Monday, April 30, 2012

What I'm working on...

I've currently got quite a few projects on the go so I thought I'd do a quick round-up - partly by way of explaining my recent bloggy absence.

The Ballroom Belles Dress


Although I've used several of my vintage repro fabrics in record bags, this is my first actual dress project with one (it's on my sewing list as June's project, so I'm actually ahead of schedule for once!). I'm using Hollywood 1552, the same late 30s / early 40s pattern as I used way back in 2010 for my first vintage sewing project, the Big Apple Dress. I've been looking forward to reusing this pattern for various reasons - firstly because despite my huge hash of a sewing effort, the apple dress remains one of my favourite and most flattering dresses. I was also keen to revisit the pattern with the benefit of the sewing knowledge I've accrued since that first effort; I started by redrafting the pattern pieces taking into account the various adjustments (mainly for sizing and fit, but also length) that I made in that version.

The Little Rock Dress


This dress has been quite a learning experience for me, and it's finally nearing completion after over a year in the planning and a couple of weeks of construction. I'm just giving a sneak peek glimpse as I'm looking forward to sharing the finished garment as soon as I finish assembling the appropriate bling. I'm already playing with ideas for my next Gentlemen Prefer Blondes inspired creation - possibly based on the pink "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" dress.

1940s Sailor dress


April's project on my sewing list will also be based on Hollywood 1552, with a modified bodice and sailor collar I drafted last year. I had originally planned to make it in very fine handkerchief linen to get a good drape, but I couldn't find any. Then it occurred to me that I rayon would give me the perfect texture and drape that I had in mind. But rayon is also surprisingly hard to come by - I ended up buying white and dyeing it (er, twice, due to an unfortunate early 90s style tie-dye effect on my first attempt).

Tuppence Ha'penny @ the London Fashion & Textile Museum shop


A most exciting business venture is my partnership with the Fashion & Textile Museum shop. They're currently running a wonderful exhibition on postwar women textile designers, and approached me about stocking the shop as my recycled record products tie in well with the theme. This is me at the exhibition's opening night, when Zandra Rhodes complimented me on my hair.

Wartime Propaganda Prints


This is basically a total indulgence, a personal research project. I've been interested in WW2 patriotic textiles for some time, so when I came across this book it immediately went on my wishlist. Eventually I went ahead and bought it and I've been relishing every single word and picture in it - it's totally fascinating. Look out for related posts in the not too distant future. I'm even hoping to try my hand at producing my own "propaganda print" inspired by the fabrics and scarf designs of the era.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Deco Revival Fashion

You may recall I mentioned some time ago I was doing a spot of research on retro revival fashion in the 1970s? I've finally managed to assemble my research, so I thought I'd kick off with a post on the Art Deco revival in the late 60s to 70s. One influential cinematic influence on the movement was the 1967 release of Bonnie and Clyde starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. A 1968 article in LIFE magazine neatly summarised some of the key features of 1930s revival fashions inspired by the film and reinterpreted for the 70s:




1970s fashion revived a number of 1930s design features including flutter and capelet sleeve styles, and deep-V collars. Made in the right fabric McCall's 6834 could almost pass for an original late 30s tea dress.


1930s style orange slipper satin dress


30s style strawberry print dress (modelled by Aimee of Bright Young Twins)



30s and 40s revival fashion in LIFE magazine, February 1971


But it's not just the clothing itself: Art Deco influences can also be seen in accessories, including items like beaded evening bags and jewellery. Some seek to imitate the originals, but more often they're given a distinctly 70s twist.

Art Deco orange clutch, sold by Penny Dreadful Vintage

70s Deco fan earrings

1930s inspired beaded purse

Spectator shoes "A 30's flavor with the look of the 70's" in Sears, 1973

However, possibly the fashion arena which most wholeheartedly embraced the Deco vibe was in the prints: jazz era imagery enjoyed huge popularity in textile design over the decade.

1920s inspired fabric

1920s tennis players T-shirt

1970s skirt printed with early 20s fashion plate style images

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Neapolitan Ice Cream

I took these pictures nearly two weeks ago. This year's April weather has truly lived up to its reputation - it has been wild. Temperatures can fluctuate like ten degress from one day to the next; even within hours we can have bright, bright sunshine suddenly giving way to absolutely torrential downpours, before clearing up to sunshine once again. We've even had the odd hailstorm! The rest of the world always makes fun of the English for talking about the weather all the time, but this is why we do! Of course, it makes choosing an outfit in the morning an impossible task - I nearly left the house in sandals one day last week it was so sunny, only to be caught in a monsoon mid afternoon. But anyway, the day I took these I was feeling very springly and easterful. Yes, those are words.

I love chocolate brown, especially as an accent colour. Something that's been on my wishlist for a while is a 40s rich brown fur capelet (specific much?) because it would complete my chocolate accessory set. I'd been stalking ebay and etsy but never turned up anything affordable, until I recently came across this one in a Traid charity shop. It's not in super amazing condition, but it is exactly what I'd pictured, and a very reasonable price. It's perfect for the spring weather, when it's sunny but with a slight chill to the air.

For its first outing I wore it with my spring blossom dress (I know I only recently posted an outfit featuring this dress, but I love exploring new ways to wear the same garments and I thought you might enjoy seeing that!) and a 1940s pink and brown ostrich feather tilt topper borrowed from my mother. Pink and chocolate has long been a favourite colour combination - and with the ivory accents in the dress fabric I feel like Neapolitan ice cream!

I wore my hair once again in the 1940s back roll - it's such a useful style for wearing with hats.

Dress, made by me from vintage fabric & 1940s pattern; 1940s hat, borrowed from mama; 1940s fur capelet (for my views on vintage fur, see here), charity shop; Shoes, New Look; Gloves, vintage fair; Handbag (1940s?), can't remember.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Making a house a (vintage-friendly) home

Lately - in between working, sewing and, er, not blogging - I've been enjoying indulging in homemaking. I don't have a load of wonderful vintage homewares or a very large flat, but since the recent addition of a new item of furniture I've been in major nesting mode (before you ask, no there's no big news!) and I thought I'd share what I've done with limited resources. Because I can't confine myself to a specific era I couldn't theme my decor (no matter how much I admire those who recreate 30s, 40s or 50s havens in their homes), so I've gone for a sort of eclectic, midcentury kitsch meets shabby chic type affair.

Our new G-Plan sideboard, which we got for free in a lucky break from our neighbours who just moved out. They got it for free, so they very kindly paid it forward - to us! I already thought it was cool enough, but I was really excited to find the G-Plan stamp inside one of the drawers. I'm not good at furniture so it's hard to say, but I'm guessing it's around 1960s? It's similar to the one I remember my grandmother had in her dining room.

I'm so pleased with it. It replaces the big office desk which we did have in this corner - and looks way nicer, not to mention significantly more retro. I hung the framed stocking packages when we first moved in, but they never really looked at home over the desk; the new sideboard really sets them off though. The vintage 50s rubbish bin is another new acquisition - found in Mummy's attic. It's covered in adorable illustrations - I'll have to take a close-up photo sometime.

I've made an arrangement of some of my small collection of knick-knackery. The 1950s "London" souvenir pin tray came from a charity shop, as did the sweet strawberry applique tray cloth (part of a set, but I don't have anywhere for the rest at the moment). The 1940s (?) Bakelite clock is from a car boot sale (I haven't actually managed to get it working as it needs a key to wind it up), and you may recognise the pitcher from my atomic lemonade set, another boot fair find. The pencil pot is a modern cocoa tin which I covered in vintage fabric using spray glue, and the 'hat stand' is actually a lamp base which I picked up for about 50p, again at a car boot.

My sewing area has undergone a makeover since you last saw it. The 1930s tin "work box" (purchased at an antique fair) used to hold stationery; that's now all neatly stored away in the sideboard, and the box holds my sewing tools. The vintage toy sewing machine (I aspire to collect vintage toys - so far I have just this and my children's tea set) was until recently part of a display on the top of the book shelf, but I thought it appropriate here. The vintage shoe pin cushion holds my pitiful collection of hat pins.

I'm particularly pleased with the wall collage, inspired by something I saw in the latest issue of BBC Homes & Antiques magazine. It includes Victorian sheet music, WWI postcards, 1930s mending thread, vintage button card. I have a massive collection of paper ephemera, so it's nice to have a way to display at least a tiny fraction of it. The fabric swatches are spoonflower samples.

The Chance Glass "handkerchief" bowl - one of the few items I bought in an actual antique shop - holds a small collection of sewing paraphenalia.

Yeah! Suitcases! I scored the big blue one for a bargain £4.99 + P&P on ebay - it's pretty battered and many of the stickers have completely disintegrated away, but I think it looks pretty awesome. I store most of my fabric stash in it. The two little cases hold trims and buttons and things.

And here's a wider view of the whole corner. There's not much I can do about the ugly electric radiator, but it serves as a shelf for my pin up girl glasses. The framed print above it is cut from a poster of a 1950s fabric.

Lastly here's my side table. It started out as an Ikea lap desk which we got for free as a friend was throwing it out. I had a small stash of vintage "Valentine" teen comics from 1961, which I cut up and decoupaged the illustrations over the tabletop.

Well, I hope you enjoyed that little peek inside my home - and hopefully I'll be able to share more pics as I work on the rest of the flat.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Etsy Featured

It was actually a couple of weeks ago, but all the same I wanted to share my excitement about having one of my etsy store items featured for the fourth time on the front page (three on etsy US and one on etsy France)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Titanic Era Inspiration

It's been a while since I posted any scans from my collection of early 20th century magazines, but this being "Titanic" month I thought I'd share a few fashions from the era. I don't have anything from 1912, but these are from 1911 (first three) and 1913 (last one).




I confess it's not my favourite era for fashion (maybe I just can't get past the pigeon-breasted illustrations), but if I were going to make myself a dress from the era (which I'm not - not enough time), it would be this one.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Little Rock Dress: Pattern Drafting

While everyone else is scurrying to finish their Titanic-era dressmaking projects, I'm working on something rather different.


Having finalised my design, the next stage was to create the pattern for the Little Rock dress.

I started with the skirt, using the skirt portion of a pencil dress pattern from my stash as the basic block. I traced the pattern, eliminating the waist darts from the front by taking in the sides, and made up a quick muslin for fit. Then I traced the front skirt pattern with fitting adjustments. Since the skirt front is to be asymmetrical, I mirrored the pattern piece so I had the 'whole' front.

I sketched out the divisions for the three pieces - right side, hip yoke and left side. I also added lines for how I wanted the gathers to fall. (I've drawn over the lines on the computer to make it clearer)

I traced these pieces onto a fresh sheet of pattern tissue, added seam allowances, and cut out.

To introduce the gathers on the right-front skirt piece I used the "slash and spread" method: I cut along the lines up to (not through) the seam line, then cut into the seam allowance leaving a tiny 'hinge' for the pieces to pivot on. Then I fanned out the sections:

Note: the more you fan out the gathered area, the more 'bunched up' the resultant gathers will be. The generous spreading-out I've done works fine with the lightweight, silky polyester I've used for the muslin, but I may have to reduce it slightly for the heavier wool crepe I'm using for the real thing. If in doubt, err on the generous side though, as it's a whole lot easier to remove excess fabric than add extra.

I traced around the fanned-out piece, which gave me my final pattern piece. (It's not very beautiful or professional-looking, but I have no shame in sticking two pieces of tissue together to avoid wastage).


The rest of the pattern is pretty straightforward. I used the bodice and long sleeve pattern pieces from McCall 6601 with a few minor adjustments: I converted the waist gathers into darts, and added darts at the bust; there were tucks in the back which I also turned into darts. In the interests of neatness I've also moved the darts in the back of the skirt to line up with those in the bodice back.

I'm now at the final muslin stage, and nearly ready to cut out the bright red wool crepe I bought on Monday.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Little Rock Dress: Inspiration and Design

My March project from the year of making sewing list was the first in my planned series of outfits inspired by the costumes of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. It's slightly behind schedule (just because I was so daunted by the task I'd set myself, which would involve actual pattern drafting), but it is at last underway. Although I normally like to keep my current projects secret up until the "big reveal", since this is such a big one I thought I'd share some of the creative process here.

The inspiration comes from the dresses worn by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in the opening scene of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as they sing "Two Little Girls From Little Rock". As it's a floor-length, split-to-the-thigh number, covered neck to toe in sequins, I knew from the outset that my version would be a tribute rather than a copy.

Before we go any further I'd like to excuse my pitiful lack of technical skill when it comes to my design sketches - much as I would love you to think I'm super artistic, you might as well know I'm pretty rubbish at drawing.

I initially thought of replacing the thigh split with some sort of drapery, sarong-style, to evoke the feeling without having the split. McCall 6601 fit the bill, and the V neckline nicely reflects the original (I was never going to go down the route of having a slashed-to-the-waist V). The shirred shoulders are a feature not present on the original, but are an extra bonus as I love me a bit of shoulder detailing.

The original features gathering or tucked detailing at the hip line, which I also wanted to incorporate into my design. I introduced a hip yoke which the fabric would be gathered into.


I subsequently abandoned the drapery, along with my intention to make the skirt a 40s A-line. Deciding on a narrow 50s skirt (more in keeping with the 1953 date of the film) I played with different shape hip yokes, and experimented with the idea of evoking the split by way of a wrap front. (ignore the train information scribbled in the corner!)

In the end I came full circle, back to the thigh split of the original, though a more demure version ending just above the knee. My final design uses the basic bodice from McCall 6601 above, with long sleeves and darts at bust and waist to make it ultra fitted. The asymmetrical skirt is gathered into a hip yoke at the left, with an offset split.

So that was the design completed - now to draft the pattern. Double scary. Oh yeah, and also to stock up on bling! I still haven't decided whether my dress is going to incorporate sequins (I'd like to add a little touch of sequin somewhere, in tribute to the original) but it's definitely going to have bling.

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