1930s Sew-along with Norma: line sketch of the dress

Naomi of Spare Room Style brought up a good point about the photos of the completed dress.  All the details get lost in the print of the fabric.  At her request I’m uploading a pencil sketch I hope will make the details clear.

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Details of front of the dress

Bust darts from center of front shoulder to 1″ above apex of bust.
V-neckline with interfacing and facing on inside, bound with bias trim slip stitched into place.
Bodice extends about 2-3″ below widest part of the hip line.  On the Misses Size 4 this is a length about 13″ below the waist.

Details of back of the dress

Center back seam.
Slot zipper application (hand sewn with running stitches).

Flounce

Cut with center front and center back on lengthwise grain.
Two flares each side of center front and center back.

Sleeve

Fitted sleeve.
Vertical dart running from wrist up to elbow.
Sleeve finished with hand sewn bias binding at wrist.
Somewhere between 5 to 9 buttons to be placed along vertical dart line.

Belt

In planning stages.

Pattern Notes

A basic chemise pattern is used for the bodice of the dress.
–Slight shaping was applied from underarm down to end of bodice.  This is not a straight, tubular shape.
–The width at the hipline is widest to accommodate movement and the need for enough fabric so that the dress can be comfortable when the belt is worn.
–The wider the hip line is creates a need for the flares to be slightly wider.  The flares for the size 4 will have a little less depth than the flares for a size 6, 8 or 10.  It is a matter of preserving the overall proportions of the dress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming soon…a new dress form, shaped like me!

Naomi at SpareRoomStyle made a request this morning that got me to seriously thinking.  She asked to see a photo of my 1920s dress on a person.  Up until this request I was mainly using Mary Ann, my size 4 dress form, as the means to get my groove back in terms of sewing and patternmaking.  I have passed from a size 4 a while back and now am between a 4 and a 6.  I prefer my new body shape since it’s much healthier and curvier even though it puts me into that strange place where a woman is one size on top and another on the bottom.  Still it’s so much better than having my bust darts cave in or the skirt hang a bit below the butt.  Clothes look better when a person has a healthy body weight.

I started this blog back in 2013, about 18 months after my Mom passed on.  At that point I had been away from my sewing machine and full-scale pattern drafting for almost 20 years.  To give my Mom the attention she needed and bring in the money to keep the household going I had to let go of many personal hobbies.  So that I didn’t go completely off the deep  end by the loss of my full scale sewing, I took to drafting 1:6 scale patterns for 10 3/4″ dolls and hand sewing the dresses for them.  Since 2013 I’ve gradually gotten my touch and sensibility back.  I had planned to have photos of my size 4 outfits taken on an amateur model so I could have a portfolio.  Although I can fit into the size 4 outfits, my hips and waist measurements are larger than a size 4.  The results is that proportionally the fall of the garment is not so good below the waist.

After thinking about how much even an amateur model and photographer would cost I started looking into how much a custom made dress form would cost.  I have been saving for this next phase and have decided to get the form instead.  I will now be able to draft patterns and fit them on my sized form as well as the size 4.  I do not consider this redundant because it offers me more opportunities to compare the differences between standard and custom sizing in many areas.  Plus, I now get to take an occasional photo of myself when I have completed something I really want.

My next 1930s project will still go forward as planned for a Misses Size 4 since it takes some time for a custom form to be hand made.  Then there will be the making and fitting of a toile for myself.  When my Mom was alive she did all the little things like pinning the back, taking the photos that we later evaluated for fit, helping me with colors and giving me the benefit of her very discerning eye and sensibility.  Having a custom made dress form won’t take her place but what I learned from her can be applied since I can step back and look at my form from a distance.

Wish me luck.  I have an appointment at Andy’s Forms for this Saturday at 10 to get measured and discuss what else my form should have.  I think she should have a butt and an arm.  I seriously think it will help with fitting and draping for future projects.  The estimate for just the form is under $600 which is within what I’ve been saving for.  To me it’s worth the investment.  I don’t need to go away on a fancy vacation.  My happy time off will be sewing, draping and drafting for the new form.  When she arrives we can decide on a name for her.

 

 

 

 

1930s Sew-along with Norma: Dress finished, belt next!

Introduction

To all my blog friends, readers and subscribers.  A big thank you for following, advising, correcting and encouraging me during this year long journey from conception to creation for the 1930s Sew-along with Norma.  I am happy to report the construction of the dress is completed.  The project, though, is not.  I still have to make the belt.  And that is the element that will transform this late 1920-early 1930ish chemise into an attractive dress.

I’m thinking of making fabric covered buttons in the same green fabric that the belt will be made of.  There would be five buttons along the vertical dart of each sleeve to create the look of of a buttoned closure.  Right now I’m not sure.  Further experimentation will show if this will work or not.

Here are progress photos of the completed dress along with construction details I learned along the way.  Once the belt is completed the dress will get a professional hand pressing.

Completed dress

The vertical bust darts originating at the center of the front shoulder help keep the chemise shape straight.  I have never worked with this kind of dart before but will consider it again should I make a dress or blouse where a straight side seam is used.  It provides a nice flow to the fabric over the bust line.  This kind of dart can also be transformed into tucks or gathers over the bust.

The vertical dart in the sleeve affects the way it looks from the back.  It creates a forward movement from the elbow down.  The sleeve has a nice fit around the wrist but is not tight.  The vertical dart can be worked into an opening that closes with ball buttons and fabric loops.  I’d like to use this sleeve again.

The flounce is on the lengthwise grain at center front and back.  The side seams go off onto the bias.  Even though the rayon faille is very lightweight, the extra weight of the fabric from the flounce made it slightly heavier than the tubular shaped bodice of the dress.

I found that rayon faille is a great fabric to work with for simple styles that float and drape around the body.  To get the effect I wanted for this dress a little control was needed.  I decided to improvise and created lightweight stays out of lace hem tape.

The lace stays for darts and seams

To keep the bust darts positioned and facing towards center front, I hand stitiched a length of Wrights Flex-Lace hem tape onto each dart inside the stitching line.  This was done before pressing and sewing to the back bodice at the shoulder line.  Two rows of tiny running stitches were used.

After joining the flounce to the bodice I noticed that there was a slight tendency on the bodice to look like the joining line was going to sag.  To remedy that and prevent stretching, I encircled the joining seam above the stitching line with Wrights Flexi-Lace hem tape.  A row of tiny running stitches above the sewing line and near the edge of the joining seam were used.  Then the seam was pressed up towards the bodice.

The hem tape was awful to work with.  It is Wrights Soft and Easy hem tape but I found it anything but that.  Despite being washed and softened and steamed before use, it crinkled no end when applied to the circular hem.  I will not be using it again.  The plus side of using it is that is provided a nice weight at the hemline.  From the right side the flares hold their place beautifully so I consider it a happy outcome.  Still that rippling and crinkling get to me.

More Wright’s Flexi-Lace was used along the vertical sleeve dart before it was pressed towards the center vertical grain of the sleeve.  The bonus which the stay provides is that there will be more support for the buttons if I decide to sew them along the dart line to create the look of a button closure on the sleeve.

I also used Flexi-Lace along the inside of the seam where the zipper was hand sewn.  It provided the right support for all the hand stitching which followed:  running stitches for the zipper, another row of running stitches to the inside tape along the seam and vinally the hand overcasting of the seam.

Since rayon faille is so twisty and lightweight, I found that the flounce had a tendency to move inward when placed on the dress form.  I wanted the side seam to flare outward so I used a 1 1/2″ wide strip of soft lace hem tape which was stitched over the completed side seam of the flounce on each side.  One row of running stitches that attached the lace only to the seams was used.  The lace stay was applied after sewing the flounce and before attaching it to the bodice.

To keep the side and shoulder seams of the bodice and the seams of the sleeves flat I used lace stays on each seam before sewing the seam itself.  Near the stitching line I used a running stitch.  At the edge I hand overcast the rayon faille and lace together.

1930s Sew-along with Norma: Using hem tape

Update:  Hemming the 1930s styled dress

My dress for the 1930s Sew-along with Norma is coming into the home stretch.  There are many reasons why it has taken me almost a year to actualize this style.  First, my full-time job keeps me very busy and some weekends I’m not up to the level of attention fine dressmaking requires.  Another reason is that when you draft your own patterns it’s a very big adventure.  It takes time to learn how what you see in your imagination will eventually play out with the pattern, muslin and fashion fabric.  Sometimes there are such bad flops along the way it is better to start anew with the hard earned knowledge gained from the mistake.

I have learned so much from this project that I plan to do another 1930s influenced style after the dress is finished.  In that project I hope to create a combination of modern and period techniques based on what I learned from the 1930s challenge created by Norma.  I’m very reluctant to skip along to a 1950s style project since I would lose the awareness and sensitivity gained from this year long journey into 1930s sewing land.

After the flounce was sewn into the bodice gravity not only worked on the hem, but also on the seam that joined the flounce to the bodice.  The pattern goes straight around a point about 10 inches below the hip line.  After the dress hung on the form, I noticed it dipped slightly at the sides.  This might be one reason why the inset flounces on 1930s dresses and skirts  have a curved seam that is higher at Center Front and Center Back and lower on the side seams.  I plan to do my next flounce like this.

My reference books show hems finished with a tape that looks a little like ribbon.  I do not think they had anything like Wrights Flexi-Lace in the 1930s so I went with Wright’s Soft and Easy Hem Tape to finish the hem of the flounce.  It was very stiff when I took it out of the package so I washed it.  I hung it to air dry until slightly damp.  Then I pressed it with a steam iron.  In the close-up of the hem, I’ve already machine sewn the hem tape and basted it in place for the final hand stitching.

The rippling comes from the circular hem.  I’ve pinched in excess fabric where needed.  After hand stitching and light steaming the hem will flatten.  When seen from the right side the hem is smooth so I think this hem treatment will work out.  To stabilize the joining seam of the flounce and bodice I hand stitched into place Wrights Flexi-Lace all the way around.  Tiny running stitches at the top and bottom of the lace were the best choice to sew it in place.

At the French Fashion Academy, we rarely if ever used either Flexi-Lace or Soft & Easy Hem Tape.  Seam edges were zig-zagged and sewn in place with a catch stitch when a flat hem was needed.  Even so, I like the look of lace hem tape because it does look a little retro as do pinked seams.  If I have a choice, though, I prefer Flexi-Lace because it is softer and accommodates curves much better than the Soft & Easy Hem Tape.

Progress Photos

The dress is turned inside out so you can see the finishing for the hem and the joining seam of flounce and bodice.

Close-up of hem finished with Wrights Soft & Easy Hem Tape.

Close-up of the flounce hem, from the right side of the dress.

The Dressmaker’s Library: “Mary Quant * Autobiography”

mary-3“Mary Quant * Autobiography”.  Published by Headline Publishing Group, 2012.

Much has been written about how Christian Dior revolutionized fashion with the New Look of 1947.  But modern fashion historians are thinking twice about the designation of “revolutionary” when applied to the actual elements of the 1947 New Look.  The concepts behind the fashions were a throwback to the early 20th century when wealthy women dressed several times a day for different events.  The importance was on conforming to the external standards of beauty which meant heavy corseting to achieve the so called ideal shape.

At the time Dior’s New Look came into vogue a young English girl with a keen eye for color was reaching adolescence.  Her name was Mary Quant and she had the sensibility of an artist even during the WWII years when the family lived way out in the countryside to escape the dangers that existed closer to, and in, the big cities.  Mary’s autobiography breathes with life in each short chapter that captures a part of her development and her progress towards becoming a real revolutionary designer, one who freed women from all trappings of the past and introduced a brash and bold sense of movement to clothing.

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A little black dress with slightly flared flounces on the sleeves and an innocent Peter Pan collar in white by Mary.

Mary retells her story in a way that makes her total personality emerge.  She was passionate about changing fashion but did not live in the world with blinders on.  The first love and constant love in her life was her husband and business partner Alexander Plunkett Green.  She also loves her son Orlando.  Mary writes openly about the challenges of  getting over the loss of  a daughter and another baby due to miscarriage, her husband’s infidelities and the need of getting a good nanny for Orlando.  In doing  so she shows us the other side of her life, the one behind the praise of the press and the glitter of being at so many fashionable parties each week.

You will not get any sewing details or patternmaking insights from Mary’s autobiography but you will get inside the way her mind works.  As such, you’ll get some cues as to where she drew inspiration from and how she developed it into realized form.  Mary loves color from all sources in life.  She can see a black dress and think that white topstitching will help the design catch more attention.  The commonplace Peter Pan collar took on a new aspect when combined with her mini dresses that followed a fit and flatter princess line.  In Mary’s vision, a simple tubular dress becomes elegant with the addition of circular collar and circular flounces on the sleeves.

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This dress was named “Daddy’s Girl” by Mary.  It was one of the popular styles in her early years as a designer.  The dress is distinguished by the circular flounces used for the collar and cuffs of the sleeves.  Modelled by Jean Shrimpton.

One insight and source of inspiration reveals how the seeds of the mini skirt developed inside Mary’s mind over many, many years.  As a young girl taking dance lessons, she saw a ‘tween age girl in the room where tap dancing practice was  in progress.  The ‘tween was wearing textured tights and white ankle socks along with patent leather Mary Jane styled tap shoes.  With this the little girl wore a very short pleated skirt.  Mary remembered that this expressed all the concepts she wanted to bring into real fashions for young women.  Something evocative of the freedom of movement and spontaneity young girls have.  If you look at the popular styles of the 1960s you will see how this vision came to fruition as women took to short skirts, ribbed knit poor boy sweaters, textured tights and stockings and flat shoes.

Mary thought that haute courture resulted in sad clothing for sad women.  The clothing was not used and worn and exposed.  It was measured, restrained and available only to a few.  The restrictive elements of couture clothing reduced women to elegant clothes hangers for the garment.  Mary wanted to make clothing affordable and available to the masses.  It is true her first customers were the Chelsea girls in London, but Mary’s positive outlook did not make her turn away American retailers who offered mass marketed clothing like J.C. Penney.

Where Dior was a revolutionary was in the way he developed his brand into many different product lines and entered into licensing agreements.  On the business side of fashion that was a forward development.  In terms of style he was inspired by looking backward.  Mary too looked to  her own past but brought it out in a way nobody had before.  She developed pantyhose which freed women from the use of girdles and garter belts.  Her loose fitting clothing did away with the need for restrictive under garments.

For these reasons I think this book is a good addition to any dressmaker’s library.  It’s not just sewing techniques that help boost your skills.  It’s also learning to look at the world creatively, like Mary did, and then let the magic flow forth.

1930s Sew-along with Norma: How to handle a flounce

Here’s a very quick update on my dress for the 1930s Sew-along with Norma.

After some cold sweats and a worrisome night, I fixed the boo-boo I made with the flounce.  In my previous posting, I said I was going to try stay stitching by hand.  After doing that I pinned the flounce to the dress form to let the drape set in.

What a mess I made.  The delicate flounce stretched horizontally and was too big for the lower edge of the dress.  It was a good thing I cut the flounce much longer than planned.  I had to cut a few inches at the top off after stay stitching by machine about an inch below the edge.  I used three tows of machine basting for stay stitching.  Then I clipped the top of the flounce and gently pinned and basted to the bottom of the dress.  This solution worked.

Lesson learned—

  1.  Always stay stitch a flounce along the upper edge.
  2. Then stitch side seams.
  3. Finish side seams.
  4. Clip the edge of the flounce before basting so that the edge will go straight in to the other seam.
  5. Use lots of pins and baste with small basting stitches.
  6. Machine stitch along stitching line and then 1/4″ above.  Trim seam and finish according to what works best for the design and fabric.
  7. Now is the time to hang the dress or skirt with the flounce onto the form or a hanger so that the drape can set in.

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Here’s the dress as I await the drape to set in.  Hemming will be next.  I think I’ll do a photo tutorial of how I make the fabric covered buttons.  I think I will make the belt myself.  A seamstress on Etsy does beautiful work for the kind of belt I want but it’s $30 and up.  That is more than what I spent on the belt fabric.  I’ll have to think of a way to make a belt that doesn’t need eyelets or a prong to close.  The gold or silver of prongs and eyelets will clash with the print and belt fabric.  I do not find a prong and eyelets to match the green fabric for the belt so a creative workaround will be developed.

The dress needs a pressing but so far I’m getting more pleased with how late 1920s it is looking.  Once the belt is made it will be more early 1930s.

 

 

 

 

Manufactured Clothing: Lessons in seam finishes

Introduction

Naomi of Spare Room Style and I had an interesting and helpful exchange this morning about stabilizing and finishing seams that fall on the bias.  Naomi might make a camisole completely cut on the bias.  She is thinking of using French seams but wondered if that would be too heavy.

I have not sewn with garments cut on the bias so my advice here is very limited.  I am more familiar with sewing flounces where either the side seam falls on the bias or the entire piece is on the bias.  In those instances I’ve sometimes pinked the seam but never used a zig-zag stitch.

I mentioned a very old teddy I have that is completely cut on the bias.  I thought that the construction used in this manufactured item could offer us sewistas some clues.  So here are photos analyzing how the teddy was constructed using factory techniques.  I’ve also included photos of a pair of lounge pajamas made in a polyester that feels something like silk.  The teddy and the lounge pajamas are almost 30 years old.  It proves that careful hand washing and storage can prolong the life of anything you wear.  The pajama bottoms need a new elastic waistband.  I may do a drawstring so that the issue is corrected once and for all.

The bias teddy is stored flat in a box and is wrapped in tissue.  It was a gift to me way back in the day.  As pretty as it looks I will be honest with my blog friends about this gift:  it is not flattering at all.  It is cut too low at the bust and too high at the leg.  The lace at the crotch isn’t soft and overall it is not sexy once on.  For a small boned, small busted woman with nice curves below the waist this is a disaster!  I also felt so very strange getting a gift of intimate lingerie from a married couple who knew this was not in keeping with who I am.  I quietly thanked them and put it back in the box.

My boyfriend at the time also didn’t like it.  He thought I looked better in faded denim shorts a la Daisy Dukes style, a cropped white t-shirt and wedgie sandals.  Go figure what women think is sexy doesn’t always line up with what your guy likes.

Teddy Construction

The teddy is by a company called Sami.  The fabric is 100% silk and the lace is nylon & polyester.

The lace was applied to the front and back pieces at top and bottom.  Then a French seam was sewn all the way down at the side seams.  The finished French seam is 1/4″ wide.

The French seam is very lightweight and smooth from the outside.  On the inside it looks slightly puckered but that may have been caused by the turning of the seam into the fabric for the second stitching of the French seam.

This is the front of the teddy on my dress form.  You can see how high the sides are cut.  It’s almost at abdomen level.  It was not flattering to have part of my backside exposed so much.  And the top is too low.

This is the back of the bias cut teddy.  The back is slightly baggy and because so much shows in an unflattering manner, it’s hard to envision who this was made for.

The lace overlays the silk on the right side of the fabric.  A tiny stitch similar to a zig-zag joins the two pieces together.

Lounge Pajamas

There is no manufacturer’s label inside the lounge pajamas.  They are very comfortable but the top buttons too low.  It’s way below my bustline so I wear these with a tank top underneath.

Top and back of the loungewear pajama set.  This was a gift from the same people who gave me the teddy.  Again the construction is beautiful but the styling leaves something to be desired.  The buttons start almost below the bust line.

The fabric is very silky and I would think prone to shredding as their are threads I sometimes have to trim from the side seams.  The seams are 1/4″ wide, finished with a merrow stitch and pressed towards the back of the garment.  I think a home sewist could do the same with a small zig-zag stitch in lieu of an overlock stitch.

The pajama top was not interfaced along the center front.  The edges were merrowed.  I think this finish provides the best solution.  If I were to sew such a pajama set on my own machine, I’d straight stitch 1/4″ from the edge and then hand overcast if it were real silk.  For polyester I might zig-zag.