Vintage-Inspired Book Dress

Two or so years ago, I came across this dress as I was poking around the internet. I loved the print, but the style was not for me. The peter pan collar, in particular, isn’t really my style. However, I got it in my head that maybe I could make my own version of this dress, with style details that suited me better.

This led to a hunt for the fabric. With a little bit of searching, I was actually able to find the exact cotton print fabric used in the dress I originally liked! I bought mine from Fabric.com, but it was (and still is) also listed on Etsy. It has a little bit more stiffness than your average quilting cotton, which makes for a dress with nice body. It also has little hints of metallic gold in the book titles, some of which are readable. This makes it a little festive and fun without being over done.

That was back in 2016. It took me about a year to get around to making the dress, but I finished it in late 2017. And I’ve been wearing it! It just took another year to wear it somewhere that was good for taking photos. (I still hold out hopes of taking photos of it in a fabulous wood paneled library, while holding my hardcover copy of Gone With The Wind. That’s one of the readable titles on the dress! Not sure when that will happen, though.) In the meantime, I’m very pleased with these photos from my trip to Universal Orlando, where we took photos of this dress in various Harry Potter locations.

I used Butterick 5880 (a retro pattern from 1951) for the bodice of this dress. This is the same bodice I used for my Happy Clover Dress, which I finally finished in 2017 as well. Both of these dresses have a different neckline than the original pattern. I’ve found that this is a great basic pattern for me. It fits well, I like the all-in-one-with-the-bodice sleeve, and different necklines work with it to change it up from one dress to the next!

The square neck inspiration for this dress came from a blog reader in 2017, who commented on my Happy Clover Dress post and suggested that a square neckline might be a nice vintage touch. I thought the idea made sense with the square corners of the books in this print and decided to give it a try!

As with the Happy Clover Dress, I did not use the Butterick skirt pattern, instead opting to create my own. My vintage inspired skirt is simply a tube that is 122″ in circumference, knife pleated to fit the waist size of the bodice. I carefully cut and seamed the panels to maximize my fabric use and have side seams as well as a center back seam. Part of the reason I had to maximize my fabric use was that I used up pretty much all of all 2.5 yards that I bought. In fact, I didn’t even have scraps big enough to make pockets out of after cutting out the bodice and skirt pieces! I used what I had and pieced the rest of my pocket bags with fabric left over from my 1860s Flower Basket Fancy Dress project. I had dyed the fabric a mottled brown, had only had small scraps left, and the look reminded me of book leather, so it seemed like a fitting thing to use.

Pockets in a dress is excellent! And you can do that when you make your own clothes. Actually, while I was on my trip I was asked whether I’d made the dress. The giveaways were the fact that I had my hands in my pockets and the knife pleated skirt, both of which struck the person who asked as being vintage and self-made details–not a combination that would be easy to buy in a store. I thought that was fun!

I made this dress using modern techniques. All of the inside seam allowances are finished using a serger/overlocker. There is an invisible zipper in the back. It is almost entirely machine sewn, including the hem and armholes. The only hand stitching is the finishing of the brown bias tape that finishes the neckline, in order to keep that nice and invisible. On the hem and armholes the black machine stitching blends into the print and is hardly noticeable.

I have fun wearing this dress and pairing it with different cardigans in the colder months! Black and red are my favorites. And I can report that it was very enjoyable to be dressed in slightly-vintage-style to visit Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. I had no trouble on the rides and was as comfortable in the heat of Florida as I would have been in shorts or capris and a tee shirt, which is what most people were wearing. I felt more put together and enjoyed the themed dress! I might have to do things like that more often!

Advertisements
Posted in Costume Construction, Modern Clothing, Non-Historical Clothing, Patterning | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

An Edwardian Island Adventure

Over the summer, my dance group was invited to create a turn-of-the-century atmosphere for a weekend on Bakers Island, off the coast of Salem, MA. Today, the part of the island we were on is managed by Essex Heritage and is home to a lighthouse, but for our visit the idea was that visitors to the island could get a sense of what the island would have been like over 100 years ago when there was a large hotel located there.

We didn’t actually dance, but we played historical games and activities and explained our context to the visitors. They came upon us along various paths during their walking tour.

I wore my 1904 Anne of Green Gables ensemble. This time, though, I had a new belt and I got my hat to behave. It’s supposed to flip up in back, but was misbehaving last time I wore it and was flipped down in back. Boo!

The new belt is green silk covered with the same lace that I used on the skirt. The green isn’t a perfect match to the skirt, but I like that it coordinates without being too match-y. Taking a photo of it also allowed us to capture the subtle lace detail and woven stripe in the fabric of the blouse better than we did last time, which was a bonus outcome.

In between tours, we took some group photos around the lighthouse and the light keeper’s house. The light keeper’s house, in particular, provided us with some really adorable photos. These were provided to us by the light keepers, who keep their own charming blog (currently about their stay on Bakers Island this summer) which you can view here.

Behind the scenes, we needed to arrive before the visitors to set up. Given when boats were available that meant we had to arrive the day before the visitors. There aren’t any indoor accommodations we were able to take advantage of, so it was camping in tents for us. I’m not really a camping kind of person, but thankfully other people had tents to share. Between the modern equipment and food that we needed as well as the historical clothes, games, and amusements, we had quite the pile of luggage for two days and seven people! Here we are waiting for the boat back to the mainland.

A new adventure complete! The croquet set is still in place but the players are gone! Maybe someday there will be others (or maybe us, who knows?) to once again bring history to life on this island.

Posted in 1900s, 20th Century, Edwardian Clothing, Social History, Wearing Reproduction Clothing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Late Summer Fabric Stash Additions

At the very end of summer I found myself at the local discount fabric store (not looking for fabric for myself–how often have you heard that?). As often happens when I’m looking for fabric, I found some that just absolutely needed to come home with me.

The top fabric is a lovely woven cotton plaid. It’s quite creamy, as the next photo shows. I’m considering making it into something mid-19th century someday and bought enough yardage to accommodate that idea.

The lower fabric is a cotton print that looks perfect for a Regency dress! I’ve been wanting a yellow on white cotton for at least a year, but hadn’t found just the right one in a price I wanted. The only downsides about this one are that it’s not block printed and that the weight is a quilting cotton rather than a lawn or voile. But I liked the colors, motif, and price enough to buy it. I finished off the bolt on this one! Whew! I’m glad there was enough for my Regency dress idea.

Neither of these ideas has any particular timeline (so don’t expect to see these fabrics again soon), but it was fun to share these with you before stashing them away!

Posted in 1800s, 1810s, 19th Century | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Exploring The Crane Estate Gardens

I recently shared photos of my 1925 Blue Coral Day Dress and Lace Cloche, both of which I wore to the Crane Estate Gatsby themed lawn party in August. I wanted to share a few more photos from the day that didn’t fit into posts about the construction of the clothes I made for the event. To start, here’s our elegant, shade-proving picnic setup. This lawn party is always hot, so parasols and umbrellas are essential to stay comfortable.

After sitting for awhile we decided to explore the gardens. Every year I’ve been they’ve been a lovely and cool respite during the hot afternoon.

This year we were excited to find that an area that has previously been closed off behind a locked gate was open! (Check out this post to see the closed gate!) There were lovely flowers in this area and fun spots to take photos, too!

I enjoyed looking at the interesting, new sights as well as the columns. It felt like a grand adventure and was easy to imagine we were in the (mostly well-manicured) ruins of some ancient civilization.

Our walk also included a stroll around the main house, where there were antique car rides. We didn’t take a ride, but it was fun to capture one of the cars in our photos.

All in all, I had a nice day and enjoyed adding new memories to those I already have from this event.

Posted in 1920s, 20th Century, Wearing Reproduction Clothing | Tagged , | 2 Comments

1925 Lace Cloche

I knew I wanted a cloche to go with my 1925 Blue Coral Dress from early on in the process of making it. It was going to be hot when I wore the dress, so I knew I wanted something that would both look and feel lightweight. Turns out any hat was warmer than a bare head (well, one with hair on it!), but that being said, I think this was on the right track with a lightweight hat.

I considered making the cloche from fabric, but couldn’t decide on a style with seams that I liked. However, as I was browsing my Pinterest board, my eyes kept settling on straw, horsehair, and lace hats. It seemed like that was the way to go.

I didn’t have any particular materials on hand or in mind for that type of hat but I had come across a modern cotton lace cloche on Amazon for $14 that seemed like a good starting point. It’s no longer available, but I’m sure a careful search could find something similar. To the right is what it looked like before I started changing it up.

Generally, modern cloches have such a deep crown that they don’t leave any space for hair arranged on the back of the head. I have long hair, so that just doesn’t work for me. Cloches from the 1920s frequently have a cutout in the back to allow for your neck… or hair! They also have more interesting brims than modern cloches often do. Perfect. That’s what I wanted. An interesting brim and a cutout for my hair.

With my design plan in place, I started disassembling the modern cloche. First, I removed the braided band and flower. Then, I started unwrapping the lace on the brim, taking out the stitching that held one circumference to the next. I stopped at the bottom of the crown. I removed the inner hat band for most of the way around the hat, so I could stitch the new brim shape and the back cutout without stitching through the hat band.

Next, I played with the lace I had unwrapped for the brim to decide on a new shape. Once I made some decisions I had to make a few shorter pieces out of the lace, but most of it I tried to keep intact. In the back, I decided where I wanted my cut out to be… and cut it! Then I bound the edge using the lace and topstitched it down to encase the edges.

It was a bit tricky to find an acceptable shape for the new brim. The first few tries were so similar in shape to the crown of the hat that they hardly showed when I put it on my head. I ended up with a brim that flares out a bit so it stands away from the crown of the hat, especially in the front. I had to be careful to cover the ends of the plastic horsehair braid that backs the cotton lace, as it is very poky when cut. I covered the ends either by turning them under or having the inner hat band cover them.

After sorting out the brim and back cutout it was time to reattach the inner hat band. Then I sewed on my trim. Here’s what the hat looked like on the inside after all that.

I’ve loved Leimomi’s cloche decoration in this post since she posted about it in 2014. Having that in mind, I thought of what bits of trim I already had in my stash and what might work for this hat. I decided on a random yard of navy grosgrain ribbon, which I cut into thirds, pleated, and attached in imitation of this hat.

When I styled my hair, I tried to have hair come down to my jawline more than I usually do. I think cloches look less silly if there is some hair showing around them. My hair didn’t really look like a bob, but at least there was some hair showing in the front. In the back, it was pinned into a low twist-y mass of curls.

The great thing about the materials of this hat is that they are intended to be flexible for packing and traveling. Not only is it easy to store this hat but it’s also easy to remove it at a picnic and leave it on the blanket or put it in a bag without worrying that it will be damaged. It can get crushed and bounce back into shape!

In the end, I continue to think my head looks like an egg when I wear a cloche. I like styles that don’t hug my head better! That’s my own feeling–other people don’t think it’s nearly as egg-like as I do! But as egg-heads go, this was better than some attempts, so I think we’ll call it a success! It certainly looks cute on the fence!

Posted in 1920s, Costume Construction, Hair Styles, Hats, Trimmings, Wearing Reproduction Clothing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

#virtualsewingcircle Upcoming Projects

It’s been about two months since I announced a new adventure. Due to that new adventure, I’ve been making great progress on completing garments that often get pushed to the back burner. In fact, I’ve completed all three garments in the queue as well as two extras! Of all of those, the only live stream project that has made it to the blog so far is my 1925 Blue Coral Day Dress, but I’ve been able to wear at least two of the other dresses (one of them being the 1933 McCall’s Archive Pattern dress) and hope to share photos of them on Instagram and the blog in the somewhat near future. The last two of the five dresses await a photo shoot before I’ll be able to share them, though I’ve been wearing my new Henrietta Maria and greatly enjoying it!

Now that the previous round of garments is made, I’m announcing my next round of projects!

I’m starting to turn my sewing attention away from summer and towards fall and winter with a modern autumn plaid dress, a 1930s blouse, and a 1920s coat! Here’s a peak at the fabrics I’ll be using for these projects. Mmm, what a lovely autumnal palette!

I would love to have you join me as I make these garments! Friendly conversation is incredibly welcome! I’ll be live on Wednesdays (and some Fridays) in September from 9pm-10:30pm EST.

Posted in #virtualsewingcircle | Tagged | 2 Comments

1925 Blue Coral Day Dress (HSM #8)

The summer has been very busy and I don’t feel like I’ve completed very many sewing projects for myself. Really the only reason I’ve completed anything is because I’ve been live streaming my sewing, which forces me to make things from the list of the-things-I-want-to-make-that-I-never-make-time-for. Do you have a list like that? Mine is lengthy!

One of the first of these things-I-don’t-usually-make-time-for projects was a dress made out of one of the fabrics I bought earlier this year. I really wanted to have it for events this month as they are generally quite hot and the fabric I found is nice and lightweight while still being opaque. I found this fabric at a local discount store for the awesome price of $2.99/yard and then later saw it at a regular price store for somewhere closer to $10/yard, which really made me feel like I got a deal!

The pattern for this dress is a Quinnpen special (ie. made by me). I took my inspiration directly from this extant dress at All The Pretty Dresses. Due to that, it qualifies for the HSM Challenge #8 Extant Originals (copy an extant historical garment as closely as possible)!

To start, just the facts:

Fabric: 2.5 yards cotton lawn.

Pattern: My own.

Year: 1925.

Notions: Small bits of contrasting fabric for bias binding, thread.

How historically accurate is it?: I’d say this one is about as close as I can get to 100%!

Hours to complete: Approximately 8 hours.

First worn: August 5, 2018.

Total cost: $10.50 (including the fabrics I used for decorative sash options).

For the bodice of this new dress, I started with my 1927 Blush Sparkle dress (that dress started life as a tube before I added a head hole, armholes, and side seams/darts to about the hip level). For the skirt, I made a circular pattern that had the zig zag top edges that are featured in the extant dress. It was a bit of trial and error process to get the zig zags just right, but I made it in the end! You can see the topstitched zig zag detail on the extant inspiration if you look at the pictures carefully.

The zig zag top edge of the skirt is pressed under and topstitched onto the bodice. On both my dress and the extant dress that detail gets lost in the pattern, but it allows the skirt to have a lovely drape and fullness while the top can stay that straight 1920s shape that is so iconic. Here’s a closeup of my topstitching. Not bad on the pattern matching!

I finished my dress armholes and neck hole using bias, as I believe the original did based on looking at the photos. My only changes here were to use a contrasting color so I could actually see where the openings are (before I put on the orange binding the blue on blue pattern just made a big indistinguishable pile!) and to turn the bias binding to the inside of the openings (given that I was using a contrasting color). Aside from that the only other detail I omitted was a center back seam on the bodice since I had enough fabric not to need it when I was cutting out the pieces.

The photo above shows the dress with two different sash options that I made for it: pink and orange. I bought the orange when I bought the blue, but when I got home I thought it might be too bold and decided I might like the pink better. But I really couldn’t decide, so in the end, I made both!

When I wore the dress, I was still undecided… so I took pictures with all three options: no sash, pink sash, and orange sash. See each look below!

The idea behind a sash was this inspiration: Wilton Williams, The Bystander, August 12th 1925, though after wearing it my preference is no sash! I think that the bold, large scale patterns in the fabrics of the inspiration dresses lend themselves better to a sash than this blue dress.  The bonus part of not having a sash is that the dress is easy to wear, there’s no fussing with keeping a sash in place, and the dress really does have a nice 1920s shape to it even though the detail of the zig zag is lost from more than a foot or two away. What do you think? Does one style of sash (or no sash) speak most to you?

It’s fun to have a new dress to wear, discuss, and document! There are more dresses in the live stream queue, so if you want to stay in touch with what I’m making I would love to have you join me for one of my virtual sewing circles. You can join me on Wednesdays and Fridays from 9-10:30pm EST!

Posted in #virtualsewingcircle, 1920s, 20th Century, Costume Construction, Historical Sew Fortnightly, Wearing Reproduction Clothing | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments