Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Teach Yourself to Sew with Vintage Style Patterns


Learning to sew own your own can be fun when you work with patterns that fit your level of sewing skills. If you love vintage and retro styles, then carefully selecting vintage patterns can help to create new ‘vintage style’ looks. But authentic vintage pattern may be difficult to find in the right size, and often they need some alterations for a more modern fit.

Probably the easiest true vintage pattern group to look for are Simplicity sewing patterns from the 1960's forward with a "How to Sew" banner. These patterns have instructions that show details on sewing specific techniques. Often they were designed to be used in traditional home ec. classrooms, so the styles have few pattern pieces and involve simple or entry level sewing techniques.


Starting with a new pattern that is a modern copy of a vintage pattern is a short cut to getting that retro look you want to sew. Learning to sew means that the styles you choose shouldn’t be difficult for someone with beginning sewing skills. The blouses shown above are excellent examples of styles that have easy to sew design elements and limited techniques required.

If you want to sew a blouse or dress with buttons and button holes, prepare by doing some research in sewing books or online so that you understand how buttonholes are located. You may need to consult your sewing machine manual to learn how your machine settings can make those buttonholes for you.


I feature here two styles that have short kimono sleeves, making the bodices easier to sew since set-in sleeves are not required. The patterns in this post are just a small selection of retro or vintage style sewing patterns currently available through the major pattern companies. These patterns were selected for their very basic level of design, limited pattern pieces, simple darts, facings and ease of fit. Using vintage prints or stripes, cute retro styles are possible using these sewing patterns. Some of the patterns do require an entry level skill in fitting, so be sure if you are very new to sewing that you select a style with a looser fit.


Even dresses are possible, just seek out styles that have few pieces and can be easily fit to your size if that is required. Usually dresses have zippers, so that technique may be your main challenge in sewing a dress.

When looking further at sewing patterns, read the list below so that you have a good idea what sewing projects may be at your skill level. You might want to avoid the more advanced level projects, since those techniques or design elements may be too difficult to sew right now.

Level ONE: You are a new sewist, and need patterns that aren’t difficult or complicated. Look for:

Few pattern pieces
Loose fit “A” line shapes on dress or skirt
2 dart front: side seam darts or French darts
Sleeveles and collarless blouses or bodices
Wrap skirts (no zipper)
No waistband on skirt
Back zipper (no side or underarm zippers), with one side overlap (not centered)
Patch pockets
Fabrics that are stable, smooth and easy to cut, sew and press, such as light weight quilting cottons, woven stripes and plaids in cotton.

Level TWO: You have started sewing fashions and are ready to try some patterns that are a bit more difficult. You are ready for some of the more easy challenges in fitting patterns too. Look for:

Sheath dress: a more fitted one piece dress with 2 or 4 darts in front, 2 darts in back
Princess seamline dress: more fitted one piece dress with shaped vertical seamlines from underarm to hem, both front and back
Fitted bodice with darts in front (not tight fitting)
Fitted bodice with princess seamlines in front (not tight fitting)
Plain sleeves (no cuffs)
Sleeves with gathered shoulder or puff sleeves
Waistband on skirt
Side seam pocket
Loose pajama pants or elastic waist pants
Collar sewn in a dress neckline
Men’s bowling or Hawaiian style shirt (small collar, no back yoke, short sleeves)
Invisible zipper: hard to understand, easy to sew
Fabrics: add soft cottons or rayons to your selection, also consider embroidered fabrics and border prints

Level THREE: If you have been sewing for awhile, then projects that require good sewing techniques, fabric control and fitting are nice to work on. Look for:

Close fitting one piece dress with darts or princess seamlines
Close fitting bodice with 4 darts in front or princess seamlines, has skirt sewn to bodice at waistline
Collar on blouse, convertible collar
Straight skirt, fitted with darts or princess seam lines
Dress with a waistline seam
Buttons and buttonholes
Pants with waistband or yoke, back or size zipper
Fabrics: wool flannel, velvet and velveteen and denim have the level difficulty that would be good to try sewing

Level FOUR: These projects are for the sewist who is ready to sew just about any style. Fitting and complicated techniques in sewing should be great for this skill level

Sleeves with cuffs
Men’s style shirt collars
Men’s style shirt with back yoke
Fly Front zippers on pant or skirt
Side zipper on dress with sleeves
Fitted bodices such as corsets and formal wear.
Difficult fabrics that might be slippery, thick or hard to work with.

In my next post, I'll go over a few sewing resources to help you problem solve and learn new techniques.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Vintage Batik in 80s Styles: Fashion Inspiration


As the fabrics and styles of vintage 1980's fashion filter into current trends, some of the best looks today are from 80's design labels. Topping this summer's trends in both textiles and design are tropical batiks, indigos and tie dye. Simple wrapped sarongs and loose garments were seen then, much as they are today. This is a great look for anyone who sells vintage or wears it.


Boho gypsy looks with exotic accessories can be adapted into any wardrobe, age or size. It's about adding a bit of drama with a far away look.


As a vintage shopper or seller, look for:

TEXTILES: 1980's cottons, silks and rayons with unique indigo, batik and tie dye textile designs. Don't overlook embroidery and applique as well.

SILHOUETTES: Look for anything that wraps, drapes or is over-sized. For most, shoulder pads are 'out' so you may need to remove that detail.

LABELS: Joan Vass, Giordio Sant'Angelo, Armani, Kenzo, Zoran, Ellen Tracy, North Beach Leather, Issey Miyake, Anne Klein, and Donna Karan all produced styles that had this boho-gypsy look.


photos: Wayne Maser Spring 1986 "Vogue"

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Summer Sarongs: Vintage Styles with a Tropical Tiki Look


RESERVED for mrandmrssparkle...
$250

1950s ALFRED SHAHEEN // Fish...
$375

1950s Dress / 50s Sarong Dre...
$475

Vintage 80s Does 50s Hawaiia...
$94

Peggy Wood late 1940's H...
$225

50s Hawaiian Sarong DRESS / ...
$325

Shaheen Style Hawaiian Tie S...
$82

Vintage 40s 50s Hawaiian KAM...
$1200

CHEEKY TIKI-Bold and Vibrant...
$295

Vintage 1940s 1950s McInerny...
$180

50s Hawaiian Sarong DRESS / ...
$225

Vintage 1950s Dress / 60s Ha...
$118

1950's Dress // Hawaiian...
$275

Vintage 50's Betty Higgi...
$339

1950's Vintage Polished ...
$165

1950s Vintage Green Hawaiian...
$250
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This is the perfect time of the year to shop for vintage sarongs. Whether you love the exotic originals by Alfred Shaheen or the many other Hawaiian fashion labels, you are sure to see some amazing textile prints and dramatic draped silhouettes.

This collection of vintage sarongs shows current styles now listed on Etsy. I had a great time looking through the listings for this type of dress. Along the way it also exposed me to some great vintage vendors who have other gorgeous items listed, so feel free to click on the photos to see a dress up close and visit some wonderful vintage shops too.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Anne Fogarty: New Start for a Vintage Fashion Label


The 'Anne Forgarty' label has long been a fashion find for vintage collectors. Always well made, distinctive and feminine, her designs captured the look for many women over the span of decades between WWII and the late 1970's.

More recently, this brand has been making news and co-founders have been preparing to revive this label in the style that it assumed during its height. Greg Halvorsen first contacted me to get my comments on the historical label. He has kept in contact with many of us who sell vintage or write about it online. Ivana Lo Stimolo, the other co-founder, has designed a set of debut dresses for this revival.

In the current fashion, these new dresses will be available via a Kickstarter pledge campaign that has a 30 day run only this month (June 2014). The Kickstarter site has a nice video and shows photos of each dress, so you can now see what design direction this new company is heading in, HERE.

While I feel that these new designs are lovely, and would be delighted to own and wear any one of them, as a fashion educator, I also would have liked the Kickstarter proposal to discuss the business aspect of this undertaking, so I am left with some valid questions: Who is the targget customer and where will she find this label for sale? What are the retail price points for the collection once it is developed each season? How many designs per season will the company ideally produce? Where will these be produced (off shore or in the US?).

So, my hats off to Halvorsen and Stimolo for venturing in the the fashion arena with a collection that more than hints of vintage quality and style. I hope your venture grows into a solid, dependable brand that we will love to wear.

While waiting for this collection to arrive, look for wonderful vintage items on Etsy under the "Anne Fogarty" vintage label.



Anne Fogarty, c. late 1960's, Cotton Pique




Anne Taylor, c. 1950's, Black Wool Crepe with Embroidery in Black

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Advanced Style: the Film We Are All Waiting For

While it seems that "Advanced Style", the documentary film on a group of wild and crazy New York ladies, has hit the UK by storm.  here in the states we are still waiting for our turn to see it. A spin off from the blog by the same name, this documentary lets us get up close and personal with a few well known women with distinct fashion styles who are portrayed in the blog.


This longer trailer gives us a taste of the film, and I think most will want to sit down and get to know these seven New Yorkers better. The film's website has all of the usual details about the documentary, and a quick Google search leads to many other links of the subject.

If this topic seems familiar, maybe it's because a very similar film was released in the UK last year, "Fabulous Fashionistas" . That film interviewed six British women with very individual fashion styles as well.

Both films show personalities that are engaging, inventive and dramatic. This makes for interesting blogs, interviews and films. But what about the aging woman in general? Is this setting up a yardstick for an aging generation to behave wildly and with dramatic flare, or be shunned and ridiculed for becoming the inevitable "old lady"?

While I love hearing from these women, it's certainly not how I now look, or will ever dress. If younger generations only value the aging eccentric woman from outside of the norm, are women who choose to behave and dress with more restraint putting themselves in a position of being viewed as 'boring' and 'out of touch' with the mainstream of life?

What I would like to see next are maturing women who are creative, intelligent and wise, but who are not wildly eccentric or off-beat.  These are the roll models I value more.  Where is the film (or blog) that follows aging women like that?  Women with age who have even more to offer now than they did when youth was all that mattered.

Many thanks to "Aunt Peaches" for the tipping me off to this film.

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