Autumn Plaid Dress

I’d like to introduce you to my Autumn Plaid Dress! This is one of the dresses that I mentioned in my end of 2018 post as something that was made but never posted about. The goal was to post about it early this year. I would say it’s now mid-year, but better late than never, right?

I made this dress at the very end of last summer. I even made sure to find time to take photos of it while the trees were still in full autumn glory! The colors in the fabric reminded me so much of autumn that I felt that photos with lovely changing leaves were essential!

This dress came about due to the intersection of inspiration and fabric. I think the inspiration came first, when I found this dress (with no further information other than the single image). I loved the irregular large scale plaid, hidden placket, shirt collar, and long sleeves. It’s just a very different plaid dress than the often some-amount-of-circle skirt and smaller scale plaid dresses I am often drawn to.

In November of 2016, I saw the perfect fabric at Blackbird Fabrics. Of course it’s long gone now, but I snapped up 1.5 meters at the time. I loved the rich autumnal colors and large scale plaid! That pop of orange is unusual and great!

After that, the fabric sat in my stash… Until last year, when I actually make time for the dress. In August, I decided that now was the time!

The first step was to figure out a pattern. The bodice started life as McCalls 7351 because I didn’t want to deal with drafting a collar or front button placket. I also thought it might be a good starting place for sleeves.

I made multiple mockups of this pattern, fiddling with the fit especially in terms of the sleeves. I wanted to have a dress I could work in, with full range of motion for my arms without feeling constricted or lifting the dress at the side seams. This is not what I got with the sleeve straight out of the envelope. It looked nice with my arms down, flat and smooth, but I had very restricted arm movement. (So I guess this pattern wasn’t the easiet starting place for sleeves… oh well!)

After finally sorting out the fit of the sleeves and body pieces, I moved on to changing the front button placket to be invisible as I really liked that feature of the inspiration dress. This tutorial from Threads Magazine was great for this pattern change. Once I understood the different parts and how the folds interacted it was easy to alter the width of each fold to make a narrower placket than the tutorial.

I drafted the skirt pattern on a dress form. I wanted to get the deep pleats and rounded silhouette of the inspiration. It was a bit tricky and required lots of fiddling, playing with pleat depths, and also playing with the angle of the pleats at the waist seam.

Armed with my pattern pieces, I sat about cutting my fabric… and realized that 1.5 meters was not enough fabric to make the dress I had patterned! Oh no! What to do?

The first thing I did was eliminated some of the fullness I put in the skirt. I was able to keep the pleats, but the hem is narrower than I’d originally patterned. (But that’s fine in the end, because I think it’s a nice shape without being too full.) Then I started very, very carefully planning where to put each of the other pieces I needed. I realized that I could use less fabric if I changed the back from the original pattern (with a yoke and bottom section with a box pleat as on a man’s dress shirt) to a simple darted one-piece back. I did some pattern piece mashing, tested the new pattern out, and was able to move forward again.

My detail-oriented brain clearly decided on symmetry of the plaid (even though the inspiration didn’t worry about that at all and that’s something I liked… I find it’s hard to break the desire for symmetry!). That meant the cutting layout needed to be very specific in order to accommodate both that and the quantity of fabric I had to work with.

I fit the skirt pieces on the yardage (with a tiny hem). Then found places for the fronts (without the placket extensions) and back. The sleeves barely fit. I could have shortened them and had plenty of fabric but I really wanted the wrist length. The collar and placket pieces were next. They got squished in between the larger pieces. Of those, only the upper collar is one piece. As you can see in the next photo, the under collar and both layers of collar stand have seams at center back (though I did manage to make them all symmetrical!). The button placket had to be seamed on and pieced horizontally and the buttonhole placket also had to be pieced on. There’s a narrow orange line near the buttonholes just across from the horizontal piecing seam where the placket extension was stitched on to the front piece.

This was absolutely a case of laying out every single piece before cutting anything! After all that, this is what I was left with for fabric scraps. I’d say that’s a pretty good use of all my fabric, wouldn’t you?

I was very amused by the fringe-y selvedge edge and wanted to incorporate it into the dress. I used those selvedges for the inner edge of my plackets. The already finished edge was stitched down but not turned under, so a little bit of the fringe pokes out when the dress is worn. I did debate if it was making the dress too home-made looking, but I think it’s subtle enough that it doesn’t have that effect.

At some point I also made space on the fabric for a belt. There was no way to make this symmetrical without a lot of piecing, given the spacing of the plaid and the placement of the plaid on the dress, so this is my nod to asymmetry. I can line up one of the orange lines somewhere, but somewhere else around my waist they don’t line up.

I finished this dress right around the time that the pre-orders from Royal Vintage Shoes were delivered last fall. I had great fun wearing this dress with my new burgundy Aspen Boots. I couldn’t resist having red winter shoes!

I love these boots! I added an insole under my heel to help cushion my feet and they are so comfortable! I can wear them standing and walking all day and not have aching feet. The low heel is flattering and snazzy without feeling like a heel. The rubber soles are great for wearing in rain and snow. They are great with pants and skirts/dresses. And they’re a fun color! I feel very confident when I wear them and get lots of compliments. Can I say anything else positive? I love these!

What else have I not mentioned about the dress?

The buttons are from my stash and are plain and dark. I was one short, so there’s a slightly different dark button at the bottom. It’s fun to have details like that on clothes you make yourself.

My fabric is a nice medium-weight twill, which makes the dress well suited to fall and winter wearing. The dark colors didn’t really speak to me to wear this spring and it’s not a summer dress, so it’s waiting for autumn to roll around again to be worn. In the meantime, I’m happy to have captured the lovely colors of the leaves with the wonderfully autumnal colors of the dress. Maybe this year I’ll take photos of it with pumpkins…!

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Ikat Print Henrietta Maria

I have a modern dress to share with you today in the spirit of completing my goal for early this year that I share the modern garments I made last year. This is my second Scroop Patterns Henrietta Maria dress.

The first Henrietta Maria I made has a large floral pattern on it that I really like as it’s an unusual scale and subject for me. (Unfortunately, Mr. Q does not appreciate those fabric choice details and I always get an askance look when I wear it–and that’s pretty often once warmer weather sets in.) So partly because I find the Henrietta Maria to be super comfortable as well as classy and also because it’s nice to wear things that the people around you also appreciate, I finally got around to making a second Henrietta Maria last summer!

I happened on a 100% ikat print rayon fabric at Joann Fabrics of all places! (It’s great that they are carrying rayons more frequently than they used to.) This print seemed like an interesting choice for the new dress and I’m quite pleased with the end result. The rayon fabric is super soft and comfy–great for warm weather!

To learn more about what ikat fabric is, check out this awesome terminology post by The Dreamstress (she’s also the proprietress of Scroop Patterns!).

As I mentioned already, I highly recommend the Henrietta Maria by Scroop Patterns! The pleats around the neck and arm openings are unusual, visually interesting, and elegant in any setting. This is a dress that can easily be dressed up or down and made in everything from a solid color to a large print. I’ve considered making it in a warmer fabric for cooler weather as well, but have been stopped by the roadblock that the full sleeves don’t easily fit inside my usual winter coat (I’ve tried–they just get scrunched around my upper arms unless I fish around and pull them down!). For summer, when I don’t need a coat, the Henrietta Maria is great.

This dress was made as part of my #virtualsewingcircle while I was still finding time to sew live last summer. It is sewn in the exact same way as my first Henrietta Maria: mostly by machine with lace to nicely finish the tucked openings, an inner elastic at the waist, and a hand finished hem (there are photos of all of these finishing details in that post about the first dress). I made the hem on this version just a few inches longer than the first version in an effort to make this version more wear-to-work, but nothing else changed.

I really wanted to get photos of this dress before I put it away for the winter and I did manage to sneak these in on the last warm day of September last year, but I’m still hoping for a better background eventually. A black marble waterfall or tropical plants are in my hopes–maybe this year I’ll get one of them!

Sunshine Yellow Stripes In 1933

Last summer, I decided to make a dress from McCall’s #7153, an archive pattern from 1933 (although now out of print, it was released in 2015 so it’s pretty easy to find with a quick search). This is a pattern I’ve been eyeing for awhile. I decided to make it because I wanted something comfortable, new, and appropriate for daytime to wear to a Gatsby weekend in the heat of August. 1933 is obviously not in the 1920s, but the weekend tends to be more generally 1920s/1930s in terms of clothing, so I figured this would fit right in.

The style of the dress is quite defined by the differing grain lines on the pieces, a detail that is set off by the stripes used for the sample dress. Accordingly, I went off in search of a good stripe for the dress. I couldn’t find one I liked in the right weight with a stripe quite as delicate, visible, and widely spaced as the sample dress, but I did find a lovely yellow and ivory narrow stripe at Farmhouse Fabrics (although now they have this, which is similar to the sample dress–I’m not sure which one I would choose if I had both options in front of me now!). I couldn’t find a yellow belt buckle that was right, so I decided to go classic with a white mother of pearl one from my stash instead.

I cut out a mockup in size 14. This was a project for my #virtualsewingcircle while I was still finding time to sew live. The mockup fit, but was very tight, so when I cut out the yellow stripe I made the dress a size 16 (for reference, my measurements were about bust 40″, waist 32″, and hips 42″).

The only other change that was required was to take up the shoulders (which I think meant that I also lowered the front neckline and cut new front facings, though now it was long enough ago that I don’t remember perfectly). McCall’s must have been thinking people were going to put in huge shoulder pads–there was so much room! I believe I took about about 2″ (4″ total) of height!

In addition, I took Kelly’s advice from making this dress and omitted the zipper down the back to keep things smooth. This was made possible in part because my fabric has a little bit of stretch in it.

I think I mostly followed the pattern directions for assembly. There are some steps in a specific order to get the nice point, particularly in the front.

I machine finished the hems, including the sleeves, and under stitched the neck facing, tacking it down by hand to the seam allowances on the inside. The seam allowances were pinked to keep the seams from getting bulky while also keeping them from fraying. This wasn’t important for the bias cut pieces, but it definitely helped the center back and center front panels that are cut on the straight grain of the fabric!

I completely ignored the belt directions, opting instead to use belting encased in a tube of my fabric. Belting is a great product that, as fas as I can tell, stopped being produced in the last few years. Boo! It’s a bendable but stiff plastic backed fabric that you used to be able to purchase in different widths to use as stiffening for self-fabric dress belts (perfect for dresses from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s!).

Despite the photos of the whole look with accessories (which I’m very pleased with!), when I tried on the dress after finishing the sewing I was so disappointed! I looked so frumpy in the mirror with the calf length hem and my bare feet! I made a lot of faces. Then I thought, ‘Well, I guess I try on the shoes I plan to wear with this.’ That idea did make me a little happier, because I had snagged a pair of Royal Vintage brown and white spectators but hadn’t found a reason or outfit to wear them with yet. And then… MAGIC. Those 3″ heels absolutely transformed the look! All of a sudden that calf length hem looked great! I was probably standing with more confidence rather than disappointment, too, but really, it was like I was wearing a different dress. Has that ever happened to you? The accessories really make some looks come together! And especially with 1930s calf length hems… the heels really help posture and proportions.

I found that my first pair of Royal Vintage shoes are very comfortable. They have a bit of padding in the sole, which is great under the balls of my feet especially, and also arch support. They don’t pinch or rub in any uncomfortable ways. After wearing them for the better part of two days in a row I can say that my feet were tired of being in 3″ heels, but tired or aching in no other way (that’s just a function of being in 3″ heels, no matter how comfortable they are). And boy, did I feel snazzy for those two days!

This next one is the ‘Oh no! My hat is flying away!’ face. It was rather windy, so there actually were moments where I had to hold onto my hat to keep it from flying away! This hat is a refashion of a modern sunhat that deserves its own post–coming soon. I’m very pleased with this updated version and I love how well it coordinates with my shoes!

The stripe in the fabric gets a bit lost when you’re not right next to the dress, but I still like it overall. I found the dress was more comfortable to stand in than to sit in, but it did well in the heat and was cool and breezy. Success!

Summary Of 2018: Looking Forward To 2019

2019 feels awfully close to 2020 to me… and 2020 sounds like it should still be far away! Luckily, my feelings about how far away a year feels have nothing to do with how much sewing and fun I have in each year! So I’ll leave my feelings aside and recap my sewing adventures from 2018 instead.

To start, projects I completed!

January: Third re-do of 1928 Green Silk Evening Dress (HSM #1)

February: c. 1955 Evening Gown with Queen Of Hearts sash

March: 1934 Metallic Evening Gown

March: c. 1935 Dressing Gown & Slip

July: A New Old(er) Dress

August: 1925 Blue Coral Day Dress (HSM #8)

September: 1925 Lace Cloche

October: Vintage Inspired Book Dress

October: Gave My Old Hoops New Spots

November: A Fortescue Frock

December: 1920s Beaded Bag (HSM #11)

December: 1926 Silver Robe de Style

December: 1896 Black Gaiters

In May and June, I finally posted about my trip to Denmark in 2017 to attend a vintage dance week. That was three separate installments: Part I an introduction to the trip, Part II photos of the events, and Part III documentation of our sightseeing adventures. I also passed along the Mystery Blogger Award and the Liebster Blog Award in June. I appreciate all of my readers and am grateful that you’re interested in sharing my sewing adventures with me! In August, I started a new adventure, #virtualsewingcircle, a livestream of my sewing via Twitch; however, I realized that this format of sharing my sewing did not work for me at this time with my other life activities. I’ve still been plugging away at the projects I announced and I’m still using the hashtag for them on Instagram, but the live sewing is currently on a break. In September, I had the great fortune of going to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida, which allowed me to photograph two new dresses seen above. The Fortescue Frock was sewn live on Twitch over the summer and the Vintage Inspired Book Dress was made awhile ago but took me this long to photograph!

I participated in my sixth year of the Historical Sew Monthly in 2018. This year I completed only 4 of 12 challenges since I had a lot of other sewing on my plate that did not count but kept my hands quite busy. Hopefully next year I’ll participate a bit more.

In 2018, I attended 10 balls, 7 other events (teas, picnics, outings etc.), and 4 vintage dance performances. That’s generally in line with my numbers from last year.

Last year’s deinfitely-to-do list was intentionally conservative so I could feel like I actually accomplished it. And… I’m proud to say that it was done by March! Of the things on the ‘maybe’ list, I finished one modern dress, made two more, and made a modern wool skirt. The only one of those that hasn’t made it to the blog is the skirt. I wear it all the time and really need to get photos! It’s a lovely cranberry color!

I also have a number of things that I made towards the end of last year but haven’t posted about yet–all made while I was sewing live on Twitch. I couldn’t keep up with photographing all the things I was producing! These include a new Henrietta Maria, a 1933 summer dress and hat, and another modern dress–the Autumn Plaid dress. So one of my goals is to share about those early in 2019. In addition, my definitely-to-do list for 2019 includes:

  • finishing an 1896 cycling ensemble I started at the end of last year
  • finishing a 1925 coat that I announced I would be making at the end of last year

And of course there are maybes. Many of these are the same as last year!

  • a new 1860s evening dress
  • finishing the 1884 plaid wool day dress I started in November 2017
  • 1880s wool mantle
  • sewing the 1790s stays I started in the winter of 2018
  • 1790s petticoat
  • 1790s dress
  • modern dresses, pants, and skirts (I have lots of fabrics and patterns, I just need time…)

Wishing you a very happy new year!
(I think Kreacher wishes us a happy new year, too!)

1926 Silver Lace Robe de Style

One of my summer sewing projects was a new 1920s robe de style. (And yes, I am clearly delayed in posting about it!) I already have one (my 1924 Golden Robe de Style) but I stumbled across a lovely lace at Joann Fabrics in the spring that called to join my wardrobe as a second dress in this category. I attend enough 1920s evening events that I can never seem to have enough dresses. Doesn’t that sound grand written out? I actually do have plenty of dresses, but it’s nice to have variety and cycle through different styles, types of fabrics, weights, etc.

I’ve enjoyed wearing my first robe de style and wanted to try another one with different characteristics. The 1924 golden one is made of silk taffeta and has an ankle length skirt, but I wanted this one to be much lighter weight and shorter in length. I also wanted a different neckline. After looking through my Robe de Style Pinterest board for inspiration I settled on this dress, a Boué Soeurs robe de style from fall/winter 1925-6. This is where my date of 1926 for my new robe de style comes from.

Obviously the lace is not opaque so as with the original dress I needed a lining. I settled on the icy blue because it was from my stash. (You’ve seen this fabric before, in my 1899 evening gown.) It was great to use a stash fabric for cost saving and stash-diminishing purposes as well as the fact that the colors coordinate. And, I was able to accessorize with a large flower pin in a very similar color that has been in my stash since before I had a fabric stash! Isn’t it wonderful to find good homes for odds and ends like this?

In addition to the flower pin, I also wore my extra long strand of faux pearls, my American Duchess silver Seabury shoes, and vintage silver hair pins. Oh, and earrings. But I can’t remember which ones and I can’t tell from the photos which pair they are. I’ll have to figure that out again next time I wear this dress!

The pattern for this dress is me-made, composed of mostly rectangular shapes based on my measurements. The body of the lining is basically an upside down T shape, where the sides are gathered into a slit that extends into the main body on each side by a few inches. (You can see what I’m talking about in the photo below.) The lining has a straight top edge with rectanglur straps attached. The hem angles down slightly on the sides intentionally. I still wanted an uneven hem as with my 1924 dress, but I wanted a less dramatic difference than with that dress.

The lace layer was a little more complicated. I wanted an uneven hem to match the lining, but I also wanted to keep the hem following the scallops across the fabric. So… I had to keep my hem straight. That means I had to make the tops of the sides curve up since the bottom couldn’t curve down, but that meant I couldn’t cut my lace layers as a T, because the curve up would cut into the sides of the dress.

My solution was to add a seam across the lace pieces at the height of the gathers. To do this I perfectly matched the scallops, carefully layered and stitched them with a narrow zig zag, and then trimmed away the excess fabric to make the seam almost entirely invisible. Can you spot it in this photo?

I also had to trim away the ‘eyelash’ bits left over after cutting along the scalloped pattern along the hem. This photo shows that step in progress. A bit tedious, but worth it!

Unlike the lining with its straight top edge, the lace has a v neck on one side and a scoop on the other. This layer is interchangeable in terms of which is front and back, since they’re the same with no special shaping. The edges of the lining are finished by machine while the neckline and the armholes of the lace are narrow hemmed by hand.

This new dress can be worn with or without panniers, but for the first wearing I went without in order to make the full skirt more subtle and to differentiate the dress from my 1924 Golden Robe de Style (which needs to be worn with panniers).

While this dress could be worn at any time of year, I am particularly enchanted with the idea of it being perfectly suited to a 1920s New Year party. The colors and silver lace seem well suited to that theme.

And on that note, in case I don’t get another post in before 2019… happy new year!

A Fortescue Frock

Say that ten times fast! I was originally calling this dress the Cotton Candy Stripe Dress, but while wearing it to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and seeing how well it matched the decor of Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor it earned a new name.

I happened upon this summery fabric while looking for a different striped fabric at Farmhouse Fabrics. I bought it with the plan of using New Look #6143 for the bodice with a gathered skirt similar to my Bubble Dots Skirt.

I very carefully cut out the bodice pieces to match the stripes and was very pleased with the results. Look at how well my center back seam matches with the invisible zipper set in! The shoulder seams match nicely, too, and I didn’t even plan that!

The bodice is lined in lightweight white cotton, in the same way as the New Old(er) Dress I posted about in July. It uses the same bodice pattern and like the other dress this one closes with an invisible zipper down the back as well.

I thought of adding pockets but the fabric seemed to sheer to hide them well, so I decided against it.  I thought of adding a skirt lining, but decided I didn’t want to add bulk at the waist so I would live dangerously and hope that a slip would be enough to provide opacity. Thankfully, a knee length white slip is perfect. To add a just a little bit of volume, I also wear my vintage petticoat with the dress. You can see that petticoat in this past post.

This dress is fun! It’s light, summer-y, and my only fear was getting something on the white fabric while wandering around the amusement park. Thankfully that never happened!  We happened upon this spot while wandering around and it seemed good for a photo! My vacation sunglasses look like a bug and are silly, but I rather enjoy them once or twice a year. I never wear sunglasses that big in my normal life! They were great for the bright Florida sun!

Here are a few end-of-day shots, with frizzier hair and running-out-of-pose-idea poses. We stayed at the Cabana Bay Resort. It’s vintage themed and had some really adorable decor that we really enjoyed!

I made the dress with a 2″ hem but that skirt length was just barely long enough to conceal my petticoat (I realized after looking at photos). It was too close for comfort, so after I got home I decided to lower the hem as much as possible, which I’m very pleased with. Sadly I only got one wearing in with the new length before fall set in. Now the dress is now packed away and waiting for warmer weather next year!

#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.