Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Redingote?

Here's a fashion term that was new to me. I found it on one of my new vintage cocktail dress patterns - "One-piece dress with detachable overskirt and redingote".
So I looked it up and found that a redingote originated from the 18th century when it was used for travel on horse back. Originally it was a bulky, heavy, utilitarian coat but overtime it developed into a more fitted fashion garment. 
Apparently today's redingote is marked by a close fit at the chest and waist, a belt, and a flare toward the hem, as in the blue version in the vintage pattern. It's not a term I see often - did it have a revival in the 1960s I wonder?

Personally, it was the fringed version of the dress in the pattern that caught my swinging 60s!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Test garment complete and dress started

After completing the muslin for this dress, I got a bit side tracked a domestic project namely curtains, so progress has been a slow.

Here's what I learned from doing a muslin for the first time:-
- there's a great sense of freedom in cutting and making a muslin, knowing you won't make a mistake with  your precious fashion fabric
- as the dress is for someone else it give's you a great opportunity to try the garment and make any necessary adjustments
- as it's a vintage pattern, some aspects of the dressmaking is a little different, so the muslin gives you an opportunity to become familiar with the garment construction
- you don't have to bother with the time consuming finishing part of the dressmaking
- with this dress in particular, the waist is tiny and very nipped in, so some adjustment was required there
- the length was adjusted to around knee length

This is the selected's 100% lightweight cotton.
As the cotton is relatively sheer, there was some discussion about lining the dress, especially the skirt. However the wearer prefers not to have it lined making life easier for the sewer :).

I haven't posted a photograph of the muslin yet but might add one later - it's a little crumpled....

If you have expensive fabric and are a little uncertain about your pattern and fit, I'd certainly recommend a muslin (or test garment). It 's quicker than you think.Yes, it adds expense but I'd rather have problems with the cheaper muslin at $3/m. 

If you interested in more thoughts on this, the delightful Gertie has done a number of technical posts on her muslins - here's one.... 

Let me know what you think. Do you do one? Do you have a different approach?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Inspiration Board: Vintage Glamour 40s nightgown/evening gown

I've decided to create a series of inspiration boards for the vintage patterns
I feature on EstyFirstly, I love inspiration boards - they give me a chance
to play with images and colour and I enjoy this. Secondly, I think it helps
visualise the look of the garment. It's not meant to be an actual representation
of the finished article but more a "look and feel. " For the source photographs
on the inspiration boards go to my Polyvore site.

Many of my vintage patterns are carefully selected for features that I like. 
At the moment I'm focussed on cocktail, evening wear and some lingerie. 
Key feature of this 1940s Advance pattern are:
- cross over or racer-style back
- cross over gathered bodice
- bias cut
While this is labelled as a nightgown pattern, it makes a wonderful option
for evening wear - something like this perhaps?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What was I thinking.....

So I enthusiastically bought the Japanese "Stylish Dress Book" - so many lovely, comfy, summery clothes.

Then decided I would make this pattern - pretty, relaxed, quick to make perhaps - first mistake.

Next I selected a poly fabric that I bought cheaply to test the pattern. The fabric was my second mistake.
satin binding as self binding to hard to handle
After working with help from Gay to decipher the Japanese pattern, I found the fabric challenging to handle and the construction not as straight forward as hoped. Then, I finished it! Not good!
bat wing sleeves - never a good look on me - why don't I learn!!!
Nope - not pregnant
back and front are the same
Ok, what did I learn?
1. Choose a soft cotton like a voile. The poly did not drape as I expected despite being slippery to handle giving the final maternity top effect. I think the fabric choice would make most of the difference to the finished garment.
2. Don't add any seam allowance. I did and it's not needed.
3. If you're full busted, this pattern may not be for you (or me for that matter).

This will now be quietly filed in the "live and learn" category. Now time for a cuppa and a rethink....

Monday, September 12, 2011

Vintage McCall's 4475 dress

I've finally embarked on making my first genuine vintage pattern after banging on about them for sometime. So, I'm going out on a limb and will be posting about my progress as I go.

The pattern: 1950's McCall's 4475 dress. It has a gathered bodice (back and front). I'll be making version A which has a gathered skirt. As you can see from the pattern diagram, this gathering is at the front of the skirt.

The fabric: White Russian Floral cotton from here. As it's a lightweight cotton, I may have to find a solution to prevent the skirt from being too sheer.
The victim recipient: My sister (trusting girl)
The plan: I've carefully traced and refolded the pattern. I'm making adjustments to suit, specifically, lengthening the bodice, adding some more width to the sleeve for comfort and shortening the skirt to knee length. I'll make a muslin to check fit and go from there...wish me luck...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

New York Cape - completed

Okay so it's spring and I just finished a winter coat - my version of the New York Cape pattern . So, albeit a little late for winter this year but I'll be ready for next year. I used a heavy weight pure Scottish wool - a bargain purchase and made my own binding from a faux light weight suede fabric (I was in thrifty mode).

The  pattern was super easy to assemble, the longest part was applying all the binding - a skill I still have to perfect. This wasn't helped by the thickness of the wool I chose - something lighter weight may have been easier.

With help from the lovely Gay at her Studio, I made corded buttonholes and covered buttons with the binding fabric.

A great little pattern and I especially like the way it fits over the shoulders. Avoid making the binding to  make it easier on yourself.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Adjustable bias binding presser foot

Finally back to the sewing machine after our 4 months sailing trip. I must admit I really missed having something "crafty" to do and will prepare better  for the next trip.

First job - taking up two pairs of jeans - not interesting - so while I have the machine out I'll test a couple of things out....

I want to do is improve my technical sewing skills and I think the trick is having the right equipment. So, I'm investing in some sewing gadgets. One of them is the Adjustable Bias Binding Presser Foot. My bias binding skills suck, so anything has to help. Plus I want to make this pattern, it needs 5 meters of binding and I want it to look well finished.

Here's what I learned in trying to use this new foot:-
- I don't think I could have worked it out myself, so the video I stumbled on below really helped

- adjustments can be made for the binding width and stitch position - very nifty
- once these adjustments are made, it's pretty straight forward to use
- this is the second test attempt on sample. I'm pleased with it as it's a small binding and very fiddly to do otherwise

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Collecting stuff

Unable to get my hands on fabric or a machine during our travels, I have resorted to collecting stuff for my stash. Not entirely productive but fun none the less.

I have haunted Op-Shops, markets and all manner of second hand, vintage and antique stores (much to the confusion of my better half). While I'd collected small things that have taken my fancy, I don't entirely know what to do with them....yet. My favourite places have been Maleny, Queensland (great for second hand books and organic linen) and Bellingen, NSW a beautiful town with fantastic vintage stores and cafes.

Here's a sample of some of the "electric" collected stuff...the good news is we should be home soon and I can get to "work".
1950's vintage "Babes in the Wood"

1950's vintage "Babes in the Wood"

1940"s illustration 

The cutest fabric

Potential cocktail ring perhaps

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Join Sew Indigo on Facebook and Twitter

I'm exploring the brave new world of social media. You can follow Sew Indigo on Facebook) or find me on Twitter (@SewIndigo). You'll find my blogs posts on Facebook together with other interesting (I hope) tidbits, links, photos and information.

I'm new to this and it should be fun. Join me!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Designing Woman

One of my favourite "vintage" movie for the costumes is the Lauren Bacall and Gregory Peck film called "Designing Woman". It's about a sports writer and designer who marry quickly only to discover they don't have much in common.

Not a great film as such but the costumes designed by Helen Rose are stunning, and worn to great effect by the statuesque Ms Bacall. Helen Rose also designed for a number of other movies including High Society and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. More about those movie costumes at another time. You can read a great biography on Helen Rose here. In the meantime enjoy the elegant Ms Bacall and Ms Rose's costumes...
Great suit with matching beret
love those sheer sleeve and high waisted skirt
The Look
The Silhouette

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The pattern that started it all

I've love patterns, maps, recipes - they are always inspirational and filled with so much potential for clothes, travel and food.

Last year I started collecting vintage patterns and I confess it's has become a more than a little obsessive. It drives my better half spare! Here's the pattern that started it all. A Vogue Couturier Design by Ronald Paterson #100 from 1958. It has a barrel shaped skirt and overlapping released pleats at the right side of the front, joining the bodice at the waistline. there are released asymmetrical pleats at the douche front below a square neckline. The sleeves are three quarter length or short. I just love the elegance of the look. It probably has something to do with the model and her impossibly tiny waist (again!)

I've finally got myself a copy - obsessions pay off sometimes! Again no sense it this - it takes meters and meters of fabric plus petticoats. Being a Couturier Design I expect the pattern making to be challenging to say the least. Plus where would I wear it? Too the local shop perhaps? Ah well.....

It did prompt me to learn something about Ronald Paterson though. He was born in Scotland on 1917, trained in Paris and worked in London. He opened his Couture house in 1947, it closed in 1968 and gained a reputation for masterfully tailored clothes. Here's a couple of other examples of his designs. Very chic!

Does anyone else share my madness I wonder?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Weekend at the Waldorf

Since my last post on the fabulous Edith Head evening gown from Rear Window, look what I found in a recent collection from here. A modern tribute to the Edith Head design, I think?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Grace Kelly Rear Window gown

Grace Kelly always looked amazing in her films and her costumes were beautiful. In Alfed Hitchcock's Rear Window she plays the girl friend of a wheel chair bound photographer with a broken leg who is spying on his neighbours to pass the time, only to become convinced that one of his neighbours has killed his wife.

In the opening scene, Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) makes an entrance wearing a black and white evening gown. The dress is three quarters length and incorporates a black V neck, slightly off the shoulder top and full white skirt with black beading. Hitchcock wanted this dress was to emphasise the character's love of fashion and social status. The designer was Edith Head.
Design by Edith Head for black and white gown 
In the design drawing you can get a better sense of the design of the beading of delicate floral branches. I love the simple elegance of this dress and the drama of the black and white. By the way, Edith Head's drawing was sold at auction in Nov 2010 for around $13,000!

Monday, June 27, 2011

A word about Madame Weigel

With all the well known international patterns of Vogue, McCall and Butterick etc, it's surprising to know that there were local pattern makers in Australia. One of note was Johanna Wilhelmine (Madame) Weigel, who settled in Victoria while travelling on her honeymoon from New York with her husband Oscar. They started a fashion and pattern making business in 1877 which grew to an Australian and New Zealand wide business. Johanna background at McCalls (as a cutter) and Oscars engineering background provided them with the essential skills for the pattern making business.

They started monthly subscription journal, Weigel's Journal of Fashion, in 1880 which was claimed to be the first fashion magazine designed, published and printed in Australia. The impact of her patterns and journal was said to be considerable especially in country areas. They introduced the fashions of London, Paris and New York to Australia and made it possible for people with modest sewing skills and income to make fashionable clothing. They revolutionised the appearance of Australian's, especially women and children, enabling them to make attractive garments and affordable prices.

As her patterns can still be found in various places, they are made all the more interesting by the history of the Weigels and their contribution to fashion in Australia.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Those nipped in waists of the 50s

Having watched my fair share of Mad Men while at sea and prompted by Jane's comment on my last post, I thought I would share some information I read on shapes and sizing in the 50s and 60s here in a newsletter.

In the 50s, the industry standard for measurements was a 10in (25cm) difference between the bust and waist. Which means if your bust is 36in, your waist measurement is 26in - hmmm, not so for women these days I think. In the 50s, girls as young as 15 started wearing girdles or waist cinchers (not shapewear - not enough support) so their waists were trained into shape - comfy!
Girdle front - source-
Girdle back -source-
Also longline bras would also help smooth out the bust to waist area.
Long line bra - source-
So if the shapes looked impossibly smooth and the waists impossible small, they were and helped by some serious undergarments.
By the 1960s, women were moving away from wearing girdles at all times and styles moved away to a more relaxed waistline. Empire line, straight shift dress and looser styles in general, slowly reflecting the changes in times and attitudes.

I don't know about you but I love the glamour of the 50s and the wearability of the 60s.

Also further to my last post on slip dresses, the VFG also has a great post on Slips. I'll update my last post with this link also.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Slip dresses

When I think of slips, I think of Elizabeth Taylor in the silk slips in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) and Butterfield 8 (1960). In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof she plays the neglected wife of Paul Newman in the Tennessee Williams play. She looked stunning in a white slip in one scene.

She won an Oscar for playing Gloria in Butterfield 8 in 1960, playing a model come call girl who has an affair with a married socialite. Once again, stunning in a slip.
The slip became popular as outerwear, and copied by designers such as John Galliano, who even dressed Princess Diana in a slip dress. 

If you're a fan of this delicate and sexy look, you can reproduce it with lingerie patterns from the 1950s and 60s like this one.....
The Vintage Fashion Guild also has a nice article on slips which you can read here. 

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