Thursday, April 27, 2017


Oh Snap - A 1930s Photoshoot

A couple weeks ago we had the opportunity to shoot with a stunning woman, Rachel, who transformed from a hip, modern gal into a statuesque Joan Crawford movie star.

Love these shoes. LOVE. Evelyn 1930s Oxfords in tan/brown by Royal Vintage
We shot at the University of Nevada, Reno, in the evening just before the sun went down. The light was soft and lovely and the historic buildings provided a lovely backdrop.

Evelyn 1930s Oxfords by Royal Vintage
The dress was made from McCall's M7153, an "Archive Collection" design from 1933 with fun Art Deco lapped seams. We paired the dress with our new "Evelyn" oxfords in tan/brown for a very '30s sportswear look.

It was a group effort, this shoot. Abby, Rachel, and I all worked on Rachel's hair and makeup. Rachel was a real sport for looking so elegant on a rather chilly April evening here in the mountains.

The Particulars:
Dress: Made by Lauren from McCall's M7153
Sunglasses: Charming Charlie
Model: Rachel Huffman
Styling: Abby Cox
Photography: Lauren Stowell
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Friday, April 21, 2017

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Simplicity 8248 1930s Dress - Results and Review

Simplicity 8248 - 1930s Dress - made in rayon-like cotton.
Ever since Simplicity released two new 1930s patterns last Fall I have been just dying to make one up. The timing seemed right with the turn of the seasons and the acquisition of a beautiful rayon-like cotton that seemed perfect for a '30s dress.

I chose Simplicity 8248, a late '30s design with puffed sleeves. I spent quite a lot of time measuring and cutting the multi-size pattern to accommodate my varying bust-to-waist measurement (size 14 bust, size 16 waist) and lengthening the waist, something I always have to do on any sewing pattern.

Simplicity 8248 - I saw this green dress sample in NYC last Fall and it was expertly made. SO gorgeous.
As it turns out, I didn't need to do, well, any of that. For those of you new to sewing, let me introduce you (warn you) to the "Finished Garment Measurements." FGMs are printed on the pattern tissue itself, not on the pattern envelope, and hold the key to making a garment that actually, y'know, fits.

Most patterns have FGMs for the bodice and skirt separately. Simplicity prints them on their respective pattern pieces. This dress' FGM for the skirt was fine, but the measurements for the bodice were a good 5 inches over my body measurements. FIVE inches!

I used the large puffed sleeves from View A on my View B dress. The sleeves make us of a cotton sleeve head inside to maintain the puff. I altered the position of the armscye to get the puffs way up on my shoulder, which I find more flattering.
I had a dilemma. 1930s bodices are meant to be loose and drapey, but how loose is too loose? I went ahead and cut the size 14 according to my body measurements, figuring I could always take it in. In hindsight, I should have cut the smaller size, something closer to a 2 - 3" ease over body measurements, as I ended up taking at least that much out of the bodice as well as shortening it up.

Another major change made was to the width of the shoulders. For ladies who have narrow backs and shoulders, puffed sleeves can be difficult. The key is to get the puff way up on the shoulder, not hanging off. To do this, I shortened the neck-to-shoulder-point length before I cut the pattern. Even with that alteration I ended up taking a dart in the shoulder too. If you have narrow shoulders like me, consider this alteration if you want to avoid looking like a linebacker.

At last I get to wear this epic original vintage hat! I find that garments with large puffed sleeves need an equally large hat or hairstyle. Go big or go home.
The biggest challenge I had with this dress was the fabric. The pattern went together fine, but this cotton needed particularly special handling. I categorize it in the "Jerk Fabrics" category, the kind of fabrics that are oh-so-pretty but need *everything* basted. That the hem is straight on this dress is a miracle.

All in all, Simplicity 8248 took me awhile to finish due to alterations, fitting, and the difficulty of the textile, but I absolutely *love* this dress. It's comfortable, easy to wear, and very '30s.

Simplicity 8248 - a comfy, casual 1930s day dress. Fun and easy to wear and I feel fancy. <3
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Friday, April 7, 2017

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Sewing Vintage Lingerie - Am I Crazy?

French knickers, 1920s, The Met 1986.532.2a-c
There comes a time in the fashion evolution of every vintage gal where the mind turns to vintage undies. This may happen early on or it may happen later, depending on the styles and decades you love.

In my case, it's closer to the tail end of my retro metamorphosis. I've had a rather casual and long conversion to vintage style. I've always been interested in vintage style undies but I've never had good luck with them, so my day-to-day underpinnings remain modern.

I'm not *bothered* by modern underwear under retro clothing, but I am *interested* in "the real deal." I've always been interested in historical experience - it's why I'm into historic costuming of all centuries - so I would like to try 1920s, 30s, and 40s from the skin out.

Vintage lingerie isn't easy to find. Repro brands tend to focus on 1940s and 50s (What Katie Did, Secrets in Lace) and I've had bad luck with fit; small brands with 1920s and 30s offerings are out of my price range. Originals are a no-no for me. So......the natural inclination of a crafty girl.....let's make it ourselves.

A reproduction 1920s slip by TheDecoHaus on Etsy

I have a fear of sewing with fine fabrics like charmeuse, but I'm also interested in lace insertion and finishing tricks, and how rough lingerie can sometimes be on the inside. It's both fine and functional sewing.

The good news is that there are lots of vintage lingerie patterns available, whether original patterns, pattern diagrams, or PDF print-at-homes:

1930s brassiere and tap pants from LadyMarlowePatterns on Etsy
An e-book for making your own 1920s step-in, from MrsDepew on Etsy
1930s Simplicity S605 teddy pattern from LadyMarlowPatterns on Etsy

So I think I'll give it a try. Off to the fabric store!

Have you ever sewn your own vintage lingerie? Do you have any tips or tricks? Warning?
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Monday, April 3, 2017

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Butterick Pattern Catalog, 1937 - A Few Faves

Butterick, 1937
Some time ago I went on a bit of a bender looking for original sewing pattern counter books. One of the counter books I had the good fortune to snag was a 1930s Butterick.

This book is *enormous,* much larger than the two 1940s Simplicity books in my collection. It also wasn't in the best shape - the original staples were rusted and just screamed "tetanus," some of the pages were stuck together, and a portion of the book is missing. Flaking away, I decided to preserve the book as best I could and sleeved the entire thing in two large binders. It took a couple days to very carefully separate the pages, but now the book is easily flipped through with no worry of additional deterioration.

Powder blue and soft yellow and white, oh my! I'll just take every dress here, please. Butterick, 1937

This lil' plaid number. Butterick, 1937

There's an entire section on just suits. Butterick, 1937
It's both exciting and painful to flick through one of these vintage pattern catalogs. I'm at once inspired and wistful, wanting literally everything on every page. Original 1930s patterns are available throughout InternetLand, but are becoming harder and harder to lay hands on, particularly in larger sizes.

Stunning "Sky Captain" lapels in tan and black. Butterick, 1937.

The coats section is fantastic. Butterick, 1937.

Aren't these sleeves amazing? Butterick, 1937.

There is also a beefy section of just blouses. So many of these have amazing designs - SO different from the super-simplified blouse designs that came later. I want them all. Butterick, 1937.
Often with vintage makes I feel confident drafting my own pattern based on the drawings, but this '37 Butterick is crammed full of amazing, complex Art Deco seams, shapes, alternatively placed darts, interesting yokes, nebulous necklines, and mysterious sleeve designs. So in the case of ole '37 here, a paper pattern of *any* size would be an invaluable starting point.

Yoke, gathers, balloon sleeves, peplum. My goodness. Butterick, 1937.

A gored skirt and a soft, drapey blouse is an excellent place to start a '30s wardrobe. Butterick, 1937.

One of my favorite types of vintage pattern - the sleeve pack. All of these sleeves were designed to fit in just about any Butterick bodice pattern. Just imagine the possibilities! This page also gives useful information on the standard armscye measurements for this era. We know that 18th and 19th c. armscyes were much higher, but so were the vintage decades. To compare, a modern armscye for size 14-16 is about 17" - 5" larger than stated here!!

Some day I will make myself a proper set of 1930s undies. Working with charmeuse and the like scares me, but repro designs like these are impossible to find. Butterick, 1937.
I wish I could share every page of this book with you. It is truly a work of art. In the meantime, these few snaps will have to do while I dream of a late '30s wardrobe. <3


I love this one for the birds - doesn't this combo seem so modern? Butterick, 1937.

The color combo on this suit is amazing, but also check out the sleeves+yoke design. Wow! Butterick, 1937.

Sweet as pie. Butterick, 1937.

Doesn't this chick look like she's awkwardly posing for a tripod selfie? I swear I've taken this weird "am I dancing?" pose before. Butterick, 1937.

Heckin' adorable. Butterick, 1937.

Both of these are stunning. Imagine rollin' up to the party in that black number. Let's say it's silk velvet. My oh my! Butterick, 1937.

Sleeves and yoke cut in one. This yellow and white number with the buttons is adorbs x 10000. Butterick, 1937.

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