Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Proper Pincurls and Everything

I appreciate this is essentially the same as another recent outfit post, but I'm going to justify it by claiming it's a demonstration of different versions of the same look.

I did a proper pincurl set (on damp - not wet - hair, and left in overnight), and recreated the pompadour hairstyle (you might be able to tell I'm pretty pleased with this hairstyle!) with a headful of bouncy curls.

I know I'm on a shopping ban, but this sweater was a 99p ebay bargain, and it looks so perfectly 1940s how could I possibly resist? Peach, navy and red is my new new favourite colour combination.

1950s wool skirt, etsy; Sweater, ebay; Shoes, Clarks (via charity shop); Necklace, found in the attic; c1940s (?) celluloid brooch (I LOVE this brooch!), gift from mother; Bangles, various; 80s leather belt, charity shop; Handbag, can't remember - car boot sale maybe?

Monday, July 30, 2012

{Style Inspiration} Birds of a Feather

A quick little Style Inspiration for you today - along a feathered theme!

A fabulous swallows novelty print on the pattern illustration for Hollywood 1781 from the mid-40s (a version of this print is totally on my to do list!)

Leslie Caron's amazing feathered bird embellished dress in Gigi, 1958. LOVE this - I've been scouring ebay and etsy for suitable feather birds ever since I saw it!

I've posted this before, but I think it bears repetition! A 3-dimensional bird applique with velvet body and a cascading feather tail from 1922.

Lucille Ball models an outrageous bird hat in 1940.

Friday, July 27, 2012

How to do 1920s when you can't do 1920s

What with the imminent release of the much-vaunted Great Gatsby film, I can reliably forecast that 1920s inspired looks are going to be everywhere this winter. But the 1920s is one of the hardest fashion eras to pull off if you're anything but tall and willowy. It's that lowered waistline - for most women a horizontal line across the widest part of their body isn't exactly the most desirable look. So, what to do when you want to rock the 20s but it doesn't "fit" your body shape?

Choose your style carefully

If you feel a dropwaist flapper frock is just a step beyond but still want to work a 20s look, there are still styles from the era you can choose from. The "la garçonne" look in a tailored shirt and tie with glossy trousers or slim skirt can work on a variety of figure types. Beach or lounging pyjamas are both very 1920s and very forgiving. You could even opt for golfing tweeds!

La garçonne style of the 1920s (more photos from this collection)

Add a belt

Some garments can be worn belted to add waist definition where there would not otherwise be. Certain styles lend themselves better to belting than others - dropwaist frocks are probably a no, but feel free to get belty with sacque dresses or those long 20s cardigans and tunic sweaters.

Go for the details

If you admire the styles but are reluctant to stray into potentially unflattering territory, there are ways to incorporate elements into your ensembles. A modern bias-cut dress worn with a cloche hat or turban perfectly encapsulates twenties chic without having to resign oneself to a dropwaist sacque.

My mother channelled 1920s elegance for my sister's wedding, pairing a modern bias-cut dress with vintage pearls and a flapper style turban-tied scarf.

Gorgeous Margaret of Penny Dreadful Vintage at the Chap Olympiad in a jersey dropwaist dress with a fab Chinoiserie kimono and 1920s style shoes.

Embroidery patterns from the 20s can be used to embellish modern clothing.

Mitigate the circumstances

When you really just want to be a flapper for a day and hips be damned, careful planning can still minimise the unflattering aspects. Dresses in fabrics with a fluid drape (silk is the best) will flow over your curves rather than completely concealing them.

Note the figure-skimming bias seaming in the example on the right.

There were even styles back then which didn't completely obscure the waist - though the waist is de-accentuated, the gently shirred waistline detailing in this pattern adds figure definition.

If you can sew, it's possible to alter a pattern so that the waistline sits at the waist - though for a more authentic look, avoid making the top half too fitted. You can even create a dropwaist effect by adding a long peplum.

Wear it anyway!

If you love the dress, go ahead and wear it regardless of the "rules" - if you feel great and own the look, no-one will question it!

See also: 1960s with curves.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I need your vote!

If you follow me on twitter or facebook you've probably noticed I've entered this week's Spoonflower's design contest with my "Cocktail Menu" fabric.

Voting closes soon (Thursday), so if you could take a few moments out of your day (you don't have to register with the site or anything) to vote for my design I'd really really appreciate it - I would so love to win this.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

May Queen (in July)

For some reason I always really wanted an antique wax flower bridal tiara - I'd been idly stalking them on ebay for like a year, then eventually found one in my favourite Chichester haunt, Squirrel Antiques, some months back. I've been saving it for a sunny day, picturing myself wearing it May Queen style, all Midsummer night's dream. Well that sunny day finally arrived, so out it came! I kind of wanted to wear it with a floaty 1930s silk nightie, 1910s lace evening jacket and Edwardian boots, but then I realised I am not the Bright Young Twins and instead of looking ethereal and elfin would probably have more resembled an escaped Miss Havisham character. So I went with a 1940s day dress instead.

I actually built the hairstyle around the tiara, starting with yesterday's pincurl set. After positioning the tiara I arranged the curls at the front and pinned them loosely in place. Then I created the faux bob effect at the back by curling the ends up and pinning them in place (I think it's more usual to curl the ends under for a faux bob, but this worked fine for me).

1940s dress, Dead Man's Glory; Celluloid brooch, gift from mother; Vintage bridal tiara, Squirrel Antiques Chichester; Shoes, purchased in Thailand; Gloves, can't remember; Necklace, Topshop; 1940s handbag, etsy.

Pictures taken at Osterley Park.

Monday, July 23, 2012

How to Create a Fabric Design

Okay I've been promising to do a tutorial on this for a really long time, so here goes...

You will need:
  • A graphics program (I use Corel PhotoImpact, but Illustrator or Photoshop is probably much better - none of these instructions are software-specific)
  • A fabric design idea

First, you need to understand the principles of creating a seamless 'tile' design. A simple image will make a rather boring repeating design.

That's why many fabric designs are based on a "half-brick" or "half-drop" repeat, where the image is shifted halfway up/down and along, falling off one side of the tile and reappearing, or "wrapping" round to the other. It gives the repeat more of a flow, and makes it harder to detect.

Of course, the repeat is still obvious in a simple design like the one above, but once you get into more complex designs like my key to my heart fabric, you can better see the principle at work.

Larger, more complex designs don't always need a half-brick repeat, as the the tile can get disguised in the scale of the print.

So how do you make a seamless tile?

There are actually a few different ways to approach this. I'll detail the basic method I use when I'm creating a fabric design.

Start with a blank image - I generally make mine between 8-12 inches wide to give a good size to the repeat. At 300 dpi (Spoonflower prints at 150 dpi, but I like to give myself a bit of flexibility in re-scaling the print once it's finished) this means an image size of between 2400 and 3600 pixels wide. I often give myself a little extra around the edges so I can design the repeat with a 'full' view of all the elements around the edges, and then crop back in to the final design size later.

For the purpose of this tutorial, I'm going to work with a design size of 600x500 pixels, which is obviously much smaller than a print design.

So the next step is to add your design elements. These can be vector graphics (most of mine are), or scanned sketches/ephemera (which might be a better place to start if you're inexperienced in computer graphics), or even a combination of both.

The way I generally start is to set out the design area by positioning an element in the corners (the black rectangle is to show the 600x500 design area).

These four duplicate cats will combine to make a single cat in the final, tiled design, so they have to be precisely placed. As the design size is 600x500 px, these are the measurements you use - there should be 600 pixels separating the cats on the x axis, and 500 on the y axis. Are you with me so far?

Then you can just fill in the space with more elements, remembering to "wrap" them to the other side if they spill over the of your design space.

Once you crop to the 600x500px area and tile the design, this is what you end up with:

A little recolouring and layering, and a striped background later (here's one I made earlier)...

(soon to be available through my spoonflower)

But what about that half-brick repeat?

I was coming to that. It's exactly the same principle, but every design element will appear twice in the design area, once for the basic repeat, and once with the x and y distances halved. As this also effectively halves the size of the design, it's best to give yourself a slightly larger area (for this example, I've just used smaller elements). I'm also going to switch from cats to hats (ha!), just for a bit of variety.

So as you can see, the corner elements are spaced 600px on the x axis and 500px on the y, as before. The elements in the centre are spaced 300px on the x and 250px on the y from the initial instances. Still with me?

Fill in the rest of the space (remembering to duplicate each element on the half-size repeat), crop to size, and you'll end up with something like this:

Which tiles seamlessly into this perfect half-brick repeat:

So there you are - if you managed to follow all that, you're now ready to start designing fabric!

It's really quite easy when you know how, but it's quite hard to explain in simple steps, so I hope it's clear. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and I'll do my best to address them (I'll do a follow-up post if there's demand for any particular topic).

Sunday, July 22, 2012

{Style Inspiration} Orientalia

Thanks to the eternal appeal of the exotic, Oriental themes - known as "Chinoiserie" although it also includes Japanese influences - have been a recurring feature in fashion. From the kimono - wildly popular as loungewear and eveningwear during the 1920s - to Asian novelty prints in the 1940s to Cheong Sam wiggle dresses in the 1950s and 60s, the Orient has given western fashion classics which will always be in style.


Japanese influences were prevalent in Art Deco design, which I drew on for my Art Deco Flapper Fans fabric design.







Friday, July 20, 2012

Spoonflower Updates

Just thought I'd post an update to let you know that a whole bunch of my spoonflower fabrics are now available for purchase, including a few new ones which I haven't previously posted about.

One I've been working on in bits and pieces for months is my reproduction of "April" by Clayton Knight, part of the Stehli Silks Americana collection produced in the mid 20s. I've made it in dove grey, slate blue and olive green colourways. Although it dates from the 1920s, it would totally work for 30s, 40s or 50s - in fact any time up to and including now!

Another repro I've been working on for, oh, a year - I came across this zoo print skirt ages and ages ago and fell in love. My repro in the original colourway is available to purchase now, with green and blue background versions to follow.

Next is a silly poodles design that's partly repro and partly my own. It's inspired by a 1950s skirt I saw online (must have been on ebay, as a google image search doesn't turn anything up) and is available in sky blue and cornflower blue colourways.

Another silly design I couldn't resist reproducing was this bathtime bubbles feedsack.

This print of little girls sweeping is part of a series of household chores feedsack prints (the original feedsacks go for quite a lot of money on ebay) - others include ironing, hanging out laundry, washing the dishes and mending/darning.

Additionally, all the other designs I've recently posted about are now ready for purchase, including the Delivery Boys collection, Poolside in four different colourways, Betty Grable's Apple Cart and Key to my heart in three colours. And a whole lot more - so if you're looking for unique, vintage style fabric do take a look in my spoonflower shop.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Vintage vs Body Image

A few of these images have been doing the rounds lately - adverts for weight gain products for women with taglines such as "Skinny Girls are not Glamour Girls". They've been used to support the idea that 50, 60, 70 years ago the "feminine ideal" was pleasantly plump, in contrast to the "unhealthily thin"* ideal of today. There's somehow this perception that in the 40s and 50s there was no pressure on women to be slim, that big was beautiful - the oft-parroted "Marilyn Monroe was a size 16"** line. I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but I'm afraid that's simply not the case.

These weight gain products are evenly balanced with weight loss pills and potions, tables of ideal statistics and diets so strict that I gave up after three days. Read those correct measurements and tell me again that a 25-26" waist for my height isn't considered slim by modern standards. It annoys me when people use vintage to call for a return to the body ideals of 50+ years ago, apparently as a way of justifying being overweight, and completely ignoring the fuller (no pun intended) picture.

"When 35-23-35 is a goal (in round numbers, of course)"
weight loss ad from 1957

On closer inspection, even these ads promoting weight gain aren't exactly the chubby-champions they seem at first glance - take these "curvy girls" - not exactly voluptuous, are they?

The ads are amusing just because they're the absolute antithesis of every "bikini body" article in every modern magazine. But that's all: They're not proof that in bygone eras the "ideal" was especially more realistic than now (though the curves were softer and the hourglass more pronounced than in the more firmly toned, athletic ideal today), or that there was any less pressure to conform to a body ideal than there is now - it's just that in modern society the average size has shifted further and further away from that ideal.

What there was, on the other hand, was help in the form of foundation garments. Occasionally outside observers to the world of vintage enquire how we can reconcile feminist ideals with wearing of corsets and other "uncomfortable" foundation garments designed to mould the body to be more appealing to men. But the way I see it, a corset or girdle is the easy way - far easier (for me) than spending hours at the gym or denying myself chocolate. Thanks to the corset I can eat cake and still achieve a 24" waist. That's what I call liberating.

I'm going to go ahead and publish this now - it's not the most eloquent prose I've ever written, but I think it says most of what I wanted to say. But what do you think? Please do share your thoughts in the comments - I'd love to hear your reactions.

* I've deliberately put that in quotes because I actually don't think the fashion industry and media do necessarily champion an excessively thin ideal. Yes there are some models (on the catwalk, probably) whose BMI is clearly below the healthy range, but for the most part, flicking through fashion magazines I see perfectly healthy looking, slender figures.

** In the 1940s and 50s, a standard size 16 was a 34" bust, 26-28" waist and 37" hips. Marilyn's recorded waist size varied from a teeny 22" (probably with the help of foundation garments) to about 28".

Size 16


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