Category Archives: Dressmaker suits

Gazing at Gussets and Fashion Exhibits

We are almost halfway through the sewing year! Time for me to just keep plugging along, being grateful for any hours I can spend sewing – or dreaming about sewing. Lately it seems I have spent more time dreaming about it than actually accomplishing anything. But that’s not quite true. I have actually done a lot of sewing (I call it necessary sewing) – just not anything worth sharing. But that is about to change.

I am working on a yellow linen shirtdress, using this pattern:

I am making the short sleeve version - but a little shorter!

I am making the short sleeve version – but a little shorter!

I am really getting to be a fan of kimono sleeves. They were incredibly popular in the 1950s (and early ‘60s), and their construction varies according to the type of gusset used. The dress in this pattern has a gusset that forms part of the sleeve, itself.

Usually gussets are diamond shaped. However, the curved lower edge shows that this gusset incorporates part of the sleeve in it.

Usually gussets are diamond shaped. However, the curved lower edge shows that this gusset incorporates part of the sleeve in it.

The instructions for inserting the gusset are quite explicit and interesting, I think. The first step is to work a “bar” across the point on the bodice where the matching point of the gusset is placed. I have actually never seen this done, but it makes sense as it reinforces that stress point.

Gazing at Gussets 1st diagran

I also like the double stitching on the interior seams of the gusset as shown in this section:

Gazing at Gussets 2nd diagram

Here is how the finished short sleeve is diagrammed:

Gazing at Gussets 3rd diagram

And here are some photos of the finished gussets on my dress:

Gazing at Gussets

This photo clearly shows how the gusset becomes part of the underpart of the sleeve.

This photo clearly shows how the gusset becomes part of the under-section of the sleeve.

Here is an inside look. While the dress is underlined in a very light weight cotton/linen blend, I opted not to underline the gusset, in order to add to flexibility. I got this brilliant idea from Laura Mae of Lilacs and Lace sewing blog.

Here is an inside look. While the dress is underlined in a very light weight cotton/linen blend, I opted not to underline the gusset, in order to add to flexibility. I got this brilliant idea from Laura Mae of Lilacs and Lace sewing blog.

The seam you see at the top of this photo is the shoulder seam which runs down the length of the sleeve.

The seam you see at the top of this photo is the shoulder seam which runs down the length of the sleeve.

I managed to tear myself away from my sewing room for a few hours this week to go to see an exhibit at the Michener Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania (USA). Entitled Philadelphia In Style, the exhibit featured fashions either made, worn or purchased in Philadelphia, PA over the course of about 100 years (1880-1980).

Duskin - Exhibit title

All are part of the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection at Drexel University in Philadelphia, a veritable treasure trove of designer, haute couture and ready-to-wear dresses, coats, ensembles, shoes, handbags, and accessories of all types. The Exhibit has special meaning for those of us with Philadelphia ties, but universal meaning for lovers of fine fashion anywhere.

Although the clothing on display was fascinating and, for the most part, lovely, it was the numerous fashion illustrations, framed and lined up one after the other, which really caught my attention. They had all been done in 1954 for a specialty ladies’ shop in Philadelphia, called Nan Duskin. The most amazing thing is that each one had a swatch of the intended fabric taped in the corner of each drawing. Here is a sampling:

Duskin sketch - purple dress

The buttons were still in question for this dress – note the line in the upper right side “buttons?”

Such a lovely coat! Note the fabric swatch, held in place with yellowing tape!

Such a lovely coat! Note the fabric swatch, held in place with yellowing tape!

So many of the illustrations were of dressmaker suits. This one is made in brown checked wool.

So many of the illustrations were of dressmaker suits. This one is made in brown checked wool.

I love the saucy pose in this sketch - and the posy perched on the shoulder!

I love the saucy pose in this sketch – and the posy perched on the shoulder!

One of my favorites: in red, of course!

One of my favorites: in red, of course!

Here are a couple of the fashions represented in the Exhibit:

This was called a Day Ensemble. It bears the table "Irene for Nan Duskin." This was Irene Lentz Gibbons, 1952-53, USA.

This was called a Day Ensemble. It bears the table “Irene for Nan Duskin.” (Irene Lentz Gibbons, 1952-53, USA)

This shirtwaist dress, Norman Norell for Trina-Norell, circa 1955, had finely done bound buttonholes. the fabric is s ilk and wool brocade.

This shirtwaist dress, Norman Norell for Trina-Norell, circa 1955, had finely done bound buttonholes. The fabric is silk and wool brocade.

The Exhibit did manage to include one of the most unattractive Chanel suits I think I have ever seen.

The Chanel suit on the left is shown with an ultra-suede shirtdress by Halston, on the right.

The Chanel suit on the left is shown with an ultra-suede shirtdress by Halston, on the right.

But it was still fascinating to look at the cuff detail:

Duskin Chanel suit detail

One of the most charming displays in the Exhibit was a collection of hat boxes from the stores in Philadelphia which were the purveyors of so many fine fashions over the decades.

Duskin - hat box display

As a lover of pretty boxes and bags, I found this vignette not only delightful, but also evocative of the thought and care inherent in buying and wearing beautiful fashions. They reminded me of the same little thrill I get when a piece of beautiful fabric which I have purchased shows up in the mail, elegantly presented in crisp tissue and tied with silky ribbons.   It makes it oh-so-easy to fall in love immediately!

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Filed under bound buttonholes, Coco Chanel, Day dresses, Dressmaker suits, Fashion Exhibits, Gussets, kimono sleeves, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

My Suit Dress Fully Evolved – Finally! – Part 5

Can it really be that May will arrive in a few days? If that is true, then I am only about 2 months behind in my sewing schedule. But who’s keeping track? I’m happy that I have plowed through to finish my wool suit dress, even though it will immediately go into my cedar closet for safe storage until next Fall.

When I fell off the edge of the world after Part 4 (only figuratively, thank goodness!), I was starting on the sheath dress. I had decided to add a collar to it, so that I could use that fourth vintage button (I had already used three on the jacket itself). Matching the windowpane plaid on the collar section took some special attention, as this photo shows:

Collared sheath I underlined the collar with the lining fabric, and I made a working bound buttonhole instead of just sewing the button in place. Anything to make it more involved, right?

Detail of the button on the collar.

Detail of the button on the collar.

Lining the collar with silk charmeuse reduced bulk and helps it lay flat.

Lining the collar with silk charmeuse reduced bulk and helps it lay flat.

From that point on, it was a straightforward sheath dress. I love a sheath dress. I think it is such a flattering silhouette, and very feminine. As far as I am concerned, one can never have too many sheath dresses (just as one can never have too many shoes). Speaking of shoes, I decided this outfit needed complementary shoes! What do you think?

collared sheath

I wear a lot of red and blue, so I expect these shoes to serve me well!

I wear a lot of red and blue, so I expect these shoes to serve me well!

It turns out that even a simple sheath can take a lot of time to make when one is using couture techniques: underlining of silk organza; interior seams catch-stitched; hand-picked zipper; instead of facings, neck and armholes finished with lining-abutted edges, then pick-stitched for stability. The silk charmeuse lining in the dress matches the jacket lining and is an extravagance, I will admit. But it feels heavenly, and adds a fluidity to the dress which is a good match for the butter-soft cashmere wool fashion fabric.

Suit dress

Shown with the jacket unbuttoned.

Shown with the jacket unbuttoned.

Suit dress

A close-up look...

A close-up look…

... and another one.

… and another one.

And a partial back view.

And a partial back view.

I am happy I added the collar to the dress, as that extra detail seems to help the dress stand on its own if/when I take the jacket off. Framing the face is always a good fashion decision, and I think the collar helps in that regard.

Just the dress!

Just the dress!

Suit dress

So happy this is finished!

So happy this is finished!

I consider finishing this outfit a major accomplishment!  So what’s next? Something easy or something more complex? Those questions to be answered soon, with this caveat: it will most definitely be something for Spring/Summer!

 

Details:

Navy blue Cashmere fashion fabric:  Britex Fabrics, San Francisco, CA

Silk charmeuse lining fabric:  Britex Fabrics

Buttons:  vintage Ultra Kraft, ca. 1950s

Shoes: Ferragamo

Patterns:  Jacket: vintage Jo Mattli Vogue Designer pattern; Dress: vintage Vogue blouse pattern combined with new Butterick dress pattern

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, couture construction, Dressmaker suits, Shoes to make an outfit complete, Suit dresses, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, woolens

The Evolution of a Suit Dress, Part 4: An Appreciation of Jo Mattli, and Dress-making Days Commence

The New Vogue Sewing Book published in 1963 contained a “Couturier Supplement”. According to the Foreword in this magazine-styled book, “Only Vogue Patterns can bring you original designs from the Paris and International Couture houses, because of an exclusive arrangement with world famous designers.” One of the 17 designers featured in the supplement was Jo Mattli.

Designers in Vogue

Designers in Vogue-1

Jo Mattli is second from the left on the top row. Click on the photo to see the image up close.

A quick look at the two-page spread on these designers shows a veritable who’s who of fashion design, with names very much still known today. Except for perhaps Jo Mattli.   (Mattli was born Giuseppe Gustavo Mattli in 1907 in Locarno, Swirtzerland; he died in 1982 in England). He is absent from The St. James Fashion Encyclopedia, even though he was considered one of the “big ten” London couturiers in 1953, when London Society was busy readying for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Perhaps it was his move into ready-to-wear in 1955 that relegated him to lesser status among the world’s great couturiers. This did not keep Vogue Patterns from recognizing his wide appeal to stylish women who appreciated his attention to fine detailing, and his expertise in creating practical, wearable and charming dresses and suits.   As one of Vogue’s featured designers in their Vogue Couturier Design-labeled series, Jo Mattli made his mark. Indeed, even he recognized the value of being part of Vogue Patterns, saying “the royalties from these patterns had helped support his couture business” (from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

The jacket I just completed (part one of a two-part jacket and dress ensemble) is the third Jo Mattli Vogue design I have sewn. Two years ago I made a suit from this pattern:

From Vogue's Designer series, ca 1970.

I would like to make this pattern again. The first time I made it, the fabric I chose was too heavy, but the fit and the styling were excellent.

Late last summer I made a cocktail dress from this pattern:

I still have plans to make the coat, to coordinate with the cocktail dress.

I still have plans to make the coat, to coordinate with the cocktail dress.

And now with three “makes” under my belt, my appreciation for Mattli’s design and construction sense is growing. Not only that, I realized after going through my pattern collection, that I have two more Mattli patterns, each of which also displays his characteristic and interesting seam detailing.

This is actually a one-piece dress, although it looks like it is a two-piece outfit.

This is actually a one-piece dress, although it looks like it is a two-piece outfit.

Dress Suit - red Mattli suit

Another beautiful suit!

While the Mattli-designed jacket in my suit dress ensemble is certainly the star of the outfit, I am hoping the dress will have its own charms. After being out of town and away from my sewing all last week, I have now been able to turn my attention to the dress part of the outfit. I believe I have successfully combined two patterns (sheath dress and collared blouse) to create – what else? – a collared sheath!

Dress for Mattli jacket

I was still adjusting the fit when I took this photo. Hopefully it will not look like a bag when I actually wear it!

After I had the muslin fitted and completed, I got the idea to make the end of the tab on the collar rounded, to mimic the curves on the jacket’s sleeves and on the jacket’s lower front edges.   I also had to take significant width out of the collar. I am hoping it will work and look good…

This shows the curved detail on the edge of the sleeve.

This shows the curved detail on the edge of the sleeve.

This shows not only the added curve to the collar end, but also how much width I had to remove from the collar pattern

This shows not only the added curve to the left collar end, but also how much width I had to remove from the collar pattern.

And here is the right collar section.

And here is the right collar section.

I  hope that Jo Mattli would approve of a dress being paired with his jacket. He would probably refer to it as a “slimline afternoon dress” were he alive. I have no doubt he created many such beautiful dresses in his lifetime.

[NOTE: Jo Mattli is the subject of a thesis by Dr. Caroline Ness entitled Famous, Forgotten, Found: rediscovering the career of London couture fashion designer Giuseppe (Jo) Mattli, 1934-1980.]

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Filed under Cocktail dresses, Dressmaker suits, Jo Mattli, Suit dresses, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

The Evolution of a Suit Dress, Part 1

“Suit dress – Used in 1960s to refer to a jacket and dress ensemble that resembled a tailored suit.”   (The Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion, Third edition; Fairchild Publications, Inc., New York, New York, 2010)

Although the inspiration for my current project does not have its beginnings in the 1960s, it is certainly influenced by that era. The actual beginning was about 1974 or ‘75, although I did not know it then. That was when I first laid my eyes upon this Jo Mattli Designer pattern from Vogue:

Dress Suit - front of pattern envelope

I loved the tailored, but feminine, look of the jacket, with its high, notched collar and its sleeves with gracefully curved slits. (I was less enamored with the style of the skirt, but skirts can easily be substituted, of course.)

This diagram of the jacket  back better shows the interesting treatment to the cuff edges of the sleeves.

This diagram of the jacket back better shows the interesting treatment to the cuff edges of the sleeves.  Click on the picture to see a close-up view.

I admired this pattern on a regular basis while it was listed for sale in the Vogue Catalogue at my local fabric store, but in the end I didn’t buy it. That hefty $3.00 purchase price, and not knowing for sure that I would actually end up making this outfit,  kept me from its purchase. Now I am not nearly as practical – or maybe I have learned from experience. One must get these things which speak to them while they can! So when I found this pattern a couple of years ago on eBay, I knew it was time to fulfill a long-delayed dream (at a much higher price than $3.00, I might add!).

Shortly thereafter I found this navy blue, windowpane-check cashmere fabric on one of my trips to Britex Fabrics in San Francisco. I purchased what I was sure would be ample yardage to make a two-piece suit (jacket and skirt, with this Jo Mattli design in mind) and to compensate for matching the plaid. Then I set it aside, knowing that the time to start this project had to be right.

The feel of this wool is best described as like soft butter.

The feel of this wool is best described as like soft butter.

I am so glad I waited. As I have grown in my sewing and dressmaking skills (with so much credit in that arena attributed to what I have learned in classes with Susan Khalje), I came to see this fabric and this suit taking on a slightly different appearance. I knew I wanted to make the Mattli jacket, but more and more I felt that this fabric was too special to mix it up with a blouse, no matter what color or how simple that blouse might be. I began to envision the jacket paired with a sheath dress – in effect, a classic 1960s’ inspired suit dress.

But would I have enough fabric? Britex has always been very accommodating when cutting yardages for me, adding inches to compensate for the layout of plaids and designs, and simply being generous in adding a few inches to my requested amount. (I have found most fine fabric stores to be similarly inclined – Mendel Goldberg, for example, also adheres to this customer-friendly practice. Have you found this generally to be true as well?)   Well, those of you who read my blog know that a little shortage of fabric has never kept me from my intended goal. Of course, I would have enough fabric… And so I do, especially with those few extra inches courtesy of Britex added on!

Fitting the muslin (toile) for the jacket took more thought and planning than usual. Much of this is because the pattern I found on eBay was actually one size smaller than what I usually buy and wear. For some reason I find it easier to size down patterns than size them up, so I’d rather, if necessary, start with a too-large pattern than one too small. Adding length and width to the body of the jacket, fitting the sleeves (which also needed a little more circumference) into those new dimensions, and adjusting the front/neck facing, which is part of the notched collar, was quite a puzzle. It took days!

I transferred my final changes from the muslin to silk organza, and then I was in business. I love a challenge, and it’s a good thing I do! Do you know how nerve-racking it is to make sure all your plaid lines match up vertically and horizontally? Also, I knew I could lay out only the jacket pattern pieces initially. There are two reasons for this: one is that I have not yet determined which sheath dress pattern I want to use. The other is that the plaid on the dress is going to have to match – perfectly – the plaid in the jacket horizontally first, with the vertical match being as close as it can be, taking into account darts and the curves in the body of the dress. So – I have to finish the jacket before I can lay out the dress. That fortuitously gives me some more time to think about the dress, which is still taking shape in my mind!

I chose to use white silk organza rather than black, as it is much easier to see the windowpane lines through the white, and easier on the eyes, too.

I chose to use white silk organza underling rather than black, as it is much easier to see the windowpane lines through the white, and easier on the eyes, too.

This photo better shows my markings on the silk organza underlining.

This photo better shows my markings on the silk organza underlining.

With all the silk organza underlining basted onto the wool, I am ready to sew.

A pile of prepared pieces!

A pile of prepared pieces!

But hold the horses there, Fifty Dresses! First, there are interfacings to be pad-stitched and bound buttonholes to be made.

I am using black silk organza for the interfacing.  This is what I did on my color-blocked coat, under Susan Khalje's tutelage, and I was delighted with the results!

I am using black silk organza for the interfacing. This is what I did on my color-blocked coat, under Susan Khalje’s tutelage, and I was delighted with the results!

It is clear there is no hurrying this jacket, nor should there be. Some dreams just take a little more time.

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Filed under couture construction, Dressmaker suits, Mid-Century style, Suit dresses, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, woolens

The Return of the Ladylike Suit

It seems I just can’t get way from that word – ladylike.  Just as I was finishing the jacket to my emerald green silk suit, the weekend Wall Street Journal arrived with this article in the Off Duty – Style & Fashion section:  “Gran Larceny – Fashion’s latest rebellion is co-opting looks from grandma’s closet.”

This photo, copyright The Wall Street Journal, is the lead photo for the article.

This photo, copyright The Wall Street Journal, is the lead photo for the article.

To quote from this article by Alexa Brazilian:

“Is conservative the new radical?    The fashion world certainly seems to think  so  . . .    Designers are reimaging soignée staples for spring and summer – skirt suits, twin sets, below-the-knee dresses, kitten heels and frame bags – that appear anything but moth-eaten.

“ ‘A young girl now doesn’t want to dress like her mother; she finds her grandmother much cooler,’ said Nina Ricci creative director Peter Copping, who designed skirt suits inspired by his own nana.  ‘She wore little smart tweedy suits.  I always had a romantic notion of that.’ “

And then later in the article is this statement by Christopher Kane (which I might frame and put on the wall in my sewing room!):  “Ladylike is the ultimate sexiness,” said the designer.  “It’s clean, elegant and in control.  The famous saying, ‘It’s the quiet ones you need to watch,’ definitely applies to this style.”

Well, I won’t necessarily feel radical or even sexy when I wear my new green skirt suit, but I do believe it is an example of that ladylike style of the early 1960s — which actually makes sense since the pattern is indigenous to that decade.

This is the pattern from the 1960s I used for my suit.

This is the pattern from the 1960s I used for my suit.

Finally finished!

And here is the suit finally finished.

I make a few changes to the design once I made the muslin for it.  First, I added two tapering darts to the back.  It was supposed to have a boxy feel to it, but I felt a little narrower silhouette would be more flattering to me.  I also lengthened the jacket by about 1 and ½ inches.

The jacket is still "boxy" but less so with the added darts.

The jacket is still “boxy” but less so with the added darts.

I decided to make the sleeves below elbow length, so I added another inch and ½ to them.  Then I had to narrow them a bit as well to make them look proportional.

Now to the fun part:  the two dressmaker details I added.  In an earlier post, I already showed the turquoise silk lining fabric I chose.  Once I had such a dramatic contrast in the works, I thought I’d push the envelope a bit farther.  I found silk bias ribbon in a lovely periwinkle color and used it to add an edge detail to the lining in the body of the jacket.

Here is the bias silk ribbon attached to the edge of the lining.

Here is the bias silk ribbon attached to the edge of the lining…  Click on the photos to see them up close.

DSC_0804

… and one more picture of it.

This was so much fun to do and made attaching the lining to the jacket very easy, as all I had to do was “hand-stitch in the ditch” where the silk ribbon and the lining fabric were sewn together.

Here is what the finished edge looks like.

Here is what the finished edge looks like.

When I found the gold buttons for the jacket, I immediately knew that adding buttons to the sleeves would make it all look more complete.

The gold buttons added to the sleeves and another view of the lining (and the back of the bound buttonholes).

The gold buttons added to the sleeves and another view of the lining (and the back of the bound buttonholes).

And here is a close-up of the larger buttons for the front of the jacket, with their bound buttonholes.

And here is a close-up of the larger buttons for the front of the jacket, with their bound buttonholes.

The last thing I did was attach the label to the inside front of the jacket.

Emerald green suit

The silk shell I am wearing is a RTW one!  I purchased it last Spring and now have something with which to wear it!

The silk shell I am wearing is a RTW one. I purchased it last Spring and now have something with which to wear it!

Another view, without jacket.

Another view, with jacket over my shoulder.

When I found this emerald green silk matka online last Fall at Waechter’s Fine Fabrics, I envisioned a skirt suit – or dressmaker suit, as this type of dressy suit is also called – but I had not progressed beyond that in my planning.  Well, now this new grandmother is feeling pretty fortunate that, not only did I grow up with the styles from the 1960s, but they are making me feel quite fashionable now that I am in my 60s!

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Dressmaker details, Dressmaker suits, sewing in silk, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, Vogue patterns

What Comes First – the Jacket or the Skirt?

Sewing has lots of decisions with it, some more important than others.  One of the decisions I face when making a two-piece suit (my current project) is: which part do I make first – the jacket or the skirt?  Instruction sheets are divided on this, as some start with the skirt, others with the jacket.  It would make sense, I guess, to start with the more difficult or more complicated half, which would most likely be the jacket.  So why do I usually make the skirt first?  Here’s what I think:

1) If the skirt and jacket are of the same fabric, making the skirt gives me “practice” with the feel of the fabric.  This comes in handy when I’m turning facings or collars on the jacket.

2) I’ve made enough jackets to know that I’m always kind of exhausted when they’re finally finished.  I’m not sure I’d want to be facing making the matching skirt, too, at that point in the process!

3) It’s easier and just plain better to make the final fitting of the jacket if it can be viewed with its accompanying skirt.

4) And finally, well . . .   I can always wear the skirt if the jacket doesn’t get completed right away, right??

So – what about progress on my emerald green silk suit?

This is the pattern I am using (View B), as written about in a former post.

This is the pattern I am using (View B), as written about in a former post.

Yes, the skirt is finished, which allows me to give you a sneak preview.

An interior view of the waistband and lining.

An interior view of the waistband and lining.

What do you think of that turquoise china silk lining?  Failing to find a green lining fabric, which would coordinate or match, turned out to be an advantage.  I had to choose something else – and, I must say, I love this combination.

Here is a view of the hand-picked zipper.

Here is a view of the hand-picked zipper.

The jacket is still in pieces, but very controlled pieces they are!  Here they are all ready to go:

The silk organza underlining is all basted, interfacings cut, ready to go!

The silk organza underlining is all basted, interfacings cut, ready for sewing.

I am hoping that this suit will serve me similarly to the description of this green suit in the October/November 1962 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine:

"Colors to go wild about" -n 1962 and in 2013.

“Colors to go wild about” – in 1962 and in 2013.

To quote:  “… a pure green with perfect pitch for day or evening, town or country.”  This particular design is by Michael of England, but, like the Vogue pattern I am using, it has a fitted jacket with a narrow notched collar, and three-quarter sleeves.

In the same issue of VPB Magazine, a letter to the editor caught my attention.  Mrs. B. M. of the Bronx, New York, wrote:  “… When I make a suit, I always buy extra fabric and also run up a slim dress.  This lets the suit jacket do ‘double duty’ and I have both a suit and a jacket-dress, while having to make only one jacket.  This saves me time and expense, and I enjoy having a variety of costumes that I can wear almost anywhere, in a fabric I love.”

Now I wonder what she made first – the jacket – or the skirt – or the dress?  I’m exhausted just thinking about it!

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Filed under Dressmaker suits, hand-sewn zippers, sewing in silk, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, Vogue patterns

Suited for Spring

Last Fall when I found emerald green matka silk on Waechter’s website, I quickly purchased 3½ yards.  At 45” wide, I knew that amount would be enough for a Spring suit although I really did not know which pattern I would be using.  It seems I often  purchase fabric and then end up not actually using it for a year – or more.  But with emerald green so front and center in fashion this year, I definitely decided to make this project a top priority.

This is the silk I ordered from Waechter's Fine Fabrics

This is the silk I ordered from Waechter’s Fine Fabrics.

I envisioned what is known as a “dressmaker suit.”  Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion (3rd edition, Fairchild Publications, Inc, New York, New York, 2003) gives this definition:  “Woman’s suit made with soft lines and fine details, as contrasted with man-tailored styles that have the sharply defined lines of a man’s suit made by a tailor.  Fashionable in 1950s and revived in the mid-1980s.”  Specifically, I envisioned a straight skirt (aka pencil skirt in today’s fashion parlance), a short-ish, dressy jacket with some neat detail on it, and adorned with buttons to compliment the sheen and slubby texture of the silk.

First step was to go to my pattern box, brimming over with vintage patterns (and a few new ones).  I quickly had my selection narrowed down to two possibilities, but one was actually a sheath dress with coordinating jacket, not a jacket and skirt. (Yes, there is a definition for this category as well, according to Fairchild’s:  “Suit dress:  Used in 1960s to refer to a jacket and dress ensemble that resembled a tailored suit.”)

Is it the hat that makes this ensemble so appealing - or just good styling?

Is it the hat that makes this ensemble so appealing – or just good styling?

I hashed over the two reservations I had about using this pattern:  1) I was a little short on yardage – about a quarter of a yard – and just not completely confident that I would be able to cut this pattern out with the generous seams that I have come to like so much, and 2) I have a RTW (gasp!) silk shell top which will look stunning, I think, paired with an emerald green silk skirt and matching jacket.  So in the end, I decided to go with a dressmaker suit to be made from this pattern:

I'll be making View B, which just happens to be shown in emerald green!

I’ll be making View B, which just happens to be shown in emerald green!

And then, the bonus!  Actually three of them . . .  I had forgotten that tucked inside the pattern envelope were two clippings obviously placed there by the original owner of the pattern.  She was doing some “comparison shopping” for styling.

The first clipping is for another pattern – a Spadea, available through mail order from the newspaper.  Fortunately, the date of 1964 shows up on one corner.

Dressmaker suit - 3

The second clipping is from Vogue magazine, showing a fashion from 1968.

The jacket of this suit, just like the Spadea pattern, is very similar to the Vogue pattern.

The jacket of this suit, just like the Spadea pattern, is very similar to the Vogue pattern.

Perhaps the original owner was trying to decide between a striped fabric and a plain one?  Maybe she was really undecided about making this style suit?  I’d love for her to sit down with me over a cup of coffee so we could discuss this pattern!  As it turns out, she never made the jacket, as its pieces were still in factory folds when I obtained it.  The skirt pattern shows signs of having been used, however.  I’ll never know why,  after all her thought about this suit, she never made it.  However, her decision afforded me the third bonus – the original pattern label – pristine after so many years.

I am looking forward to sewing this label into my green silk suit.

I am looking forward to sewing this label into my green silk suit.

I’ve made my initial adjustments to the pattern and am now making the muslin.  Like my “pattern predecessor” I am dreaming of a certain look.  Now it’s up to me to finish what she started.

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Filed under Dressmaker suits, kimono sleeves, Messages from past owners of vintage patterns, sewing in silk, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, Vogue patterns