A few weeks ago, Klara showed how she styled her summer dresses in winter. And last week, a colleague asked me if I could wear the dress I had made at the public sewing in the bookshop in september, she hadn’t been there and had never seen me wearing it since.
These two things alligned and when I had to work last wednesday, the outfit was quickly chosen. Irony of fate? Said collegue had her day off…
A black shirt seemed too simple, additionally I only have purple shoes with heels, unsuitable for work. Black shirt, tights and shoes? Booooring.
Alternatively, I went with different shades of purple and violet and used black accesoires to calm it down a little. I love this outfit very much and am sure to wear it regularly in the future (it is always so great to find new ways to wear the old garments 🙂 )
Vor ein paar Wochen zeigte Klara, wie sie ihre Sommerkleider auch im Winter trägt. Und letzte Woche bat mich eine Kollegin, doch einmal das Kleid anzuziehen, welches ich letzten September bei einem kleinen Näh-Event im Buchladen genäht hatte, damals war sie nicht da und hatte es seitdem auch immer wieder verpasst.
Diese beiden Dinge kamen also zusammen und so war mein Arbeitsoutfit letzten Mittwoch schnell gefunden. Ironie des Schicksals dass besagte Kollegin frei hatte…
Ein schwarzes Shirt darunter schien mir zu einfach, zudem habe ich zwar lila Schuhe, aber nur mit Absatz und daher ungeeignet zum Arbeiten. Shirt, Strumpfhose und Schuhe in Schwarz? Laaangweilig. Also entschied ich mich für verschiedene Lila-Töne und schwarze Accessoires, um das ganze doch wenigstens etwas zu erden. Ich mag diese Kombination sehr gerne und werde sich in Zukunft sicher öfters tragen (ich liebe es, neue Alternativen für alte Kleider zu haben 🙂 )
Und weil der Post damals nur auf englisch war: Der Schnitt ist aus dem Buch “Stilikonen“, das Jackie O.-Kleid in der modernisierten Variante (tieferer Ausschnitt, die klassische hat einen hohen, stehenden Ausschnitt). Was ihr seht ist eine mir viel zu kleine Grösse XS mit maximal herausgelassenen Seitennähten. Immerhin kann ich es inzwischen tragen, auch wenn die Taschen immer noch aufspringen. Die Schnitte fallen wirklich klein aus, also schaut auf die Masstabelle.
Wenn auch von letzter Woche, so ist es doch ein Mittwochs-Outfit und darf damit hoffentlich beim Me-Made-Mittwoch mitspielen.
Third 20ies-post in a row, hope you won’t get bored? 🙂
Well, some time ago there was a Sew-Along. Its aim was to sew a dress. Not just any dress, a Christmas-Dress. Yes, I am talking about the Weihnachtskleid-Sewalong. It’s been a while 😉
My last post with this tag dates from december 15th, nearly two months ago I’m afraid. At that stage my dress was far from being finished, the top wasn’t attached to the skirt, sleeves and all the little velvet things like collar and jabot I hadn’t even thought of. But despite my motivation was as low as you could imagine, I did work on the dress and many little steps took me to finally finishing it already one month ago. The first photos of the finished dress (on my dress form in a bad light, you see some of them further down) date from january 10th, so apparently I was already done then.
But it took me until last wekend I finally found the time and the right weather to make some proper photos of it. Or maybe it was again a matter of not-wanting?
You may wonder why. Why didn’t I want to be finished by Christmas when I had the chance to? Why wasn’t I eager to photograph my first ever 20ies sewing project?
Maybe because, the closer I got to the finishing line, the more I realized this was in no way going to work.
The fitting issues were all dealt with, the plaid sewing went without any difficulties, there were no catastrophes, no sewing-machine-breakdowns, no seam-unpicking, no shortage of fabric nothing. What happened?
Well, I should have known earlier: What comes to your mind when thinking of the 20ies? Simple but beautiful styles, quiet and yet eccentric fashion, quality materials, sophisticated cuts, for me the Twenties are pure, calm elegance.
And what did I chose? A dress with Peter-Pan-Collar and jabot in piggy-pink-velvet! Pardon!? What was I thinking? This isn’t elegant, this is ludicrous!
See? It is a 20ies dress, no doubt it is. But this is a dress you can wear when welcoming your in-laws-to-be when trying to convince then that you aren’t a naughty flapper-girl, but well behaved and boring, far away from anything scandalous.
And for me this is far from being wearable outside a fancy dress party. This has nothing to do with elegant 20ies silk chiffon show-more-than-you-conceal-dresses that would force people to stare with their mouths open, this is a cute little period dress, optionally worn by the well-mannered daughter or the old maid left on the shelf in a clichéd play, though I should have left the skirt a little longer for these two.
And this means as well that for me there was no way I was going to wear this on Christmas Eve. My boyfriend still can’t stop laughing and shaking his head when he sees me wearing this.
Now, after having said all this, let’s talk about the dress a little. Despite the fabrics being not correct at all, I tried to stay as close as I could to the original. All seam allowances on the inside are pinked, the waist seam is covered with a grosgrain ribbon. I used no interfacing, therefore the cuffs are a little on the floppy side, the sleeves close with hooks and eyes beneath the cuffs. The front closes with press-studs underneath the jabot.
I had initially planned to make the jabot from the plaid fabric. Only later I saw that it was meant to be made from the second fabric. Because the back of the velvet isn’t that attractive I doubled it with the plaid. As you can imagine this resulted in a very stiff jabot, the nice drapery look above is completely fake, everything is sewn in place to make it appear as it does.
Collar, cuffs and belt are lined with a champagne-coloured poly-whatever-lining-fabric, while the topstitching on the jabot is made with the machine, on the cuffs and the collar I used hand-stitching, as visible above.
The skirt was meant to be a little wider than the bodice. I tried to gather as much width as I could without being visible as gathers in the front and back, the rest was put to the sides, so the side panels do appear a little gathered, but I like this effect (and it is very common for 20ies dresses to have gathers or pleated panels at the hips, so maybe even wanted).
And because it had always been too large and too long during its creation, I somehow overdid it and now the skirt is a little on the short side. But I admittedly was too lazy to unpick the hem with all the pleats so I’ll leave it like this.
Well, consider the Christmas-Dress-chapter closed.
I don’t know what I will do with this dress. In a few days there is carnival in Switzerland, though I normally avoid this event, at least I would have a fancy dress to wear if anybody forces me to go.
Now, what do you say to this pink square frumpy whatever?
And to stay with the sew-along’s motto: 316 days until Christmas 😛
Auf Deutsch: Auch wenn das link-in schon lange geschlossen ist und man das hier wohl kaum noch als verspätete Zieleinfahrt werten kann, ich habe diesen Sew-Along zweisprachig gestartet, dann sollte ich auch noch ein paar Worte auf deutsch über den Abschluss dieser Odyssee verlieren: Mitverfolgen konntet ihr den Werdegang dieses Kleides bis Mitte Dezember, da hatte ich Rock und Oberteil als Basis fertig. Alle Anpassungen waren vorgenommen und auch das mit dem Karomuster hatte sich als machbar erwiesen. Warum es jetzt trotzdem so lange gebraucht hat, um fertigzuwerden (zugegeben, fertig ist es schon seit dem 10. Januar, aber erst am Wochenende konnte ich mich zu schönen Fotos aufraffen)? Schaut es euch an! Das hat mit eleganten, mondänen 20ern nichts zu tun. Rosa Karos mit Samt und Bübchenkragen, was hab ich mir dabei gedacht? Ja, es sieht authentisch aus (nur bei der Saumlänge war ich ein wenig vorschnell, die ist zu kurz), aber nicht schön. Das trägt man wenn man jemandem zeigen will, wie lieb und langweilig man eigentlich ist, bei der zukünftigen Schwiegermutter zum Beispiel. Diese Erkenntnis dämmerte mir bereits während des Nähens, weshalb es als Weihnachtsgarderobe dann nicht mehr zur Diskussion stand und so ergab eines das andere und es brauchte seine Zeit, bis es tatsächlich noch fertig wurde. Jetzt habe ich ein sehr braves 20er-Jahre-Kleid, dass selbst auf einer Kostümparty bieder wirken würde.
Ich bin daher merkwürdig zwiegespalten, denn abgesehen davon bin ich sehr glücklich, wie gut alles gelaufen ist und dass es einigermassen sitzt. Naja, bis Weihnachten sind es noch 316 Tage, bis Rosenmontag nur noch 5, auch wenn ich absolut kein Jeck bin, immerhin hätte ich jetzt ein Kostüm.
First I want to thank you all for your comments on my 2014-round-up and your advise on how I should cope with my concerns.
Yes, you are completely right, this is my blog and I should show here what I want. But I still like the setting of this blog as it is. In the end I have come to a conclusion, consisting of mainly three changes:
– I won’t participate in this year’s Historical Sew Monthly (it has changed to only half the challenges for 2015). If something I make coincidentally fits a challenge I will maybe post it in the facebook-group, but on the blog it will appear as a project without any greater connection to the HSM. Participating in this project means that you are willing to participate in as many challenges as possible. As I can’t say I want this to be my aim for this year, I would consider it weird to post accidentally fitting projects as challenge entries.
– in the future I want to be less strict with what I show here. If I make something with a modern pattern that I consider suitable for the blog, I will show it. Short, I want to be less strict to myself. First product of this change of mind you can see further below.
– I still won’t include modern looking patterns, I would like to keep the historic/retro touch of this blog. But I can’t deny that I love some modern styles, too and so I want to be able to give in and sew something completely different when I want to. At the same time I want to push myself a little, try new styles and materials, I just like a good challenge.
Therefore I joined the monthly stitch collective. As with the HSF you face monthly challenges, but these aren’t limited to historical styles and you have a group-blog for all participants instead of a link-up (Oh, and you are free to join as many challenges as you like).
I am sure you will see some projects published both here and on the MSC-blog, but other projects will be shown on just one of the two. My most recent post on the MSC-blog will be linked below the MSC-button on the right and I will inform you about them on my facebook-page. Like this I am able to show you my modern sewing projects as well, without changing this blog’s focus.
I hope these changes will help me find a balance between historic and modern sewing and I hope you are ok with them.
Now, let’s come to the confessions mentioned in the title. First, I cut my hair and this already in late november. The photos I posted in december were all made only days before this. The better part is still long and brown, but on a day off alone in our flat I apparently stood in front of the mirror too long and cut myself a fringe. I had considered this already for some time but always convinced myself, that long hair without a fringe is more versatile (and it is!). Well, this particular morning reason lost and enthusiasm took control.
I am still not sure wether I want to keep it or will already start to let it grow longer again.
Second and third confession are very closely connected to each other: I have to much fabric, that’s for sure. I don’t want to buy any new fabric, at least that’s what I keep telling myself. But when I went to Ikea a couple of days before Christmas I somehow ended up in the fabric section…oops. You see where this is going 😉
Amongst all the bolts lay a leftover of white lace with polka dots, 1,5m to be exact. And before I had even realized what happened it lay in my basket. But only because I had a very clear idea in mind and indeed, I managed to realize this idea before Christmas eve. This is the third confession because this makes it a 2014 project and I didn’t include it in the round-up. The main reason for this is, that I didn’t know wether I should show it or not. But, as said above, I decided to be less strict with myself and because I wanted to show it, I just do now 🙂
My idea was a very simple half-circle-skirt with a layer of lace on top. As fabric to go underneath I chose a magenta-coloured microsuede I bought already years ago. I loved the pattern on it, but soon considered it to be “too much” and so it lay in my stash for a very long time (very long in this case means at least seven years, though I can’t tell exactly).
Some years ago I turned some of it into a wrap-dress (Burda easy fashion spring/summer 2006), using the shiny back as the main fabric and the patterned right side only for accents.
For the skirt I proceeded similarly, the lace is facing the shiny side (making a very slippery slip indispensable because the patterned side is …well…sueded)) while the waistband shows the patterned, right side of the fabric.
I treated both layers (lace and fabric) as one and only hemmed them seperately. For the underskirt I used white bias binding, what is my favourite hemming method for round hems. When the skirt was done and had hung for one day on my dress form I cut the lace’s hem , leaving it a little bit longer than the fabric underneath.
The skirt closes with a zipper and a hook in the centre back.
Well, and that’s all I suppose. The waistband is stiffened with fusible interfacing. I didn’t calculate how it works with other sizes, but the cutout in the middle of the half-circle was enough to make a 2cm-wide waistband from it, of course with a seam in the middle. But if you don’t have any more fabric, 70/75cm (depending on the width of your fabric, 140cm or 150cm) is enough to make this skirt in a small size. Please consider that the length of the skirt depends on your waist circumference, the larger this is, the slimmer is the ring that forms your skirt and thus higher is the final hem.
As you may have imagined, this whole idea, spontaneous lace-buy and quick execution before Christmas was an attempt to substitute the not finished Christmas dress. Funny enough, even though I finished the skirt I didn’t wear it on Christmas Eve, as was planned, but the next day when we visited some friends.
Today I can tell you I finally finished the Christmas dress yesterday, now I only need some time to make some good photos with it.
I don’t like altering clothes. I like to sew new ones and I have no problems with fixing a lost button or a broken zipper. But I don’t anymore buy things to remodel them. I used to do but somehow it never turned out how I wanted it and was always a lot more work than expected.
Additionally, I don’t like to alter old clothes. I mean, these things have survived 40 or 60 years without manipulation and I know how valuable unaltered things from previous centuries are for costume historians because they are so rare. A large shop in Berne selling Vintage and modern clothes alters vintage dresses on a grand scale, because most clients want their skirts to end above the knee and not at mid-calf length. The vast majority of these altered dresses dates from the 80ies, but every now and then you see something older amongst them, too. This altering makes the dresses uninteresting for me (because I like my dresses to end below the knees), but it also means less and less dresses in their original state. Because of this I do not buy these altered dresses and I only buy dresses that fit me. Even if a little shortening or two centimetres less circumference would make them look perfect, usually I don’t buy them and hope they’ll find a more fitting client, in the truest sense of the word.
But this spring another user of my favourite sewing board sold a beautiful late50ies/early 60ies wool shirt dress I wasn’t able to resist, despite it being too large and I threw all my priciples overboard. Because the sleeves and the bodice were made from one piece of fabric that made fitting issues at the shoulders nonexistant, this seemed to be a pretty easy one to be altered to fit me.
And so I did. All I had to do was remove the skirt, shift the side seams to fit my size and re-attach the skirt. Because the wool was so easy to gather I didn’t even have to remodel the pleats.
It was obvious that the skirt had been altered before, there were multiple seams in different threads at the waist. So I wasn’t the first to manipulate it and I was, I admit, a little relieved not to have destroyed something completely untouched (because of the thick fabric and the curved seam underneath the arms I had to cut away the fabric, too. I know, something you never ever should do, shame on me).
Because one button was missing I had to remove the one at the bottom and sewed the buttonhole close so it would be less obvious. Grace to this fine striped pattern it works quite well. I added a small hook and eye to the waistband because the dress tended to gape, as there wasn’t a button to hold this narrowest part of the dress.
I thought this quite weird and it took an accident to solve this mystery. A few months later the same woman sent me a whole set of hemming feet for my 1932 Pfaff. Before she sent the parcel she asked me if I would be interested in a belt to match the dress, she had found it and hadn’t even known a belt existed. Yes, of course I was! And obviously, with a belt you have far less concerns with a gaping waist 🙂
It has been finished and in my wardrobe quite some time now and I love it. The hem looks a little pointy in the centre front, I think I will add a little press fastener to keep it in place.
The fabric is, as you can imagine, quite scratchy, fortunately I own a shirt with the exact same sleeve length to wear underneath.
Dear Ravna, thank you so very much for selling me something that has already become one of my favourite dresses!
See you soon, love
PS: Forgive me to have skipped this sunday’s Christmas dress post. My weekend was equally parted in work, meeting friends from my favourite online sewing board and being sick. Needless to say the latter third was the time I had planned to use for sewing instead of sleeping and whimpering. I am trying to catch up but the pattern needs more adjustments than expected which makes me progress slower than expected. At least the plaid isn’t the problem 😉
Today let’s talk about how you should not treat an old dress and how you should not buy anything that looks cute.
Many many years ago (must have been 2006 or little earlier), I bought one of my first vintage dresses: A pale pink shift dress of pure silk taffeta. If I recollect correctly, I bought it as a 50ies adolescent dress without ever checking this information. And if I recollect correctly as well, I only wore it once, to wear to a goth disco with satin corset, gloves and black laced boots. I stood out, but I loved it (oh, and pink clip-in extensions)!
I never considered giving it away (hey, it was old and pink!), but I never really wore it. I feared it could be too fragile and when on earth could you wear a pink silk dress?
Meanwhile it moved with me three times and I have learned a lot about fashion and historical sewing techniques. I never know how to style this thing and my boyfriend always says it looks like a nightshirt and I shouldn’t wear it outside. So it lurks in the back of my wardrobe and never really sees the light (if it is really a nightshirt it is also a creature of the night, maybe it’s manipulating me and doesn’t want to see daylight? Help, it’s alive!).
But once in a while I try to wear it, play around a little to defuse this out-of-bed-look and in November I dared to wear it to a concert (Mozart’s Requiem, a very dear colleague participated and generously invited me and my boyfriend, check out the choir’s website if you life in Switzerland and like classical music). I took the opportunity to have a closer look at it.
Coil zipper in the centre back as well as the absence of any old seams or other traces of manipulation make me date this dress into the 1960ies. But I am still amazed of all the hand sewing and old techniques used (I have never seen such a perfectly hand-sewn zipper. You need a magnifying glass and have to look at the back of the seam to see that it isn’t machine sewn). Maybe this was made by someone who had learned sewing already years or even decades ago and still used all this techniques when making a dress for a granddaughter?
Now, back to the dress as a whole. It is a little too large, not the best premise to make a pink shift dress look NOT like a nightshirt.
And my boyfriend is right, styled wrongly it could really look like “oh, hello Mr. Postman, sorry, I just woke up”
This is how I wore it this evening. Paired with a black cardigan with pink and red embroidery and patent leather high-heels (I switched later to black smooth leather t-straps heels, these somehow felt a little too…*ahem* kinky to wear in a church).
And yes, lots of make-up. Idea is that nobody wakes up with perfectly shiny red lipstick applied.
Now, what do you think? Nightshirt or wearable? I am still convinced that it really was meant as a dress because of the zipper and the globular buttons, both wouldn’t be very comfortable in bed. But still, it has this air of lingerie….
Now that you have managed to read everything I might reveal that I wanted a “styled” photo to appear in this post first. My idea was that the verdict could be different, depending on what of the two stylings you see first. I would have loved to post this in two different blogs, one with nightshirt-photos first, the other with styled photos on top. I bet it would have made a difference. So are you sure you decided how you wanted to and not depending on what you saw first? 🙂
(I fear I have been reading too much Daniel Kahneman in the last time, but his book is really interesting)
It’s been more than three months I last uploaded a HSF-project, oh dear.
After all the messy times I had this summer I was very keen to join the challenges again.
A little summary: I planned to make at least half of the challenges when I started to join. The last project I finished was my #10-ballerina-outfit, my fifth finished project, so I was right on track. Now we are already close to challenge #18 and I my counter is still at five projects. I need to do all coming challenges but one to eventually reach my goal of at least 12 completed challenges, puh…
In fact I did try to make something for #13 “Under 10$” but it became evident in a very early state that it was completely unwearable and so it never made it to the finish line.
Challenge #17 was “Yellow” and I am a few days late, I know, but please, I am so proud having at least finished it, so don’t let it rain on my parade, would you 😉
Now you have to know, yellow really isn’t a colour I like. I own very few yellow garments, somehow they never appealed me. Additionally, my boyfriend works at an international furniture-selling enterprise using the blue and yellow colours of the swedish flag as their trademark, so naturally he doesn’t fancy yellow after closing time.
Therefore the title. I am not sure if I would have made that project without the challenge, this applies as well to the aforementioned ballet-costume and the 19th-century-fabric-box, this explains the “part 3” 😀
The search for some yelllow fabric in my stash wasn’t very fruitful. I found a small piece of mustard-coloured cotton-velvet (too small to make a garment of it), an equally small amount of white cotton printed with yellow flowers and two metres of a light yellow polyester fabric I bought on sale when one of my favourite fabric shops closed. Don’t ask me why, normally I tend to ignore artificial fibres and yellow coloured fabrics.
The fabric has a little stretch and is quite solid so I thought it could become a nice dress for the approaching autumn days.I picked a dress from the march 1940 issue of “Beyers Mode für Alle”, one of the magazines I bought in Gotha last year.
The pattern itself came together quite quickly. A 88cm bust tends always to be a little on the large side for me, but the waist was fine and so I changed nothing and started cutting (as you see, the bust is ruffled, no use measuring this, if you ask me). I skipped the pockets because I couldn’t see the use of two very narrow pockets getting bulky right between my legs, there are few easier ways to ruin a dress.
Only during my sewing some problems began to show up. First, the construction of the shoulders hadn’t been thought through. The shoulder seams lie behind the highest point of the shoulders. That itself is not a problem, but the front part was ruffled and so the sleeve tended to fall off the shoulder in the front. In total the shoulders were slightly on the large side. So what I did was I attached a wide grosgrain ribbon to the shoulder seam, the ends connected to the sleeve cap and the collar. The ribbon itself was 2cm shorter than the non ruffled back, so I gathered the back part a little at the same time, making the shoulders fit better (besides the size being on the upper end of what fits me, the stretch of the fabric and its weight added to this dropping effect. So the ribbon prevents the fabric to stretch as well).
The centre front is far far away from the front edges. This makes the right front edge disappear below the collar and, if you don’t want your buttons to be far away from the edge, it places the buttons off-centre unless they are gigantic. Unfortunately I realized it too late, after I had already finished the two front edges. To solve this I attached the buttons and press fasteners on the right front edge, but only the lowest two counter parts of the press fasteners I sewed as far from the centre as the pattern had wanted them to be. The topmost one I placed as far away from the left edge as the button was from the right one (what means much closer to the edge), the two buttons in the middle I placed accordingly (additionally it looked so very severe with the collar’s edges touching).
Third issue was the very blousy fit. I have no before-photo, but I removed a total 14cm underbust-circumference to make the dress fitting as it is now, before the whole bodice part fit very loosely. Another 6cm circumference was removed at bust-height and the upper sleeves.
The sleeves are puffed and have a dart in the lower half. If I wear long sleeves I want them to be a little more on the long than on the short side. So I decided to keep the length, though it caused a few wrinkles when letting the arms drop. Because the dart was very narrow it was impossible to close it completely. I left the 7cm open and added buttons and press fasteners as well, not at the hem, but 3cm above. Like this the sleeve can slide down a tiny bit more and wrinkles less but is still as long as I like it to be.
A flaw you wouldn’t have noticed but I see at a first glance: the collar! Do you see that slightly darker colour? That’s because my interfacing is green. Wouldn’t have thought it could shine through, but obviously it does.
The length is a little short for 1940, I know. But the dress is so high-necked and well behaved, I thought it needed this length to look less severe.
The Challenge: #17 Yellow
Fabric: light yellow synthetic fabric
Pattern: magazine “Beyers Mode für alle”, march 1940
Notions: various cream and yellow threads (got rid of three different small spools^^); interfacing for the collar, grosgrain ribbon to stabilize the shoulder seams and a narrower one for the waist seam; seven burgundy buttons and different coloured press fasteners, short zipper for the side seam, fusible interfacing
How historically accurate is it? I fear the material of the fabric isn’t authentic, nor is the length of the dress and the interfacing. The pattern and the changes I made are accurate, the buttons and the zipper are old, though not that old, but both plausible for the time (plastic buttons and coloured metal zipper).
Hours to complete: Maybe 6-8. Sewing itself went quite fast, but all those adjustments and the handsewing (zipper, buttons, hem, shoulder stabilization) took their time.
First worn: for the photos today, still too warm outside to wear it all day long
Total cost: I know I bought the fabric not long ago, but I have no idea what I paid for it.I assume not more than 10CHF/m, otherwise it wouldn’t have been appealing to me. All notions enlisted came from my stash and were bought with haberdashery convolutes, so different to tell. Only the interfacing was bought new, I think I paid 2€/m.
Though I said yellow is not my favourite colour, I am really happy with the result and looking forward to wear it a lot as soon as it gets colder. 🙂
Well, I promised a report on my SIAB-night, the Sew-In-A-Bookshop-night 😉
To understand what will happen next, a short explanation: Normally this bookshop, as most shops in Berne, closes at 7pm, on thursdays the majority of the city is opened until 9pm, that thursday was Ladies Night, takes place only once a year, shops closed at 11pm.
We installed my table with sewing machine, a little decoration and the book I was presenting at around 6pm. And until 7.30 everything was fine, lots of people in the shop, many curious clients asking what I was doing and so on.
Then it became a little quiet, still some people were passing by, maybe because I sat right next to the doors through which you can leave directly into the railway station. Some stopped and looked interested, I chatted a little, about my sewing, about the book, about whatever they wanted. It was sad it was comparably quiet, I had really hoped for a roaring night.
Only few were interested in the sewing, even less in the book. Most only gazed at the sewing machine and noted that her grannies had machines like this or asked if it was already electric.
At 9pm we had to close the doors to the station (contract conditions) and the last two hours were very quiet, because I sat literally at a dead end. The sentence I had to repeat most often in the last two hours was “No, sorry, exit closed, please use the main exit on the ground floor”. Every now and then somebody spotted me from the far end of the shop and screamed something like “oh, mum, look there” *teenage daughter with mum approaching*staring*smiling*leaving*.
At least this left me plenty of time to sew and I really nearly finished, only the zipper and the hem were missing.
To conclude, I assume a couple of things went wrong,making it less successful than we all had hoped it to be.
First, the event itself wasn’t promoted enough, neither the presenter nor the bookshop succeeded in making people aware that this night was to be meant as an event. A friend who lives in the city of Bern told me she wouldn’t have known of this Ladies Night without me (and this true friend stayed with me the whole five hours and made the long hours past 9pm appear much shorter as they could have been). So I fear the whole event hasn’t grown big enough yet to attract large crowds of clients and ladies, strolling through the shops on high heels buying lace underwear whilst drinking prosecco (we wouldn’t discuss this cliché here, would we? 🙂 ) The few clients who came were not what I would call the target audience of Retro sewing, in contrast, most knew the sewing machine or the dresses in the book from their own childhood or youth (one middle ages woman was gleaming with joy when spotting Farrah Fawcett in the book. Not because she liked the dress, but “Charlies Angels”) and had no interest in buying such a book.
Second, I chose the wrong approach. Promoting a book that is all about how cool, modern and timeless vintage and retro sewing is, well, you can’t properly do this when sewing in full 30ies attire, looking as if you stepped right out of a time capsule. The group of people interested in the latter one is even smaller than the few people interested in retro sewing. So a more Gertie-like approach with a stunning bombshell dress or a cool modern looking 60ies style would have been more convincing.
Which leads me to this night’s project. Because I was a little scared this would all end up in a catastrophe I chose a really simple design from the book without too many tricky details to pay attention to (well, I had hoped to chat a lot more with clients than I had the chance. Did I mention I did not sell a single book?).
Lets talk about the book for a second (I bought this copy already when it was published in German some time ago, this review isn’t sponsored by anybody. I just think when talking about a pattern in it, I can as well give you a short summary and my opinion on the book itself). The book Famous frocks, in German Stilikonen, presents ten women of the 20th century which are connected to a special and distinct style of dress and became iconic for the fashion of their time (the Link to the German version allows you to have a look inside, just klick the “Im Buch blättern” button left of the cover). It starts in the 1930ies with Bette Davis (now you know why I bought it 😉 ), the 40ies are represented by Rita Hayworth. Marilyn Monroe’s iconic 7-year-itch dress is included as well as Audrey Hepburns little black one from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Jackie Kennedy and Twiggy complete this 50ies/60ies group. The younger dresses are inspired by Diana Ross, Farrah Fawcett and Stevie Nicks (the only pattern I had realized from the book until now, you saw it in my Sicily-Post). The last and most recent one is Madonna’s corsage-and-petticoat-style. Each woman is accompanied by one dress pattern, that was inspired by her style. So you won’t find an exact reproduction of an Audrey-Dress in this book, rather the authors took what they considered the distinct features and lines of a style and translated it into a pattern. This makes a total of 10 different patterns, all of them come in a closer-to-the-original-version and a more modern variation.
The only photos in this book show the icons that inspired the patterns, the patterns themselves are only shown in drawings, a technical and a fashion illustration for each version.
All patterns are included in their original size, but because the sheets are printed from both sides, you have to copy the cut pieces. Sizes go from XS (79cm-62cm-88cm) to L (94cm-77cm-103cm) (so really not a wide range, in my opinion, you will see later that XS is already too small for me).
The instructions are very detailed with many drawings, so even beginners could cope with the simpler ones, as long as they know the basic sewing vocabulary.
To conclude: patterns are easy to work with, good instructions, nice layout. Unfortunately size range is very limited and the dresses are only inspired by historical patterns, some stay pretty close but some don’t (don’t expect to sew a 30ies gown with this book, what you get is a knee-length bias-cut dress, for example). The patterns are modern, not based on historical ones, at least that is my impression and I didn’t find a hint that they used actual contemporary patterns for this book.
So much about the book. The pattern I chose was the, who would have guessed after the title 😉 , Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The classic variant comes with a very high and stiff neckline I don’t like that much, so I chose to sew the modern version with a slightly lower neckline and pockets. Pockets not because I needed them (well, I do need pockets, but I try to avoid dresses with them because I tend to bury my hands in them and stand quite crooked), but because I feared to finish early without them.
As already mentioned, I chose to cut size XS, stupidly enough looking only at the waist- but not at the bust-circumference. Because I had no chance to try it on in the shop I only realized it was too small when I had inserted the zipper the next day and wore it for the first time.
Fortunately, the pattern included 1.6cm seam allowance, so I shifted the side seams of the bodice as far as I could, approximately 1cm. These additional 4cm were what it took to fit, thankfully. It still fits quite snug, you see the pockets are slightly gaping, but it is ok, considering that I already had given up hope because it seemed to be so very much too small.
I don’t like the fit in the back, but I don’t quite know how to get rid of these wrinkles. I tried to pin in different ways (normally I would remove some fabric from the waist seam in such a case), but still more wrinkles show each time. Now I will leave it like that, it is not that bad when standing upright, at least I’am trying to convince myself about this.
As a fabric I chose a lavender-coloured cotton (or viscose, I am not sure) from my stash. Facings and pockets I made from a gingham of the same colour, printed with little flowers. A leftover I had bought years ago, I used it to make headbands from it and sold them via Internet. It wasn’t that successful, so I quit and went back to work as a shop assistant to finance my studies^^
The matching bias binding was an old unfolded one that had lurked in my stash for a very long time, I must have bought it once with a sewing basket or something similar. It was quite narrow and, as I said, unfolded and I always considered it being too narrow to work with it properly. But then I saw the bias binding foot in The Sewing Machine Attachment Book, asking for 24mm wide, unfolded bias binding. That was exactly the size I had. It worked really well, only the very sharp curves around the armholes caused some difficulties.
But this explains a lot: When sewing machines do not come with these feet anymore, no-one will buy unfolded, 24mm-width bias binding in consequence. Or, vice versa, if you can only buy pre-folded bias binding, why should a machine include a bias binding foot? I don’t know what happened, I only know that such a foot is not to be found with modern machines anymore and that unfolded bias binding has become quite rare, I assume a connection 🙂
The upper bust darts end a little too high, maybe this was meant to be a really historic pattern after all and I should have worn it with period appropriate undergarments? Or maybe they just don’t fit my bust and I should adjust them ;-).
Some weeks ago I strolled across the market in Berne. One seller is a little different than the others, his stand looks more as if he mistook the event for a flea market. All he sells is old books, fabric scraps,90ies pop cds, more or less old and/or interesting haberdashery and some, mostly ugly, clothes. Fabrics and clothes are sold in umbrellas turned upside down and he always sits behind his goods smoking a incredibly large cigar.
Somehow I like it and I have bought multiple fabrics from him.
This time I found a red tshirt in his clothing-umbrella. Nothing special, but good quality and obviously only slightly too large (I hate altering shirts, especially the sleeves. So only a little too large means I can avoid re-modeling the shoulders and get away with shifting the side seams a little), for 1 CHF quite worth a try.
At home I altered it to my size only to realize it had some small stains on the front (yes, of course I had washed it before altering). Seemed as if it hadn’t been that good a deal at all.
Well, there is always room for improvement and I could still throw it away, so I thought why not give it a try and cover the stains.
My inspiration was Elsa Schiaparelli herself. The starting point of her career was a knitted jumper patterned with a large bow on the front, today in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Well, there is still this tiny little white spot in my crafting universe, I can’t knit! I tried it, it’s ok, it worked somehow but not good, maybe I will try again but I didn’t want to wait that long to make something inspired by this garment.
A quick image search online supplied me with all I needed to draft a bow onto the shirt front, as you see a much cuter and gift-wrap-kind-of-bow Schiaparelli used, maybe this is the key to her success, I still like it far more than my own version.
I used black fabric paint, first drew the outlines and afterwards filled it with paint. You can see some brighter spots and dark areas, it is less evident in real life. In addition I wanted to see how it looks after having been washed to make some final corrections.
Next time I will insist on taking the photos again with our real camera, this mobile always changes the colours and produces a weird angle.
Some of you might remember my slight obsession with Bette Davis.
Well, most of the time this makes me watch her films and read books about her. But sometimes I can’t resist and buy memorabilia. My most treasured item surely is an autograph my boyfriend bought me for my birthday two years ago.
But there is another kind of memorabilia that I am itching for. Do you know Hollywood Patterns? The company was founded in 1932 and sold patterns connected to stars and starlets (source). Simply by putting a little photo and the name of a movie star on the envelope turned a standard pattern into a collectible (a method that applies still today, though maybe not anymore for patterns). And as you can imagine, today they are worth even more.
Bette Davis had a total of 16 patterns named after her. Every now and then they pop up on ebay or etsy. To the more or less high prices of the patterns themselves adds the postage from the US to Europe, so to buy one of these is alway quite an expensive pleasure. (Now please don’t link to any pattern you found for sale on the internet, I don’t look at the mentioned websites very often, simply because I don’t want to tempt myself to spend that much money too often ;-). If I am in the mood and the position to buy one, I will search for it.)
Last year in late autumn I spotted a beautiful one on etsy, Hollywood 1221, published in 1934. And my boyfriend was so kind to give it to me as a christmas-present (darling, I love you!).
I already copied the pattern a few days after the holidays (because the pattern is so old I don’t want to use the original pattern pieces anymore), but it wasn’t until before our Sicily-trip I finally decided for a fabric and started cutting (this is the mentioned dress I wanted to sew for the trip but didn’t finish).
The choice of fabric wasn’t that intelligent in hindsight. I used a white spotted green cotton print I bought a few years ago in the odds-and-ends-box of a nearby fabric store that doesn’t exist anymore. I had already planned to use it for my Fall-for-Cotton-dress, but I had too little of it (appr. 1,5m). I chose it because I thought it was close enough to the spotted fabric on the envelope drawing and could look good (but it is not really appropriate for this time, in the sewing magazines I own polka dots don’t appear earlier than late 30ies, in earlier issues I only found them to be used for children’s clothing).
For this project it was just enough, I had to cut the lower back in two pieces, otherwise it wouldn’t have fit.
Well, the resulting dress is really…dotty. The matching of the pattern is at some seams better than at others, unfortunately where it didn’t fit was in the centre front (in contrast to the text on the linked page, it is a two-piece skirt. There is no seam in the pleat and I didn’t think of adjusting the width of it to match the dots).
The pattern asked for two zippers, on at the side and one in the centre back. I used a white nylon zipper in the neck and a light cream one in the side seam (because I had them in stock, I do know they aren’t authentic for the 30ies) Both zipper-seams are hand-sewn as is the hem.
I used white thread for all seams, this seemed to be a better match than green one.
The size is a straightforward 12, only thing I changed is I shortened the hem by 7cm.
Because the pattern was too weird with the stomacher in between I applied a rest of white cotton ribbon after having already finished it, now it is a lot better.
I used every bit of it. As you see, it wasn’t enough to attach it on both ends of the stomacher-part in the back as well, the rest I had was just enough to form the button-loop for a button in the neck above the zipper.
As I said, I didn’t change anything. Like the most american patterns, the seam allowance is included, something still unusual for me, because it makes it difficult for me to imagine how large it will be in the end (and in this case it was difficult to match the pattern as well). When looking at the result it seems as if the bodice is a little too long, when making it again I should try to shorten the stomacher-part.
I decided to take the photos outside, because it was quite a strange light and the appartment pretty gloomy. The day had been hot and only a little later there was a huge thunderstorm. So this may explain why our camera changed the ISO to several thousands without me noticing it (don’t know why it was set in the automatic-mode) and why the white is so flashy.
Well, to end this post: I love it! It looks quite special and still I think the fabric wasn’t the best to use for this pattern and to make it suitable for everyday-use I should reduce the volume of the sleeves a little, they are a bit on the emormous side.
Well, this month’s challenge was art. Now you may think, me as an art historian, I might love this challenge and burst from ideas.
mh…not at all. Though I love art and have many works of art in mind I am sure would be a great project to recreate, I had two major problems:
1st: I only very occasionally work from the finished project backwards. I do not tend to recreate garments. I chose a pattern and a fabric and test were they will lead me. Most of the time the result does not meet the expectations I had beforehand, sometimes for the good, sometimes for the worse.
To use a garment or a piece of art as the first step and trying to recreate this, makes me feel very uneasy. I desperately try to match what I see or want to reproduce with a pattern I have in mind, so I don’t have to create one on my own. I am really cowardish when it comes to experimenting with patterns.
To spoiler you only a little, this was something that pushed me while working on this challenge and I discovered very new ways of creating garments. So this aspect really did pay.
2nd: My fabric-cupboard bursts with fabrics as does the built-in closet next to it. Additionally we will have to move again soon, so buing new fabric was strictly forbidden.
Now let’s come to the cheating in the title: Knowing I would panic when having to recreate a costume without a pattern, first thing I did was flip through my patterns and pattern books. I so hoped that Janet Arnold may have written “comparable to the dress depicted in xyz” next to a pattern she traced or that I may recognize a famous painting or an engraving in one of the dresses in Nora Waugh’s “The cut of women’s clothes”.
Well, neither was the case. So I put these books aside and had a look at all the coffee table and art books I found on my bookshelf. Because it had been months since I read the description of the challenge, I first searched only for some loose inspiration, finally deciding to catch the structure of the fassade of Santa Maria Novella in Florence in a skirt.
Fortunately I re-read Leimomi’s post before I started and realized that she aimed for a much closer connection between the work of art and the project. So my search started anew.
Soon I had to realize that my prohibition of fabric buying was a much larger hurdle than my pattern-paranoia and very quickly I used the fabric question as my main criteria to chose an artwork.
So when I finally found a painting that suited some paticular fabrics of my stash….wonder oh wonder…. the question wasn’t anymore “oh help, I don’t have a pattern” but rather “what can I do to recreate this”.
Now you might say: what, are you kidding? No, not at all. For years I had some light pink cotton velvet in my stash I once found in a charity shop, as well as two Ikea-mosquito-nets, one in white I had bought for my room when I was 16 and a 2nd one in pink I bought from a fellow member of the online sewing board I am registered at, still wrapped.
They had all moved with me twice and I had no idea what to make from them.
And though it is very likely that the top of her dress is satin, it could as well be velvet in this reproduction.
This leads me to the picture itself: I found it in the 1904 (not dated, but dates in the texts suggest this) issue of “Moderne Kunst in Meister-Holzschnitten”, the translation already says everything: Modern art in Master-Woodcuts. While the majority of the pictures are black-and-white and indeed woodcuts, this is one of the few coloured plates inside. It can’t be a photographic reproduction in colour and it doesn’t seem to have been coloured afterwards, so I assume it is a copy after the original. While searching for the original I got quite confused. The artist, Pierre Carrier-Belleuse, painted a lot of ballet-dancers and the title given in my book, “Er liebt mich nicht”, that means He doesn’t love me, didn’t show any result at all.
But after some searching online I still hadn’t found the one original, in fact I had found four! All in different sizes, different styles and some undated (there wasn’t a date given in the book, 1898 is the years the dated originals were made).
Well, I won’t start arguing about attributions here, but especially the third painting is strikingly different from the other, don’t you think? The version I have printed in my book seems closest to the first and the last link, but I can’t tell for sure.
Now, enough talk about art, let’s come to my dress.
As I already meantioned, this project pushed me out of my comfort zone, giving me not only a period I had rarely worked in, but also the task to reproduce a dress without any pattern at all. I consulted the above mentioned Nora Waugh book and studied the dart placement and the cutting lines of late 19th century garments. After this I took a piece of cotton and started pinning on my sewing mannequin. And it worked! I am still a little baffles that I had to face neither any disappointments nor catastrophes, as I was so sure they would come.
After I had completed the cotton version, I pinned this to my velvet, using the cotton as my lining (you will laugh when you see a photo of it below. It is the rest of a baby quilt I made for my boyfriend’s cousin, whose wife had a baby in january. Therefore it is a light pink cotton printed with white bunnies and ducks).
I have seen many 19th century costumes in the past weeks and most of them had one thing in common: Today we tend to sew the lining and the outside fabric seperately and connect them only on the edges and maybe a few spots to avoid shifting. The 19th century costumes are usually sewn in one layer, so darts and seams are stitched through all layers, leaving you with the seam allowances inside and not hidden between the layers. Normally the seams are finished with hand stitching or bias binding to avoid fraying.
So this was my method to go: pin the lining, at the same time my just constructed pattern, onto the left side of the velvet, close all seams and darts, stitching through all layers at once. I had cut the lining at the edges where I wanted the bodice to end, so all I had to do was to flap the hem and neckline allowance of the velvet to the inside and sew it. I used boning in the front darts and the side seams or should I say “cable tie-ing”, because that’s what I used (I once bought a package to try it and this were the last six I had, not that I am a large fan of cable-tie-boning, it really isn’t stiff enough for my taste)?
The painting doesn’t show very good, how the bodice closes, but it looks like a wrap bodice to me, so I made the front edges a convex shape and closed it with hooks and thread loops, made from white crochet yarn.
I didn’t know how to make the shoulder-straps, because there was quite a lot of fabric and a sharp curve from the darts. While I could have made a real princess seam and seperating the front into a middle and a side part, I went for a little pleat in the strap.
I don’t have a seperate photo from the skirt. I just used a white cotton ribbon tied around the hips of my mannequin and pleated the mosquito nets onto it. I started at the top of the net and after having finished a round I cut it where I wanted my hem to be and starting anew, always using pink and white alternatingly. I also had real, stiff tulle, but that wasn’t pink and I could have only put it on top of this skirt to have to effect of a real ballerina’s tutu. But when I had finished my mosquito net slaughter I already didn’t know when to wear such a pink tulle skirt, so I assume I would have even less oportunities to wear an even larger tutu.
Because only for the record: I don’t dance at all, the ballet lessons I had in my life can be counted on one hand (I think it was four, I desperately wanted to learn it, but the teacher was just so bad, I didn’t even stayed during the cancellation period my mother had to adhere to).
But: I love ballet slippers and wear them at home all the time. And yes, it is always quite funny when buing them, “oh, you don’t dance…ok” 😀
Oh, I assume you finally want to see the result? Here it is:
I have to apologize, it was very bad light today and not even photoshop could help that.
Because I didn’t know how the back was meant to be, I went for a simple v-neckline as seen in some of the patterns I had looked at beforehand. When seing it now I have to admit it would have been better to include a centre back seam.
To avoid a gap between the very low hanging tutu and the bodice, I attached hooks and eyes to connect them (I only had black ones left in this size and didn’t want to buy new ones only for a fancy dress).
Now, after having finished it only this morning I have to say, the project was much larger than I wanted it to be, I made a dress I will presumably never wear but at a fancy dress party, I spent so much time making it (everything but the side seams and the skirt is hand sewn, because I didn’t want any seams to be visible outside). But I got rid of some large chunks of my fabric stash, I learned very much and it is so much fun jumping aroung in it 😀 This is for all the ballet lessons I never took.
Both of the mosquito nets had small metal rings to attach them to the ceiling. While the used one’s resembled more an egg than a ring, the brand new pink net had a still intact one. So when I started driving crazy pushing all this tulle under my sewing machine, I stopped and made some little crafting to calm down again. The search for a matching picture ended when I found an old promotional package of a famous role play game I had never played and will never play (but hey, you can’t throw away cards, maybe there will be an occation to use them, someday).
The tiny foggy and mysthic contrast to this pink ballerina overkill
The Challenge: #10 Art
Inspiration: Pierre Carrier-Belleuse – La Danseuse, 1898
Fabric: light pink cotton velvet, printed cotton, pink and white soft tulle, aka two Ikea mosquito nets
Pattern: None, I only looked briefly at period patterns to check dart placement and the like
Notions: pink and white poly-thread, pink silk thread, white cotton ribbon, white cotton crochet thread, hooks and eyes, press fasteners, cable ties
How historically accurate is it? I have no idea. I don’t know how dancing costumes were constructed around 1900, if they were boned, if they were worn with a corset etc. Some of the fabrics and materials are possible, some not, the lining is just silly. The sewing itself and the closures are accurate (though I used modern press fasteners, the early ones worked with a different technique).
Hours to complete? Maybe 15-20? I could as well say 2 episodes of “Sherlock”,3 of *The big bang theory” and the first season of “Hannibal” including bonus material (do I have to mention that I love Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal even more than Anthony Hopkins’?)
First worn: Today for the photos (though I wore the skirt for a few hours after I had finished it last weekend)
Total cost: Direct costs, nothing, I had everything in stock. The velvet was bought in a charity shop, can’t have been more than a few Euros. Same applies for the pink mosquito net, bought online. The white one was bought new, but already had had a live above my bed, so I would call this recycling. Notions I usually buy on flea markets, too. The book I found the illustration in cost me 2 CHF.
Talking about accuracy: The letter I am holding is old, but not old enough, dating from 1921.