Monday, January 31, 2011

The Cherry Pie Dress

So here it is, finished! I've learned a lot more about sewing over the course of this project. It's my first time doing proper tailoring. I made several adjustments - the major ones being the FBA and drafting the new set-in sleeves. I also lengthened the bodice (as it's a petite pattern) and nipped the waist more. It's funny you know, for all the 1950s hourglass ideal and the wasp-waisted pattern illustration, I always have to take inches out of the waist - even when the pattern is supposed to fit my waist size (in fact probably a fraction smaller, since I suspect I occasionally delude myself about my actual waist measurement). I tried to take the excess out by redrafting the darts, but I didn't do a very good job of it (the thick, felt-like material isn't very forgiving on that front). Lastly, I tapered the skirt to give it that wiggle shape - though I think as a result I'm going to have to convert the back kick pleat into an overlapped split (there's probably a technical term for those), since I can now take only very small steps. All in all I'm pleased with how it came out, for all its wonky tailoring.

But I'm choosing something simpler for my next sewing project.

♥ Dress, made by me using Simplicity 3443 ♥ Rhinestone clip-on earrings, car boot sale yesterday ♥ Bakelite and plastic bangles from ebay, etsy and H&M ♥ Belt, charity shop ♥ Handbag, ebay

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Transitioning to the New Look (1948)

Loved this feature on how to refashion and restyle pieces from your wardrobe into the New Look. It also provides a neat summary of the differences between the New Look and the war-time styles.

Reading from my collection of Everywoman magazines around this time, it's interesting to note that a lot of the articles relating to the New Look suggest that there was some resistance to the style among women; the Look was apparently not welcomed with such open arms we've generally assumed but with a certain amount of reluctance. There are articles promising women they'll "grow to love" the Look. They probably quite liked the sharp tailoring of the earlier 40s (as many of us do now). Some couldn't bear the idea of giving up padded shoulders for sloping, and perhaps found the longer skirt "frumpy". It's an interesting angle on the transition to the New Look - I'll try and post some more related features over the coming week or so.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Work in Progress

I'm making view 2, in a red wool blend, and with 3/4 length sleeves rather than short (my wardrobe is lacking in winter dresses, and we've got another few months of cold weather still to come).

I've been working on this dress for some weeks now, on and off - it's taken two muslins and one false start, and I was very nearly on the verge of throwing in the towel. The problem was that even after making a Full Bust Adjustment (something of a revelation, I can tell you!) it still just didn't fit right. Turns out it's actually impossible to tailor a dolman-sleeved bodice over a full bust, so there was nothing for it but to make set-in sleeves.

I borrowed the sleeve from another pattern, using the bodice pieces to trace the shape of the armhole. It took a couple of attempts to get the shoulder seam in the right place, but I think I've cracked it now. I've only done one side so far, but it's made all the difference in the world to the fit - I hope it works out once I've completed the other side!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Midcentury Street Fabric

I've been experimenting with a new way of repro-ing vintage fabrics. Rather than do the whole process digitally as I usually do, for this one I used a pen and paper to trace the outlines, then scanned it and filled in the colour. It's based on the design below, taken from a 1955 Sears catalogue. I'm still working on it - I don't know whether to stay faithful to the original colours (which I find kind of garish), or go my own way with them. Thoughts? I suppose it's easy enough to make two colourways available through Spoonflower.

* Edit *

I had a quick play with the colours (this is fun!) and replaced the green with a gentler teal, which competes less with the red, but also makes it a lot less warm overall. I can see I'm going to end up making this available in about seventeen different colourways!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Peacock Suit

Matin took me to Midhurst, a small town not far from Chichester, to visit the vintage shop Marmaduke's and the charity shops. I didn't end up buying anything - even though Marmaduke's had some decent stuff and the prices aren't bad, there was nothing there from my wishlist, so I came away empty handed.

I'm still undecided on this suit. It's 1980s vintage Monsoon, raw silk. I was meaning to sell it, but it hasn't got as far as the shop because it fits like a glove and I really like the shape (especially after I raised the hem from that unflattering late 80s mid-calf level to a more 1940s knee-length). It's the colour I'm unsure about, as I'm not sure that ultra-vibrant peacock green (more saturated than it looks in these pics) is a great colour on me. I thought about perhaps overdyeing it a more forest green. I do like it with pink though (the pink accessories barely show up in these pics - ghastly grey weather we had today). I don't know - what do you think?

Vintage 80s suit, Charity shop, re-hemmed by me; Vintage pink nylon gloves, can't remember (probably a charity shop); Pink feather cocktail hat, Janine Basil; Vintage milk glass bead necklace, can't remember; Beaded bracelets, Primark; 1940s grosgrain handbag, Charity shop; Marcasite poodle brooch, gift from Mummy; Tights and shoes, M&S.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon

Even before seeing The King's Speech, I've always had a lot of respect for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother - my Daddy's a great fan of hers (she was Scottish, like him).

As most people have the image of her as a dear old lady, it's easy to forget that in her day she was quite a looker, capturing the Prince's heart at 19. She initially refused his proposals because she worried about her personal freedom (that line in the film is taken from a real quote), but relented and married him in 1923.

She was also a leading trendsetter, at a time when fashion was led by the nobility, not pop singers and footballers' wives.

Though she carried herself with aristocratic poise ("self-consciously regal", as Eleanor Roosevelt put it), Elizabeth had a great sense of humour, something which I thought came over quite well in the film. While on a state visit to Fiji she brought great amusement when shaking hands with a long line of official guests, as a stray dog walked in on the ceremony and she shook its paw as well.

Also portrayed so well in the film by Helena Bonham Carter, Elizabeth had remarkable strength of character. During the London Blitz, Elizabeth ignored the Cabinet's advice to leave the city or send her two daughters to Canada. She said, "The children won't go without me. I won't leave the King. And the King will never leave."

She visited troops, hospitals, factories, and parts of Britain that were targeted by the German Luftwaffe, in particular the East End, near London's docks. Her visits initially provoked hostility, in part because she dressed in expensive clothing which served to alienate her from those suffering wartime austerity. She explained that if the public came to see her they would wear their best clothes, so she should reciprocate in kind. When Buckingham Palace itself took several hits at the height of the Blitz, Elizabeth is said to have remarked to a policeman that she was glad they'd been bombed, as she could now look the East End in the face.

Queen Elizabeth, King George and Winston Churchill inspect bomb damage at Buckingham Palace. Because of her effect on British morale, Adolf Hitler is said to have called her "the most dangerous woman in Europe".

Most photos via Miss Mertens on flickr.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The King's Speech

One word: wonderful.

A few more words: Rarely has anything made me feel so patriotic. And oh, the costumes. The hats! The pearls. The fingerwaves!

And two of my favourite actors, Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter, at their absolute finest.

Plus it's really funny. If you haven't already, go see it right away.

Monday, January 17, 2011

And now for something completely different...

Did you enjoy Hat Week? I had a lot of fun with it and I'm super excited about more theme weeks to come. But now, as the title says, for something completely different.

I bought this sweater mainly because it was cheap. It was only when I was browsing the collection of Sears & Roebuck catalogues on that it struck me that the oversize buttons and wide collar were reminiscent of styles in the late 1910s and early 20s. Plus, the maroon colour is bang on trend for 1920. So, although I've never gone for anything pre about 1935, I thought challenge myself to try an outfit inspired by this period.

Not being a slender beanpole, 1920s fashion is an area I tend to avoid, though I do love those flapper dresses. I've never even considered pre-1920s as a viable fashion era for anything other than theatre, but a lot of the styles actually translate surprisingly well.

These scans are from the 1920 and 1921 fall catalogues.

I would have loved to accessorize in true period style with one of these oversize knitted Tam O'Shanter hats, but I don't have one. I was pondering the headwear question and looking to these pages for inspiration when the little lass in the bottom left reminded me of this hat. It was mine circa about 1998, when these floppy brimmed hats enjoyed a brief vogue thanks to the TV show Blossom (I used to wear it to school, pinned up with the vintage feather brooch to stop it falling over my eyes). I fished it out and not only did it fit the 1920 look perfectly, it was just the right shade of maroon to match the sweater.

I'm pretty pleased with how the look came off - still outside my comfort zone, but quite wearable. The regular passer-by wouldn't even think "you look straight out of 1920" - besides the fact that the regular passer-by, if they think about it at all, assumes that all anyone wore between 1920 and 1929 were beaded, handkerchief hem flapper frocks.

Cardigan, Lidl; Belt, borrowed from a 1940s dress; Hat & vintage brooch, mine circa 1998; Skirt, from a friend, re-hemmed by me (it's been in my "to-sell" pile for ages, and it only just occurred to me to hem it to a useful length!); bakelite bangles, ebay; Shoes, Hotter.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

{Hat Week} Wacky Hats from Gay Paree

Lady Gaga's telephone hat and Katy Perry's Casino headdress? It's all been done before, back in the 50s by mad milliner M. Guillaume Henri de Harrison-Schultz.

From "Titter" magazine, found in MrsInman's flickr.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

{Hat Week} Hat Brooches

If you're still working up to wearing an actual hat in public, you could always show your affection for hats in the meantime by pinning one of these cuties to your lapel.

Top: Celluloid hat & shoes; Porcelain sunhat; Celluloid hat, hand & staff.
Centre: Hand painted green celluloid hat; Red polka dot bakelite hat; Porcelain (?) hat.
Bottom: Bakelite & celluloid Tyrolean hat; Green dangle top hat; Hatstand.

Ah, if only I had a spare $650 kicking around for that amazing polka dot bakelite beauty!

Friday, January 14, 2011

{Hat Week} How to Make a 1940s Pillbox Tilt Hat

These instructions are based on VOGUE PATTERN No. 8426, published c1943.

There are only two pattern pieces (well, the pattern does include one for the hat band, but since that's made of grosgrain ribbon, it seems redundant). The top of the hat, as you can see, is slightly oval shaped, and measures 7 1/4" by 6 1/2". The side piece is about 19" long. There's a 1/2" seam allowance on these.

Cut one of each piece out of your chosen fabric, a stiff interlining fabric (the pattern calls for buckram; I used a stiff felt-like pelmet interlining, which is very easy to work with), and lining fabric (I actually dispensed with lining the hat since no-one's going to see the inside).

Thursday, January 13, 2011

{Hat Week} Adventures in Millinery

This is the first of two home-made hats. I used an original vintage 1940s Vogue hat pattern and a remnant of leopard print faux fur I picked up at a car boot sale. I had decided I wanted a leopard print hat as part of my Gentlemen Prefer Blondes project after I found a costume test photo of her "Bye bye baby" outfit with a leopard print hat, although she actually wears a different one in the film (and I wanted both versions).

The hat was really easy to make - I'll be posting the instructions to make your own tomorrow.

I added the bow on the back (a vintage home-made jabot in black moire taffeta, with a teeny rhinestone buckle in the knot) to make it look more 40s, my era du choix. It's removable though, as it's just attached with its original pin back.

The other hat I'm still working on. It's from Vintage Vogue 7464 (View B - the green one) and I'm struggling to make head or tail of the instructions! I've completed most stages, and I'm supposed to make just one more twist "here" and voila, a finished hat. It's not really happening. I'm going to have to play around with it some more I think.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

{Hat Week} A Brief History of 20th Century Hats (part 2)

Continued from Part 1.

The war years saw great variety in the styles of hats available. Hat materials were not subject to rationing (along with any fabrics less than 3" in width, like lace, ribbon and tape), so concoctions of feathers, veiling and artificial flowers were popular.

The chic wore "tilt" hats (a.k.a. "doll" or "toy" hats), a very small hat that perched on the very front of the forehead, reviving the turn-of-the-century styles.

Inspired by the 1939 release of "Gone with the Wind" there was also a brief resurgence of the bonnet, along with a modified version in the form of halo hats, which consisted of an upstanding brim on a headband, worn to frame the face and piled-up-curls hairdos.

Styles reminiscent of workwear like the turbans and headscarfs worn by factory girls were considered patriotic. Patriotism also popularised the military-influenced beret.

A 1940s innovation was the "Juliet" cap, a small circular cap worn at the back of the head, embellished with a large frill or bow on the front or back.

Over the 1950s milliners were faced with a dwindling market for headwear. Hats were generally small and worn close to the head - little saucer sized clip-on toppers, pillboxes and skullcaps were popular. Conversely, broad brimmed and shallow crowned sunhats and "pancake" or "cartwheel" hats sat flat atop the head. Towards the end of the decade the "bucket" or "flowerpot" hat re-emerged, this time worn low on the head in contrast to its 1930s incarnation. These were carried through into the 60s.

The expanding bouffant and beehive hair styles of the early 1960s were adorned for formal occasions with pillboxes (a la Jackie Kennedy) and "whimsies" - confections of veiling, often accented with bows or little flowers, that perched on the back of the head. The turban also

The late 60s brought mod fashions - slouchy "Bakerboy" caps and floppy-brimmed sunhats. The bob hairstyles popularised by Mary Quant also sparked a revival of the 1920s cloche.

By the 1970s the fashion hat had been largely abandoned. Hats at this time were mainly practical, confined to cold weather wear, headscarves and large, floppy-brimmed sunhats.

The 80s and 90s were a bit of a dark age in terms of headwear and there were few innovations in hat styles, although Royal Ascot continued to be a forum for the exploration in ever-wackier mad hattery.

It's not all doom and gloom though! A renewed interest in hats during the last few years has in fact come from the unlikeliest of corners - trend-setting celebrities including Kate Moss, Avril Lavigne and Sienna Miller have helped revive styles like the classic fedora. Cocktail hats and fascinators are also regaining ground as formal wear.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

{Hat Week} A Brief History of 20th Century Hats (part 1)

Click for more Edwardian hats

In the late Victorian and early Edwardian period hats were worn perched atop piled-up hair, often tipped to one side or forward over the face. Mens' styles such as boaters and trilbys had been adopted into female fashion in the 1880s, and were popular daywear, embellished with flowers and feathers.

The later Edwardian period saw the silhouette become narrower, and hats conversely became more vast. Enormous hats reached a peak during the "Titanic" era, with brims sometimes extending beyond the wearer's shoulders. To secure these huge creations to the head, hat pins up to 18 inches long were skewered through the hair and hat (in a pinch, these could also double as a handy weapon).

Click for more 1910s hats

World War I brought an end to the extravagance of the early 1910s, and hats quickly became smaller and less ornate. Although a style associated with the 1920s, early incarnations of the cloche were already popular in 1914. In fact hats of the early 20s were often slouchy, in contrast to the trim, head-hugging cloches of the middle of the decade.

Click for more 1920s hats

The "cloche" (French for "bell") hat truly came into its own in the mid 1920s. Wide or narrow brimmed, this deep-crowned style sometimes sat so low on the wearer's forehead she had to tilt her head back to see.

By the early 1930s crowns became shallow once again to accommodate the decade's fashionable hairstyles. The 1930s can be broadly characterised in perky, asymmetrical styles. Wide brimmed hats were popular in summer, replacing the parasols that had by now fallen out of fashion. Masculine styled fedoras were perfectly suited to wear with tailored suits. Tyrolean styles with peaked brims matched sportswear. By the end of the decade, crowns had begun to grow upwards and we see Welsh "flowerpot" crowns with neat brims. "Toque" (brimless) styles were also in vogue.

Continue reading Part 2...


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