RetroGlam Winter Break: Vintage Sheath Skirt Drafting Instructions

Here is another classroom handout I got from the friend who attended Traphagen School of Design. I do not know whether this was an instruction sheet created by the school or if it came from an older book. Based on the appearance, it looks like the instructions were done on an old manual typewriter and then reproduced for the classroom. The instructions in this handout are for the drafting of a sheath skirt sloper. I have not used these instructions since I do not work with slopers. The system I learned at French Fashion Academy is much different than this one. Since I’ve always been very pleased with the fit of the skirts I make from that system I’ve never ventured too far into drafting patterns based on other systems.

I’m providing these instructions because there might be a few readers adventurous enough to want to give this a try. There are sample measurements given at the start of the handout but I’ve no idea what size they are for. There is 2” added to the hipline for ease but no mention of any ease added to the waistline.

If I were to draft this pattern I’d use 2-3” ease at the hipline and at least 3/4″ ease at the waistline and then stitch up a toile to check the fit.

The instructions given use the same measurement for Center Back and Center Front Skirt Lengths. The system I use has a slightly shorter Center Back Skirt Length which allows for a slightly lower curve at the waistline.

In the instructions There is a “Back Waist Measure” and “Front Waist Measure”. This might be a different way of measuring the waistline. In the sample measurements given the Front Waist Measure is 13 3/4″ while the Back Waist Measure is 12 3/4″. It seems to me that the Front Waist Measure, being 1” more than the back, might be derived as follows:

1. Take total measure of waistline.
2. Divide in half.
3. Then take 1” off the back measurement and add to the front.

Or the measurement actually is taken in two parts. First the back waist is measured from the left to right. Then the front waistline is measured from left to right. This would be a little tricky to determine where the beginning and end of the measurement points are. The side seam placement would be affected by what measurements are used,

When the weather starts getting warmer and I feel better, I plan to finish the Donna Blouse. Then I will show how to create a pencil skirt pattern using the system I learned at French Fashion Academy.

If anyone does have success with these drafting instructions please let me know how you worked out the measurements and addition of style ease. I’d also love to see a photo of the finished skirt.

What follows are the instructions shown in the scan.

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RetroGlam Winter Break: Dart Manipulation in a Vintage Classroom Handout

Dart Manipulation is a means of changing the front (and sometimes the back) bodice fullness controlled by darts.

Darts are used to shape the fabric over the body. If there were no darts at all the garment would be very loose and flowing like a tent dress. Or it could be almost column-like in the case of a chemise dress. But even in a chemise and a tent dress the shape is affected by darts that were there in the basic pattern. The reason why they are no longer visible is because the darts existing in the basic pattern have been manipulated causing a change in the shape of the pattern.

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RetroGlam Winter Break: How did they create that style back in 1955?

Cover of “True Love Stories” magazine from September, 1955.

I love reading vintage magazines like “True Story”, “True Romance” and “True Love Stories” because they put me in touch with what the common woman back in the 1930s-1960s was wearing and what kind of fiction she was craving to read. The fashion and make-up advertisements in these magazines were influenced by the haute couture creations of the time period. But the styles were simplified so that they could be quickly manufactured, distributed and sold.
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RetroGlam Winter Break Reading: Synthetic and Natural Fibers

I’ve been on the sidelines of many exchanges at forums and blog postings regarding the subject of which type of fabric is better: synthetic or natural.

It’s so easy to say that natural fibers are more eco-friendly because they are derived from natural sources. And it’s even easier to say all synthetic fibers are so bad because they create so much pollution during their manufacturing phase.

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RetroGlam is going on a winter break…

Just to let everyone know I am going to keep a low profile for now. Mostly due to utter exhaustion caused by the severe winter weather we are having in the New York City area. It’s cold outside and my apartment is in a very old 4 family house. No matter how much heat the landlord sends up within an hour or two it’s damp and chilling once more.

The Donna Blouse will be back in the Spring, all completed with photos and thoughts about this project. I just can’t give an end date for that since my sewing has slowed to a crawl. Some weekends it’s so cold outside that once I return home from my shopping and errands all I want to do is curl up under a quilt, get warm and dream about the forthcoming spring and summer days.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to use this hibernation mode as a time to read up on various topics which I’ll briefly post about here. It just doesn’t feel so good to be sewing when it’s so chilly. Somehow a cup of tea, a quilt all around me and a good book seem more appropriate to the time of year.

So be on the look out for book reviews, some topics related to patternmaking, scans of vintage fashions…all food for thought and hopefully inspiration for your creative spirit.

Sewing Collars with roll line and lapels: Future considerations

The new Rolled Collar with Lapels for the Donna Blouse is an improvement over the Flat Notched Collar with Lapels. I am dissatisfied, though, with the way the sewing of it has turned out. I found that the absence of a back facing at the neckline created many time consuming steps to the process. It also resulted in a strain on the back neckline as well as a lot of fabric layers being pushed upwards under the collar. This would not be a problem with a lightweight fabric but the cotton broadcloth I used resulted in too much bulk.

I’ve decided that in the future I will determine what type of collar to use based on the weight of the fashion fabric. I will not use the application without a back neck facing for any type of fabric. A facing at the back neckline is easier to sew and is also a nifty place to stitch a label with your name on it. It gives great appeal if you are selling your designs to have the label visible as the blouse or dress rests on a pretty, padded hanger. Without the back facing the label could be sewn to the collar stand but that could be irritating for the wearer.

When the fabric is lightweight and opaque, or even medium weight, I will use a collar that benefits from a back neck facing. For shirt collars I’ll use a collar with neckstand created in one pattern piece. There are also such finishes as bias tape around the neckline for collars such as the Peter Pan collar.

I’ve found a free, downloadable booklet on how to sew collars, as well as the different neckline finishes suitable to different types of collars. I recommend adding it to your collection of sewing guides. It has helped refresh my memory on many of the fine finishings possible. Often we don’t see these on moderately priced and budget priced clothing because it involves the use of extra fabric and thread. As sewists we are the designers and seamstress, so we have the freedom to choose. I think choosing the finish that produces a high quality result is the best one. Also, it is important to select the finish that is suitable to your skills level and experience with different fabrics.

Here is a screen shot of the cover of the booklet and the URL where you can save the PDF file.

Prepared by Nadine Hackler, Associate Professor Extension Clothing Specialist. First Published 1985, Revised December 1997.
Adapted for use in Kentucky by Linda Heaton, Ph.D. Extension Professor for Textiles & Clothing, Revised June 2002.

Booklet Description: How to sew and finish a variety of collars plus pointers for improving how they are sewn.

Free, downloadable document from University of Kentucky-College of Agriculture-Cooperative Extension Service

The Donna Blouse: Sewing a sleeve with cuff all-in-one

I used different colored basting threads to mark and differentiate grain and fold lines on the Donna Blouse fashion fabric. I picked up this tip reading Gertie’s blog. It is working very well. You can see it in some of the photos for the blouse sleeve in this posting. Orange thread denotes grain lines, green thread fold lines.

1. The sleeve has had the interfacing basted into place on the wrong sides using guidelines from the “Vogue Sewing Book” and “Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing” as described in the previous posting.

The side seams have been sewed and finished. The lace hem tape is stitched to the bottom of the sleeve.

2. The cuff is turned to the inside along the middle line traced in green thread. This is the fold line. Straight pins are placed at the fold line to hold it in place and a line of basting stitches is sewn along the fold line.

3a. A sleeve roll and steam iron are now used to press the sleeve.

3b. Use wide strips of brown paper inserted between the cuff and the sleeve. Then use a burst of steam and press down on the cuff. Do not place the iron right on the fabric. This will create too sharp of a crease in the sleeve.

3c. After the sleeve is cool, use a catch stitch to hem the sleeve by hand.

4. Turn the sleeve to the right side. The remaining green thread traced horizontal line is the “Finished Length” or “Turn Back Line” of the cuff. Here you will turn the cuff to the right side.

5. View of the completed cuff.

6. Line up the underarm seams of the sleeves and cuff. From the wrong side use a small stitch to secure the cuff and blouse sleeve together.

7. Prepare the sleeve for sewing into the armhole. Here I’ve pinned the sleeve to the Donna Blouse to give you an idea of how it will look.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of making a toile to determine what the most flattering sleeve length and cuff width will be for your individual figure type. My upper arms are longer than my lower arms so I favor a slightly longer “short” sleeve than you usually might find in a blouse. It is also important to make sure the width of the cuff works with the type of collar the blouse or dress will have. This can only be determined by creating a sample and making any markings or corrections needed on it. This ensures your pattern will be good to go when you finally cut it out in your fashion fabric.