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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Gold Digging Like It’s 1940…

…in the year 2014, courtesy of a Vintage Vogue pattern and some killer Hollywood style.  Not that I’m really gold digging – I have a hubby already.  My desire to try my hand at a couture classic/vintage suit set and my love for Busby Berkeley‘s movie “The Gold Diggers of 1937” were the dual impetus towards this lengthy project.

This suit dress and jacket set is special to me like no other garment I’ve made.  It sets the record to date among my creations for the most time spent, as well as the longest to get done, but also my first jacket, even if it for a suit.  My suit set is truly worth its weight in gold!

100_2738THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The primary fabric that for my suit dress set is a very thick and stable cotton double knit.  It has a faint print in a textured sort of brush-stroke blend of gold, bronze, and light blue on the right side.  The print is nicely subtle, and looks like it could be part of the fabric, but it does rub off (bummer).  This is especially true in places where I did some heavy duty stitching or handling of the fabric, such as the buttonholes.  For the lining of the dress and jacket, I used a very sheer, lightweight, and silky polyester interlock knit.  It was bought to make a Halloween costume which didn’t happen, so it went to my suit set.  The thin poly interlock makes the perfect lining layer – thin enough not to add much bulk, but silky enough to keep my main fabric flowing and effortless.

NOTIONS:  Most everything I used for my suit dress set had to be bought, such as extra interfacing, extra thread, the buttons, the dress’ zipper, and more machine needles.  One hook and eye set and some bias tape that was needed were the only notions from on hand in my stash. VV#2636

PATTERN:  an out-of-print Vintage Vogue pattern re-issue, #2636, originally a year 1940 design.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  There is no way to even count this part.  All I know is that I spent at least 30 hours on each of these three steps: the dress, the jacket, and lining the jacket.  I’m just figuring this set as my 100 hour “century of time” project which was a sometimes frustrating labor of love.  My dress was finished first, on December 28, 2013.  Next the jacket was done, sans lining, on April 8, 2014.  Finally, the jacket was completely lined and finished on October 18, 2014.

100_4233THE INSIDES:  The dress’ seams are double stitched, with the edges left raw and merely zig-zagged together.  Both the lining and the suiting knit do not fray, so there was no real need for better seam finishes.  Besides, the fabric was too thick for my sewing machine to realistically handle, thus the hard fact was that any seam would only be thicker and unable to be sewn.  For the jacket, every raw seam inside is covered by a full lining, complete with box pleats at the waist, between the shoulders, and on the chest to give ease of movement.  The bodice was sewn to the shoulder seams first, then the sleeves were added in for a complete professional finish (and a bad case of carpel tunnel from so much hand work).

TOTAL COST:  My set’s main fabric, the printed double knit, came from JoAnn’s fabric store.  It was bought September of 2013 (last year).  I needed 3 1/2 yards, and the regular price was a whopping $20 per yard, but, luckily, I got it at half price for $35.  The thin lining material came from Hancock Fabrics, and was bought dirt cheap (5 yards for $10) as part of an after Halloween discount.  The buttons and all other notions also came from Hancock.  So…to make a long explanation short finally, my total cost is just at $50.  I don’t think I’ve spent this much on any project yet, but the total cost is still very reasonable considering the quality, fit, and time put into my set.  RTW prices would be double for an item much less worthwhile.

I loved the pattern details, seaming, everything…except I knew the dress neckline Veronica Lake similar dressneeded some added interest and (like I said) I had some classic Hollywood inspiration to help me out with an idea.  Firstly, there are plenty of pictures of the iconic Veronica Lake in a metallic lamé dress (from the 1942 movie “This Gun for Hire”, see far right) which has a very similar arched torso and V-neckline to the Vintage Vogue dress 2636 pattern.  Secondly, the actress Glenda Farrell wears a beautifully styled basic black dress (above) that I loved the first minute I saw it on the “Gold Diggers of 1937” movie.  Why?  Not only do I greatly enjoy watching the actress Glenda Farrell, but, together with her friend the actress Joan Blondell, someGlenda Farrell bar shot ‘to-die-for’ fashions, catchy Dick Powell sung songs, and a great plot, makes the Busby Berkeley movie “The Gold Digger of 1937” an all-time favorite in my book.  The lame metallic gown of Veronica Lake inspired me to use the bushed gold/bronze black knit fabric I chose for my suit set, and Glenda Farrell’s black keyhole-neckline dress was ultimately what I copied onto my own dress.  Between the two main inspirations, there is a strong theme connecting everything together of the richness of metal, timeless beauty in design, movie inspiration, and a turn of the decade style.

Making the keyhole neckline on my dress was actually really easy.  It just took some forethought.  Basically, I drew my own template to keep things exact and made the front like a regular facing.  The dress’ facing is really deep and wide, so that fact worked to my advantage.

100_2732100_2571a     I made a paper copy of the front facing, then folded it in half at the center bottom of the V-neck so I could trace out the keyhole shape and have it even on both sides.  See my pictures.  Instead of sewing down just the V-neckline (facing down, right side to right side), I went in one continuous line all the way around down and around the keyhole too.  It was quite tricky on the facing to make the neckline/top keyhole point so close, barely touching, but still apart.  I think I held my breath sewing that spot.  Taking my time, I carefully turned everything right sides out and top stitched down.  There is a tiny hook and eye tucked in the spot where the keyhole point and the neckline V meet and hand stitched down.  This way I can undo the hook and eye to make getting the dress on over my head much easier, but also I accomplish a nice, tiny point much more precise than if the corner had been sewn together.  Utility and fashion are happily combined in my neckline refashion.

Glenda Farrell’s “Gold Diggers” dress had open, oval, cut-out shoulders as well as the keyhole front neckline, and was racking my brain whether or not to add the open shoulders, too.  Had the fabric been less thick, and the dress itself not so heavy, I might have had the open shoulders.  However, as you see, it didn’t happen.  It’s best not to mess with good thing sometimes 🙂

100_2753a     Other than grading, the entire suit set was made as is according to the pattern.  The small amount that I did need to add to the hips and the waist (only 1/4 inch) was added at the “on fold” end of all the waist middle pieces and the dress skirt pieces.  This way the curvy side seams retained all of their amazing original shaping possibilities.

I was tempted to bring in the hem of the sleeves into a box pleat to make my dress more of a late 30’s garment.  But the sleeves weren’t meant for that.  Puff sleeves of the 30’s did last in the early 40’s (no later than WWII), but the type of sleeves that are on my dress were “the new thing” for years 1940/1939, as a transition into a new decade with differing styles.

100_2752     The hardest part of the entire suit set was hands down the gathered slashed above-and-below bust gathers on the jacket.  Not only were they hard, but small, tricky work, too.  To top it off, I was obsessing just a bit to make sure that all four of the slashed gathers looked even on both sides of the jacket.  The instructions for the slashed gathers are a bit strange and different, but works in the end.  You cut the slash spot, sew a gathering stitch on the one side, and pin on this ‘sword blade’ shaped facing to help support and match everything.  Somehow you have to sew each side of the slash separately, so you can then cut an opening in the facing to turn the whole thing inside.  Both facings get pulled together (either above or below the gathers), to be sewn together by top stitching down with the edges meeting so as to cover up the facing.  At this seam, there is literally so much fabric, and to add the gathers was more than even my sewing machine could handle (and my Singer is a workhorse).  To top it all off, the ‘below bust’ slashed gathers also have the bodice panel ending there so it had drop down vertically along the button placket.  For the reason of ‘too much fabric’ alone, the jacket bust gathers are (in my opinion) a difficult, almost faulty design, but that’s no one’s fault, especially Vogue’s.  It just makes for more experience…that’s how I explain a frustrating sewing experience to myself.  If you want to make this pattern, too, I hope I haven’t discouraged you – this spot is not impossible (as you can see on my suit).  I just hope to help or prepare others.

As my very first suit coat, this is also the first time I have done bound “window pane” button combobuttonholes.  I am happy at how well everything turned out and I don’t feel that I really could have done better.  I found Gertie’s blog tutorial to be very helpful before I went and did the buttonholes.  Several trial runs were done first to make sure of the correct size for my buttons.  I even made a template rectangle to make sure all of the five buttons down the front had uniformed sized holes.  It was really fun to do (surprisingly).  The buttons are an antiqued gold, open worked filigree design, bought new, so they’re not authentically old looking.  More metal!  There are basic black buttons sewn on the under ‘wrong’ side as a backer support.

I chose the 3/4 length sleeve length for the suit coat to make it more of a transitional weather piece.  The lining inside and the heavy weight of the knit fabric makes the suit coat more of a jacket for me.  If you hadn’t noticed, the collar stays open, flap style, and doesn’t button up any farther than you see.  And just because you haven’t seen it yet, look at how the back of both the dress and the suit coat mimic one another with the drop arch of the middle bodice panels.

100_2759-combo     Sewing this suit set ended up costing even more than first realized because it literally broke my machine.  The fabric was too heavy, the knit was too very tight, and I ran over too many pins, breaking too many needles.  Bad me!  The sequencing was knocked off kilter on my sewing machine, plus a gear was slipped out of place.  The needle bar was off center, too.  At only 8 inches away from the last stitch that would have completely finished my machine stitching for my suit…the machine gave out.  “I can’t, just can’t do this anymore!!!” I could hear my old standby machine screaming.  It was needing a visit to the repair shop anyway, poor thing.  I just didn’t mean to torture it.  I suppose that you can tell one does a lot of sewing, and loves it, too, when one begins to speak of their machine(s) as you would a pet.  So it goes!

This whole suit is a very worthwhile satisfying project that demands some dedicated time and effort to finish.  Don’t expect to whiz through it or get by without a good amount of hand stitching time, as well.  Nevertheless, the final piece is a very classic, figure-flattering garment which has top notch style features that seem current in any decade.  If a garment can possess those qualities, then that is the true proof of quality fashion.  I am very happy with VV2636.100_2749

I accessorized my suit set with the most era-appropriate shoes and hat and purse of any outfit yet.  Everything you see on (well, not my glasses, sorry) and behind me is historically correct, plus, in this case, also has a personal story.

Let’s start with the story related to my shoes, which is about my backdrop: the International Shoe Company building.  It is an absolute, humongous, Art Deco gem (as you can see) built in 1910, remodeled in 1930, and has many references to the cobbler’s trade in some of its hard-edged designs.  In fact, if you look above me in the very first picture of this post, there is a cobbler sewing a shoe in a very dramatic pose.  In 1911, International Shoe Company was created by a merger of the Sam Peters Shoe Company with the Roberts, Johnson, and Rand Company (taken from here).  Washington Avenue, the street these are on, became known as “Shoe Street U.S.A.” because it “claimed more shoe trade than any other street in the world“.  My shoes that are worn with my suit set are old leather originals that have a stamp inside marking them as “Peter’s brand” ‘Smart Maid’ shoes.  With a bit of research, I was 100_2775able to find out that the ‘Smart Maid’ line of shoes were a short-lived line produced by the International Shoe’s Sam Peters through the 30’s and ending about 1940, pre-WWII.  Thus, I can date my shoes to a very specific time.  Cool!  More or less, I’m taking these shoes back to the place that made them over 70 years ago…and they’re still good enough to wear!  Wearing an old shoe made by the International Shoe Company is a small honor in its own way because my maternal Grandmother had a job here helping to make their shoes when she was young.  In fact, she likes to relate the story of how the great Major League baseball player Joe Garagiola happen to fall into a large vat of shoe glue at the factory.  It sounds humorous!

Gene Tierney in a slant top hat100_2767a-b     Now, for my hat’s story.  It came from the collection of an acquaintance of ours who also has an appreciation of all things vintage.  When I brought my hat home, I did some research to find out the era of a hat with such a special and unusual shape.   Looking at my old fashion catalogs (reprinted by Dover publications), it seems that slanted top pillbox hats and other unusual shaped millinery was worn in the late 30’s to early 40’s.  See at far left a 40’s picture with Gene Tierney, or look at the fashion picture from page 101 of this Dover book for two examples.  Though you can’t see it, my hat is a fine beige wool crepe with yellow gold embroidered flowers and intricate gold seed beads over the flowers.  The inside of my hat makes me think it just might have been handmade by a very talented milliner.  I feel as if I have properly matched up this interesting hat with a proper outfit appropriate for its era and formality.

100_2733     Hopefully, this suit set is the first of more to come…which I anticipate will not take as long to finish as this first one.  Oh well, taking the time to make sure to make something with quality is always worthwhile.

More pictures can be found at my Flickr Seam Racer page.