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!

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!

 

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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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!

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.

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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)

The Veronika Skirt

Happy Sunday, sweetpeas!

I’ve been spending the past couple of weeks sorting through my current/future sewing projects and figuring out how I’m going to get to everything. For the next month or so, I’ll be devoting myself to the Big Vintage Sewalong project – the post will be coming on August 5th. In the meantime, I’m hoping to get a couple of simple makes done, but will keep the Sew for Victory posts regular with a series of vintage-inspired blogs. So keep your eyes out for those!

Since wrapping up the Betty dress, I’ve been looking to make another circle skirt. Partly because they’re gorgeous, but also because I wanted more excuses to wear my petticoat! After searching around a bit, I stumbled upon a free pattern (subject to signing up for the site newsletter) from Megan Nielsen – the Veronika skirt. The pattern comes with a variety of options, including a fabulous scalloped pocket detail. But, with my limited fabric, I decided to go with the simplest option – a normal circle skirt with a narrow waistband.

This was insanely easy to make and was done in a matter of hours. The only time consuming part was, once again, the hemming. Just take a few breaks to make sure that all that steaming and pressing doesn’t make you faint! The pattern itself was easy to use, with clear instructions, and the final product is exactly what you would expect from a circle skirt.

I actually found that the skirt came out much fuller than the one on the Betty dress, which makes it work excellently as a separate piece – although this could be a consequence of using a starchier fabric. In this instance, the skirt was made up from a cotton poplin that I bought from Walthamstow Market. The floral design works well with a simple, plain top – I have a Vogue pattern for a simple sleeveless blouse that I’m planning on making to pair with this skirt.

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So head over to Megan Nielsen’s website and have a browse of the several free patterns. Then make a circle skirt and spend even more time annoying your partner/friend/child/stranger by refusing to do anything but spin around! Trust me, your life will be infinitely better for it.

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The Betty Dress

Happy Wednesday, sweeties!

I spent the bank holiday weekend in a real bout of sewing productivity. With two months still to go until my Big Vintage Sew-along post, I’d been searching around for a relatively quick project to whip up before getting started. Fortunately, I had some fabric left over from my trip to Walthamstow market and so I decided to have a go at the Betty dress from Sew Over It. The final product is just gorgeous!

I’ve paired the dress with these gorgeous heels from ModCloth.

I’ve worked with Sew Over It before and found their patterns extremely easy to use. The instructions are incredibly clear, with a helpful glossary of terms at the front to help any sewing newbies. The Betty dress was no exception to this. The pattern was flawless and easy to modify sizes (I graded out at the waist slightly). The only issue I had with sizing was a lot of gape at the top of the back. This was easily fixed by removing the zip and bringing the fabric it in a bit. I’m not sure whether I hadn’t cut the pattern pieces out correctly – I’ve never had a problem with sizing the bust before. But it was a problem easily solved and the back came out perfectly, with a gorgeous deep V.

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I used a simple cotton fabric (you can see the heart detailing in the photo above). Cotton was perfect to work with on this garment – it made the whole piece really easy to sew and meant that I whipped it up in no time.

Having never made a circle skirt before, I had no idea how much fabric it would take up. And of course, this means that hemming is a pain in the neck. But it’s so worth it.

I bought an underskirt from Amazon for £10 and it totally transformed the dress into a true 1950s look. The dress looks great without it, but I would definitely recommend adding a net petticoat to take advantage of the volume of the skirt. It also means you can swoosh around and ruffle the dress while pretending to be a can-can dancer (not that I did this, of course).

I have so much love for this dress and I’ll definitely be making other versions of it in future. For now though, I’m off to ruffle my skirts some more!

 

My First Dress

Good morning, poppets!

Today, I can declare victory over my first ever dress pattern – the Eliza dress from Eliza M.

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For an amateur sewer, this pattern was amazing. Simple, easy to understand, and pushing my skills just enough. I had decided that my first foray into vintage sewing would probably be best served through a vintage-inspired modern pattern – and Eliza M has a great selection on offer! I made the dress up using the above sky-blue cotton with white polka dots. Super fun to work with!

But I don’t want to paint this like it was all sunshine and roses. There’s a fair bit of jerry-rigging holding the thing together. I learnt, for example, why it is SO important to iron out the coils of your zip (to avoid sewing into your zip by mistake). I also found that the bust darts ended far too high, leaving the dress looking a little *cough* nipple-y. I managed to deal with this by slashing the darts open and ironing the apex over a tailor’s ham – but next time, I think I’ll just try to lower the darts on the pattern (ooooo….adventurous!!).

Overall though, this was a fantastic pattern that made me feel sufficiently proud of myself! I’m already planning to make it up again using a different fabric! So YAY, first real sewing endeavour successful. I will leave you with more photos, showing my response to my fiancé shouting ‘STRIKE A FIERCE POSE’ at me, while snapping like paparazzi.

Elise M Dress 2                               Elise M Dress 3