Monthly Archives: January 2012

Buttons, blouses and bijoux*

One of the often minimalized components of making a garment is the selection of fasteners (ie., buttons).  It’s easy to put so much attention to pattern and fabric, that when it comes to deciding on buttons, it’s “Oh, well, these will do.”  However, the wrong buttons can, quite simply, ruin a blouse, dress, suit, jacket, or coat.  And, the right buttons can add just the perfect accent.  So – how do you know what kind of buttons to choose?  Here are my guidelines:

First, the obvious.  Just as you match pattern to fabric to suit its weight, weave, seasonality, and ambience (how dressy or non-dressy it is), so should you choose buttons accordingly.  This includes texture of the button (rough, smooth, ribbed, etc.), style (fancy, sporty, novelty, etc.), size (usually the more buttons a garment needs, the smaller they should be), and weight (light weight fabric needs more delicate buttons, for example).

Second, I believe color is hugely important.  To select the correct color, I try to visualize the finished garment with different color buttons.  If you do this, your brain will automatically sort out what will work and what won’t work.

Finally, I think about what jewelry* (bijoux is an Archaic French word meaning an elegant jewel!) and/or accessories I will be wearing with a garment, and I take that into consideration when choosing buttons.  This is one reason why those of us who make clothing for ourselves are so fortunate – we can coordinate the look we want from start to finish.

So – I’ll give you a peek at my just completed project, which incorporates these button guidelines.  But first, some background info.  Last July, I traveled to Massachusetts to spend a few fun-filled days with daughter Susanna, who lives in the Pioneer Valley.  We had an agenda (what women do not??), which included two trips to the Brimfield area.  Our first trip was to the Sturbridge Antique Textile and Vintage Clothing Extravaganza.  Susanna wrote about some of our purchases from this excursion on her blog, but here is a picture of a set of 12 black Bakelite buttons which I found at one of the vendors.

My set of 12 Bakelite buttons

Here is a close-up of some of the buttons. Can you see the rounded corners on some of the cubes? This detail makes them more interesting!

I bought them without knowing how or when I would use them, but they definitely had my name on them – and they came home to Pennsylvania with me!  What I would have loved to have also brought home with me was a black and yellow Bakelite bracelet, which caught my eye at another booth later in the day.  I resisted buying it as we had already done our part to support the economy…! What I did not know was that my sneaky daughter quickly purchased this bracelet while I went to the ladies’ room – and she, her husband Jon, and our son Nate surprised me with it for Christmas!  Here it is:

My Christmas surprise!

Here is the bracelet shown next to the buttons: obviously these were meant for each other!

Now fast forward to the completion of this silk blouse:

The finished blouse made from a vintage Vogue pattern, complete with vintage Bakelite buttons

Here is a closer view of the blouse

Yes, I decided those Bakelite buttons would be perfect for it, and here is why:

–  The fabric, both in design and color, makes a statement, so it needs buttons which are not wimpy.  The square-ish shape of the buttons helps them stand up to those demonstrative polka dots without distracting from them.

And an even closer view...

–  Black is the only color I could picture using with this fabric (gold, yellow, white pearl or gray pearl did not visualize well for me…).

–  I thought the French cuffs (which I love) on this pattern would show to more advantage with buttons which have some heft to them.

Here is a close-up of the French cuff

These buttons are just heavy enough for the weight of this fabric, and finally…

–  I knew I would be wearing my Bakelite bracelet with this blouse!

Well – I can’t end this post without showing you the shoulder shapes which I made fromVogue 7503, view F.

Here are the shoulder shapes before I positioned them in the blouse. The crosswise stitching makes them fit over the shoulder beautifully.

They turned out perfectly and are just the right thickness/softness/size for this blouse!


Filed under Bakelite buttons and/or jewelry, Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Polka dots, Shoulder shapes (shoulder pads), Vogue pattern 7503 for shoulder shapes, Vogue patterns

And – the winning number is 7503

Any serious dressmaker working in the 1950s must surely have known this four-digit number by heart.  This was the number of the Vogue pattern for “shoulder shapes,” what we now call shoulder pads (more on that nomenclature in a minute).   While 1940s’ fashion was dominated by the broad shoulder look, not so the 1950s’ – and that is what is so clever – and remarkably useful – about this pattern, which has a copyright date of 1953.

However, I am getting ahead of myself.  I first learned of Vogue 7503 when I purchased this dress pattern from an online shop called “Stitches and Loops” last Spring.

This pattern gave me my first clue to Vogue 7503

On the back of the envelope, it states:  Optional shoulder shapes  – Use Vogue Pattern 7503

Here is the statement which sent me on my search for Vogue 7503

My interest piqued,  I started looking at some of my other patterns for suits, dresses and blouses from the 1950s.  Some of them, too, had a reference to Vogue Pattern 7503.  Having just made an outfit which required shoulder pads – and for which I had purchased “ready-made” ones which just were not quite the right shape, thickness nor natural feel – I knew that Vogue 7503 was something I needed to find.  A quick Google search told me that I had just missed one that had been available on eBay.  Thus began a months’ long search which ended in early November, when an uncut, ff (factory folded) copy with original envelope was listed by a shop on Etsy.  Excited, I could barely get my order in quickly enough!  Here is my copy of this wonderful dressmaker’s aid:

Vogue 7503 - Copyright 1953

Now for the particulars:

1 – My copy is actually copyrighted as Revised 1953.  It is unprinted!  Those of you who follow this blog know that I’m not a fan of unprinted patterns, but this is a little different.  For one thing, the pattern pieces are all small, the directions simple, and each piece can easily be copied onto pattern tracing paper, where I can make all the notations I want.  Interestingly, I have since seen this pattern for sale in its 1957 printed and perforated version, so obviously The Conde Nast Publications, Inc. was keeping up with demand.

2 –The term “shoulder shapes” is so much more precise and useful than “shoulder pads”, as that is what these mini-creations do – they help to shape the shoulder line. I’m not sure why the term “shoulder shapes” was replaced by “shoulder pads.”  Patterns from 1958 still referred to “shapes,” but by 1959, they were being referred to as “pads.”  I guess it’s a minor thing, this particular “nomenclature,” but put me in the “shapes” fan club.

3 – Finally – the remarkable versatility of this pattern becomes apparent when you take the time to look closely at the pattern envelope.  Here you can see all the versions of shoulder shapes for different applications:  for coats and suits with set-in sleeves (two variations); for a coat, suit or dress with raglan sleeves or sleeves cut-in-one with garment; for suits and coats with a dropped shoulder line; and for blouses, sweaters or dresses with set-in sleeves.

Here is a close-up of two variant shapes for use with coats and suits. Notice the extra darts in View D, which add a gentle slope to the shoulder line.

Here is a very simple - "just enough" - shape for blouses, sweaters and dresses.

Then if you look in the lower left hand corner, you will see that this pattern also includes a “hip shape” for a coat, jacket, skirt or dress.  Very 1950s.   I guess this was used to accentuate one’s narrow waist – however, this is the only part of this pattern which I just can’t see myself using…

Hip shapes - for those who need it!

I have “view F” cut out for the silk blouse which I am currently sewing – and now that I have this clever pattern, I doubt I will ever again use a purchased shoulder pad  – oops, I mean shoulder shape.

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Filed under Shoulder shapes (shoulder pads), The Conde Nast Publications, Unprinted patterns from the 1950s, Vogue pattern 7503 for shoulder shapes, Vogue patterns

Who has time for Resolutions when there is so much to be sewn?

Since my last post (before Christmas), my sewing room has gone from being Santa’s Workshop, wrapping station extraordinaire, and gift hiding space … back to SEWING ROOM (the seriousness of the subject demands the capital letters!).  All those satiny ribbons, and empty boxes (where can be found the occasional prickly tree needle or left over tissue paper), and straggly ends of wrapping paper rolls are all properly stored away for Christmas 2012, and all my sewing projects just marched out from the closets, jumped up on my work tables and are demanding attention – which I am only so happy to give!

So – here’s what’s happening:

In a switch from dressmaking, I am in the middle of making bed hangings to go on a “flying tester” (what is this??? you may ask), which will go in the master bedroom.  It’s a complicated project, which I’ve been working on for a while, and which will take a good bit longer to complete.  Once it’s done (and hanging), I’ll do a complete post on it, but here is a teaser for right now:

I have all the fabric panels and valances cut and ready to sew.  To make the pattern for the valances (these hangings will be structured ones rather than the more informal ones with gathered valances), I traced the scalloped headboard of our bed.  I copied the design exactly for the valance for the foot of the bed and added two more “scallops” to make the side valances fit the longer length properly.

This photo shows the scalloped design copied from the headboard of our bed.

Each valance will be three layers thick – the decorative fabric (Brunschwig and Fils Bird and Thistle pattern), an interlining of drapery flannel, and the lining, which is a linen/cotton blend.  This should give them the correct “heft.”

Here are the three layers for each valance. From left to right, the decorative fabric, then the flannel interlining, and the linen/cotton lining

I have cut out yards and yards of bias tape in a lovely red linen blend and will be hand-applying this tape to the three finished sides of each valance.   I know it has to be hand-sewn to look right, so beware – I may be blogging from the funny farm before I get all this done.

Because I don’t enjoy making curtains, bed hangings, pillows and such, as much as I enjoy dressmaking and personal sewing, I fit these projects in, in smaller segments of time.  My most successful trick is setting my “chicken” timer (thank you, Barby R. for giving it to me!) for 45-60 minutes once every day or two and devoting that time to these projects.  It’s amazing how much I can get done this way and it’s never overwhelming or too boring.

Here is my trusty chicken timer sitting on her big project!

Now  – on to other things.  My first personal project for January is to make a long-sleeved blouse out of that yellow and black polka dotted silk I showed you back in November.  I found this pattern, which I bought with that fabric in mind:

I purchased this 1957 pattern, thinking that View A would make up well in the polka dotted silk fabric.

Unfortunately, as is sometimes the case with buying vintage patterns, I had to buy it in a size larger than I wear, and I was also a little concerned about the kimono – or dolman – sleeves, so I made it up in muslin first.  This was a good move, as I decided I wasn’t quite ready to make up such an expensive fabric in a pattern without as much “shape” to the body of the blouse as I had envisioned.  However, I love the shape of the convertible collar.  In the meantime, I came across this pattern on Etsy:

This pattern is also from 1957. I love the tucks in the pink version, but they would not be appropriate to use with a polka dotted design. View B is constructed without tucks - perfect!

It has set-in sleeves, which I like; very petite French cuffs, which I love; a few darts to make the fit a little tidier; and it was available in my size, which takes some of the guess-work out of it.  The only thing I don’t like as much is the collar, which has a longer point than I want.  To fix that, I overlaid the one collar pattern on the other one and drew a new collar.  Voila!  I am ready to cut it out.

And – Yes, I actually do have some Resolutions for 2012 (besides all the normal ones).  For one, I’m going to use my chicken timer to help me get my kitchen cupboards and pantry shelves all cleaned and reorganized.   Cluck, Cluck!


Filed under Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Polka dots, Uncategorized, Vogue patterns