My Vintage Life: Norma Shearer and Pre-Code Hollywood

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Welcome to my new weekly post series – My Vintage Life! I’ve been deliberating for a while about how to streamline my vintage lifestyle posts and create something that is a predictable – but hopefully still super interesting – weekly feature. That’s where My Vintage Life comes in! This will be where I post about a whole range of topics related to vintage lifestyle, fashion, and history. I work hard outside of Sew for Victory to remain constantly learning – through podcasts, books, films, and anything I can get my hands on. To me, wearing vintage style is totally connected to a passion for the bigger ‘vintage’ picture. It’s impossible to separate the popular fashion of previous eras from the larger social and cultural dynamics at work – the interplay between all of these different bits and pieces of history is something that I find hugely interesting and love to talk about when I get the opportunity.

I’m hoping that My Vintage Life can serve as a place to write about all things vintage-related. Fingers crossed that these posts will spark an interest in you and perhaps send you into a Google hole for a while! If you have any suggestions for future posts – perhaps a film you’ve watched or a vintage icon you love – please shoot me an email or leave a comment. Alternatively, post on Instagram or Twitter using #myvintagelife and @sewforvictoryuk and I’ll be sure to see you pics!

Anyway, enough of introductions! This first post is dedicated to one of my current fascinations – Norma Shearer and Pre-Code Hollywood.


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Norma Shearer was, in many ways, the quintessential classic Hollywood actress. Beautiful, chic, and – at least in her later films – quietly seductive. She was born in 1902 and entered the film industry in the middle of the Roaring ’20s, while silent cinema still dominated. After a shaky start in the industry, Shearer worked hard to improve on her acting skills and accelerated to stardom following MGMs first official film production, He Who Gets Slapped. With the release of The Jazz Singer in 1927, the entire Hollywood film industry underwent a dramatic shift. Talkies became the new standard and a number of incredibly high profile silent stars struggled with the transition (Marion Davies, for example, who was plagued by a childhood stutter). An aside: if you’re interested in this particular period in Hollywood, definitely watch (or re-watch for the millionth time) ‘Singin’ In The Rain‘. I think it actually does a wonderful job of giving some insight into the high anxiety that talkies brought for both studios and performers. Plus, there’s Gene Kelly and a whole lot of dancing. Norma Shearer shifted to talkies with ease. In fact, it was in the early years of talking films that she made what I would argue are some of her best films.

Up until the introduction of the Hays Code (officially called the Motion Picture Production Code) in 1934, Hollywood was pretty well unregulated with regards to censorship. Local laws attempted to put some restrictions on the types of content that films could include, but it was relatively easy for studios to ignore these regulations without consequence. Between 1929 (when sound pictures became the relative norm) and 1934, this relaxed attitude to censorship was embraced by Hollywood which, in turn, churned out a number of films that included profanity, sex, and violence (although all of these films would seem pretty tame in comparison to what we see on screen today).  This was the period during which Norma Shearer came into her own as an actress portraying promiscuous and sexually liberated women. Her 1930 film The Divorcee is, in my opinion, her best. She is endearing, spirited, and incredibly convincing as a woman who discovers that her husband has had an affair. Her character counters her husband’s infidelity by sleeping with his best friend and, following their divorce, proceeds to really live it up with whole lot of partying and sex. It’s a fantastic film – not least because it is not a film that you would expect to come out of 1930s America. Shearer won the Academy Award for Best Actress as a result of her performance.

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The Divorcee (1930)

Another amazing pre-Code film starring Shearer is A Free Soul. She stars alongside both Clark Gable and Lionel Barrymore and – again, in my opinion – totally outdoes both of them (although Barrymore won an Academy Award for his role and Gable’s performance is largely credited to have put his star on the rise). With regards to Shearer’s role, the clue is very much in the title. She plays another sexually liberated woman who gets involved with a gangster (Gable) – a gangster who her lawyer father has successfully defended in trial. The film doesn’t have the power of The Divorcee (perhaps because all of the mobster stuff just removes it from reality, while The Divorcee feels very rooted in real world emotion and reactions) but it’s still a fantastic watch. Not to mention it is a mine of inspiration for anyone interested in some beautiful 1930s women’s fashion!

For those feminists among us (hopefully everyone reading this), things take something of a downward turn after the introduction of the Hays Code. The Code was created as a response to both the uncensored nature of many Hollywood films and a number of scandals that had plagued Hollywood off-screen – the rape, and subsequent death, of Virginia Rappe and the implication of acclaimed actor Fatty Arbuckle in the crime was perhaps the most notable scandal. The Code introduced a strict set of ethical criteria that all films must follow. Among these were prohibitions of “pointed profanity…this includes the words ‘God,’ ‘Lord,’ ‘Jesus…,” “any inference of sex perversion,” and “any licentious or suggestive nudity.” The Production Code Administration enforced the Hays Code strictly and Norma Shearer’s film roles began to reflect the censorship that now dominated Hollywood productions.

That’s not to say that she didn’t make some great films. She received critical acclaim for the performances in many of her films and was nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award six times in total – two of these nominations, for Romeo and Juliet and Marie Antoinette, came after the enforcement of the Code. But where Shearer had dominated films as the sexually liberated ingenue during the pre-Code period, she was now consigned to playing somewhat more subdued and conventional female roles. The best example of this is her character in The Women (1939). Let me begin by saying that I adore this film. It’s one of my favourites. An all female cast including Joan Crawford – what could be better? If you are able to overlook the fact that literally (and I’m using that word in the correct sense) every conversation is about men, it’s a fantastically progressive film for its time.

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The Women (1939)

It’s actually through The Women that I developed an interest in Norma Shearer. I came to the film after listening to the You Must Remember This podcast series on Joan Crawford (if you haven’t listened to it, you must!). Joan Crawford undoubtedly steals the show in this film. But, looking around for more information, I was amazed to read about Norma Shearer’s cinematic history. In The Women, Shearer plays another wronged wife. Rather than seize her independence in the face of her husband’s pretty shameless infidelity, however, Shearer’s character seems to limp reluctantly towards a divorce. It feels as though the divorce is a consequence of her twisted sense of loyalty (that she must allow her husband to make his choice and give him the freedom to pursue his affair in the hope that he’ll end up coming back to her), rather than a purposeful decision to move forward as her own person. The fact that every scene in the film revolves around the situation between Shearer’s character and her husband only adds to the sense that she is playing subordinate to his will and desires the whole way through. In contrast, Joan Crawford’s character is powerful, ruthless, and awful. But she reflects far more of Shearer’s pre-Code roles than anything subsequent to the enforcement of the Hays Code. And Joan Crawford’s character is by far the most memorable and interesting part of The Women.

I think Norma Shearer is easily one of the most fascinating figures from the period that we’re talking about when we mention ‘classic Hollywood’. But what’s most interesting about her is how dramatically her story represents the shifts that Hollywood went through during the 1920s and 1930s. She saw out the transition from silent films to talkies and continued to make her own successes as Hollywood moved from the pre-Code to the post-Code era. When you watch her films, you’ll see that her talent speaks for itself. But it’s difficult to work through her filmography without feeling that something dramatic was lost after 1934. This is a woman who best dominated the screen when handed the complicated characters – women with obscure motives and muddy pasts, whose men were generally secondary to some bigger picture or larger determination to be free. These types of female characters didn’t disappear completely – Joan Crawford in The Women is a great example. But it took a while for such complex and (at the time) controversial women to once again assume the role of heroine.


If you’re interested in learning more about Norma Shearer or pre-Code Hollywood, there are a number of places that you can look. I’d definitely recommend working through her filmography but, in addition, make sure to check out Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood by Mick LaSalle. It’s a great survey of pre-Code Hollywood in general but it gives special focus to Norma Shearer. Gavin Lambert’s Norma Shearer: A Biography is also a great read!

Check back in next Friday for another My Vintage Life. And remember to direct any suggestions for future posts my way – @sewforvictoryuk on Instagram and Twitter or email me: laura@sewforvictory.co.uk

How To Sew Your Wedding Dress (Part 2): Choosing Your Fabric

Here we are, with the second post about sewing your own wedding dress! The project is definitely moving in the right direction. I finished my wearable muslin last week and am very excited to show it to you. I’ve definitely refined a number of my sewing skills trying to achieve the perfect fit for this dress. Normally I’m pretty lazy about this. Confession time – I basically trust the pattern sizing and, unless there’s something pretty noticeably off about the fit, I go with whatever the final product happens to be. With my wedding dress, this attitude has definitely shifted and I’ve been working overtime to get the muslin looking perfect.

Since my main fabric is now washed and ready to be cut, I thought it would be the perfect time to talk you through my process of choosing the fabric and offer some general advice for you when doing the same, whether for a wedding dress or other event garment! Obviously this is totally based on my personal experience. If you have anything to add by way of suggestions from your own experience of making event garments (even if not wedding dresses), please add a comment to the post!

1. Consider the pattern

This part is elementary but also something that might involve a little creativity on your part. As I’m sure you know, patterns typically come with a list of recommended fabrics. These fabrics are ones that best guarantee the desired fit (for example, stretch fabrics versus woven fabrics) and shape or drape of the garment. When making something as important as a wedding dress, it’s obviously vital to make sure that you aren’t going against the grain (PUN!) by choosing a fabric that will totally warp the look of the pattern. If you decide that you want to go with a fabric that is not recommended by the pattern – particularly if it means working with something tougher to sew, like a silk or satin – definitely make a muslin using the same material! Make sure that it works with the pattern!

As a reminder, this is the pattern that I’m using:

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The Sweetheart Dress from Sew La Di Da Vintage

With such a flirty ’50s-style dress, there are obviously a plethora of fabrics that could be used. The key is to consider what best accentuates the shape of the garment and any cute details built into the pattern – perhaps the sit of pleats, the volume of a skirt, or the shape of the bodice. In answering these questions, you’ll also need to ask yourself about whether it’s appropriate to use more than one fabric. For example, would you prefer to use satin overlaid with lace? Would you like to make the sleeves or neckline out of lace? Or perhaps use a sheer, embroidered fabric for an interesting back panel? Obviously the answers to all of these questions will depend upon your personal preference but will also be largely dictated by what’s achievable through the pattern that you’re using.

2. Consider the event

Again, this piece of advice seems obvious, but it is so easy to get lost in fantasies about the perfect dress and forget about the event itself. My choice of pattern is a reflection of the sort of day that me and my fiancé are shooting for. It’s going to be pretty informal and put together in a relatively short space of time (we’re talking about a month). I wanted a short, fun, ’50s dress to mirror the spontaneity that will characterise our wedding, but also just the general joy that after many months apart we’re finally back together and getting married. To me, all of these factors didn’t add up to the formality that I usually associate with silk or satin fabrics. Bearing in mind that I will also be getting married in the height of Missourian summer where temperatures can get up over 100 Fahrenheit, something that clings to the body is not a good idea. Temperature is key!

The most important thing is that you’re comfortable in whatever you’re wearing. Will there be lots of dancing? A fabric that doesn’t move so easily with your body might be a problem and getting sweaty while you dance isn’t a good look if you’re wearing pure silk.  Just be sure to reflect on what the event itself speaks to fabric-wise and don’t consign yourself to wearing something that prevents you from really enjoying the day.

3. Consider your colour palette

This will be a relatively brief consideration for most people. However, when choosing your fabric, it’s important to think about any other colours that you’re integrating into your day – bouquets, table arrangements, dress accessories etc. Since wedding dresses are traditionally white, for most people fabric colour won’t even be a question. But if you’re torn between, white, ivory, cream, or any unconventional colours for your dress, it’s super important to think about the rest of your colour palette.

Since I’m going for a ’50s style dress, I had already decided that I wanted a big ruffled petticoat. With regards to colours, there’s a couple that I needed to consider when picking out the fabric for my main dress. The petticoat that I ended up going with is the aquamarine petticoat from Doris Designs (these petticoats are seriously GORGEOUS and you must check them out right now!). This will be paired with some lemon yellow shoes (hopefully, since I haven’t yet found any that I want).

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When thinking about the colour of my dress fabric, it was obvious to me that white would end up being the best option. Since the dress is shorter, the whiteness will be broken up with the pop of the petticoat and the shoes (as well as any other accessories), stopping it from feeling like it’s just too much white.

So, if you’re using other colours, make sure to give them some thought before committing to your fabric.

4. The final fabric choice

When I was choosing my fabric, I was thinking mostly about the fact that I wanted to make sure the dress looked bridal. While a ’50s style dress is absolutely what I want, I was concerned that it could easily slip into a summer dress – rather than wedding dress – look. The fabric is totally key to getting that bridal feel. I spent a long time searching around and came across a lot of gorgeous fabrics. For those of you reading this because you’re in the process of making your own wedding dress, I highly recommend taking a look at the following websites for inspiration:

  • Bridal Fabrics  – This site caters exclusively to fabric for wedding dresses. A lot of the fabrics are on the more expensive side but they have an excellent range.
  • Fabric Land – Not as wide a range here, but they have some nice lace fabrics. They also have a lot of traditionally bridal fabrics in non-traditional colours (i.e. not white). A lot of their fabrics are also incredibly reasonably priced.
  • CheapFabrics – If you’re on a budget, this is a great place to look. Lots of choice and all so well priced.
  • Truro Fabrics – Some of these fabrics are crazy expensive and most are not friendly if you are on a budget. But they are super gorgeous, particularly the laces. Definitely worth a look!

But the winner for me was White Lodge Fabric. The more I browsed around, the more I settled on using a brocade fabric. Since the dress is on the short and summery side, I didn’t want to overwhelm it by using multiple fabrics (although I did dither for a while on whether to make the sleeves out of lace). So it was super important that I choose a fabric that looks inherently very bridal without any extra additions. The White Lodge Fabric bridal range is impressively large and reasonably priced. When I came across their Bridal Brocade fabric, I was sold. I ordered samples in both ivory and white but, given that I’m matching to the beautiful aquamarine petticoat from Doris Designs, I decided that white would be the best option for me. It’s a beautiful fabric and I’m SO excited to get cutting!

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I just love it. The pattern, in particular, really adds to that vintage vibe. I’m beyond thrilled! As an extra shout out to White Lodge Fabrics, there was a small mark on one of the selvedges (just running over onto the body of the fabric). They pre-empted any issue by including an extra half metre in my order. Paired with the fact that I paid second class postage and got the fabric in about two days, I think their customer service is incredible. Big thanks to them!

Finally, a little sneak peak of my muslin for you. Since I’ve worked with it simply to ensure that I get the right fit, I decided to make a muslin that I could wear as a day dress. In keeping with the ’50s pin-up style, I decided to go for a navy blue cotton with white polka dots.

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It looks amazing and I’ll be sharing it with you really soon. Plus check back in on Friday for a new weekly series – My Vintage Life! In these posts, I’ll be talking about various aspects of vintage lifestyle and fashion, pointing you towards some great classic films, books, icons, and just generally fabulous bits of information. I hope I’ll see you then!

How To Sew Your Wedding Dress (Part 1): Choosing A Pattern

The time has finally come! After lots of fretting, faffing, and decision making, I’ve actually begun the process of getting my wedding dress made. I had never anticipated being in a position where I would feel even close to confident enough for such a commitment. I started sewing 18 months ago – about a year and half after I got engaged. But it really wasn’t until recently that I started entertaining to possibility of using my (relatively) new found skills on my wedding dress. I won’t lie, I’m still pretty terrified! I’m so critical of everything I sew and when all eyes are inevitably going to be on you and what you’ve made, it’s bound to invite an extra level of self-scrutiny. However, I thought I could channel all of these anxieties and concerns in the most productive way by writing about the whole process on Sew for Victory.

Now, I’m more than aware that a series of posts about wedding dress making might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a very niche project. But I’m hoping it will provide insights that will extend beyond just a wedding environment. I think the same sorts of decisions and challenges that come with making a wedding dress are ones that accompany making garments for any kind of special occasion. The questions of ‘what pattern?’, ‘what fabric?’, and ‘oh my goodness, why do I hate everything I’ve done?’ are ones that pop up all over the place. So I hope that you’ll find something to gain from these posts. For my part, I’m so delighted that you’re here because it makes you a part of this really exciting time in my life!

This first post starts at the beginning, with the process of choosing a pattern.

1. Making an event-appropriate garment

When I started out looking at patterns, I had so many different ideas. I was looking at an incredibly diverse range of dresses: short; long; formal gowns; flirty and simple dresses. I was totally all over the place and desperately needed to narrow things down. I found that the best way to do this was to keep my mind totally on the nature of the event itself. Every wedding is different and your pattern choice should reflect that nature of the occasion, as well as your personal tastes. In my case, this meant making some compromises. Part of me was so inclined towards a full-length vintage gown. You all know that I have such a love for ’30s and ’40s Hollywood glamour. I came across some divine patterns, particularly the gorgeous Decades of Style 1930s Evening Gown.

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Picture from Decades of Style

But a wedding in Missouri, in the height of summer (it’s usually very well over 30 degrees Celsius), doesn’t lend itself so well to silk fabrics (hello sweat) or fitted, full-length gowns. The formality of this kind of dress would also run a little counter to the type of occasion we’ll be having. The visa process is (as with all bureaucracy) a complicated one and means that there is a huge amount of unpredictability about when the wedding will be. We don’t know when I’ll be in the US but, once I am, we have an incredibly short window to actually get married. Most people do a quick paper-work marriage and arrange a bigger, more formal event later. But we decided that we’d rather do it in one go. So to fit with the tone of this, we’re shooting for a fun ’50s vibe – small, simple, and with a lot of cute vintage detail.

Once I thought a little more about the sort of day we’d be going for, it was actually very easy to narrow down my pattern choices. I started looking at shorter dresses with a gorgeous ’50s silhouette – fitted bodices and full circle skirts. Not only does this sort of dress really suit the spontaneity that’s pretty inherent in our situation, as well as the time of year in which the wedding will be held (vital), but it also reflects my love for ’50s fashion. Any excuse to wear a petticoat really.

2. Finding Inspiration

Even after settling on the style of the dress, there are still SO many details to be decided upon. Think about ’50s dresses – while there are certain key features that we might identify as central to the fashion of the decade, there is a huge amount of variability. Remember that Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, and Audrey Hepburn were all key fashion icons in the ’50s, but all with incredibly different styles. The pattern choice will be impacted by the sorts of key details that you want to have be a part of your final design. For example, do you want a square, sweetheart, or plunging neckline? A full circle skirt or a more fitted skirt style? Sleeveless or sleeved? Even something like wanting buttons over a zipper might impact the sorts of patterns that you can work with. So even though I settled on a ’50s style, short dress, I still had to look around for inspiration in order to figure out the key details that I would need to have be a part of my final pattern choice.

The most valuable source of inspiration for me (aside from Google, of course) is ‘Vintage Details: A Fashion Sourcebook’ by Jeffrey Mayer and Basia Szkutnicka. My fiancé bought this for my birthday last year and it is such an amazing resource. I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in vintage fashion. I delved into the photos of the various ’50s fashions and, although it doesn’t feature any wedding dresses, it gave me a much more solid idea of what I was looking for.

Seriously, I can’t recommend this book enough. The chapters beyond the Visual Index (which the photos below are taken from) provide close-up shots of the various details of the garments. This is incredibly useful when you’re trying to settle on things like necklines, sleeves, or embellishments.

By the time I was done with my research and inspiration search, I settled on some key things. I needed a pattern with a square neckline, fitted bodice, and circle skirt. I also wanted something that would work well with longer sleeves. After I’d figured these details out, it was surprisingly easy to make a decision about the pattern I wanted!

3. The final pattern choice

Here we are. A relatively short post but a decision process that took me SO long. And the pattern I finally settled on…

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The Sweetheart Dress from Sew La Di Da Vintage! I’ve been lurking on their website for months – they have some incredibly gorgeous patterns. But this is the first pattern of their’s that I’ll be making. I was definitely nervous using a pattern from a company that I’d never sewn with before. But I was reassured by their great customer service and the fact that they run a sewing school (so I figured that with any desperate emergencies, I could just email or phone for advice).

Pictures from Sew La Di Da Vintage

As you can see from the photo, the dress comes with a sweetheart neckline option, in addition to a square neckline. Plus a gorgeous skirt and perfectly tailored bodice. It ticks all of my boxes!

So, to summarise, my key pieces of advice on picking that vital pattern…

  1. Always keep your event in mind (time of year, location, will there be DANCING?!).
  2. But don’t let your personality get lost!
  3. Look for inspiration wherever you can.
  4. Make a list of those key garment details that are important to you. What has to be there? Use this as a reference point while searching through patterns.
  5. Most importantly, really try to enjoy this part of the process. Look at some gorgeous patterns. Dream about yourself in beautiful dresses. And make some tea because I promise that will help when the stress sets in!

The next wedding dress post will be about choosing the right fabric. Mine arrived today and I am SO excited to share it with you. After a lot of searching around, I also have a tonne of resources to throw your way. Stay tuned for that and some other (non-wedding related) posts that I’ve got lined up!!

The Cocktail Hour Sew-Along

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I’m so excited to let you all know that, this year, I’ll be taking part in The Cocktail Hour Blogger Tour! Once again, we’re raising money for The Eve Appeal – an incredible charity that works to raise awareness of, and fund research into, the five gynaecological cancers. It’s an amazing cause and this year’s Sew-Along offers such a fun way of making your own contribution!

This year’s theme focuses on The Cocktail Hour. With this specially chosen collection of Vogue patterns, you can make sure you’re suitably dressed for sipping that evening cocktail while also helping out a great charity. The selection of patterns is gorgeous and really wide-ranging. There are some super cute dresses, divine separates, and even a beautiful pattern for making your own purse! I had such a hard time choosing my make – but choice is always a great thing when it comes to sewing!

I mean, look at those options! So fabulous! There are some amazing bloggers lined up to show off their makes and the pictures have already started coming through. Go to Sew Direct’s special The Cocktail Hour section to take a look at all of the patterns, blogger makes, and dates! My turn will be coming up on 17th November (so quite a while yet!) but I promise it will be worth the wait. I already have some ideas percolating and, thankfully, it’ll be post-wedding so I’ll be able to give all of my sewing focus to this amazing project! Sadly, you’ll have to wait until my post date for a reveal of what pattern I’ve made. It’s all very hush-hush and mysterious!

In the meantime, please consider taking part. Every pattern purchased helps to support The Eve Appeal! If you decide to join along with us, be sure to post some pictures of your makes on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram. Use the hashtag #sipandsew and tag @mccallpatternuk so we can celebrate your amazing cocktail wear!

I hope to see your makes popping up soon!

1950s Skirt (Simplicity 8250)

Happy February, beautiful friends!

I’m having a wonderfully productive month of sewing. With my lovely fiancé now back in the US, I’ve had a lot more time to spend working on my projects. Sewing for self care is real, my lovelies. Nothing’s been quite as helpful to my wellbeing as sewing. I’m so grateful to have such a wonderful creative outlet, particularly when times get a little tough. And I’m so grateful to have all of you too! In related news, I’ve picked out my wedding dress pattern so you can look forward to lots of posts about that coming soon!!

Back to business. In my previous New Projects post, I previewed the vintage Simplicity patterns that I would be working on over the next couple of months.* After a fortunate encounter with some tartan flannel fabric in my local craft shop, I settled on the Simplicity 8250 1950s flared skirt as my most immediate sewing adventure. It made for a gorgeous and super speedy project!

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This skirt is a super cute take on the traditional 1950s circle skirt. It offers a quirky scalloped waistband and a centre line that is top stitched to give a sweet little fold. I adore circle skirts – they offer a fabulous vintage silhouette but require really minimal effort to put together. And I whipped up a quick and easy neck tie with my fabric remnants just to enhance that 1950s feel! I particularly love the versatility of Simplicity 8250’s final product. Previous circle skirts I’ve made have always struggled to keep a flattering shape when worn without a gauze underskirt. They look beautiful when filled out with a petticoat but otherwise sit crumpled and flat. This is the first 1950s pattern I’ve come across that creates a skirt that retains a great shape even when worn with no supporting structure underneath.

For comparison, the right-hand picture is the skirt worn with no underskirt. It keeps a beautifully flattering shape.

An inevitable problem for any vintage sewcialist is creating garments versatile enough to be worn in every day situations. This skirt is definitely one that you could consider throwing on for a trip to the shops or otherwise. The tartan fabric definitely adds to that everyday feel – I’d definitely recommend using something similar to make the pattern pop! I did create a deeper hem than that suggested by the pattern – I took the skirt up by 3 inches total. This was really just a matter of personal preference. I wanted something that fell mid-calf because, to me, it’s a little more flattering and adds to the versatility.

Simplicity 8250 is slightly more complicated than traditional vintage skirt patterns, given the construction of the waistband. However, it is totally within the proficiency of anyone who would consider themselves an advanced beginner or beyond. It remains an incredibly simple pattern with enough unique features to make it incredibly interesting. The scalloped waistline is a gorgeous detail. However, be warned that the scallops on my skirt came out much deeper than those seemingly intended by the design of the pattern. This wasn’t intentional – I matched notches and seam lines without any issues, but somehow ended up with some dramatic curves. Fortunately, I like this far better!

Cute, cute, cute! These close-ups also give a clearer idea of how the centre line looks, with its fold. The tartan fabric somewhat obscures that detail in the photos, but it’s definitely a stand-out part of the pattern. The skirt fastens with a simple 9-inch zip on the back – again, nothing too troublesome (unless you’re like me and continue to struggle with zip insertions!).

Overall, this pattern is definitely one that I would recommend. It is an incredibly simple and speedy make but with some gorgeous details that separate Simplicity 8250 from other 50s-inspired skirt patterns. I’ll definitely be making up other versions of this in some different fabrics. I could see this pattern working for office wear or more formal occasions.  If pockets are your bag, the pattern also offers a version of the skirt with some dramatic front pockets and a straight waistband. So there are plenty of options to meet all of your needs! Simplicity 8250 also comes with a cute bolero pattern that I’ll be making up soon, so you get 2-for-1!

As tradition, I’ll finish off with a couple of petticoat pictures. I just can’t resist giving them a ruffle whenever they’re on. I really need to consider expanding my collection so I have a full colour rotation for all my makes!!

* This pattern was provided for me by Simplicity in exchange for an honest review.

Update: New Projects

Happy Monday, sweet ones!

I hope that you’ve all had a wonderful weekend. I’ve had a beautiful couple of days. My lovely mum has been visiting from the US, giving me an opportunity to indulge in a few of my favourite things. A trip to the Charles Dickens Museum and an afternoon watching Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap were highlights, providing an excuse to take my Objet d’Art dress out for a period-appropriate outing!

After posting about my most recent make – V1043 – I thought that I would stop by with an update on my upcoming projects. Simplicity Patterns approached me and asked whether I’d be willing to give my own take on some of their amazing vintage patterns. They expanded their range pretty recently so I was obviously delighted to take a look through and pick out a couple of my favourites. And, oh boy, they’re so gorgeous!

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I’m super excited by these patterns! I really wanted an opportunity to make a couple of separate pieces since I’ve been pretty heavy on the dresses recently. The 1950s bolero and skirt (Simplicity 8250) will hopefully function as pretty stand-alone garments. But obviously I couldn’t resist the beautiful 1930s dress (Simplicity 8248)! First on my agenda is the skirt. This was a matter of chance, rather than conscious choice, because I happened upon a gorgeous tartan fabric that I thought would work perfectly for a bright and beautiful 1950s circle skirt.

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I’ve got a pretty distinct vision for the way the whole outfit should look. Fingers crossed it’ll come out the way I’m hoping. Stay tuned for these makes and a few others I’ve got in mind already. Plus I’ve got some other great content coming your way!

Have a wonderful week, lovelies!

1950s Flared Dress (Vogue 1043)

Here we are, with my first make of 2017! This is a garment that’s been a long time coming. As mentioned in my previous post, my life has encountered a few curves and swerves over the past couple of months. Sewing and blogging were put on hold for a little bit and V1043* – a dress that I started back in October for the Sew Dots challenge – was in literal pieces! But last week I decided that it was high time I pulled my sewing machine out of hibernation and got this project finished. And my goodness has it reinvigorated me! This pattern is divine.

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So cute, right? To be honest, I was pretty worried about this pattern. The wrap top and kimono sleeves presented a few different challenges and required some brand new skills. But, as I typically do, I decided to put my faith in the pattern and hope for the best. Fortunately, Vogue patterns are so well written and instructed that this trust is always incredibly well placed. The process wasn’t particularly lengthy – most of the effort goes into the bodice and sleeves – and creates a really impressive garment in a lovely, short time frame!

The bodice and neckline are gorgeous. I adore the wrap effect and it sits just perfectly. I graded out a size from bust to waist, following my measurements, and the final product fit snugly and comfortably. The handmade belt gives an opportunity to accentuate the waist a little further – I think this is a glorious touch that helps to balance the full circle skirt and make the wrap effect of the bodice really pop! The wide neckline and kimono sleeves add further vintage details to the top and sit absolutely perfectly. I didn’t have to adjust any pieces of the pattern to encourage a better shape, which is always a joy!

Neckline close-up and a shot of the back.

This dress has a fantastically 50s feel to it. When it was finished and I popped it on, I could just feel the pin-up vibes oozing off of it. This is a feeling that’s enhanced by adding a gauze petticoat to push out the circle skirt. But the skirt also sits wonderfully without the petticoat, making it totally viable to wear as an everyday springtime dress (albeit, with a lot of va-va-voom to it)!

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If you’re thinking about giving V1043 a go, I would definitely suggest working with a bold fabric. I picked up this patterned cotton from my local fabric shop and, although I was a bit worried that it would look too busy, I was encouraged by my love of both polka dots and flowers! This fabric actually has a gorgeous vintage feel to it and I think works perfectly with the pin-up feel that’s so inherent in the style of this pattern. It works beautifully with some t-bar heels, bright red lipstick, and victory rolls (I found the EASIEST method for getting some good looking victory rolls. Seriously, it is incredibly simple compared to the many tutorials I attempted to follow online. I’m going to pop a post up with some instructions soon!!).

So go forth and give V1043 a chance. It’s beautiful! Plus, you can attempt your very best, most serious pin-up poses and inevitably be much more successful than me!

*I got V1043 with a sewing magazine that I bought a while back. I goggled around for a link to where you can buy a copy. It’s available on Amazon US but there are also a few hits on Etsy!

Review: The S-Box

Happy New Year, guys and gals!

I’m sure you’ve noticed my absence from the blogosphere for the past couple of months. The end of 2016 brought a lot of changes to my life. After a long and hard debate with myself, I decided to leave the PhD process. There were MANY reasons for this, both external and internal. But mostly I realised (albeit three years in) that the PhD wasn’t making me happy and was no longer in line with what I envisioned for my future. BIG change but for all good reasons! The only downside is that me and my fiancé are having to go back to long distance for a few months while I wait for my marriage visa to come through. In the meantime, I’m moving in with family. Sorting all of the bureaucratic stuff and shutting down our house in the UK has occupied most of my time since November. So hopefully this adequately explains my absence and you aren’t too mad with me! 🙂 On the plus side, I’ve finally gotten back to sewing and have almost finished the dress I’ve had on hold since October! Pictures and a pattern review should be coming your way this week and, oh my goodness, this dress is so worth the wait. It’s a zinger!

Anyway, that’s enough of my life update. Back to business! I’m actually here to review the amazing S-Box – a monthly craft subscription box from The Stitchery (Lewes).* I know subscription boxes are all the rage right now. You can find one to suit practically any hobby or interest. The S-Box is the first one I’ve seen that is tailored (haha) specifically to those of us with a love for all things crafty. I received the January Valentine-themed box and it’s seriously a delight to my flowery, romantic side!

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Just let your eyes soak up all of the pink fabulousness! One of my favourite things about the S-Box is just how varied the contents are. As a seamstress, I can use pretty much everything here for a sewing-related project. The same could be said if you’re an embroiderer, a scrapbooker, or just someone who loves to get crafty in general. Included in this month’s S-Box are:

  • 30cm ‘girly’ printed cotton fabric
  • 30cm cerise spot fabric
  • 30cm pink gingham fabric
  • 1m floral bias binding
  • 1m white cotton lace
  • 1m cerise cotton lace
  • 1m beige cotton lace
  • 3 wooden hearts
  • 5 diamante paper fasteners
  • 1 white heart button
  • 1 pink heart button
  • 1 lime flower button
  • 2 small lime buttons
  • 1 reel pink metallic machine embroidery thread
  • 1 pink floral padded heart motif
  • 1 pink floral padded flower motif

Wowzers, am I right?! I’m already planning out a few different projects that would take advantage of these fabulous bits and pieces. I’m thinking a couple of cute make-up bags and a gorgeous gingham headscarf for starters! Just look at how well suited this fabric would be for those kind of makes:

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One of the great things about a subscription box like this is that it inspires you to step outside of your crafty comfort zone a bit or, at least, gets you to think about makes that you wouldn’t have otherwise considered. It also provides lots of great little accents for those projects that could use some extra va-va-voom.

Now, as with any subscription box, there is a cost attached. It’s the idea of such a monthly cost commitment that has always made me steer clear of subscription boxes in the past. It’s especially tough to consider spending the money when you have no control over what you receive. The thought that I might end up getting stuff I don’t want or have any use for has always been especially problematic. However, I can honestly say that the S-Box has defeated my preconceptions about subscriptions boxes in general. Perhaps because it’s a box focused on crafting, I can see a use for everything it contains. Although the costs may feel prohibitive (inc. postage and packaging: £17.90 for one box, £48.70 for a three month subscription, £97.40 for a six month subscription), I think the S-Box is great value for money. The value of the contents outweighs the price of the box and offers you the opportunity to craft with items you might not otherwise have considered using. While the fact that I’ll be moving to the US in an indeterminate amount of months means that I won’t be committing to a subscription, I’m definitely thinking of purchasing a couple of boxes while I’m still here.

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I think the S-Box is a super cute initiative. It’s a beautifully packaged and selected variety of goods to meet your crafty desires. The joy of opening this up and discovering what’s inside is a highlight, particularly in these dark post-Christmas months. Pop over to  The Stitchery’s website for more information and a breakdown of the various subscription options. Your creative self won’t regret it. Stay tuned for upcoming makes that feature this lovely stuff!

*I was sent the January S-Box by The Stitchery in exchange for an honest review of the product. The opinions in this post are totally my own.

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 Apron (Simplicity 1221)

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!