March 27, 2016


Once upon a time, Easter was considered the perfect moment to wear one's new spring suit, hat or dress. And it makes sense too. A holiday which coincides so perfectly with the beginning of spring (in the northern hemisphere, that is. I don't know if there was a similar tradition about new clothes for autumn in, say, Australia...)

I have never really made anything especially for Easter but it just so happened that today, I did finally finish my new 1929 dress (I also made a dress from a pattern from 1929 back in 2014 but that was a different one, from a different issue of the same magazine).
This new dress was the first thing I started on in January of this year. A first entry for the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge before the new pledge had even been announced. 
Although I have a fairly considerable collection of 1920's Gracieuse magazines, no dress seemed quite so right as this one, if it weren't a wedding dress...

However, work on it slowed down almost as soon as it had started. I had thought I had a suitable fabric for it but started second-guessing myself. I made a toile which showed the familiar 1920's sack shape. Maybe period-accurate but really a bit too sack-shaped for my taste. I played around with it but ultimately moved on to other projects. 
In the mean time, I kept thinking about a fabric for this dress. And then, a few weeks ago, I found something. This flame-coloured (possibly) viscose/rayon. It seemed to have the right kind of hand for a dress like this and colour which might work for me and it was on sale. I bought it and decided the dress would have to be made now. For a while, I kept looking for some kind of trim to use with it but in the end I just went ahead.

Before I cut the dress pieces from the new fabric, I went back to the muslin and tried to take some decisions about the fit. Initially, I had thought about making a pleat on the horizontal seam to make it sit on my hips. Now, trying it on again, I thought it would be better to just narrow the all the pieces at that point. And then there was the neckline. The cowl-neck had been one of my reasons to choose this pattern but just didn't work. It was drafted like no other cowl-neck I have ever seen (except some in other 1920's and 30's designs from Gracieuse magazine): Basically just a scoop neckline with a lot of extra room in the entire front bodice. It also made the armscyes sit in a rather awkward way. If I pulled those in the right position, the neckline looked sort of like a cowl-neck. 
I toyed with the idea of retro-fitting a more fitted inner bodice layer but I finally came to a much simpler solution: I took out about 10 cm at center front. This meant sacrificing the cowl-neck but fixing the armscye and overall ease issues in one go. The original front bodice was so wide that even with all that width taken out, it is still a bit wider than the back bodice. I narrowed the front skirt pieces by 5 and 7.5 cm (they overlap at the front anyway so that was not really a fitting issue).

Sewing the dress wasn't difficult. I did sin against period accuracy by using my serger, not just to finish the seam allowances but even to make tiny rolled hems on those flouncy skirt pieces and on the decorative sash on the skirt. The very short instructions for this pattern also suggest narrowly hemming the neckline and sleeves but I made facings instead. 

It is finished now and I love it so much more than I had expected! (which is exactly what happened last time...). The alterations I made actually make it fit much more like the illustration suggests. The dress has a fairly loose fit but certainly not so loose that you cannot even see that there is a body in it. 

In fact, at some angles, I think I can really see what this 1920's fashion ideal is all about: Long, elegant, vertical lines...

This feels like a proper start to this year's Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge, even though it technically is my second finished item. After this, I'll start on a casual 1950's capri suit. The pattern has been tested out, it will work with fabric in my stash so it is all ready to go. 

March 23, 2016


If you follow me on Facebook, you may already have seen my latest vintage pattern purchase: A whole stack of Bella magazines! 

All 24 issues from 1952 and about 15 each from 1951 and 1953, to be precise. I haven't bought any new-to-me patterns in a while but I just happened to check my local auction site in an empty moment and this lot was just too good to let go. Bella is a great sewing magazine because it came with all the patterns, instead of just a few, like Marion. 

Of course, I intend to sew from these magazines, and maybe to try and share some of the "draft according to instructions" projects here. For now though, I am just looking at the pretty pictures and I thought you might like to join in. So, today we have Bella magazine March II 1952: 

This is actually the cover from March I. I just added it because it is so very elegant.

This is the cover from March II. Normally, the illustrations in Bella, both for the cover and inside the magazine, are quite pretty but this one turned out rather unflattering.

The "draft from instructions" project is this time a stylish dress for bust 104 cm. And as usual, there are four different views with the instructions on how to make them from that same pattern.

The next page is titled "Mother's eldest". So: Teenage fashion. In Bella, that can mean either children's sizing (expressed in ages, which can go up to 16) or small women's sizes (which normally start at bust 88 cm but in these teenage features can go as low as 80). Obviously, these two sizing methods have a big overlap but it is not easy to figure out how much because there are no sizing tables included. 
Size-wise, I am actually at the bottom end of the women's sizing table and at the top of the teenage size range. As a result, in some magazines the only patterns in my size are those designed for girls half my age... 
Early 1950's teenage fashion isn't hugely different from the styles made for adult women. Usually just nothing too fussy or formal (which is a shame for me because I am quite a fan of 1950's fancy, formal and fashion-forward)

Then, there are popular dress styles for adults (which are not very different in style to the teenage dresses)

And little girl's stuff: Dresses decorated with smock-work.

Sleek suits and wide short coats.

I do not usually take pictures of the content which is not about sewing but this is quite interesting: Bella's spring contest! They showed these separate bodies and hatted heads in several magazines in a row and readers had to match them correctly. They show styles from 1900 up to the 1950's. Can you imagine a modern-day sewing magazine running a contest which involves fashion history?
And the grand prize? An electric sewing machine! 

And then patterns for the man in one's life! Bella doesn't always include menswear but more often than many other magazines. 
The exact distribution of space in the magazine between men, boys, girls, teenagers and women of various ages and sizes varies from one issue to the other.

And this time, the girls are lucky: Even more dresses for them. Although I guess these are between the earlier little girl stuff and the teenage dresses in size. 

March 18, 2016

1920's goodness

There will be a proper blog post here soon, but for now, a little intermezzo will have to do.
I've been on a short break and came home with a cold. So, I haven't had a lot of time for sewing. However, all the fabric for my 1920's dress has been cut so I should be able to start on it quickly.

In the mean time, I've had some more inspiration for 1920's dresses and more confirmation for my colour choice:

This lovely display of garments from the 1920's is on show at the V&A in London right now (it is just part of a small display of their own collection. A new large fashion exhibit, all about underwear, will open in April).

March 8, 2016

Old friends

Recently, I went over to my parents' house and had a look at old pictures found at my grandmother's house (she is moving into a nursing home). 
Those provide a very interesting look into our family's history and I and my father (who is a keen amateur photographer) also enjoy their aesthetic qualities (at least, in the case of all those black-and-white pictures. old colour pictures tend to degrade badly over time).  
My grandparents were a very kind and warm couple who kept in touch with all their old friends. As a result, there were also a lot of photographs of people who are not part of our family. 
Today, I thought I would share two of those.
I actually know who the people in these pictures are (my grandmother wrote names on the backs of many of the pictures). 

This is the wedding picture of the parents of a childhood friend of my grandmother's. In 1918. Being Dutch, the husband would, despite his uniform not have spent the past years in the trenches (the Netherlands were neutral in WWI). And isn't it interesting to see a short wedding dress, before 1920?

And this picture shows the same couple, with another couple they were friends with, on a visit to the caves of Han, in the Ardennes in Belgium (these limestone caves are still a major tourist destination in the region. I have been there too). I guess that, like the wedding picture, this photograph was taken by a professional. It is just too focussed and well-lit for an amateur picture of the time (for one taken by people of limited means, that is). 
And if you look closely at the lady's skirt (the lady on the right), you will notice that she is wearing the same dress as in the wedding picture... 
Of course, this trip might have been their honeymoon but I just don't know. I do know it was very common to pick (or make or have made) a dress for your own wedding which could still be worn after it (with or without alterations).

All in all, I just think these pictures are really beautiful. I have two Gracieuses from that year, maybe I could find a similar dress pattern as a tribute...     

March 5, 2016


Alright, so I still haven't moved passed sewing toiles... I hoped to get some real sewing done today but it just didn't happen. However, I did get pictures of the muslin for that 1950's Bella dress. 

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by it. The skirt has an interesting style: It is only moderately full and cut in six gores with flat pleats at the two front seams. Of course the whole thing looks much more flamboyant in the illustration but I think the real thing comes close, once you take into account the proportions of a real body.

I think the waistline is just a bit too high on me though... I feels a little bit snug at the bottom of my ribcage and is clearly already flaring out at my actual waist. 

And then, there is the bodice style... while I was sewing this, I was a bit concerned that the bust on this pattern might be way higher than mine... And indeed, that curved horizontal seam hits just below the apex of bust, not under the bust like design features like this usually do. 

But that is also how the bodice looks in the drawing... And if the seam was below the bust, that slit neckline would gape... So, maybe that bust seam is a design feature.

As it is, I consider adding the extra bodice length I need above the bust seam, which will bring it down a little but but keep the overall effect it has now. Other that that, the dress looks promising. I just don't know which fabric to use yet.

March 2, 2016

Vintage progress

Last week, I had a bit of a pattern tracing marathon. After making that simple top from Beyer's Junge Mode, I also traced the patterns for this simple, casual little suit. 

Capri-length trousers and a boxy jacket. A sporty, youthful style in 1956 and still wearable today (maybe not for everyone but I think it will work for me). It is a bit summer-y but it will be spring soon...

And then, moved on to another magazine I haven't really sewn anything from yet (I tried out a dress pattern last year but it was just a bit... meh): Dutch sewing magazine Bella.

From my small stack of Bella's, I picked this lovely dress. It one in the middle. It should be in my size (the one that didn't work was a bit too big) and the princess seams should allow for easy adjustment, if necessary. 
It is actually a real winter dress and I am not sure about fabric yet but I am really curious about this design.

This week, I am sewing up quick muslins for all three garments. With some luck, the sizing in these magazines will be consistent so these will give me an idea about how their other designs might fit me. 

And finally, I had a bit of luck regarding my issue with fabric for the 1920's dress: When I was at the market on Monday, I found this fire-y orange fabric. It has an interesting texture which reminds me a bit of raw silk but it is really drapey. I think it is viscose/rayon, probably blended with polyester. Importantly, it has non of the static cling you usually get with polyester fabrics. Oh, and it was only 1 euro a meter so although it is a bit of a bold choice there is really nothing to loose. 
I am very glad I had a look at those historical dresses. I'm not sure I would have been willing to go with orange otherwise. 
Still, I think I will need some kind of trim on the dress, probably just in a contrasting fabric. From my stash, this blue satin would be best but I have seen another fabric at the market which might be better. A bit darker, slightly more towards turquoise and not shiny... I'm still thinking about it.