Friday, November 27, 2009

party like it's 1949!

I never really thought much about 20th c. vintage fashions in the past. They just seemed too "normal" to me, and I preferred to research and recreate more exotic historical costumes from the Edwardian period or earlier. But then last year I was invited to a 1940's themed costume party, and as I started poking around on ebay for something to wear, something strange happened. I fell completely, hopelessly, madly in love! Now I'm quite obsessed with vintage clothing, and I've spent the last year on a treasure hunt for old patterns, fabric, dresses, notions, and accessories. My long-term goal is to start making pieces that I can incorporate into my everyday wardrobe. As an art teacher, I tend to dress very casually most days because it is so easy to ruin things while working with messy art supplies. But I have this incredible urge to be girly right now, so I'm trying to find more excuses to wear cute dresses and get my retro groove on. I want my outside appearance in the day-to-day world to finally match how I feel on the inside - quirky and creative and fabulous! ;)

One of my favorite things about retro sewing is that you can still find yardages of amazing old fabrics to work with, and most aren't even that expensive. I have a mad love for vintage novelty prints, so I snatched up this kooky mid-century modern gladiator print (how did they come up with this stuff?!?) last winter when I saw it on etsy. It was listed as rayon, but it is super shiny and feels more like acetate, so I almost abandoned this project after cutting out the pieces because I was worried that it looked too dressy for me to wear to work. It probably would have languished in the abandoned projects pile indefinitely if it wasn't for Sewretro's party dress contest this month. I decided that it would make a great party dress if nothing else, so I dug out all the pieces and got it assembled in just two days while I was home for the Thanksgiving holidays.








The dress pattern is Vogue 6788 from 1949, but I switched out the sleeves with another pattern from that year because I liked the 3/4 length better. It all went together like a dream, and this project gave me an excuse to use some of my vintage notions as well. The hems are done with some old turquoise iron-on hem tape, and the belt is made with a fabric-covered belt kit - both found at estate sales. I also got to play with a nifty little contraption that marks both sides of pattern pieces at the same time, which worked great with this pattern since it had the punched holes for the markings instead of being printed. The buttons are vintage as well, and I'm pretty sure thy are bakelite.


And now, on to the pictures!










Since this was my first try at sewing with vintage patterns/fabric for myself, here are some of the things that I discovered:
- I really need to learn some proper techniques for putting in a zipper. The pattern didn't include any instructions for that, and I thought I could just wing it, but it looks pretty crappy on close inspection.
- I also need to figure out what techniques they used for interfacing collars and such during this period. Again, the pattern didn't mention anything about interfacing. I ended up flatlining the collar with some stiff cotton fabric, but I really don't like the way it feels. It's too heavy now.
- vintage acetate (if that's really what this stuff is) is NOT fun to work with. There are old storage fold lines running across the entire dress that absolutely refuse to press out, and it shows every little crease and pucker where my tailoring is a bit lacking.
- I can't sew a straight line to save my life! I did a bad, BAD job of attaching the fabric to the belt backing, but I'm scared to take it off and try again, because the belt backing is a bit like cardboard and I'm afraid it will fall apart with more stitching holes. That was waaaaayyy harder than I thought it would be!



But all in all, I think this dress was a success.  I wore it out today and had several ladies squee over me, so I think that's a pretty good sign.  :)

14 comments:

Silverstah said...

Oh, it's adorable! And, yes, modern tailoring is VASTLY different than historical tailoring. As my ruined attempts to make modern collared shirts will attest to. ;)

jennylafleur said...

It's so cute!!

padawansguide said...

You look fantastic! :-)

Kendra said...

Gorgeous, and the color/style SO suit you!

laurensa said...

How do you always manage to look so completely at home in every era you've tried? It just always looks RIGHT. Beautiful!

cathyr19355 said...

Nicely done! I don't really care for 20th century fashion myself, but you do it as splendidly as the earlier stuff.

Tish said...

Both you and the dress look amazing!

Enken said...

Saw your dress on SewRetro - super cute! I love the fabric but yes, vintage material is a pain sometimes! But you just can't find prints like that nowadays...

Vicki said...

Fantastic! Keep sewing, missy, and of coure, you know about the learning curve. You'll be an pro in no time. I'm so pleased that you're finding pleasure in doing what you love. We all need that in our lives. Can't wait to see your next project.

Trudy Callan said...

Wonderful job. You look lovely. Come by and visit when you get a chance.

laurie said...

Beautiful job. You should be proud!

Time Traveling in Costume said...

It's a beautiful dress, and it looks great.
I haven't sewn modern clothing in a long time but did use interfacing. It depends on if you use iron-on (which makes it easy but can dimple the fabric if it's lightweight- use it like you would flatlining but iron it on) or sewn-in (similar to flatling but pin fashion fabric & interfacing together, then sew lining to it, right sides together). There are also differnt weights of interfacing for the type of fabric you're using.
Val aka chloeandrudy

Marije said...

Gorgeous dress and the style suits you very well!

stephanie said...

Wonderful dress!

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