March 10, 2014 § 12 Comments
I made our little niece a vintage ’30s coat as a Hannukah gift. For the pattern I used Pictorial Review 6128, a double-breasted coat with optional back belt and pockets.
Here’s the diagram and description from the envelope back. It’s a unisex coat for small children, and was available only in sizes 1 to 6:
The recommended fabrics were flannel, camel’s hair, piqué, velveteen, cheviot, and serge. We had a length of purple Woolrich tweed that felt the right weight for a coat. (Established in 1830, Woolrich is North America’s oldest woolen mill. Today, Woolrich tweed is a wool-nylon blend for durability.) I cut some leather trim for the welt pockets from an old pair of leather gloves, and my modest button stash yielded a set of one-inch vintage Civil Defence buttons for the front and belt.
Since the pattern is the old die-cut type and needed no alterations, I tried cutting using the original tissue pieces held down with weights.
I’m new to tailoring (and coat-making), so throughout the process I referred to Paco Peralta’s tailoring tutorial and my 1970s Vogue Sewing Book on tailoring techniques. The coat collar gave me the opportunity to try out pad stitching. The pattern even gave instructions; the undercollar is to be interfaced with muslin and pad stitched, with the collar stand first worked with a running stitch:
Here are some progress photos of the pad stitched undercollar:
This is the undercollar attached to the coat body:
You could call my approach to the coat half-tailored—somewhere between the pattern’s Depression-era muslin collar interlining and modern tailoring’s padstitched hair canvas interfacing, all catch-stitched along the seam lines. As a compromise between vintage and modern methods I used a sew-in interfacing on coat facings, belt, and pocket welts. (None was called for in the pattern.) To handle the heavy tweed, I had no tailor’s clapper, so I pounded the steamed seams and edges with a small cedar block we had on hand. Paco’s tip of making a few stitches across lapel corners worked wonders for my first-ever lapels.
I bagged the lining and added handworked keyhole buttonholes—fanned at one end, with a bar tack at the other. Partway through making the coat we decided against the convertible collar, so I omitted the lapel buttonholes. (As with many vintage patterns, there were no button/buttonhole markings.) It was my first stab at handworked buttonholes on heavy fabric; I love how the hand stitches create an edge that curves out to the ridge of knots that lines the buttonhole opening.
Here are some photos of the finished coat:
I think of Civil Defence buttons as ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ buttons since the font and crown are similar to those on the WW2 propaganda poster originally produced by Britain’s Ministry of Information. (More on the Keep Calm font here.) Some closeup views of the buttons and buttonholes:
And the little back belt:
Our loft’s walls have some mysterious industrial hardware that proved useful in showing the scale of the coat:
Cutting straight from a die-cut pattern was an interesting experience, but I still prefer printed or traced tissue for cutting and marking. An oft-cited drawback of unprinted patterns is that the notches and other markings don’t always line up. This was true of the coat pattern, but it wasn’t hard to correct.
It’s always a pleasure working with wool, and I really enjoyed the challenge of trying out tailoring with a heavy fabric. The finished coat is something our niece will grow into, especially in the shoulders. But she does love the pockets! I see more coat-making in our future…
(Cross-posted to We Sew Retro.)
January 19, 2014 § 10 Comments
I had planned to make the dress in my default black, and had even bought some mesh for the contrast cowl neck. But when I started looking back over runway photos from Givenchy’s neo-noir Fall 1998 ready-to-wear collection, I was struck by the palette of neutrals, electric blue, and especially the combination of oxblood with red.
(There’s a blue version of the original sleeveless dress on eBay. The dress fabric is a nylon/acetate/elastane blend, with acetate lining, and the back zipper reaches all the way up through the cowl.)
I made View B, the sleeveless, mid-calf version, in oxblood with a red cowl neck. I hit Designer Fabrics and found some oxblood wool, red mesh for the contrast cowl, and Bemberg for the lining. The pattern recommends chiffon for the contrast, but I wanted to stick with the mesh used for the runway version. I was a little stumped as to interfacing for the contrast, and even bought some tomato red tricot to use before learning that the best interfacing for mesh is more mesh.
I wanted a close fit, so I ignored the sizing and went by the finished garment measurements printed on the pattern, including 1″ ease at bust and waist and a little more in the hips. I also lengthened the skirt by 1.5″ to achieve the correct length.
This was my first dart-fitted dress, and I had fun sewing my very first contour darts—eventually realizing the virtues of even a makeshift tailor’s ham. The cowl neck is cut on the bias, but this didn’t pose any problems, since the mesh handles much better than chiffon.
With the full lining and absolutely no stretch, the dress feels very old-fashioned to wear. One thing I misjudged was the bodice/cowl part of the bodice—I cut the right size in the bust, but didn’t distribute the extra waist length I was adding between the above-waist and shoulder areas, so it’s a bit on the high side and the cowl neck has a closer fit than in the runway photo. It would have been simpler to cut a size up and take the bodice in at the sides. The “interfaced” mesh is also a little bulky; the extra layer was probably unnecessary.
Since the Fall 1998 collection was inspired by Blade Runner, it seemed appropriate to take photos of the dress at the David Cronenberg: Evolution exhibition at TIFF Bell Lightbox. In the Interzone area, devoted to Naked Lunch (1991), visitors could have their photo taken with a Mugwump:
Naomi took some photos of me upstairs at an extension of the Cronenberg show called Body/Mind/Change (BMC). Visitors to the biotech facility BMC Labs can observe the production of personalized POD (Personal On-Demand) implants, which are held awaiting pickup by their hosts. The BMC Labs facility is still open if you’d like to create your own POD implant:
Here I am in the POD holding area:
A closer view of the mesh cowl neck:
The cowl fastens in the back with hooks and thread eyes:
The lab staff let me hold a brand-new red POD (rara avis—most are colourless):
We were delighted to find BMC Labs at the end of our visit: it was the perfect backdrop for the dress given McQueen’s futuristic, sci-fi inspiration for his collection for Givenchy. I’m crossing my fingers for a red POD of my own…
November 9, 2013 § 14 Comments
I love vintage swimwear. (See my post on vintage beachwear patterns here.) It’s also been years since I had a bathing suit; somehow I can never make myself shop for one. So I resolved to make a vintage swimsuit using the Vintage Fashion Library’s reproduction of Simplicity 7041, VFL 145.
Based on the envelope design and that of the consecutively numbered Simplicity 7042, a lingerie set with bloomers, I would date the pattern to circa 1929. (On the development of the 1920s swimsuit see Bomber Girl’s post here.)
These two George Hoyningen-Huene photos of Patou swimsuits from the late ’20s served as reference and inspiration for me:
The original pattern instructions give a charming description: “7041: Style for chic and for good swimming. It has a smart belted waistline, buttoned shoulder straps, and a round neckline. Style 1: A one-piece suit for the very active swimmer who demands plenty of freedom. Style 2: A two-piece suit which looks well on the taller woman. With deep V-back.” The pointed, lapped lower bodice seam is a nice Deco detail, which could be brought out further by making the attached shorts in a contrasting fabric.
I made the one-piece with scoop back. I found some lightly textured, black swimwear fabric on sale at King Textiles’ old location, with matching white fabric for a contrast belt. To face the upper bodice and belt I used tricot interfacing/lining from Designer Fabrics, where I also got some plain 1″ buttons. The 1.5″ belt buckle is from Leather & Sewing Supply Depot (now at 204 Spadina).
I needed to grade down the repro’s B38 to fit me. Even then I had to take in the suit at the upper side seams. The straps were made slightly shorter and narrower as part of the grading, but the length of the shorts was unaltered. I added white topstitching along the top and bottom edges of the bodice, with contrasting black topstitching on the white belt.
The cut of the shorts is in the old style, which takes some getting used to. Here is a view of the suit, shown flat:
Naomi and I took some photos of the swimsuit at the old Sunnyside Bathing Pavilion. This archival photo shows the pavilion in its heyday:The pavilion’s grand, Beaux-Arts archway records the year it opened to the public, 1922:
As Naomi pointed out, the suit is basically a playsuit, and with heels and a coverup it didn’t feel too odd walking down Queen Street West to the beach.
I was able to cheat and make the buttons non-functional:
I had trouble deciding how to fit the suit. Although period photographs show knit swimsuits that cling to the body, the illustration shows a looser-fitting suit. Since I wanted to swim in it, I wasn’t aiming for an authentic reproduction. (Wool is just not an option.) But having made it up, it’s clear the suit would drape better in a lighter swimwear fabric. I may try the low-backed, skirted view for next summer…
(Cross-posted to We Sew Retro.)
December 3, 2012 § 10 Comments
Since Naomi was going as Daenerys Targaryen, this Halloween I went as Quaithe from George R.R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire. Quaithe is a minor character from shadowy Asshai who meets Daenerys near Qarth; she makes repeated appearances to deliver cryptic prophecies.
In the books Quaithe is hardly described at all apart from her red lacquered mask, so I had a lot of freedom. Asshai, in the fantasy world’s mysterious east, is known for its worship of R’hllor, a fire religion with Zoroastrian echoes. After doing some research into ancient Persian costume, which showed periodic Greek influences, I opted to use my Very Easy late ’70s Givenchy evening dress pattern, Vogue 2014:
The design may be from the Spring 1978 collection, judging from the similar halter neckline in this campaign image:
For fabric, I used black Qiana from a deadstock bolt found on Etsy. Qiana is a vintage nylon, a synthetic silk with a little stretch. It’s even in keeping with the ‘exotic’ Qs of the fantasy series.
As a Very Easy Vogue pattern, Vogue 2014 has very simple construction, but also lots of hand-finishing. The hem and slits at top and bottom front are slipstitched, the top edge is blindstitched to the inside bodice, and the back facings and extension are slipstitched over the hooks and eyes that fasten the halter.
I made the size 12 with no alterations, and it worked out just fine. The lines of gather stitching at the ends of the halter fastening are visible, as I discovered, so if I made the dress again I would mark them rather than doing my usual winging it.
Instead of using the 18-inch tassel the pattern calls for, I strung together some mesh beads from Arton Beads on Queen Street West. With stainless steel spacer beads the strand is fairly heavy, but I like the effect when it’s fastened to the back extension.
Naomi found me a shimmery red mask at Malabar, and within a day or so I had a costume:
Here are some detail shots of the bodice and back:
Many thanks to our fabulous photographer, Rachel O’Neill, for a fantastic beach shoot in mid-November!
(Cross-posted to We Sew Retro.)
November 29, 2012 § 9 Comments
This Halloween Naomi wanted to go as Daenerys Targaryen from George R.R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire via HBO’s Game of Thrones. The show’s meticulous costuming won costume designer Michele Clapton and her team an Emmy this year. (They even wove their own fabric.) You can see an L.A. Times costumes gallery with Clapton’s commentary here (contains spoilers) and a post with video by Chris Laverty of Clothes on Film here.
For her costume, Naomi chose one of Daenerys’ Qarth outfits, which the character wears in “Valar Morghulis,” the season 2 finale:
The costume was an experiment in pattern drafting for me. I made one element from scratch and adapted the others from a few vintage sewing patterns I had on hand. The outfit consists of a princess-seamed overdress worn with fitted leather armour and over a split skirt. The concept is that the character has paired armour with a man’s tunic from the port city of Qarth, worn over a skirt made of skins from her time among the nomadic Dothraki.
After sketching from online video images, I was able to find these costume photos in the new book about the show’s production, Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones:
Update: this Qarth costume is included in the press photos for Game of Thrones: The Exhibition:
For the princess-seamed dress I used McCall’s C-3 with shoulder yokes adapted from Butterick 5059, and the high-collared armour is loosely based on McCall’s 1051.
For fabrics, we managed to hit King Textiles’ big moving sale just before they closed their old location. (The Richmond location’s being demolished to build a condo development called Fabrik.) We picked up some lavender satin for the overdress, the perfect, canvas-backed fake suede and a pale beige woven for the skirt, and some thin brown PVC for the armour, to be backed with a heavy underlining.
The Dothraki skirt was the most fun to figure out. I cut two hide-like pieces from the fake suede, leaving the edges raw and uneven; the bottom corners curve down to rounded points. For the bleached, folded-over hip yoke I did some primitive draping with tracing paper to get the correct curve on the body. After finding the right amount of overlap for the ‘hides’ I pinned them in place and stitched them to the yoke’s inside edge. The centre back closure is hidden under the overdress.
Online videos showed that Daenerys’ Qartheen overdress had shoulder yokes (they’re also visible in the Costuming Dany photos), so I combined my yoke pattern with a princess-seamed dress pattern, cutting away the sides at the hips and slightly flaring the long, central panel in front and back. The original overdress on the show is quite fitted, with topstitching that suggests that it’s boned, but we went for a more relaxed fit. The armholes are finished with bias underfacings; because the wrong side of the central panel shows, I mitered the corners and finished all the edges.
The leather armour posed the greatest challenge for me, since for some reason I decided to draft the sleeves without any kind of block. I used the collar and upper bodice from McCall’s 1051 and patched in the princess seams from the overdress, adding a cutout to line up with the overdress neckline. The bodice PVC was backed with canvas, and I used scraps of the fake suede to back the sleeves and collar, leaving the edges raw. The combined PVC/canvas layers were difficult to control in places. Initially I planned to topstitch to mimic the piecing detail of the original, but this PVC does not take topstitching. Instead we bound the bottom and cutout edges with strips of PVC, and I did a quick running stitch by hand on the sleeves to smooth the shoulder line.
Add a silver-blond cosplay wig and toy dragon, and the costume is complete.
We went down to the beach for a photo shoot with the talented Rachel O’Neill. Here’s a full-length shot of Naomi in her Daenerys costume:
The Mother of Dragons contemplates her destiny…
Here you can see the hand stitching detail on the armour:
And here are the two of us in costume:
April 15, 2012 § 11 Comments
Vogue 1556, a shift dress by Yves Saint Laurent, is a design from the Fall 1965 ‘Mondrian’ collection. (See my post on the Mondrian collection patterns here.) Of the five designs Richard Dormer photographed for the February/March 1966 issue of Vogue Pattern Book, Vogue 1556 is the only one shown in colour, showing off the Florence Knoll chair in the background. When I found a copy of the pattern in my size, it went to the top of my to-sew list.
The envelope description reads: One-piece dress. Shift dress with wide contrasting yoke and hem band has long sleeves slightly gathered into contrasting band cuffs. The original was made in four-ply silk crêpe from Onondaga.
The dress can be made in cocktail or evening length. I decided to make the cocktail-length version illustrated on the envelope back, a monochrome dress with sequin contrast:
I found a black wool crêpe and Bemberg lining at Designer Fabrics, and some fabulous square-sequinned fabric on sale at Fabricland. The pattern went together like a dream. The only adjustment I made was to let the hips out a bit and widen the hem band accordingly. Luckily the hem and sleeves were just the right length without any adjustment. Underlining gives the dress that typical Sixties weight; I also used the Bemberg lining to underline the sequin fabric, but I think it could have benefited from something a little heavier.
The dress fastens in the back with two separate closures: a lapped zipper for the body of the dress and buttons or snaps for the yoke. I had a lot of fun putting in my first lapped zipper. The pattern gives special instructions for the sequinned version of the dress: snaps for the upper back instead of buttons. I recommend using sturdy snaps—the light ones I used are prone to popping open.
As special fabrics go, sequins are fairly high-maintenance. The sequins needed to be removed from all seam allowances and their attaching threads caught by the stitching. This could be challenging when hand-sewing the backs of the contrast bands, but the results are worth it, I think.
Readers of We Sew Retro may have seen the photos of Vogue 1556 that Naomi took for my interview back in December. Since the original Vogue Pattern Book Yves Saint Laurent editorial was shot in the Knoll showroom in Paris, I arranged to photograph my Vogue 1556 dress in Knoll’s Toronto showroom. The new showroom is in a converted warehouse in Liberty Village (more details on the LEED-certified space here). It was a pleasure to spend a winter afternoon in their industrial space full of Knoll textiles and furniture:
On a wall near the entrance is a quote from Florence Knoll on architecture and interior design (I’m sitting on an Eero Saarinen Womb chair):
We couldn’t leave without photographing the dress beside a Florence Knoll lounge chair:
We took too many photos of Knoll chairs to include here, but here’s just one more:
We loved this textiles display featuring upholstered dots:
This last photo was taken by the showroom entrance:
A big thank you to the Knoll staff for welcoming us into their showroom. Special thanks to photographer and friend Rachel O’Neill for her fantastic work.
December 18, 2011 § 11 Comments
For my vampire flapper Halloween costume, to wear over my 1926 Chanel evening dress I made McCall 4455, an evening wrap by Martial et Armand:
The wrap has a dramatic standing collar, a generous flounce, and the option of a shirred facing; pleats shape the shoulders, and the collar is reinforced with canvas. Here’s the colour illustration, from a page of evening designs in the McCall Quarterly:
Martial et Armand was a Paris house established in the late nineteenth century; for more details see Past Perfect Vintage’s recent post. I found these contemporary Martial et Armand sketches in L’Officiel’s online archives:
I thought the shirring on version A of the wrap would compete with my dress, so I made version B, the plain version. I chose a black velveteen and used some black lining that I already had. The pattern didn’t give ‘with nap’ yardage for 36″ fabric (the width of my velveteen), and I soon found out why: the back flounce piece is too wide to fit this width. I needed to cut the back flounce in two pieces.
To ensure the velveteen didn’t slip, I used a diagonal basting technique I found in Claire Shaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques which is known as ‘cross stitching.’ (See her diagrams on Google books here and here.) This technique involves hand-basting over the seamline with diagonal stitches, then basting again in the opposite direction so that you have a series of ‘X’s across the seamline. Here’s a photo of the diagonally basted flounce:
I was surprised to find instructions for making the collar and facing. The Printo Gravure has four-step, illustrated instructions on “how to sew collar and facing with interlining to garment” which call for an interlining of percaline. Percaline? According to Merriam Webster, percaline is French, from percale, from Persian پرگاله pargālah: percaline is glossy, percale isn’t. According to the Oxford Dictionary, percaline entered the English language in the mid-nineteenth century; percale originally referred to a fabric imported from India in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but later came to refer to a light cotton fabric. (I love the history embedded in textile names.) When my inquiry was met with confusion at my local fabric shop, though, I just went with some interfacing I had in my stash. I catch stitched the canvas along the collar seamlines, but didn’t try any pad stitching.
One difficulty I encountered was with the ease at centre back. Dazed from too much diagonal basting, I forgot how to ease with double rows of stitches and used only a single row, so that there were gathers at the back. I didn’t remember until after I’d hand-stitched through the collar seam. I redid the entire area, only to find I had produced… nicer gathers. I did pre-steam the velveteen, so I’m not sure whether it could have been shrunk further. I wish I’d been able to get it right, but there it is.
Here are some photos of the finished wrap. Despite having seen the illustration, I wasn’t prepared for the drama of the standing collar:
The shoulder pleats turned out well:
Here are some detail shots of the collar, front and back:
Some action shots showing the fullness of the flounce:
I hope you’ve enjoyed my foray into Twenties designer patterns. The lack of instructions was certainly an adventure, and made me realize just how many techniques I have no clue about! If you’ve sewn with 1920s patterns, I would love to hear about your experience. Twenties sewing book recommendations are also very welcome—I have Laura Baldt’s Dressmaking Made Easy (1928) but it doesn’t address all the issues I encountered. How can you attach skirt drapery just right, or ease a bulky fabric like velvet? Would a five-inch standing collar benefit from pad stitching? And how does one make rosettes for evening?
A big thanks to Naomi for taking such fabulous photos!
(Cross-posted to Sew Retro.)