1940s · Commission · Finished! · Modern Sewing · Pattern · Vintage

The Starella Sisters Make Their Debut

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Readers, I’m super excited to share with you my latest commissioned project – pin-up girl dance costumes!

You see, two of my vintage model friends, Sanjna and Pearl, recently formed a vintage dance duo, The Starella Sisters (which is a combination of their last names). They had their debut performance this past weekend at the CD release party for the Jenny Finn Orchestra.The girls did a coordinated dance to the song Chinatown My Chinatown (which you can listen to here) complete with parasols and the Charleston. The venue for this was perfect, The Secret Society, which is located in an old Victorian building and has the feel of a 1920s speakeasy (yes, I was in heaven). British Boyfriend (TM) and I made a date of it, and met a very lovely woman named Tina who told us about her Scottish husband and adorable fluffy cat named Sebastian (Hi, Tina!)

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The costumes are an altered version of Butterick 6019, which is one of the patterns by Gertie. I shortened both the wrap skirt length and made the bodice a separate bralette top, per the girls’ request. This project actually involved a number of new sewing techniques for me, including sewing pom-pom trim on (not difficult at all, just something I’ve never done before) and shirring the side back bodice pieces with elastic thread in the bobbin. I’d seen this technique done once before on an episode of The Great British Sewing Bee, so I already knew that I’d have to wind the bobbin by hand (you don’t want this stuff to stretch before it’s sewn!). What I wasn’t prepared for was how much elastic thread this project would use! I used up my entire 11 yard spool of Gutermann elastic thread (yes, it comes on 11 yard spools) and had to re-wind the bobbin 3 or 4 times, which I guess makes sense as you sew lines on the side back pieces 1/4″ apart. The end result was fabulous, though, and really provides a great deal of movement and adjustment, which was perfect for this project.

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Don’t worry, I tacked the seams down and clipped the threads!

 

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The fabric is a vibrant magenta brocade with a fire-breathing dragon motif on it. I love how the finished outfits turned out, but this fabric was both difficult and time-consuming to work with as it frayed horribly (in fact, I’m still finding threads all over the apartment!) and I had to use a press cloth any time I needed to iron a seam, as the polyester content meant direct contact with the iron would melt it. I fully lined both garments to both hide the unseemly fraying seams and add durability (I knew the girls would be moving around a lot in them, so I wanted the garments to be able to hold up).

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Post performance costume change (I did not make these dresses!)

The Starella Sisters have another performance planned next month for the holidays and they’ve asked me to be their official costume designer (!) so I’ll have another couple commissions in the works to share with you guys. Stay tuned for that!

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1950s · Vintage · Vintage Saturday

Vintage Saturday: 1950s Umbrella Dress in Montenegro

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During our time in Dubrovnik, we took a side-trip to Montenegro, which is just over the Croatian border (for you James Bond fans, this is where Casino Royale took place). I wore this adorable (if I do say so myself!) 1950s umbrella print dress, which ended up being perfect for the occasion. It was acquired in August and worn only once before, to our housewarming party. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get photos of it then, as I was frantically running around making appetizers and sewing pillows!

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I believe the fabric is a linen rayon blend; regardless, it’s incredibly breezy and lovely to wear. The bodice is cut on the bias, which allows for greater movement, and the sleeves have a really great tie detail (unfortunately, every time I wear this dress I need help with the sleeve ties!). I paired it with a floppy straw hat, which was a lucky find in Dubrovnik’s Old Town the day before (silly me forgot to pack her hat).

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The dress photos were snapped at the villa we were staying in shortly before we left for Montenegro. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of me in it there, but I did get some scenery photos of Montenegro, and it’s just GORGEOUS.

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Before we left, we ate lunch at a restaurant right next to the sea, and met this adorable one-eyed restaurant kitty. Peter tried to sneak her some food, but I don’t know if the one-eyed thing meant she couldn’t see it. At least living at a seafood restaurant means she’s well-fed!

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Speaking of kitties, it seems Pugsley has come down with a bit of a kitty cold as well as having Giardia, a water parasite. It’s been poop-a-palooza here, and we’re really hoping the medicine that he’s on starts to take effect soon, although, luckily, he does seem to be getting over the cold. In the meantime, we’ve learned a ton about kitty care and gone through a ridiculous amount of paper towels! Anyways, I’m planning on doing a ton of autumn crafting this weekend, and also have a design consult meeting for a potential (very exciting!) commission! Hope everyone else is having a great weekend!

Personal · Vintage

Home Sweet Home

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Sorry for my absence from these here webparts, readers, but I have a good reason for that – Peter and I moved!

We now live in an adorable 6-plex that was built in 1941, and it has some great features, including a fireplace and built-in vanity in the bathroom. The best part is that our landlady kept all of the walls painted (I so hate renting places where the walls are just plain white), which means that we have a blue living room, yellow kitchen, and pink bathroom (yes, pink bathroom!).

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All of the furniture was either stuff we already had or recently acquired off Craigslist (we didn’t get murdered and got some great pieces at really low prices, so win-win). I’ve also caught the home dec bug, and have been sewing like a mad woman for the apartment (we had a small housewarming for close friends and family last weekend). There are a couple more pieces I want to make, and then I plan on doing a blog post about those, ok? Ok.

New sewing corner

The one downside is that I don’t really have room to sew anywhere but the bedroom, so I’ve set aside a corner in the bedroom for my sewing machine. Luckily, we can poke holes in the wall, so I’ve decorated with some of my favorite vintage hats.

This is my third apartment since I’ve moved to Portland, and you would think that I’d be totally adept at moving, but I’m so not. Moving is just so disruptive to my usual routine and takes so much out of me. Plus, I always forget where I’ve put stuff, and end up creating lots of “I’ll deal with those later” boxes. Anyways, I’m absolutely smitten with the new place. It truly feels like home, and I don’t plan on moving again anytime soon.

1930s · Finished! · Vintage

1930s Beach Pajamas!

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I hosted a little vintage beach gathering here in Portland yesterday, and finished a pair of reproduction 1930s beach pajamas to wear just in the nick of time! For those not aware, beach pajamas were the original version of resort wear, worn by the fashionable set on the beach during the day and to a cocktail party in the evening. They became more widespread in the 1930s with their popularization among the Hollywood elite, and home seamstresses could make their own versions with the patterns that were released. Beach pajamas were either one or two pieces (sometimes with matching jacket) and featured  characteristically wide pants legs.

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My beach pajamas are made from a border print 1950s red and white rayon that I got from this awesome Etsy shop (I seriously can’t recommend her enough, she even threw in free button cards with my order!). I ended up combining 2 modern patterns for my beach pajamas, as a) original beach pajama patterns are notoriously expensive (seriously, the cheapest ones I could find started at $125 and even then, I would need to significantly grade them up) and b) I wasn’t too fond of any of the reproduction ones out there. After looking at dozens upon dozens of images of original beach pajamas, I settled upon the pants from New Look 6291 and Bodice D from New Look 6966, which when combined, were eerily reminiscent of this original beach pajamas pattern. Luckily, I made a muslin (I was too scared to just cut into vintage rayon fabric without doing so first!) and there weren’t too many changes to be made – the back piece wasn’t quite wide enough, and the waistline wasn’t high enough. I also fully lined these in a a linen-rayon blend, and despite the extra work that was, it was the right decision, as the vintage fabric was a bit sheer.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t have an original pair of beach pajamas to examine (those are also notoriously expensive, averaging around $300 a pair), so I’m not quite sure if what I did construction-wise was totally period-correct. I did what I thought made sense, although I ended up having to make 4 darts (2 in front and 2 in back) to get the bodice to match the pants along the waistline seam. Luckily, I don’t think anybody will be examining the innards of these, although I did come home with an odd orange stain on the midriff lining (no idea how that got there!).

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Readers, these are so insanely comfortable to wear! Seriously, I can see why these were so popular back in the day. I also got so many lovely compliments from fellow beach-goers  once person even told me that I looked like “one of those sexy pin-up models from the 50s!” Not quite the era I was going for, but a compliment I’ll take, nonetheless. And, despite the challenges I had during construction, I am so tickled that I finally made a pair of these. I’m looking forward to many lazy summer days lounging about in them while reading a good novel.

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I also had some leftover striped fabric from the fabric’s border, so I used that to make a matching headband. Yeah, I know, I’m an overachiever.

Hope everyone else had a lovely weekend!

Outfit · The Vintage Closet · Vintage

The Ava Bergman Swirl

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Although Swirl is a vintage brand most known for their wrap-around dresses from the 40s and 50s, the company was still manufacturing these ingenious pieces of clothing well into the 1970s and 1980s. Enter the Ava Bergman Swirl, my latest vintage clothing purchase and second Swirl dress (you can see my first one here). While I don’t tend to buy vintage from later decades, this dress was just too perfect to pass up (polka dots AND floral appliques that also include a snail!?).

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Designed by Ava Bergmans, this Swirl incorporates a number of similar design features to its predecessors, including pockets (earlier Swirls have patch-pockets, whereas this Swirl has pockets sewn into the side seams of the skirt) and a very forgiving shape. Though this dress isn’t a wrap dress, it is essentially one big tube of fabric that is cinched in at the waist with a belt to fit the wearer.

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While I absolutely adore this dress, there is one design feature that I would change  – I would prefer to have the darker polka dot fabric extend all the way around the bottom of the skirt, and not just in the front. I definitely plan on taking a rub-off of this dress at some point and reproducing it, so that should be an easy fix.

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Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find much (if anything) on Ava Bergmans, although there is a ton of information about Swirl dresses out on the web if you are interested (this article provides a great overview). That being said, I did think it was a nice homage to the designer that her first name is embroidered on one of the leaves of the applique flower.

 

1940s · Finished! · Sew alongs · Vintage

Sew for Victory Apron!

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Feeling rather victorious

Just in the nick of time I’ve finished my project for Sew for Victory! For those not familiar, Sew for Victory is a non-competitive 1940s-themed sew-along hosted by Rochelle of Lucky Lucille where participants recreate a sewn item from the 1940s using authentic or reproduction patterns. There are some fabulous garments over in the Flickr pool that you should definitely check out!

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For my entry, I decided to I really wanted to make a reproduction 1940s apron after watching one of my favorite documentaries, Time Warp Wives (the series follows vintage-enthusiasts in Britain and is a much-watch for those interested in the vintage lifestyle). The apron was such a ubiquitous part of everyday life for women in the 1940s, and I really wanted to pay homage to that (plus, heart-shaped pockets!!!!).

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The pattern I used is this reproduction one by Wearing History. This was my first time using a Wearing History pattern, and I had a little bit of trouble with the directions (it probably partially was my own fault, as I’ve been sewing for so long that I tend to skim over instructions, which sometimes backfires). My apron is made from a reproduction 1930s fabric that I found locally at Fabric Depot. I used olive green bias tape to both finish the edges, as well as provide a contrast to the red, black, and green in the print. The method I used for bias binding (and there are several options included in the pattern) is to sew the bias binding right-sides together to the fabric, then open and press to the back, and stitch-in-the-ditch on the right side to secure all layers.

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With my 1944 Life Magazine!

By far, the hardest part for me was mitering the corners (I don’t quilt nor make napkins, so I don’t really use this technique). After some seam-ripping, I finally consulted the Googles, and found this really helpful tutorial on how to miter corners with bias tape.

While I loved the finished apron. there are definitely some things I would change if I were to make this again (which probably won’t be for awhile, as OMG! So much bias tape!), namely making the waist ties a little longer (they were a bit on the short side for me, although the yardage requirement for this pattern is definitely in keeping with fabric restrictions of the time).

1940s · Vintage · Vintage Saturday

Vintage Saturday: Church of Sinatra and Victory Rolls

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Reading a yearbook from 1940, aka Vintage Sunday School.

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Welcome to the weekend, readers! I had a pretty relaxing day of sewing, napping, and catching up on cleaning before heading over to Julie’s yesterday evening for February’s Church of Sinatra. With Valentine’s Day being this month, I decided to wear a 40s dress I just got that’s accessorized with a cute pink flower (and, yes, it came with the dress!).

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I also finally managed to successfully do Victory Rolls! They’re such a ubiquitous hairstyle for vintage gals that I tended to avoid them (plus, my hair is layered, so it’s difficult to keep it together when I go to roll it). If you’re interested in trying these out on your own hair, but don’t know how to get started, there are a ton of great hair tutorials on YouTube (this one in particular was especially helpful for me).

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Oh, and can we also take a moment to admire the fabulous 40s velvet pumps!? Definitely don’t wear these as often as I should!

Hope everyone else is having fabulous and relaxing weekends!