My first experiment with wet set curls

I’ve been meaning to give wet set curls a try for quite a while. This is how they did things in the olden days and it is a mainstay of vintage hairstyling. When I was little I had extremely long hair. Sometimes when I would sleep over at my grandma and grandpa’s house, my grandma would wet set my hair with rags. It was always fun and lasted longer than anything from a curling iron — although it still didn’t last very long on a zany little girl.

IMG_0555I towel dried my hair and prepped it with some styling cream. I bought a multi-size pack of foam rollers from amazon. I only used the smallest and 2nd smallest rollers.  Since I was taking a nap and also since I ran out of the smallest rollers, most of the bottom back was unrolled. I did find it a little hard to sleep despite how much I needed a nap because I rolled some of my hair a little too tight. This set was very fast. I only left it for about three hours. My hair is very fine so it was mostly, but not completely dry.

IMG_0556I had a somewhat hard time getting some of the rollers out. The ends got a little tangled. This might not have happened if my hair would have been absolutely dry. I got some crazy kinky curls though!

The secret to the wet set seems to be the brush out. Apparently a boar’s bristle brush is the way to go. At the moment, I don’t have one (but I think that will be changing) so I used my Denman paddle brush and Denman curved styling brush. I had a really hard time fighting my hair into a reasonable shape. I’m sure this was partially due to the fact that I didn’t really roll my hair in a particular pattern or pay close enough attention to which direction the curls were going. I had to touch up the back and some of the curl ends with a curling iron.

IMG_0585IMG_0584Eventually I got something that I was fairly pleased with. It was definitely a lot fluffier than I would have preferred. It certainly looked retro however.

I went out with a friend for an evening of cute dresses, tiki drinks and pokemon hunting. I finally wore my Atomic dress. I had very mixed feelings about this dress when I was sewing it but I love it now!

IMG_0587Even in my dress selfie you can see where ironed curls were already failing before I even left the house. My hair sort of held up for maybe half the night. The curls were gone but I was left with a fair amount of fluff and volume that stuck around into the next day.

I can’t really say that this was a success but I think I learned some things in my experiment. For one thing, I shouldn’t use the smallest rollers right at the hairline. The curls come out too small, kinky and unmanageable. I also probably need to buy that boar’s bristle brush. Finally, I might have better results after a much longer drying time.

Later this week I’ll try this again. On the next attempt I’m going to attempt to create something more Regency since I have two Regency dress to wear at Costume College. Wish me luck!


Atomic! – Vintage Simplicity 4777 from 1963

atomic pattern

My latest for the Vintage Pledge is view 2 of Simplicity 4777 from 1963. I’m a sucker for Mad Men style so I was pretty hyped about giving this a go. When looking for fabric to do a mockup I decided to use some of my yardage of Michael Miller’s Mid-Century Modern Atomic. I was able to get this fabric super cheap but it was all in cuts ranging from 1 to less than 2 yards. I had about 7 or so yards total. I checked my longest pieces and made sure they were long enough to cut the skirt. I figured that if the mockup worked, I could go ahead and complete the piece. If not, well I had a really pretty mockup and more fabric for other really pretty mockups. The atomic fabric fit the age of the pattern albeit just barely — generally 1965 is the cutoff for mid-century modern.

IMG_0108The bodice mockup seemed to go very well. Since this is a half size pattern I didn’t expect significant sizing issues. The sewing was straight forward although I needed to make sure that I didn’t get my shoulder darts too pointy. They are a bit square in the photo above. I had concerns that the bodice looked a bit frumpy or mumsy despite the spectacular fabric. The fit was good enough that I moved on and cut the skirt to finish the dress.

atomic progressIt looks fab on the much smaller dress form! Didn’t look as fab when I put it on though. The waist seemed too low. I measured against the bodice of another favorite dress and sure enough the atomic bodice was over an inch longer. I removed the skirt and shortened the bodice. That helped a lot. It also helped mitigate some of the problems I was having in the back. I probably could have considered a swayback adjustment but I was too far along by that point. I did kind of a half assed (heh) fix by adjusting the back waist seam.

I was kind of stumped for buttons. I had two great ones in my stash but not enough of either to finish the dress. I had trouble finding something I liked but I ended up with these.

atomic white buttons

Honestly, neither button is ideal. I decided to go for the ones on the left.

white button atomic

As cute as the buttons were, they were just wrong. They got totally lost in the bold print and also looked a bit too small despite being what the pattern called for. When cutting, I made no adjustments to the hips despite the pattern being smaller than my measures. In the past, the fullness of the skirts has covered this but it didn’t quite work here. I would definitely do a little scaling if I remake this pattern. I fit, but I think the dress needs more fullness to get closer to the pattern drawing. I sewed the cuffs but as they are not contrast, they are hard to see. Finally, I just don’t own a proper belt for this dress. I was not feeling it.


Making the switch to big black statement buttons and ditching belt did the trick. As I had already made the button holes I looked for the biggest, blackest buttons that would fit! I thought that this dress would require a belt. It might look better if I found the proper one, but a belt is not required.

atomic matchy purse

I threw on a vintage black enamel flower pin just to see. It was either my mom’s or my grandma’s — my mom couldn’t remember! I still see things to be tweaked but those big buttons pretty much saved this dress for me.

I don’t know if I will make this pattern again. I had planned on using it with some other, more precious fabric but I’ve opted against that. 4777 may not be the greatest for giant, in your face, prints. Still, there’s a part of me that wants to perfect this pattern so who knows.


I haven’t had a chance to properly wear the atomic dress on an outing. I did however, find a nice matchy handbag at Charming Charlie.


Turned out so nice, I made it twice!


Since that Tiki Blouse from Simplicity Retro turned out so well, I decided to make it again. I quacked it out of another small piece of fabric — polka dotted duck lawn that I bought in Montmartre a couple of years ago. This fabric is lighter weight than the tiki fabric and was very nice to work with. I did some googling looking for other similar fabrics but what little I found was on French websites. I wonder if this is Japanese fabric made specifically for the French market? Hmmm.


I had to do some crazy folding to get the pieces to fit. Good thing the fabric was wider than 44 / 45″. I wonder if it was a metric standard?

I made the adjustments I considered after finishing the Tiki blouse. I cut the neckline and shoulders at a 20 instead of a 22. I also omitted the side zipper since it goes easily over my head. This blouse could look very nice with a peter pan collar instead of the keyhole and pussy bow. Perhaps an idea for the future.


With that complete, I moved on to sewing a mockup of vintage Simplicity 4777 from 1963. I’m a real sucker for raglan sleeves. I was able to buy several 1 to 1 1/2 yard cuts of Michael Miller Atomic fabric. A test of this pattern seemed like a good use for it.


I’m generally pleased with the bodice mockup, small details not withstanding. This is definitely another dress for a pointy bra — not surprising really, being from from 1963. I’m a bit concerned it could end up being a little frumpy. I’ll go ahead and finish this to find out.