retro

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!

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.

Ho! Ho!

 

 

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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UFO Fail: McCalls 3053

As part of this year’s Vintage Pledge I said I would finish all my vintage UFOs. I don’t tend to have that many UFOs unless they are things I start in the 2nd half of the year. Often I get sidelined by all the holidays and also the need to sew seasonal outfits and gifts.

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This UFO was for a halloween dress. I had some spoopy house fabric that I liked but didn’t love so I figured it could be a good sacrifice to McCalls 3053 from 1953. It went pretty well though and the dress was turning out to be worth finishing until Halloween passed and it didn’t get done.

I pulled it out this year expecting to have the new Halloween dress that I was denied last year. I needed to put in the zipper, finish the side seams and armholes and do the hem. Since I’ve been sewing so much vintage I’ve mostly gotten over my fear of zippers. What was left was easy peasy.

Then I got to the ironing board. I was looking at my skirts and the houses were completely on the bias. That wasn’t right. Then I discovered that I had somehow constructed the skirt completely incorrectly. I had managed to flip my rights and left or backs and fronts or perhaps even both. It was a weird and frankly rookie error. But, it can happen, especially when you are distracted or trying to work to fast.

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I’m pretty bummed. The top of the dress looks pretty great but the bottom is completely wrong. The waist ended up a little tight but wearable with a belt. I don’t know if putting the skirts on incorrectly had an effect on that. As this is a straight size versus a half size pattern the bodice back didn’t fit as nicely as it does on my half size patterns. But again, the whole dress is kind of off. The print is too busy for the pattern details also.

I’m torn about trying to fix it. I don’t have any more fabric and I’m just not invested enough in it at the moment. At the same time, I know what needs to be done so it could be saved. Good thing I wasn’t super in love with this fabric as it did indeed end up as a kind of sacrifice to the sewing gods. It happens sometimes. So annoying.

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

All Vintage DragonCon – Part 1

I love a giant costume! Big skirts, crazy fabrics, giant props. I also love comfy shoes, not sweating and being able to sit down. That brings us to DragonCon. It’s insane and truly an event where you should go big or go home. Yet if you go too big (in a myriad of ways), and Atlanta provides a fairly common brutally hot Labor Day, you can burn out / overheat / peak too early / whatever yourself before the con has barely begun.

I’ve only been seriously attending DragonCon for about six years. Over that time I have become more and more fond of the clever yet comfy costume. With the explosion of nerd culture there are also so many more cute fandom prints (like the Sugar Skull Star Wars) to use for vintage dresses. I’ve talked about not making any costumes per se and just wearing only fandom inspired dresses. This year, I came pretty close to that as everything I made was all from vintage and vintage repro patterns.

I started off by wearing my Rockabilly Boy Wonder in the Vintage Vogue Fashion show. Along with my crimefighting chum Megan Maude, we hit the runway to lots of cheers (which was delightful!) and music from the original 1966 Batman. While we each made our own outfit for last year’s con, we wore them at drunk o’clock so they didn’t get a lot of comments or reaction. This year though, we couldn’t walk more than 10 feet without a compliment or photo-op. That’s really gratifying at an event like DragonCon, but it did make our walk to the food court very slow. I sure took my dinner into custody!

Another somewhat entertaining adventure was my trip to Kroger. I stopped there on my way home from the con. I certainly got all the comments!

My first new make for DragonCon was vintage Princess Daisy from Mario Brothers. Again, I teamed up Megan as Princess Peach. Peach and Daisy wear the same basic dress with different embellishments.

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The challenge here was to make two separate dresses that shared the same basic elements. I chose vintage Simplicity 3442. I’m not sure what year this pattern is but going from the hair I would say very early 1960s.

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I chose this pattern because it already has a bunch of elements I needed — a peter pan collar, sleeve cuffs and instead of the bow I had a perfect place to pin Princess Daisy’s jewel. I used three colors of cotton sateen. The yellow and white I bought in the LA fashion district and the orange I got here in Atlanta at Gail K.

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I’m usually a last minute stitcher but I really took sewing this down to the wire. I thought I just had a couple of hours left on it. You know those things that you think won’t take that long? Right…I put away my groceries from Kroger and got down to finish thinking it wouldn’t be a long night. I finished at about 5am on Saturday and wore it Saturday night. It was kind of crazy and I don’t recommend it!

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All the effort though, worth it! I even used little daisy shaped buttons. This was also my first effort using a covered buckle and belt kit. I’m glad I bought two buckle kits because I destroyed the first one. It’s a pretty terrible looking belt close up but works just fine for the cosplay. The pattern illustration is misleading. The skirt just is not that bell shaped. Maybe it would look that way with a petticoat? My sparkly gold platform heels were on sale from BAIT Footwear. They were shockingly comfortable especially because I had not even attempted to break them in.

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I’m wearing the Dany Classic wig in Pumpkin by Arda Wigs. The crowns, jewels and earrings were all made by Perfect Tommy Automail.

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I’m kind of bummed that all we have are these hotel photos cause we were pretty cute and definitely comfortable. I was surprised to have a few people stop us and only want my photo. I guess Princess Daisy has her own special fanbase. It’s always entertaining to hear someone yell your character name excitedly as you walk by.

 

 

 

Star Wars Sugar Skull Dress

Since starting down the vintage sewing route I’ve been interested in making a Squaw dress (history here and some good vintage examples at Mrs. Button’s Vintage Corner). This style of dress is also sometimes called a Patio dress / set or a Fiesta dress. These dresses remind me a lot of dresses and outfits my grandma would wear for square dancing. They were originally local to the southwest but eventually caught on generally. All the pattern companies put out their own versions for the home sewer.

Simultaneous to this I came across this adorable Star Wars Sugar Skull fabric at Joann. Frankly, C-3PO pretty much looks exactly like a sugar skull.

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There was a Vader version also but I knew these were the droids I was looking for. I had to go to multiple Joanns to get enough yardage but I did succeed! I decided that that the Mexican flair of the fabric lent itself to a squaw dress style so decided to do a mashup.

img_0746I opted to use Simplicity 5940 from 1965 as a starting place. It doesn’t have the collar neckline of so many of the original squaw dresses but I thought that the pleats at the neckline could be turned into gathers to give the dress a peasant blouse feel.

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I went ahead and did a mock up of the bodice, sewing it as is. It turned out so well, if a bit generous at the neck, so I opted to finish the dress. I was not able to use the skirt from the pattern because I did not have enough yardage so I made a gathered skirt from two 45″ wide panels.

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For the Star Wars version I converted the pleats in the bodice front to gathers and closed the keyhole neckline. I also omitted the back zipper as I had no problems putting the test dress on over my head. Being short, I opted for a two tier skirt. The top tier was 1/3 of the skirt length and two 45″ panels gathered. The bottom tier was 2/3 of the skirt length and four 45″ panels gathered. Since the arrangement of the droids on the fabric is quite orderly, sort of like stripes, I made some serious effort when I cut to try to keep things sort of even across my panels. That was a pain but worth it in my opinion.

All that was left was to add on the trademark ricrac. I did three rows at the neck and bottom but only two at the hip. I thought three rows at the hip was just too much. I love the gold metallic. It really pops against the busy print and it’s shiny like C-3PO!

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While I was working on the dress I discovered some awesome “tiki Vader” jewelry by Etsy seller Fancy Fruits. The flower, necklace and earrings were perfect for this dress. On theme and on point! I finished the look off with my wide red belt from Kohls, a red plastic cuff and wedge sandals from B.A.I.T.

I had originally planned to wear this dress to DragonCon but I didn’t finish it in time. Instead I wore it to Anime Weekend Atlanta (AWA). My husband (RBC Image) was also there as a photographer so I had him take a couple of shots for me. He wanted me to stand in to test the lighting anyway!

I’m still interested in making a more faithful Squaw dress with the trademark collar in a solid fabric. My Star Wars dress turned out so cute though, I’m considering another using the gathered neckline and tiered skirt. The force was with me on this one!