First draping project underway-Late 1940s skirt and blouse


Draping Technique used is from 1947 book,  Precision Draping by Nellie Weymouth Link

I have finally resolved the issues with the skirt darts.  The best fit is achieved by angling the darts towards the side seam.  This means that they are slightly off grain.  I was surprised that this solution worked but the fit over my abdomen is very smooth.  The dart length is also shorter than if they are positioned on the straight of grain.

I found it impossible to work with one large dart for the back of the skirt.  When the dart intake is greater than 3/4 of an inch the dart has a very sharp point and does not look flattering over the part of the body is rests on.  For those skirts in Precision Draping that must have only one dart in the back, such as when making flares, I will think of a workaround when the time comes.  Right now I have selected a very simple style I can use my new skills on.

I want to thank Norma of She Sews You Know and Naomi of Spare Room Style for all their encouragement during this long process.  Your encouragement has continually motivated me.

Style Chosen:  Late 1940s straight skirt and short kimono sleeve blouse


This skirt is a late 1940s, post-New Look style.  You can tell because the hemline has dropped from the knee length skirts of the WWII era to the mid-calf length that was to dominate after 1947 due to Dior’s New Look.  The Pencil Skirt as we know it today, with its straight tapered line below the hips and it’s noticeable curve along the hipline, would not be developed until the mid-1950s.  The 1940s straight skirt had more walking ease thanks to a slight flare at the hemline. The side seam lacks the more pronounced curve of the Pencil Skirt and is therefore kinder to many figure types.

While this isn’t an exciting skirt and blouse it is a good starting point to apply many of the principles from Precision Draping.  I want to use them as much as possible to achieve a fit and style as close to the late 1940s as possible.

My first drape of the blouse and skirt

I do not like how form fitting the blouse on the pattern illustration is.  Since I am smaller on the top I need a more blousy effect to balance out the fullness of my abdomen and hips.  The collar on this blouse attracts the eye upwards.  A belt made with the same fabric as the skirt will reduce the size of my waistline in relation to the upper torso.

To control the fullness in the blouse I will use a hip yoke to sew the bodice into.  The yoke gets tucked into the skirt and keeps the blouse neatly in place.

The bodice of the blouse was draped using the standard bodice with armhole.  That drape in turn was transferred to paper and a short kimono sleeve drafted onto it.  Precision Draping combines draping and flat patternmaking.  This is not as difficult as it sounds.  Anyone with knowledge of making pattern alterations will have the skills to take the next step if they stick to a simple style.

Kimono sleeves can use a lot of fabric when draped.  Using this technique by drafting them onto the draped bodice saves on muslin.

Photo of the drape of the blouse and hip yoke pinned onto the form.

Front of straight skirt pinned in place over the blouse.  This kind of checking is very important to determine if more ease is needed.  That adjustment can be made when transferring the drape to a paper pattern.


Easing into 2017, the RetroGlam way!

Happy, Happy New Year to all my blogging friends, subscribers and sojourners on the fashion quest to blend retro and modern styles.  My wish is for all to enjoy good health, mental clarity and focus for all creative projects.  May 2017 be a year of progress and improvement for all!

I went to Washington, DC over the Christmas weekend to take a much needed rest and retreat.  I stayed at a family style guest house that was so comfortable I spent the time after breakfast and before lunch reading and napping.  The book that accompanied me on this trip was the bio of Mary Quant.  I was not disappointed.  Mary’s voice and outlook immediately drew me in.  I still have a way to go but plan to make a short posting about the book once I resume regular blogging here at WordPress.

For now I’m easing into the New Year by continuing the lovely practice of a late morning nap on Saturday morning.  I hope I can adhere to this schedule because the effects are proving very beneficial to me.  During my trip to Washington, I spent the morning of Christmas Eve in a small nail salon that had a tech with a magic touch.  She gave an exquisite facial and neck massage that sent me back to the guest house feeling brand new.  She knew that I had a hectic schedule and was slightly sleep deprived by the way I kept dozing off during the pedicure.  She told me that if I only miss a few extra hours of sleep during the week, I can make it up on a weekend by napping that number of hours.  So, for example, if I only get 5 or 6 hours of sleep one night instead of 7 or 8, I should make up the time by taking a 2 hour nap on the weekend.  I’ve no idea if there is any scientific basis for this but the practice of a regular nap sounds very restorative to me.

Which brings me to the subject of this posting:  creating a mood of RetroGlam even when relaxing at home and indulging in a bubble bath or a leisurely nap.  I think it is too easy to allow the opportunity for small indulgences to slip by.  I often fall asleep in my jeans with a messy heap of the quilt and sheets on my sofa bed when I take a nap.  I’m going to try and make the nap something special.  The bed will be the same but I’m going to make it neat and perhaps buy a good pillow with a pretty pillow case.  Next a comfy pair of pajamas or a special nightgown just for nap time.

I found the following ads in the February 25th, 1945 edition of “The Brooklyn Daily Eagle”.  I think the bedroom décor and the housecoat convey something of what my dream room and lounge attire would be if things moved at a slower pace.  Even if they remain as they are, there are still a few ideas here that I may adapt to my bed and naptime or lounge wear.  Even a small touch such as a special tea cup or coffee mug and a silky duvet can add a touch of RetroGlam if these items harken back to our mother’s or grandmother’s generation.  I hope this gives you some ideas…

Bed Linens and Curtains from Abraham & Strauss, 1945


Spring Change for your bedroom–in quilted chintz

    Single Spread 14.95                 Draperies, pair             12.95
Double Spread 15.95                 Dressing Table Skirt   9.95

Pillow Sham 4.95

It’s time for your bedroom to blossom–and what could be prettier than these slick glazed chintz trappings?  The bedspread has a completely quilted top and quilted cuff around the flounce.  Draperies are 2 3/4 yards long. the print is full of flower-garden colors,  ontrasted with petunia pink, morning glory blue or leaf green.  A&S Draperies, Fourth, Central.  Mail, phone orders filled.

Convenient Payments Arranged On $24 Or More.

House Coat from Martin’s


Wrap yourself in Roses on
Crisp Glazed Chintz

A housecoat to put the lilt of Spring into your home life.  the beautiful natural-looking roses scamper all over the snowy white background.  And it’s charmingly styled with soft side-drape and ruffled yoke-line.  the chintz is permanent finished for safe washing.  and you can have blue, yellow or pink roses.  Sizes 12 to 20.  8.98

Negligees–Martin’s Street Floor

Martin’s, Fulton At Bridge Street, Brooklyn 1


Ads from the February 25, 1945 edition of “The Brooklyn Daily Eagle”
Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Newsstand

Ad from Abraham & Straus Department Store
page 5

Ad from Martin’s Department Store
page 6




The Dressmaker’s Library: Young Originals – Emily Wilkens and the Teen Sophisticate, Part 1

 photo Young Originals_zpsglxszrkf.jpg

Review of Young Originals Emily Wilkens and the Teen Sophisticate
by Rebecca Jumper Matheson. 
Published by Texas Tech University Press, 2015.

Fashion did not focus on the needs of girls in the late stages of their ‘tween years and early teenage years in the first 40 years of the 20th century.  Girls in this age group were considered little ladies in waiting.  The needs of their developing figures were not catered to in any way by designers and manufacturers.  Clothing for this demographic was cut slightly larger and sold in the children’s department.  The concept of a young consumer with specific needs and developing preferences was not treated seriously until a designer named Emily Wilkens went to California to work as a designer for child star Ann Todd.

 photo emilywilkens1_zpsmolpyrva.jpg

Early 1960s sketch by Erica Perl Merkling depicting Wilken’s ideal teenage girl.  A healthy body weight was the basis of good health, an integral part of Wilken’s concept of beauty.

As her reputation for catering to the needs and preferences of child and early teenage stars grew, Emily became more and more aware of the special needs of the teenage girl.  Keeping in mind her own younger sister Barbara, Emily began to envision the ideal weight, shape, appearance and figure flattering clothes necessary to help a ‘tween and young teenage girl develop a sense of style that anticipated her blossoming into young womanhood with charm and grace.

 photo emilywilkens3_zpstzsofiih.jpg

Emily Wilkens Young Originals dress from 1944.  Each design was patented to prevent piracy.

In 1941 Emily Wilkens was back in New York.  This time as a costume designer for the Broadway play Junior Miss.  She designed the costumes under the auspices of Best Department Store so her name does not appear in the credits.  Nonetheless, the teenage characters in the play were attired in such a way to show their transition towards becoming stylish teenagers.  This was achieved by dressing the teenage actresses in somewhat sloppy looking sweaters and skirts at the start of the play.  Later, the girls wear pretty blouses and neat jumpers.  The jumpers and blouses were the forerunners of Emily’s own line where the emphasis was on perfect fit and figure flattering details meant to accommodate the changes in a girl’s figure.

 photo emilywilkens5_zpszxucb3hy.jpg

The model in this photo is Tee Matthews.  She wears an Emily Wilkens Young Originals summer dress.  Tee was very popular model with GIs during WWII because she embodied what we now call the “girl next door” look.  Advertisements where Tee modeled shorts and swimwear were cut out and used as pin-ups by the soldiers.  Tee’s appeal exemplified Wilkens belief that shiny hair, a clear complexion, exercise, diet and a positive outlook were much more important than drop dead glamour for a girl to be attractive.

Emily entered into a partnership with a clothing manufacturer that enabled her to design under her own name.  By the age of 26 she was on her way to winning awards for her contributions to the growing teen fashion market.  Some of her preferred construction details used to create a flattering silhouette for the growing teenage girl were:  double or triple French darts on the bodice, smocking across the abdomen or chest; and intricate trimming or embroidery on the skirt of the dress.

 photo emilywilkens6_zpsvnwrnhie.jpg

Emily used details from 19th century fashions to add a special touch to her teen sophisticate dresses.  The dress worn by the teenage model was inspired by a late 19th century children’s dress trimmed with lace inset with ribbon.

Emily’s peak designing years saw her receive greater recognition in the press and the fashion industry.  Yet when she got married in 1947 social pressures caused her to end her career.  She became the wife of Irving Levey, a New York State Supreme Court judge and soon the mother of a boy and girl.  Emily returned to fashion in the 1950s but her styles were geared towards the older teen ready to go to college.  Emily was known to appear and disappear from the fashion scene throughout the decade.  She remained active when possible by designing for pattern companies.  These projects kept her name and influence going.

 photo emilywilkens7_zpshajf46lb.jpg

This model embodies the healthy, natural look Emily considered the basis for success in cultivating and expressing one’s style and presence.

In the 1960s Emily taught a workshop at New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology.  By the end of the decade she changed her focus and remained relevant throughout the late 1980s.  Emily taught women through speaking engagements, radio appearances, and the books she wrote.  She distilled the essence of her experience at health and beauty spas into programs anyone could adapt for personal use at home.  In this way Emily reached a wide audience at a time when the mainstream American culture began to appreciate the relationship between diet, exercise, and skin care as integral parts of cultivating one’s attractiveness.  Emily was diagnosed with dementia and entered a home in the 1990s.  She passed away in 2000.

Thanks to Emily Wilkens the modern teenager, as well as the woman with a youthful figure who can wear a junior size, have access to flattering clothes in sizes geared to their body proportions.  It isn’t necessary for teens to shop in the children’s department nor for a junior size woman to buy a Misses size and have it altered.  On a personal note, I am so grateful for Wilkens and her contemporaries for breaking this ground.  As a mature woman who can still wear junior sized 7 clothing I have to say that they fit me so much better than a Misses size 6.  I’m sure others with the same figure type will recognize something of themselves in the sketches and models who embodied the look Wilkens promoted.

Note:  The purpose of a two part book review consists of using part 1 to introduce Emily Wilkens to my blog readers and subscribers.  In part 2 I will use a Q&A format to review the book and explain why I think it is a valuable addition to a dressmaker’s library.





Online Vintage Patternmaking Book: “Modern Pattern Design”

“Modern Pattern Design” by Harriet Pepin was written in 1942.

I’m very happy to share a discovery with you today–a complete vintage patternmaking guide that is available FREE at

“Modern Pattern Design” offers a complete system for creating pattern blocks along with the techniques to transform them into various styles.  There are many illustrations and the instructions for drafting are given step-by-step.  Harriet also provides very detailed commentary.  I plan to read through each chapter before incorporating any of her techniques into the system I use.  Her tone and style of writing is very conversational so it is easy to follow along.

This website does not have a “Save as PDF” link but I found a way to save each chapter.   The link provided brings you to the Table of Contents which consists of links to each chapter.  After getting to the site do the following:

  1. Create one folder on your drive and name it “Modern Pattern Design.”
  2. Within this folder create sub-folders named for each chapter as well as the Author’s Statement, Acknowldegement and Summary.
  3. Click on the first link to navigate to that page.  On the menu of your browser click on “File” menu.  Then click on “Save As”.
  4. Select the correct sub-folder by clicking to open it.
  5. Then click the “Save” button on the File Save screen.
  6. Use the forward arrows at the top right hand portion of each screen.  This navigates to the next chapter.
  7. Repeat steps 5-7 until all chapters are saved.
  8. Within each sub-folder your PC will create a sub-sub folder that holds all the graphics from each webpage/chapter.  Below that will be the saved webpage.  Do not delete the sub-sub folder.  It is important to keep.
  9. Print out each saved web page if you want to have a hard copy of this book.

I hope you will find this book as useful as I am.  It is thorough enough to give you a good foundation to get started in creating your own custom made vintage garments.  The illustrations present many wearable, everyday styles of the early 1940s.  They can serve as the basis for your own interpretations.

Vintage Pattern Envelope and Pattern Sheet Detail: Vogue 1940s bias cut coat

Vogue no. 8262 was available sometime during the 1940s. The design is deceptively simple and looks like a quick and easy project. Once you review the pattern details you might think twice. The coat front and back pieces are cut on the bias and has bound buttonholes, a roll collar and bound pockets. I would have to think twice about making this coat on the bias because the recommended fabrics like wool and silk crepe can be very expensive. As a thought exercise I find the study of this design very useful in considering other ways to achieve the look without the angst bias cut fabric can induce. There is the stretching and sagging that might occur due to mishandling. The coat does not have a lining so that makes it simpler in some ways.

The pattern envelope describes this style as:

“Coat, beach robe or long monk-like hooded house robe. Bias front and back worn hanging free from shoulders, or belted at waist with wide novelty or corded tie belt. Long loose gathered-at-top sleeves. The small shaped c0llar and inset pockets are optional.”

There are no belt loops for the coat which would make using a wide belt impractical if you plan to take the coat on and off throughout the day. I think If I were to attempt to recreate something like this I might cut it on the straight grain using the basic pattern for a tent coat and add more flares to the pattern. Instead of bound pockets I’d make in-seam pockets so that the flow of the flares is not interrupted.

The pattern instruction sheet is very brittle and torn in some places. For this reason I could not scan the entire sheet. I’m posting here the portions about the sleeve stiffener and shoulder pad since these details are helpful for recreating a period look. This coat uses a sleeve stiffener (a/k/a sleeve head) that is sewn into the cap of the sleeve. The shoulder pad is home made using cotton batting and a lining fabric to cover it. The pattern does not specify how many layers of batting to use nor does it give a height for the finished shoulder pad. Since the sleeve head is used I’d think a very thin shoulder pad about 1/8″ to 1/4″ high would be sufficient.

This pattern was a gift my late Mom gave to me. I know that if she were younger when she selected this she would have liked to wear view D as a house coat. The loose style and flowing silhouette would be flattering for any figure type. This simplicity and adaptability of this coat are typical of what my Mom considered a style that can move with you through the years and still work well.

BYW version of the illustration

Pattern alteration instructions

Instructions for making the sleeve head

Instructions for the shoulder pad (note the triangular shape)

Ann Adams 1940s Sewing Pattern Instruction Sheet

Mid-Summer greetings to all!  I’ve been so busy with my job that sewing is limited to that strange realm called whenever.  As in whenever I get an extra hour or whenever I have an afternoon off.  I’ve learned that it’s very true that haste makes waste so I don’t fight the trend.  The Secretary Blouse and Sheath Skirt are coming along very nicely.  At least at the end of a session, whenever that is, I leave feeling satisfied and progress is being made.  I do think, though, that I’m reaching my limit with synthetics.  It is true that in terms of pressing and laundering they are low maintenance but in terms of sewing they often require as much effort as more expensive natural fibers..  I’m seriously considering going to natural fibers or natural-synthetic blends once I use up the remaining poly gabardine and rayon I bought for a New Look Suit.

In the meantime, I want to tell all visitors, THANK YOU FOR LOVING AND SUPPORTING MY BLOG.  The stats show a steady stream of visitors coming each week.  There are at least 40-60 views each week.  I’m truly delighted that so many people from around the world are learning from the post “How to sew an all-in-one bodice” or how to draft the Donna Skirt.

I’m going through the vintage patterns my Mom bought for me many years ago, before she passed away.  She thought that if I studied the diagrams, instructions and layouts I could adapt the system I learned to produce something comparable.  Mom was very sensible about apparel.  She thought style was more important that fashion.  Time has proved her on the mark as far as I’m concerned.  I’m sharing in this post the instructions and diagram for a 1940s dress designed by a pattern company called Ann Adams.  I think it would look just as flattering today.  The dropped waistline and below-the-knee hemline can create a slimming effect.  This style would also look good on a very slender, small busted woman because the shirring stitched into the side dart creates the appearance of a fuller bustline.  The optional sash can cinch the shaped waistline in even further if a more fitted look is desired.  The pattern illustration shows the dress made in a print but I think a solid color would show off the topstitching, shirring and flared skirt panels to better effect.  What do you think?

Continue reading

For Hila: Vintage Sewing Techniques for making a coat

Hey there!  Hila, here are the tips from the vintage booklet “Tailoring” published 1945 by The Spool Cotton Company.

I’ve never seen instructions like the ones given here.  I think these are more labor intensive since the interlining is considered a separate layer from the fashion fabric.  “Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing” has a simpler process:  the interlining and fashion fabric are basted together and then cut and treated as one layer.  The only thing these instructions have in common is that the back interlining piece will not have the pleat the way the lining does and has the back seam abutted. This is how I learned to do it and it works very well.

Still, it’s very educational to see how clothing was constructed in the past.  It helps understand how techniques are always evolving.