Friday, September 29, 2017

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My Next Vintage Sewing Project - Butterick B6485 1944 Dress

Retro Butterick 1944 Dress - B6485
This December, we are headed to New York City for another holiday work trip in my favorite city for vintage fashion.

Of course this means I'm already pondering my wardrobe and the weather. It's going to be cold, so break out the tweed suit, the cashmere coat, and that cute-as-heck little knitted elf hat I got last winter. But naturally I want something new to look chic in while representing Royal Vintage at our first footwear trade show, FFANY (Fashion Footwear Association of New York).

I recently picked up this new pattern from Butterick, a 1944 retro re-issue, B6485. Initially the pattern illustrations didn't attract me. It looked overly complicated and "meh," but I was completely seduced by the sample garment shown on the model, and quite impressed by the quality and sensitive styling Butterick did for their cover shoot. Sold.

Butterick B6485 pattern illustration - "meh" said I. I wasn't excited by these drawings, but the sample garment shown on the model is gorgeous. I hope it will look as good on me.
What I like about this pattern is that there are many fitting points (all those darts), and on-the-go adjustability built in with the tie back. The design also allows for a long waist. I may or may not convert the center back zipper to a size zip for more accuracy. And we'll just have to see how the shoulder pads go. ;-)

Butterick B6485 - adjustability in the back with a tie.
I initially thought of wool crepe in something striking like powder blue or burgundy, but I wasn't able to find much (which is typical for 100% wool crepe). Instead, I went with another very-vintage textile, 100% rayon challis in a sophisticated medium grey, which is also a great neutral for strong-hued accessories in a variety of colors.

So this will be my NYC 2017 dress. I've been itching to make another 1940s frock for awhile and I'm excited to get started. More updates soon!
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Thursday, September 28, 2017

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Pattern Review: Decades of Style #2502 - 1925 Zig Zag Dress

Hello Lovelies!

Abby here, reporting for 1920s vintage-y fashion-y goodness! Today, I wanted to share with y'all my snazzy new 1920s dress I made for The Gatsby Summer Afternoon in Oakland earlier this month. 

Lounging with some lovely friends at the Gatsby Summer Afternoon in Oakland. 
My dress pattern is from the amazing Decades of Style Pattern company and is #2502 1925 Zig Zag Dress. I saw someone wearing this dress at Costume College earlier this summer, and I just fell in love with the sweet details that really make it quite the beautiful dress. I also loved the fact that it had a sleeved option, as sleeveless garments are not my favorite things to wear. 

My fabric is a nice cotton voile from our local Mill End fabric store here in Reno, and it was just perfect for this dress. My white details are out of just a white cotton voile scrap that I had laying around from ages and ages ago. 

I've always had a soft spot for 1920s fashion, and even though I don't consider myself any sort of real collector of antique or vintage clothing, I seem to always find myself acquiring 1920s dresses for a variety of reasons.  So, while I love the decade, I was a little bit nervous about rocking this style, because I am not the ideal body shape for this look. But...I really wanted to have a lot of fun at the event and just enjoy wearing something that is soo unique for me, and I was hoping that the Decades of Style dress would help me feel pretty in this decade.

Guess what? It did! - thank goodness!

The finished dress

The Good:
This pattern, despite how intimidating it looks, was actually pretty simple to put together. The bodice and sleeve construction was, for the most part, really easy. Even the skirt was much easier than I had anticipated. I'm not a machine sewer (as I've said before - here), and I was really nervous about machine sewing all of the piping details onto the skirt. Everything was on the bias in the skirt and I really wanted it to have a polished finish. So, I did a lot of basting and a lot of pinning, and it totally paid off. I am extremely pleased with how the skirt came out in this dress. 

Adding the white piping details to the skirt per the pattern instructions.

When combining the skirt and bodice of the dress, I first pinned and then hand basted the skirt into place before top stitching on the machine. 

The Abby Overthinks Things and Makes it Harder on Herself:

This next part, I am going to blame heavily on myself, because I truly think I over thought it, and I want to warn others of not making my mistake. I had a bear of a time with the gathers at the shoulder for this dress. It just drove me bonkers, and I just think it was because I'm used to gathering up on average 2x the width vs. 1.5x or less. I just want to gather everything up really tight, and that isn't always how it's supposed to go. I also had my thread pull out a couple of times because of how thin and loosely woven my cotton was, and that just, simply, pissed me off. Eventually, I got there though, and it does look pretty finished...even though it made me mad. 

The Modifications from the Original Pattern:

I did make a couple of modifications to the pattern to 1. make my life easier (yeah, I'm lazy...) 2. fit the aesthetic and design balance I was going for, that the original instructions wouldn't have worked for.  

The first was how I modified the neckline - I just bound the V-neckline in white bias tape instead of adding the necktie. I was going to make the necktie separately, but I ended up just running out of time. I do want to make one though, just to have to wear with this outfit and future ones.

The next thing I did was change how the cuff of the sleeves were finished. The original pattern calls for cuffs, and while I had cut them out to stitch up, I was fussing about how I could elegantly include more white details to help balance the dress. I first tried just binding the edges of the sleeve and leaving them loose, with great hopes that the look would be ethereal and elegant....but instead I just felt like a big blue potato. My fix was to pull some inspiration from the 1810s, and add white ties around my wrist to give a ruffled cuff. Luckily, it totally worked, even though I do need help with tying the sleeves. 

I love the details in this dress! 

Final Thoughts:

Y'all...I just love this dress pattern....so much so that I've already bought some wine colored worsted wool to make a winter version for this season. While I don't know if I'll do the piping details again for the winter version, I just loved how this gown moved and made me feel. I'm hoping for a very elegant and comfortable winter work dress. I highly, highly, recommend this Decades of Style pattern for your collection. 

Feeling pretty at the Gatsby Summer Afternoon - even if it was incredibly hot!

The Outfit:
Purse: 1920s vintage from The Nitty Gritty.
Jewelry: Necklace was my Great-Grandmother Scott's (Pre-1935), Earrings are from Sign of the Grey Horse, and Black/White Royal Vintage Enamel Pin. 
Sunnies: Charming Charlie's
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Monday, September 25, 2017

How To Make a 1920s Miss Fisher Wardrobe


For Costume College 2016, one of the classes I taught was about making a "Miss Fisher" wardrobe, developing your style based on the popular Australian murder-mystery show set at the end of the 1920s.

I've talked about Miss Fisher here before, and I had all the good intentions of having an epic class at Costume College, but by the end of Sunday I was wall-eyed with fatigue, and I'm not sure I got across everything I meant to. So I'm going to share it here.


"Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" is set in 1929 and follows the adventures of amateur detective The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher, who with pizzaz, chic, and little permission solves various interesting crimes and killings in Melbourne.


Watching the glamorous Miss Fisher for two seasons, you'll notice she wears a variation of the same outfit just about every episode, particularly in season 2. Phryne's "look" is made up of the same basic pieces:
  • Trousers (most often, but sometimes a skirt)
  • Blouse
  • Long Coat
  • Cloche Hat
Rinse, Repeat.


She wears the same three pieces over and over again, in a character-specific color palette, mixing it up with hats, scarves, and fanciful textiles. When you break it down in this way, the Miss Fisher "look" becomes incredibly accessible, easy to put together, and easy to wear on a daily basis.


Yes, we can all be as chic as Phryne and we can all do it every day and it will be comfortable AND beautiful.

With just a few pieces, your wardrobe begins:
Click for larger view
You may wish to make each item or buy them. When deciding on fabrics and pieces, first think of color palette. Do you have a warm skin tone or a cool one? To determine this, look at the veins on your wrists. If your veins are greenish, you have a warm skin tone; if they are blueish you have a cool skin tone. This will help you decide the most flattering colors for you in clothing as well as makeup, BUT these are guidelines rather than rules. Just because you have a cool skin tone does NOT mean you can't wear a warm hue!


Additionally, most colors have a warm and cool side to them - for instance, turquoise can be quite green or lean more towards blue; burgundy may have more orange to it or be closer to purple. If in doubt or terrified about using a stronger hue as your base color, go with black or white instead, which flatter both and are excellent neutrals.

Miss Fisher, with her pale skin and black hair, wears a palette of cool colors - navy, burgundy, white, black, and turquoise. I also have blue veins, so I'm following Phryne's color scheme in my own wardrobe too.

Next we look at fabrics. Fabric choice is important to the overall Miss Fisher look because we're trying to blend a very casual, loose and flowing silhouette with a more formal, nicer-than-sweatpants look. While it may feel like you're wearing pajamas, the looks is one that's appropriate for a business meeting.


Luckily there's plenty of crepe palazzo trousers and chiffon pussy-bow blouses to buy right now. The robe-coat is a little more challenging to find, but keep your eyes peeled, particularly on Asian fashion sites, for long jackets and lightweight coats.


As concerns the robe-coat, you can stick with your trouser/skirt fabric to get the matching suit look, or you can get wild with your outerwear. Miss Fisher does both!

Now on to prints and motifs. 1929 is the year, so here's what to look for in prints on blouses and scarves:


Lastly, to top is all off, let me convince you of the transformative powers of the cloche hat. The trousers, the blouse, the long robe-coat - this all looks like nice work wear until you put on that cloche hat and then the whole thing comes together. This is what, in our modern world, will really define your look, and it's an opportunity to be creative, flamboyant, and avoid a bad hair day.

Cloches can be easily made or altered. You can buy them online or even at Target, or buy a round head block instead and spend your weekends joyously reverting and reblocking thrift store straw and wool hoods. Hats can be draped or structured, brimmed or slim. Find the shape that works best for your face and go for it.

It takes "hattitude" to put on a killer cloche and strut your stuff in public, but while you may feel self-conscious at first, you get used to it over time. I've always only had positive reactions from muggles when I wear my cloche hats, and many a good conversation resulting.

So how to start? With vintage style more available today than ever, these brands are a good place to shop:


Want to make? Here's a big ole list of patterns I recommend for each piece of the wardrobe:


Now that you're armed with inspiration, info on the basic pieces and good colors for your skin tone, materials and prints/pattern choices, where to shop and sewing patterns to check out, and the knowledge of The Cloche Hat, you have all the tools necessary to make your very own Miss Fisher Wardrobe. The last step is to go out and rock it!

**This post originally appeared on the American Duchess blog in August 2016**
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Thursday, September 21, 2017

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The Gatsby Picnic in Pictures

Lauren, Abby, and Tina at The Gatsby
Oh Gatsby Summer Picnic how I love you ... let me count the ways!

This year Abby and I ventured over the hill to one of my favorite costuming events - The Oakland Gatsby. When I lived in the Bay Area I attended this illustrious lawn party three times, but that was well before I started blogging or making shoes or really dressing in a vintage style every day.


Abby keeping cool in her Decades of Style "zig-zag" dress in aqua cotton voile.

There were a fair few Lillians there. It was so cool seeing them all!
We went as "company representatives" (sounds all official, right? lol) sporting Evelyns and Lillians respectively. It was a hot day - uncomfortably hot - but everyone still managed to look cool and chic in their vintage attire.

Elizabeth in a beautiful 1-hour dress made from vintage fabric.


It was HOT!
And what amazing clothes and cars and picnic setups! I love the dedication to authenticity that the Gatsby presents. There's always an air of fun and frivolity among beauty - the fabulous music to dance to, the beautiful cars and beautiful people, the occasional drunken flapper authentically stumbling around. I just love every moment of it.

Charleston!


The Laced Angel looked beautiful and cool in her early 1920s frock.

If you're interested in the wonderful Gatsby Summer Afternoon, find out more here.
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Monday, September 18, 2017

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The Vintage Makeup Review - with Lauren & Abby


Whether you've gone fully down the vintage style rabbit hole of everyday dress or you need a faceplan for an impending costume party, today we're going to share with you our discoveries concerning vintage repro and still-being-made-today makeup products.

We've selected and tested a number of different products from lipsticks to face powders. Each of these is either a modern historical reproduction (like Besame) or an item that has survived the sands of time and is still being made and sold today (like Coty Airspun and Max Factor Pan-Stik). So without further ado, here are the Pro's, Con's, and Where-to-Buy's of vintage makeup:

Max Factor Pan-Stik Foundation
Introduced in 1948.
A very thick foundation in a variety of colors, in stick form.

Pros: Easy to apply. Very good coverage. Many colors available. Matte finish. This stuff is serious stage-and-screen business.
Cons: Can look a bit weird in certain artificial lights. Can clog pores. Needs powdering throughout the day - feels a bit greasy after day-long wear.
Where to Buy: Amazon or Vermont Country Store



Coty Airspun Face Powder
Since 1935.
A translucent powder and a lot of it. Comes in a plastic box with a large powder puff.

Pros: Definitely does the job. Powder on with the enormous powder puff after applying foundation. Keeps things matte and lovely. The packaging is attractive and reminiscent of the original cardboard box.
Cons: Smells like granny, and maybe not in a good way. The smell is definitely "vintage," and thankfully fades off quickly.
Where to Buy: CVS (if you're lucky), Amazon, Walmart.com



Besame Brightening Face Powders
Repro
Vanilla and violet face powders for post-foundation setting. Also work for setting lipstick and generally brightening the complexion.

Pros: Smells wonderful. Does the job. Works great over foundation and concealer or just on its own. It does appear to brighten the skin up a touch. Comes in cute packaging that is easy to carry with you. Plus this company is a small business manufacturing in the USA.
Cons: The powderpuff is a bit insubstantial. Not a lot of powder for your money.
Where to Buy: Besame.com, Amazon



Tangee Blush
Early 1920s.
One blush to rule them all - the formula changes to the perfect shade for every complexion. Magic.

Pros: It really works. A little goes a long way. Beautiful flush without looking like a clown. Works for all skin tones. No smell.
Cons: A little goes a long way. We mean it! Only available from one vendor.
Where to Buy: Vermont Country Store and Nowhere Else




Besame Lipsticks
Repro
A large selection of colors made according to original colors by decade - authentic shades for the 1920s through the 1970s, each researched and reproduced faithfully.

Pros: Authentic, repro colors for each time period in highly-pigmented formulas that go on and stay on. They also smell wonderful. True reds available for warm and cool skin tones with help choosing your shades on the Besame website.
Cons: Variations in formulas color-to-color mean some lispticks are creamy while others are very dry. It can hurt to put the very dry ones on. The shape of the bullet makes applying from the tube very difficult. The bullet is quite short - you don't get a lot of lipstick for your money, but they do last a long time because of how pigmented they are.
Where to Buy: Besame.com


Tangee Lipstick
Early 1920s.
A novel lipstick that changes according to the wearer's skin tone. Always produces the perfect shade of pink for each individual.

Pros: Easy to apply - creamy formula acts more like a lip gloss than a traditional lipstick and goes on smoothly. Good shape to the bullet. Stays on and is "no fuss" with choosing the right color.
Cons: THE SMELL/TASTE OF THIS STUFF IS DIABOLICAL. Sorry to put that in all caps, but consider that your warning! I wanted to love Tangee and wear it constantly but the odor was so strong it made it unwearable for both me and Abby. The perfume is a mega-strong chemical floral scent that assaults the nostrils all day long and causes a weird feeling in the mouth (yes, you're tasting what you're smelling). Yum.
Where to Buy: Vermont Country Store and Nowhere Else


Besame Cake Mascara
Repro
The old-fashioned cake + brush of the 1920s - get it wet and apply the wax formula.

Pros: Despite being water soluble, this mascara stays on very well. Easier to use than appears. Comes with a brush and pretty packaging. Can also be used for eyebrows Isn't heavy but isn't invisible - build it up in layers.
Cons: Water soluble. Yes, it's got staying power...but don't cry or go swimming. The brush is alright but a spooly style might be easier to use. Let the cake dry before folding the paper back over it or else the paper will stick to it.
Where to Buy: Besame.com, Amazon


To hear more of Lauren and Abby's musings....possibly too much musing...50 minutes of musing....on these products, check out our video below (we shot this live some time ago, so while it is no longer live, it does contain all the shenanigans of a completely improvised show. You've been warned):




**This post originally appeared on the American Duchess blog in December 2016**
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Thursday, September 14, 2017

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Pattern Review: Decades of Style #2005 1920s "Baltimore" Dress

My Decades of Style "Baltimore" dress in green and ivory striped cotton.
This past weekend was one of my favorite events of the year, the Oakland Gatsby. This annual end-of-Summer picnic is a 1920s, 30s, and 40s feast for the eyes with hundreds of well-dressed ladies and gents enjoying an afternoon garden party.

The Gatsby - a huge 1920s lawn party.
There is a costuming standard for The Gatsby - they won't let you in unless you are appropriately dressed! This may seem rough, but the atmosphere this creates is one where, with a little imagination and relaxation, you may slip into a suspension of disbelief and connect with our days of yore in a more palpable way. This trick of the mind reminds me of the movie "Somewhere in Time," and happens all too rarely, making it quite an experience when it is achieved.

Anyway.

Decades of Style #2005 1920s Baltimore Dress pattern.
This year I made a 1920s dress from the new Decades of Style "Baltimore" dress pattern. I liked this pattern because of the geometric lapped seams. My original plan was to transition the frock between '20s and '30s with a belt, but that worked out less splendidly than I'd hoped.

Fun with stripes. The pieces front of the Baltimore dress gave opportunities to be creative with the striped cotton.
I made this dress from a special textile I bought in the gift shop at Quarry Bank Mill on my vacation in England this past June. This cotton was made on the antique machines that run in the mill - the cotton processed, the yarn spun, and the fabric woven. Learning about the mill and observing the machines running was an experience I will never forget. This video shows the loom in action but does not accurately convey the noise of it. Just one machine was so intense that it shook the floor - it was impossible to imagine all of the machines in the multi-story mill running at once. No wonder the mill workers went deaf within months of starting work there.



I did not have a plan for my Quarry Bank cotton when I bought it, but the geometric possibilities with the Baltimore dress presented the perfect opportunity.

The dress was quite easy to construct. There are several lapped seams on the front, and the back is just one piece darted at the neckline. I turned and basted the seam allowances on each piece and top stitched, a very vintage technique. Once the front was all pieces together it was easy going to finish construction. The one place I had trouble was the V neckline, which I attempted to bind in self fabric bias tape. I didn't do so well at the point of the V, but with time running short it was a "good enough for now" attempt to be revisited later.

Lapped seams - one of my favorite vintage techniques.
All in all I found the Baltimore dress very easy. I did curve the side seams in a bit to be more flattering and will probably take more in or possibly dart the back, only because I'd like to wear this dress as an everyday frock rather than just as a costume. My textile choice, in the end, probably wasn't the best. The cotton is perhaps a bit stiff. I felt a bit like a striped potato. This dress made up in chiffon, gabardine, or crepe, however, would be completely different, so if you're planning to give this pattern a try I recommend a textile with some drape to it.

The cotton dress was cool and comfortable in the unseasonable heat this year.
If you'd like to give this easy and accurate pattern a try, check out Decades of Style.
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