Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I Heart Mad Men Style

For an evening at the symphony earlier this year (another one of those events that just screams for a new outfit), I made up this Vogue Couturier pattern from November 1955, purchased as an Eva Dress reproduction. 

This was one of the rare times when I purchased a pattern and the fabric at the same time with a specific image in mind. 

Once I had the fabric in my hands (I purchased it online from Fashion Fabrics Club) the real fun began.  Am I the only one who takes extra special care with a project simply because the fabric is amazing?  A muslin, thread tacks, and hand basting are absolutely required!  This is one of the more complicated dresses I have worked on, and it is also one of my favorites.  A very in-depth review of the construction process may be found at PatternReview.
The inspiration for the capelet cover-up came later. 

It just seemed a shame to cover the dress with a coat, unless it was a matching silk taffeta swing coat, even for a walk from the car.  Alas, with limited time, it was clear the swing coat was going to have to wait.  The double-breasted capelet was underlined with flannel to add a bit more warmth and lined with the cherry red Zeus lining also used for the dress. 

And while it was definitely less glamorous than a full length swing coat, it worked just fine.
And, of course, to finish off the ensemble, a hat was essential.  I had a single skein of stunning gold chenille yarn that I had been hoarding, so I decided to knit a small cocktail hat to add a different texture to the outfit. 

More information about my adventures with buckram and wire may be found on Ravelry.
The dress has only been worn once, however, it is currently living a virtual life on AMC’s website.

I am quite sure that I am not the only vintage inspired gal who loves the fashion of Mad Men (thank you Janie Bryant!), and the writing isn’t too shabby either.  As many are probably aware, Janie is responsible for some of the new Banana Republic fashions.  For a few years, they have sponsored a contest with the chance for a walk-on role on Mad Men!  So when it came time for this year’s Mad Men Casting Call, I immediately thought of this picture, even though the dress would be considered a bit passé by the 1960s.
I would really appreciate your support.  You may vote once every 24 hours until SEPTEMBER 9.  Due to fraudulent voting in the past, now you must register to vote with AMC -- or use your Google, AOL or Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo login.  The initial registration is a bit of a bother (but successive voting is easy!), and it would mean a lot to me if you vote each day until Sept. 9th.
Thanks for voting!

Dress:  Eva Dress E50-883, Made by Me
Shoes:  Alfani Daphna Pumps
Hat:  Made by Me

Monday, August 29, 2011

Something Blue

I have a serious wardrobe addiction.  If I know of a special event, I feel like I need a new frock.  This is rather silly, as I have two closets full of clothing, but I still feel compelled to add to the already expansive collection.  And I felt that an office party that I was partly responsible for qualified as a special event. 

A few ladies pooled resources to throw a bridal shower for my boss this past Friday.  I was responsible for the decorations. 

I spent a couple of weeks making a ton of tulle pom-poms and cupcake toppers.  My entire living room was covered in tulle, netting, tissue paper, and punched paper flowers. 

Of course, the toppers did not go exactly as planned, but the final result came off very well!

One week before the event, I decided that my new dress should match the décor.  With blues, purples, and whites as the party colors, I pulled a lovely silk/cotton floral jacquard from my stash.  The fabric is named Deluxe Marie and comes from Bella Notte Linens (the fabric for my 1948 Vogue gown also came from this fabulous source) - I am lucky enough to live near their warehouse, and have been going to their holiday sale for the past few years, not for their bedding, but for their remnant yardage.  I kept pulling it out for different projects, but was always worried that I would want the fabric for some project in the future.  I also kept pulling out Vogue 1209 (a Rachel Comey design), so I figured the two were made for each other.

The instructions are very clear.  There are a couple of tricky steps, and top-stitching that will show any mistakes that are made, but actually, this was a surprisingly quick dress to sew. 

I love that the dress is lined, but uses french seams in quite a few places.  Do keep in mind, however, that if you use a thick fabric, this will not work.

The biggest alteration I made was to add 5" to the length of this dress, and boy, am I glad that I did.  This thing is SHORT as it is drafted! 

I also trimmed the sleeve lining by about 1/2" and invisibly sewed the lining to the self-fabric at 3/8" from the edge instead of the suggested 1/8".  If I was to make this up again, I would push it back even further.  Because the sleeve is cut with the bodice and does not utilize a gusset, the fabric tends to bunch up under the arm and by the end of the day, the lining had almost rolled its way to the outside.

I also changed the back of the dress so I could wear a standard bra.  To do this, I measured three inches up from the top of the center back bodice and created a new line with pretty much the same curve as the original piece.  I also had to extend the back tab piece as well as the back facing by three inches.  In retrospect, I probably should have raised the back bodice by more than the tab to keep more of the gathering for the back pieces, but I am happy with how it came out.

Lingerie guards were added to the shoulder seams because the neck wanted to fall off my shoulders.

And in deference to my love of hand-sewing, I hand-rolled both the peplum and bottom edge hem, as well as prick-stitched my zipper by hand. 

Although the dress did not come out exactly as I imagined (the center front and back tabs are heavy and have a tendency to droop, and the bias front bodice extensions went a bit wonky), I am pleased with the final result, and it was well received at the very successful shower!

Shoes:  Nine West “Jojus”

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Vintage Vogue Gown Published!

In high school, I dreamed of flouncing around in Victorian corsets and petticoats, and lusted after Pre-Raphaelite images of ladies and their knights.  Over the years, my favorite fashion decade has changed again and again (from 1800 to 1900 to the 1950s and back to the 1940s), but my fascination with creating beautifully crafted garments has not. 
Yesterday, I told you a bit about my first garment sewing experience, and today I thought I would share my excitement at having one of my gowns published in Threads Magazine.

I entered my version of Vogue 2494 in their “Inspired by Threads” contest last October.  I did not win (boo-hoo), but was contacted by an editor suggesting that the dress be included in their Reader’s Closet print edition for the April/May 2011 issue.

It turns out that the magazine prefers to have the dress on a form as opposed to on a body.  Since I do not have a dress form, it was suggested that I send the dress to them to have it photographed.  Now, the dress is obviously one of a kind, and I spend many hours creating her.  I work in an office and know how things can get lost in transit, so I was extremely nervous about putting the gown in a box and letting go.  Well, she is back in my custody safe and sound, and I can now say that my work has been featured in a magazine!  It was also very interesting to learn how far in advance things must be completed to go to print.

More information regarding the construction of the garment may be found on Pattern Review and at BurdaStyle.  I loved the style lines of this dress so much that I made a second version.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sewing Makes Sense for a Girl with Old-Fashioned Sensibilities

I thought I would begin my blogging adventures by sharing the very first “wearable” garment I ever sewed.

In high school, my friends and I were in love with all things Jane Austen.  For a drama class exercise, we decided to go all out and create our own costumes.  Of course, this required some parental help, as none of us had ever used a sewing machine. 
B’s mom was kind enough to volunteer her machine and time to the endeavor if we showed up with everything else we would need.
I distinctly remember piling into A’s old Volvo and heading for the local JoAnn Fabric Store.  We spent quite a bit of time with the pattern books, trying to find something basic, without zippers and buttons, but with a definite Regency flair.  I recall lusting after this Folkwear Empire Dress pattern and deciding that it was too complicated for a first-timer. 

We settled on McCalls 8100, an empire seamed dress with puffed cap sleeves and ties that pulled in the extra volume without any need for zippers or buttons, grabbed three of them, and headed to B’s house.

Turns out, patterns come in different sizes – who knew?  I am not sure how we missed this – it must have been all the excitement and having no idea what to look for – it’s amazing the final dresses turned out as well as they did!  So, we headed back to the fabric store.  At the time, patterns were stamped “no return” upon purchase, but thankfully, the cashier remembered us and agreed to a size swap. 
Of course, this was before I had a general knowledge of McCall’s tendency to have way too much ease in their patterns.  The finished product is rather oversized, especially in the non-draping cotton/poly blend I chose.  And there are other issues:  I did not tuck the raw edges of the sleeve into the binding, and the set-in sleeves are a bit messy.  It is interesting to note that I was attempting minor alterations to the first thing I ever made.  I envisioned my dress with a bit of a train (remember that Folkwear pattern?).  With that in mind, I cut the back skirt piece at bit longer than the pattern piece.  Well, at least I thought it was the back . . . turns out, it was the front.  With the scraps I had left over, my mom helped me level out the hem with my remaining yardage.
There are other things that went awry, but we did all end up with finished products, and even went to school as the Dashwood family for Halloween that year. 

This is a dress that I will never wear again (save for my recent photo shoot), but I am loath to part with it for sentimental reasons.  I love all of the “mistakes” that were made because it reminds me how far I have come, and how much more I have to learn about garment construction.

Do you still have the first thing you ever made?