Vision Board: The 1950s Daytime Date

Happy Monday, gorgeous ones!

Now that my 1940s apron is all done, I’ve been trying to settle on a new project to occupy those – increasingly rainy – autumn days. Fortunately, I had suitable inspiration from Rosie of DIYcouture. Rosie works for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), a British organisation that provides a variety of vital services to people with vision impairment. Every October, the RNIB runs a ‘Wear Dots Raise Lots’ challenge and, with her amazing sewing skills, Rosie has decided to put a new spin on this by launching her own ‘Sew Dots’ challenge. Rosie’s asking that anyone wanting to participate sew something with dotty fabric, post a picture of their make with #sewdots, and donate a bit of money to RNIB. It’s a wonderfully innovative way to raise money for such an important cause. If that hasn’t already sold you, there are also some amazing prizes on offer!

As soon as I read about the challenge, I knew that I needed to get on board. One trip to the fabric store later and I ended up with the most gorgeous dotty fabric. Not only that, I had the perfect make just shouting out to be used – the fabulous Vogue Vintage Patterns 1953 design, V1043. Using the pattern and fabric, I decided to make up a new Vision Board with a complete 1950s look. I’m calling this ‘The 1950s Daytime Date’ – perfect for walks in the park, trips to the cinema, or a quiet cup of tea with that lucky someone.

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Pattern: V1043 from Vogue Vintage Patterns*

Fabric: Navy Cotton with Roses from Jolie Angle

Shoes: The Zest Is History (Navy) from Modcloth

Bag: 1950s Pearl White Hand-beaded Clutch from Vintage Meet Modern

Bracelet: 1950s Pearl Bracelet from Miriam Haskell

I’m very in love with this look. Departing from my usual approach to deciding how everything will come together, this look started with the fabric rather than the pattern. That obviously makes sense since I went in search of fabric with the express purpose of taking part in the Sew Dots challenge. But when I saw the Jolie Angle cotton, I really couldn’t think of anything more appropriate than V1043. Although perhaps not super timely given that we’re about to enter November, I just couldn’t help myself!

If you’re looking to take part in the Sew Dots challenge (which you absolutely should!) or just trying to put together a suitably fabulous 1950s daytime look, I hope this Vision Board gives you some inspiration!

* I got this pattern a while ago through a magazine purchase (not sure which one). It doesn’t seem to be available directly from Vogue/McCalls. I’ve linked to a copy on sale via eBay, but there are sellers listed on Etsy too. If you’re looking for this pattern, tap it into Google and you should have some luck!

1940s Vintage Style Apron

I’m on a real roll this October! Since it’s Sew for Victory‘s anniversary month, it makes sense that I should be churning out some adorable vintage makes. Following the success of my Objet d’Art dress – which, if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know has already been out and about in the countryside – I was determined to capitalise on my new sewing momentum! So I whipped out Simplicity 1221 – a pattern that gives four different choices of 1940s aprons – and decided to create a truly flouncy apron for prancing around the house.

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Now, just to be clear, I don’t cook. I’m lucky enough to live with a fiancé who enjoys cooking and is quite happy to be in control of the kitchen. That said, every so often I decide to get my bake on and whip up a cake or some biscuits. I rarely wear an apron, but when I saw this pattern and the fabulous ruffles on the straps, I knew that – even if it goes totally unworn – I wanted to add this particular make to my collection.

I used a random cotton fabric that I found in my local fabric store, after falling in love with the polka dots and tiny alpine strawberries. It worked perfectly well, particularly in giving the apron that 1950s pin-up vibe. I decided to add a bit of extra flavour to the pattern by sewing some white piping along the inner edge of the straps. I had spent quite a bit of time debating how to break the apron’s various panels up a little so that it didn’t look too blocky – I think the piping did a great job of that. If I was going to make another version of this pattern, I would probably look at adding some more piping to the edges of the waist panel – it would just give the whole thing a little extra *pop*.

I love the vintage touches on this apron. Although the front panels were a bit of a nightmare to sew and I found the pattern a little unclear in places, the construction is definitely true to period. The ruffles obviously give the apron a real 1940s-1950s feel, which is accentuated by the fact that the straps cross at the back. There’s also a little pocket on the skirt – I appreciate a pocket on any garment, so this was a real bonus feature for me!

This definitely wasn’t the easiest pattern for me. Straying outside of the skirt/dress comfort zone is something that I rarely do. Since I’ve only been sewing for a year, every pattern generally exposes me to new skills or construction elements. Simplicity 1221 is a pretty drastic departure from anything I’ve made before so practically every step involved doing something new. I’m always up for a challenge and this pattern definitely presented it. I would caution anyone debating whether to make this particular version of the pattern to either make a muslin or take some time to really study the pattern before making. I faced a lot of confusion with some of the steps where I couldn’t quite work out what the pattern was telling me to do. Now this could just be a consequence of my relatively little sewing experience since I found that after a little perseverance I was able to figure out what needed to happen. But if you’re not used to making this sort of garment, it’s probably worth taking some time to familiarise yourself with the instructions regardless of sewing experience.

Overall, I’m super happy with this make. Despite presenting a challenge, the finished product was so worth the effort! When I put the apron on over my Betty dress (worn with petticoats) and some heels, I felt very glam! Although I am 100% sure that I would make a useless housewife and am quite happy to stay out of the kitchen, at least I’m now prepared if the Bake-Off inspires me to whip up a cake or two. At the very least, this apron is a great addition to my wardrobe of handmade goodies!

 

The Objet d’Art Dress

Oh I’m excited for this one! My version of the Decades of Style Objet d’Art dress has been a while in the making but, once I got properly under way, I just knew that this pattern was something special.

After wrapping up my dress for the Big Vintage Sew-Along, I was suffering a serious case of lost sew-jo. I poured a whole lot of effort into turning V9127 into something special and, although I was so incredibly proud of what I produced, I ended up feeling pretty burnt out. I wrote a while back about my search for a pattern that would help me recoup some enthusiasm and the Objet d’Art dress has definitely done the job. And here it is…

This dress is a 1950s inspired pattern – although, as I mentioned in my previous Vision Board post, I get definite 1940s garden party vibes from this one. The neckline and pocket detailing are truly unique points of focus for this dress. When I stumbled across the pattern (I say stumbled but I peruse the Decades of Style website on a near-constant basis), it was those unexpected twists on a classically simple silhouette that drew me in. These incredible details are something that Decades of Style patterns always do amazingly well – the Belle Curve dress is another example. And in the Objet d’Art dress, the detailing is used to perfect effect.

What is truly innovative about this pattern is its simplicity. Looking at the neckline or the pockets, you’d think that some serious sewing trickery was involved. But it is as simple as sewing darts and positioning them correctly. That’s it. Follow the markings and you end up with a gorgeous lapped neckline and some fantastic triangular pockets.

I’m trying not to rave too hard but I’m struggling to find anything negative to say about this pattern. I used a PDF version of the pattern and had no problems putting it together – that is to say, all the pieces fit and the markings were super clear. I went straight in without making a muslin (I really am the worst when it comes to making muslins because I’m impatient and always prefer to just alter as I go), grading the pattern out one size at the hips. The finished product fit like a glove with no further alterations to the size at all. Bear in mind that the dress borders on having a pencil fit around the hips/bum (although this could just be on me) so make sure you account for that when choosing your size. That pencil shape gives it a gorgeous silhouette but obviously a little less ease. Also there’s a fab kick pleat on the back of the skirt which I love!

My fiancé told me the left-hand photo captures my spirit because, in his words, ‘you look like you’re trying to teach me something’.

Fact: I hate zip insertions. They are the bane of my life. And, for some reason, no matter how many Youtube videos I watch, I’m still rubbish at it. I don’t think there’s a single zip in any one of my garments that doesn’t look at least a bit jerry-rigged. But I figure as long as it’s functional and doesn’t fall out, I’ve done the job. Probably my only piece of sadness about the Objet d’Art dress was having to put in a zip. It came out just fine in the end, although my hand is strategically covering a slight puckering at the bottom. Tips on zip insertions are always welcome (seriously, please help me).

The last thing to mention is the fabric! One of the things I loved about the look of the pattern was the photos I saw on the website, with a version of the dress made up in a green striped fabric. The pattern is designed to work incredibly well with vertical stripes. So I did a bit of hunting around and decided to exploit the gift voucher that I won from The Splendid Stitch for a photo of the Belle Curve dress that I submitted for Vintage Pledge July. The fabric is a Light Blue, Navy and White Striped Shirting  and it worked gorgeously well. If you choose to use a vertically striped fabric, no magic is needed on your end to achieve the final effect – if you position the pattern pieces as instructed, you’ll end up with a lapped neckline that is accentuated by the direction of the stripes. I particularly love the way that this came out on my version.

So there we have it! Another gorgeous pattern from Decades of Style who have, so my most recent look at the website has informed me, added a whole load more PDF patterns. I have a couple of other projects lined up for the next month or so but trust me when I say that it won’t be long before a new Decades of Style pattern is featured here!

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Vision Board: 1940s Garden Party

Hi dolls!

I hope that you are enjoying these last few days of September. One thing I love about the transition from summer to autumn is that brief period of time where the warm summer sun is accompanied by a cool breeze. I walk A LOT and this is my favourite time of year to explore the parks around my neighbourhood and exploit the end of the National Trust season with visits to stately homes. In honour of this gorgeous season, I’ve been working hard on my Objet d’Art dress from Decades of Style. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a relaxed autumn, totally equipped for a turn in the weather by throwing on some tights and a cardigan.

As with my other makes, I’ve worked hard to picture exactly how the Objet d’Art dress can be worn. In picking out fabric for any of my makes, I’m always aware of the various vintage accessories that might really draw out the era while also tailoring the garment to whichever setting I’m picturing for it. When I saw the Objet d’Art dress, my mind turned immediately to garden parties, hosted in that transitional summer to autumn period. It’s a dress for lounging, tennis playing on the lawn, and taking a leisurely walk.

For my reference, I usually create something of a ‘vision board’ that I work from in deciding on fabrics and accessories. To take Sew for Victory from simply documenting the beginning and end of projects, I’ve decided to introduce these vision boards to my posts here. Hopefully this will provide a point of inspiration for those of you looking to create a complete vintage look. So, without further ado, my 1940s Garden Party Vision Board:

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Pattern: Objet d’Art dress from Decades of Style

Fabric: Blue, Navy and White Striped Shirting from The Splendid Stitch

Shoes: Light Brown Brogues from New Look

Gloves: White Shirred Gloves from JewelryAndThings2 (Etsy)

Bag: 1940s Floral Purse from SL Vintage (Etsy)

Necklace: White Freshwater Pearl Necklace from Pearl Distributors

The stepping-off point for this board was the Objet d’Art pattern from Decades of Style. Although listed on the website as a 1950s pattern, it screams late-’40s style to me (particularly in the silhouette and the accessories that I picture it with). In that 1940s garden party setting, white dress gloves and a string of pearls are sophisticated accents. Pair with a simple, embroidered handbag to celebrate being out in nature and cling on to the remnants of summer. And finally, recognise the importance of practically – as well as the dominance of low-heeled pumps in the 1940s period – by popping on a pair of tan brogues. All of these bits and pieces are incredibly accessible and can be bought on the high street if you want to avoid paying for genuine vintage items (you might, for instance, want to steer away from paying $150 for a real pearl necklace, however gorgeous).

My version of the Objet d’Art dress is almost ready to go. I can’t wait to share it with you and, in the meantime, maybe this will give you a few ideas for building up your own vintage wardrobe!

Learning From Vintage Fashion Illustrations

Hello lovelies!

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been dipping in and out of the various vintage magazines that I’ve collected since I started sewing. I love these magazines for the insight they give into daily life of bygone eras and the general concerns of women that lived through these decades. But there are also so many great tips related to sewing, knitting, and crafting your own fashionable garments by hand.

Since my era of choice is the 1930s-1940s, most of my magazines and vintage fashion manuals date from that period. One of my favourite things to peruse when I’m looking for inspiration are the great fashion illustrations that populate regular style features. Since a lot of you email and comment about the general lack of non-contemporary vintage inspiration, I thought that it would be useful to post about a few of my favourite genuinely vintage fashion pictures from the 1940s.

Both of these images come from an issue of Woman’s Illustrated published on 1st April 1944 and show some great ideas for detailing on day dresses. The two dresses on the left offer fantastic examples of small additions used to turn relatively simple garments into unique pieces of 1940s fashion. C20,161 is – according to author of the feature, Sarah Redwood – a dress where “the lines of frilling and the front gathered skirt are responsible for quite seventy percent of its charm.” C20,293 offers fabric ruffles attached to the neckline and demands being made in a printed fabric. With my favourite line from the whole feature, Sarah Redwood suggests that: “Like the first swallow, the first printed crepes make one feel happy at the thought of summer just around the corner.” I have to agree with Sarah on that one, although I’m all about recapturing that summer feeling by wearing bright prints year round.

In the right-hand image, we have some great examples of how effectively gathering can be used to capture that vintage style. Both C20,635 and C20,519 use gathers at the neckline to really great effect. This isn’t something that I’ve come across in any vintage reproduction patterns but with some small modifications to the neckline of contemporary patterns could be pretty easily added in. I especially love the scalloped neckline on C20,519 – so gorgeous.

These two illustrations are taken from separate 1944 issues of Woman’s Illustrated and are particularly great for showing the importance of the wrap-style dress to mid-1940s era fashion. These are good examples of evening dresses, particularly when combined with the suggested accessories. I’m not sure bows have truly made their comeback yet but who knows? Perhaps we can be pioneers of the trend. Of CM20,777, on the right, Sarah Redwood says: “The frock that answers a thousand and one different calls is a treasure indeed, and that is the claim we make for this dress. It is a nicely balanced mixture of extreme elegance and extreme ease, comfortable, smart, and undating.” The fact that this dress could be worn pretty inconspicuously today pretty much proves her point.

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My final favourite fashion illustration has to be this one. I adore the shirt dress in particular. And since I have Sew Over It’s Vintage Shirt Dress in line for an upcoming project, its good to see that this contemporary pattern effectively captures a classic style. I also love the neckline of C20,215. Paired with a sparkly vintage brooch, it would be an easy vintage standout.

Hopefully this short journey through some of my favourite 1940s fashion illustrations has given you some food for thought. Perhaps the shape of the garments inspires you, or maybe the pictured accessories and fabric ideas feed your imagination.These gorgeous pictures always help me when I’m trying to get out of a sewing rut or otherwise plan some unique touches to patterns I’m working on. And if these few pictures aren’t enough, I’ll be making sure to write more vintage inspiration posts in the future. So stay tuned!

Inspire A Style: Jacqueline’s Tea Room

Welcome to (almost) autumn!

I’m very excited that we’re now in September. As much as summer is a great opportunity to get out and about in the world, nothing beats the feeling of cool autumn weather and the chance to cosy up with a book (or sewing machine) and cup of tea. Autumn is absolutely my favourite time of year and I can’t wait for when it gets cold enough that pressing my fabric no longer gives me heat exhaustion.

Since I’m celebrating the on-coming autumn, I thought I would share one of my favourite places to wile away autumn afternoons and gather some inspiration for my next sewing project: Jacqueline’s Tea Room!

Who?

Those of you familiar with Colchester will know that it’s a pretty stereotypical English town: streets filled with shoppers and chain stores everywhere. Fortunately, its history (Colchester is the oldest recorded town in Britain) means that it’s a place full of hidden gems. There’s a great castle, fantastic park, and some beautiful buildings. But one of my favourite jewels at the heart of an otherwise pretty stereotypical British town is Jacqueline’s – a fabulous 1940s tea room with enough authenticity to make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.

I actually stumbled on Jacqueline’s when I was out on a trek with my fiancé, shortly after we moved to Colchester. I was feeling pretty miserable after upping sticks from a gorgeous countryside village to be nearer to my university. I was missing the fields and the peace and quiet and, without a car to get around, we were pretty restricted to visiting places that were within walking distance. When we found Jacqueline’s, it felt a lot like coming home. It’s set up to give a truly authentic ’40s vibe, not to mention an incredible selection of teas and cakes. Beyond that, it has given me a huge amount of inspiration when it comes to my sewing expeditions.

Why?

As long-time readers of Sew for Victory will know, my Inspire A Style posts are usually restricted to people. But places can often be just as inspiring when it comes to thinking about sewing projects. Soaking up the ’40s ambiance always places me in a different headspace – listening to period music while surrounded by decor that gives off the era always gets my mind churning over fabrics and patterns.

I would highly suggest that if you find yourself stuck in a sewing rut, you get yourself out into some inspiring places. You’ll spot people, colours, and designs that trigger a lightbulb moment. Or you’ll find yourself reminded of films you’ve seen and books you’ve read that similarly inspire you.  Visiting Jacqueline’s has given me back my motivation on numerous occasions, so trust me and give it a go!

What?

So quite how has this perfect little tea room inspired my sewing? There are so many projects that have drawn their inspiration, in one way or another, from my trips for tea and cake. All my ‘home style’ 1940s creations feel as though they wouldn’t be out of place in this setting. Both my Great British Sewing Bee Vintage Blouse and my recent Big Vintage Sew-along make suggest the kind of atmosphere you find at Jacqueline’s. Jacqueline’s was also the direct inspiration for my version of Sew Over It’s Joan dress, which I made for a special Valentine’s High Tea with my gorgeous boy!

 

And there are so many patterns that I have rolling around my mind that draw on the war-time sitting room feel that I soak up every time I step through the doors. The B4790 Walkaway dress would be an easy way to achieve that ’40s style.

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Or what about the gorgeous V1019 suit dress? So perfect! I think I might have to add this one to my list of projects.

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So much sewing, so little time! But what a good position to be in.

If you end up in Colchester, definitely make some time to stop at Jacqueline’s. And don’t forget to invite me because I’m always looking for an excuse to drink more tea and think about new sewing projects!

Make Your Own Shoulder Pads: Tutorial

Happy Wednesday, sweet peas!

I thought that I would take a break from working on my newest sewing projects to write up a short tutorial on how to make the queen of all retro garment features – shoulder pads! Don’t make the mistake of thinking that shoulder pads live and die with ’80s fashion. Journey back a few more decades and shoulder pads were all the rage, as evidenced by my recent Big Vintage Sew-along make. V9127 was, in fact, my first run-in with real life shoulder pads and, despite my fears that they would give me an American football player vibe, they elevated the 1930s silhouette to a totally new level of authenticity. And, believe it or not, they are so easy to make from scratch.

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I worked with a pattern provided through V9127. But after measuring up and reading through my various sewing manuals, I’ve managed to condense the process into a few simple steps that should be workable for any garment.

What You Need:

  • Cotton Batting – I got a pack of 45″ x 60″ from Sew Essential which worked perfectly.
  • Lining Material
  • Thread and an embroidery needle

1. Measure Your Seams and Make Your Pattern

The key measurement that you’ll need for this project is the length of your shoulder seam – from neck to arm hole. You’ll want to take about half an inch off of this measurement as the total width of your shoulder pad (so, if your shoulder seam is 4.5 inches, you’ll be working towards a 4 inch wide shoulder pad).

Once you have this measurement, you’ll need to construct your pattern pieces. The first thing you’ll need is a circular base – draw a circle that is twice the length of your intended shoulder pad width (so, using the measurements above, your circle would have a diameter of 8 inches, and a radius of 4 inches).

Now for the confusing bit. You will need 4 semi-circles of decreasing size, with the first the same diameter and radius as the circle you’ve already made. The next three will be 1 inch smaller in diameter (essentially taking 0.5 inches off of either side of the diameter – when we place the pieces together, you’ll see the importance) and 0.5 inch smaller in radius than the previous.

So working with the above measurements, your first (and largest) semi-circle would have an 8 inch diameter and 4 inch radius. Your next largest would have a 7 inch diameter and a 3.5 inch radius. Your next semi-circle would have a 6 inch diameter and a 3 inch radius. And your final, smallest semi-circle would have a 5 inch diameter and a 2.5 inch radius.

Ultimately, you should wind up with a set of pattern pieces that looks something like this:

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2. Cut Everything Out

Pop your pattern pieces on the cotton batting and cut out. Remember that you’ll need two of each piece, since you’ll (hopefully) be making two shoulder pads!

You’ll also need to cut out two pieces of lining fabric that you will use to cover your shoulder pad. You can use the large circular pattern piece to do this but will want to make these pieces of fabric a little bigger than the base piece. This is because the lining will need to cover the shoulder pad and be stitched down (so essentially, you need a seam allowance) – I would suggest adding about 0.5 inch total to the diameter of the circle for this purpose.

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3. Pin Your Pieces Together

This is super easy. Start with the circle as your base. And proceed to place each semi-circle along the diameter of this circle, lining them up so that they are stacked pretty centrally. You’re basically constructing a tower out of your pieces. Once pinned in place, it should look something like this:

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4. Stitch The Pieces Together

You’ll need a thickish needle and any spare thread that you have lying around. Then work your way around the outer-edge of each semi-circle, stitching it down to those underneath. You can use any kind of stitch that works for you, as long as it’s secure. I used a basic cross stitch.

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5. Fold And Cover

Now you need to fold the loose half of the circle over and place the padding on top of you lining fabric, ready for stitching.

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6. Machine Stitch The Lining Over The Padding

Fold the lining over the top of the padding and pin down. You’ll then need to stitch around the edge, keeping nice and close to the padding, using whatever seam allowance you gave yourself when cutting out the lining fabric. I would suggest doing an additional line of stitching close to the edge of the seam allowance, for extra security. You could also use a bias binding on this outer edge if you’re concerned about fraying.

The finished product should look like a cornish pasty!

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7. Insert Into Your Garment

Place the shoulder pad along your shoulder seam so that the width of the pad runs centrally along the seam. You can then hand stitch along the seam, securing the shoulder pad in place, and keeping the stitches invisible by using the ditch that already exists. It’s also a good idea to tack the corners down somewhere – this will depend upon the shape of the garment, but tacking to the armholes is a good method. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t want to do this, it’ll just mean rummaging inside your dress/jacket when you put it on so that you can get the shoulder pads in the right place.

8. Be Bold, Bright, and Very Boxy!

Wooohooo! You’re done! And now you can rock that vintage style with appropriately square shoulders. Enjoy!

New Project: 1950s Unique Chic

Happy Thursday, sweet ones!

Thank you so much for all of your wonderful comments on my dress for the Big Vintage Sew-along. I couldn’t be prouder of how it turned out and hearing such super kind feedback has been incredible. As long-time readers of Sew for Victory will know, I have a true soft-spot for late 1930s style and Vogue 9217 was the perfect make to really show off what the era has to offer in the way of fashion.

Working so hard on the Big Vintage Sew-along dress has left me a little drained. Managing such a big project on top of the PhD and general life tasks (eating, sleeping, and talking to my fiancé are obviously important things) was definitely a challenge. But I’m also determined to capitalise on the momentum I’m feeling and have been trying to seek out the perfect project to reinvigorate me with sewing energy. Fortunately, I went to my most faithful source of incredible vintage patterns and found just the right make – Decades of Style’s Objet d’Art dress.

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Beautiful, right? I’m really excited to give this pattern a go and I think it will result in a real statement piece, similar to the company’s Belle Curve dress.

I also had some really good fortune in July, winning a prize via the July Vintage Pledge organised on Instagram by Stitch Odyssey and Kestrel Makes. My darting detail on the Belle Curve dress won me a £30 gift voucher for The Splendid Stitch – an incredible online shop, stocking gorgeous fabrics and sewing knick-knacks. Searching through the stock of fabrics, I happened on the perfect fabric for the Objet d’Art dress – a blue, white and navy shirting that will really help accentuate the collar and pocket detailing on the pattern.

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I’m really excited to get started on this one. Stay tuned for the finished product!

Big Vintage Sew-along: My Make

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The day is finally here. After many hours of plotting, planning, and making, I can actually reveal my make for the Big Vintage Sew-along! Presenting my version of Vogue 9127:

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When browsing the selection of patterns for the Big Vintage Sew-along, this 1939 design immediately struck me as the most interesting and unique. I adored the structure of the garment and the fabulous panelling. Although I anticipated that this might be quite a complex make, I figured that it would give me a valuable opportunity to learn some new skills and put my own twist on the pattern.

I knew immediately that I wanted to make this pattern in a way that emphasised the unique shape of the dress. The examples provided by the drawings on the pattern sleeve and the photos on the website were all made up in one colour – although beautiful, this approach makes it difficult to see the fabulous design of the panels. I decided straight away that I wanted to have a go at using a contrast piping down the seams to really play with the shape. And I thought a sailor vibe with the colours would really give the dress a little extra va-va-voom.

Although adding the piping was pretty complex (the panels are sewn overlapping, rather than with traditional seams), it was worth the extra effort. Not only does it really elevate the dress to a truly unique piece, I think it successfully shows off those swerves and curves. I totally adore it. And I selected exactly the right fabrics, with both main fabric and piping fabric from Sew Over It’s collection of crepes (in this case, navy blue and red).

I added some extra contrast details to pull the piece together, using notions kindly provided by Sew Essential. The white buttons really bring home the sailor theme – emphasised by the fabulous 1930s dress gloves that I found in a vintage charity shop. I also put in a red zip to tie in with the piping. The pattern comes with a couple of options for belting – I opted to go with a sewn-in belt, so that I could cinch my waist. I found that doing this and piping the panel at the top of my back gave the dress added impact when viewed from behind.

One thing I loved about this pattern was the feeling of authenticity. Instead of a zip, the pattern gives an opportunity to use hook-and-eyes. I also got to make my own shoulder pads for the first time ever (a tutorial on this will be coming soon). I was a little concerned that the shoulder pads would make the dress look too boxy but, in the end, they gave the dress a truly 1930s silhouette. Delicious!

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My experience with this pattern had its ups and downs. I’ve only been sewing for about a year, so I’m still finding that every new pattern introduces me to skills that I haven’t yet developed. This pattern threw A LOT of new skills at me – added to which I’d already decided to take a chance with the piping. Fitting the panels together and making the front pieces symmetrical was a challenge. But I found that taking a slow and steady approach really benefitted me and allowed me to keep the patience needed to turn the piece into something great. There was nothing here that totally exceeded my abilities and ultimately the pattern turned out a gorgeously authentic 1930s dress that gives me a huge amount of pride.

I would absolutely recommend this pattern to anyone wanting to get involved with the Big Vintage Sew-along. In addition to contributing to a wonderful cause (pattern profits go to The Eve Appeal), this dress gives a real feel for vintage style. While I would caution beginners to take this piece slowly, it is well worth the extra time and effort required to develop the needed skills. So take this pattern, get creative, and venture into the 1930s!

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Inspire a Style: Gene Kelly

Gene Bow Tie

Since starting Sew for Victory, one of the most consistent questions I get is about the origins of my love of vintage style. Obviously the word ‘vintage’ means different things to different people. For me, it’s representative of various eras – although the 1940s is where I find most of my inspiration. One thing I consistently associate with the idea of ‘vintage’ as a style and a lifestyle are the classic films that brought me to a love for these periods long past. Of all the stars in all the films, it is Gene Kelly who taught me that 1940s Hollywood isn’t something that has to remain solely on my TV.

Who?

Many of you will already be well acquainted with Gene Kelly. Born Eugene Curran Kelly in 1912, Gene was not originally destined to grace Hollywood with his incredible dancing and acting skills. He studied economics and law at university, eventually dropping out to teach dance and work as an entertainer. After a stint on the stage, it wasn’t until 1941 that Gene gained a contract with Hollywood giant MGM. His first starring role was alongside Judy Garland in For Me and My Gal. From here, he eased into a lucrative film career, perhaps best known for his roles in An American in Paris (1951) and  Singin’ In The Rain (1952).

Gene’s incredible dancing skills – putting him up alongside Fred Astaire as one of the greatest dancers in Hollywood – and his easy charm turned him into a Hollywood legend. His athleticism is absolutely clear to anyone who watches his films. As the era of Hollywood musicals faded so too did Gene’s career at the heart of the film empire. But he had firmly embedded his name in the history of 20th century film. He died in 1996, aged 83.

Gene Dance

Why?

It is obviously a little out of left-field for me to pick a man as a style inspiration. One of the clearest principles of style from the 1940s – and other ‘vintage’ periods – is an obvious distinction between genders. However, we are now firmly in an era where these restrictions do not (and should not) apply. It is always a good idea to look outside of your conventional boxes and see what you might find!

To me, Gene Kelly is totally representative of the 1940s Hollywood fashion of the male film stars. Smart and refined, this is a style that is all about clean lines, high-waisted trousers, and accessories. The use of accessories by men (tie clips, bow ties, caps) has seen something of a resurgence over recent years, albeit by a select part of the population. When we look back to the male film stars of the 1940s, it becomes clear from where this resurgence finds its inspiration.

Beyond this, what I really love about Gene Kelly’s style is the fact that – even with its refinement and elegance – there is an easy-going fun that you can’t escape. Perhaps it is partly in the attitude of the characters he plays, or the fact that he can’t go five minutes without breaking into song and dance, but this is a style of almost lazy chicness. Gene Kelly is the epitome of ‘wear the clothes, don’t let them wear you’. And that fact is sufficient to warrant him a place as a true style inspiration.

Gene Sailor On the Town

Gene Kelly in 1949 musical ‘On the Town’

What?

So where to start in replicating this style? Apart from whipping up your own tuxedo (no easy feat, I’m sure), there are a few key ways in which its possible to draw some direct inspiration from the gorgeous Gene Kelly.

One core part of Gene Kelly’s wardrobe is a blazer-style jacket. Made up in linen and paired with a waistcoat, this would be the perfect addition to any 1940s garment line-up. Burdastyle’s 01/2014 #125 blazer pattern is a wonderful example of a 1940s style blazer pattern, with a fabulous front chain fastening as an added vintage detail. If you decide to go this route, be sure to join Male Devon Sewing’s #blazerof2016 challenge and bring Gene Kelly’s fashion legacy fully into the modern age!

For waistcoats, you needn’t look further than Simplicity 4762 for a variety of options. If you have a penchant for knitting needles, you could go a step further and whip up a cashmere or wool slipover (also known as a sweater vest). Free Vintage Knitting provides a variety of vintage knitting patterns for men’s vests. Worn with a collared shirt and a pair of wide legged trousers, you really don’t get much more 1940s!

Finally, make sure to take a look at my bow tie tutorial for a quick and easy route to making up your own personalised bow ties. Bow ties are such an effective way to add that vintage style to any outfit and are definitely the fastest way to replicate Gene Kelly’s fabulous style with your own crafting skills.

Gene Flat Cap

So whether you’re searching out this style for your fella or yourself, be sure to remember that everything should be done with a light touch and a light heart. Watch Singin’ In The Rain while you sew and I guarantee that lightness won’t be far beyond your reach.

“You dance love, and you dance joy, and you dance dreams. And I know if I can make you smile by jumping over a couple of couches or running through a rainstorm, then I’ll be very glad to be a song and dance man.”

– Gene Kelly (1912 – 1996)