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Category Archives: 1960s Style

Pattern Sizing Experiment: Part 2 – Testing Three Mockups

So I left all you readers with math swirling around in your heads. I hope Part 1 wasn’t too technical or too much of a cliffhanger!

Now I bet you’re eager to see how my experiment worked when I applied the math. =)

First, I copied my pattern in the bust 34 size at 91% on my printer and taped the pieces together. (As always, photos enlarge when clicked.)

I just cut through some of the easy-to-match parts of a page in order to line it up and tape it to the corresponding part on the next page.
No need for straight lines.

I used some of my favorite pattern tracing paper to trace the other two copies of my pattern at the same size they came in – one bust 34 and one bust 31 size.

Because my traced patterns were on such sheer paper, I could do a good comparison of the shrunken 34 under the actual 31 to see the minor differences.

I lined the two patterns up along the center front neck edge.

The differences were subtle but interesting. Here are a few closeups:

Pencil-marked pattern on top is the true 31 bust size.

To me, the most fascinating part of the pattern comparison was the keyhole detail at the neck. When patterns are graded by the manufacturer, many of the details are not proportionally scaled, meaning that some details remain the same size no matter what size a pattern is drafted to be.

All three keyhole cutouts compared within the actual bust 34 sized neck-facing piece.

This means that on a smaller version of the dress, the keyholes are relatively larger. Likewise they are smaller on the larger versions. This does not always make for the most aesthetically pleasing details on the far ends of the grade.

After all, a pattern designer designs a pattern to have the correct detail proportions for that prototype size. I think it is somewhat lazy for the pattern companies to then grade without changing all the proportions accordingly.

My shrinking/enlarging method using a ratio solves this grading proportion problem.

Okay, so are you ready to see how the mockup experiment works on a real person?

Here they are on me:

Side-by-side mockup comparison – actual 31, shrunken 34, and actual 34.

Obviously, the actual bust 34 size is too big for me:

Definitely too big.

When you zoom in to look at dart placement and where the armhole hits at the shoulder joint, you can really see which fits best.

31 (left) – dart too high, shoulder good.
Shrunken 34 (middle) – dart in the proper spot, shoulder good.
34 (right) – dart too low, shoulder too long (overhanging body).

All three had necklines that were a little too high for comfort. And both the 31 and the shrunken 34 had armholes that were a bit small (typical on vintage patterns). In the above photo, I have cut directly on the stitchline for all the armholes, but I have reshaped and cut on the corrected underarm curve for the shrunken 34.

Obviously, you can see that I have chosen to fit the shrunken 34 because of all the safety pins and drawn lines on the mockup. It had the least amount of alterations needed.

Shrunken size 34 pinned to fit.

I took in the side seams slightly, and pinned a test hem. I decided it needed a little more flare for the A-line skirt, which I added to the paper pattern when I transferred my pin markings to the pattern.

(Here’s an example of how I transferred fitting marks from another mockup to the paper pattern.)

Pattern altered based on mockup fitting. Probably too much flare added, but that is easier to remove than add in the end.

So what are your thoughts and ideas about my pattern scaling method? I would love to know if this works for others too! Please comment or send me photos or links if you try your own version of my experiment!

And in case you’re curious, here’s the geeky fabric I plan to use to make the real version of my dress.

Look! Batgirl! Oh, and Wonder Woman and Supergirl. But I’m mostly excited about Batgirl! =)

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Pattern Sizing Experiment: Part 1 – Grading vs. Ratios

This post was a long time coming. I knew I wanted to try this sizing experiment for more than a year; and over the last 6 months or so, I’ve been trying to work on it in between all my other work and personal projects.

(Warning: this post involves lots of words and math.)

First let’s talk a little about body measurements and standard sewing pattern sizing. Sewing patterns tend to be labeled with larger size numbers than mass produced clothing.

I talked about sewing pattern sizes vs. ready-to-wear size numbers and vanity sizing a couple years back in this post (but that was probably before many of my current readers found my blog).

I’m sure you’ve heard people say that the standard measurements used in the clothing industry have shifted over the decades. But they really haven’t changed as much as people think. The only thing that has really changed is the size number on the label – known commonly as “vanity sizing”. The standard body measurements have barely changed from year to year.

Here’s a section of a spreadsheet of my vintage patterns showing sizing for a 34-inch bust. Notice that the biggest change from year to year is the size number not the measurements used:

Years in italics indicate decade when exact year is unknown.

You’ll see that in the 1940s and ‘50s, a 34-inch bust was considered a size 16 in sewing patterns. In the late 1950s and through the 1960s, that same bust size became a size 14 with a slightly smaller waist and hips. Then in the 1970s, the 34-inch bust became a size 12 while the waist and hips went up a little in proportion – proof that there is a bit of psychological vanity sizing in sewing patterns, but not as drastic as it is in the ready-to-wear industry.

Today’s sewing pattern size 12 is the same as it was in the ‘70s with measurements of 34-26.5-36.

Most patterns are drafted in a mid-range size and then graded down for the smaller sizes and graded up for the larger sizes. This method involves some math and a whole bunch of measuring. (Threads Magazine provides a good explanation of grading here and a quick-guide chart here.)

Now, on to my experiment.

I admit I’m lazy when it comes to grading patterns. The math isn’t complicated, but all that measuring is a lot of work.

I started using my cheater’s method years ago when I needed to increase the size of flower-girl dresses for little girls who were larger than a standard pattern but proportionally still the shape of a standard girls’ pattern. (Part of the reason I started doing this stemmed from last minute clients who didn’t give me the time to do much patterning.)

I compared the differences on the pattern’s standard measurement charts and used ratio computations to find the percentage of the needed size increase. Then I just copied the pattern at the larger percentage on my home printer.

This enlarging method also helped me make a quick bodice pattern for a cousin in my sister’s wedding, who was really tall for her age but still not shaped like a woman yet. So far, this method for enlarging a kid’s pattern has worked for me every time with very few (if any) alterations needed.

When I wanted to sew a vintage pattern for myself but only had it in a size that was 2 or 3 sizes too big, I used my ratio method to shrink it to my size on the copier.

I did this for myself for a few years, getting a nearly perfect fit every time I shrank a pattern. For a long time, I thought vintage patterns were just drafted better, or differently.

But then I discovered that a vintage pattern in my actual size had as many fit issues as most modern sewing patterns. And I began to reexamine why shrinking by a percentage seemed to work better for me.

I think it’s because I am proportionally smaller than the average size used to draft most patterns. (I am small but not petite by clothing standards.) I don’t need merely a few areas changed, or some areas changed more than others (like when grading). I need everything equally shrunken down.

I had decided to test my theory by doing a real comparison of a vintage pattern that I owned in both a bust size 34 and a bust size 31 (my actual size).

I chose the Simplicity 7136 pattern from 1967 for a couple of reasons – I had it in two sizes and it had very basic style-lines, making it easier to compare small differences.

Simplicity 7136 Dress or Beach-dress & Shorts

I made three mockups – one straight from the B31, one straight from the B34, and one B34 copied at 91%.

NOTE: Most vintage patterns have actual stitch lines printed on the pattern pieces. If you are using a pattern without marked seam allowance, you will need to either cut off the seams allowance before copying or make a line to measure what the new copied seam allowance ends up being. You will want to sew on the actual copied stitch lines, so adjustments to seam allowance may be required.

Three mockups or muslins.

Here’s the math I used with the bust measurements printed on the pattern envelope to determine the scale factor:

Bust 1            31
Bust 2           34     =     91%

My theory was that I could also apply this percentage to both of the larger waist and hip measurements to obtain the corresponding chart values:

Waist 2 x 91% = Waist 1:
26 x 91% ≈ 24
 
Hip 2 x 91% = Hip 1:
36 x 91% ≈ 33

I’m obviously rounding to the nearest whole number because that’s the precision on the pattern envelope.  And look!  It’s pretty darn close.  Here is how my exact ratio computations compared to Simplicity’s size chart:

Scaled 91%       Simplicity
Waist                23.66                24
Hips                 32.76                33

My experiment worked!

On paper.

Stay tuned for Part 2…

My Cassini Style Easter Dress

For Easter in 1963, Jackie Kennedy wore an Oleg Cassini dress made in pale pink linen. Fifty years later, the simple style of her dress is still beautiful, and I’ve wanted to copy it for myself for years.

This Easter I finally did.

Side by side in black & white
My dress and Jackie Kennedy’s as pictured in the Palm Beach Daily News.

I first fell in love with her dress when I purchased the book Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years, which I was lucky to find at my local Half Price Books for only $10. It is full of wonderful photos specifically of her fabulous clothes.

Book cover and the Cassini Easter dress pages.

While I love everything about her dress, I knew I would not look good wearing such a pale pink. I look better in warm colors, and let’s face it, I am the opposite of tanned. (I’m bordering on vampire pale.)

I already had a large stash of 100% linen in an ivory color left over from a wedding dress I once made for a client. So I decided to dye some in a color I can wear.

It took me at least 6 attempts to get the final color. I almost stopped at this shade of orange, which was just a little too yellow:

I love this color orange, but it isn’t the best for me to wear. It’s a little too “naked” of a color.

Thankfully, one of my coworkers at the time is a dye expert, and she was able to tell me what color to over-dye my linen to make it a better shade of orange. (Thanks, Susan!) I also dyed my white cotton/poly underlining fabric a similar color to prevent seams from showing through. (I checked the linen with the undyed white, and there definitely would have been some color difference around the seams had I left it white.)

My fabrics: final peach color of linen & underlining fabric with beige lining fabric.

After studying the photographs of the Cassini dress closely, I chose McCall’s 7158 from 1963 because the style lines were the most similar. (I didn’t even realize the pattern date was the same as the Cassini dress until just now when I checked!)

Dress Pattern McCall’s 7158 and a close up of the Cassini dress.

The pattern needed a lot of tweaking. You can see how I fit the mockup in this post.

Once I had made the appropriate pattern alterations, I cut and assembled the lining first so I could double check the fit. Then I cut my linen and underlining fabric and basted them together.

Linen basted to the underlining.

I also made matching linen bias for the “quatrefoil motif” and to finish the arm and neck edges. (I generally dislike facings and try to eliminate them whenever possible.)

Linen bias tape.

My favorite part of this build was creating the single decorative detail near the neckline of the dress.

Careful ironing to shape the bias tape and then lots of pins & hand-stitching.

My least favorite part of this build was making the bust darts cooperate – I almost gave up and threw the dress in the trash because of them. When stitched in the linen, they wanted to be extra pointy and I really wanted to avoid an Anne Hathaway dart dilemma.

Had I not wanted a new Easter dress so badly, and if so many people (online and in real life) had not known about me making it, I doubt I would have been so determined to finish it. (And yes, I did have to remind myself of the advice in this old post.)

I fought those stupid, hateful darts for at least 2 nights after work. I ended up shaping them slightly and stitching them by hand because it was easier to do the minor changes by hand.

Ultimately, I found the biggest improvement to the pointiness was stitching the dart fold down to the underlining to control them. (In hindsight, I probably should have reduced the length of the darts on the pattern before I cut the linen.)

Bust darts, my nemesis of the build.

They still aren’t perfect, and they really bug me because that’s all I see when I look at the dress. I’m hoping that by the time next spring comes around, I will have had enough distance from the dress for the darts not to bother me as much.

Somehow, I can make nearly perfect things for others, but when I try to make something couture for myself, it’s never quite right. I know part of the problem is that fitting and seeing the design elements on your own body is nearly as hard as cutting your own hair – it’s hard to back up and see the full picture.

So during two short breaks and part of my lunch break every day for a couple weeks, I did as much as I could to build my dress during my time at the opera. Then I continued working on it at night when I came home. But I managed to complete it in time for Easter Sunday.

Here’s the abbreviated summary of the build, through photos (as usual, click to enlarge):

Seam allowance of the dress was cross-stitched to the underlining without catching outer layer of linen. I did not bother to stitch the seam allowance all the way down the skirt.

I stitched all the seams except the center back where the zipper went. The center back seam was pinned with a tapered seam allowance during the final fitting for a custom fit, and then the zipper was inserted along that tapered line. (I’m still amazed I was able to find a matching zipper!)

Finished handpicked zipper.

Hem was also cross-stitched to underlining without catching outer layer of linen, which makes it a completely invisible hem. (Later, the lining was slip-stitched to the linen hem about half an inch up from the bottom edge.)

Lining & dress were built separately. Then the lining was dropped into dress and basted together at neck and arms.

Neck & arm edges were finished with bias strips, seam allowance trimmed, and bias was folded to the inside of the dress and hand stitched only to the lining for an invisible facing.

The finished dress inside out.

Easter morning was quite chilly where I live, but since my dress was three layers, I was rather warm even without sleeves.

Since we got out of church before the rest of my family, I ended up taking most of the photos by myself using the camera’s self-timer while I warmed up the food for lunch at my parents’ house (my husband went back at our house to attend to other things).

It was so stinking bright outside, I could hardly keep my eyes open and I was almost crying. I captured lots of photos of myself with my eyes closed or really weird expressions. I did manage to take a few decent shots though.

Outdoors in my parents’ backyard. (I almost feel like I should add vampire sparkles to this shot.)

Indoors, I’m a little less washed out.

I had hoped to take some better pictures with my husband’s help later, but nothing turned out any better. He did take a photo of the back (something I had forgotten to do):

Back of the dress. (It’s really wrinkled from sitting.)

And I shall end with a close up of my favorite part – the simple decoration:

Bias and a single covered button give a minimal design a touch of elegance.

Sewing Machine Serendipity

I don’t know if anyone else has this tendency, but I have a habit of being generally curious and needing to know about random things.  Because of this, I often find myself first asking my husband (because sometimes he knows) and then often turning to the universe (aka “Google search”) for answers.

There have been countless times that I have gone on casual internet searches about one topic, and then ended up following random link trails to learn all kinds of seemingly useless trivia (and yes, I do retain a lot of it – it’s just how my inquisitive mind works).  Sometimes, my husband and I will waste hours randomly searching together and learning about new things.

And the harder it is to find information about something, the more I need to know.  Periodically, some of those tiny bits of trivia will serendipitously* fit together to solve a mystery.

Well, just call me “Sherlock” because I think I’ve managed to piece together some really useful details in my search for information about my recently acquired vintage Wizard brand sewing machine!

So if you have a Wizard yourself or you’re just generally curious (like I am) about the history of old things and how things work, I’ve decided today’s post will share with you what I’ve learned, in hopes that others searching the web for the same information will not have to search quite as hard as I did.

(And if you have any further information to add about Wizard sewing machines, please leave a comment!)

You’ve met him before – this is my Wizard, Gandalf the Green:

Wizard Brand Sewing Machine

He is an “Automatic Zigzag” sewing machine in teal & cream with shiny chrome accents, model number 3KC 8842 made in Japan (probably in the late ’50s or early ’60s).  And he weighs a whoppin’ 37 lbs!

I managed to find the lady I believe owned Gandalf before me because my sewing machine came with an old maintenance receipt.  The owner’s name was listed at the top, and I was aware that she had died right around the time I bought the machine.  So a search for an obituary online produced one that seemed to line up with name, location, and date of death.  I believe Gandalf the Green was previously owned by Linda Kay (Plant) Garrett of Abilene, TX.  Thank you, Linda, for taking good care of your machine!

Wizard brand was a line of tools made by Western Auto which included sewing machines.

Apparently, lots of Western Auto files were shredded and disposed of at some point in history (mentioned in this old thread), so there isn’t much documentation left about Wizard Tools.  But in my message board searching, I got the impression that the sewing machines made under the label “Wizard” were sold to Brother, a company that still makes sewing machines today.  (Too bad Brother doesn’t provide good online records about their vintage machines like Singer and some other brands do!)

When I brought Gandalf home, I knew I wanted to find a manual so I could learn his wonderful vintage tricks.  (Old sewing machines were not overly labeled like modern machines are, even though most operate with similar knobs and dials.  I could probably make do without a manual, but I had a feeling I would miss out on some amazing & hidden features.)  I also knew I wanted to replace the unmarked needle plate that did not appear to be original.

Eventually, I somehow coaxed the internet to give me the link to a website that sells old sewing machine manuals in both hard copy and instant download file form.  On the site, I still had to convince a search to give me the actual results I wanted for anything Wizard brand.  I finally achieved my goal of a being able to buy a manual with this pdf download for a Wizard 3KC 8841, which seemed to be nearly the same as my 8842 model (the “zig-zag width knob” is slightly different because it’s probably for the model just before mine).

Once I had the manual for the 8841, I learned there was a trick to turning the stitch selector (or “Automatic Pattern Selecting Knob”.)  At first, I thought my machine’s knob was just stiff and difficult to turn from years of storage, but it turned very easily once I knew to hold the zig-zag width knob in the neutral position at the same time.  This releases the tension on the cams, and it requires both hands – see photo example below.

How to hold the zig-zag width knob in “neutral” (L)
in order to turn the stitch pattern dial (R).

With the 8841 manual in hand, I took Gandalf to my local service shop for a good cleaning and basic tune-up.  Even the repair guy was unfamiliar with the unusual feature for turning the stitch dial, and after a little convincing, decided he would keep the manual with the machine just in case.

My next step in learning about my Wizard machine was a serious hunt for a new needle plate with measurement marks.

Part numbers and copyright dates seem to be impossible to find in old manuals, which are only about how to use a machine.  So I just started looking at photos of any plates that websites bothered to post.

One service shop in Illinois posted a huge number of random needle plate photos.   I was able to select about 3 by sight from the collage of photos that looked similar to the one on my machine.  Then I discovered that selecting a photo for enlarging also gave me a unique file name.  The picture labeled “B4139.jpg” appeared to be the best match.

I then did a search on ebay including “B4139” hoping it was a part number because I suspected the “B” stood for “Brother”.

Eureka!  I got a handful of exact hits!

I chose to pay a dollar more for the needle plate from a seller who took very clear photos and included one of the underside of the plate – which made it unmistakable that it matched the unmarked plate currently on my Wizard.  (I also discovered that part B4139 is the same as part number NZ3LG.)

Evidently, there are at least four Brother sewing machine models that use the same needle plate because the ebay listing titles included 4 different model numbers.  Out of curiosity, I did a search to find out what the various models looked like.

Three were pretty generic looking vintage machines.

But then I saw the Brother 210 and *may* have squealed with joy.  It was exactly like Gandalf down to every last knob and dial – only in pale pink!

This photo of a pale pink Brother 210 was from an old ebay listing that bizarrely posted the same day I first posted about my Wizard sewing machine. It sold 10 days later.

And I now had another lead!

I began to wonder if my Wizard 3KC 8842 was the very last model to be called a “Wizard” before being sold to Brother and renamed the Brother 210 – even the brand’s name-plaque was the same shape on both machines despite a different inscription.

I decided to purchase a CD copy of the Brother 210 user manual (another “buy it now” on ebay) to continue my quest for more information.  (I have since found a Brother 210 manual available for purchase in both physical and digital form on this webpage – scroll down to number 9 on the list.)

I received my two ebay items a day apart.

The needle plate was perfect.  The B4139 (or NZ3LG) plate fits the Wizard 3KC 8842.

Yay for measurement lines!

And the Brother model 210 manual revealed yet another surprise – “Knob B”.  Knob B (aka “The Switch-Over Knob”) is what the Brother manual calls the zig-zag width knob that you have to hold in neutral to turn the stitch selector.

Knob B has a magical secret befitting a Wizard – it pulls out!  According to page 15 of the Brother manual:

“This is the knob which allows you to switch the operation of your machine from straight to fully automatic zigzag sewing and vice versa.  It also allows you to set you machine for semi-automatic operation.  For fully automatic zigzag sewing or semi-automatic sewing – pull out Knob B.  For manual sewing – push Knob B in.”

“Knob B” is decorated with a fun mid-century style star. It turns AND pulls out!

And I had to chuckle to myself when I first read the “Introduction” in the Brother 210 manual because they just don’t write manuals like this anymore (nowadays the first page of a manual is usually called “Safety Information”):

“You are about to make an exciting discovery!  Sewing machines need not be out-of-date, but can be as modern, as efficient and well-designed as the cars we drive and the homes we live in.

“With experienced know-how and world-famous precision engineering, the Automatic Zigzag Sewing Machine has been created for you – today’s fashion-wise woman…

“…As you become acquainted with your new Automatic Zigzag machine, you will find the expert’s touch in its many exclusive features.  It will often seem to do your thinking for you.  Even the beginner enjoys the AUTOMATIC ZIGZAG sewing, and even the expert is amazed at its ease.”

I am going to have a blast experimenting with stitches on this machine!  My first impression was correct – it truly is a Cadillac of a sewing machine!  And all without a computer brain!  I love vintage machines.  =)

___________________________________

Please let me know if you have a similar Wizard or Brother sewing machine and have anything to add or would like more information about a specific feature.  And if you have the Wizard 3KC 8842 model and are searching for a manual of your own, I would recommend the manual for the Brother 210 over the Wizard 8841, although both manuals are helpful.

UPDATE:  Ryan sent me some photos to share of his recently inherited green Brother 210, complete with original sewing cabinet!  He said the previous owner married a WWII vet after the war, and he’s pretty sure the machine was purchased in Japan and shipped over to the states shortly after.  His wife is looking forward to using it.  =)

(click to enlarge and view as slide-show)

MORE UPDATES:

Mary also has a Wizard 3KC 8842, but her’s is missing the push-reverse button in the middle of the stitch selection dial.

Mary’s Wizard that’s missing the reverse button.

If you have the part or know where she can get a replacement, please email me so I can pass any information on to her. Thanks!

____________________________

* Upon hearing about my discovery of sewing machine information, my husband said my middle name should be “serendipity”, which in turn, spawned another of my searches – this time for the origins of the word serendipity.  It’s actually really interesting – check it out here and here.

My Vintage Pattern Collection: 1960s & 1970s

More vintage pattern show-and-tell… (vintage patterns from the 1940s here and 1950s here)

While I am partial to the cheerful girliness of 1950s styles, I find myself gravitating to the styles from the 1960s as well. To me, Sixties fashion was when Fifties fashion “grew up” and sort of branched into two groups: simple sophistication – think Audrey Hepburn & Jackie Kennedy (both women seemed to bloom into fashion icons during this decade), and artistic “Mod” – think modern new things like Star Trek, The Beatles & Marimekko prints.

We will start out with two of my favorite patterns, which are both from the year 1960:

McCall’s 5688 Dress and Simplicity 3463 Wrap-Around Dress
I’m working on mockups of both of these.

Then there is one more from 1960, but it’s a bit “costumey”:

Advance 9399 Dress
It makes me think “Little Bo Peep”

The seams are so interesting on this dress from 1961:

Butterick 2502 V-Darted Dress
The long-sleeved version has zippers at the wrist.

Then I have a girls’ dress that doesn’t seem to exist anywhere else on the internet. The year is unknown, but it has to be from the Sixties:

Simplicity 4414 Girls’ Dress

My reasons for thinking that it belongs in the 1960s are:  the price (45 cents) is similar to the prices of other early Sixties patterns; the hairstyles on the girls look ’60s; the colors match the previous pattern’s; the floral print looks correct for that decade; and the skirt of the dress also has an inverted box pleat like the previous pattern. I’d say it’s pretty safe to assume it belongs at this point in the timeline – do you agree?

Here’s another girls’ dress and a wrap skirt from 1962:

McCall’s 6384 Girls’ Dress with Attached Petticoat

McCall’s 6665 Wrap-Around Skirt
I think it’s interesting that so many types of clothes wrapped in the back in the 60’s.

This next one from 1964 epitomizes the sophistication of Sixties fashion:

McCall’s 7349 Dress
Very Audrey Hepburn!

A more formal dress from 1965:

Simplicity 6219 Coat & Dress
The long version makes me think Jackie Kennedy.

Then the Mod Styles really start showing with these next few. 1960s (specific year unknown):

Butterick 3580 Dress and Butterick 3325 Dress & Jumper
I’m thinking Mary Tyler Moore, especially with the plaid jumper.

A mini-dress with shorts for beachwear from 1967:

Simplicity 7136 Dress or Beach-dress & Shorts

My one vintage pattern from 1968 has incredibly interesting style lines, and it’s Karen’s fault that I had to have it because she talked about it on her blog:

Vogue 2040 Molyneux Dress
I think I want the short-sleeved version – now I just need to find the perfect solid color fabric to show off those lines!

This pattern is from 1969:

Simplicity 8436 Mini-Dress & Pants

The date on this next one is unknown, and different sources put it in different decades. I can’t decide if it’s late 60s or early 70s:

Butterick 5800 Dress & Pantdress

The overall shape is Sixties, but the big collar and one-piece “jumpsuit” version seems rather Seventies. Even the hairstyles are in that transition stage.

The 1970s get a bad rap because of awful plaids and horrible-feeling synthetic fabrics, but I’ve always loved the style-lines (especially on women’s suits) and how slim & leggy they make people look. (I’m glad I can say I was born in this decade and not the Eighties, which I think was the ugliest fashion decade ever!)

I have a short list of vintage patterns from the Seventies starting with 1973:

Simplicity 6039 Jacket & Pants
I really need to make this suit for myself!
I’m thinking brown corduroy.

And another suit pattern, also from 1973. I actually just have a self-traced brown-paper copy (with Xeroxed envelope & instructions) of this one because I found in my size in a theatre costume shop’s filing cabinet:

Simplicity 5918 Jacket, Pants & Skirt
Years ago, I made a mockup but never finished fitting it.
I still really like it and need to make it for real.

This next jumpsuit pattern from 1977 was so hilariously 70s that I had to keep it.  Cue The Carpenters!

McCall’s 5421 Jumpsuit & Hat
If I ever need coveralls for work, I will be making one of these because the style-lines are really flattering.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some of my vintage patterns. I’ll be sharing some of my current projects using a few of them in the weeks to come. =)

Restoring a Vintage Ring Hat

I know I’ve stated that I do not do alterations or repairs, however, every once in a while I am given the opportunity to restore something vintage – the type of project that usually offers me a fun challenge.

Julie, a friend of a friend, enjoys collecting and wearing hats (I really wish everyone still wore hats!) and she found an old olive-green velvet ring hat at an estate sale. It was in surprisingly good condition, but it had a sad feather placed oddly across the front. The feather needed to be replaced – the shaft was broken and the end was bent.

The vintage ring hat before restoration.

Side views of ring hat before restoration.

When the hat arrived for repairs, I was a little confused by the Robin Hood-like feather – it just didn’t match the hat!

The feather was just thrown straight across the front of the ring.

I had a feeling the feather was not original, so I did a little research and confirmed my suspicions. I discovered that ring hats were popular in the 1950s and into the 1960s. They came in a variety of colors but all the trimmings (including face veil) invariably matched the color of the hat itself. I found a couple of good examples in my friend Ken’s vintage shop at VintageMartini.com:

Vintage ’50s ring hat of black velvet with flower decoration (veil no longer attached).

Vintage ’50s ring hat in brown velvet with matching veil & mink trim.

I suspected that Julie’s hat once had a veil of matching olive-green millinery net that had probably torn, and whoever removed it had decided to add the feather instead of replacing the veil. I started the restoration by taking off the feather, and sure enough, there were pieces of matching net underneath!

Someone had just glued the feather right on top of the original veil and then cut off the netting around the feather.

Sadly, the feather enthusiast had just slapped it on with hot-glue. No matter how carefully I tried to steam and re-melt the glue off, I couldn’t remove it all from the hat without damaging the velvet. So I picked off what I could and planned my design in order to cover up what I could not remove of the awful glue-job.

I decided that flowers of a matching olive-green would be the most authentic. I already happened to have some wool felt in the perfect shade of green, which led me to experiment with making felt roses like I talked about in this previous post.

I think I’ve finally perfected my rose-making abilities!

After a failed attempt to dye some store-bought net the correct color, I ordered some out-of-production millinery veiling in the right shade of olive-green and made a classic birdcage veil. Then I discreetly tacked the veil to the hat with a few tiny stitches and placed my handmade felt roses where they covered the old glue spots. Once everything was hand-sewn onto the hat (no more icky glue added to this vintage hat!), I had a drastically different hat:

The vintage ring hat restored to its former glory!

Side views of the finished hat.

Each felt rose was made using individually shaped petals that were then stitched together by hand. The rolled felt stem that I made for one of the rosebuds was perfect for hiding the old line of glue across the top.

Top view of hat and close-up of the back of felt rose.

The back of the hat had a little circle of velvet that was probably part of original trim decoration and might have been the point of origin for the face veil. The little circle was a slightly frayed, so I hand-stitched around it to make its presence look intentional.

Back of hat before and after.

And here I am modeling the hat so that you can see the effect of the veil on a real person. The veil ends just below the nose.

I like how the hat and veil color match my eyes.

I think my favorite thing about this project was how much my husband wrinkled his nose at the hat when he first saw it with the feather, and then once I was finished, he wanted me to keep it he loved it so much! I may have to be on the lookout for another vintage olive-green ring hat – or at least make myself a hat with millinery veiling someday.

Kate Middleton goes Retro-Modern

When Kate Middleton stepped out of the car finally revealing her wedding gown to the world, I immediately saw a modern version of Princess Margaret’s lovely 1960s dress. And it was simply beautiful – of course I love anything that has even a hint of retro style.

Many people immediately started comparing Kate’s dress to the dress that Grace Kelly wore to her wedding in 1956. The fabric of Grace’s dress was also lace over a similar bodice, but I think that it may have been the inspiration for the details of Kate’s dress while Princess Margaret’s gown was the inspiration for the overall silhouette and cut of Kate’s.

Let’s compare all three elegant gowns.

 First we have Kate arriving:

  See the similar lines of Princess Margaret’s dress? Notice the pleats and the shape of the neckline:

 Aside from the fuller skirt near the waist, the silhouette is remarkably alike:

Even the pleats of Kate’s train look like a modern, more controlled version of Margaret’s:

Kate and Grace have different skirts (pleats where one is flat, natural waistline versus high waistline) and different necklines. Kate’s veil, however, is the same style as Grace’s (it even has a scalloped lace edge) and you can see how both gowns are alike in placement & use of fabric types:

Grace Kelly was a “Hollywood Princess” before becoming a real princess so, naturally, her wedding dress was designed by costume designer Helen Rose.

Princess Margaret’s dress was designed by Norman Hartnell. Her wedding to Antony Armstrong-Jones was the very first televised royal wedding.

British designer Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen was the designer who brought Kate’s dream to life. She created an amazing dress for a modern princess with a nod to the past.  I’m sure I’ll be making a dress based on Kate’s for some bride in the future.  =)

Happy wedding day Princess Catherine! You were exactly as your groom said – “beautiful”. May you live happily ever after with your Prince.

(Royal Wedding 2011 photos found at The Telegraph.)

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