Category Archives: Mid-Century style

A White Eyelet Blouse

Eyelet is one of those fabrics which can conjure up memories from one’s life.  So often associated with pinafores, eyelet is lovely for little girls’ dresses – and petticoats.  It is often used for lingerie or sleepwear for all ages, as well as dresses and blouses.  It is a summer fabric, with its “built-in” air conditioning – ie. all those little holes surrounded by embroidery.    Often eyelet trim – and sometimes eyelet yard goods – have one or two finished borders.  Such was the case with the eyelet I found earlier this year for the ruffled collars for sundresses for my granddaughters.  

This lace was a 14″ wide double scallop-edged panel, which I cut down the middle to use for the two collars.

It was working on those collars which convinced me I needed to make an eyelet bouse for myself.  I went back to Farmhouse Fabrics, from which I had purchased the double-sided eyelet panel for those collars, to find a suitable eyelet for a blouse.  Farmhouse Fabrics has quite an inventory of lovely eyelets, so it was difficult to decide.  But decide I did, and purchased this all-cotton eyelet made in Spain.  

I liked the meandering motif in this design.

For a pattern I used this vintage Vogue pattern from 1957.

I liked the convertible collar of this pattern, as shown in View B. A convertible collar is one which can be worn open or closed. The collar is sewn directly to the neckline.  I did, however, shorten the sleeves to below elbow-length.  I also chose to make plain, buttoned cuffs without the extra turn-back detail.  

Although the blouse is described on the pattern envelope as “tuck-in,” I liked the gently curved and split hem which would also allow me to wear the blouse as an over-blouse.  The thumbnail detail from the pattern envelope shows the curved hem.  

I lined the main body of the blouse with white cotton batiste, leaving the sleeves unlined.  To reduce bulk, I made the undercollar and the cuff facings from the white batiste.

Buttons are always a favorite component of a blouse for me.  I had a card of vintage Lady Washington Pearls which seemed a lovely complement to the scale of the fabric embroidery.  

One button remaining!

I first wore this blouse on a very warm evening to attend an outdoor concert.  I was amazed at how cool the blouse was. The little breeze there was, did indeed feel like air-conditioning as it wafted through all those embroidered holes!

In my case, this collar is not “convertible” as I did not put a button and buttonhole at the neckline!
I made the cuffs with a bit more width than needed so I can push the sleeves up further if I want.
After I finished the blouse I went back and added two narrow fisheye darts to the back to make the fit a bit more streamlined.
I think this blouse might be a good pairing for the Liberty cotton skirt featured in my last post.

Finding beautiful eyelet fabric is now on my sewing radar.   I would like to make more with this timeless, feminine and versatile type of lace. 

23 Comments

Filed under Blouses, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Eyelet, Lace, Mid-Century style, Sleeves, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

And There Went March.

March was not home to much sewing at Fifty Dresses this year.  The reasons were manifold, but suffice it to say, my loved ones and I weathered through the storm. Now sweet April is here, adorned in grace and gentleness and goodness, like a balm to our collective souls.  April is filled with promise.  

And I have given April much to make promises about!  I may have not been able to sew throughout most of March, but that did not prevent me from looking at fabric, patterns, buttons, books, and fashionable inspirations.  Despite my best intentions of not succumbing to new fabric purchases, my discipline failed me and I found two silk fabrics at Britex which I decided were too special to pass by.  They are so different from each other, but each one appeals to certain design penchants I have finally admitted are my weakness.  One is for geometric and linear prints:

This is a silk crepe de chine, blouse weight.

The second penchant is for whimsical, scattered florals, in multi-color.  This one is especially appealing to me as it also has polka dots in its motif.  Polka dots are especially difficult for me to resist.  

This is a silk twill, dress or blouse weight. I’m not sure what I will make with this yet. If I thought I would have occasion to wear a hostess skirt, that would be it, but …. it is all still to be determined.

By this point I have an extensive collection of vintage patterns, so it is rare when I find one which fills a gap for me.  But such was the case with this purchase of a Vogue Paris Original by Pierre Balmain.  I had not come across this pattern before, and I believe it was rightly advertised as “rare.”  

I wanted this pattern for the jacket.  The neckline is lovely with its small, rolled collar, and the lines in the jacket appear to be very flattering.  The corded front edges are an interesting design feature which will require the right weight fabric to be finished correctly, I think.  And the four buttons certainly have a prominent position for a jacket not meant to be buttoned!  I will relish finding buttons for this project.  

As with most of my vintage patterns, where I am never quite satisfied until I am able to assign a copyright/production date to them, such was the case with this pattern.   Being a Designer pattern made it easier to narrow my search through my Vogue Pattern Book Magazines.  Also, at this point I have developed a “decade” sense for styles, so I instinctively started with the mid-1960s.  Bingo – the second issue from the mid ‘60s through which I looked featured this pattern.  It was included in an article “Just Arrived – 33 Great Imports” in the October/November 1965 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.

I like this image of the pattern (on the far right) as I believe it shows the lines of the jacket in a more flattering way than on the pattern envelope.

What made it especially rewarding for me was that my pink Dior coat pattern is included in the same feature.  It must have been a good year.  

The caption for my pink coat pattern, top and center in the same feature of “33 Great Imports”, reads: “DIOR: The ensemble to wear all year – a dirndled dress and a coat that’s shaped high and narrow.”

Pink was on my mind (well, truth be told, pink is always on my mind) during the waning days of March as I zeroed in on making “birthday” dresses for my granddaughters.  (Time and looming dates have a wonderful way of getting me back on the sewing track.)  And yes, they are pink.  However, they are also under wraps – and wrapping paper – to be opened by the birthday girls next week.

Hopefully April will not hurry away, as these months are wont to do.  There are promises to keep and there is more sewing to happen at Fifty Dresses.    

21 Comments

Filed under Mid-Century style, Polka dots, silk, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

Diversions – in Print

Works of fiction which feature some aspect of sewing or fashion are often some of my favorite reading experiences.  While I do not necessarily seek them out, if I hear of such a novel, and it’s reviews are positive, then I will add it to my reading queue (similar to my sewing queue!) And sometimes, there is a surprise sewing element in a novel – those are the bonuses.

The last three novels I have read, in quick succession, were all very different, but each one used sewing and/or fashion as foundational premises either for the plot or for character development.  So, here are short reviews of each one, in the order in which I read them.

The first novel, Beneficence, by Meredith Hall, came to my attention by a review in The Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition back in the Fall.  The subtle role sewing plays in this novel makes it one of those bonus books. Some of the words used to describe this novel, and rightly so, have been “haunting,” luminous,” and “exquisite.”  It takes place in Maine (USA) and spans the years from the late 1940s to the early ‘60s. The story is about the Senter family, who owns a dairy farm, and the devastating tragedy which befalls the family of five.  Early in the book, one gets the sense of impending doom.  At this point, in no way did I have any inkling of the role sewing would have in the development of one of the main characters, Dodie, the daughter.  The masterful writing – eerily beautiful, and very affecting – is of such quality that it was only after I had finished the book did I realize how her sewing helped to define Dodie. The sewing references even hint at the blessings ahead for her in the reader’s mind at book’s end.  She is a mender, a creator, and a giver of things she has sewn.  She is wise beyond her years.  She is a character I will long remember.  The book is a masterpiece.  

One word of warning, however, is necessary for this book.  Parts of it are very difficult emotionally to read.  I cried a lot reading it, perhaps crying the most at the book’s end when grace and wisdom finally replace anguish for each of the Senters.  If you are feeling in any way fragile right now, then plan to read this book at another, more secure time.  

Feeling emotionally drained (but fulfilled) after reading Beneficence, I wanted something light-hearted and fun.  And like a blessing, this book came to me as a Christmas gift from my daughter, Susanna.  

This novel first appeared in 1993, and it has been recently re-released.

The Women in Black, by Madeline St. John, is set in the early 1950s in Sydney, Australia.  It follows four women (actually 3 women and one 16-year-old girl) who work at Goode’s Department Store in Fine Dresses and Model Dresses (Model Dresses being the most expensive.)  The time of year is December, when cocktail and party dress buying is at a frenzy!  Patty and Fay are in the fine dresses, Magda manages the Model Gowns, and Lisa is a temporary hire who helps out wherever she is needed.  In many ways, however, it is Lisa’s story.  Magda takes a loving interest in her, and when Lisa is exposed to the confectionary frocks in Model Gowns, she comes alive.  She particularly has her eye on one dress, which is called “Lisette.”  And when she finally has the opportunity to try the dress on, this is what transpires: 

“Lisette was, of course, everything which could have been dreamed; like all the great works of the French couture, it was designed to look beautiful not simply as a thing in itself, but as the clothing of a female form.  It took on then the property of vitality and movement, that is, of rhythm:  it became finally incarnate.  Lisa stood, overwhelmed, staring into the great cheval glass.   . . . The frock changed her absolutely; the revelation which had come upon her when she had first been shown the Model gowns was now complete.”  

What a fun book, written by someone (sadly now deceased) who understood the transformative power of dress and dresses.  Treat yourself and read this book!

Just the title of the third book I am sharing is intriquing enough to catch your attention.  

Based loosely on a true story, but definitely a work of fiction, The French Model, by Alexandra Joel,  is the story of a stunningly beautiful young Australian woman who makes her way to Paris and becomes a model in Christian Dior’s House in post-war France.  In leaving Australia, she is escaping not only from an unhappy marriage, but also from revelations about her past which make her question her identity and all those she has ever loved.  This book has it all:  mystery, espionage, love, fashion, friendship, sacrifice, sex, “very important person” sightings, political intrigue, history, and courage – all in a complex story line which will keep you on the edge of your seat.  The writing is lovely and descriptive, the main characters endearing.  Some of the story is a bit contrived – or unbelievable – but I was generally able to overlook those parts to enjoy the larger storyline.  And I loved the emphasis on the workings of the House of Christian Dior. Anyone who loves vintage fashion – or historical fiction set at the end of World War II – should find escaping into this story a happy place to be.  

One final observation about these three books.  The dust jackets are works of art.  Not unlike a perfectly fitted and flattering dress, each one is so perfectly evocative of what lies within, capturing the very essence of the books they adorn.  As I look again and again at each one, it takes me back to those stories, those places and those indelible characters which gave me so much reading pleasure.  

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Filed under Book reviews, Christian Dior, Fashion history, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized

A Dress That Was Meant to Be – in Vogue

Sometimes the sewing stars align to ensure success (and sometimes they don’t.)  But this story is a success story, although it played out differently than I originally planned.  

I wrote about this vintage Forstmann wool fabric in a previous post.

Having only 1.25 yards of this vintage wool restricted my options to either a simple sheath dress or a skirt.  I opted for the sheath, with all good intentions of using the princess-lined pattern I had recently used for a pink dress in vintage Linton wool.  In fact, one of the reasons I made the pink dress was to see if I would be able to successfully match plaids when I started on the red/green wool.  (The weave of the pink Linton has a plaid woven into it, which I knew would be helpful to me in determining the pattern’s useability for a multi-color plaid.)  Only one problem – when I laid out the pattern pieces on the Forstmann wool, I didn’t have enough fabric.  I should have realized that the 7-panel princess dress would take more fabric than I had – and this time there was no making it work.

SO – I had to find another pattern.  I have, over the years, made several sheath dresses using a newer Butterick pattern, but I really wanted to use a vintage pattern for this wool.  Now, I have a lot of vintage patterns in my collection – and I went through every single one looking for the right sheath dress.  At first I didn’t realize this pattern had the look I wanted.  

I had originally purchased this pattern for that gorgeous shawl collared coat.  But – BINGO – when I took another look, there was the perfect sheath looking right at me.  

Although the pattern was not dated, I knew it was from the early 1960s.  But of course, I thought it would be wonderful to know the year it first appeared.  A lengthy search through old Vogue Pattern Magazines proved to be successful – not only successful, but timely.  This pattern was included in the December 1962/January 1963 issue, and was the featured pattern for a Special Capsule Catalog included in the issue.  Not only that, the caption read: “110 IDEAS TO START THE NEW YEAR IN VOGUE.”  Yes, I thought, that’s what I want to do!  

What a glamorous look!
And here is the entry for this pattern in the capsule catalog.

Of course, starting with a pattern I had not before used meant I had to make a muslin (toile)  and fit it.  That little effort took two days.  But then I got started in earnest, cutting out the silk organza underlining and positioning it right where it needed to be on the fabric.

You will notice that this fabric has a center front, woven to provide a mirror image of the plaid on each side. Really a brilliant way to handle an uneven plaid.

There were two important considerations for placing my silk organza underlining “templates” on the plaid:  1) the orientation of the plaid vertically and 2) the correct placement of the hemline on the grid of the plaid and making this placement work with the position of the waistline and neckline.  

I thought the wider, darker part of each woven “block” on the plaid should be oriented to the bottom of the dress, which I believe is apparent above.  

I find, when working with plaid, it is very important to have the hemline determined before you cut out your fabric.  Visually it is more appealing if the hem does not cut a block of the plaid directly in half or, especially with smaller plaids, end right at the edge of a block.  I think it looks better if there is a bit of a “float” around the bottom of the dress to anchor the bottommost blocks. (Larger plaids have their own considerations. Look at the art on the pattern envelope above to observe this.)

The red “band” at the hemline serves as this “float.”

One of the design features of this dress is the kick pleat, which has its origin in the back seam starting at the bottom of the zipper.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to work the lining around this, but I also thought I could probably figure it out.

The instruction diagram shows the kick pleat quite well.
I angled the raw edges to finish the bottom edge of the seam.
Here is the finished kick pleat.

I loved that fact that this type of kick pleat made the perfect setting for a lapped zipper, shown below.  

The left side is pressed slightly to the middle to accommodate a lapped zipper.

You will notice this dress has two shaping darts on either side of the front panel, in addition to the bust darts.  The back has one shoulder dart and one shaping dart on either side.  

All these darts make for such a lovely fit. In addition, I used a trick I have learned from Susan Khalje. Instead of sewing the bust dart into the side seam, I allowed it to float free, stitching the seam above and below the dart. I did this for both the fashion fabric and the lining. Using this method provides more ease to the bust.

This photo shows what I did with the side seam at the bust dart.

I did lower the neckline by about ½ inch, and I cut the shoulders in by about an inch on either side.  These changes just seemed to look better on me, as determined by my muslin (toile).  

I lined the dress in black silk crepe de chine. (I find almost all my lining silk at Emma One Sock.)  When it came to the kick pleat, I found that a slanted seam below the end of the zipper was necessary to divide the lining between the two sides of the kick pleat. 

Black is so difficult to photograph, but hopefully the angle is apparent.

 I have no idea how to explain what I did to finish the lining in this area.  Just know that whatever I did – worked!  I ended up with no lumps and no restriction on the functionality of the pleat.  

How lovely to have a label for this vintage wool.

This dress was such a fun project.  I loved working with such a beautiful wool and such a beautiful pattern.  There will be more such sheath dresses in my future. 

I now would like to make a black jacket to wear with this dress; I do have a small amount of fabric remaining to use as trim in some way…

So now, how about you?  Have you started the new year in Vogue? I hope so!

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Filed under couture construction, fabric labels, Hems, Linings, Mid-Century style, Pattern Art, Sheath dresses, Uncategorized, underlinings, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

A Fabric and Its Label

Find me a beautiful vintage fabric, accompanied by its original label, and I will tell its story. 

 
What started off as a simple eBay purchase evolved into something quite unexpected, with secrets and history to reveal. It is all about this piece of vintage Forstmann wool, purchased within the last two years.  

This wool is 56″ wide and I have 1 1/3 yards, just enough for either a skirt or a simple dress.

I was drawn to its vibrant plaid combination of red and green and black and white.  An extra bonus was its attached label and famous brand name.  I was familiar with Forstmann woolens from the time I was a child in the 1950s, and I was aware of its renowned quality.  But I was quite unprepared for the reality of my purchase.  

Immediately upon opening the package, I was struck with two things:  the saturation of the colors and the buttery softness and easy hand of the wool.  I was thrilled with my purchase, and carefully placed it away in my fabric closet, intending to think about it until I had a plan in place.   I would occasionally get it out to admire it, so I felt I was quite familiar with it.  However, it was not until this past Spring when I suddenly realized it was an uneven plaid.  Having just agonized over a dress made from an uneven Linton tweed plaid, and having by this time determined that I wanted to make a sheath dress from this wool, I had one of those dreaded “uh-oh” moments.  My plan seemed to be self-destructing.  An uneven plaid would not do for such a dress.

And then I did something I had yet to do – I opened out the full expanse of the yardage.  That was when I realized the brilliance of the woolen manufacturer.  The wool was loomed with a right and left side, with a center “panel,“ making it possible to have an even orientation of the plaid. Thus, I would be able to balance the plaid on the front and also on the back of the dress I hoped to make.

In the center of this photo is the center point of the wool, with half the width to one side and half to the outer side. Absolutely brilliant.
Here is a close-up, in which the lovely herringbone weave is also beautifully apparent.

With this exciting discovery, I then wanted to know more about when this fabric was manufactured.  I knew that Forstmann Woolen Company had advertised in Vogue Pattern Book Magazine in the 1950s and ‘60s, and I also knew Forstmann woolens were often the fabrics of choice for fashions displayed in the magazine.  A little bit of perusing and detective work helped me narrow down an approximate span of years for the production of my wool.

This full-page advertisement from the October/November 1953 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine features the label current at that time.  It is probably a precursor to the label I received with my wool.  

I love this ad for many reasons, but especially for the red coat. Isn’t it just so elegant?

I found no label pictured from 1955, but the cover from February/March features a suit made from Forstmann tweed:

This has to be one of my favorite magazine covers of the vintage Vogue Pattern Book Magazines I have.

The inside front cover from October/November 1959 is once again a full-page ad for Forstmann.  The label shown is similar to mine, but not exact. 

This label is another variation, without the descriptive phrase “100% Virgin Wool.” Again, this ad has beautiful depictions of wool, with Vogue patterns chosen for each of them.

It seems that by the second half of 1960, Forstmann Woolens had entered into a partnership with Stevens’ Fabrics.  

This ad was prominently placed on the inside front cover of the October/November 1960 edition of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.

Proof of this partnership was quite apparent by the second half of 1962.  The label featured in this ad actually has Stevens Fabrics woven into the logo.  

From the August/September 1962 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.

My best guess, from the above references, is that my piece of fabric was manufactured in the second half of the decade of the 1950s.  I have always considered that span of years as the golden age of American fashion.  My fortunate purchase reinforces the knowledge for me of the excellence of design, quality and craftsmanship available to the home sewing industry at that time.  Now – it is up to me to do justice to this piece of Forstmann wool. Amazingly, and with good fortune, the story of this fabric continues some 65 years after its manufacture. 

And here’s to a new year – 2021 – with its own secrets and stories to reveal. May they all be happy ones, waiting to be discovered and shared . . .

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Filed under fabric labels, Fashion history, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

What Do You Think of Sewing Contests?

And – what do you know about them?  One of the more venerable sewing contests is the annual Make It With Wool.  Founded in 1947, it is still going strong and features winners in various categories/age groups.  Prizes for winners and runners’-up include scholarships, sewing machines and fabrics, and of course, national recognition in the field.  Pattern Review sponsors several sewing competitions throughout each year, in addition to a “sewing bee.”   Its followers are legion at this point, and it is always a coup to be a winner, selected by readers’ votes.

But what would you say if I told you that in 1956 the Singer Sewing Machine Company introduced a national sewing contest with prize money totaling $125,000?   The 1st Grand Prize carried the unbelievable reward of $25,000.  In current 2020 American dollars, that is almost $240,000!  Not only that, the 33 regional first prize winners also received a free trip to New York.  Take a look at the following two-page ad which appeared in the February/March 1957 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine, announcing the second year of the competition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vogue Pattern Book Magazine of August/September 1957 included this page “as we go to press…”

Vogue Pattern Company was rightly proud of their representation in this contest and in others.

And then here is the feature article on those winners in the following issue (October/November, 1957):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judging was based on “fashion points of appearance, fit and selection of design, colour and fabric, plus construction points of quality and accuracy of cutting, sewing and finishing.”  Isn’t this what most of us strive to attain in our own sewing?

By the next year, 1958, the contest included a new category, called the Young Homemaker Division, for young women between the ages of 18 – 25.  $9,000 of prize money was awarded to the top four winners.  What beautiful dresses and ensembles they created!

I suspect these young women continued to sew throughout their lives.

Also that year, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs sponsored their own sewing contest.  The theme of the contest was “the ideal costume for a clubwoman’s wardrobe.”  Points of consideration in the judging were: “fashion-rightness,” “versatility and appropriateness for club occasions,” “becomingness to the wearer,” “over-all fashion effect,” and “workmanship.”  24 of the state finalists submitted entries consisting of a dress with its own jacket or coat.  That is still to this day a winning combination, classic and chic.

The prize money was certainly less impressive in this contest, at $250, $150 and $100 for the first-, second-, and third-place winners, but imagine the prestige of winning for “your” club, at a time when there were 1,485 clubs represented in the contest!

By 1963, Singer Sewing Company had started the Young Stylemaker Contest for girls aged 10 – 21.  The caption on the following article tells it all:

Included in the trip to Paris for the two winners was a tour of the famous Parisian couture houses.  Can you imagine having such an opportunity at that point in your life?

This contest had expanded its scope by 1965, ferrying fifteen finalists to Rome via a chartered jet for a 5-day stay before the final judging of the Stylemaker Contest.  Notes by the contestants included the charming observation “how very chic the Italian women are.”

By 1969, this contest had drawn more than 93,000 participants!  As part of their prize, the three winners each were given an all-expense paid, one-week trip for two to London, Paris or Rome.  The purpose of the Stylemaker Contest was to “encourage young and creative talents in Fashion sewing.”

By 1971, it appears that changes were in the air for the Stylemaker Contest.  Whittled down to two winning divisions, only the overall winner received a trip to London, Paris or Rome for two, although both final winners also received cash prizes of $800 and $600 respectively.  The “heyday” period of home fashion sewing was sadly beginning to draw to a close.

Needless to say, fashion sewing contests no longer command such notable and generous prize money or trips.  Those were heady times in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, likely never to be experienced again.  However, I would like to think a new sewing heyday is upon us – or perhaps we are it.  What place do contests have in our current global community of sewing?

I rarely enter sewing contests, not for any reason other than the fact that I have so many projects in my queue that the last thing I need to put my attention on is something that is not top priority for me.  But that doesn’t mean I will never enter a contest.  I actually think I probably should at some point. So – again, what do you think of them?   Sewing is creative, so obviously contests today still value and encourage creativity.  Surely emphasis is still placed on fashion appropriateness, workmanship, style, a flattering assessment, fabric and color selection. It is precisely these goals which make fashion sewing so exciting, at least for me, and I suspect for most of us.

Let’s learn a little from the past and make it new again.

 

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Filed under Fashion history, Love of sewing, Mid-Century style, Sewing Contests, The Conde Nast Publications, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s

The Last Dress of the Year Past

Little did I know when I found this “end-cut” earlier in the year at Mendel Goldberg Fabrics that “classic blue” would be chosen as Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2020.  But so it was, which makes my last dress of 2019 the perfect transition into the new year and the new decade.

This an Italian silk charmeuse, in a dotted and printed jacquard.

I am one of those people who rarely goes looking for a particular fabric.  I think fabrics find me and when this fabric found me, I really had no plan for what I would make out of it.  But as soon as it arrived, I knew immediately I wanted a sheath dress with three-quarter length sleeves and a V-neck.  I tucked it away, happy with the thought of making this dress, and knowing I had the perfect pattern to make it a reality.

View C, of course! And look at those lovely shaping darts.

This Vogue pattern is from the early 1960s, a little tattered and worn, but very versatile and beautifully engineered.

After finishing my granddaughters’ December dresses, and then my pink Parisian Jacket, and then some cute little flannel blouses for gifts for my little girls, I envisioned finishing this dress to wear to holiday parties.  What was I thinking?  First of all, after tweaking the pattern one last time (I had had the pattern fitted a couple of years ago while in a class with Susan Khalje), it took two full days – yes, TWO – to figure out how in the world to lay out my pattern pieces.  Truth be told, I really did not have enough fabric.  I should have reconsidered, but I am stubborn and tenacious when it comes to my sewing “visions.”  I finally decided that I could exactly match the print on the back center seam and make it sleeveless – OR I could have sleeves and not match the back.  I really, really wanted sleeves.  It had to have sleeves.  So I did the best I could with making the back seam look okay, and I got my sleeves.

Fortunately the all-over placement of the floral motifs lent itself to imprecise matching better than many fabrics would.

And what lovely sleeves they are!  When Susan fitted the pattern, she elongated the top curve of the sleeve to accommodate my prominent shoulders.  She also added a dart at the shoulder of the sleeve (actually slightly forward from the marked shoulder of the pattern to accommodate the roll of my shoulders).  I added a slight amount to the width of the sleeve, about 3/8”.  I have found these vintage patterns are often narrow in the sleeves.

The purple lines are the changes to the muslin.

The double elbow darts in the sleeves make a lovely fit and are placed precisely where they should be.

It’s a little difficult to see the double darts, but they are there!

When it came to the V-neck, I knew I would need to use a facing of some sort, but I did not have enough fabric to cut a full facing.  So – I cut a partial facing instead, just enough to be able to turn the V and have it stable.  (The first thing I did when I started sewing the dress, was to reinforce that neckline with a strip of silk organza selvedge.)  Well, this worked like a charm, much to my delight.

The partial facing extends up from the bottom of the V about 2.5 inches, and then the turned- back seam allowance takes over.

Then I brought the lining fabric right to the edge of the neckline and understitched it to secure it in place, just as you would expect a couture dress to be finished.

I chose a “mushroom” colored crepe de chine for my lining. Blues are very difficult to match as you know, so I decided a contrast color would be best. The lining fabric is from Emma One Sock Fabrics.

I used blue thread for the under stitching.

I used a lapped application for the hand-picked zipper.  The more I use the lapped insertion for zippers, the more I like it.  And I especially like it in a center back seam.

I’m feeling quite pleased with this dress!

There is not much more to say about this blue floral dress, except that it was not finished in time to wear to any holiday event.  Which was fine!  Once I realized this would be the case, I was able to really enjoy the process of making it.  It was a delightful way to end the year – and the decade, which has had such a profound effect on my sewing.

 

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Filed under couture construction, hand-sewn zippers, Linings, Mid-Century style, Pantone Color of the Year, Polka dots, sewing in silk, Sheath dresses, Sleeves, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

The Pink Coat Odyssey, The Finish!

Is it possible to fall in love with a coat?  If so, then that is what has happened with my pink coat.  It was a relationship which grew over several years.

First, I found the pattern, this Vogue Paris Original Designer Pattern from 1965.  It was an eBay purchase made several years ago, with a promise to myself that one day, when I found the right fabric, I would make it.

Next I found this silk charmeuse couture fabric on the website of Mendel Goldberg Fabrics. It was an end cut, 2.25 yards, and when I purchased it, I envisioned another wrap dress, not the lining of a coat.  Luckily I had no urgent plans to use it, and thus it eventually found its way inside the pink coat.

I am showing the lining silk here along with the pink wool to show how well they complement each other.

And then – I found the pink wool.  Also an eBay purchase, this wool was not inexpensively priced, but I recognized its rarity and its “presence” in the posted pictures.  Then I hoped it would live up to its promise once I received it and saw it in person.  Over the years I have found some amazing things on eBay, but this wool is one of the real treasures.

Because I have already posted quite a bit about the coat’s muslin/toile and certain salient details, I will not go into too much more description about the coat’s construction.  But I do want to point out some of this pattern’s engineering charms.

1) On the photo on the pattern envelope, I believe the soft shoulder of the coat is evident.  I used a “cigarette-type” sleeve heading in each shoulder to enhance the smooth transition from the shoulder to the top of the sleeve.  Not so evident on the pattern illustration is the drape of the back of the coat from the shoulder line.  I realized this drape works so well because of the two neckline darts.  They are in the neckline, not the shoulder seam; they add necessary shaping without disturbing the drape.

Can you see how the dart comes off from the neckline, not the shoulder seam?

2) The collar is an engineering marvel in my mind.  The under-collar  is constructed from four pieces, two main sections cut on the bias, and a 2-piece collar band, seamed at the center back.  The band helps the collar to turn beautifully.

This photo clearly shows the components of the under-collar. You can also see the under-stitching I did in silk buttonhole twist.

3) When I made the toile, I was concerned about the fullness of the back of the coat.  It seemed a bit much, and I have already written about my intention to add a half belt to draw in the fullness, if needed. Nope!   I am so happy with the finished look – it has that 1960s’ vibe without being overwhelming.  I did move the vertical back seam line up 1.25” to rest at my natural waistline, rather than below it.  For me, this was the correct alteration.  It may not be on someone else who has more height than I do.  Another consideration was that a half belt would have concealed the seam detailing which is so lovely on the back of the coat.

An inside look at the back of the coat, showing its drape from the shoulder seams.

The other significant alteration I made was to remove 1.5″ of width from each sleeve.  I possibly could have taken out even more, but I will be wearing this coat over sweaters and perhaps even a jacket, so the sleeves as I cut them will still accommodate that bulk.  But I would not want them any fuller!

Although the pattern did not call for it, I added flat piping to the edge of the lining.  I chose white silk crepe de chine for this contrast detail.  I felt any other color would have been too demonstrative.

The coat kind of looks like a sack of potatoes in this photo of its front edge!

The finished look of the lining edge.

I had some difficulty finding pink buttons.  I ended up with two varieties found in two Etsy shops.  I used a larger pink-swirly one for the looped closure, and smaller pink pearl-y ones for the concealed opening.  If I ever find ones I like better, that’s a easy switch.  But the more I see these, the more I like this combination.

Basting threads are still evident in this photo.

Alas, it is much too warm for wearing wool coats now, but it is ready for next Fall’s cooler days.  By then I hope to have a  windowpane checked skirt, in delicate gray, white and pink wool, specially made to wear with this coat.

It is always interesting what photos reveal. I am thinking I may need to redo the hem to get a softer look to it. It looks like it has crinkles in it!

I will take any excuse to show the inside of this coat!

I cut a piece of the selvedge with the Lesur name on it and attached it to the right front facing of the coat right below the placket.  I think this is an important part of the story of this project.

There is a very slight bow to the back of the coat, again reminiscent of the ’60s.

This coat is almost making me anxious for next Fall!

As I worked on this coat, I came to realize how perfectly suited the pattern and the wool were for each other.   It was such a privilege to spend so many hours with such quality.  No wonder I fell in love!

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Christian Dior, Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker coats, Linings, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

The Pink Coat Odyssey, Part 1

Instruction sheets for patterns always intrigue me, and especially so, instruction sheets for vintage Vogue Designer patterns.  They so often include a quirky method of handling one aspect of construction. And often the construction details for an entire complicated dress or coat fit on one side of one sheet, completely at odds with the amount of time involved in the actual process from beginning to end. The beginning of my pink coat, however, commenced long before I started at “ number 1” in the Instructions.

With my adjusted and fitted muslin (toile) completed, and with its pieces disassembled again, I transferred it onto white silk organza to be used as both the pattern for the fashion fabric and as its underlining.  This was the point about which I was both equally excited and terrified! There is a real thrill involved in laying out the pattern on your fashion fabric, but my pink coating wool is no normal fashion fabric.  A rare survivor, this French Lesur wool from the mid 1960s, needed some special attention before I could begin to lay out my organza pieces on it.

Often vintage wool displays a crease down its center point where it has been folded for decades. Fortunately, this Lesur wool was folded with the right side in.  There was a definite crease line, and it looked a bit soiled as well.

In the left half of this photo, you can see a line of light soil along the crease.  This is the wrong side of the fabric.

I used a Woolite spot remover pad and worked gently along the fold line to reduce the minor discoloration.  Then I put the entire length of wool in the dryer with a Woolite dry cleaning cloth to freshen it.  When it came out, the crease line was practically gone, but I noticed that the wool appeared just a bit thinner along that line.  I knew I would have to work around this when I laid out my pattern pieces.

It is barely visible, but there is a line of thinner wool close to the center of the photo.

Working single layer, as is customary with couture construction, I spread out the wool on my dining room table.  The “coat front and lower back” piece is quite wide, and extended across the center point line of my wool.

You can see how wide the Coat Front and Lower Back pattern piece (#3) is, on the lower left.

Because the longest straight edge of the piece is the front facing, I knew I had to make sure that line of “thinner” wool  was on the facing and not on the main body of the coat.  Fortunately the wool had no nap, so I was able to stagger those two very large pattern pieces with different vertical orientations, which saved the day!

A number of pieces were on the bias which always seems to use more fabric.

All in all, it was tight fit to get all the pattern pieces on.  I let it all sit overnight so I could doublecheck myself with fresh eyes before I actually started to cut.  Knowing how special this wool is made taking that first cut with scissors extremely nerve-wracking.  However, I figured it was now or never, and so I cut!  One by one, the pieces piled up and when I was finished , all I had left was this small mound of scraps!

I have just enough left to make a half belt, should I choose to do so.

Next up was a part I always enjoy for some strange reason: basting the silk organza underlining and the fashion fabric together.  And then to the Instruction Sheet, only to remember that the first thing to do was the pockets!  I like detail work, but whenever I have to make a slash in the main body of anything, I get anxious.  Fashion Sewing is not for sissies!

Here is one of the pockets slashed and ready to turn.

With lots of basting, lots of double-checking, lots of talking to myself, I finished with two flapped pockets that look they way they should, thank goodness!

I basted the pockets closed to protect them while I finish the rest of the coat.

And then, no rest for the weary, the next item on the sheet was the fly for the concealed front. Actually these are not difficult, although this one was done a bit differently than the one I put on another coat I made several years ago.

The buttonholes on a fly front need to be as flat as possible, so even though I was working in wool, which would normally dictate bound buttonholes, I made these five buttonholes by machine.  Obviously they do not show, being within a concealed opening, so this was the way to go.

Here is the front of the coat with the concealed placket underneath. Top-stitching will be added later.

Remember what I said about quirky construction?   I had already looked ahead (of course…) to see what next important step I was facing, and indeed, it was a facing!  That looped button which is a design feature on the coat, turns out to be anything but normal. I will cover this interesting – and quirky – application in my next post, as the Pink Coat Odyssey continues.

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Filed under Christian Dior, Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker coats, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

The Best Laid Plans

The best laid plans sometimes need revision.  As a person who likes to make careful lists and schedules, I find it difficult at times when life conspires to upset those plans.  Especially difficult is when my sewing plans go awry!

I have been dreaming about making this coat in my treasured vintage pink wool.

With new enthusiasm after seeing the Dior Exhibit in Denver, I was sure this coat would be well underway by the end of March. However, for an unexpected, albeit happy, change of events, here we are at the end of March and all I have finished is my toile.  But my enthusiasm is still on track!

A fun part of any project in which I use a Vogue Designer pattern is devoted to finding out more about the initial debut of the pattern, and documentation of its appearance in Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.  Although I had a good hunch that this pattern was from the mid-sixties, I was quite delighted to see it included in a feature of new Designer patterns debuting in  the October/November 1965 VPBM.       .

The caption for my coat pattern, top and center, reads: “DIOR: The ensemble to wear all year – a dirndled dress and a coat that’s shaped high and narrow.”

 Of course this was when Marc Bohan was the Creative Director at Christian Dior, a period of the 1960s known for its gorgeous dressmaker coats and ensembles.  Here is a sampling of some other designs appearing in the same time frame in a few Vogue Pattern Book Magazines.

I actually own this pattern, too. I have always loved the look of this coat.  This pattern is shown in the same issue of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine as the Dior design, October/November 1965.  What a great year for coats.

This kimono-sleeved coat was shown made in textured pineapple wool by Einiger. I made my purple coat from vintage Einiger wool, so I know what fabulous quality it is.

This coat features a spread collar on a low V-neck.  This coat and the one above are shown in the February/March 1966 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.

This coat is described as being “the total look of the Chanelesque tradition.” It, too, was made from “mossy-surfaced” Einiger wool.

And this coat is reminiscent of the Dior design I am making, with its pointed collar, straight-shape and concealed closing. The tubular belt is a brilliant addition. This design is by Guy Laroche and both it and the pink coat shown above were included in the February/March 1964 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.

Back to my toile: I made the first one without any alterations to the pattern.  The first thing I noticed is that the horizontal seam which extends around the back and angles up on either side of the front, seemed to add extra “baggage” in the lower back.

Here was my first toile atop the waxed marking paper. This shows the lower front and back piece, with its angled side seam.

The seam was designed to be below the waistline, but I determined it might look better on me if it were reset to fall exactly on the waist.  This adjustment would keep the spirit of the design, but would be more flattering on me for some reason.

I made another slight adjustment to the shoulder line.  First I cut the shoulder line on the body of the coat back about ½ inch on either side, to reduce some excess fabric across the upper chest.  That made some pulling in the top of the sleeves. So then I added about ½ inch to the top half/curve of each sleeve.  So it was an even swap, just distributed differently.

This shows my markings on the upper shoulder.

And the adjustments to the top of the sleeves.

Interestingly, the sleeves have no shaping by darts or seams on this pattern.  They seemed a bit too full to me, so I tapered the seam to reduce the width of each sleeve by about 1.5 inches.  I have had to make this adjustment to other coat patterns from the same time period, so perhaps a fuller sleeve is a hallmark of that era.  I did not want to narrow the sleeves too much, as they need to be comfortable to wear over long sleeved dresses and sweaters.

I am contemplating adding a half belt, secured with buttons to the back of the coat.  That’s a decision I’ll make as the coat comes together.  The drape of the wool, as opposed to the drape of the muslin, may convince me I do not need it, but I rather like the appearance of a back belt.

Here is a rough mock-up of a possible belt, but this needs much more thought!

I found this picture of another coat which has a high back belt, probably about the length of one which I might add. It is so helpful to find examples like this of design details.

Lots of pink featured in coats from the 1960s. This design was featured in the February/March 1968 International Vogue Pattern Book.

So, I have embarrassing little to show for the past three weeks regarding this coat.  Perhaps the next three weeks may be kinder to me. We shall see!

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Filed under Christian Dior, Coats, Dressmaker coats, Fashion history, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s