1940s shirt dress revisited

1940s red shirt dress

I always wondered why, with all the patterns in the world, would I ever make one twice? In the case of my peasant tops, here and here, I can only say it was because they were dead easy and required little brainpower, perfect for a late night sew. But in the case of this dress, the rationale was purely because I’ve never had a dress I feel so at home in! I had in my head, that I was a simple shift dress girl but actually I think I’m more of a shirt-dress girl!

1940s red shirt dress

Without the association of the pattern, I wonder if anyone would guess it dated back to the 1940s? Do you think it’s obvious? Or have I been looking at vintage patterns for so long now, I think they are the norm?! Perhaps if I were to style it with appropriate accessories: hat, bag and gloves, it might give the game away, but – dressed traditionally sporting wellies and a brolly – I think it also crosses over as a modern shirt dress too.

I’d like to tell you what this fabric is but I have no idea! It’s red and it’s 100% cotton for sure. Kind of like a cheesecloth seersucker but not, and vaguely reminiscent of my candlewick beadspread I had as a child… without the little soft threads that pulled out oh-so satisfyingly easily! I thought it might be ribbed cotton. I’ve heard that mentioned before but I really haven’t a clue. It was kindly donated to me by a friend who desperately needed to get rid of a big bag of fabric… I could never be like that! And I knew what ‘the red’ was destined for immediately.

1940s shirt dress detail

It came together sweetly as before with the addition of a few minor changes. I added a third button just because I love the little ‘targets’ and two didn’t showcase them enough. They cost £2.45 for six, bought at the London Vintage Fashion, Textiles and Accessories Fair, September 2011 and I think they are vey happy on this dress!

target button detail

I made it an extra inch longer, but really could have gone for 2 inches… oooh, I am getting brave in my old age!

length of skirt

I also added an extra inch around the midriff, knowing the struggle I have to get the dress on, over my head and judging by the photos of the last dress, it does look a bit snug. But it was highly unnecessary on this version. The mystery fabric, unlike the shoe fabric, has a lot more give and resulted in little poofy bits at the sides. I put it on the mannequin and looked at it for a few days, wondering if I could get away with it. I probably could have done, but it would have annoyed the hell out of me!

dress before alteration

And so… I sensibly turned the dress inside out and chalked and basted where I wanted the new line of stitching to be. Namely half an inch in from the original seam, starting from just above the waist, in a straight line up to the armscye. I tried it on again and was much happier with the silhouette.

Dutifully, I removed the basting and unpicked the topstitching where the midriff meets the bodice. I sewed the new side seams on the bodice over the chalkines. Sewed the new side seam on the right side of the midriff section and trimmed the left side opening to match (where the zipper goes).

I must be getting better at this. I would never have had the patience to do that a few years ago! But it was of course, worth it and now I am a happier bunny!

Here is a picture of the zip in the side seam. Once I’d sewn one size of the zipper in place, I made sure to make chalk marks where the midriff needed to line up. I pinned the second side of the zip to those marks first and then pinned the rest. Worked like a treat!

zipper detail

I opted for longer sleeves this time. Not full length, just three quarters. Mr Ooobop! thinks they will annoy me being so fitted and I have a little tendency to agree but I wanted to see how it affected the overall look.

I’m intrigied by the construction of the sleeve with darts to shape the lower arm. I guess this is a vintage thing because, to date, I have not come across these in a modern pattern.

vintage sleeve darts

Allowing for adjustments, this dress did seem to take longer than the first. About 5 evenings after work, spread over a couple of weeks. I have been really keen to see it finished but not so keen that I wanted to rush it and ruin it! And in any case I had to wait for Mr Ooobop! to be around to do his usual photo magic . . . and for the sun to come out! Well, we gave up waiting for the sunshine!

1940s red dress in the rain

I’m sure that this little revisitation wont be the last but I do have an incredibly long list of other ‘wannamakes’ to tend to first, so its back into the envelope and into the box ’til next time!

Do you like to revisit a favourite pattern or do you prefer to try something new every time?

back of dress

butterick 2638

Horizontal or vertical buttonholes?

horizontal buttonholes

I’m in the process of making a second version of the 1940s shirt dress I made in May, and I’ve been prompted into wondering (ie arguing with Mr Ooobop!) whether it is usual to make horizontal or vertical buttonholes on a garment. I couldn’t bear the quandary any longer!

So I did a little research and came up with the following…

  • Horizontal ones allow for a little more expansion. The button can slide along the opening without distorting the buttonhole as much as a vertical one.
  • It’s easier to sew buttons in position, following a column of vertical buttonholes as there is a little  more room for manoeuvre, but you have to sew them on more accurately to meet the positions of the end points of horizontal buttonholes.
  • Horizontal buttonholes generally can’t be placed on a shirt placket band as there is not enough room for them to sit comfortably and so vertical ones are used.
  • Exceptions include the collar and cuffs where there is more stress, then you will find a horizontal one. And in the case of more expensive shirts, the bottommost button too!
  • Horizontal buttonholes take a bit longer to create as the foot needs to be repositioned and position measured each time, whereas its easier to shift the position down each time for vertical ones. I’m thinking this is a reason for mass produced garments having vertical ones.
  • Horizontal buttonholes stay buttoned more securely. Any stress across the garment opening, pulls the button into the the end of the buttonhole, where the button stops.
  • It is a little less-fiddly to button up with vertical buttonholes.
  • Most vintage patterns are marked for the buttonholes to be created horizontally.

So there you have it… fascinating, hey?! It doesn’t prove much except that you can seemingly create them however you like… so long as it works for you and your choice of garment!

I’m going with horizontal ones and now feel much happier about doing so. Apart from the fact that it makes me feel a bit rebellious, (and that I won the argument) I like that it’s a little bit of authenticity for this little 40s number.

Which way round do you sew your buttonholes? Any reason different from the above?

I’m hoping to have said dress all finished and blogged by the weekend so bring on the sunshine so Mr Ooobop! can take some sunny shots!

Vintage pattern treat time!

I know, I know, I know… I have enough patterns to sink a battleship. Well that’s what I’m contantly being told. But it’s not strictly true, is it? I would need quite a few more, actually, to really make that happen! Plus, I haven’t bought any in aaaages!

Truth is, I really (honestly) didn’t have many cool blouse and top patterns. But now I have!!

McCalls 5605 vintage pattern tops

Somplicity 2195 vintage blouse pattern

Simplicity 4606 vintage blouse pattern

I’m hoping these vintage top patterns will transform into a lovely collection of go-to tops for those panic mornings when I’ve come flying out the shower to find an outfit in 5 minutes for work! They all call for polka dots, stripes and gingham and I will find it hard to go outside of those boxes but will have fun trying!

Oh and this little 40s dress was just waiting to be ‘saved’ by me. Would have been plain rude not to!

Advance 3883 40s dress pattern

1940s dress styles are fast becoming my favourite and my best! I love how fitting they are without being too saucy!  I have only made this one to date but it happens to be the most comfortable and flattering dress and always gets lovely compliments. I am currently working on another version in a solid colour and I am also reminded how simple the pattern is too, thank goodness!

What is your favourite era for patterns? Or do you prefer modern ones?

Lady grey retro top

burda top 131 back

I saw the pattern for this top in the May issue of Burda Style (2012) and it made the project list, even usurping the more ‘urgent’ projects! The back as you can see is fabulously buttoned all the way down which I love but have you ever tried buttoning yourself up back to front? I have got better with practice though, and I reckon I could give Houdini a run for his money now!

burda top 131 front

The fabric suggestion was for embroidered batiste. I didn’t have any of that to hand but knew the fabric had to be a little bit interesting to make the front not look so boring! I have a heap load of this white eyelet stuff in my stash. I thought it was cotton but when I did the burn test it proved not! I still thought it would be better dyed. I always feel a bit prim and proper in white! This is the result of using black dye on a not so totally natural white fabric…

eyelet fabric detail

I quite like how it turned out. The dye coverage is uneven, probably only colouring the small amount natural fibre content to get this linen look. And the embroidered detail, which I knew was synthetic, unsurprisingly remained white.

retro top front

I went up a size from my usual, (given the few extra pounds that have decended upon me recently) but to be honest I probably needn’t have done. The style is very boxy even though it has front and bust darts. But it is very cool to wear, perfect for what appears to be our summer (not holding my breath) and perfect for teaming with pencil skirts for work.

retro top front view by wall

So apart from taking it a size smaller the only other alteration I would make is to the neckline. The instructions were to sew the bias binding 1cm past the seamline. This struck me as a bit weird as it would have been easier not to have added a seam allowance in the first place, surely? Anyhows I sewed the bias binding ON the seamline…. afterall isn’t that what a seamline is for? It turned out ok, much like a vintage jewel neckline but I am going to try omitting the seam allowance next time, just to give a little more room to breathe!

The 1940s Shoe Dress

1940s shoe dress

I do believe I have just made my most fitting and appropriate dress for this lovely hot summer we have just entered into. And it’s covered in shoes! And it fits in with this weeks Sew Weekly challenge, ‘Inspired by the 1940s’. And I just realised it matches my Ooobop header too! I am just a little bit happy!

1940s shoe dress

Last July, I posted about the ‘shoe fabric’, quite sure it was destined to be a 1950s shirt buttoned dress. The pattern had to be just right. I wasn’t going to waste that fabric, even if it did only cost a fiver! That was until I found this amazing pattern for a 1940s shirt buttoned dress which was spot on.

butterick 2638

I was sold on the midriff! I knew it would be flattering, it was just a question of how the shirt top would fit. Well it all went together like a dream. I took 5 inches off the length, worried as usual about the granny factor but actually I might be inclined to leave it a bit longer next time. And yes, there will so totally be a next time! The other alterations I made included adding 2 inches to the waist, being careful to add it to the shirt top and the midriff and the top of the skirt.

1940s shoe dress pleats

I was a bit worried about the gathering ‘poofing’ out the skirt section so I replaced the gathers with soft pleats. I know it kind of takes away a bit of the authenticity but I think its a lot more flattering. I also included a little turn up on the sleeves, as I did with my wing collar shirt. Just a little detail but I think it finishes a short sleeve much better and gives a little more interest.

1940s shoe dress front

I so enjoy a good old rummage in the button tin. I quite often had my whole head in my mum’s button tin when I was little and so the whole searching for the right button thing generates such a nostalgic feeling which escalates to pure joy when you find the perfect ones! These two little red beauties were 2 of a little set so kindly gifted to me by Rachel at House of Pinheiro as a thank you for doing a little guest spot over at her place! Gotta love this whole blogging thing!

1940s shirt dress buttons

The back of the dress is finished off nicely with side-ties that tie in a little bow at the back which also serve as a great device to hide the near invisible side zip.

1940s shirt dress back

Of course, there are no prizes for guessing who took the lovely photos! Mr Ooobop! is so clever and so willing and so lovely. My blog would be truly rubbish without his wonderful photos.

1940s dress yellow backgroundWe had such fun taking these today, en route to lunch in a local pub garden…. and then onto dinner at our local Italian restaurant, Casa Mia. Totally indulgent day today but it wasn’t our fault. It was all sunny and everything and we were seriously confused into thinking we were on holiday!

1940s dress sunshine

Sewing, Sunshine, park life, Prosecco and pizza….and more sunshine! I am so easily pleased!

ooobop! gypsy top #2

gypsy top frontThere is something quite comforting about visiting an old pattern. I made my first gypsy top almost a year ago and not only have I had great use out of it, it made a great addition to Dorothy’s ensemble too! Once again I used Butterick B4685, Fast and Easy… and indeed it was.

butterick b4685 sewing pattern

I used view D this time but omitted the front lace panel. I did originally include the underbust elastic but when I tried it on, tucked in a skirt, which is mostly how I intend to wear it, I looked a little (more) like the Michelin Man! So out came the elastic, quicker than when it went in!

I used a remnant of cotton gingham that I picked up from Oxfam, and used every last bit of it! So very satisfying especially as I’ve since found that 100% cotton gingham isn’t that easy to get hold of. Well not in a choice of colours. Despite my local plethora of fabric shops, they all stock poly cotton gingham, for the demand of school dresses, apparently. It looks just as pretty for sure but pure cotton feels so much nicer against my skin.

I prefer the sleeves and the simplicity of this style. Its less fussy and so quick to make up. I am going to make a few more, lined up for summer, and my eldest daughter has put an order in for one too.

gypsy top sleeve detail

It also made sense to enter this into Made by Rae’s Spring Top Sewalong 2012, just as I did last time round. Its not nearly up to the standards of most of the beautiful tops over there but I’m liking the annual inspiration of creating a new tops for Spring all the same! You can see this and all the other entries over at Flickr. My entry has been successful so I will keep you posted when it is time to vote! 😉

gypsy top back view

I wore it out to a trip to the Tate Modern yesterday with Mr and Little Miss Ooobop! and I have to say it is perfect gallery wear. It’s always soooo hot and stuffy in the galleries. The artwork made for a choice back drop too!

gypsy top side view

Hope you are all having a wonderful Easter break 🙂

Post War British Textile design

fashion and textile museum

Today, I took full advantage of my freelance status, ditched the children for a couple of hours and headed off to the Fashion and Textile Museum, near London Bridge, to see Designing Women: Post War British Textiles exhibition. What a totally self-indulgent treat!

The intro to the exhibition:

“Britain was at the forefront of international textile design in the 1950s and 1960s. The art of textile design radically changed after the Second World War and three women artists working in England in the 1950s were pivotal in this artistic revolution. The drab days of the War were transformed by the fresh, progressive designs of Lucienne Day (1917–2010), Jacqueline Groag (1903–86) and Marian Mahler (1911– 83). Designing Women: Post-war British textiles showcases their work beginning with Lucienne Day’s ‘Calyx’ pattern of 1951, featured at the Festival of Britain, and moving through textile commissions of the 1960s and 70s. The exhibition features more than 100 works.

Original artist designs with bold abstract pattern, as well as the use of saturated colour, marked a dramatic departure from conventional furnishing fabrics. This new wave of bold textile designs, helped to bring the influences of the art world, in its most recent, refreshing, and largely abstract forms, into the contemporary home.”

The influence of modern art is so strong in all the designs of this period. Its very easy to spot some iconic inspiration from Joan Miró, Alexander Calder and Kandinsky.

Lucienne Day, wife of Robin Day, was the most prolific and successful of the designers having kick started the ‘revolution’  with her ‘Calyx’ print in 1951.

'Calyx', Lucienne Day  1951
'Calyx', Lucienne Day 1951

Heals, though at first very sceptical, was her first client. The work was considered too modern but the risk proved to be a good and profitable move for both parties. Lucienne Day was the first artist to be credited on the fabric itself.

'Diablo', Lucienne Day, 1962/3
'Diablo', Lucienne Day, 1962/3
'Apollo', Lucienne Day
'Apollo', Lucienne Day
'Good Food', Lucienne Day
'Good Food', Lucienne Day
'Trio', Lucienne Day, 1952
'Trio', Lucienne Day, 1952

Lucienne didn’t limit herself to fabric, wallpaper and carpet design…

Tea/coffee set, Lucienne Day
Tea/coffee set, Lucienne Day

Jacqueline Groag was born in Czechoslovakia and emigrated from Vienna to London in 1939. She is one of the key designers in Mid Century Britain having worked with some of the foremost  textile manufacturers and retailers, including John Lewis, Associated American Artists and David Whitehead Ltd. She also produced laminated surface designs for British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). The same company my mum used to make pilots suits for!

Untitled, (Traffic Lights), Jacqueline Goag, 1952
Untitled, (Traffic Lights), Jacqueline Goag, 1952
Untitled (Bottles), Jacqueline Groag
Untitled (Bottles), Jacqueline Groag

This ‘Pebbles’ design by Jacqueline Groag is so nostalgic for me. As I stood in front of it, it took me back to my home in the 1970s. I can’t be sure that it was exactly this design but similar enough to generate some serious flashbacks!  My mum had great taste!

Untitled (Pebbles), Jacqueline Groag, 1952
Untitled (Pebbles), Jacqueline Groag, 1952

Marian Mahler was Austrian and emigrated to Britain in 1937. As artist and illustrator she combined both skills to generate designs for the younger, yet sophisticated clientele who were looking to create a stylish home. The fabrics were mostly rayon or cotton and the roller printing process made for fast production and an affordable end product. I just love the birds!

'Bird Chair', Marian Mahler, 1952
'Bird Chair', Marian Mahler, 1952

The temptation to ‘touch’ was too much!!!

'Linear Flowers', Marian Mahler
'Linear Flowers', Marian Mahler
'Mobiles', Marian Mahler, 1952
'Mobiles', Marian Mahler, 1952
Untitled (Sails), Marian Mahler, 1952/3
Untitled (Sails), Marian Mahler, 1952/3

Paule Vézelay was a painter and her skills transferred beautifully to fabric design. So much so that I think a certain Ms Kiely looks to have drawn some serious inspiration, don’t you think?!

'Composure', Paule Vézelay, 1967
'Composure', Paule Vézelay, 1967
'Crescents', Paule Vézelay, 1956
'Crescents', Paule Vézelay, 1956

And I wasn’t expecting to see any of these fabrics in dress form but just look…

Marian Mahler, Linear Flowers dress
Marian Mahler, Linear Flowers dress

dress

I hope you have enjoyed this little preview. I do apologise for the quality of the photos. No flash photography was allowed so they are a bit grainy and really do not give any of the fabrics the justice they deserve!

Well, best I get on with my real work now… the downside of freelanceness!

Maudella 1223, button wrap skirt

maudella 1223 pattern

This pattern is one of Audrey’s collection which I singled out immediately as a great skirt to dress up or down. I’m assuming it’s 1960s but certainly a classic and timeless style in my book! It has been waiting patiently in line to be made and completely jumped the project queue when I remembered the amazing buttons that Mr Ooobop! found for me in Portobello Market.

maudella 1223 skirt

I didn’t want anything more complicated than black for the skirt and so I set out for a metre of cotton sateen. It has a little bit of stretch in it which makes for a comfy fit. But it is a bit of a collector of cat fluff I’ve since discovered!

The instructions didn’t call for a lining and so I didn’t make one. But that was clearly a bad move. It sticks horribly to my tights and rides up when I’m walking so I am either going to have to go back and line it at a later date or get me a slip! My mum would think this highly amusing as I did my very best to avoid wearing one when I was younger… tantrums and all!

I shortened it by 5 inches which seems to be usual for me when it comes to a vintage patterns. That said, it is still below my knee, a conscious decision, to keep it a vintage length but I’m more used to shorter length skirts and this length takes a bit of getting used to. I will have to wear it with heels so it doesn’t look to ‘grannyish’!

maudella 1223 skirt front

I wasn’t too sure how to measure off the pattern to check for any adjustments needed but given the button wrap around detail, the position of the buttons can be moved to add or take away an inch or two. I must learn to sew buttons on with my machine. This was the only tedious part but other than that I managed to whip it up in a couple of hours. I do regret not binding the hem or the seams. I think it would look much nicer. But I did sew the hem by hand. It would have been sacrilegious to machine hem in any case!

maudella 1223 button detail

I have worn the skirt to work already and got some lovely comments. But I really must decide on lining/slip before I wear it again. Just don’t tell my mum!

Vintage post: The Wing Collar Blouse

wing collar blouse posting letter

I know, I know… I am meant to be making a jacket! But I have made an amazing discovery! If I embark on a complicated project (like my jacket) and I allow myself to be interrupted by other smaller projects (like a quilt block, a Dorothy dress and this blouse) the smaller projects all get done in really speedy record time due to the over-riding pressure of guilt waves, shooting out from underneath a pile of cut out jacket pieces! Its magic!

wing collar blouse at pub

Its difficult enough for me to stay on track but it’s harder still when one is snared by such inspiration

as this . . .

clash blouse
Clash Blouse by Lady Danbury

This fantastic Clash Blouse was created by Lady Danbury over at Thinking In Shapes and it was a struggle not to rip it off (copy it) completely I can tell you. Red and black is one of my favourite colour combos and that shirt is soooo cool.

So the nearest I could get to it was this…

B556 Butterick pattern

I bought the pattern, Butterick 556, on Etsy. Mainly because I am not as clever and talented enough (yet) to draft a pattern like LD! But also because, believe it or not, considering the hundreds of patterns that insulate my bedroom walls, I didn’t posses a patten anywhere near similar to a wing collar blouse! I’m assuming it’s 1950s. I never can find a date on these vintage ones. Can anyone shed any light?

That ‘over-riding pressure’ convinced me I shouldn’t bother with a toile as the fabric was cheap enough if it didn’t work out. And hey, I only had to add an inch round the waist, (admittedly, after I had put it all together), but I am quite pleased with the end result. Pleased enough to have lined up some more fabric for another! I’m a bit gutted I didn’t incorporate some red piping around the collar and sleeve cuffs to highlight the detail but rest assured I will be doing that with the next one!

sleeve detail

I decided against a machined hem in favour of red binding for a proper vintage finish.

red hem binding

And those lovely heart buttons were part of a birthday gift from my eldest daughter.

Cath kidston heart buttons

That Cath Kidston doesn’t miss a trick, does she?!

wing collar button detail

Initially I mocked the idea of padded shoulders – as much as I love Joanie – but then relented as they do indeed give a more authentic and sharper look. Im sure too that the pattern has accounted for the extra space for a bit of wadding. It certainly looks more structured with them in.

wing collar blouse shoulder

This really is a great pattern. Very simple to follow and a really comfortable and flattering fit. The eight darts… 4 in the front, 4 in the back might have something to do with that!

wing collar blouse profile

I feel a high-waisted pencil skirt coming on now…. ooops I just did… ok just that one, then I promise I’ll carry on with the jacket!!

Photo credits of course to the very lovely Mr Ooobop!

B4320 Dorothy dress for World Book Day

B4320 dorothy dress
B4320 Dorothy dress

World Book Day was last Friday but as luck would have it, Little Miss Ooobop’s school had to delay the fun by a week which gave me 10 days to get my act together. She had already decided upon Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and I was quite relieved to be honest! The aim was not to overcomplicate issues this time! Well that was the thought.

Butterick B4320 comes with a hundred miles of tissue pattern for each of the 5 very different costumes. It was bulging at the seams when factory folded so you can imagine me trying to stuff it all back in after I’d wrestled with it on the living room floor. Needless to say, the Dorothy pieces have been separated out into their own envelope for easy retrieval… if there is a next time!

B4320_Butterick_childrens_costumes
B4320_Butterick_childrens_costumes

Though pretty easy to follow, this pinafore dress is incredibly well thought-out and is not throwaway costume stuff. The waistband is cut on the bias which gives a good, comfortable fit as are the straps and the top band of the bib. Each of those pieces are interfaced and faced and the inside facings are hand-stitched for a really neat finish inside. The back of the skirt has a zip in the back centre seam. Its been a while since I sewed anything but an invisible one but I quite like sewing in the ‘visible’ ones too! The straps cross over at the back and button on the inside though to be honest the buttons would have been a nice feature on the back too. This was a first time using the buttonhole stitch on the Brother machine and it sewed like a dream.  The two white buttons on the front waist band are for decorative purposes only but I think they are really cute!

The only tricky thing about making this was when I ironed the fusible interfacing to the waistband. The iron was too hot, on steam setting and I managed to stretch it out two inches bigger than it was supposed to be! Easily recified though. (Rather than cut another one…) I just put the waistband facing on top and trimmed the excess!

The fabric was a timely find in a charity shop. I had seen it the week before, thinking it would make a lovely blouse. Its 100% cotton. but held back with stash mountain in mind. So when LMO brought up the subject of Dorothy I made it my first point of call the next day and the fact that it was still there was amazing! £2 for a proper Dorothy pinafore dress is pretty good going methinks, even though its not proper gingham but ‘mum’s the word’!

You may have noticed I didn’t go the whole hog and make the underdress too. I was up ’til midnight on the pinafore… I wasn’t about to do another shift for the underdress… I’ve got a jacket to finish, don’t you know?! And so, did you recognise the little top underneath? It’s actually my peasant top I made last April 2011. I just pulled up the elastic round the neck and ‘hey presto’, it fits a 7 year old…kind of! I’ve just knotted the elastic so if I ever get it back I can still get wear out of it this summer. ‘Refashioned me-mades’ … oh how I have moved on!

Big thank yous to the lovely Little Miss Ooobop! who makes a fabulous model and to the gorgeous Mr Ooobop! for his amazing photography skills.