Summer Rose

As soft as a perfect blue sky, as delicate as a newly opened wild white rose in bloom standing strong during the summer heat, this year 1953 dress strikes me as taking these things into a tangible garment.

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I like the balance to this dress design.  I see it as an unabashedly feminine yet not overly sweet dress, sleevelessly ‘cool’ yet covered up with the capelet, and elegantly tailored yet completely comfy in my chosen Gertie brand cotton sateen.  As if I couldn’t ask for a better vintage 50’s summer dress, this was actually inspired by the villainess Whitney Frost from my favorite show, Marvel’s Agent Carter.

Butterick 6928, year 2000 reprint of a '53 patternTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% cotton sateen, in a Gertie brand print, with a plain white cotton broadcloth to back the capelet and become the facings

PATTERN:  an out-of-print Butterick #6928, a year 2000 pattern from year 1953

NOTIONS:  Nothing but thread, a few hook-and-eyes, and few snaps from on hand were used

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress was finished on July 21, 2016 in about 5 hours.

THE INSIDES:  cleanly bias bound

TOTAL COST:  This was bought from JoAnn’s Fabric store (they sell most of Gertie’s prints), and you’d never guess, but this dress is sort of a fabric hog and I ended up having to buy over 3 yards so this cost about $25 (more or less, I don’t remember).

DSC_0042a-comp,wThe wide capelet overlay is balanced out by the slim lines throughout the rest of the design – so unusual, that I was unsure if it would work for my body type at first, but once on me…it’s a winner!  I really do get a ton of compliments on this dress so the design must be doing something right for me.  Just looking at the dress, a first glance cannot help you even realize how smartly designed it is when it comes to construction.  It’s a one piece wrap-on dress!

The asymmetric pleat in the skirt hides the closure, and I really like how it is a closed pleat, meaning there is no open slit, just a fold over of the skirt.  The front skirt is a good example of how this dress’ pattern pieces are really unexpectedly interesting.  It is cut really wide but then gets a deep knife pleat to end up as a skinny wiggle style with full freedom of movement.  The wrap style opening continues into the skirt from the waist with a bias-finished slit down the center of the inside of the knife pleat.  Dressing is as easy as…”step-in, hook closed, ready to go”!  Not too often are vintage dresses this easy to get into – the side zipper ones are the worst – so I am quite excited about this one, especially since it is much nicer than just a house dress (the one’s that mostly have such a simple dressing method).

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In essence this is really a full sleeveless dress covered up by the capelet which nicely finishes the neckline edge.  I like how the capelet keeps my shoulders from being sun burned.  Yet, even though it is double layered (it is fully faced), it is so wide and floaty it stands a bit off of my body so as to not cause the dress to feel oppressive.  I imagine one could even make this dress as a simple sleeveless bodice, and sew the capelet separately, for a garment with more than one option.  However, I think the capelet is almost necessary here – the 1950s designs had such elegant drama, and I think it is a good thing to bring back.  Everyone needs to experience a bit of the 50’s!

I know this is a rather odd length for the hem, but this is something that the early 1930s shares with the early 1950s.  It can be rather slimming with the right silhouette, as well as complimentary to the calves and ankles.  From what I’ve seen in modern fashion, this hem length is coming back.  What do they call it nowadays…midi length?!

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Compared to the frustrating troubles of unpredictable fit and sizing that I find with many “retro” patterns of the last 10 years, this one had spot on fit that did not need any alterations or customizing for me to wear.  I followed the chart on the envelope, and the size that it showed was indeed the size that fit.  Awesome!  The instructions were very good at clarifying any tricky parts, too.

DSC_0017a-comp,wThis pattern might be too obvious of a style for me to make again, but yet I am envisioning a sheer crepe version of this in an ankle evening length, something flowing, dressy, and utterly romantic.  Or I could even make a full skirted version with lace along the capelet for a dressing gown, like this vintage original.  If the right fabric and the perfect event to wear these dream versions of the capelet 50’s dress comes along, then will whip up another version in a heartbeat.

Whitney Frost’s inspiration dress from Agent Carter is a bit different than my own, but this time I put my own personality into my version.  She was always the fashion forward one in Season Two, dressing for the early 50’s already at the cusp of Dior’s emergence in Whitney comes for zero matter,cropthe year 1947, so my pattern is from 1953.  The scene in which this dress appears is when Whitney steps into the plot in an unexpected place, in a totally unexpected revelation of true character.  She is taking the first step out her subtle, innocent and happy façade to become the cunning, headstrong, and determined linchpin to many other’s fate and her choking pearls and strong dress style reflected that perfectly.  Her dress is a turquoise solid in a lovely satin, mine is a baby blue print in a utilitarian cotton sateen.  My version is lacking in some other similar details, and yet I feel I captured the overall similarity to make me happy.

Yet again, Whitney Frost’s character inspired me to try something new in my wardrobe, a style I would never have noticed or probably even tried to make and wear otherwise.  Not that you should ever stop letting your personality be reflected in what you wear, but it does help to find a style icon that works for oneself and use that to inspire what you can try successfully.  Before Agent Carter, I didn’t really have a 1950’s era fashion icon that I felt corresponded to my body type, and as you can tell (this is my 5th Whitney Frost outfit!) I’m loving it.  So – I’m sorry that I’m not sorry…I have more Whitney Frost outfits in queue!

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Wrap Around the Border Print Dress

I suppose I’ve been watching Wheel of Fortune, the game show of hidden words and phrases, to come up with this post title!  It’s a “Before and After” line.  No really, border prints are my newest fascination this year.  When I’ve combined such a fabric with a wrap-on vintage dress pattern, my post title somewhat sums up the awesome result.

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Of all the dresses I have made yet this year, this is the dress that is hands down my favorite – that’s saying a lot!  It doesn’t sit in the closet for very long and gets worn almost every other week.  It is the perfect balance for me between fun yet classy, professional yet casual, cheery yet uniquely subtle, and totally easy to dress in yet body complimentary.  This dress is made with my ultimate favorite fabric –rayon challis – and although it is a wrap dress with no zipper, sewing it was still a very good challenge (which I love).  It fits me so well and is comfy as all get out.  I think that about covers all I could possibly want out of a dress!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% rayon challis, with a small scrap of cotton for the neckline facing

Simplicity 5034, ca. 1963, the wrap-around dress, comboPATTERN:  Simplicity 5034, year 1963

NOTIONS:  Nothing but thread and a little interfacing were needed, which I had on hand

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress was finished on March 21, 2017, after about 7 hours of time spent on it.

THE INSIDES:  I began by making all seams bias bound, but then I saw a few holes in the rayon so I lost heart to make extra effort on the insides and left the skirt seams raw and unfinished.

TOTAL COST:  This border print rayon was bought as everything was on clear-out when Hancock Fabrics was going out of business.  It was an awesome $2 a yard for about 3 yards – a total of about $6!

The fabric is mostly red, white, and navy blue making this my un-official Independence day dress for the “Colors of the Flag Challenge”, also known as the “4th of July Proud Dress Project”.  That’s why I paired my red coral bead necklace (made by me, as well) with my comfy and lovely leather B. Makowsky red patent, 60’s style pointed flats.  However, there are also small tinges of turquoise and golden yellow.  Also, when you look at it, the print is really three leaved clovers, like the wild and neglected greens which grow in my country’s roadsides, cow-fields, and backyards (in our case).  Now a plant that gets eaten, stomped on, and neglected has its time to look beautiful.

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The border print was only printed along one selvedge, and it is just about the widest I have seen (about 20 inches deep).  So out of all the inspiration images on my Pinterest board for border prints, I went with a basic layout of keeping the border along the hem and the sleeves.  I also, went for a longer midi length to this dress just so I could use as much of the full border print as possible.

Now, for being from 1963 this doesn’t look like the conventional 60’s dress does it?!  This is a tricky deceiver, again proving to me that the more I look at the early to mid-60’s, the stereotypical hippie style that this era is most known for was certainly not at all around until after the halfway point in the decade.  Before 1966, the overall era is still strongly influenced by the 50’s.

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This wrap-on dress pattern is also something I have had my eye on for the past two years before now.  Finally, I can actually have a wearable garment from my long awaited pattern!  It was one of those patterns I know I’m intending on buying, only it carries a price tag I’m not willing to accept.  So then I wait and selectively stalk the internet every so often just to find one (finally) find at a steal of a price.  I have a number of patterns that I’m doing this same ‘waiting game’ for, and I usually do end up finding an awesome deal eventually.

The actual sewing was quite easy, but the skirt waist pleats more than made up for that!  More on that in a minute, because before that the bodice, it’s facing and sleeves, then the full skirt piece with its pockets had to be sewn together.  The ‘side seams’ are not really on the side; they are off each side of the center front.  A few inches next to those seams, the pockets get set in like somewhat like a cross between a welt and a button placket.  With the skirt piece prepped, I now had one gi-normous rectangle to work with taking up my entire kitchen floor.

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Now, I have seen a few versions made from this same pattern, and most of them were fails because of the pleats.  I totally understand why!  The waist pleats tested the limits of my sewing understanding, and were actually blowing my brain.  This pattern is so ingeniously designed, but the most amazing details are so low key the dress only has an aura of classy simplicity.  To sum things up, a handful of pleats get made first, then another percent of the pleats are made over the ones already made, while rest of the pleats get layered in a opposite direction over only a few of the existing pleats.  I needed the skirt pattern laid out just under my fabric skirt so I could mirror the instructions because no amount of marking kept thing straight, and even still I barely made the pleats correctly.

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At first, the tailoring seems haphazard with no rhyme or reason but once the skirt was on the dress it suddenly made sense.  They were all carefully placed, after all – there are two darts at the skirt were it wraps under to keep things smooth, the biggest pleat layers are at the front hips to ‘hide’ the welt pockets, while the most basic pleating is at the back skirt wrap.  What I cannot figure out yet is the pouf of the pleats seen on the cover – perhaps that ‘look’ comes with a petticoat or using a stiffer fabric?

There are a few details worth noting about this pattern, so that if you do snag your own DSC_0361a-comp,wversion –and I recommend you do – you will be informed.  First of all, the bodice is quite long compared to other 60’s era patterns.  I realized that fact only after I was finished with the dress.  It is really close enough to not be something causing me to unpick and re-sew or detract from my overall fit.  As long as I keep decently good posture (which I should be doing anyway!) the waist is at a pretty good spot, but for my next version (Yes! It will be in cotton, too) I will shorten the bodice at the middle.  The center front neckline, for as high as it already is on me, was actually lowered by about ½ inch.  As much as I love a beautiful boat neckline, this is again something I am ok with as it is, but will slightly change and re-draft differently next time.

Finally, the V-back neckline does have the tendency to gape open and droop off the shoulders without some sort of small help.  My immediate step was to add snap-closed lingerie straps at the tiny shoulder seams to hook onto my underwear.  However I wanted another option not including anchoring the dress to my lingerie, so I sewed the tiniest size hook-and-eye that I had to the back neckline edges where they cross.  The DSC_0363a-comp,whook-and-eye was sewn just underneath and at an angle to the very edge to keep a natural, un-recognizably “tacked down” appearance to the back neckline, and they are just enough that I really don’t need to use the lingerie straps.  Yay!  Fitting crisis averted, style lines kept unaltered, and easy fixes found.  Although this wrap dress hasn’t got a zipper, it does end up having a great fit I never thought possible with a garment that just is thrown and tied on!

This is a project that definitely made me ‘work’ in a good way for a final garment that I love and feel proud wearing.  I would have never guessed a dressy house frock would have given me such a challenge but that is the awesome beauty of using vintage original patterns.  They always have much more than meets the eye…you just have to dive into them to find what good surprises they have to offer.

Speaking of surprises, my dress doesn’t exactly have as much of an overlap to the wrap as I would have liked and it does sort of open up to a ‘surprise’ flash when the wind blows.  Sometimes I safety pin the flap down, but most of the time I don’t…and then this can happen.  I hope the secret message of this photo tells all!

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Multi-Purpose 1971 Jiffy Garment

All I know is that it fits, looks great, and it is in a peacock print (my favorite – see this post) lined in fabric of the color turquoise (another favorite). Can’t go wrong there! Whether it is a dress, or a tunic, or a jumper depends on the weather and how I feel like wearing the garment. That is the versatility of my newest 1970s sewing creation.

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THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The printed fashion fabric is a 100% cotton from the quilting department, and the lining inside is a cotton blend, twill-looking gabardine solid.Simplicity 9461, year 1971, Jiffy dress or tunic or jumper & pants-comp

NOTIONS:  None were needed to buy ‘cause all I needed was thread…pretty simple, right? It was my decision later to use some bias tape on hand to finish off the armhole edges.

PATTERN:  Simplicity #9461, year 1971, a “Super Jiffy” pattern.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Only about 4 hours were put into making this dress/jumper/tunic thing. It was done in one afternoon and evening on December 3, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  What insides? Everything is tucked inside itself.

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TOTAL COST:  Maybe $8.00 for the gabardine and a few more dollars for the printed cotton.

This little number is kind of a mystery fashion item – one of the reasons why I wanted to try it especially since it’s a one piece “Super Jiffy” pattern. In other words, I’m not committing much time and not cutting into my fabric much since this line of patterns seems to frequently be a large portion manipulated into fitting with clever darts and shaping (see this other 70’s “Super Jiffy” dress). Anyway, what is the real point to this? It does make for a really cute dress, and is decent as a jumper, but the wrap doesn’t close as much as I had thought it would. The 70’s did have some trends of slightly nonsensical layers, such as short cropped sweater vests over blouses or skirts over pants. I will need to wear tights, pants, shorts, or a mini skirt under this for decency’s sake. Maybe I’ll even have to whip up the pants provided in the pattern for full retro effect.

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My pattern is in junior’s proportions, so I had to do some interesting and successful grading up. As this pattern is one big tissue piece, at first I thought I couldn’t just add the amount needed like regular patterns…but then I thought back, “Why not?!” Time for some unwilling slashing to the pattern! So I cut the vertical center front line apart (where the two front cross over) and added in ¼ of my total amount added in, and another ¼ of the total amount was added to the vertical back seam, turning it into something I cut on the fold (rather than having a center back seam like the pattern directs). Then just like the other 60’s and 70’s junior patterns I’ve done (see here or here), I added in 2 inches horizontally across the chest between the shoulder and the bust to lower all the bust, waist, hip, and hem lines in one simple step.

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If you have a strong aversion to doing darts, then this pattern is not for you because they are quite plentiful. However, the darts are practically the only work this garment involves. My consolation to sewing all the darts (and I had to do double because the lining is a second mirror of the dress/jumper) was the final way the garment fits so well. This is seriously the best fitting Jiffy pattern I’ve made yet. Some of those darts are in slightly unusual directions, but they do their job very well – the designers were smart here.

As I mentioned already, the lining is like sewing a second dress/jumper, so as to face the two right sides together, sew along the entire outer edge, leaving a small opening to turn inside out and top-stitch things in place. This dress/jumper could easily been made reversible doing it this way (already did that here), but I have plenty of garments in solid turquoise so I didn’t do this because I really wouldn’t wear it that way. Take note that making an entire second mirror garment for a whole body lining was entirely my idea. The pattern only provides for facing to the neckline/front closure edge and the armholes. Many times I opt out of facings, feeling like they are too fiddly sometimes, but as I didn’t use facings to this pattern I’m not including this in the same pool. The peacock cotton was very this and like Velcro to whatever else it touched except for the gabardine (or polyesters) so it needed to be lined. As my last step, I used simple single fold bias tape to turn under the edges of the armholes in lieu of the facings, too.

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The button at the tab is completely for show and the real closure system is really hidden underneath. When wearing this as a jumper, I seem to need slightly more room than when just wearing as a summer dress. Thus I made to closure system adjustable by having the inner side have lovely aqua ribbons and under the outer tab there is more than one position of hooking for the waistband-style eye. By the way, the unworkable front button is the same as the decorative one used on another turquoise jumper garment – my ’67 jumper. This is the end of these same buttons, don’t worry…it was a two pack with no more to come.

I’m still unsure if this project is done until I can completely make up my mind as to whether or not to add on the hand level side pocket. I don’t know how much wear this dress/jacket will get (the gauge for whether or not to put more work in). Goodness knows, I’ve got the extra fabric for a pocket and can pull out the pattern whenever I feel like I need its utility, but until then it’s going to be basic I guess.

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Yikes! Check out those “headlight” eyes on my doggie!

It’s funny how I find myself gravitating towards 1971 again and again now that I’m sewing more from the decade. Perhaps it’s because of my love for the decade of the 1960’s, so please don’t tire of this trend on my blog. I see most of what our culture thinks of as the “60’s” as noticeably happening between 1967 and 1971, before this the earlier 60’s had more of a 50’s influence in my mind with random trends emerging from the popular music bands. The hippie looks and bell bottoms of the 70’s were obvious in style, fashion, and patterns after 1972.

Multi-use wear garments are my favorite pattern finds to make and therefore wear. They are something generally unavailable to buy “ready-to-wear”, and fun to make no matter how much wearing they get.  I’ve found that trying different styles, fashions, and garments has a higher success rate, lower monetary risk, and higher chance for personal partiality when you make it yourself, besides being so much easier, cheaper, and enjoyable.  It’s a win-win…teaching yourself something while ending up with something uniquely yours to wear!

A “Daily Life” Dress from 1945

In my sewing, most of what I make is finished inside and out quite cleanly with time honored methods, such as French seams and bias binding or lapped edges. This is all good, but it also makes my garments seem very new, perfect, and not entirely ready to be possibly marred by food stains, play stains, or fabric boo-boos which happen when being a mom. “New and perfect”, too, is all good and is as it should be, but sometimes I feel I am missing out on that comfortable, daily life, style of dressing which you see in many of the old time black and white pictures of people from 50 or more years past. In reality, those everyday clothes are what was worn when memories were made, duties were done, families cared for, and (in all) life was lived.

100_3843a-compI started out this project unsuspecting what was ahead, making a dress from a 1945 pattern. I was excited because the pattern was a gift for my birthday and the fabric I chose for it was a perfectly wonderful feed sack rayon. Little did I know that here was the perfect opportunity to make lemonade from lemons and end up with a new, but already-broken-in, comfy handmade vintage piece meant for being that “daily life” style of garment our grandmothers and moms quietly built history wearing. Now I can live my modern daily life, build my own family, and make new memories in a re-make of their style.badge.80

This is another post part of my own “Agent Carter” 1940’s sew along.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  A 100% rayon challis, bought from a JoAnn’s Fabric store.  It is a feed sack style, cool toned, swirling leaf-and-vine print, in light turquoise blue, tan and a bit of navy against a field of slightly off-white.

NOTIONS:  No notions were bought – I had all the interfacing, thread, and hooks-and-eyes needed.

100_3836-compPATTERN:  McCall 5946, year 1945, actually a ‘Maternity’ dress.  It was thoughtfully bought for me as a birthday gift from a good friend.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Not long at all, maybe 7 or 8 hours over 3 nights, were spent on my dress.  This project went quickly and was finished on September 26, 2014.

THE INSIDES:  The innards of my dress are left raw to do their own crazy thing and fray at will.  This sort of “finishing” usually drives me insane, but there is a very big reason for my doing this, which you’ll read later on below.

TOTAL COST:  I remember knowing I paid way more than what the fabric was worth, but still reasonable enough to really buy.  In total, I think my dress cost about $14.00 or less for 2 ½ yards.

I used this pattern as an opportunity to experiment and attempt some of the most dramatic pattern downsizing which I had done so far. I usually try to only get patterns very close to my bust size. Grading patterns up is no problem for me, and I have done downsizing in small increments. I’m tired of being confined to what designs are my size, so I did my homework and learned a new skill. Doing the math, and dividing up to take out a whopping 5 inches, the pattern was folded in vertically. The new size is not permanent, merely pinned in place. I can’t wait to do more of this method of pattern grading – it was fun and challenging for me.

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Even though my dress’ pattern is labeled as a “maternity” dress, I really don’t see it as such. Now don’t take a hidden meaning to my making this dress…I’m not expecting anything at this time and I’m not sewing this ‘to prepare for something’ – I liked the pattern, it’s in a year I haven’t done yet, and it looked like a very entertaining design to assemble. Personally, I think this dress, and other 40’s and 50’s maternity fashions I have seen, are basically normal fashions, for non-expecting ladies, engineered very ingeniously to adapt to the possibility a growing belly. I find these maternity labeled fashions to demonstrate an even higher creativity than what I already see in vintage fashions. Women back then apparently did not make a garment that they would only wear while expecting…they made clothes that would last long term and adapt for their life, to get true use out of what they wear. We in modern times tend to forget that clothes back in the 40’s were a real expense, not always easy to come by, and a lot of unnecessary “luxury” clothes did not exist for the bulk of the working class. Fast, cheap fashion of nowadays has spoiled us a bit.

McCall 5330 yr 1943 dicky insert dress&McCall 5701 yr 1944 -comboMany other non-maternity clothes in the mid-1940’s have a similar wide ruched front belly band, so this feature on my dress is a classic, but not always common, feature to have for 1945. The ruching doesn’t stretch, unless it would have been sewn with elastic instead of regular thread, so this doesn’t necessarily aid in the possibility of maternity wear – a style feature only. There are actually 5 rows at the belly section, and 3 or 4 more at the top of each shoulder center to provide bust fullness. It is the ingenious closure system which sets this dress apart and also gives it the possibility of being worn by an expecting mother, as well as making it an easy-wear, easy-sew house dress. This 1945 is a pullover, with no side zipper, because hidden under at the ends of the ruched belly band are two hook and eyes, which create tucks to bring in the dress when it closes. Smart! For normal wear, the closure system makes for a fun, new, uncomplicated way of dressing, and for an expectant mom, it becomes totally adaptable by not closing the hook and eyes.  Check out the pattern instruction drawing sheet.

100_3867-compThe front bodice section is also designed to be extremely long and the entire bodice itself is instructed to be lapped onto the skirt portion for even more adaptability. This way, one could take out the front bodice seam and make it longer to fit over a pregnant belly, if need be, but in my case I merely sewed to the skirt at the natural waistline. I have no expectation of both taking out the waistline seam and using the front closure system to make this dress adapt to maternity wear, so I merely trimmed off the excess front bodice length and stitched the waistline as a regular seam. I just find this dress’ styling very ingenious and worthy of understanding. (P.S. I also think pattern’s cover drawing very beautiful!)

Ah, the poor pitiful fabric of my dress is really wonderful against the skin and deceptively nice looking. You see, I didn’t notice the slew of threadbare holes which riddled the rayon UNTIL I was halfway through sewing the dress together. Yes – terrible holes that look like a cross between a feast for a silk moth and a brushing with a cheese grater. I was so focused on the interesting design and how quick the dress was coming together. I was sewing on the front facings for the mock wrap of the bodice and gave an audible, “What in the freaking world…?!” Needless to say, I hold a grudge against JoAnn Fabric Store for selling products this “quality”, but I should have been more hawk-eyed myself. The holes are about 1/8 to ¼ inch big and randomly all over, although primarily on the left side of the dress’ bodice section. My hubby helped me see the “good” side of the situation, and I really did cheer me up to a point that the fabric’s flaws do not bother me. Now I am rather glad to have a dress which is already “broken in” but yet looks so great (so I think) because it is so comfy, easy, not “perfect”, and just a part of me whenever I wear it. See why this dress is great for real life for me? It’s perfect for errands, cooking, playing with my son, and etcetera…just being a mom, wife, homemaker, and creative person in modern times with vintage style! Dressing in vintage can be as comfy as those jeans and T-shirts many love to wear.

100_3854a-compAs you can see, I chose the collared style. I have nothing like this collar style in my wardrobe, so here’s to a first. However, it seems I do have a tendency to end up making mock-wrap dresses, though. This 1945 dress only has the bodice top half be the mock wrap, but my first full mock wrap oddly enough happened to be a 1946 dressy day dress (see post for it here), also from another McCall pattern. The McCall pattern for my 1945 dress was, as I mentioned earlier, a special birthday present from a special friend, but my first mock wrap (from 1946) came from my very first purchase of vintage patterns. For these reasons, I associate together the ‘46 McCall pattern with the one for the dress in this blog post. They both make me smile just to see them, even not being worn.

100_3846-compMy 1946 cotton mock-wrap dress and my 1945 rayon house dress both share a similar slight problem with the front bodice wrap. Both needed a slight hidden dart where the bodice joins to the skirt to bring the drooping wrap front more taught to eliminate an overly gaping neckline. I’m supposing this part of adjusting fit is all a matter of taste or body types. I, being on the smaller side of chest endowment (to put it nicely), prefer to bring my mock wrap fronts close against my chest. Flashing someone with a peek down your top is not cool. However, I am thinking that just perhaps the mock front of my 1945 dress just might have been meant to be a bit generous. Being an optional “maternity” garment, a wrap front does make things handy for nursing a little one…just sayin’. I made the long waist tie included as part of the pattern (it’s hard to see the tie in the pictures), and it nicely covers up the little tuck/dart that I took in at the bottom of the wrap front.

100_3850a-compThe collar and the facing strips for the mock-wrap front are the only places that were interfaced. The dress as a whole is very soft and drapey so I figured on going with that ‘theme’, if you call it, and I used a lightweight interfacing.  The right detail shot also shows off my handmade matching aqua crystal/sterling silver earrings and agate stone necklace.

For our photo shoot location, we chose a basic place – a 100_3847-complocal neighborhood delicatessen/grocery store. This store, called Le Grand’s Market, and it has been family owned for many years, with the building itself being 70 something years – a good authentic background for a “daily life” dress. It’s one of the last of the old “Tom-Boy” Grocery stores. We love Le Grand’s sandwiches, and here I’m faking at eating a giant plastic hoagie.

Le Grand’s Market is on the edge of the Italian district, what we call “La Montagna” or “The Hill”. In our United States of America, we owe much of our amazing deli shops, restaurants, buildings and neighborhoods (among other things) to Italian-Americans, who had a hard time of things in their new land through most of World War II. The character of Angie Martinelli, the waitress at the Automat in the Marvel TV show “Agent Carter”, keeps her Italian descent low key, no doubt on account of how post-wartime suspicions still ran high. Because of Roosevelt’s “Custodial Detention Program”, established in 1940 and 1941, Italian-Americans were often forced to live like nomads, live under suspicion, and only had access to low paying jobs, if they could find any. Read here the full official history of “A Review of the Restrictions on Persons of Italian Ancestry during World War II” – very interesting and formerly classified reading.

100_3842b-compAngie full shot at AutomatAngie was so dissatisfied being stuck with her waitress job, and had big aspirations to make it big in Hollywood.  Whatever her state in life, I thought she was a lovely person, a real friend for Peggy Carter and a trooper. Angie’s waitress uniform was also lovely, in my opinion, composed of primarily aqua color, and contrasted in peach tones – a combo I like, want to try, and wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. I often tend to fall for aqua, just like how I more oftentimes choose shades of purple. This 1945 dress is primarily aqua…or maybe that’s just what I see the most of in the print!

I would like to think of my “daily life” 1945 dress as a bit of a small tribute to people like Angie, the overlooked ones with big hearts and big aspirations, all the while helping to make the world go round, one day at a time. In 1945, the Second World War was winding down, the veterans were returning, women were used to making do, and it was starting to be the time for things to settle down. Daily life might seem mundane, and slow or unimportant, but it is anything but that. Just so, a casual, tattered, broken-in dress like my 1945 rayon house dress might seem stupid to make new, but, you know, it already has seen a plentiful share of wearing and good memories. No fancy dress that gets worn once or twice a year can boast the utility of a casual, classic, comfortable “daily life” dress 🙂

Do you have anything which you have made which is your “go-to” piece for comfort in both work and play? Do you have something that you made which is so comfy you could feel like you could live in it, even though it doesn’t necessarily look like that would be the case?

Wrapped in a Water Colored Dress

Like a crystal which captures all the best of the colors of one’s surroundings, my modern knit dress has a fabric which holds all the vibrant beauty of the hues for the season of Fall.  Smattering in easy, freehand strokes, the rich intensity of deep brown tones, notes of cranberry, with gratuitous colors of aqua and turquoise, fall in random placement like the dying leaves in my outdoor surroundings.  Maybe it’s the painter in me, but I guess you can tell this water colored work of art transferred into fabric holds a special place in my estimation.

Such a fabric deservedly was made out of an equally wonderful pattern for a tailored, versatile, and complimentary mock-wrap knit dress.  Who knew easy dressing could be so great?!  RTW certainly doesn’t offer dresses like this one.

100_4154     Can you find me there among my fall surroundings?  This is another great example of “hiding in plain sight”, meaning camouflage.  My first camouflage dress can be seen here.  With a dress like this one though, it would be a shame to hide!

Here are THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The fabric is a 100% polyester knit which is unlike any poly knit I’ve found or come across before.  It is very soft and completely wrinkle free with pretty slight sheen.  The fabric make-up has very tight chains for being a knit, and therefore it is rather stable, only stretching when stretch is needed.  The wrong side is a peachy skin tone while the outside (right side) has all the color.Simplicity 4074

NOTIONS:  Only one simple notion was needed here – thread.  The thread was bought soon after I had picked out the fabric

PATTERN:  Simplicity 4074, year 2006, view B

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress was finished on November 20, 2014, after maybe 8 hours of sewing enjoyment.

THE INSIDES:  My fabric’s raw edges do not fray or roll – this is a very tame knit.  Most edges are stitched over, but some looked cleaner simply left raw, as-is.

TOTAL COST:  This water color knit fabric was one of the first things I picked out at Hancock Fabrics for myself after we were married in early 2011 (three years back now).  After a few years, I really don’t remember how much it cost (about $20 or less) and at this point I’m not really counting anymore – just happy to have my dress made!

This is the dress that came sooo close to never being made.  I wanted to make it in late 2011, but we had a baby on the way, and I wasn’t going to be able to wear it so it went on the back burner.  Then, in the middle of 2012, we had a major sewer backup which was flooded our basement with a few inches of filthy sludge.  My precious water color knit and its matching pattern had been on the floor because I intended to make it soon, and had it ready to be laid out and cut.  The pattern certainly had to get thrown away (boo hoo, among other things), but I wasn’t going to give up on the fabric.  I normally don’t abuse my fabric the way this one endured the ringer.  My water color knit went through several hot washes with borax and detergent, managing to hold up color and texture very well, and actually ending up quite clean smelling after some hot dryer trips, too.  At long last, in 2013, I finally had found and ordered another of the same pattern so I was able to make and wear my dress.  After much wearing, we also finally took the time to take some pictures of my dress this year (2014) so I could do a post on my blog about it.  Whew!  What a time exhaustive trip.  Have you ever had a project that seems fated to be crazy impossible to get to the ‘done’ part?

100_4156     Putting all the setbacks aside, my dress’ pattern, really is one of the very best…ever.  I have absolutely no idea why this pattern was discontinued so soon and so many others just not so intriguing stay in print.  As was mentioned above, it has great tailored details which combine with some beautiful princess-style seaming for the most attractive fit I have found in a knit pattern to date.  This dress makes me feel like I have some good curves, but at the same time it keeps me feeling happily stoked about showing them, and I think it would work equally as appreciative for skinny or larger ladies, too.  Those little tailored details make this dress take a bit more time, but it is still remarkably easy.  You also learn a few good new skills and some fine points.  Before I made my dress, I read the article on “Perfect the Wrap Dress” in the September 2013 Threads magazine, and this dress ticks off all the high points to look for in a “classic” pattern.  Even fit and sizing seemed to be right on – I didn’t have to go up or down sizes other than for my normal grading adjustments for my wider hips and waist.  The only other wrap pattern I like this much is the Butterick 5030 which I used for my gold brocade dress.

I love the look of the neck details, but most of all, I enjoyed doing the sewing that got me there.  In lieu of bust darts, the dress has provides fullness with a few tucks/pleats coming from the corner of the shoulder seams next to the collar bone.  On next side of the tucks/pleats there is a sharp corner to the shoulder seam so the neckline and its facing can extend up and meet at the back of the neck.  See the picture below.  I made sure to have a stark contrast of color at that shoulder seam corner so the detail would be a bit more noticeable.  This spot was very tricky to sew but not impossible.  Just taking the time to do the markings at the cutting stage and being precise and careful at the stitching stage makes this corner (or any other sewing, for that matter) work out fine.

100_2504a100_2510     Between sewing this knit dress and reading the Threads article, I now realize how important it is for the neckline of a knit wrap (or even mock-wrap) to be stable and non-stretchy.  You can use bias tape, interfacing, or seam tape to stabilize…whatever works well for the pattern.  For this dress, the wrap neckline’s facing is interfaced.  I invisibly hand tacked the interfacing down from inside by barely catching the fabric and using matching skin-toned thread.

The wrap is a very convenient mock wrap, with ties to continue the deception.  Of course, the ties do help cinch the dress in further at the waist for an added practical purpose.

100_2507     At first I found the instructions for the mock wrap front a bit confusing.  I was skeptical 100_2508a(just a bit) that it would really work the way that it was designed for the under wrap to end prematurely and not go all the way down the same length as the over wrap.  Wouldn’t the shorter under wrap ride up or maybe show as an obvious line when I wear it?  Turns out, my doubts were unfounded.  I followed instructions, and made it as is, except for lengthening the bottom of the under wrap just a few inches.  See my inside picture for some clarification on my chat about the inside of the mock wrap.

Having this dress be a mock wrap makes it even more of an effortless easy piece than it is already.  I hate to say it to hubby, ’cause it sounds like a hint, but this dress is totally the perfect good-looking travel piece.  I only wish the bottom hem was more defined instead of so flowing.  A slightly stiffer, more shaped hem might be more complementary, but I haven’t yet thought of something to add to the hem to get that shape without ruining the overall appearance.  For now, it’s just fine.

100_2497a     Believe me, my water color knit dress never stays hanging in my closet for too long!  It frequently gets worn…and just as often gets a compliment.  You know you’re made something better than RTW when someone tells you they’ve admired your dress from the moment they saw you.   Even my hubby says it’s hot!  Score!

All those colors makes it versatile and fun to match up with different boots, tights, sweaters, jewelry, and even tank tops underneath.  See me wearing cranberry tights at right?  It’s so fun to play with color.  Now I know how wonderful the artist Monet must have felt to have worked with all those colors in his paintings, such as his “Boat on Water – Orange Sunset” at left.  Yay for water color! Monet Boat on Water Orange Sunset

I can’t wait to make the other versions offered on the pattern I used for this dress.  Maybe a sleeveless version for the summertime, or the long cuff sleeved high necked front seam version in a winter sweater knit…ah, too many ideas and not enough time are the bane of the seamstress!!!