Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas from Tuppence Ha'penny

Wishing all my dear, lovely readers a very merry Christmas time!

My Christmas dress for this year was inspired by one I pinned a little while ago - I fell in love with the sweetheart neckline and fitted midriff. The vintage gold lamé fabric I picked up recently on ebay for about a fiver, having decided that what my wardrobe lacked was a gold dress. I don't know how old it is - it could easily be anything from 50s-70s, but it works perfectly for the early 60s vibe of the dress I had in mind.

Dress & matching headband, made by me (details below); 1950s pearls, belonged to my grandmother; Gloves, can't remember; Earrings, Primark (I know!); Shoes, Marks & Spencer (an early Christmas present from Matin).

The bow is detachable, so I can wear it on the back or the front. I made another matching bow to wear as a headband - again in keeping with the late 50s / early 60s look.

The Facts:

Pattern and adjustments: I used Butterick 8933, an early 60s pattern, for the bodice, giving the neckline a sweetheart shape. I thought getting the fit right would be reasonably straightforward but sadly it was not to be - I really struggled with the bust - the original pattern didn't have enough room, then when I did a full bust adjustment it suddenly got really loose around the neckline. I nearly considered abandoning the whole thing, but continued doggedly on even though I thought the best I could hope for was a passable fit. But my persistance paid off, and I managed to solve the entire fit issue by adjusting the shoulder seam - yay!

Techniques: The skirt pattern I used didn't have a side seam, so I had to do a slash opening for the side zip. As this meant I couldn't do my usual lapped zipper insertion, I did a hand-picked installation instead. The dress is also fully lined - a first for me.

Make again? Having cracked the fit, I definitely intend to make another version. The only changes I might make would be to do a centre back zip, and possibly 3/4 length sleeves.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Gift Wrapping Ideas

I was just browsing my vintage magazine collection for Christmas baking recipes when I came across these adorably creative gift wrapping ideas from 1947, which I thought I'd share.

These Christmas boxes are so delightfully gay that your friends will be thrilled with even the simplest and smallest of gifts.

  • Powder-puff muff: Three powder puffs in round celluloid boxes (which you can buy in the shops) covered with pleated transparent cellulose, and tied round with ribbons.
  • "Ballerina": Circular piece of white tulle sewn on top of box, with side piece gathered in at top. Add a posy of flowers.
  • Sequin monogram: Cover box with gold paper and fasten at one side with black ribbon, which is sewn to box and tied in a bow. Stick on black sequins in a monogram or pattern.
  • Padded tuffet: Box covered with a circular piece of satin, gathered at the sides and the top padded with cotton wool. Catch down the padding with a few stitches at regular intervals.
  • To hold a buttonhole: Square, transparent cellulose box tied with tinsel ribbon.
  • Swathed with pink: Flat box covered with felt and swathed with transparent cellulose which is held in place by a ribbon. Stick a greetings stamp on top.
  • "Basket": Ribbon looped round transparent cellulose box, the ends tied to holly on top.
  • Leather trunk: Leather paper stuck on box. Make straps also out of leather paper, and sew on buckles. Write your friend's name on the "luggage label".
  • Sealed box: Wide ribbon tied round box and secured with sealing-wax.
  • Special gift: Mistletoe secured with ribbon at corners of box. You can make the mistletoe with round pearl buttons and silk leaves.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Oh Christmas Tree

I love my tree. I got a real tree - I thought about an artificial one but I just think the smell of pine is so much part of Christmas I wanted a real one. Did I mention I love it? I can just sit and gaze adoringly at it - I think it's beautiful. It's also a part of my life story, as I've collected ornaments from where I used to live, and from my globe-trotting adventures. It's a very 'me' tree. I thought I'd give you a little tour.

I've travelled a bit around Asia, so many of my decorations are souvenirs from those trips. Malaysia is represented by a festive depiction of the Petronas towers in Kuala Lumpur and a pair of traditional clogs; Thailand by colourful elephants and Cambodia in little silk stars.

I've got hand painted lacquered papier-mache baubles from both Malaysia and India, and the Chinese lanterns came from Vietnam. My beautiful glass baubles are from Bradford-on-Avon (where I used to live - my first 'real' home after university) and Marks & Spencer when I worked there. There's also a selection of home-made paper heart decorations.

A Japanese good luck charm nestles under a festive bow in Indian brocade ribbon.

More beautiful glass ornaments from Bradford-on-Avon - and a cinnamon wood heart from Vietnam.

This little fellow (one of a set of 6 in different colours) is a new addition to my collection - he's modern (from Tesco would you believe) but he just looked so fifties kitsch I couldn't resist!

And topping it all, a fairy in a sparkly frock with a giant wand and a handbag. Told you it was a very me tree!

How do you do your Christmas tree? Is yours a story of your life in a mish-mash of ornaments, or do you like to have a theme? I've seen some beautiful themed trees - like Solanah's pink and blue tree and Shona's Cinderella tree... but, well, I still like mine the bestest :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

DIY 1950s Christmas Wrapping Paper

Okay, it didn't turn out quite as glamorous as I had pictured it, but I thought I'd post it all the same! Behold my DIY Christmas wrapping paper, inspired by designs from the 1950s (my original plan was to duplicate the original midcentury giftwrap below, but when my first attempt looked like something my four-year-old nephew Teddy might have created, I realised I'd have to simplify). I cut my own stamps from fun foam, mounted them on some acrylic sheet which I had lying around, and added a sellotape handle. A squeeze of acrylic paint, a roll of brown parcel paper and a few paper plates later, and voila. It's not entirely a masterpiece, but I think it's quite effective - right?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

{Sponsor Spotlight} Miss Betty's Attic

I'd like to extend a warm welcome to my newest sponsor, Miss Betty's Attic, purveyor of the very best vintage sewing patterns. Miss Betty stocks an incredible variety of over 2,000 patterns including lots of rare older patterns going back as far as the early 1920s. They're also very reasonably priced, with many 1930s and 40s patterns under $30 (£20), and original 1950s patterns starting from as little as $10 (£6). Proprietress Miss Betty was kind enough to answer some questions about her business.

Can you introduce us to Miss Betty's Attic - how did you get started with your business?

I started Miss Betty's Attic my husband suggested I may have too many patterns (over 500). I was very fond of Etsy so I started selling the patterns there. It snow balled quickly and Miss Betty's Attic became an almost full time job for me.

Do you enjoy sourcing the vintage patterns you sell? Where do you find them?

The best part about my shop is seeing these beautiful vintage patterns bring history back to life. The second best part is the hunt. I go all over Iowa and neighboring states looking at thrift shops, antique stores, estate sales and garage sales. You never know what treasures you will find.

Do you do much sewing yourself? Do you have a favourite era to sew from?

I have very little time to myself so I do not get the chance to sew as often as I'd like. I have a grandchild coming in January, so I will make an effort to sew for her. My favorite era is the 1930s - I adore the clothing.

Where can we find you?

My online shop is Miss Betty's Attic on etsy. You can follow missbettysattic on twitter or like us on Facebook to be notified of sales, special offers and discount codes. I'm also on Pinterest and Tumblr.

If you would like to promote your vintage shop / business / glamorous self on Tuppence Ha'penny please click here for details of my sponsorship package.

Friday, December 14, 2012

More Than Just Clothes

Vintage is more than just clothes. Even the clothes are more than just clothes. We vintage girls don't buy clothes just because they're fashionable and/or cheap. We buy clothes because we love them. Lots of people love their clothes of course, but in in the modern climate of mass-produced, cheaply-constructed 'disposable fashion', few (I did say "few", not "none") cherish their clothes as we do. After all, how many people these days would actually get out needle and thread and mend clothing? The hem starts falling down on an H&M skirt or a seam begins to separate on a Topshop frock, that baby's going in the bin! Of course, the quality of vintage clothes does tend to be somewhat higher than your average high street purchase now - even the budget brand clothing from Sears was intended to last more than a season or a few washes.

Each garment in my wardrobe holds the memory of its purchase. Ebay buys may recollect a tense bidding war, or bring a smile at the remembered thrill of watching the final seconds tick down without a challenging bid. Sometimes it was a glimpse of fabric on a charity shop rail or in a pile at a car boot sale, hastily grasped and examined and evaluated and determined - yes - to be the real deal, and quickly purchased. I paid £2 at a car boot sale for the 1950s aqua taffeta dress I wore to my sister's wedding - the excitement of finding such a bargain will never leave me.

It needed a long bath in Vanish to get the discolouration out. But it was £2. Full circle skirt, too.

Some purchases might be the culmination of months in pursuit of a particular wishlist item - a 1940s crochet handbag, a 1950s princess coat, a leopard muff - which was then, finally, ticked off the list. Or it might have been spur of the moment, happened upon while browsing a vintage shop maybe, or the result of an idle online search bringing up something lovely and unexpected - in the right size, at the right price - quick, where's my credit card?

I was browsing ebay when I came upon this little beauty, which I won for the opening bid.

Most vintage garments are unique - many were home made, and of those that weren't, most of their companions will have long since been consigned to the great wardrobe in the sky - and so each one is ours alone, unique and exclusive. We certainly don't need to worry about passing someone in the street wearing the same Primark sweater.

Our clothes are special to us, treasured equally for their rarity, their history, and the thrill of their discovery. They are our hobby, our passion, our link to the past, and our form of self-expression.

Or, sometimes, it's just a pretty dress.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tuppence Ha'penny on Spoonflower - Updates

It's been a while since I shared any of my new fabric designs, so I thought I'd do a quick update on the latest prints available in my Spoonflower shop.

"Pretty Kitty" was inspired by a 1950s feedsack design (the original featured dogs), and is available in three suitably retro colourways.

"We're going to the Zoo" - I've added blue and lime green to the black which was already available (I'm going to do a little work on the colours for the green version - it needs more contrast)

"Stitchery" - along with the rest of the Household Chores collection is now available for purchase.

"Flightpath", an atomic-era inspired design, comes in bright and muted colourways (I'm thinking about adding a third variation in red, teal and coral pink).

After seeing my WAAF blouse my stepfather was so impressed he asked if I could design him a similar fabric featuring Spitfires, and make him a shirt. This design is available in Airforce blue and olive green.

Lastly, two more variations of my cycling kitties design are now available to purchase - these would be really cute for blouses, I think.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

1930s Fashion: The Definitive Sourcebook

To call a book the "definitive" anything is a pretty bold statement, and my expectations were high. But oh boy does this book deliver. We're talking about over 550 pages of fashion illustrations and period photographs from one of the most glamorous and sartorially sophisticated decades of the 20th century.

What always strikes me about 1930s fashion is the incredible innovative detailing - unusual seaming, wild sleeve shapes and almost limitless variation in collar styles - and the illustrations in this book provide a fantastical array of intriguing details.

The detailed introduction covers 30 pages alone, and gives an excellent overview of the principal fashion influences, in the historical context of the era. The rest of the book is divided into chapters for Daywear, Outerwear, Eveningwear, Accessories, and "Other", with a section for Selected Biographies (brief bios of significant characters on the 1930s fashion scene) at the back.

I thought it was slightly odd that the fashions aren't presented chronologically within the sections, as a logical progression would better illustrate the evolving fashion as the world moved steadily from the Wall Street Crash to World War II. But that said, it actually makes the book more fun to flick through in some ways, because it offers more variety with each page turn - this is more a book for browsing than reading from cover to cover, and I rather enjoy the random order.

The price tag of £30 might initially seem hefty, but when you consider the wealth of over 600 original images it really is a snip. I cannot emphasise enough the pure eye candy of this book. Definitely a must for anyone interested in 1930s fashion.

1930s Fashion: The Definitive Sourcebook is published by Goodman Fiell, RRP £30, out now.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Modern-Vintage Winter Footwear

Following up from yesterday's post on vintage winter shoes, I've been scouting around for appropriately vintage-looking winter footwear and I thought I'd share what I've found! The first one is probably my favourite - a perfect balance of vintage look, style and practicality.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Vintage Winter Shoes

It's a dilemma which presents itself around this time each year: what makes a good 1940s/50s style winter shoe - one which will look cute and stylish but will also be appropriate for wet weather, or frosty mornings and icy pavements. As always, I turn to the Sears catalogues for inspiration.

The chunky-heeled Oxford certainly rules as king of the sensible shoes, in plain leather, mock croc and classic saddle variations - sturdy enough to face any weather. The "Authentic Norwegian Casual Style" loafer also looks like it could face down a slippery pavement or two, and is still a classic style today.



For most of the winter I usually end up in either high heel lace-up Oxfords or in my Mary Janes, although the low front isn't very wet weather friendly. I could rather go for those Victorian-esque lace-up ankle boots with their sturdy medium heels. Shearling lined, better still! Chelsea boots are also widely available today.



Knee boots seem to be quite the thing for country walks, although they wouldn't normally be appropriate for town wear. These on the right look very modern, a bit "biker boot" - right on trend for 2012 (I think my sister has a pair just like them!), exactly 70 years after this catalogue was published.


Most of the boots in the 1940s catalogues seem to be galoshes-type "over-boots", worn to protect one's shoes from the rain and snow - there's a "heel guide" to help find the right height heel to fit over your shoes. Some of the styles are easily glamorous enough to be worn in their own right, though - I love those buttoned-over styles, both the boot (which again has a slightly Victorian air) and shoe versions.



Finally, though the heels might not be the best for the odd snow day, the higher throats on these pumps at least make them a bit more "splash proof" for rainy outings.



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