vintage

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?

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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!

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!

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!