Friday, January 12, 2018

The Two Faces Lemon dress

I've had this dress in my mind ever since I saw this movie a few years ago. Its just so crisp, cool and 60s-but-modern. Of course we all know Kirsten Dunst would look great in anything, but for me this dress was really memorable.

First, I love boat necks and adding a bias roll collar gets extra points. Its also a beautiful slim pencil shape with released pleats. The lemon-coloured linen or cotton looks so lovely (but probably wouldn't be on me IRL, but you can't have everything).

So what does a sewist like me do but go hunting for a pattern that will help me re-create it. I can always choose another colour.

I have found two options so far: the Etta dress by Tilly and the Buttons or the Kobenhavn by How to do Fashion.

They are both pencil dresses with the all-important rolled-collar and boat neck though they differ in a couple of distinct ways.

The Etta has darts, while the Kobenhavn is a princess seamed bodice. Not a bad thing but would create a different kind of fit - might actually be more flattering on me!

The big difference you may notice is the armscye. The Two Faces version has an interesting armscye that isn't really an armhole. It appears to be a kind of straight tunic-style sewn up, with pleats on the shoulder to create movement for the armhole. I love this element, as I really hate revealing armpit flesh. One of the big attractions of vintage for me is the closer armholes. Did you know they often wore removable perspiration guards? Basically little pads pinned into the armpits that could be removed and laundered without washing the whole dress - genius!

See how her armholes are kind of straight, not curved around her arm joint?

This has me stumped a little. My pattern drafting skills are still embryonic and I'm not sure how i'd create that modification, without messing up the whole style. My usual technique is to go looking for a similar vintage pattern and check out the pattern piece shapes on the back. That's usually a good clue. 

The other big difference is the back - on the Etta and the Kobenhavn, the back is a low-ish V shape, but the Kirsten version seems to replicate the slight dip of the boat neck in back. That's easily modified though.

What do you think of Kirsten's dress? Have you seen any patterns that are similar, new or vintage?  What movie styles have had you swooning lately?
Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A long hiatus...and a reason to return

What's the ettiquette when dealing with a 2 year blog hiatus? Do I write a post apologising for the gap, or just start again? I don't know, but it would seem sensible to at least address the time gap and then get on with things...

So over the past two years I've had two georgous little babies and not much time to sew or blog about it, or even read other people's blogs either.

With baby Ada among the jacaranda trees

Despite the many joys of motherhood, I have really missed the sewing world. So I've decided to dive back in and challenge myself by joining the Vintage suit sewalong. I've always wanted to make one, and now that I'm back at work a few days per week I have a reason to wear one...finding the time will be a challenge but hopefully the sewalong will be a great motivator.

Vogue S-4240 1952

A few years ago I found this 1952 Vogue suit in almost my size and snapped it up. At the time, Gertie was working her way through the patterns in the Vogue Book for Better Sewing and I thought I'd get to sew along with her tips. Of course, she started writing her own books, got a pattern deal with Butterick etc. and it's not looking like she'll ever finish the original 14 patterns that started her blog...I've always been too nervous to go it alone having no experience in tailoring. Just look at this baby - if you're gonna tackle it, you cannot mess it up. But I do have the accompanying book which has fabulously detailed illustrations, a lot more experience and my sewing reference library has grown in the past years.

Are you planning to join the sewalong too? I'm looking forward to seeing the patterns and fabrics everyone will choose.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Australian Home Journal mystery from the 1930s

Dear readers,

Today I have an exciting project to announce. A wonderful museum here in my city has a small collection of Australian Home Journal magazines. For those not acquainted, the AHJ was a women's magazine and sewing pattern service.

Each issue contained 3 or 4 free patterns, and also illustrations of many other designs that you could write away and buy the pattern for. I have a few AHJ patterns in original postal envelopes and sometimes I get a kick out of tracking down the issue it came from and the original illustration. It's fun to imagine a lady of the past flicking through the magazine and deciding that this is the one - the very dress that she just needs to have this season!

So now to the mystery. My dear friends at the museum's library have a mystery pack of free patterns from an issue of the AHJ from 1931, but they don't have the magazine. The patterns were unprinted, just folded tissue with some perforated holes. It says it contains 4 frocks including a child's dress. I know from experience that often they made three different designs from just one or two pieces, and the instructions in the magazine would tell you how to alter the piece for each design, or to draft certain pieces yourself, like facings etc. They were certainly assuming a level of dressmaking knowledge that not many people have anymore! Without any illustrations or instructions, I couldn't help wondering what these pieces were meant to become.

So I suggested to my friends that if they would be kind enough to lend me the pieces, I would document my process of discovering what the dresses look like. I have already tried to find an issue of the magazine, but no major Australian library holds it. I hope that through publicising my project, someone may produce a copy from their grandmother's attic. But in the meantime, using just what images I can find of designs of that era (and my own knowledge of how patterns work), I'm going to attempt to put together at least one dress from the pieces I have.

Could it be something like this perhaps?

Hope you can join along and see where this takes me!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

1940s blouses rock!

I want to just take a moment to give some love to the blouses of the 1940s.

Why do I love them? Let me count the ways!

  • Rayon and silk, so luxurious and flattering though not clingy (look at the drape of those sleeves!)

  • Back yokes and gathers, such an elegant way to add a little room in the back

  • Super feminine details like ruffles, pintucks nifty pockets and the like take on the masculine shirt

  • Fabulous ruching, gathering, shoulder yokes and all kinds of details that say: 'Darts? How pedestrian!'

  • Side zippers, ok not exclusive to the 1940s, but still great - no chance of popping a button or pulling across the chest


The number one reason I love 1940s blouse is - the waist tucks!

Like upside down pleats that come up from the hem to the waistline, they shape the bottom of the shirt to your hips and release that fabric at the waist, so that it 'blouses' out by itself. When you tuck it in, there's no messing with getting even gathers around your waist. And no re-tucking required every time you go to the bathroom. It's just so neat and makes so much sense - why did we ever give up the tucks?

I'm currently sewing Simplicity's repro 40s blouse pattern 1692. The model on the front is wearing hers untucked, poor darling is unaware of the radical benefits of tucking in a 'tucked' blouse!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Mint Condition and Mai Tais

I recently bought a lovely big swathe of patterns from the United States. The postage cost a bomb, but it was such a wonderful collection - all in largish sizes (equivalent to size 14-18 in today's ready-to-wear) which is very rare in vintage patterns. All were in excellent condition too, especially this one.

Courtesy of Vintage Pattern Wikia

Isn't it a lovely design? My copy is pristine - appears to have never been opened and the tissue was never unfolded. I am very proud to be making this up for a client of mine. Seems like it's been waiting all these decades to be unveiled and has travelled to other side of the earth to meet its destiny. Ok, maybe that's stretching it, but I can't wait to see how it turns out. The skirt with side yokes and gathering will be very flattering I think. Love the hand written notes on this copy from the Vintage Pattern Wiki - will take note of her tips!

And then....look what I just picked up on eBay! I am a sucker for a good hostess gown, and this one ticks all the right late 1940's boxes - a divine tropical print, side drape and surplice wrapped front. Mai Tai's on the terrace anyone?

This is one of those patterns I dream about but it is a little impractical for modern day life...but then again, maybe practicality is overrated too. Bring back the hostess gown! I love the idea that as you are already in your own home, you get wear something kinda comfy, but the floor length-ness makes it formal enough to say, this is my party and I'm the star here (and if you need more crackers, that's me too).

So maybe this NYE (traditionally a very hot evening here in Sydney) I'll be the hostess swanning around the backyard with my Mai Tai in a proper hostess gown....I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Feel the fear, and sew it anyway

Sewing vintage takes up a lot of my spare time, but I gladly give it away because I love seeing these pieces of history come together out of the labour of my own two hands!

I've been teaching vintage sewing for a while now, and observing my students has been an interesting part of the process. It's fun to be a part of their light-bulb-moments, and also intriguing to see what scares them or has held them back from sewing in the past.

Funnily enough, some of those road-blocks are some of the very reasons why I LOVE vintage sewing so much.

First is the fear of blank, unprinted patterns which were common in the 30s and 40s (and which I've seen in Australian versions of Big 4 patterns right up to the late 50s). But isn't it so true that with every innovation that improves something, something good is also lost? I've definitely noticed this with the advance of computer technology. Every time they release a new version of Microsoft Word it seems they hide or take away a feature I loved.

So it is with unprinted patterns. The best feature is you don't have to cut them out, they are already in pieces! The descriptor 'uncut' is often used to describe the condition of patterns but it's a moot point with unprinted ones. And those perforations aren't scary at all. If you've ever made a garment or two they'll make sense right away, and there's always a key to them on the instruction sheet. The best part about perforations is they make it so easy to mark your fabric - tailor's tacks or chalk are a breeze when the holes are already there.

So yes, printed patterns have a lot of good information on them (I especially love the 50s and 60s ones with the seam allowances marked), but they made some things harder too. Ever tried struggling with those huge tissue sheets, folding and unfolding to find the piece you need?

The other thing that has been a big issue for my students is their bust. Choosing a pattern by bust size doesn't work if you are greater than a C cup. Why don't pattern companies make that more clear? Bust adjustments are really quite simple and are often a revelation to my class. They finally understand why patterns never fit them right, and they discover how easy it is to rectify that.

So I guess my point is, going somewhere foreign isn't really all that scary, you just have to spend some time learning the language and doors will open for you. That's what I love about sewing - you can rip out your stitches and just try again. The worst that can happen is you spoil a piece of fabric, but even that's recyclable and there are so many lovely sewing bloggers posting tips and tricks to help you along. So what are you waiting for?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sewing blogs, I've read a few...

Yes I'm very grateful for what sewing blogs have taught me. And I don't begrudge anyone the success they've made out of their blog and their sewing...but it seems to me that nearly all the sewing blogs I loved are no longer about sewing. I know everyone has to evolve or we'd still be in caves, right? But I can't help but be a little sad about this (is Gertie ever going to finish those 14 Vogue patterns?).

I recently read a hilarious but poignant article about how over-sharing parents have ruined Facebook. I was chuckling and thinking thank god my friends aren't like that, only to login and find two proud-as-poop posts from new-ish-parent friends that made me realise no one is immune. I'm not going to 'Like' your posts about your darling's nappy deposits. But that doesn't mean I don't love you. I just don't understand your need to tell the whole world about what is a pretty intimate thing. As the article pointed out, let's hope junior doesn't try to run for office one day.

But back to sewing - to all the successful bloggers: enough with the babies, the outfits, the me-me photo-shoots and the promotional material. I'm not saying we don't care, I'm just saying we care more about SEWING. That's why we read you in the first place, and I'm pretty sure that's what advertisers are paying for space on your site for too.

Of course, this is all pretty rich coming from me - but hey it's my blog, right? And no one's reading it anyway :-)