Me Made May is Underway!

May brings us so many joyous things – better weather (sometimes), bank holidays (depending on where you are in the world), and a royal wedding (not an annual event, but historically significant). Ok so none of these things are a guarantee. Fortunately, one event is a yearly promise (other than my perfection at subject transitions) and that’s Me Made May!

For those of you who don’t trawl social media on the regular – in many ways, an excellent choice – you may not have come across Me Made May. Started by SoZo blog, Me Made May (or #mmmay if you’re hip with the kids) is an opportunity to wear all of those beautiful self-crafted garments you’ve been hiding away. You can join in in a very casual way or more formally by making a pledge about the number of items you plan to wear. If you visit SoZo’s blog post, you’ll see more information about all of this.

I’ve only ever joined in with Me Made May in passing, mostly because I’ve never had enough self-made clothes to make it through the entire month. This year, I’m taking a much more structured approach (excessively so, some might argue) to my planning and have allowed my bullet journalling habits to guide me.

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Obviously there are still plenty of gaps to fill. This is to allow for new makes, as well as the fact that weekends are a bit up for grabs and I may not fancy wearing a 1950s circle skirt on a hike. I’m also waiting on the second half of the month, just to give myself some flexibility and see if the weather decides to stay on its current hot, sunny track.

We’re now two days into the challenge and, so far, I’m two for two! I decided to go with my Sweetheart Dress for Day 1. This was largely a nostalgic choice since it’s been about a year since I was making this back in the UK, while waiting for my fiancee visa to come through. Those of you who were following me back then will remember that the dress was supposed to be a muslin for my wedding dress! Time constraints and the general stress of moving country meant that a self-made wedding dress didn’t happen, but I’m super happy that I have such a wonderful version of the pattern to wear:

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Hello to Miss Elizabeth Bennet, the ultimate and cutest photobomber!

Today’s choice was a dig back into the Sew for Victory archives because I made this dress very early in my sewing career, and barely ever bring it out for a spin. Part of the reason that I so love this challenge is that it really does encourage me to revisit some of the garments that, for whatever reason, I just never think to put on. Sew Over It’s Betty Dress is actually a super versatile and wearable pattern. I think I’m going to make up some new versions – probably shorter than the one I currently have.

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Since I’m wearing this outfit for the day, I decided to forgo a petticoat. Fortunately, the dress works just as well without it!

So those are my first two outfits for Me Made May! I’m not planning on posting any more of these pics on the blog (although I’ll probably do a reflection post at the end of the month) so if you want to stay up to date with my makes, be sure to follow me on one of my various social media accounts. I’ve added handy dandy buttons at the top of the sidebar, which will take you to wherever you want to go!

Let me know if you’re planning on participating in Me Made May, whatever your level of commitment. One of the greatest things about this challenge is getting to see everyone’s fantastic makes. Hopefully I’ll be seeing some of yours too!

 

 

 

The Sweetheart Dress – My Wedding Dress Muslin!

This much anticipated (by me) post is finally here! I’ve been busying myself with my wedding dress muslin for a while now, trying to tweak the fit to exactly what I want. And it’s finally done! Now that I’m underway with the real thing (and my move to the US is fast approaching), I thought it was about time to share some photos of the muslin and my thoughts on the Sweetheart Dress pattern from Sew La Di Da Vintage!

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My strategy with the muslin was very much to alter that pattern as I went along. And there was quite a lot of modifying to be done in order to get the fit that I wanted. From the beginning, I was keen to achieve a well tailored shape to the bodice – particularly important as a complement to the fullness of the skirt and the big ol’ petticoat that I’ll be wearing underneath it.

The main strength of the Sweetheart Dress is, I think, the neckline. It’s so wonderfully shaped and I especially appreciate the way that the straight neckline is complemented by the way that it curves around the back of the neck. Something about the shape elevates the dress from a standard day dress to a garment that really does work in more formal settings. This is obviously vital to any wedding dress that is made using less traditionally formal patterns, since you’ll still want to make sure that you look bridal. Adding a level of formality that works for a wedding dress was also the main reason that I decided to go with the straight neckline, rather than the sweetheart option (I was a bit worried about a potential cleavage situation).

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The main modifications I made to the pattern were around the bodice. I took the bodice in quite a lot to achieve a more tailored look. Initially, there was a LOT of ease. I ended up taking the dress in when I attached the back zip, basically working with pins until I felt that I had enough ease to be comfortable but not so much that I felt baggy. I had a similar issue with the neckline (obviously I’m talking only about the straight neckline option here) – there was quite a lot of gape when I first put the bodice together. Judging from photos of other people’s makes that I’ve studied, I think this is a relatively common issue. But it was easily fixed. I just took in the seams attaching the front and side front panels, essentially adjacent to the neckline. I probably ended up taking these seams in by about 1 inch on either side to get the neckline to lie flat.

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Apart from that, the only other modification I made was with the hem. Mine ended up being quite narrow, simply to ensure that I was achieving a length that worked with my petticoat (the one that I’ll be wearing for the wedding, rather than the one pictured here).  The length of my muslin is really the maximum I could have achieved without actually adding more fabric when I cut out the pattern pieces – so bear that in mind if you’re after something longer, although honestly I think this length works perfectly for the ’50s style.

I think the skirt on the pattern is spectacular. It’s got the classic circle skirt silhouette but has two front pleats that offer a unique take on the traditional ’50s dress patterns. I think this is another detail that tailors the Sweetheart Dress for more formal occasions. Since I’ll be making my wedding dress in a heavier brocade fabric, I think the fall of the pleats and the hang of the skirt will look especially great! Obviously with a skirt so fabulous (and no fiancé here to tell me I’ll make myself sick), I decided that I needed to do some serious spinning.

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And, yes, I did make myself sick. There are a lot more than two of these photos on my computer.

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As you can see from the back shot of the dress, the invisible zip is very much un-invisible. This was kind of a sacrifice on the path to getting the bodice to fit right. I might let the bodice of the wedding dress out a bit to better accommodate the zip (when the dress isn’t on my body, the zip is actually invisible), but I’m not too worried – mostly because a white zip on a white wedding dress isn’t much of a problem. Obviously I won’t be diving in to sewing up the wedding dress with the exact same measurements and dimensions of the muslin – partly because the fabric is totally different, and partly because I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate since the muslin was made! But it’s good to have some idea of the issues I had with the base pattern so that I can go in a bit more aware of potential problems.

The final thing I’ll mention is the heart patches. I’d like to claim that this was a work of creative genius conceived before I started sewing. Unfortunately, that would be a massive lie. The dress was finished and ready to go. I was trimming down the seams on the zip and accidentally cut a massive hole through the back of my dress. Oops! Obviously my first thought was my usual when I run into any kind of issue, large or small – throw the whole thing in the bin. Fortunately, I resisted and decided the best thing to do would be to patch it in a way that worked. So I bought some red cotton, fashioned some heart templates, cut them out of the fabric, attached some interfacing, and top-stitched them to the dress. I think it actually worked pretty well in the end, proving that you can salvage even the most desperate mistakes!

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I was honestly so stressed out about making this muslin. There’s a definite level of pressure to sewing your own wedding dress that I didn’t quite appreciate before I started making. Fortunately, the Sweetheart Dress pattern is incredibly easy to work with. Modifications aside, the pattern is the clearest that I’ve ever used, with detailed instructions and photos at every step. The structure of the dress is also such that it would be a great dress for beginner sewists who are feeling a bit more ambitious!

From here, it’s on with the wedding dress. Just a few weeks to go!

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!!

Inspire A Style: ‘Little Edie’ Bouvier Beale

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The beauty of sewing your own clothes is the unlimited creative freedom in putting together your own style. Part of the reason why I started sewing was my disillusionment with trying to hunt out my style of clothes from a fairly monotonous selection. Finding clothes in high-street shops is made all the harder by the fact that I handpick inspiration from a variety of eras, not usually reflected in current fashions.

After a few questions about the source of my style, I thought that it would be a good idea to introduce a series of running posts that feature my most prominent fashion role models. Today, I’m celebrating the unique style of – the little-known – Little Edie Bouvier Beale.

Who?

Little Edie is in part known for being the cousin of Jackie Onassis Kennedy (a fashion goddess in her own right). But following a scandal in which health inspectors declared the Bouvier Beale mansion ‘Grey Gardens’ uninhabitable, Little Edie was herself thrown into popular attention. In 1975, the Maysles brothers – two documentary makers – decided to make a feature about the eccentric and reclusive life lived by Little Edie and her mother (appropriately named, Big Edie) in their dilapidated and decaying mansion. The resulting filmGrey Gardens, is a poignant and revealing insight into the lives of these two women, dealing with a reality in which “it’s very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present.”

Edie YoungLittle Edie in her youth

Why?

One unexpected consequence of Grey Gardens was the sudden position of Little Edie as something of a fashion icon. Watching the documentary, it’s clear why. Little Edie is a woman who marches to the beat of her own drum entirely. Her style reflects this.

Due to the onset of alopecia in her twenties, Little Edie spent much of her life without any hair. As a result, Edie adopted her signature headscarves –  a defining feature of her fabulous look.

Little Edie’s life at Grey Gardens, poverty-stricken and centred around looking after her elderly mother, ensured that her style was a pick-and-mix of past eras. As Edie herself says of her wardrobe:

“My costumes? That’s a protest against having worked as a model for the Establishment, believe it or not. A lot of models feel that way. Sometimes their lives are protests against having worked as models. Besides, I didn’t have time taking care of mother to get out and buy any clothes. So I used what was left of mine and mother’s in the attic.”

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What?

Little Edie’s style is perhaps best known for the fabulous vintage headscarves, fastened with gorgeous vintage brooches. This is such an easy detail to recreate. Grab a silk (or polyester) scarf, pop it over your head, and fasten at the neck with a brooch. I have a variety of brooches – some vintage, some vintage-inspired. Really anything works.

Little Edie also inspires a love for faux fur (although I’m sure that her furs were real, please AVOID). I was hugely drawn to my new coat because of the faux fur edging, reminding me of Edie’s gorgeous looks.

Edie has inspired modern designers. Marc Jacobs and Isaac Mizrahi have both created garments based on Edie’s unique style. For a quick look at her most inspired ‘costumes’, see ‘Little Edie’s Top Ten Outfits from Grey Gardens’.

Taking this all back to sewing, it is easy to find patterns that allow for a recreation of Edie’s infamous style. One of her classiest looks is a long-sleeved shirt worn underneath a simple shift dress. Decades of Style’s Given A Chance dress would be perfect to recreate this sleek look. Sew Over It’s Cowl Neck dress would also work really well.

One of my absolute favourite looks sported by Edie is her amazing one-piece bathing suit.

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To recreate this look and create a wearable, versatile piece, take a look at Sew La Di Da Vintage’s Margo 70s Playsuit. I’ve yet to make up this pattern so I can’t vouch for its ease of use – but the finished product certainly looks fabulous!

I love Edie – for her imagination, optimism, and general resilience. She is a role model for more than her style. Find a free 90 minutes and watch Grey Gardens to discover this relatively unknown icon.