Tuesday, October 26, 2010

All dressed up for a rainy day indoors

I haven't even left the house today. It's pouring with rain and freezing. But I did my hair up for my shop photography session today. I'm experimenting with a sort of "faux victory roll" style - my hair is now far too long for victory rolls so rather than attempt to coil it all up I've just looped-the-loop, pinned in place and taken the tails underneath and through into the bun at the back. That's not a very good description, I know - if I manage to perfect this style I'll try and post a tutorial sometime.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Atomic Embroidery Motif

Just thought I'd share this sweet atomic-influenced embroidery motif from a 1957 copy of Home Notes magazine. I love the "gay fashion ideas" for its use!

The "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" Project

Please excuse my extended absence - I've been a busy busy bee working hard on my ebay shop. I haven't been able to spare the time to blog or sew, but I have been dreaming up new ideas!

I've mentioned my love for the movie "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" before - it's my all-time favourite film, and now the inspiration for a new personal project. When I've finished the pirate dress and 1950s jumper dress I'm currently working on (along with various alterations and mends on items for my store), I'm planning to make a series of outfits inspired by the costumes from the film. I got the idea from Sense & Sensibility's Titanic Project, but I won't be aiming to create actual replicas of the costumes (mostly for pratical purposes, since there's only so many occasions in life which call for a floor-length, split-to-the-thigh red sequin gown), rather make my own interpretations of the outfits.

Monday, October 18, 2010

1920s Beaded Dress

Goodness, not a peep for five days, and then three posts in a day! I just thought I'd share what my weekend looked like.

A while ago Mummy gave me the tattered remains of two 1920s Art Deco beaded silk flapper dresses. They were both literally falling to pieces - you couldn't even pick them up because just the weight of the glass beads would pull the silk to shreds. Anyway, over the weekend I made some conservation efforts - it was painstaking work, gently easing the pieces flat, face down onto greaseproof paper on the ironing board, then laying over a sheet of iron-on interfacing and bonding them together.

I'm proud of myself for rescuing what was left of what would originally have been two amazing dresses, but I can't imagine what I'm going to do with the beading now that it's stabilised - I'll probably etsy it to someone who can do something wonderful with it, although I won't even be able to charge enough to cover the time I spent on it. Still, all in the name of preserving vintage fashion, eh...

Minnie Mouse

Who says playsuits are only for summer? I've actually worn this playsuit more in the last couple of weeks than I did in the summer - adding tights and a sweater takes it from beachwear to acceptable daywear (though right on the edge of my comfort zone - I'm barely young enough to get away with it).

Excuse the lack of hair style - this is what I look like when I'm indoors all day working hard at getting stuff listed in my ebay store, as I have been for the last week or so. I'm bored of work now - I want to get started on my next two sewing projects: a simple 50s dress with gathered full skirt in kitsch pirate fabric, and a slim-skirted jumper/pinafore dress (which I need to make a muslin of first as the pattern is going to need quite a bit of alteration). But in the meantime, back to work...

Printable Vintage Birthday Cards

At a car boot sale a few weeks back I picked up a package of greetings cards - unused, still unfolded. They weren't cheap, but there are loads of them, in about 50 different designs. I particularly love the children's birthday cards - they're designed to be die-cut to shape so that once folded the front only part-covers the inside.

Aren't they sweet? I don't know exactly how old they are, but I think probably 1930s (some have definite Art Deco graphics).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New and Coming Soon

I love selling on Etsy, but it's slow - good items can hang around in my shop for months before someone picks them up, or never sell at all. And I'm in dire need of cash so I've been work-work-working hard to stock the virtual shelves in my neglected ebay shop (I hate ebay - I hate the high commission, I hate the totally biased feedback system, I hate the seller-is-always-wrong policy and I hate the attitude of many customers, but the fact is stuff sells, and needs must).

Clockwise from top left: Late 50s / early 60s hot pink Egyptian design day dress (fair condition); I've got a whole selection of collectables, bric-a-brac and random stuff listed including this 1950s children's tea set; 1950s red wool bombshell wiggle dress (bought for myself but I ended up never wearing it, so it has to go!); Many many pairs of vintage fully fashioned stockings, mostly boxed and dating from the 1950s-60s; 1950s floral lamé evening dress; 1960s Little girl's Welsh wool tapestry cape and matching hat (so cute!).

There's loads more - I've got a 1950s hard plastic Scottie dog brooch listed, an early Monopoly set, various Edwardian magazines from my collection, pickle forks, 7Gypsies printed twill, lace hankies - all sorts of random stuff! Please note that my international postage is high because I have to send everything tracked due to Ebay's policies, but if you mention this blog when purchasing I'll waive the tracking fee (£5).

Another Cherry Hat

The last few days it's been so sunny it's like we're having a replacement August! We had October in August, so now we're finally having August. I can't even remember the last time I went out in short sleeves without a coat in October.

And so to celebrate, a sunny little ensemble! The late 40s / early 50s dress is one of my favourites (I wear it quite a lot, but this is actually the first time I've managed to take a full-length photo of it) - it makes my waist look tiny (I'm not corseted!), though the bodice is so tight I can't raise my arms above my head. You can't see too well from the photo, but the collar and cuffs have little red polka dots. And I topped it off with one of my collection of cherry hats, a 1950s straw with cherries heaped over the brim.

♥ Early 50s dress, ebay ♥ 1950s hat, ebay ♥ Bangle, H&M ♥ Sandals, Marks & Spencer ♥ Petticoat, antique shop in Midhurst.

I wear a lot of navy blue. I like navy blue, but I want to have more colours in my wardrobe to choose from. I got a beige 1940s suit from ebay, and it fits perfectly but beige does nothing for me so I've been mulling over what colour to dye it - I first thought navy blue, but I already have two navy blue suit jackets (one's missing a skirt; the skirt of the other is too small, but I have a cunning plan to remedy that - more on that another time). So I'm considering either chocolate brown or forest green, but I don't know which would suit me better. I really want to get my colours done.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Shoes shoes shoes

My picks of the season's best retro-style shoes from the high street.

Office has several styles which show retro influences. Clockwise from top left: Twinkle Tush (also in black) shows similarities with some of the 1920s styles I posted recently. With its low block heel and rounded toe, Frisky Sixty (also in black/white) has a great mod look. Their version of the classic saddle shoe Frank is available in a host of single-colour and two-tone options. Friendly Bow (also in black) has a very 1930s look to it. They have a few different brogue styles in various heel heights including Francis Brogue (also in black and tan) and Brogue Baby (also in Teal, Khaki, Mustard, Floral, Tan, Leopard, Grey).

While I find the much-hyped Originals range from Clarks a bit of a disappointment, their Bombay range with those slightly cutaway sides has a very 40s/50s vibe. Left-right: Ashill Bombay (also in brown suede); Bombay Lights (also in black leather and black patent); Ask Bombay.

Although Schuh mostly goes for fairly avant-garde styles, they have a few retro-ish offerings including (L-R) the Modric Brogue (also in tan); the Noella (also in purple, black and two-tone black/white); and I quite like the 80s Art Deco feel to the Paris Panel Court (also in black and grey).

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Matin and I went to Southsea to see a friend of his. We also had a stroll along Albert Road, which has a selection of antique shops and a couple of vintage stores, Dead Man's Glory and Style and the City.

I wanted to wear something vaguely nautical, so I raided my stock room for something to wear. This 1940s dress is actually slightly too small, especially over the bust - the buttons gaped a bit. I still wanted to wear it though, so I ended up literally sewing myself into it!

1940s dress, ebay; Nautical necklace, purchased in Thailand; Scarf, car boot sale; Belt, can't remember; 1960s handbag, ebay; Bangle, H&M; Shoes, Yoma; Corset, What Katie Did.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

At Home With Sir Winston Churchill

Today I met with a dear friend and he took me to Chartwell, home of Sir Winston Churchill. I've actually been there before - my father (a lifelong Churchill fan) took me around when I was very young, long before I was interested in such things. It seemed bigger then.

It was a great insight into the life of an incredible man, with lots of his personal artefacts on display. There's also an exhibition following his life story including extracts from his famous speeches. Listening to the 60-year-old recordings it's hard not to be stirred by his words - he really was an amazing speaker, and it's easy to see how much of this country's "Blitz spirit" was down to him.

No photography allowed inside unfortunately (though probably just as well for the length of this post!). We had a lovely stroll around the gardens, which are lovely - my favourite part as usual being the walled kitchen gardens (what is it that makes walled kitchen gardens seem so romantic?) including a darling little Wendy house Churchill built for his daughter Mary.

1940s dress from ebay - there's actually a matching belt with the cutest buckle, but it's too big so I have to adjust it. 1950s handbag from a charity shop. Why didn't I wear gloves? Hair took an age - I'm in dire need of a haircut, there's now far too much of it to roll effectively - the pins can't hold it!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How to make a photo collage in PhotoImpact X3

I've been asked a few times how I create my photo collages and until now I haven't bothered posting a tutorial because it seemed that my software of choice, a little-known program called PhotoImpact X3, had been discontinued. However, it appears to be available again - and for the bargain price of $19.99, what's more - so here goes!

PhotoImpact actually makes it incredibly easy to make effective digital collages. It's almost a cross between photo editing and desktop publishing software. Unlike in Adobe Photoshop (which I'm not very experienced in at all), every object can be manipulated individually, without any need to worry about 'layers' and so forth.

Gather your digital materials

First, prepare your photo(s). I usually use Picnik.com because I like the effects it offers, but PhotoImpact does have some cool effects of its own, including "diffuse glow" and "add vignette", as well as preset sepia tones.

Next, like a real-life collage, you'll need some ephemera to go with your photos. I use scanned ephemera (postcards, book pages, sheet music, button cards, photo wallets etc.) both from my own collection and from Flickr. A flickr search for "cabinet card", for example, will bring up hundreds of Victorian photographs with attractive mounts, which I use in most of my collages.

Create the collage

In PhotoImpact, create a new blank image, which will be the base canvas. Copy and paste your photograph, or drag-and-drop directly from Windows Explorer.

Making a cabinet card mount

Use the Path Drawing Tool (1) to draw a rounded rectangular (2) around the cabinet card. Set the mode to Selection (3) and adjust the corner roundness to match in the Tool Settings box on the right.

Copy and paste the cabinet card into your collage. You'll see that as you add objects, each can be controlled individually; you can use the pointer tool to arrange the layers (bring forward, send backward, etc.).

The card probably won't be exactly the right size and shape to mat your photo, but it can be resized to fit with the Transform Tool - make sure the aspect ratio is unlocked (but when you're resizing your photo make sure it's locked, otherwise you'll end up stretching the picture out of proportion - never a good look!).

At this point I usually add a shadow to the cabinet card (to add a shadow just right-click on the object and go to "Shadow"), before 'grouping' it with the photo (select two or more objects, right-click, 'Group') so that they can easily be selected and manipulated together.

Building up the collage

You can see the collage taking shape now - I've added some ephemera saved from flickr, and used the Transform tool to rotate both elements slightly for that 'casually tossed' look.

For irregular shaped items on a plain background - like these flowers - you can use the Magic Wand Tool to select the white space around it (including between the leaves by using the Magic Wand in 'addition' mode, which adds to the exisiting selection each time you click), then invert the selection (on the Selection menu) so that only the flowers are selected.

The flowers can then be inserted and into the collage and layered with the other elements, and hey presto, a simple but effective collage!

Yes, it's really that easy - I use very few fancy techniques. In fact I've probably just ruined half the mystique of my blog!

Anyway, I hope this was helpful - if you have any further questions or would like me to explain any more techniques in more detail please let me know and I'll do my best to help.

1950s Christmas Fabric

A quick fabric repro based on some wrapping paper from an advert in a 1956 magazine.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Make Do and Mend for October

October is a busy month for make-do and mending, as we make the transition into autumn proper. Eve Burnett (I'm amazed by this woman - how she kept coming up with ideas every month!) brings us more new ideas for dressing up "plain and boring" frocks with crochet accents, ribbon and lace (I particularly like the idea from 1943 for inserting a lace frill with matching buttons down the length of a plain black dress). There are also tips from 1943 for patching and darning, along with ways to mend and renovate a moth-attacked sweater.

~ 1942 ~

(the instructions for these suggestions are on my flickr)

~ 1943 ~

~ 1945 ~

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Apple Affair

Today was the Apple Affair at West Dean Gardens (which we visited last weekend). Appropriately, the Big Apple Dress made its long-awaited debut there! I finished stitching the hem last night. The event is centred around the walled orchard containing a collection of 100 different kinds of apple, including many Victorian varieties.

In addition to the walled kitchen gardens, West Dean House (now a college specialising in Arts & Crafts - if I was rich I'd love to take some of their courses, and normally closed to the public) was open, and we were able to see the entrance hall and three state rooms: the Music Room, the Library and the Dining Room (sounds like something out of Cluedo!).

It did rain for much of the afternoon, but not too heavily. We enjoyed it all the same - never have you seen so many apple-related products and activities, from apple-tasting to cider, juice, apple pie, toffee apples, an apple recipe book (which we bought and my sister promptly stole. Though to be fair she'll probably give us some of whatever she makes!)...

Dress, handmade by me from a late 30s pattern; Cherry umbrella and hair flower, New Look; Bangles, H&M; Belt, Topshop via ebay; 50s handbag, ebay. Photography by Mr Matin.

No fruit is more to our English taste than the Apple. Let the Frenchman have his Pear, the Italian his Fig, the Jamaican may retain his farinaceous Banana and the Malay his Durian, but for us the Apple.

--Edward Bunyard, 'Anatomy of Dessert'.

Friday, October 1, 2010

I'm NOT Singing in the Rain

Autumn is officially here. And don't I know it.

It's been torrential rain all day. The streets are all but empty, everyone putting off until tomorrow the errands that can wait. Those who do brave it purse their lips and squint against the wind, gripping their umbrella handles. The wind laughs in the face at my attempt to be gay, my cherry print clear brolly flapping feebly as I point it into the gale to prevent its being turned inside out. Rubbish bins become graveyards for cheap umbrellas fallen victim to the gusts, their spokes sticking out at awkward angles like birds with broken wings.

We are not skipping through puddles and laughing at clouds. Real autumn rain belies the relentless optimism in songs like Raindrops Keep Falling, Singin' In The Rain and I Don't Care What The Weatherman Says. I do care what the weatherman says, and I am most emphatically not singin'.

Still, here's some rainwear related eye candy to cheer us all up. These all come from magazines of 1949-50 - not one of my earlier magazines feature rainwear, and suddenly along comes 1949 and wet weather gear explodes onto the fashion scene.

November 1949

November 1949

February 1949

December 1949 & September 1950

November 1950


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