Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pattern loot - Vogue S-4217 & Home Journal 8912

I wanted to share with you a couple of patterns I picked up at the Fifties Fair last weekend.

I'm sure you also know the glazed-over feeling you get once you reach pattern-saturation point - that's when you start looking for specific details, things you haven't seen before that will add an element of surprise to your wardrobe.

The unique details are what drew me to these two lovelies.

First up, 8912 is an Australian Home Journal Pattern (mail-order I think), and I was struck by the cute waist detail with the buttons down the skirt front, and the tucks in the bust area.

I also love that the instructions assume that you are a home sewist without fancy gadgets - it says things like  'lay out the fabric on your table' and even suggests using a padded broom handle as a sleeve press!

Then there's Vogue S-4217 from 1951. I love the dropped waist, the slightly gathered neckline and the gathers repeated on top of the sleeves.

I'm a little wary of gathered skirts on my figure,  the flared style tends to suit me better. But I feel the dropped waist will create the illusion of more length in the torso which will balance the silhouette better.

What am I talking about - I just loved the illustration and who can pass up a Vogue Special?

With everything on my project list, it's going to be a while until I get to sewing these. I'll be posting these beauties over on the Vintage Pattern Wiki just as soon as I can figure out how to do that!

What kind of details have led you into buying a pattern when you really didn't need it?

Monday, August 27, 2012

More pictures of the Fifties Fair

I couldn't resist sharing a few more images of such a lovely day - cute couples jitterbugging and fashion parades and just downright gorgeous people who'd made a lot of effort to look good. And it was worth it!

Take a look at my Flikr Photostream for more pictures (you'll find them in the Fifties Fair Group too).

If you see yourself there, thankyou for indulging me and allowing me to capture you! And if you'd like a high res copy of that picture, please just get in touch.

Already mentally assembling my outfit for next year...

Fifties Fair 2012

On a glorious early spring day in late-August, Sydney's vintage enthusiasts came out in force to celebrate mid-century glamour at Rose Seidler House in Wahroonga.

This was my first visit to the 50s Fair. Somehow in the past I always seemed to be away or otherwise engaged, but this year I was determined not to miss it. And with my friends K & M in tow, we did it in style!

Here's K and I with a stunning Corvette.
There were a lot of beautiful cars just ripe for photo opps (that's me in the silver frock).

I bought this dress from the lovely dealer of Coutura Vintage, and with those shoulder pads I suspect its actually from the late 1940s. But my feeling is who could afford a new frock every year in those days? I'm sure a flattering number like this lasted many seasons. It appears to be homemade, by a clearly talented seamstress. The stripes meet down the centre in a perfect chevron effect and the shoulder pleats are sharp and clean. Inside the seams are lovingly hand-cast and ribbon binding reinforces the waist and hem. I just love these internal construction details!

I paired it with a red velvet hat that I picked up recently (with a David Jones label still inside), and black suede pumps that I bought at Love Vintage a few weeks ago.

Imagine my surprise to find an almost-twin, in a very similar dress, with velvet batwing sleeves and a slightly wider stripe, but the same rolled neckline and zippered front opening. Another fabulous sign of the popularity of certain styles and fabrics, that must have inspired many a home sewer to add their own flare. In the excitement of everything I didn't catch this girl's name - so if this is you, please get in touch!

The rest of the day was so much fun. As K's hubby said on the way home 'I feel like I've been to another country where things are done differently'. Stay tuned for more pics from the Fair over the next few days.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What am I working on? Advance 9898

Well here in the southern hemisphere, spring is in the air! And I have any number of cute spring frocks in my head for warm days ahead.

But right now I'm working on a sensible, work friendly, but still awesome wool sheath dress.
The pattern is Advance 9898.

Two necklines, two sleeve lengths - perfect fit!
I have found the construction process of this dress quite simple so far and the darts create a stellar silhouette. It's such a classic pattern, I can imagine it made up in any number of fabrics. A cotton sateen might be nice for summer workdays, even a floral pattern in the scoop-neck version perhaps? The solid colour and very plain design is indeed a fabulous showcase for a) YOU and b) your accessories.

The idea of fur, like Madame in the artwork,  is divine and I can imagine trimming the sleeves with fur for winter (fake of course, strange to think that dangling paws was ever considered an appropriate thing to wear in polite society?).

I'll post pictures soon. For now, here are the stats:

Pattern: Advance 9898, mid 1960s
Size: 16.5
Alterations: lengthened the bodice by 3/4inch, that eased up some tightness across the shoulder blades. Everywhere else fits perfectly.
Fabric: Worsted wool in a black/grey grain weave. $60/metre. Purchased from Tessuti in Surrey Hills. Black silk lining with woven pattern.
Notions: two black zippers (side and neck). Red seam binding. Black thread.

Let me know if there's anything else you'd like to know about it!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Swimsuits in the pre-lycra age?

A little digression today, as I found a divine swimsuit pattern over at Out of the Ashes Collectibles.

It is indeed Bardot-esque, and the smock top is not only cute for the beach, but would make an awesome sundress, if you added some length. You could belt it, or not. I'm thinking white cotton eyelet embroidery, but I see everything in eyelet embroidery lately since I found a feast of it in a store in Bali recently (more on that for another post).

Looking at this pattern I started wondering, what did they make swimsuits out of before lycra and spandex? The fabrics suggested don't mention synthetics at all - it's all denim, gingham, broadcloth, pique etc. so it must be pre-1960s.

If you made this suit in cotton (lined of course, no see-through-ness allowed) would it be for swanning around in only, or would it still be appropriate to bathe in it? And if you bathe in it, how might the fabric behave? I can't imagine bathing in denim - cotton or linen maybe, but the lack of stretchiness or ability to re-shape after being wet bothers me. I know early swimsuits were often made of woollen knits but I feel that wool would have had more capacity to spring back into shape (though it must have been scratchy).

Clearly I'm no expert in vintage swimsuits. Does anyone else know?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wearing Miss Kubelik

One of my favourite films is Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (1960). I adore Shirley McLaine’s character, Fran Kubelik, the elevator-girl-next-door (yes, she's the inspiration for this blog's name). I can just still remember when department stores had elevator operators. By the 1980s, they were mostly very old ladies, who had probably once been perky little Miss Kubeliks.

Since I have started sewing myself a wardrobe of homemade-vintage, I got to thinking about Fran Kubelik, and how adorable her wardrobe is – and how perfectly suited to the modern working girl! And how often I came a cross a pattern very similar to a movie costume... just like today, everyday wear both inspires costume designers (think of Edith Head’s wardrobe for Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, inspired by teenage streetwear) and leads to trends on the street. That's certainly evident with the popularity of Mad Men and the explosion of vintage in the mainstream.

The textured coat with the cross-over collar and leather gloves

The chiffon party dress, with a beautifully draped shawl collar

So I have decided to add a little inspiration to my sewing. My plan is to try to hunt down patterns similar to Miss Kubelik’s wardrobe and make them myself. Just like a real life Miss Kubelik probably did in the late 1950s. Her beautifully textured coat with a distinctive collar (anyone know what that style's called?), her lovely black wool frock, her smart grey uniform suit, and her cute chiffon party dress (sheer fabric terrifies me!).

The Elevator Suit, loving the little white gloves!

In the process I'll improve my sewing skills and end up with a pretty fabulous wardrobe! 

If you could replicate a character's wardrobe, one that you could really wear, who would it be?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Origins of a sewing obsession

Where did it come from? This obsession to sew, and sew vintage?

Its never just one thing that sets you off on a creative journey, right?

I've been drawn to vintage style all my life, from way before it was called that. I've always devoured old movies, especially from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. I adored old photographs. I love equally the dramatic cut of a Dior ballgown and the sensible style of a wartime frock.

When women didn't have much choice, sewing your own clothes must have been a source of pride if you were adept at it; or a nightmare if you weren't.  I understand why those women eagerly embraced store-bought clothing and cheaper synthetic fabrics that promised freedom from ironing. But I do think something was lost too.

So now we have a choice - we can sew or buy, whenever the mood takes us. And just like the slow food movement that emphasises tradition and provenance and rejects fast food, I'm starting a slow clothing wardrobe that will do the same.  I want my wardrobe to be filled with pieces that reflect their provenance and purpose.

This is my journey to become an excellent seamstress. I'll share my progress and my projects, my mistakes, my successes and my latest obsessions. I hope you will stop by and say hello.