1940s Victory Rolls For Curly Hair

I really wanted to try victory rolls as a hairstyle to accompany my 1943 mauve dress. This was in part because they’re so iconic (though not universal, which perhaps means that we shouldn’t all represent them, but still, I couldn’t resist) but also because my hair texture proves to be such a challenge that I had to take it on and see if I could subdue it to my will.

I’ve been interested in trying this style for awhile, so I’ve read and watched various instructions on how to create victory rolls. My favorite for the most information and ease of watching is Miss Victory Violet’s tutorial, which is available here. She’s got lots of other great content about vintage styles in videos and as written blog posts, too. Her blog can be found here. I highly recommend browsing through it!

Here’s the thing. My hair is naturally curly and frizzy. Neither of these things are your friend when you’re trying to make a smooth hairstyle like this. The frizz is an obvious opposite to the smooth goal, but the natural curl is also not helpful. The natural waves actually obscure the beautiful swoop of the rolls! I found that in order to get a successful roll I had to first straighten my hair. Time consuming, yes, but also successful.

Here are some close-ups. It was so hot that my own sweat and the humidity was starting to cause my hair to revert to its natural state, especially near the roots.

Another challenge for me in creating this shape is that my hair is long. Down-to-the-middle-of-my-back-when-it’s-straight long. That’s great for making 18th and 19th century up-dos (1770s1830s, and 1890s, to name a few), but less great for making tidy victory rolls. It’s really easy for them to get messy as I roll 18″+ inches of hair in from the ends to my head. The only trick I found for that was practice. I definitely had many rolls fail because they weren’t tidy enough to show off the shape of the roll by the time they made it to my head.

The other obstacle presented by my long hair was what to do with the back of it. Most of these hairstyles were achieved with hair much shorter than mine, which was easier to tuck up into cute 1940s shapes in the back. It was much harder to find inspiration for what to do with long hair. Eventually, though, I came upon an image which shows two asymmetrical buns in the back.

The Double Chignon would work for me! I even had visual instructions and a lovely description encouraging me to try out the style. Here’s the result.

It’s down on my neck like I wanted it to be, but I wonder if the asymmetry just looks like I made a mistake rather than a choice… That’s not a comment on the style, just on my execution of it. Oh well! I was very pleased with the two front rolls and the overall heart-shaped silhouette stye gave my face.

Has anyone else tried victory rolls with long or naturally curly/frizzy hair? Have you been successful? I’m curious to know your experiences and find out your tricks or tips!

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1943 Mauve Print Dress

Summer temperatures lingered on here until just the other day, though they were not quite as hot and humid as they were on the 4th of July…

The day of the event started off a bit rocky, as I was confused about what time I was meeting my friends to carpool and so was just starting to get ready as they were getting in the car to leave the house I was supposed to meet them at, an hour from my house! I wound up driving to the event by myself and getting there a bit late. It wasn’t a great way to start the day, but at least it went up from there.

Being the beginning of July, it was hot, even in the morning. I was dripping sweat just standing still in the shade and I didn’t sit down until after pictures were taken because I knew how wrinkly my rayon dress would be as soon as I even looked at a chair! See, no wrinkles… yet!

As you have probably deduced by now, I made a new dress! The goal was to have a war-time 1940s dress made from a fabric that had been sitting in the stash since 2013 waiting to be made into a 1930s or 1940s dress.

The dress is constructed from 3ish yards of rayon. (I don’t remember the exact yardage.) It’s a greyish/mauve color with little teal clovers all over. It’s machine sewn and hand finished. The seam allowances are left raw on the inside–a detail I have noticed in 1940s dresses I’ve had the chance to observe.

The dress closes with 12 buttons which run in groups of two down the front (and a hidden hook and eye at the waist). It’s a perfect detail for wartime, when I’ve read that zippers were being used less frequently so the metal could go to the war effort. The buttons-in-groups-of-two detail was directly inspired by this image. (The image came from this post by The Closet Historian. It has many lovely dresses from the Spring/Summer 1943 Montgomery Ward catalogue.)

I spent lots of time looking at buttons on Etsy in order to find some that matched the particular shade of teal I was looking for. I was so pleased when I found them! It was only after I ordered them that I realized they were shipping from Europe. I was very nervous they wouldn’t arrive in time for the event! Luckily, they arrived just a few days before, giving me just enough time to sew them on the dress. Whew!

I couldn’t find a buckle in the same teal color and I thought that might be too matchy anyway, so I went with a slightly grayish mother of pearl buckle instead, also from Etsy.

The pattern is a mix up of two different things: a 1970s shirt dress pattern for the bodice/sleeves and a self-drafted skirt pattern. I wanted to get the two pleats in the front of the skirt like the inspiration image has while also making the hem as full as was allowed during wartime rationing–a sweep of 74″. These two requirements made it easier to pattern something myself than try to start with anything I could easily find. I like the pleats in the front, but wish I had placed them a little farther towards the side seams. Oh well!

The back of the skirt is shaped with darts. Turns out they’re a little tipsy and listing towards the side seams… oops. The square-shoulder 1940s silhouette is achieved with the assistance of some super thick shoulder pads. Looks pretty silly on a hanger but slightly less silly on me, thankfully!

I like this photo of those of us from our group who were dressed in civilian clothes. In fact, there’s a whole series of us walking towards and away from the camera. It was hard to narrow it down to just one!

Before I made it, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about an early 1940s day dress. I like shirt dresses when I see them but I don’t usually wear clothes with collars (nor many garments with buttons), so these were an unusual touch in my wardrobe. I’m pleased to report that with the proper accessories and hairstyle I felt perfectly comfortable and un-frumpy in this new decade. Win! Next up, a post with all the details of my successful victory rolls!

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A Dramatic 1933 Evening Gown

A few years ago, I made a 1930s evening gown that was briefly used in the filming of a short film. After being lightly used, the dress was returned to me, where it sat in my closet for a year or two. I wore it once for an event last year but it was rather voluminous on me as I had made it to fit someone a little larger in the ribcage and bust. That, combined with the fact that the design and style had been suited to a particular purpose for the film but wasn’t something I was terribly keen on for my own use, meant that I was entirely willing to rework it a bit for a 1930s themed anniversary party I attended earlier this year.

The inspiration for the original dress was this rather modern looking 1930s dress. It worked well for the original purpose, but I wanted something more dramatic for myself. I love the black and white pictures of 1930s evening gowns (like these: an image dated 1931 and Ginger Rogers in the 1930s) and wanted something with that feel. I also noticed that a lot of the dramatic 1930s dresses I like (a 1933 dress at the V and A, a dramatic 1930s dress with burgundy velvet accents, another 1930s dress that uses velvet as an accent) use velvet for contrast, particularly for straps and hanging sections in the back.

I had extra burgundy velvet left over from my 1832 dress and decided to use some of that to update the existing navy dress. I also did a few alterations, taking in the bust and lowering the center back. In color, it looks like this.

I was particularly trying to imitate the style of the dress and the pose in the image below, which is from Vogue in 1933 (photo by George Hoyningen-Huene and dress by Augusta Bernard).

The background in my photo isn’t quite as dramatic, but I think the idea is there. I’m more pleased with the photo in black and white than I am with it in color.

After comparing my pictures to my inspiration I realize how much more drama is possible with a mix of fabrics that appear dark and light in the photos. (However, discussing how colors appear dark or light in black and white images is a whole side topic…) The point is: contrast! Maybe next time I can do better.

After all that, are you wondering what the front of the dress looks like in its re-worked state? I was a little stumped about how to transition to the velvet straps in front and took inspiration from this purple dress for the horizontal bands.

It’s not my favorite dress and it doesn’t fit perfectly (being made for someone else and all), but it was fun to wear and easy to dance in (foxtrots, one steps, waltzes, and Charlestons!) I feel I did my best with the materials I had on hand and the existing dress, so I think it’s a win overall.

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At Long Last, A Happy Clover Dress

Life has been so busy for last month and a half or so that posting about my sewing and adventures had no choice but to be put on hold. However, things have calmed down now and I have plenty of blog content that just needs time and inspiration to be crafted into posts. To that end, I present a new dress!

This dress was years in the making. It’s story started four years ago when I was on a mission to add prints to my wardrobe and found this cotton print. It’s a nice weight for a dress: mid-weight and opaque. It’s a bit hard to remember, but I’m pretty sure I started work on it pretty quickly. My plan was to use the bodice from Butterick 5880 with a vintage-inspired skirt of my own creation.

The skirt shape I started with was slightly A-line and gathered into the waist. I’d cut it nice and long, I think in case I wanted a deep hem or tucks. It was decidedly calf length. I knew I didn’t want the notches in the neckline of the bodice and I was thinking of a boat neck shape, so the original bodice was also very high on my collarbones.

When I tried it on… it was so dowdy! I was horrified! It was also a little large. (No pictures, I was too horrified!) All together, I couldn’t even begin to see how I would make it wearable. I stuck it in my UFO pile and let it sit there for years. Every summer I would tell myself I would make it better, but it took four years to feel mentally ready to tackle it.

This year, I started by removing the offensive skirt then fitting the bodice, which turned out to just be taking in the side seams a bit. I took apart the skirt pieces and took stock of what I had to work with. I hadn’t used all of the 3.5 yards I’d purchased, so I had a yard or so uncut to work with as well as the pieces I’d taken apart. In the end, all I did was to shorten the skirt pieces to a flattering length and pleat them to the bodice instead of gathering them. Originally, the skirt was just two panels, but that didn’t have enough oomph for me, so I set out to cut as many more as I could. Unfortunately, due to the fact that I’d cut the original skirt pieces so long, I could only cut one more skirt panel from my extra fabric. Boo!

I was thinking of pleats all around the waist, but I couldn’t find a way to make it symmetrical and pleasing to me with only three panels. It put seams in odd places and just wasn’t working. In the end, I decided to make the front mostly flat and keep the pleated oomph in the back. It looks smooth and A-line shaped from the front…

But the back has lots of pleats! I love the fullness! Too bad it couldn’t be that way in front, too. Oh well. Next time!

I also changed the neckline. I abandoned the idea of a boat neck (save that for another dress, I think) and changed the neckline to be a wide V shape, a style which I really like. Opening up the neckline helped balance the overall look.

The dress is almost entirely machine sewn. Since it’s a casual cotton dress, I machine sewed the hem and the arm openings with a narrow hem and put a centered zipper up the back (and I’m pleased with myself that the pleats extend all the way to center back despite the zipper and it’s all nicely stitched!). The neckline is finished with bias tape that is invisibly stitched by hand after being turned. All of the interior seams are serged. Also, the dress has the bonus of pockets! Keeping the seams at the sides allowed me to easily put in side seam pockets, which I topstitched in keeping with the other visible machine sewing.

And at long last, a happy clover dress that brings a smile to my face instead of frown! It was glorious to get it off the UFO pile and even better to wear it!

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1904 Anne Of Green Gables Inspired Ensemble

The Background Story

In 2012, I made and wore a c.1900 green skirt and straw hat at Newport Vintage Dance Week. I had plans to make a blouse as well with it but ran out of time and wore a 1913 blouse I already had instead. I wasn’t terribly pleased with the whole look, so I didn’t ever focus on it in a blog post, though I did include it in my overview of the dance week.

At Newport Vintage Dance Week in 2012.

Since then I’ve worn the skirt a few times, but haven’t been able to for the last few years because (and this shouldn’t be surprising given the subject of my last post) the waist was too small!

Thankfully, I had two things going for me that made changing the waist size quite simple. First, I had extra fabric. Second, when I’d originally made the skirt the waist circumference was a few inches too big for the waistband, so I took a tuck on each side of center back. Now all I had to do was let out the tucks and extend the waistband with my extra fabric!

Updated ensemble in 2017.

It took me years to finally get around to doing it, but I’m glad I did, because I really like this skirt and it’s fun to remember the lovely wading adventure we had back in 2012 while I was wearing it! What gave me the final push to do the change was the opportunity for an early summer picnic, for which I had clothes but really wanted to have something new. Who hasn’t experienced that desire?

More About The New/Updated Ensemble

Ducks (and baby ducks) at the picnic!

The picnic provided some lovely backgrounds to take documentation pictures of all the new and updated pieces that form my Anne-inspired ensemble! I ironed out all the wrinkles in the skirt ahead of time… and then sat on picnic blanket before taking pictures, so the back pictures have a rather wrinkly bum.

The Blouse Inspiration

In addition to wanting to update the skirt, I’ve also had that blouse to go with it on my to-do list for years. Instead of going back to the blouse plan from 2012, I started over with new inspiration. (Never fear, the unfinished blouse from 2012 is still in a box waiting for me to go back to it… someday.)

The new inspiration came directly from the scene in Anne of Green Gables when she’s walking down the lane with Gilbert and his horse (just before she gets mad and whacks him with her basket!). I’ve always love her silhouette and decided a blouse with a similar shape would suit the green skirt nicely.

Anne and Gilbert! (And the horse.)

I researched blouses from this period and decided on the year 1904 for my blouse. I was particularly inspired by this ivory c. 1905 blouse, this black c. 1905 blouse, and this blouse that The Met dates to 1899-1902. The idea to play with the direction of the stripes and to have curling lace trim (mimicking embroidery) was taken directly from this page from The Ladies’ Home Journal for April 1904 that Lauren of Wearing History kindly shared on her blog. Other views of some of these blouses as well as other inspiration are gathered on my Pinterest board for this project, here.

The Blouse Construction

My blouse is made of an ivory cotton that is woven with narrow stripes. In the center front panel the stripes are horizontal, while on the rest of the blouse they are vertical. The blouse is trimmed with lace appliqués in the same pattern as the Ladies’ Home Journal blouse from 1904. Unfortunately, all of the subtle ivory on ivory details are hard to photograph.

The blouse is mostly machine sewn and uses French seams except at the armholes, which are left raw. It is finished by hand and closes up the front with concealed hooks and thread bars. There is a twill tape channel for a drawstring at the waist to help control the fullness and the pigeon front.

The silhouette was looking a little deflated for a 1904 pigeon breast look, so I tacked ruffles down the front seams to help fill out the blouse. It’s subtle-but-useful method and was easy since I already had the circular ruffles in my stash.

The Hat Inspiration

The most direct inspiration for my hat was this image from 1903. While I decided against feathers, the general trim placement as well as the poofs under the back of the brim are present in my hat.

There are more inspirational hats here, on my Pinterest board for this project.

The Hat Construction

The hat in the 2012 version of this ensemble was an admirable idea in theory, but not execution. (I was displeased enough that it was remade into my 1885 Flower Pot Hat in 2015.) However, I had another of the same straw base that I decided to remake for the new Anne ensemble.

In 2012, I had used the second straw base to make a Regency bonnet, another project I wasn’t entirely happy with (this is not the right type of straw to get a good bonnet shape). All that needed to be done was removing the trimmings from the hat and taking out the stitching holding the wire around the edge… and I had a straw hat blank ready to be remade into a new hat!

For a hat block, I used a shallow glass bowl covered in tin foil and plastic wrap. I wet the straw base in the bathtub, then used a paintbrush to cover the straw with a layer of my sizing (a bit of elmer’s glue dissolved in water–no formula, I just winged it). I set the hat out in the hot sun to let it dry, holding the edges down with spice jars to keep it from blowing away. (Can you tell I just wandered into my kitchen to see what I had that would work to help me with this hat?)

Reshaped straw hat base next to my improvised hat block.

I tidied up the edges of the hat with scissors, bound the edge of the straw with narrow strips of tulle to keep the straw from fraying, and then reshaped my wire and resewed it around the edge of the hat. I covered these edge treatments with a binding of ivory silk satin, trimmed the hat, and I was done!

The tulle was sewn with a straight stitch. The wire was then stitched with a zig zag.

Sundries

In order to achieve my desired pigeon breast silhouette of 1904, I needed some omph in the back in addition to the ruffles inside the blouse in the front. I tried wearing a small bum pad (about 10″ wide), but then my hips looked sunken by comparison. I determined I needed a new bum pad that would fill in both my hips and backside to help create the illusion I was aiming for.

I also made a new belt to go with this ensemble. I wanted something a little more V shaped in front and a little less dramatic in terms of color. I actually reused the lining from the previous iteration of my new hat to make a new belt. The two shades of green don’t quite match, but they also don’t offend, so I’m pleased.

Instead of a traditional Gibson Girl hair style, I tried a style more like this, with a center part and poofs on each side. It was a bit squashed by my hat, but I was quite pleased with it overall. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any perfect shots of just my hair style. I’ll have to try it again someday and get hair pictures.

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When The Dress No Longer Fits (Regency Edition)

Whether you sew historical clothing or not, I think it’s likely you’ve experienced the following phenomenon: You buy or make a lovely dress or other garment and wear it once (or maybe you wear it a lot). The season changes and you put said lovely garment away in the closet to await the next year’s season. When you next go to wear it, you realize that the garment no longer fits. It has obviously shrunk in the closet! I find that circumferences are the worst culprits for closet shrinking: waists, ribcage, arms… How dare they?!?

This has happened to me with both modern ready-made clothes and historical ones. Unlike modern ones, which usually hang around for a few years until I feel emotionally ready to donate them to someone else who might actually fit into them, my historical clothing has the benefit of being able to be resized with relatively little effort (certainly much less than making a new garment!). Depending on how I’ve constructed the garment, seams might be able to be let out or, being the pack rat that I am, I have more of the fabric hanging around and I can cut new pieces or add to what is there to expand at the necessary areas.

The more often I come across this problem in my wardrobe, the more I realize the benefit of making my clothing more adjustable from the start, with things like drawstrings and lots of overlap on opaque garments. (Did you notice that most of the closures on my recent 1817 Duchess Regency Gown were drawstrings? There might be an intentional rationale there… My 1811 Elusive Blue Gown also closes with ties and drawstrings, another intentional decision.)

1817 gown with mostly drawstring closures.

In the past year or two, I realized that two of my older and oft-worn Regency dresses had experienced closet shrinkage. I wanted to continue to be able to wear them and so I started thinking of the best ways to alter the size to make them wearable again. Luckily, both of these dresses fall into the category of ‘I kept the extra fabric and have plenty to play with to resize them.’

I used a different method on each dress. The first is my 1813 Red Dress, which I made in 2013. It’s seen lots of wear since I made it (yay for actually making good use of something I’ve made!) as well as a pretty major revamp when I accidentally tore a hole in the skirt.

It’s always closed with hooks and eyes, but when I went to wear it last year it wouldn’t close! With some safety pins, we got it to this point, but I was afraid for the integrity of the fabric because it was stretched so tightly.

I was able to use someone’s small scissors to take out the stitches along the back edge with the loops on it to get a bit more fabric across and we used the safety pins for bars with a piece of ribbon folded behind to stabilize the now-only-one-layer of fabric. But I wasn’t willing to let people see it looking like this!

Thankfully, I had a shawl with me and I wore it the entire evening to cover the back. I was apparently nonchalant enough that no one realized I was wearing a shawl to cover the fact that my dress wouldn’t close, but I was awfully warm while dancing! Something had to be done before I would wear the dress again.

I pondered multiple ideas, but the one I settled on was to cut new center back pieces with more width to them and sew them over the current, too-small pieces. I also had to piece the waistband to extend it as well as re-pleating the skirt to fit the larger size waistband, but it looks pretty good, I’d say.

The inside of the dress now looks like this. Previously, it was unlined (I did a post about the original inside finishing of this dress, which you can see here). Now, the center back panel has a lining to help stabilize it and encase the original back panels and waistband extension. Still tidy, yay!

In addition, the armhole openings had become quite tight. I wanted a little more space to be comfortable, so I also added underarm gussets (the upside down triangle). I simply opened up the seam and added a diamond shaped piece. It’s diamond shaped and folded in the center to hide the raw edges inside and out. I didn’t bother to add a band at the bottom, as I figured this gusset was in a place no one was likely to see such detail.

The other dress is my 1812 white square neck Ikea gown. I made this in 2012and have also worn it many times. Before the recent changes, I had made no other alterations to the dress since I first made it.

This dress also had a panel added to center back, but I had to more carefully follow the details of the dress, including the small seams (because of the sheer fabric) and the tucked waistband. This dress has spent a lot of time in the sun, and between that and being gently washed a few times, the fabric has become a much brighter white than it started out. It’s not noticeable, until I add a piece of the same fabric that has been sitting in my stash and the light hits it just right. (It’s convenient for pointing out the new fabric though, because it’s pretty obvious in the picture below!)

Sometimes, this would bother me. But it’s only noticeable in some light and I hope that eventually the pieces will also brighten. Plus, it’s entirely historically reasonable to piece a gown using more of the fabric that hasn’t faded in the same way as the rest of the garment to adjust the size. It’s much more practical than making an all new garment!

I had to regather the skirt on this dress (like I had to repleat the red one) to accommodate the new waistband size. I also added an underarm gusset on this dress to help the arm openings be more comfortable.

While the red dress fit pretty perfectly after the alterations, the white dress alterations proved to be too much (it’s hard to fit these things on yourself when the closures are in the back!) and I now need to move my eyes over and add a drawstring to the top of the back neckline to keep my undergarments from showing. Sometimes it seems like some garments will never leave the to-do list. Oh well! Does that happen to you? You think a garment is done until you wear it and realize it needs something changed or added? (I’m proud to report that between the time I started writing this post and the time I finished writing this post I completed those final two notes–drawstring and bars–and now the dress is done and ready to get put away! Hooray for getting rid of UFOs!)

Do you ever resize your modern or historical clothing after closet shrinkage? What methods have you used?

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Regency Dance Weekend 2017

My last few posts have been about the new Regency clothes I made earlier this year: Orange Boven Pelisse and Hat from 1814 as well as a look at the history behind the description Orange Boven and 1817 Gold Stripe Duchess Evening Gown. Now that I’ve got all the details about the construction and history of these garments recorded, it’s time for a look at the Regency Dance Weekend that provided an opportunity to wear these clothes in the company of other fabulously dressed people and in historical halls built in the early 19th century.

This annual Regency Dance Weekend is organized and run by the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers. If you want to see more pictures and read more about the amazing Regency moments I’ve had in past years, I have posts about them here: 2013, 2014, and 2016.

Saturday always begins with dance classes in modern clothes. The hard work we all put in during the day pays off at the evening ball, when we are able to dance with quick reminders of the figures but without full teaching. It’s a very special experience every year!

After a final class on Sunday morning, we take the afternoon off from dancing for a bit of leisure. Often it has been tea, though in some years we’ve had promenades, or even archery! This year we focused on tea, games, and chatting.

This venue, Old Town Hall, has lovely windows that make perfect frames for picture taking!

After tea, those of us running the weekend calmly (well, probably with a lot of scurrying) switch venues to the more elegant Hamilton Hall, where we have a formal ball with a lavish reception. Hamilton Hall is special, with a gleaming sprung floor, musicians balcony, and gorgeous gilt framed mirrors.

Sometimes, though, silliness ensues! I couldn’t resist making a face in the picture below… After that is a face that often happens after I run out of pose ideas…

There is lovely dancing on that evening. The things we’ve all learned have had time to sink in and people dance marvelously, again without teaching.

There are lots of yummy and beautiful foods to tempt everyone away from the ballroom, as well. This year we had some successful fruit filled jellies, a popular dessert in the 19th century.

After lots of dancing (and dish washing–lovely spreads like this with real dishes don’t appear without a fair bit of work behind the scenes) a much needed sitting break provided a nice opportunity for a group photo.

As usual, it was a lovely weekend full of great dancing and meeting lots of lovely new people from around the country, the more local New England area, and even Canada! Maybe some year I’ll get to meet you, too!

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