A Sybil Connolly Skirt Suit

Of all the items I have made in my life, it is hard to believe that only now is my very first sewing using a designer Vogue pattern! Even though this might not be the most spectacular or glamorous project to start with, the beauty is in the details and the rich, significant background of the designer.  This is also a very comfortable and useful dressy set, to boot!  I present my year 1976 suit set of Sybil Connolly, the leader and founder of Irish Couture.

First of all, I want to say that I am counting this as part of my 21st century progressive Easter day creations I have been making since 2013, starting with a dress in the year 1929 style.  Since that Easter day outfit, I make something from the following decade for the next year’s holiday.  (See my 1930s Easter dress here, and my 1940s one here.)  Only since I made this set from the year 1954 did I begin keeping with suiting. This year 2018 was naturally supposed to be something from the 1970’s (after this one last year from 1960), but as our Easter day turned out to be incredibly cold and snowy, this suit set had to be put off being showcased until the next spring holiday – Mother’s day!  Happily, the grass and trees were overly lush and green by the time I wore my new vintage suit set!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a cotton-rayon blend “linen-look” material, in a solid orchid color for the contrast and a floral for the rest of the set.  Leftover polyester lining (in a matching orchid pinkish purple) from my stash was used to line the jacket inside.

PATTERN:  Vogue #1503, year 1977

NOTIONS:  I pretty much had everything I needed – thread, zipper, interfacing, and bias tape.  The only thing I needed to buy for this specifically was a button making kit for matching fabric buttons!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was a relatively easy pattern for being a detailed designer project – but of course leaving out the skirt lining step helped, too.  I made my suit set in about 25 hours’ worth of time and it was finished on April 8, 2018.

THE INSIDES:  I’ll admit I took the easy road here for the internal finishing.  My seams are covered by the lining for the jacket body, left raw for the sleeve seams inside the arm, and bias bound for the skirt.  Bias seams are not my preference for making my own copy of a designer garment, neither are raw edges, but this fabric doesn’t really fray and I wanted my set done for Easter-time…only I didn’t wear it for Easter anyway!  Oh well.

TOTAL COST:  This fabric was bought on deep discount when the now defunct Hancock Fabrics had been closing several years back.  I believe I bought the fabric for about $2 a yard. With about 3 yards used, and the notions I bought, this suit set cost me just over $10…how awesome is that?!

For some reason, I found it incredibly difficult to find a dressy suit set from the decade of the 1970s.  I have a sneaky suspicion that this is due to the casualness that the youthful-oriented and stretchy knit fashions introduced, as well as the greater political and social liberties of women.  Enough said.  Whatever the reason, suits of the 1970’s seem to be quite relaxed, mostly with pants for the bottom half, and frequently with a tunic-style jacket or a safari-style over shirt.  Leave it to a designer to offer my taste just what I was hoping for but having trouble finding!  This suit feels unpretentious, but still polished, as well as being timeless with a 70’s flair.  It was just enough of a challenge to make, yet still easy enough to enjoy the sewing.  It has unexpected details to make my creative heart flutter yet these are subtle enough to go unnoticed to the casual observation.  Besides, now I have the opportunity to both appreciate and share the story of a designer that deserves to be better known.

Ireland had long been considered a country without its own fashion.  Sybil Connolly changed that.  She had been brought up in Waterford County, and trained as an apprentice dressmaker in London starting in the late 1930’s at seventeen and by the time she was twenty-two (WWII times) she was a workroom manager and company director for Jack Clarke, a fashion retailer in Dublin.  In 1954, Carmel Snow, then the editor of Harper’s Bazaar, discovered Sybil Connolly who had just come out with her first collection, featuring the use of her native Irish fabrics and embellishments, most notably Irish linen, only the year before.  With the combined help of the Irish exports board, Connolly launched Irish Couture into an international spotlight with her introduction to New York’s fashion scene.  What she made often showed a woman’s natural body form (in contrast to the likes of Balenciaga) with such dresses as her white crocheted evening dress that was featured on the cover of LIFE magazine in August 1953.  Her inspiration the sentiment A woman’s body is inside. It breathes. It moves. So I must see movement in a dress.”  By being true to herself, her tastes, her roots, and her determination, she stood out in the fashion world, gave women attractive options to wear, and gained a new respect from the world for her culture.  By March of 1955, Vogue magazine was mentioning Dublin in the same sentence as Paris, London, and Milan!

Connolly was adamant about using her fashion line to support business and export trade in Ireland, by not only using Irish textile manufacturers, but even employing over 50 local women to hand make some of her laces. At the Glencolumbkill Agricultural show in 1956, she had said, “I feel that as long as we can show such beauty in design and texture as we do in our Irish cottage industries, we cannot ever be called a vanishing race.”  Click here for a “Glamourdaze” article to watch (in color!) Sybil Connolly’s 1957 fashion show at a lovely Irish castle.  Most of her designs at this time were inspired by rural, traditional garments and materials.  This is cultural approbation at its finest.

For me, I have strong Irish roots on both sides of my family, Sybil Connolly’s work is a personal thing that touches a tender spot.  I too love and appreciate the fine laces that my Irish (paternal) Grandmother hoarded (which I now have) as well as the Irish simple beauty of life that my Irish (maternal) Grandfather enjoyed.  If you follow my blog you have already seen and read my great appreciation for linen, in all its forms.  Now, I know – my suit is not real linen.  It’s made from modern linen-look fabric.  It’s also not in a solid color, as was her wont in her creations.  However, I feel that this is me personalizing my own Sybil Connolly fashion, and I can see this step as something she would approve.  I love a linen-look fabric, and I LOVE a purple print…so, this is a set that is all me, for me, designed by a woman that I respect who has my same cultural ties.

This pattern is from 1976, though, decades after the height of her career (the 1950s).  She had dressed all the most well-known social and political names such as Jackie Kennedy, the Rockefellers, and Liz Taylor through the 60’s and began designing for Tiffany & Co. (glassware) as well as releasing luxury home goods (such as fine table linens) by the 1980s.  So this, pattern was at the far end of her fashion career, when she was trading talents.  I have seen that her mid-to late 1970s patterns have very similar, repetitive qualities to my own pattern’s set.  Many of her skirts (excepting her trademark hand-pleated, taffeta-backed linen skirts) have the same paneling with pockets (see Vogue #2998).  Many of her garments had a recognizable continuity even in 1992 as they did 40 years earlier.

Often, designers who began in the pre-WWII times (such as Mainbocher) had difficulty dealing with the harshly contrasting ‘hip’ and youthful trends of the 60’s-70’s-80’s.  However, she was a multi-faceted woman (she even wrote books!) and found a way to keep her head up apparently to still have wonderful, lovely designs like this pattern for many decades.  That is pure ingenuity and a stamp of a classic style.  Connolly maintained that she knew, as all women designers should, that “good fashion does not need to change”.

One of the major details which slightly dates this suit is the enormous collar.  This is so 1970s and a natural style for Connolly to adopt here to be on point for 1976.  An oversized collar is the most common, recognizable feature to shirts and jacket necklines that I see and make from the 1970s.  Other than that, the rest of the details are pretty timeless, and finely crafted.  The sleeves are the classic two panel style seen on most suits.  The body of the jacket has a princess seam running vertical down through the bust, starting from sleeve and running to the hem, separating the front from the side panel.  The side bodice panel has a sneaky extra shaping dart close to where the side seam is while the back is pretty bare bones, yet still shaped nicely.  As this is supposed to be a warm weather jacket, I didn’t line the sleeves and I left out the shoulder pads to keep this lightweight.

As I left off the bias tube belt the pattern called for to wear over the jacket, I instead made sure to keep another accessory detail that can be spotted on the example garment shown on the pattern envelope cover.  Can you find it?  I made my own clip on fabric flower to match for the collar!  I used the 1950’s Dior-style bias method (which you can see here or here) to start with and slightly adapted it so the flower is more compact like a double rose.  Making fabric flowers is my new favorite thing to do with my scraps.  Not only does it use leftover fabric, but I end up with a wonderful matching accessory.  Plus it’s fun (very important) and is an excellent way to practice precise hand sewing.  Small-scale, often time-consuming details like this fabric rose remind me of the labor of love which went into Connolly’s creations.

My favorite feature to this set is possibly the smart button placket to the jacket.  It is only on the exterior front, made a bit more obvious by my solid contrast color.  There is only a wide facing on the inside.  This is unusual but lovely.  I couldn’t find it in my heart to break up the color and texture of the front placket by using anything other than matching fabric buttons, so I bought a kit to make them myself.   I feel like this brings the jacket’s detailing to a whole new level equal to a designer pattern.

My next favorite feature is the smart pockets in the unexpected gore design of the skirt.  It is a four panel (or gore) skirt with no side seams.  There are center panels in the front and the back, with one wrap-around panel to either side.  The waistline has small darts coming out of it, ending at the high hip, adding shaping there in the absence of a side seam.  I think I have only seen no side seams with a side seam darts with my 50’s pencil skirts (here and here), so it is another uncommon feature for the 70’s.  With such seaming, do you know where the zipper closing went?  In the left back side seam.  This makes it kind of tricky to close unless I twist it around to the front of me while dressing.  The pattern called for a flap closing back much like the front buttoning fly to men’s trousers and historical breeches.  I simplified that by sewing one side closed then adding a zip in the other.  Then I continued with the contrasting color I had been using on the jacket to make the skirt waistband out of the solid orchid color linen-look, as well.

I suppose you have noticed my hands slipped into some well hidden front skirt pockets.  What you may not have detected was how the skirt is a straight A-line shape from the front, while the back is gently fuller.  Anyway – back to the pockets!  They are so handy in the way that they are deep and generous to hold many things, and they are at the perfect height for my arm length.  The pockets inside swoop in towards one another, and to keep them that way there is a small length of bias tape to connect the two.  Whenever there are pockets like this I always think of them in connection to a kangaroo, because they give me room to hold things over my tummy!

The pattern I had was a slightly bigger size than what I needed, so I used the same method I used for this 60’s dress.  I cut off the seam allowance on the side and shoulder seams, and made slightly wider seam allowances.  Read more about it in this post.  I’m really liking the perfect fit I end up with this method.

I am now quite eager to dive into my next vintage Vogue designer pattern.  I have already bought a few more while I was in the post-project happiness – among them ones from the 80’s and 90’s for my Easter suits of the next two years!  I love how designer patterns give me a reason and opportunity to learn more about the talents, individuality, and biography of garment creators that made it big.  Unfortunately some of them have been better remembered in history than others!  In fact I prefer the forgotten or little known designers because it helps me associate myself better with them.  I might be sewing using a designer pattern, but most importantly anything I make means I become my own designer.  Home sewing is so underestimated.  One person does all the jobs of a whole fashion house.

Sybil Connolly had bystanders remark of her (at a party she attended in 1946, before she had her own line of clothing) that “Wearing her own designed dress, she was her own best model.”  That is my ideal, to have me – the creator of what I make – be the foremost representation for what can be accomplished at the hands of a dedicated seamstress.  It’s like wearing your art on your back and being your own silent spokesperson for what you do.  Whether it gets seen or appreciated, that fact should alone make one who sews happy.  You don’t need what you make be strutted down the runway to be proved it’s worthwhile…nowadays, half of what is seen on the runways is trash in my opinion anyway.  Just make sure what you make for yourself is 100% you for you to show the beauty, individuality, and artistry to the powerful talent of sewing!

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Water Nymph

The month of April is synonymous with being wet from spring showers.  The month also frequently hosts the holiday of Easter as well.  I think I’ll just be ‘one’ with it all!

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To me, there is almost nothing that equals the calming noise, relaxing loveliness, and happy beauty of being at a woodland pond and trickling creek.  Top this off with a perfect spring afternoon and Eastertime – and we couldn’t ask for a better place to hang out, do some weekend recuperating, and take some photos of my newest dress.  It is made from a simple pattern at the heart of the “Flower Child” era, 1969, and has a water-marked sort of faded tie-dye knit to match.  My inner “nature goddess” needed a self-made lilac flower crown to complete the whole ensemble!  However, for some of my pictures later on you’ll see me stripped of the sash belt, flower crown, and even shoes to go more ‘natural’…

I see pastels everywhere (fashion-wise) this season, and I am not one to purposefully follow trends, but the new, rayon-based, super-soft knits at my local fabric store tempted me, too much.  They also happen to be a designer line!  Now I can be on trend, yet still sneak in my vintage love with this dress, he he.  Vogue 7463, late 1968 or early 1969

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a Kathy Davis Designer brand knit “Eraser Purple”- 97% Rayon 3% Spandex knit.

PATTERN: a Vogue #7463, from either late 1968 or early 1969

NOTIONS:  nothing but thread and two small strips of interfacing were needed –simple!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  the dress was finished on April 1 (2016) after about 8 hours spent to make it up.

TOTAL COST:  This fabric was a very recent purchase from my local Jo Ann’s fabric store.  I spent about $18 for two yards…a bit more than what I’m used to spending but worth it for a designer printed dress like this one!

This garment is part of two sewing challenges actually – the “Wardrobe Builder” dress project for April as well as the “Easter-Spring Dress” sew-a-long.  It is part of the “Wardrobe Builder” project because firstly, it is a dress, plus being one that is so very practical yet dressy at the same time.  This combo should make this a nice go-to for early spring, especially since it has long sleeves to keep me warm enough through the chilliness we so frequently have through the season.  My dress is part of the “Easter-Spring Dress” sew-a-long because of the obvious…it is perfect for spring and was specifically made to wear on Palm Sunday. This is part one of two dresses for this sew-a-long.

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Only because the design was so simple was I able to plan for two new garments for Easter time!  Although it is simple, the design is first class.  The instructions were very complicated for what one would think looking at the cover envelope picture and design lines of the dress.  The instructions were meant for a fully lined dress with fancy tailoring and made of a flowing woven as suggested by pattern back.  My own dress was much simplified, mostly due to the fact it’s merely made from a single layer of a drapey knit with no seam edge finishing.  I’ll admit I am not used to working with true vintage Vogue patterns – maybe such thorough instructions, fine designs, and nice details are the norm of all their offerings, whatever era they come from.  I do generally love the modern “Vintage Vogue” line of patterns for those same features.  Maybe, I just have a new ‘need’ to find and make some more old Vogue patterns!DSC_0036-comp,w

The rayon knit has a shifty, heavy drape so the wide bateau neckline, which is the highlight of the dress, needed to be interfaced.  I used a stiff, sew-in mid weight interfacing attached to just the one-piece, self-facing which gets turned inside the neckline.  However, the rest of the dress was left without anything to stabilize the seams and this seems to work out fine, but I still am not sure.  Was I supposed to add in seam tape to the long French bust darts, at least – or maybe to the side seams, too?  I didn’t.  The dress seems slightly generous in fit the way and I supposed it was because of the nature fabric but I don’t mind – it only adds to the comfort of wearing it.  However, I do have a very strong suspicion that this dress will “grow” after every wash, the fabric getting slightly bigger and out of shape.  That’s why they added in spandex to the rayon, to prevent this, so I shouldn’t be suspect.  So…for now I’m happy with it the way it is and if it does “grow” on me the more I wash and wear DSC_0047-comp,wit, I suppose I’ll either take it in or/and add on the seam tape then.

Only minor adjustment were made – to lengthen the dress hem and sleeve length by one inch.  I like this length of the dress (and it has a 2 inch hem) but the sleeves took about a 4 ½ inch hem to get them to the length they are and they are still a tad long.  Other than the fact that the sleeve armpit seam dips rather low for my preference and I raised by just under and inch, this dress was straightforward to make.

My floral crown was made from artificial lilac stems bought at the dollar store, carefully layered and wrapped around a band of floral wire with floral tape.  This coronet only cost $1 and I’m so pleased I could spend so little to come up with something every bit as lovely as I had hoped.  I would totally wear this out much more than I will, in fact – boo hoo.  It is so fun!  Hubby lets me do my own thing with my projects and outfits, but this floral crown makes him sigh and roll his eyes at me…really?!  Yes, really – it is awesome to wear just what I want and frolic in a lovely flower crown, just because I came up with an idea and was able to make something of it.  Luckily, previous experience from briefly working at a floral shop came in handy here…

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I do have to laugh at myself that I sew with a non-floral fabric and have it in my mind that it is inspired by nature.  It figures!  Oh well – after spending the week before at home being sick, this outfit gave me the prod I needed to get out and enjoy my favorite part of the outdoors.  Inspiration is everywhere.

For more pictures of my ‘frolicking’ through nature in this outfit check out my Instagram!

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“Atomic Jacks” 1955 Set of Redingote Jacket and Dress

I’ve sewn it again…here is another look-alike to the fashion of the corrupt character of Whitney Frost on Marvel’s TV show “Agent Carter”, Season Two.  This time I have an outfit to show you of a dress and redingote jacket, inspired from episode 8 “The Edge of Mystery” to be precise.  I am so proud at how this outfit turned out better than I’d imagined it for myself, and it’s so wonderful to wear!  I even found an eerily similar silk scarf and leather-like driving gloves, all vintage, to properly complete my Whitney outfit.

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Both garments are absolutely great, however the dress was a bit overwhelming to make as it had a huge amount of ease on top of generously large fabric-hogging pieces.  The jacket is so amazing I want to convince everyone they need to brace themselves for the challenge of making this pattern – the most lovely design of outwear I could possibly want.

DSC_0860-p-compBe prepared for some dramatic poses, and a disturbing crack down my face opening up a force to be reckoned with…just like the villainess who wears my inspired outfit.  Yeah, it sounds weird to put myself in the shoes (through an outfit) of a megalomaniac with powers from another dimension, but Whitney Frost, like many women, was on a quest for purpose and respect…she just went down the worst path imaginable.

THE FACTS:

FABRICS:  The Dress: a Gertie brand 100% cotton sateen, The Jacket: a 100% Kona cotton for the exterior, a basic poly lining for the inside, a buff poly satin for the pocket flaps and belt, and a 100% cotton for the bias binding. 

PATTERNS:  The dress comes from an original 1955 Advance #7095 pattern and the jacket comes from a Vintage Vogue #8875, a re-print of a year 1955 and 1957 pattern (originally V#4771).  The pocket flaps were added on from an original year 1948 pattern, McCall #7354. McCall 7354, yr1948 & Advance 7095, yr 1955-comp

NOTIONS:  I had the interfacing that I needed, as well as the dress’ thread, zipper, and packaged bias tape, but the jacket needed thread to be bought and I made my own bias tape.  The buckle is from my stash and it is vintage carved shell.

THE INSIDES:  All nicely finished.  The dress has all bias bound seams and the jacket is fully lined.

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TIME TO COMPLETE:  Both the dress and the jacket were a bit time intensive.  My dress was made in about 10 hours (not counting maybe three hours for cutting and laying out) and done on June 8, 2016.  The jacket was made in about 30 hours (with about 4 hours for cutting and laying out) and finished on July 1, 2016.

TOTAL COST:  The dress took so much fabric (5 something yards) I’m not sure of the total anymore, but I think it is about $25 to $30.  The jacket was less because half of my supplies (the lining, satin, organza, and some thread) were on hand so my total for 4 yards of Kona cotton on sale with one yard of a remnant for bias tape comes to a total of about $23.

Whitney at atomic siteFirst off, I need to vent…this is not a costume, in the particular definition of being something for cosplay, stage, theater, or an out-of-place garment.  It is clothing I want to wear in my modern living (the jacket is something I needed, actually) and was merely inspired by something on television to go the extra mile for a great outfit.  That’s good, right?!  I kept my outfit similar in shape, color tone, and style, but it is according to my own taste and personality because I intend to wear these pieces in my daily life, such as out to dinner, vintage shopping with friends, or to church.  However, I will admit this would be perfect for the next in town cosplay event and it is fun to understand a character by stepping in her shoes, besides feeling like I could be a part of my favorite television show (see the television still at left with Wynn Everett playing Whitney Frost).

To top off the irony of my rant, the Advance pattern envelope actually calls it a “costume dress”…don’t understand why.  This is an original pattern to make what looks like a very normal mid-50’s dress, albeit quite poufy.  I’m assuming the use of ‘costume’ here is meant in the term of “fashion of dress appropriate to a particular occasion or season or a set of garments to put together an outfit.” Honestly, this all confusing grammar particulars.

Of all the weird things I’ve found in pattern envelopes, the Advance pattern had double pieces, as if someone bought two.  Why just double of the bodice, the skirt side panels, and collar pieces?  To further complicate the mystery here, the skirt double pattern pieces were cut in half, like the previous maker intended on cutting those on the fold, and sliced accordingly.  All the pattern pieces are the same size as each other, so why buy another just to cut two pieces in half?!  After all the unnecessary pieces, the pocket top band is missing, and there is one of everything else.  Was somebody making a lining?  Oh the stories these patterns could tell…

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I expected the dress pattern’s fit to be normal or at least semi-generous, but this Advance dress had the most unexplained extra ease of any pattern I’ve made.  It was like a gi-normous fabric monster.  The skirt pattern pieces were so huge, I had to taper off several inches on each side of all of them and they are still incredibly full.  Several inches had been taken out at the bottom hem because it seemed evening length long, and also to help fit everything in.  I had bought 4 yards already and still realized I did not enough for all of the pattern pieces.  To top things off, I miss-cut on one piece and had to frantically search amid town to find the last remnant so I could finish my dress.  As it turned out, I hacked off 6 more inches from the hem to get my dress the length you see and even sewed up the duo of giant pockets (which I didn’t add), so I guess I sort of wasted a bit too much fabric here.  The pattern I had was technically in my size but I did add in 3/8 inch so I could have a little “just-in-case room”, but I ended up taking out a few inches all over any way, distributing it between the panels.  The empire waist down is still kind of generous on me but I can only take so much in before I give up on reaching that “perfect fit”.  What was the deal?! DSC_0857-comp

For all my saying how huge the skirt pieces were, this dress is such a feminine, swishy, perfect-for-twirling outfit made even better with my full ruffled petticoat underneath.  My petticoat does not remotely fill the skirt out though.  The wide, oval, shoulder-to-shoulder neckline does balance out the vertical seamed skirt, compliments the waist, and creates a lovely 50’s silhouette which I think works for me.

The ‘anchor’ of the dress is of course the dramatically subtle collar-like neckline.  It was quite fiddly, time-consuming, and difficult compared to the rest of the dress.  The combination of a curved, interfaced, skinny strap, faced with another piece and attaching to the full dress with four gathered sections, too, was stressful, requiring lots of pins and slow stitching.  The front tabs end at the same place at the neckline, which was also tricky, then flipped under one another

Whitney and Thompson making a deal-croppedWhitney’s dress had a remotely similar neckline collar, except hers was folded over (free hanging) and tied in the center front.  Her dress has quarter sleeves and center bust gathers while mine has is neither, but our dresses do share the same skirt shaping.  Also, her dress was a solid purple in some sort of jacquard (in maybe rayon or silk) while mine is not, but I prefer the printed cotton sateen to stay true to my taste.  Besides, the children’s’ toy jacks that are on my dress are a nod to the Agent that aims to get on Whitney’s “good” side to reach what he wants – Jack Thompson.  Furthermore, my outfit is titled atomic because a faulty A-bomb is the catalyst for the events in “The Edge of Mystery” episode and the reason both Whitney and myself are in an empty, forgotten dirt patch.  Hence, the “Atomic Jacks” title is now explained.

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Advance 8296, cleaned upThis style of dress seemed to be a common design around 1955 especially with the Advance line but also seen through other companies.  For some examples, see Advance 8296 (pic at right) or view Advance 6915, Advance 8047, Butterick 6988, McCall’s 9647, all 1953 to 1956.  I find it funny that so many dresses look alike in a handful of years almost to the point of being boring.  One could buy only one of this style dress and tweak it to copy all the other releases.

Compared to the neckline, the dress from the empire waist down was just single layer DSC_0933a-compfabric and incredibly lightweight, so I unhappily found out it liked to creep up on me and wrinkle in terrible horizontal folds around the natural waistline.  I had to get creative to combat this bad behavior of my dress.  What I ended up doing was sewing down about 8 inches of skinny ¼ inch ribbon to the dress starting at just below the waist to below the waistline, with a long tail of ribbon hanging down tied at the end to a weight of a ¾ inch washer.  I did this in three places down the two front skirt seams and down the center back skirt.  The weights don’t really get in the way of my legs because I keep them over my frilly ruffled petticoat and they are totally removable because they are tied to the ribbon ends.  The weighted ribbons help the waist stay smoother instead of wrinkling up and nicely keeps the dress in place on my shoulders.  This is probably the most unusual fashion fix I’ve come up with but it totally works.

Now, the jacket is an awesome pattern which makes for a silent showstopper.  A redingote jacket is guaranteed to be awesomely special.  The 50’s were the hurrah for the redingote, although you do still see a few in the 60s, too.  Wearing a redingote is the most fashionable way to have a coat on yet still show off your clothes underneath, besides being so complimentary to the waistline.  (More history on the redingote can be found on this ‘Witness 2 Fashion’ post.)

For this pattern, everything matched together beautifully, the fit is engineered brilliantly,DSC_0771a-comp the sizing seems right on, and it is nicely unique.  Yet, it is tiresome to make and quite challenging…there are eight tricky corners in total to make.  (See the pic at right which shows three views of the angled corners, inside and out)  Once I started on the lining I wanted to give up on the jacket and swear I couldn’t sew another one of those funny angle/tight point corners.  I’m not even talking about the wraparound collar, either.  Yet, as I was making this, I could tell I was going to love it, and the promise of a rocking outfit (as well as a very rainy coming weekend) gave me the guts to suck up my distaste and finish the jacket.  I’m so glad I did.

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There are just a few things I did to the pattern to make it slightly easier to sew.  I did not change any of the design (besides shortening the jacket hem by 4 inches).  My ‘tricks’ here merely have to do with construction changes to achieve the same result as compared to what the instructions show.  First of all, I disagree with the need to do so much cutting down of all the curved seam allowances.  I did not see any noticeable restriction to the sleeve curves as they were and I think paring them down might make a high tension spot a bit less stable.  A little snipping maybe but that’s all.  It is still very important, as boring and repetitive as it might be, to stitch and re-enforce all the points and corners you’re supposed to and, yes, you do stitch the stabilization squares over the corners on the right side.  I didn’t disregard these points but I did use sheer organza instead of self-fabric for the re-enforcement squares (much lighter but just as strong).

Furthermore, I did not use any interfacing anywhere, and also left out the extra add-on contrast collar.  The facing for the jacket’s front edge was sewn to the lining’s outer edge to make a one-piece inner coat.  This was then sewn, as one ‘inner’ jacket to the ‘good’ outer jacket, along the front edge, from one hemline, up and around the collar and back down to the hemline.  Now where the jacket facing joins the lining the meeting is much more stable, strong, and smooth…besides saving me a butt-load of hand stitching!  I know this is sort of ‘cheating’ (so I’ve heard), not very time-committed, nor couture, nor vintage correct.  Hey, when sewing is a chore it doesn’t give personal enjoyment, so anything that saves one’s creative sanity is good in my book.  Besides, ready-to-wear has got nothing on this coat!

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Perhaps the best part (besides the awesome pocket flaps) was taking the extra step for self-made bias tape.  I know, I might sound nuts, but making bias tape is incredibly fun – a total mood-lifter for me, especially with my Dritz tool won from my entry to the “Butterick to the Big Screen”.  Once you have made and used your own bias tape, it is quite hard to use bought pre-made bias tape…no kidding, you’re ruined, spoiled.  Self-made bias tape is 110% better especially when it is made to match out of fabric better than the stiff poly-blend available in the stores nowadays.

To make my jacket truly stand well in rainy weather, I sprayed it down with some “Protect-All” fabric and shoe coating.  This doesn’t stiffen the fabric at all, nor does it make the water bead or roll off, it only retards liquid from soaking into the fiber.  A whole can was used to spray my jacket with one generous coat of “Protect-All”.

Dr Wilkes flying into the rift, my look-alike combo

Did you ever have a film star for which you just had to have her wardrobe?  Well, I guess Whitney Frost is that person for me.  However, I believe I am not just making for myself her fashion.  I also try to put my own touch into it to make sure I feel like “me” in it.  Besides, since I do love purple in all its shades, and this is the color Whitney wears most often, I find it hard to resist.  No, but really – I do promise to make garments in other colors for your sake, and more Whitney Frost outfits for my sake!

If you’re interested in learning more about the vintage methods of make-up that were used to “make” Whitney Frost, see this article on ‘World News’ – and don’t forget to click on the full page option through the L.A. Times!  There is also a photo galley for this particular episode of “Agent Carter” (which you can find here) if you’d like to compare our outfits or just take a look!

 

1940 Summer Plaid Sundress with Mock-Shirred Bodice

Some of my projects unintentionally get passed up under my radar of “things to be posted”.  This lovely staple in my summer wardrobe of vintage garments is one of them.

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At first, this dress was an “Un-Finished-Object” (often dubbed as U.F.O.’s) for quite a while ‘til I eventually conquered its problems and finished it, then it became a “Un-Blogged-Object”.  No longer!  I am proud at how I saved a potential failure here to make another ‘favorite’ frock.  I know the pattern I used is still published (and seemingly popular), so I hope you like my sundress, too, and find both my review and my way of making the dress helpful.  The bolero jacket, part of the pattern, too, is something I have plans to make in the near future, so that review will have to be in a different post.

THE FACTS:Vintage Vogue 8812

FABRIC:  My dress’ fabric is a loosely woven-style polyester blend in blue/tan/white plaid; the lining is a poly pongee in white

NOTIONS:  The thread, zipper, and hook-and-eyes came from on hand.

PATTERN:  a year 1940 reprint, Vintage Vogue #8812

THE INSIDES:  bias bound seams are in the skirt but everywhere else is fully lined.

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TIME TO COMPLETE:  Well…this is a story in itself.  It was first made in spring 2013 for Lucky Lucille’s 1940’s “Sew for Victory”, yet finally finished on May 5, 2014.

TOTAL COST:  This fabric came from something my parents found in their basement and gave to me.  I know it’s not like vintage kind of old, just something from awhile back.  No one remembers when it was bought, so I’m counting it as free.  The lining was from my stash, so I’ll count that as free, too.  Yay!

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In general, I have never had a Vintage Vogue re-print that I didn’t like, didn’t have great fit, nor have I had one that did not turn out successfully.  When this 1940 sundress didn’t seem like it was working for me I was so sad to break this record, so I was elated I could easily make it turn out well.  It was really easy to make, super quick to put together, and does fit very well – I will say that.    But I really think my change improved on the design and also places my dress more on the emphasis of the late 1930’s side of the year 1940.  Yet, at the same time, it seems (from the compliments I’ve received) that either this sundress is deceptively modern looking or this vintage style is quite appealing…maybe both.  It’s great to wear, that’s all I know.

100_2883a-compMy main problem was with the bust gathering of the dress, but I also had random problems everywhere else.  To start with the smaller problems, the skirt length was extremely long and needed to be shortened by about 3 or 4 inches for my taste.  Also, I did not see the back closure working with buttons – I do not relish the idea of “blind” buttoning on myself contorting my arms behind me.  Besides, I wanted a snug smooth fit and (rightly or wrongly) imagined puckering if I added buttons and buttonholes.  So, long story short, I sewed a zipper into the back placket in the same method as a pant or trouser front fly.  I added in hook-and-eyes to the back placket flap edge at both the waist and the top for extra smoothness.  Finally, I changed up the placement of the straps to criss-cross rather than simply going over the shoulders.  I didn’t want to have a dress with straps that droop, always needing attention to be picked up over the shoulders much like many lingerie slips.  With the straps forming an X between my shoulder blades adds added interest but especially gives the bodice more support and just plain stays up properly.

100_2882-compNow the bodice…well, perhaps part of the problem was the stiffness of my chosen fabric.  I can possibly see this working out “as-is” if the fabric was a lovely jersey knit or a handkerchief weight cotton (something loose and flowing), but even still, I’m doubtful.  I did raise up the neckline of the front of the dress’ ‘bra-like’ portion higher by a few inches to make it less revealing, as well as leaving out the “window” opening through the middle.  This added a bit of a challenge to cutting out the pattern and perhaps the more gathering that I ended up with made it overwhelming.  Either way, how it turned out, I could not stand the way the bust drooped a puffed out all at once – so awful!  I was so upset, and for a long time all I could figure for a fix was to cut off the gathered part and top-stitch something on instead. However I had done a good job (not to boast) and the points of the bodice under the ‘bra’ part turned out very well and I hated to give up on all of that.  Finally, it occurred to me to merely control the gathers by the then (1940/late 1930’s times) popular method of shirring or ruching.

100_2871-compWell, I couldn’t start from scratch to make real shirring, so my stitching sewn on the top of the bust gathers are a fake look-alike but just as beautiful and effective.  I maxed out my supply of straight pins to tack down all the gathers.  Seeing all those pins really put my hubby off when he saw it – I suppose he was picturing it on myself like that, making me like a prickly sharp porcupine in the wrong place.  Anyway, I stitched across on top in as straight lines as possible starting from one back side going horizontally all the way around to the other back.  This mock-shirring almost feels like quilting in reality and ends up giving the bust part semi-firm, yet supple, needed support better than some good interfacing.

I felt such relief to see how this mock-shirring was the perfect solution.  It can be so hard to happen to have to right idea for amending sewing projects that just don’t fit the bill of100_2877a-comp approval on oneself.  I find such ideas can’t really be forced, and I have to relax and let the solution come to me after (calming down, first) and be alright with the idea going on a “back burner”.  If I regard it as a failure (easily done), the thought is too crushing and kind of defeats the goal of re-purposing my project into something I’ll eventually like.

So, this is part of the reason why I waited so long between when my dress was first made and when I was finally happy with how it fit and turned out.  Maybe, this is also why I get so many good ideas in the evening…when I get relaxed with a happy tummy my mind also gets happy!  Now, why it took me so long to get to posting about this, well I’ve got no excuse except that when I wear something I’ve made often enough it doesn’t seem ‘new and excitably blog-worthy’ anymore.  Silly me!

An “Audrey’s Style” 1953 Gingham Blouse Re-Fashion

Audrey Hepburn in slim cigarette pants and crop topThe year 1953 was an important year for the popularity of the British actress Audrey Hepburn with the release of the movie “Roman Holiday”; 1953 was also the first year the “Utility Scheme” of clothing rationing was over for post-World War II Britain. Complete rationing wasn’t over in Britain until July 4, 1954, and the fashion industry was rearing and ready to go with a new trends, among which was the popular Audrey Hepburn’s style of casual chic – skinny leg cropped “cigarette pants” and flat loafers or ballet shoes. Skinny tops or cropped tops were often worn from the waist up with this style of dressing from the waist down. Large gingham was also branching out beyond homespun wear and tablecloths, seeing new popularity starting in 1950 and lasting through the decade. Therefore, I have re-fashioned a modern blouse into something hailing back from the early to mid-50’s to honor Audrey’s classic, effortless look.

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Just to clarify, my gingham blouse is the only part of my outfit that is made. The skinny fit black cropped pants are mine from about 20 years ago, bought RTW and still fitting, yahoo! The turquoise hat seen in some of my pictures is an authentic vintage 50’s item, in beautiful felt and with a velvet brim. Please notice my necklace of a charm-sized pair of golden scissors – it’s my new favorite silent “spokesperson” for my love of sewing!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  One “Mossimo” brand gingham tunic shirt, bought maybe 10 years ago from our local big box store “Target” in a girl’s size XL (extra-large). Its’ fabric is a nice and wrinkle-free 100% cotton. Underside the collar is a basic black poly/cotton blend broadcloth, made from scraps on hand.100_6372a-comp

NOTIONS:  I only needed thread…always kept on hand.

PATTERN:  Vogue #7975, a year 1953 pattern

TIME TO COMPLETE:  I took one evening to make this re-fashion, maybe 2 or 3 hours on October 16, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  Nothing special…raw and loose.

TOTAL COST:  Zero! A re-fashion made with everything which was on hand is the best new item because it is free and oh-so-sensible!

As I think I’ve mentioned before, there are indeed forgotten and untouched spots in the racks of clothing in our house. I’m pretty sure most of us all have this same condition. In my case, I seem to always gravitate to the wearing the garments I made or at least tailored and altered (for good reasons which you can probably figure out), rather than wearing any RTW store bought items. Thus, sometimes when I want something new to wear, rather than turning to my fabric bins I attack those uninteresting store bought items in my wardrobe to turn them into something I actually do want to wear. I figure the more I keep up this practice, I am going to have a complete wardrobe of all handmade garments I do want to wear. Not that it’s a bad thing to donate, but I am keeping out more clutter from the overloaded amount of unwanted and unloved clothes besides merely being thrifty. I have something on hand already…so I’ll enjoy the challenge of transforming it into something which fits and looks better than the original. It’s like shopping without spending anything! “Make do and mend” ideal isn’t just for the 1940’s era. If more of us used our existing sewing skills to not just make but also tailor and transform our existing wardrobe items, I think more happiness with what we have and more satisfaction with our personal style would prevail.

100_6367-compIn any case, the original blouse no longer fit my shoulders too well and I wasn’t happy with the overall look. Besides, its proportions were all off. My first thought was the one I went with for my re-fashion – to take advantage of the multitude of pin-tucks. I remembered I had a special pattern with some awesome pin-tuck details from the 1950’s, which was the era I wanted to go with the “new” blouse anyway. Bingo! It’s like figuring in that the pin-tucking part was already done for me and it was perfectly similar to the pattern the way I laid it out.

I made the new shoulder line begin at the old bust line, thereby cutting off half of the pin-tucks on the chest. The original pattern was designed for a separate button placket to be sewn on, just like on my original blouse, so I figured that into the pattern as already done and left it untouched as it was. An existing button was lined up at about 5/8 inches down (my chosen seam allowance for this project) from the center front so I have a closure at the very top of the finished neckline. 100_6370a-comp

The back lines of the new blouse needed to be lined up with the front, and this was quite challenging. You see, both front and back I wanted (actually needed) aligned because I was keeping the existing side seams untouched. The shoulder seam and collar of the new back panel were so much higher than the front for fitting purposes, but thankfully, I was left with just enough of the old horizontal back shoulder length to use for the collar.

Fitting in a new armscye was tricky because I also was keeping the sleeve seam untouched. What I did was roughly measure around the length of the armscye on the sleeve to get an idea of the finished circumference. Then I laid out a measuring tape to the same circumference from front shoulder seam down and around up to the back shoulder seam, marking the path of the u-shaped dip with chalk. Next the shoulder seams were sewn together and the sleeve then set in. I know this might not be the best or most professional way to do this, but you know it worked and provided me with a perfect fitting shoulder. I do a good amount of what I do in sewing by some sort of instinct, naturally knowing in some 6th sense how something will fit and/or work. What will work for me might or might not work as well for others, but at least I can explain my process to you. Getting how you did something “out there” is always good for others to know, whether it worked out in the end or not, for knowing and trying is part of learning in the sewing experience.

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Pin-tucks leftover from the front of the blouse were included in the front corners of the collar closest to the center. Black broadcloth is on the underside of the collar just out of necessity because there wasn’t enough original gingham for another collar, but this was no problem…a few scraps sufficed to cut out something so small. I left out interfacing the collar because I wanted to keep my blouse nice but easy and casual. Where the collar joins to the blouse, the seam is invisible because it’s hidden inside. It was sewn like many collars – one side is sewn to the blouse, the other side’s seam allowance is turned under and both top-stitched down “in-the-ditch” for a flawless finish. The little notch in the pattern’s collar design was rather hard to get sharp enough as I would have liked and, even if I don’t make this pattern again (unlikely), personally I’d like to try like this collar again, if only to redo it. I think it needs to be re-drawn into a more dramatic arch to get a more dramatic notching, as it seemed to me that no amount of clipping close to the stitching can get a good inverse corner following the existing seam allowance. Nevertheless, this collar is subtle but still special, especially with the several rows of pin-tucks across the ends.

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At first, I had planned on a contrast collar, either a lace one trimmed in bias tape or a broadcloth one, both in black. I still sort of wish I had gone with my first thought for a more modern, punk style blouse. However, I was left with enough extra self-fabric, so “Hey…I might as well match,” was in my mind. The matching collar sadly disguises to notched detail and the pin-tucking added. It also seems to make for blouse a bit more cute, and “baby-doll-ish” than I had expected, although making my new blouse more period accurate and more suited to being Audrey Hepburn’s signature “Gamine” style.

“Gamine” is a French word, according to Wikipedia, originally meaning “urchin, waif, or playful, naughty child”. It can be dated back to about 1840, but it wasn’t until the last 80 years it has come to be known according to its English meaning “a slim, often boyish, elegant, wide-eyed young woman who is, or is perceived to be, mischievous, teasing or sexually appealing”. Most of us know of the “Gamine” look of the 1920’s (flappers), but it really wasn’t until Audrey Hepburn’s popularity in the 1950’s when this term became more of something which conveyed a strong sense of style and chic.

The specific “Gamine” style Audrey had in the 1957 movie “Funny Face” was something Funny Face poster 1957 - Audrey Hepburn's costume test for 'Sabrina' from 7-21-1953which she originally refused, especially in regards to the white socks, according to a firsthand movie tidbit from the Director which you can read here. Previous to “Funny Face”, this general style of body hugging bottoms and simple understated coordinates was launched by Audrey in the 1954 film “Sabrina”. Her flat shoes do a lot to keep her style sweet and classic versus heels (which would instantly create a pin-up, bombshell aura). Interestingly enough, the second actress which popularized flat shoes, Brigitte Bardot in the 1956 movie “And God Created Woman”, gave flat shoes a sort of “hot and sultry” look, so I suppose it depends somewhat on the wearer what ballet shoes can do to an outfit. Ballet flat shoes, or slippers, have been around for a very long time in some form or fashion, in old Roman times but especially in the 1600’s being worn for men and women alike until resurfacing again in the 20th century with Hollywood’s help. For myself, I’ll admit that with my tiny feet, I love wearing simple flats. I’ll also admit I am part tomboy, but not enough to fully pull off the “Gamine” look in this post’s pictures…at least I tried! It’s sort of like attempting a conflict of interests trying to be an individual while copying someone else, isn’t it? It’s fun, though.

Do you have a style icon that is incredibly interesting to you? Have you carried over that particular style in your clothing and/or sewing?

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