Author: Gretchen Jacobsen

Part Time Lion Tamer, Gretchen Jacobsen, is a freelance producer, award-winning costumer, prolific crafter and frequent fandom panelist. Via her steampunk alias, Wilhelmina Frame, she is the founder of The American Tea Duelling Society and previously served as the Editrix de Mode for the website Steampunk Chronicle. Image by Nicola Grimshaw-Mitchell / My Boudoir UK

1980s McCalls into 1920s Garden Party

Ah the 1920s! Jazz Age Glamour! The Black Bottom! The Great Gatsby!

Fashions that look terrible on people with tits and ass.

Le Sigh.

In keeping with the 100 year rule (people get excited and nostalgic when things are about 100 years old), the decadent Jazz Age is back in style. I’m sure the impending doom that it seems like our county is hurtling towards is helping that Weimar Cabaret feeling. But for whatever reason, the 1920s and associated events are everywhere these days.

The 1920s is a decade I have never been super enthusiastic about costuming. The boyish flapper figure is really far from what I have. I’m much more about that hourglass. A couple of years ago I tried to make the One Hour Dress and that was a fugtastic fail. Despite my dislike of the era I was joining a bunch of friends at Dardenella’s Atlanta Gatsby Garden Party. I had to figure it out so I’d have something to wear.

This photo of my grandma with her grandma was my inspiration. This photo is probably from the later part of the 20s.

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As cute as my grandma was, and as cute as I bet that dress was, there’s sure something wonky going on with the fit. It’s not my grandma, it’s the style of the 20s.

Check her out just a few years later in the 30s:

Photo Mar 23, 1 08 00 AMAdorable! What a difference!

See what I was up against?

Looking at other photos from the 1920s, curvy and bigger people just looked frumpy. You needed to have tiny ankles and no discernable bust like these gals. Photo Apr 17, 12 01 55 AM

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But then again, Queen Latifah looked damn fabulous in the Bessie Smith biopic so being curvy and looking good in 1920s fashions could be done.

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I was doing my usual troll of eBay and Etsy for vintage half-sized patterns when this 1985 relic came up in my search.

Photo May 14, 12 32 16 AMMinus the hair and the shoulder pads, McCalls 2276 seemed pretty close to a 1920s dress.

The line art makes the 20s potential even clearer. The shoulder treatment is very similar to Decades of Style Isabella dress and the collar options also had potential. I decided to go with a short sleeved version of view C with a hip sash.

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My cotton fabrics were pretty cheap to begin with and then I bought them in a Joann’s mega sale at 50% off. Because of this (and because I ran myself out of time) I decided not to make a test and just sew on the fly. I wasn’t super invested in the the fabric or honestly the final dress so I wasn’t afraid of a fail. I dug around in my closet for an acceptable backup outfit just in case, so I was set either way.

With no darts and hardly any shaping I didn’t see any point of putting in the zipper. Since that left the back wider than the collar I probably should have made an adjustment but I didn’t. I took very small seam allowances on the facings to make up the difference. I took a smaller seam allowance from waist to hip on the side seam but otherwise did not adjust the sizing.

I had planned on doing the pleated skirt but since I was at the 11th hour I was feeling lazy so I got out my ruffler foot. I ruffled the three skirt panels and just figured I’d attach it and hope that it fit. When I tried the dress on I realized that the dropped waist was too low even for the 1920s and the overly full skirt was super 80s. I raised the waistline between three and four inches (I did it by eye), took out most of the 3rd skirt panel, and took about another 3 inches off the hem. I hand tacked the sash and added two vintage pink buttons as a detail.

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I tried the dress on with my other accessories but no shapewear. A distinct lack of fug was detected. 1920s success!

With my parasol mended, bust flattening shapewear on and picnic packed we were off to the event. It was held on the grounds of The Wren’s Nest, the home of Joel Chandler Harris. We were able to take an interesting short tour of the house which was a real treat!

I didn’t take a ton of photos but I here are a few.

Photo May 13, 1 04 52 PMSunglasses – $16 Amazon Prime!

Photo May 13, 1 08 48 PMMy husband, left, is wearing a bowtie I made for him. Don’t you love his oyster belt buckle?

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Megan made the Decades of Style Isabella for the occasion and I just love Rob’s swami getup!

One of our party, Rebecca (Swami Rob’s wife), was named best dressed at the party. She won a gift certificate for any dress from the new opened Trashy Diva boutique. This pretty much made the event for me!

Photo May 13, 1 03 01 PMThe win was foretold!

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As is prone to happen in Atlanta, a much feared for thunderstorm popped up halfway through the afternoon causing a scramble and a soaking. That pretty much ended the event as they had no rain plan (poor planning in my opinion). We never got a group photo and I was soaked through before I got my own photos.

Photo May 13, 4 22 58 PMMy coordinating bracelet and brooch, possibly by Neiger, are of the era.

Photo May 13, 4 23 23 PM My faces are of the era too. Pure silent film overacting.

All’s Well That End’s Well?

Bow Tie Bonanza

815r7ax5JnL._SY550_I’ve been playing around with another 70s patterns. This time it’s Kwik Sew 352, Tie Variations. I’ve been been making bow ties. I wanted to make my husband a bow tie or two, specifically for him to wear to an upcoming Gatsby picnic. Due to the vintage of this pattern I was wondering what the finished look of the bow tie would be. Would it be like a 70s prom tie or something a bit more timeless?

IMG_4063My initial tie was a bit too wide so I’ve taken a greater seam allowance. Opting to top stitch was really a mistake. I was also kind of stumped on what stiffener to use. On the first attempt I used sew-in interfacing that ended up being too heavy and stiff. My second with no interfacing and starch was not stiff enough. I did a little googling around and found this helpful blog post which suggested lining with muslin. That seemed too do the trick! The third time was the charm.

Despite having sewn a bow tie, I didn’t know how to tie one. I looked around at several tutorials but they all seemed kind of confusing. I found one that after an extensive step by step how to rounded out the tutorial by declaring that if anything was confusing just to remember that the most common knot used for bow ties is the same as the one you use to tie a shoe. Really? So I went through all of that when all I needed to know was “tie in bow”? Fucking hell people. No wonder the clip on ones became popular.

18235921_10154532898787337_567025972_oWhen I posted my first attempt photo on Facebook, a friend from my Chicago days declared that he would be proud to wear said tie. So I sent him my 3rd, perfecting attempt. Looking dapper, Alan!

Recent Vintage Sewing: Fetish and Finland

While I definitely just make things, I more often than not sew for events. Last year I was invited to a fetish night to see a friend perform. The days where I had a closet full of club wear have long gone so I struggled to figure out what to wear. I decided to sew a dress of black lace and pleather from my go to vintage pattern, Simplicity 1577 from 1956. I figured the mix of materials and the vintage styling would work in a “Mummy, I’ve been naughty” sort of way. IMG_0309I got most of the dress done. I just needed to sew the collar and the hems. But scheduling conspired and I ended up not attending nor finishing the dress.

Another similar event came up again recently and I was again asked to attend. Knowing that I was very close to having something to wear and also up for a nightlife adventure, I said yes and finished this dress. FullSizeRenderI love how it turned out. Just the right amount of class and the right amount of sass. I coordinated with a vintage hat I got in Las Vegas and shoes from TaoBao.IMG_3845I was also super happy with how my makeup turned out. I went for a colorful but soft look versus the more expected heavy goth with red lipstick. My eyeliner matched my hair.IMG_3859My date, Ms. Megan Maude, opted to make a companion piece to my dress so we had kind of a good / evil, yin / yang thing going on. We looked pretty damn fabulous I have to say.IMG_3857

The other vintage dress I’ve completed recently was made for a tiki-themed wedding. I was on the fence about sewing something. While I didn’t exactly have anything tropical, I definitely have other very good dresses in my closet that would have fit the bill. Then I saw the crazy fabric that Megan was using for her new dress. It has tropical leaves, birds and…tigers. Well, honestly, I got jealous. I wanted a new dress too.

I pulled out my tropical and atomic stash fabrics but nothing was really speaking to me. But then I remembered that I had this:IMG_4200I really have no idea how old this fabric is. It’s super polyester and I got it for a song. My original thought for it was a jumpsuit. Sure, it’s not tropical but one of the grooms is a Tom of Finland fan. I mean, yeah, these sailors are way more, eh, restrained than Tom’s but it still seemed like a match to me.

IMG_3933In keeping with the vibe of the fabric, I made a suitably disco, maxi dress complete with flutter sleeves from the 70s era McCalls 5337. Since I already knew I had something to wear to the wedding and because I was not overly emotionally attached to my fabric, I just dove in without making a test dress. Not that I really left myself the time to do that anyway!

IMG_3928The dress turned out just fine and was frankly too big. I had a suspicion that it might be but with the cling factor and drape of this polyester I didn’t want to take any chances on it being snug. I omitted the zipper. I just didn’t need it. I think my serger tension was set a little too tight but it turned out OK. The flutter sleeves really make this dress. I just know I might need to tweak a little for any future makes.

IMG_3925The wedding was a lovely intimate backyard affair on a warm and sunny April 1st. The photographer, also a friend of mine, arrived a little too early due to a miscommunication. Seeing no other guests he had a sudden fear that this was an epic April fool! But it wasn’t. It was actually an homage. The grandparents of one of the grooms were also married on April 1st. Sweetness!

A Most Disreputable Regency Whist Party

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I love to play cards. I grew up in a card playing family with the most favorite game being Pinochle. Sadly, most people I know now don’t really know how to play cards at all. But some people I know now really like Jane Austen and the Regency. And what often gets mentioned in Austen’s books? The playing of cards and more specifically the playing of whist. In order to play more cards and also wear my gowns, I decided to have a whist party.

There are a few blogs that have covered Regency card parties. I found The Georgian Index especially helpful. As for how tos on rules and play, consult Hoyle! It also always seems like whist is either disreputable because of gambling or an activity that characters get stuck playing because of want of a fourth to complete the table. At my party we had both!

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I decided to set up a small tournament with a $5 ante for each player. For this party I removed myself from eligibility to win as I was the host and the most experienced whist player. We played two games simultaneously and switched partners at the end of each game. The winner was determined by total points across all games. The pot was split between two guests who had the same total. My husband, who was actually supposed to be out of town for the party, was press ganged into playing and also taking all our group photos.

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I served a fairly broad repast of food and drink that was regency appropriate. I had a cheese board of almost exclusively British cheeses, fruit, meats, olives and rustic petit fours. Wine, Pinor Noir Champagne, Tea and Port were served.

Over the course of the evening, I did the most to make things disreputable. I ended up breaking three champagne flutes over the course of the party. We also had puppy shenanigans as Mr. Ollivander had just joined us.

Once the guests were good and lubricated, we finished the evening by playing the no skill dice game bunco. While bunco is not of the era, it seems like something that they could have enjoyed. We again played with a $5 ante and winner take all.

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Everyone seemed to really enjoy the party and those who were invited but unable to attend seemed quite remorseful about missing it. I’m absolutely on board to host again and this time, I’m playing to win!

My study of Ikebana

One of the cool new things that has been taking up my time is my study of ikebana, traditional Japanese floral arranging. Ikebana focuses on form, line and shape and often has a minimalist aesthetic. I’ve always loved flowers and blooms and the study of ikebana seemed like a nice compliment to my husband’s interest in bonsai and suiseki.

We tried to take an ikebana lesson when we were in Tokyo but we couldn’t make the timing work. After we got home I decided to see if there was anywhere local I could take lessons. I found the Ichiyo School. Ichiyo is a modern school that has many international branches. Founded in 1937, they are celebrating their 80th anniversary this year.

For my first set of lessons I am working through the Ichiyo basic forms. Here’s my first attempt (with lots of guidance from my instructor) — Moribana Upright Form. Moribana refers to the shallow flat dish or vase used. Flowers are supported by a kenzan, a metal spiked floral frog.

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A couple of weeks and a few lessons later the Atlanta chapter had their annual luncheon and workshop. We had a special presentation on using bamboo in arrangements. We were able to make our own original arrangements using bamboo and other flowers. Since I was so new, rather than trying to freestyle, I did moribana upright form.

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I was very pleased with the arrangement and received many compliments. I also really enjoyed seeing what the other members came up with.

Soon after that I participated in a group exhibition to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Ichiyo school. I was super flattered that my instructor invited me to participate as such a young student. I think they needed a couple more exhibitors honestly but it was still a flattering treat! I was one of two students exhibiting right at the beginning of our studies.

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I ended up doing two smaller displays. The one in the back is Nagiere slanting form. I’d actually never done this form until the exhibition. The nagiere is a narrow vase. You don’t use a kenzan. You get the angles by bending the stems, gravity and lean. It was really frustrating because ever time you move or add something you have the potential to topple everything else. I used quince as my main stems. The other arrangment is a free form using bark from a pecan tree in my front yard and freesia. I’m super proud of these.

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There was a small reception for the exhibition so I took the opportunity to wear one of my vintage kimono. I went for modern kimono hime look versus a super traditional style. My kitsuke wasn’t the best but I’m new at kimono also.

With the big 80th Ichiyo anniversary celebration in Tokyo coming up my instructor will be traveling a lot in April so I won’t have many lessons. After a burst of ikebana activity it will be quiet for a bit. I’m really having fun with this, and flower arranging in general. I practice sometimes just putting stuff in western vases and seeing what I can come with. I love having cut flowers around all the time too!

Welcome Mr. Ollivander!

I was just thinking that I haven’t posted for a while. It’s not because I haven’t been sewing or doing fun things, quite the contrary! In fact, it’s probably because too much has been going on!

And the biggest (or maybe sort of little) change has been our new guy, Mr. Ollivander Puppernickel Rye.

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on the way home! first day with Ollivander!

We’ve been considering another dog for quite some time. Hound of my heart, Uno, is getting up in years so it was really now or never. Ollivander is a standard wire hair dachshund. We went out to meet his breeder and their dogs not expecting that they would have a puppy available. As it turned out, they had two. Ollivander was handed to my husband. Ollie looked up at him, saw his beard and thought, “you seem ok”. After that Ollie cuddled with him for over 45 minutes. That was it. The hound had chosen the human.IMG_3604Uno has done really well with Ollie. Uno likes him…until he doesn’t. But that’s par for the course with an 11 year old guy and a little pupper. IMG_3640It sure is fun (although housebreaking is a pain in the ass) and extremely cuddly having these two muppets around. IMG_3860IMG_3891Having a puppy is taking some adjustment but we’re awfully happy with our troops. Just look at those giant hairy paws! Super scruffy love!FullSizeRender

 

 

Patriotic Protest Pantsuit

Ever since I got into sewing with vintage patterns I’ve been fascinated with the tunic pantsuits that seemed to be a part of every casual wear pattern in the 70s. I was born in 1973 and while I don’t exactly remember these garments from my childhood, they can be found all over my family photos and media from my toddler years. img_6576I’ve had a plan to sew my own version just for kicks for at least a year and a half. I decided to use Simplicity 5556, also from 1973, after making two versions of the dress from that pattern. Somewhere along the line I acquired a huge and cheap piece of blue and white double knit perfect for this project. I just needed to get around to sewing it.

In the run up to the election I was tentatively swept up in “pantsuit fever”. Despited my dearest hopes, I had my misgivings on how the election would really go. I considered trying to sew the pantsuit in time for Election Day. It would have been a crush but I could have done it. A friend suggested that I could wait and have it ready for The Inauguration. Since I was worried how I would feel if I burned the oil and it all went pear shaped, I took her suggestion.

And, as we know all now, it most certainly went pear shaped.

As soon as the Women’s March was announced, I considered going to Washington DC. In the end, I stayed and marched in Atlanta with old and dear friends who happened to be in town for the American Library Association convention. This was the time to make my pantsuit.

Since I had used part of the pattern before I felt like I had a decent chance of success without a mockup. I was a little concerned about the fit of the pants though. I measured my rise versus that of the pattern. It seemed like it would work and the tunic would come to the tops of my thighs anyway.img_2159It went together pretty quickly but it was looking pretty blah. I decided it needed a little jazz so I used my newly learned double needle trick to topstitch the neckline, all the hems and the tie belt with red thread. img_2160The pattern suggested that you could add a crease to the pants. I thought this would help tailor my look. To really accentuate the crease, and make life easier after washing, I sewed the pleat in, also in red. The only real problem was that somehow I managed to get one leg an inch shorter than the other! I’m not really sure how that happened. Maybe I am out of alignment these days? I’ve never noticed this on any other garments though. How odd. I had to make do since I didn’t quite have the extra inch to spare on the shorter leg. See if you can guess which one it was!img_2163In the end I wore my pantsuit with my 1976 bicentennial liberty bell pimp chain and a button I received with an Etsy purchase the day before the march. It was tucked in with a vintage pattern purchase. The button had clearly seen better days and its original pinback had been replaced with a safety pin. It reads “I Support America”. When I found it in my package, I really did not know what spirit the button was sent in but I took at as an omen and wore it.img_2208The day of the march it poured. We had scary storms and thunder so intense it knocked pictures off my neighbors’ walls. The start of the march was pushed back by 30 minutes. I debated on wearing my pantsuit in the pouring rain. I certainly gave up on any effort with my hair. I pushed the meetup time with my friends back and somehow, we managed to avoid the worst of the rain. Then the rain stopped. It was gray but we were ready. The estimate was 60,000 people marching, many of whom had come in the worst of the weather to get there. I certainly don’t blame people for not being sure. The storms that morning were downright frightening. I can only image how many people we might have had on a bright sunny day.img_2162I think in some ways my bling, button and pantsuit kind of confused my fellow marchers. I didn’t have a pink pussy hat or a protest sign. I could see how my oddly aggressive groovy patriotic garb might not “read”. Even if it didn’t resonate for others, it reminded me of everything that was a new step forward in 1973, everyone who had fought before and how we have to keep fighting. It was also really comfortable. Never hurts to have a comfy outfit for a protest!

As great as the Women’s March was, it was only one event. The hard work of fighting for and keeping rights was and is on going and is done generally without regard to glamour. But if you can make it a little glamorous by marching with friends in a handmade double knit pantsuit, it’s just that much better.