vintage pledge

Oscar Party dress, or I finally managed to sew a thing!

My first post of 2018 was an ambitious list of my sewing hopes for this year. So what did I not do at all in January and February? Yep, no sewing at all.

I finally was able to get back behind the machine to make a formal dress for an Oscar Party.

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I was very excited to give Simplicity 2506 from 1958 a spin. It was a good score to find this pattern in a 24 1/2 (45 bust). That’s actually a size too big for me but I made the dress with no alterations. This turned out to be a mistake as it was too big in the shoulders and at the neckline. I can make a fast and dirty fix on the dress I already made. I should take a wedge out of the center front and redraft that piece before I make this again.

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Originally I was going to make this dress in a sort of tiki inspired fabric of tan tropical leaves and flowers on a black ground. I misread the pattern however and after I had cut several pieces I realized I was at least a yard short of fabric. Since that fabric was essentially free, this error turned out to only be extremely annoying versus tragic or expensive. I didn’t have anything appropriate in my stash with enough yardage so I went out the day before the Oscars to try to find something else.

I, like most people, was totally thrilled by Black Panther. After watching, I immediately put a vintage dress out of African wax cotton on my sewing list so I’d have something “Wakandan” for DragonCon. I was striking out with Oscar dress fabric but the shop I was at has a wide selection of wax cottons. I immediately fell in love with this one. I love all the colors and the almost tech or cellular look to it. I also didn’t realize that African wax cotton prints come in set yardages. So I was a little worried about making that work with my big skirt pieces but bought a little extra it turned out fine. I was a little worried with how stiff the wax cotton was but I figured it had to soften up with washing. It softened up and had an almost brushed texture after a trip in the washing machine. It was a dream to work with and very easy to sew.

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I finished the dress at 7:30pm the night of the party. The red carpet started at 7pm so by the time I got dressed and ready I made a very late entrance. But, I did finish the dress, I did make it to the party and in addition to looking fab, I was super comfortable. I also had pocket since I put one in! I accessorized with an earring necklace combo from Dames a la Mode. While you can’t see them I’m wearing very cute blue suede heels I just rediscovered after several years being lost under my bed. This dress would look even more period with a small crinoline underneath. I actually have the perfect one, but in my rush to get the party I totally forgot about wearing it.

While I now I have the perfect gown for next year’s Oscars (I’m sure Black Panther will win something — costume design seems obvious), I’m still planning to make another more casual dress as a Black Panther homage. I’d like to use a print that is a little more traditional. Also, African wax cotton was a dream to work with and affordable so I’m completely down with sewing it again and often.

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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!

2016 Sewing Roundup, Part 1: Vintage Pledge

It’s New Years Day. Some of my decorations are down. I’ve spent my day relatively hangover free in my pajamas. Soon I will be eating cornbread, black eyed peas and collards, the traditional southern New Year’s meal. Tomorrow it’s back to reality but today is for relaxing, prepping and taking stock.

I’m pretty shocked how much sewing I actually accomplished for the Vintage Pledge! My 2016 goals were are follows:

  • Sew five different vintage (not repro) patterns
  • Make one item from vintage fabric
  • Sew my vintage UFOs from 2015

And here are my final tallies:

  • Sewed eight different vintage (not repro) patterns / one repro pattern
  • Made two garments from vintage fabric
  • Sewed two of my vintage UFOs from 2015 (I think there is only one left!)

In the end, I made 13 dresses, 3 blouses, 1 kid’s jacket and 2 hats. That is only what applied to the Vintage Pledge! I also made a couple of other garments and historical gear that I will cover in Part 2.

So what were all these things?

Kid’s Jacket for a little girl named George from vintage 70s George Washington fabric and a modern Burda pattern.george coatSimplicity Dress from 197370s heart dress on formBoth views of Simplicity 3010 from 1959IMG_9953IMG_9977Simplicity 4777 from 1963IMG_0587Simplicity 9562 from 1981IMG_0390Simplicity 5940 from 1965img_1249A Star Wars Patio Dress based off of Simplicity 594014522035_10210701382035386_897108728_oA vintage Princess Daisy Cosplay from based on Simplicity 3442img_1064A vintage Pokeman trainer / Aqua Scout Uniform from Patt-O-Rama 8311 and an 80s garrison cap tutorial. I’m here with my whole troop.68004821-mechanicalmasquerade2016-83McCalls 3053 from 1953, a 2015 UFO which was also a fail dress.img_1305Simplicity 6243 from 1965, a 2015 UFO made from a vintage sheetimg_1612A formal version of Simplicity 6243img_1506Mod Christmas dress from Simplicity 8844 from 1970img_1893Hat from McCall’s 8452 from 1966img_1900Three blouses from Simplicity Retro 2154IMG_9875IMG_0105christmas-blouse-pussy-bow

I’m surprised at my totals. I was really prolific in 2016. I had no idea!

Mod Christmas Dress

The past couple of years I’ve been really good about making a Christmas dress. I decided this year I wanted to go a totally different direction than just making a dress in a Christmas fabric. I’m attending a couple of 60s themed costumed based events in 2017 (Costume College and Anachrocon) so I decided to make an outfit that I could wear both for Christmas and in the future. I opted to be a swinging Mod elf.

These two photos were my basic inspiration:

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I loved the look of the big tie and the jockey style cap. I figured the iconic 60s shift dress would also be fairly fast, easy and fabric friendly to whip up. I was sort of right.

I started first with the Jockey Cap. I used McCalls 8452 – Hat Wardrobe, View D from 1966.

I bought merino wool blend felt from Joann. The merino wool felt selection at the closest Joann is really small but luckily of the very limited color selection they had exactly what I wanted – red and green.

The hat went together really fast. I lined the hat with red and green reindeer print cotton that I had left over from some Christmas crafting of the past. I lined the felt with fusible interfacing which was probably a mistake. It bucked when I ironed my seams. I used red topstitch thread to give it a nice finished look and added a two tone felt pom-pom.

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For the dress I choose Simplicity 8844 from 1970. I used a lightweight cotton twill from Joann in red for the dress and white for the collar, pockets and sleeve cuffs. The tie fabric is the suitably groovy Moda Ho! Ho! Ho! Snowflake Bulbs Snow White.

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Despite this being a half sized pattern, the dress was way too long at the waist and put the hip in the completely long place. I shortened the dress almost 3 inches at the waist shortening line. I also had to add a half inch to all the side seams. I had already set the sleeves when I figured out that they were completely too tight. I ended up resewing them with a 1/4 inch seam allowance but they really could have used more. The fit on this pattern was just not ideal generally. Also, despite my shorting efforts, the dress was still too long on its original wearing.

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I wore two of my new Christmas brooches from Deer Arrow. I tried to do a mod eye makeup look but it was kind of mess. I just don’t have enough lid to get the fake doe eye from than era.

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The fishnets are from We Love Colors and the shoes are Mildred in Poppy Red from B.A.I.T.img_1898

Everyone loved my hat but I’m not sure this outfit was a complete success. One comment I received was that I had kind of a “fast food” feel. That had already kind of crossed my mind so once it was said I couldn’t forget it. I later wore just the dress with black knee high boots (no hat or tie) to a Christmas themed rock show. In the bathroom line one girl said I looked like Little Orphan Annie, another reference that I had inadvertently made. I forgot what my response was but the girl then asked me what I was going for. When I replied “Christmas” she seemed confused.

Post-Christmas my original thought was to swap out the tie and hat for something not Christmas so I’d already have something in the bag for my 60s events. I think I can address some of the previous issues by seriously shortening the dress and by making a really smart fabric choice for the new hat and tie. Maybe then it will look a little less like I should be asking if you wanted fries.

Oh well.

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High Point Gown

I recently travelled to High Point, NC to attend my father in law’s, Robert B. Currey, induction into the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame. I asked my husband what the dress code for the event would be. I was told that my father in law was required to wear a tux but that my husband would be wearing his green tweed suit. With that, I pretty much had no information but I figured the event would be more formal than the majority of my closet. I’d already worn one of my only appropriate dresses the last time I attended an award ceremony for Robert. Not that he would have minded, but yeah, new dress time.

Previously, I had attempted to sew Simplicity 6243 from 1965 as a dress for New Year’s Eve.

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I’d been having great luck with half sized patterns so I’d made the assumption that I’d have a fast, easy sew. I still did a mockup and it’s good that I did because I had definite fit problems. The problems were so frustrating that I put the mockup away and wore something else. It rankled me though.

img_1611I’d used a groovy jungle sheet for my mockup so I was doubly annoyed that it hadn’t gone well. I vowed to figure it out — later.

Later turned into now and I was in a bit of a crunch. I had to make fast decision whether I was going to go shopping or get to sewing. I kept pressing for more info about what kind of dress was really needed. I go to these events to accessorize my husband, his family and the business so I really like to make sure that I turn out well. I finally got the info that floor length would be a good choice but not required. I went through my patterns to see what I could find. I didn’t have much but of the patterns I showed my husband he liked Simplicity  6243 the best. The fact that I had already mocked it up, even unsuccessfully, sealed the deal.

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A dress with similar lines as Simplicity 6243, Pedro Rodriguez Dress – c. 1965, FIDM

6243 is super iconic of the 60s and Jackie Kennedy in particular. Because of that I really wanted to “go there” in terms of fabric. The hubs was all for it so I was pretty excited.

First I had to make that mockup fit. The shoulders were too big and the neckline gaped a bit. I’d already figured that fix. I had drag lines across the hip. I tried a ton of things to fix this: minimizing the waist darts, increasing the waist darts, making the darts longer, making them shorter, taking different seam allowances over the hip, shortening the waist to raise the skirt. I even considered figuring out how to do a swayback adjustment and making a second mockup but that was more work than I was willing to do.

One of the reasons I was having trouble with the fit on this dress is the slightly dropped waist. I feel like that is one of the things that is very emblematic of the mid and late 60s so I didn’t want to lose it. I decided to put all the seams and darts below the waist back to where they were supposed to be per the pattern. Then I did what I should have done all along. Starting under the bust dart I graded my side seam out to just a 1/4 inch allowance. That basically did the trick. I just needed to add 1/2 inch to my side seams. The fix was actually really easy. I’d just way over thought it. With that figured out I just needed some fabric.

I was hoping to find some sort of metallic brocade that I could mix with a solid. Nothing I was finding had the 60s feel I wanted however.

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I came across this frankly kind of weird fabric. It wasn’t anything like what I had in my head. I had been avoiding black. I walked away from it but it stuck with me. I was running out of time and this was my 2nd fabric shop and nothing else was presenting itself. I went back to the tulips. The weight was right, it was satiny and the price was $5.99 a yard. It felt more 80s (probably because those tulips remind me of gold flecked mirror panels and the video for Careless Memories) than 60s but that still worked for me too.

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So here I am in the finished dress at the Gala. It worked great, was very striking versus what most others were wearing and it was very comfortable. Less comfortable was the cringe inducing performance by Donny Osmond.

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I accessorized with my gold BAIT Heels that I got for Princess Daisy, a gold vintage lion bracelet, a crazy huge cocktail ring and some very 80s feeling earrings that I bought specifically for this dress. I later pointed out to my husband that my earrings were more expensive than my dress. They were $45.

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Me and the Mister

And I did finally make the original dress wearable. Yesterday.

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All Vintage DragonCon – Part 2 Aqua Scouts

Continuing this year’s all vintage DragonCon was my big topical group costume, Aqua Scouts. All of us have been pretty obsessed and excited about the release of Pokemon Go. I’ve willingly gone out in the hot humid Georgia air to walk my dog and hunt the pocket monsters.

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Realizing that the time was “now”, we decided to be a squad of vintage, water based Pokemon trainers, aka Aqua Scouts. We took our inspiration from old scouting and military uniforms, fan art, military and sailor lolita and the Pokemons themselves. (The mood board is here). We chose the Vaporeon as our symbol and mascot. We based our color scheme on the Vaporeon as well.

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Sketch by Megan Maude

Based on my ideas Megan did an awesome design sketch that we could share with our other scouts to give them their own design ideas. We agreed that whatever we made should have color blocked elements and some sort of contrast stripe. We purchased 17 yards total of two coordinating blue twills. Each person was free to choose which blue they wanted to use as the main color and which for the accent color. I opted to use the aqua as my main and the cadet blue for my accent.

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I chose Patt-O-Rama 8311. I am not sure when this pattern was released. It is very similar to Patt-O-Rama 1115 which dates from the late 40s or early 50s. This was my first time using an unprinted pattern. Using a perforated pattern was not hard exactly but it was rather fussy having to go back and front between the instruction sheet and the pattern pieces to make sure I knew what was going on. I also had a much harder time lining up the grain to three holes versus a nice black arrow. This pattern was also a little on the big side as I’m usually a 43 bust / 22 1/2. Another thing I found to be really strange about this pattern is how insanely long it was. I think I took six inches off the hem. I found this odd as half sized patterns are generally sized for someone who is no taller than 5’3″ — like me. I had to fuss with the fit some since it was too large in the bust and shoulders. I remember it being kind of a pain but obviously since it is figured now, it would be easier going if I made this pattern again.

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The other issue I had was that this particular pattern, although previously unused, was quite delicate. It could not stand much handling. I know some people swear by tracing their vintage patterns first but that’s not me. I think these patterns are just more cheaply made. It did add an extra layer of fuss to the project.

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We made the garrison caps using an old magazine tutorial that I stumbled upon. Garrison caps seem like they should be a really fast. They trick you because they have a lot more detail than you perceive at first. This was one of the better versions I’ve come across. The hats turned out really cute. Our Vaporeon cap pins and Vaporeon ear collar “points” (along with a ton of other awesome Pokemon badges) were made by Lauren of Stingray Cosplay

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The Aqua Scouts – L to R: Me, Austin, Megan, Lauren.

Here’s the whole group at DragonCon. Megan made her skirt and a shorter version for Lauren from an Advance pattern. She also made Lauren’s beret and Austin’s cap. Austin’s vest and knickers were made by Nick and Jason of The Gin Rebellion. I made all the kerchiefs. My blouse and shoes were goodwill finds. I just love Austin’s look especially his argyle socks.

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We all had matching backpacks from Amazon. You can see all of the cool pins that Lauren made. We had our team affliation on our backpacks. Being Aqua Scouts, we are obviously Team Blue (Mystic).

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I think we all look great. When people understood what we were, everyone thought we were really clever. But at a fast glance wandering around a giant con I don’t think most people got it. I admit, the idea was maybe a little bit “high concept” but sometimes you have to go with it. And I mean really, we all are adorable!

all group photos by Michael Blitch