run up starting from along the bodice waistline.  With this layout the border ends with its vertical stripes across the bust line.  The remaining overall print is used for the skirt as the border runs along just one selvedge.  I have seen this layout in mostly 1950s era dresses, and I feel that a pattern from the very early 60’s wouldn’t be too far of a stretch.  The perks to such a use of a border print is that it visually slims down the hips by overly emphasizing the bust and shoulders.  Granted, this dress has a full skirt that sort of negates that benefit, yet I did greatly pare down the gathers from the original design in my own version.  This was equally due to being short of fabric as it was because I wanted the skirt more manageable.  I only bought 1 ½ yards of material because I originally planned on making a blouse.  Soon however, a better idea presented itself, as you can see.  I’m glad I chose to sew this up as a fun, simple frock. 

I think the crazy print and the fact this is above my knee in length, as well as sleeveless, helps this dress has a slight 60’s air.  Yet, the classic bodice and the gathered skirt, even if it isn’t very full, helps this dress be a call-back to the 50’s decade.  I wanted this to be an example of what the fashion of the early 60’s was…a thorough mix of both decades.  Styles didn’t change overnight.  What we think of being the stereotype fashion for a decade in the 19-something era is often a fad that came later on at the end of those 10 years.  The mod youth fashion of the 60’s wasn’t a widely adopted style until after ‘65.  Before then, there were a lot of deceptively 50’s looks.

Let the ‘vintage’ labelling be darned here, nevertheless, because the bodice is pretty close to having design lines of a basic two dart bodice block, also called a sloper, and the skirt is self-drafted by me to accommodate my lack of yardage.  Thus, I truly don’t know how 1962 it is on paper at this point.  It’s all about the styling here I suppose.  I almost always have a vintage influence in my choice of accessories and the way I fix my hair, so there’s that.  I do love how versatile this dress is – it can be vintage looking or not as I choose.  Either way, it’s a comfortable, sensible dress that will work for several seasons, too.  Adding a grey blazer, fun tights, and booties might creatively make this dress work into the cooler temperatures of fall or spring.

For being so basic, though, the bodice of this retro re-issue fits horribly.  For me, the torso length was very tall (long), the bust points were high on the chest, the shoulders were generously tall, and the armscye openings were very tight and restrictive.  I needed to do lots of tweaking and try-ons, including cutting several inches off of the waistline length, which only made me crabby such a “simple-to-make” dress wasn’t living up to its promise.  Yet, if you do the work at the pattern stage to perfect this bodice to your measurements this would be good shortcut to having your own sloper bodice block to use to future self-drafting.

This is a fussy pattern, but once I found the original to the reprint, I feel comfortable surmising the reason why.  Simplicity #3782 was originally a teenage and junior’s proportioned design.  I’m wondering if in re-sizing it up to adult woman proportions, they drafted it badly and threw the fit completely off.  How Simplicity allowed this to be printed this way is disappointing and beyond me.  What about standard sizing and quality control?  In whatever way it happened, something is wrong with the new #8591, and I might not be coming back to use this re-print again.  If you do try it, make sure to be prepared for some fitting frustrations along the way to completion.  

In all else, though, I love how this turned out.  I achieved a very good zipper insertion despite doing it by machine, bias bindings were much simpler than facings, and self-drafting skirts is such a joy for me.  The circumference of my skirt hem is the whole of the 1 ½ yard stretch of material and I took advantage of the other selvedge to avoid having to sew a hem.  From the waist down, my skirt is about 22” because the border at the other selvedge edge went towards the bodice.  As I my fabric was originally 45” width and I had to use extra inches along the border to match the stripes, this shorter-for-the-50’s-style skirt was all I could eke out…but I like it, after all as I said. 

A fully gathered skirt would not work I knew, yet at first I gathered only the sides over the hips.  This did not look right – it was much too poufy.  I unpicked the gathers and made a few 3” long half inch wide tapered darts on each side to ease out the total at the waist without taking any out of the hips.  This way I get a lovely bell shape to the skirt and an appearance of fullness to the small yard plus bonus length around.  Ah, isn’t the best part of sewing the way you can make the most out of what little material you may have?!?

Ready to walk down the famous Beale Street in Memphis!

I keep surprising myself at the amount of dresses I can make out of just over a yard.  This one has a full skirt to boot, though!  It was a happy last minute creation that was whipped together so it could have its grand promenade on a trip out of town.  Memphis, Tennessee was hot as blazes that day, but I was staying cool and looking good.  What is there not to be ecstatic over here?  I would say the print is very aptly an energetic word of life and activity the way my dress finally turned out, but then again most all of my handmade wardrobe gives be that happy confidence as well as this one. 

Have you specifically tried to wear the two Pantone colors for 2021, separately or together?  What do you see in my dress’ print – bubbles in a fizzy drink or a color test for your eyes?  Do you believe along with me that there is a special “effervescence” which exudes from someone who wears something handmade? 

Gift Sewing: A Reversible 1940s Apron

My most common item I create as a gift for someone is a really cute, finely detailed apron…and if not self-drafted, there is one pattern that I use for all of them.  It’s a vintage re-issue, Simplicity #1221, originally Simplicity #4939 from 1944.  This is a true winner of a pattern, with one cut piece needed to make it and a good design that has a complimentary fit.  Not every apron is so good at being fashionably waist slimming yet with full coverage for food stain protection, too.  Neither are all aprons so good at being a one yard, two hour project!  One of these days, I need to get around to making a version for myself, especially after making so many for others.  Here’s the post on my first gift version of this same apron pattern.  This particular one was going off to my hubby’s godchild as a present.   

This is the first time I had made a reversible apron, and I love how it turned out.  I wanted her (the recipient) to have something she would not find otherwise, something fun, and ultimately useful!  Just one layer of material (printed cotton) alone was too thin to be a useful against food splatters anyways.  As the apron design is so simple, it was easy to merely have the backing fabric become an optional, yet wearable, second side.  The entire raw edges are encased in ¼ inch bias tape so they look the same on either side, too, besides being an easy and colorful finish. 

The sizing is good for gifting, as well.  It is in loose, general blocks of measurements as small, medium, and large gradients rather than precise numbered sizing.  As long as I can estimate the recipient’s body as compared to my own, I can find the right size.  The waist of the apron should just about cover the front 2/3 of the wearer’s waist, so that always gives me a good way to choose what size to make after measuring the pattern in comparison.  The godchild is actually a 20-something who is my size body (or slightly smaller) so I made the apron to fit me.  However, it is always harder to let something go to someone else once you try it on for yourself, you know what I mean?

I made the ties as long as the pattern calls for, which is short enough for only a knot and not a full bow.  The neckline has no closures and flips over the head to lay on the neck and shoulders like a collar, so I feel the shorter ties complement the overall simplicity of the design.  At the base of the ties, I added a small name tag to credit me, the maker, so the recipient can remember who gifted it to her!

What is your go-to for handmade gifts?