Category Archives: Uncategorized

Frugal and Fun and Fast

Do you ever just feel like making something quick and fun and maybe a little whimsical?  Something that isn’t going to task your brain too much, but which is nevertheless rewarding?  

That’s how I was feeling a few days ago.  I just was not ready to start a big new project, of which I have (too) many lined up in my head.  In addition, propped in my sewing room, looking at me forlornly, were a few piles of fabric, leftovers from things I had sewn this past summer.   For the life of me, I cannot throw away any decent length of fabric left over from something I have made.  I always think I’ll need it for something.  That is rarely the case, but for once I decided to do something about it.  I decided to make some aprons.  

Seriously, who doesn’t love an apron?  They can be all-business or whimsical, pretty or frilly, plain or busy, colorful or monotone, practical or impractical.  The list goes on.  Fortunately I had three apron patterns already available to me, one from the 1950s, one from the 1970s and one more recent one, perhaps from the last 10 years or so, shown in order below.

In order to make my leftover fabric go as far as possible, and to make this apron project fit my criteria for fast and fun and frugal, I went with the simple chef’s apron (View F) on the pattern directly above.  The only change I made to the look of it was to construct contrasting ties and pockets.  Not only did I like the idea of adding color and whimsy to my aprons, but this change gave me the ability to use up shorter pieces of fabric.

The first one I made from excess fabric from dresses I made for my granddaughters this past Spring and Summer. 

The neck and waist ties and binding along the side fronts are a continuous piece of bias binding. Oddly, the pattern instructions did not indicate how much should be left for the length of those ties, so I guessed. It seems to have worked out okay!

The second apron used fabric left over from a ribbon-embellished tunic I made for myself, also in the Summer.  The ties and pockets used zigzag-patterned fabric I had on hand to use for “baby tote bags”  I have made over the years as gifts.

That zigzag fabric is quite an effective accent as you can see by these baby tote bags, made years ago… But “so long” to the red zigzags – now they are embellishing aprons!
I decided to divide the pocket into two unequal parts with a simple line of stitching. Otherwise the pocket gaped a bit and could possibly catch on panhandles or other obstacles!

After making two aprons, I was having so much fun, I thought I would look and see what other apron-appropriate fabrics I could find stored away.  I came across a “vegetable” print which is from the 1980s or ‘90s, given to me by a sewing/quilting friend.  I had one yard which was perfect for the main part of the apron.  I stitched this one up in a flash, having perfected a few time-saving techniques in the first two aprons.  

What else would you use this fabric for?

Now I’m ready to approach some more serious sewing!  But what fun to create three distinct looks from one simple-to-make pattern.  My friends and family had better watch out – they may be getting aprons for Christmas…  

26 Comments

Filed under aprons, Uncategorized

Not Just an Everyday Blouse

Some blouses are worn A LOT.  Those are everyday blouses, and I have quite a few of those (with more to come, I am sure!)  And some blouses are worn infrequently, but equally loved for their unique properties.  These would include exceptional fabric, refined or formal appearance, limited wearing opportunity, or their ability to make a statement.  The blouse I most recently completed has all those properties. 

This deep pink silk charmeuse Jacquard has been in my fabric closet for over ten years, having been purchased at Britex Fabrics when I started sewing for myself again, way back when.  Its color, and the polka dot woven motif, both personal favorites, drew me to it.  A couple of years ago, after purchasing another piece of silk – a printed silk twill – I paired the two fabrics together and added them both to my sewing queue.  The skirt may have to wait until next year, but the blouse earned a spot in 2022’s sewing agenda.

Two fabrics meant for each other!

I used a blouse pattern which I have made once before.  From 1957, this pattern is timeless with its elegant collar (which looks good lying flat or propped up around the neck), petite French cuffs and feminine three-quarter length sleeves.  I suppose in 1957, this style blouse may have been considered a casual piece, which the illustrations on the pattern envelope suggest.  I saw this blouse as dressy, however, and that is how I have interpreted it. 

The collar on this blouse is beautifully engineered.
Here is the first blouse, in silk dupioni, I made from this pattern.

One of the details which make this blouse so flattering to wear is the waistline open-ended darts, easily visible above.  They minimize the bulk when the blouse is tucked inside its skirt and add a lovely billow effect above the waist. I made these darts a bit shallower than the pattern indicated.  When making these darts, I secured their upper edges by pulling the thread tail on one side to the other side so that I had the ability to knot those threads with three tight loops.  For those of you who have made a classic French jacket, this is the same method used to secure the quilting stitches at the end of the columns. The photo below helps to show this.

The darts are secured by knots done by hand both top and bottom.
Those open-ended darts are featured on the back of the bodice, too.

Buttons are such fun to select for a blouse like this.  I have had these vintage white pearl buttons for some time, and no doubt they were waiting for this project.  When the skirt is made at some point, the three-lobed profile will play off the designs in the silk twill.  But, more than that, I needed something to act as a foil for the polka-dotted field.  More “round” would have been fine, but not exciting.  Additionally, these buttons are a bit bigger which helps them hold their own on that deep, rich, pink silk.  

The French cuffs are secured by buttons both front and back.
Love those buttons!

Being the ‘statement” blouse that it is, I doubt I will be wearing this blouse casually. But I’m betting/hoping I will find good reason to wear it not infrequently to one or another tony event.  

24 Comments

Filed under Blouse patterns from the 1950's, Blouses, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Mid-Century style, Polka dots, sewing in silk, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

The Last Pink (and Blue and White) of Summer

Sometimes the smallest thing can be the deciding factor in the trajectory of a sewing project.  In the case of this dress – my last dress of summer sewing – the buttons told me how to proceed.  There was some serendipity involved as well, which is often the case with my sewing, it seems.  

I purchased the very light and airy white and blue fabric from Britex Fabrics two or three years ago. When it arrived, I tucked it away to think about it.  Somewhere along the line, I purchased the buttons you see here, but not for this fabric.  (I rarely let deep pink vintage buttons get away from me if I can help it.)  Somehow the two – the buttons and the fabric – found each other and became best friends.  That was all well and good, except for the fact those six little buttons needed some help to bring out the fuchsia and orange dots sprinkled amongst the blue flowers on the white background.  Enter deep pink Petersham ribbon left over from holiday dresses I made for my granddaughters last Fall.  Somehow, although this ribbon was not a match to either the fuchsia or the orange, it worked!  I had my palette….

The interesting thing about the color of the pink ribbon is it seems to be the shade if one mixed the fuchsia and orange dots together. And yes, the buttons are very old!

I had decided to use this pattern again, but a longer version, with different sleeves.  

However – and doesn’t it seem there is always an “however” to muddle the plans – I only had six of those petite little buttons.  And theoretically I needed at least eight.  So – I had to get creative.  

I decided I could eliminate two buttons on the bodice if I reconfigured the front opening and collar.  Here is what I did:

  • I angled the front opening: starting at about 6 inches down from the neckline seam, I drew a line from the fold line to the center front line, ending at the neckline.   
  • This allowed me to shorten the collar stand (so it was flush with the front edge of the collar), thus eliminating the need for a button on it.  
  • I redrew the collar so that it would be most attractive either standing up or lying flat.
  • The original pattern had a self-facing for the bodice (as you can see below), so I had to make a separate, applied facing to accommodate the angle.  
  • The angled opening also allowed for the first button to be 6 inches down – meaning I could get away with two buttons on the bodice – if I used snaps at the waist (which isn’t a bad idea anyway.)
On the right above is my muslin pattern made from the original design. On the left is my reconfigured bodice pattern showing the angle detailed above. (My separate facing piece is not shown.)

Here is what the reconfigured collar and collar stand look like up close:

Two buttons on the bodice allowed me 4 buttons for the skirt, which was adequate.  I actually added a small snap 3+ inches below the lowermost button to hold the skirt together indiscreetly. 

Moving on with more changes:  the flowing nature of the fabric dictated a change in the tailored sleeves of the pattern.  I knew I wanted below elbow length with a little bit of fullness, but not too much. A narrow sleeve band seemed appropriate.  And then there was the decision where to apply the narrow Petersham ribbon on the sleeve bands.  Next to the seamline with the gathered line of the body of the sleeve looked best to my eye, so that’s what I did.  

I was fortunate enough to have enough of the narrow Petersham ribbon to put two rows of it at the lower part of the skirt.  These two rows of trim are absolutely essential for this dress to look balanced. 

Unfortunately I didn’t have my preferred blue shoes with me for these photos.

I should mention I underlined the entire dress, with the exception of the sleeves, with very lightweight cotton batiste.  I finished all the seams with Hug Snug seam binding.  

I like the bodice “angled” neckline and the reconfigured collar so much, I will probably use these alterations again sometime, even if I am not compromised by too few buttons!  

Without those little rosy-pink buttons – and without leftover trim from my granddaughters’ dresses – the white and blue flowered fabric would probably still be sitting in my fabric cupboard.  Instead, I was able to finish my summer sewing not only with more pink, but with a dress I really like!  

28 Comments

Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Sleeves, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, Vogue patterns

A Blue, White and Pink Tunic Top

Perhaps many of you are familiar with this famous quote from Edith Head (American costume designer, 1897-1981): “A dress should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to prove you’re a lady.”  When it comes to tunic tops, my very inelegant redo of that quote is: “A tunic should be fitted enough to not be baggy and loose enough to be able to get into it.”  I find that combination to be a difficult task.  Let’s see how I did with this one:

When I saw this pretty fabric on Emma One Socks’s website, I just knew I needed to purchase a length of it. All cotton, it is finely woven and silky soft.  Originally, I thought I would make a dress, but when it arrived, I saw it as a tunic top, trimmed in pink, of course.  I have a couple of tunic patterns, but I went back to this one because the front opening is longer than most, making it easier to get on and get off. 

Yes, I needed to shorten it to be a tunic top rather than a dress, but that’s an easy thing to do.

The interesting thing about this pattern is that there is no fastener/button indicated for that long opening.  I’m not sure how one would keep a degree of modesty – or even keep the tunic properly on one’s body – without a button or at least a hook and eye.  More about that later.

There are a couple of features of this pattern I like, besides that long opening in the front.  It has shoulder darts in the back, which I always find add just a little necessary fitting finesse. 

I love these diagrams which give so much information about the pattern. The shoulder darts are clearly indicated here.

I also like the way the front facing is constructed, and the width of the stand-up collar.  However, the pattern lacks slimming darts in the back.  My limited experience with sewing tunics has taught me that without long defining fisheye darts in the back, my tunic is going to be baggy and look like a sack.  So, I added them.  

There are darts there!

I also shortened the sleeves, as I prefer a length just below the elbow, and I took out some of the width of the “trumpet.”  Even with a narrower sleeve, I knew turning up a hem on it would result in a less than smooth finish.  To get around this, I took the pattern piece for the bottom panel for the long sleeve (shown on the pattern), flipped it, narrowed it, and shortened it to give me a facing which would be a perfect fit into the lower curve of the sleeve.  

The “trumpet” design of the sleeve is evident here.
Here is the facing piece I cut from the pattern.
And here it is pinned in place.
The seam connecting the sleeve to the facing is visible here. I turned up a scant 1/4″ of the unfinished edge of the facing and machine sewed it in place. The pink thread you see is from the attachment of the trim.

Back to that front opening:  when sewing the facing on, I added a loop to the right side so that I could strategically place a button to keep the gap closed.  On this fabric, it seems hardly noticeable, but oh my, is it necessary!  

One of the beauties of tunics is there are no rules on how trim is applied or placed or even if it is used.  I had purchased two widths of Petersham ribbon for use on this garment, fully intending on using two rows to echo the front opening.  However, I determined that would be too much.  Instead, I used the narrower ribbon on the collar and as the second row around the hem and the side slits.  The sleeves seemed to look better with the wider width of ribbon. The ribbon adds a degree of stability to the hem, especially, which helps the tunic to hang properly.  

By the way, sewing all that Petersham ribbon on is helped immensely by the use of Dritz WashAway adhesive tape.

Obviously I have not washed this tunic yet, but in its first laundering the tape securing the ribbon will, indeed, wash away. I expect a softer appearance of the ribbon at that point, which seems to have a few waves in it at present.

Pictures often are the best way to check fit on a garment (even after multiple try-ons to fine-tune it), and I was pleased with the final, slightly fitted, non-baggy appearance of this tunic.  In other words, it does not look like a sack!  It is easy to slip on, less so getting it off, but still very manageable.  (Sometimes a side zipper can be – or needs to be – added to help with this task of dressing and undressing.  The abbreviated length of this example precluded that option.) 

If I make this pattern again, I may make the darts a little bit deeper for more definition.

I’m not sure what Edith Head would have thought about tunics, if anything (!), but I am thinking positively about this one.  

27 Comments

Filed under Blouses, Fashion commentary, Loops for buttons, Tunics, Uncategorized, Vogue patterns

A Copy of a Copy in Casual Gingham

Although I rarely purchase any Ready-to-Wear (RTW) clothing, I often find it to be a great source of inspiration and ideas for me.  (I have written about this before, twice at least).  I know I am not alone as often I will see beautiful products of top-notch fashion sewing inspired by RTW.  A few years ago on my Instagram feed, I saw a post by Julie Starr (co-author with Sarah Gunn of The Tunic Bible and Classic Sewing) featuring a lovely blouse which she made as a copy of a Gretchen Scott design.  I was very taken with it – it was a traditional casual, collared, button-down-the-front blouse, but with a twist.  The elbow length sleeves ended in a graceful ruffle rather than the traditional to-the-wrist buttoned cuff.  She had made hers in a petite windowpane blue check.  It was so fresh and charming, and I kept thinking about it as the months/years went by.  When I found a medium pink, cotton, 1” gingham check this past Spring at Farmhouse Fabrics, I knew the time had come to make my yearning a reality.

  

I used my go-to, tried and true blouse pattern as the base for my copy/re-creation, making several changes to effect the look I wanted.

  • I shortened the point and slope of the collar.
  • I added very narrow darts to the front, beginning a couple of inches below the bust and continuing into the hem.

The darts are faintly visible in this photo. The darts help to define the shape of the front of the blouse.
  • Obviously I shortened the sleeves to accommodate the ruffle.
  • And –

I placed the collar band and the yoke on the bias.  This aligned with the bias band I used to cover the seam where the ruffle meets the sleeve, as seen above.

It was fun to have to think through the changes that were needed and to mix up that pattern a bit.  If I use a pattern over and over, I find it can get a little B O R I N G.  This blouse was not boring.  After I finished it, I was, however, a little conflicted about it.  I don’t wear a lot of ruffles, even casually, and it took a few wearings of this blouse to feel completely comfortable in it.  Now I find it fun to wear.

I made a self sash to wear with this blouse in case it needs to appear a little dressier.

There is one change I will make should I ever make another blouse of the same design.  I think I will taper the vertical seam of the sleeve down to the ruffle gradually by about an inch.  It may not be obvious to anyone else, but I think the diameter of the sleeve where the ruffle is attached is just a bit too wide.

Most of my summer wardrobe needs are for casual attire, whether I like it or not!  I find this blouse has a bit of flair to it, which steps it up a notch while still being casual and easy-to-wear.  I guess you could say this blouse progressed from Ready-to-Wear – to a First Copy – to a Copy of the First Copy – to Easy-to-Wear. Many thanks to Julie Starr for the inspired First Copy.  

43 Comments

Filed under Blouses, Ruffles, Uncategorized

Life Isn’t Perfect…

…but Your Outfit Can Be.  I took a picture last summer of this sign at a Western wear store in Pinedale, Wyoming (Cowboy Shop).   I loved the saying, but little did I know how often I would reflect on it this summer, which has had its difficulties.  

And even when my outfit, like Life, is far from perfect, which has been often, I know there is always Hope, and yes, that is hope with a capital H.  

*******

What a long hiatus it has been between my last musings about Trench coats and Dressmaker coats and pink gingham.  The final, finishing  stitch in my pink checked coat was in mid-June, and at this point I can hardly remember what I wanted to say about it.  

I purchased the pink silk gingham from Farmhouse Fabrics several years ago.

It does seem appropriate to start with the changes I made to the pattern, of which there were two major ones.  The first change was to the size of the collar.  In the 1970s long pointed collars were a trend.  Although I like a pointed collar, one with a more petite profile seemed to be a little more flattering and classic.  To achieve this desired look, I shortened the collar’s points by about an inch on either side.  

For comparison purposes, here is a good look at the original collar.

When I made this coat in 1974, I remember being a bit disappointed with the volume of the back of the coat.  I was using a cotton twill, so it was a heavier fabric than the silk taffeta in my new version, making the volume seem even more pronounced.  But even so, I thought I would be happier with a less full back.  I experimented around with my muslin/toile until I got the desired girth.  It turned out I eliminated a total of three inches from the back pattern pieces, 1 ½” from each side back panel.

Again, the image of the 1974 pattern illustrates the volume of the gathering in the original design.

In addition to these alterations, I had a slight construction change.  The instructions for the  gathering of the lining at the back waistline called for using elastic thread.  First of all, I didn’t have any elastic thread, nor did I think it would give the look I wanted even though it would not be very apparent on a lining.  Instead, I had some elastic cord, and I attached it by hand, using embroidery floss in a criss-cross stitch enclosing it the width of the back.  Worked like a charm, and I like the effect it made.

This is the wrong side of the lining, showing the criss cross I achieved with embroidery floss.
And here is what it looks like on the right side of the lining. The lining gathers beautifully with this thread channel for the elastic cord, as is apparent in the image below.

Once I had the coat partially assembled, I decided I would have liked it to be a bit longer than I planned with the muslin.  I was very tight with fabric, so I really could not have cut it longer and still been able to get the coat out of the fabric I had.  So, to gain another inch and a half, I decided to face the hem right to the point where the lining would be attached.    It certainly took extra effort, but I’m glad I did it as I much prefer the slightly longer length.  

The one thing I would change should I ever make this coat again (which I doubt) would be to add about an inch or so to the diameter of the cuffs.  I would like to keep them buttoned and be able to slip my hands through them.  As they are, they are too tight to do that.  This was something I could have determined had I made a muslin/toile with completed sleeves, which I did not.  All I did was check the length.  A good reminder to me to be more thorough in situations like this.  

When I was planning this coat, I intended to use this vintage silk fabric for the lining.

However, even though I underlined the fashion fabric with white cotton batiste, I felt there was a slight “see-through” of the black details in the print of the intended fabric.  In the meantime, I had ordered a piece of polished cotton in “Paris Pink” from Emma One Sock Fabrics.  Although not an exact match, the two fabrics – the pink checked taffeta and the polished cotton – made a pretty pair so I changed course, and the rest is history.

I am quite happy with this pink lining!

No report on this coat would be complete without mention of the buttons. Again, I went with vintage mother-of-pearl buttons. These have a carved detail in them, which I thought would pair nicely with the gingham.

I chose to do machine buttonholes on this silk coat.

This was an involved, lengthy project.  I was rather in awe of my 24-year-old self for attempting it “back in the day.”  But making it again brought back hidden memories (good ones) and new appreciation for all that I have learned over the ensuing years.  Wearing my new version of this Trench-inspired coat will, I believe, fall into the “nearly perfect“ category.  

44 Comments

Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Christian Dior, Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker coats, Linings, Mid-Century style, Silk taffeta, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s

Is It a Trench Coat – or Is it Not?

It is not.  However, I am quite sure this classic look from 1974 was inspired by the classic Trench Coat as we know it.  

I am certain this Vogue pattern is from 1974, as it is featured in that year’s July/August issue of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.  It is part of a section entitled NEW ARRIVALS.  

The caption tells me it is made in silk shantung, a little bit of information unknown to me when I decided to make my (new) version of it in silk taffeta.  

Interestingly, in the same NEW ARRIVALS section, a dress by Patou also is reminiscent of Trench coat style, with its epaulets, slotted pockets with shaped flaps and a belted waist.  It also has a center back inverted pleat.

Fast forward two years and here is a very classic Trench in the 1976 September/October issue of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine.  

The caption reads: “Come rain, come shine, what more liveable coat than the trench!  All that star reporter elan in epaulets, front & back shields, center back inverted pleat.”  This particular pattern also includes a detachable lining for the coat and additional detachable collar. I believe that is the collar you see in red in the above picture from the magazine.  The thumbnail drawings of the pattern are helpful in seeing these details:

Now, hang onto your hats and fast forward 46 years to 2022.  The Trench Coat, despite being in fashion since the 1940s, is apparently enjoying new attention and reimagination according to an article in the Style & Fashion section of The Wall Street Journal, April 23-24, 2022.  Although I am a little doubtful as to the long-lasting appeal of some of the Trench Coat variations shown and suggested in the article by Katharine K. Zarrella – which include a skirt, pants and a corset (really?) – some of the reflections and thoughts on Trench Coat style by various fashion insiders are worth sharing.  

Michael Kors is quoted as saying:  “A trench coat inherently feels like an old friend that makes you feel very secure…  But you want an old friend to surprise you.”  (Pink checks, anyone?)

Jane Tynan, author of a soon-to-be-released book entitled Trench Coat, says the appeal of the Trench to contemporary women is the “danger and sensuality it conveys.” (Think spies and clandestine meetings.)  However, a certain Loa Patman of Boston, Massachusetts, says, “Anything trench-inspired tends to look somewhat pulled together and professional.”  

Well, I don’t expect to be doing any sleuthing in my Trench-inspired Christian Dior design from 1974, but I do aspire to feel “pulled together” while wearing it.  Right now it is anything but pulled together, as you can see from the photos of my “work in progress”.  

Thinking further about the origins – and definitional category – of this particular design from the House of Dior, it seems to me to be a cross between a dressmaker coat and a Trench. Perhaps “Dressmaker Trench” might be the best description. As you will recall, if you follow this blog, I have referred to “dressmaker coats” before. Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion describes it as: “A woman’s coat designed with softer lines and more details than the average coat. May have a waistline and unusual details, e.g., tucks or pleats.” (p. 92, ibid.)

I’m not sure Dressmaker Coat is a descriptor many use anymore, but it certainly is useful. One thing I am quite certain of, once this Trench-inspired Dressmaker Coat is finished – it promises to stand the test of further time. I anticipate it as a staple in my Spring and early Summer wardrobe.

5 Comments

Filed under Christian Dior, Coats, Dressmaker coats, Fashion commentary, Mid-Century style, Silk taffeta, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s

Personal Style – And the Passage of Time

Over the past few weeks, in anticipation of my current project, I have been thinking about personal style and how it changes – or doesn’t change – over the decades of one’s life.  What  prompted my contemplation is this pattern:

I purchased this pattern when it was new about 1974 or ’75, when I was in my mid-twenties.  I loved the style then, and although I was in dire need of clothes to wear to work, such as dresses and skirts, I must have decided I needed this coat more.  I made it in a tan cotton twill, and it accompanied me on many a trip on the commuter rail line into Philadelphia (Pennsylvania.)    At some point years later, I obviously discarded it, along with other pieces I had diligently sewn.  I am certainly glad I kept the pattern, as I still love this style. Working on it now is a true deja vu experience.

I am not sure I recognized it per se, but my fascination with coats must have already been firmly established in my personal style, even then.  For example, I was obsessed with this color-blocked coat pattern:

At the time, I remember resisting the urge to purchase it, as I could not guarantee to myself that I would actually get around to making it.  The pattern was too expensive ($3.50) for me, at that time, to take that risk.  However, though many years passed by, I never forgot it. Those of you who follow this blog know that I did finally purchase this pattern a few years ago and this time, I did make it! It continues to be one of my favorite pieces, and I feel wonderful wearing it.

Then there is this pattern, also purchased in the mid-seventies:  

I must have thought this was a more practical style and worth the cost.  I never made it, but one of these days I intend to.  

Buried deep in my cedar closet is a white wool coat, purchased when I was in high school in the mid-sixties.  I am not sure why I have kept it all these years except that I loved it and perhaps in some way treasured it more since my father bought it for me.  Its style is very similar to the coat of this pattern – a style I still love  – and also hope to make some day. 

I find it interesting that three of the patterns pictured are Christian Dior designs. Hmmmm…

I guess what I am getting at, using these coats as an example, is how consistent my style has remained over almost five decades.  How about you?  Do you still gravitate to the same profiles in clothes that you wore in your twenties (assuming you are at least 40)?  If not, what has changed?  

What has changed for me is not the style, but the choice of fabrics and color.  I am more adventurous in using color than I was as a young woman, although even then, I gravitated towards pink. 

I made this Moygashel linen dress for our Honeymoon in 1973. Pink? YES!

All this makes me wonder if one’s personal style is part of their DNA; why, for example, do I like softly tailored, feminine clothes (and have obviously done so for years) while someone else likes the Bohemian look and wears it well; why does someone prefer to wear black, and more black, while I love color (and the occasional black, too).  Quentin Bell summed this observation up well in his quote:  “Our clothes are too much a part of us ever to be entirely indifferent to their condition; it is as though the fabric were indeed a natural extension of the body or even of the soul.”  [my italics]

And what about the person who follows every fashion trend that comes along?  Do they not have that personal style component in their DNA, or are they governed by different needs?  Toby Fischer-Mirkin, in her book Dress Code addresses this – and offers some frank advice – in her chapter entitled Fashion and Status:  Under the Spell of Haute Couture:  “The unrelenting quest to be fashionable is usually undertaken to fill not a closet, but a personal void….  A woman’s fashion compass should come from within.  When you’re aware of what works for you, you’ll take pride in that aesthetic and, within the boundaries of good taste, project the person you truly are.”  (pages 146-147)

Clarkson Potter/Publishers, New York, New York, c1995

Is your personal style really that important?  Does it allow you to project the person you truly are?  If so, I can understand why one’s personal style does not change very much over the years.  Indeed, Givenchy once said, “With style, you must stay as you are.”  When I was a young woman in my twenties, I never would have guessed I would, decades later, still gravitate towards the same patterns, the same silhouettes, and have the same weaknesses for certain apparel (such as coats.)  I have changed personally in many other ways, but obviously my personal style has not – the recognition of which has been a revelation to me.  

I suspect there are many, many of you who, once you think about it, can say the same thing?  

22 Comments

Filed under Christian Dior, Coats, Fashion commentary, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized

A Very Pink Coat, Part 3

Added Value….  There is a significant little entry in 101 Things I learned in Fashion School (Alfredo Cabrera with Matthew Frederick, Grand Central Publishing, New York, New York, 2010, page 40).  Although aimed at Ready-To-Wear customers and the designers who cater to them, it certainly is meaningful to those of us who sew our own fashions:  “Fashion customers often need to be convinced to buy a new garment that, in effect, they already own.  …  Value added details [my emphasis] are those that are inherently necessary to a garment but are executed in a novel or interesting way…”  thus making them attractive to potential customers.  

Well, not that I really need convincing to make another coat for myself, but I will freely admit it is the unique little details in a pattern (and gorgeous fabric, of course) which convince me I MUST make THIS coat, even though I might not really NEED it.  Such was the case with my very pink coat, which is now finished.  

Those details included 1) the three welt pockets with flaps, 2) the concealed front closure, 3) the  arrowhead detail accompanying the minimal top-stitching, 4) the sleeve tabs (okay, not really a necessary detail, but a very nice one!), and 5) the opportunity to add a little flash to the lining with edge-piping.

I’ll cover the sleeve tabs first since they were the detail in question in my last post. 

 As you can observe, I decided to leave them with the buttons facing forward.  Several comments left by readers (thank you – you know who you are and I am very appreciative!) got me thinking anew about the orientation of the tabs.  Then I had an aha moment when I realized that the one button which is visible on the front of the coat, at the neckline, might look a bit disconnected without its counterparts showing on the sleeves.  Decision made, with confidence!  However, I doubt I will ever look at a sleeve tab in quite the same way again. 

The three welt pockets with flaps are quite likely my favorite detail on this coat.  First of all, I like making them.  There is a certain feeling of empowerment, although slightly nerve-wracking, to cut those big slashes into the front of the coat and be confident it will all be okay. And this type of pocket is just so pretty when they are done.  In addition, while they are utilitarian, they also suggest refinement, elevating a simple car coat to a coat with some sophistication and flair. 

Here is the underside of one of those pockets, with the slash” clearly visible.
As you can see, I used lining fabric (Bemberg from Emma One Sock Fabrics) for the facing on the flaps. And here’s a fun fact – that small pocket on the right side is called a “ticket pocket,” small and shallow, perfect for a printed ticket. As printed tickets go the way of the dinosaurs, this little pocket may become obsolete – but I sincerely hope not. It adds so much to the visual pleasure of this coat and other similar garments.
A good view of the small “ticket pocket.”

I must have a certain penchant for concealed coat fronts.  This is the third one I have made and I can let you know there may be more to come (but not soon.)   As I mentioned in my last post, I was able to reduce the bulk of the closure by using my lining fabric for one layer of the buttonhole side of the front flap.  

I made three machine buttonholes for this part of the flap, which made everything lay flat and neat. 

The gray buttons – 6 of them, which is what I needed – were in my collection, so that was a happy find. They are 1950s’ vintage gray pearl, very appropriate indeed for this 1957 pattern.

Although this coat pattern called for some topstitching, it was minimal.  Just the sleeve tabs, the pocket flaps and the collar, plus the front detail on the right side.  I was unhappy with the machine topstitching I did at the front closure.  There was enough bulk from the wool and the facing and the fly front, that it interfered with the smoothness of the topstitching.  So I took it out.  Initially I was going to do without topstitching and the arrowhead detail, but it looked a bit plain and unfinished.  So I did my fallback to what I know works – topstitching by hand.  Because of the hand-worked arrowhead detail, I felt hand topstitching would not look out of place.  Of course, I had never done an embroidery arrowhead before, so I had to practice, practice practice  so it hopefully does not look amateurish.  

I purchased matching embroidery floss for the arrowhead detail and the hand top-stitching.

Finally, coat linings lend themselves so beautifully to that extra little treatment – a narrow edge piping.

  I deviated from my Vogue pattern to add this dressmaker detail, but I am sure they would have approved.  My Avoca wool scarf which is such a perfect complement to this coat inspired me to choose checked piping.  I “robbed” a small corner from some pink silk gingham (intended for a Spring coat, as mentioned previously here) to make my flat piping.  

I purchased the pink cashmere wool for this coat from Farmhouse Fabrics.

Well, there you have it.  My first major project of 2022 finished.  I am happy I chose pink for my theme this year as it has brightened up many a dark day in this troubled world of ours. 

24 Comments

Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, car coats, Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker details, Mid-Century style, piping, Scarves, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, woolens

A Very Pink Coat, Part 2

The pattern for a very pink coat has many pieces.  

When I am getting ready to start a new project with a pattern new to me, I like to read through all the instructions just to get a feel for what is ahead.  That lets me know if I can mix things up a bit, deviate from the step-by-step instructions, prepare a component ahead of time (such as sleeves.  If I feel confident about the fit, I will often make the sleeves first and set them aside until I am ready for them).  During this initial study of the instruction sheet, all was straightforward except for one thing.  For the life of me, I could not figure out how the  concealed – or fly – opening on the front was constructed.  I have done this type of opening before (here and here), but this construction was different.  

Because I wanted to use my gray lining fabric for one layer of the buttonhole side of the opening (to reduce bulk) I needed to know if I could do that and be confident that the lining would not show.  So I REALLY needed to understand how this detail went together.  I decided I would have to do a trial run.  What better use of a well-marked muslin (toile) than to use it for this task?  Armed with pins, I proceeded to do a mock-up.  

Here are the two separate fly pieces, one attached to the facing and the other one attached to the right front coat piece.
Here are the attached fly pieces folded back from the front edge. This detail allowed me to use the lining fabric for one layer of the buttoned side.
Here the two sides are sandwiched together to show the concealed opening.

Instead of taking my mock-up apart, I decided to keep it for referral when I got to that point of the coat.  And I am so glad I did.  It helped me through many a confusing moment, giving me confidence that I was doing this correctly.  Wouldn’t it be nice if all of life gave one a trial run first before facing the real thing – and then stood by to offer reassurance?  Well, you will have to wait to see the finished opening in my next post, but it is all but complete.  And I must confess, I think it is going to be very lovely.

Now here is something to ponder.  A few days ago I walked into my sewing room and was startled to observe something that did not seem right on my up-to-that-point constructed coat.  I had it hanging on my dress form and almost had a panic attack when I looked at the to-be-buttoned tabs on the sleeves.  It certainly looked as though I had sewn them on backwards!  The buttonholes, and therefore the soon-to-be-attached buttons, were oriented toward the front of the sleeve, rather than the back.

Before completely losing it, I went to my pattern, and there, plain as day in the illustration, the tabs wrapped around to the front of the sleeve.  

I still could not quite believe it, so I went to the illustrations in the 1957 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine, shown in my last post.  Yep – the tabs were oriented the same way as mine.  Just to make sure, I checked the silk organza under-lining on the two-part sleeves to double check my markings which would tell me that the backs of the sleeves were truly in the back (although my common sense had already answered this question for me.  Of course, the sleeves would not have gone in as smoothly as they did if I had put them in incorrectly).  

After being reassured repeatedly that I had not made a BIG mistake, I started to question why the tabs were oriented that way.  I looked for other examples of buttoned sleeve tabs.  I found one or two in which the tab wraps around to the front, but most tabs were sewn into the inside seam, wrapped around the front and buttoned just past the center point of the sleeve (or seam, if there was a center seam as with my pattern), toward the back.  I wondered if this might one of those things which is distinctly feminine, such as the fact that buttonholes on womens’ apparel are on the right, whereas mens’ are on the left.  But no, I could not verify that.  

Here is one of the few examples I found showing the tab buttoning toward the front of the sleeves.
And here is an example of the more customary orientation of the buttoned tab. Both illustrations are from Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion, ibid.

Now I am left with a decision to make.  Somehow, I think I would like the tabs on my coat to button toward the back.  I had faced the tabs with my gray lining fabric, again to reduce bulk.  I think that gray lining would better stay undercover should the tabs button in the back. I also think a backward orientation will reduce the incidence of “catching” the tab on things.  Both of those considerations obviously figure into my thinking.  Do I take out the bottom part of the finished sleeves, with their pretty catch-stitched seams, remove the tabs and reorient them?   

This photo of the interior seam of one of the sleeves shows the end of the tab catch-stitched in place along with the seams. The clips you see are where the hem turns back.

Or do I leave well-enough alone and stay true to my vintage pattern? I must decide before the lining goes in the coat. Which brings me to the realization I have just 4 pattern pieces remaining, all for the lining.  Part 3 of this saga is just around the corner.  

20 Comments

Filed under car coats, Coats, couture construction, Mid-Century style, Sleeves, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, woolens