Saturday, May 28, 2011

Vintage Dress: late 1930's to early 1940's

Dating vintage dresses can be fun, with so many clues to find hidden in the dress. The vintage dress shown here dates from the late 1930's through early 1940's. It is of black crepe, cut with a skirt that has 10 gores sewn to the hip yoke. This fanciful design was lost when WWII rations controlled skirt yardage. In addition, it has 2 metal zippers by Talon: one at the back neckline, and the other in the left side seam. These are typical locations for zippers during that era. The metal zippers would become unavailable during the war years, so we can assume this dress was made prior to 1942.

The photos below give some close-up views showing the details of both bodice and skirt. These details can help when trying to create reproductions. They also provide inspiration when designing modern fashions with a hint of vintage.

The bodice bows are set on very small pockets where the yoke meets the crepe bodice. The striped yoke and sleeves are made from 1/4" wide strips of the crepe fabric, sewn to a sheer black backing.

The skirt has 3 gores in back and 7 in front. The hip yoke is cut in one with the center gore, creating a "T" shaped panel. The length is original to the dress, with an inch deep hem. There are signs of belt loops at each side seam.

Bodice shirring in 5 rows creates gathers at the waistline. These provide the fit without darts because the entire bodice is cut on the bias.

bustline = 42" around
waistline = 33" around
hipline = 40" around
bodice length = 17" from shoulder, over bust to waistline
skirt length = 27" from waistline to hem at side seam
sleeve length = 5" at side seam
sleeve width = 12" around at cuff
hem line circumference = 84" around

Available at PintuckStyle on Etsy

Sewing Retro Sun Dresses: 1930s and 1940s Vintage Styles

retro sewing

It is easy to sew a retro style sun dress. Vintage styles are sometimes hidden in modern patterns. Using contemporary commercial patterns has a few advantages: availability, fit, cost. For anyone who loves the 1930's and 1940's look, true vintage from that era can be fragile, valuable and difficult to fit. With some cute reproduction cotton prints, it's now possible to re-create similar styles to those sewn up and worn during the 30's and 40's.

These sundress patterns have a 40's vibe, with the simple cut and soft skirt. At first glance, these may seem to be alot like dresses from the 1950's. Probably the biggest difference between 1940's and 1950's sundress patterns are the softer skirts and shorter lengths in the 40's. The knee length skirts look better with the wedgie sandals worn then.

In revising these current patterns it's possible to get a cute retro look. The first style is ready to go, just shorten it to knee length. The center view could be made more retro looking with a simple white collar or adding bow where the little 'V' notch is in front. The third view has a 1930's vibe, with the higher waistline and flared skirt. By choosing a hem length appropriate to the time, you will have a sweet sun dress so like the ones you see in vintage movies.

Fabric selection is a breeze with the great reproduction cotton prints for sale. Although produced for quilts, these fabrics are very similar to the affordable cottons women used in that earlier era. Quilting cottons are also a great fabric for new sewists because they don't slip, stretch or act funny. Pre-wash any cotton fabric a few times to be sure it has shrunk before you cut out your pattern.

Trims such as contrast bias tape, bigger sized buttons and patch pockets are design features that can be added to really make these simple dresses unique and very retro. Try these trims and you will notice how vintage your dress can look.

Sun Dresses:
Simplicity 2174 - Princess seamline dress with pockets
Simplicity 3827 - Raised waistline with 'V' neckline
Vogue 8725 - Sweetheart neckline with halter neck tie

Nearly all of these vintage style cotton prints are from WINDHAM FABRICS 1930's and 1940's collection of cottons.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

1930's Vintage Fashion: Turn Around to See the Back View

1930 dress
1930's dress
1930's fashion
1930 vintage fashion

Fashion during the 1930's was cut with diagonal bias seams to be smooth and slinky. The back view of a dress was often its best feature. These illustrations are from an old scrap book of mine, so I can't give you the exact dates, however most are from the early half of this decade. These fashion illustrations are just a peek into the wide range of back views seen during that time.

If you are dating a vintage dress that seems to be from this era, check out the back, that may help determine what decade it is from even more than the front view. And if you are going to sew for summer, why not consider adding some back interest to your project, that could make it something special.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Helen Rose

Helen Rose
Helen Rose has been in the news lately, with her stunning wedding gown for Princess Grace being so influential. Helen Rose was known for her softly feminine designs, and this is one that captivates her style. It is a weightless silk chiffon made with impeccable workmanship. The very modest bodice and sleeves are given drama with a swirling, soft pleated skirt. The design accent is a wrapped chiffon sash in scarlet, brown, and the self beige color. It's genius for the subtle red 'pop' toned down with the chocolate. Who would think of that color combination today? Yet it works perfectly.

Label:"Robinson's, California", a Southern California department store.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sewing Retro: Vintage Shirt and Blouses

sewing retro
Wearing true vintage fashion can be difficult. Sometimes they just seem too costumey, and not casual enough for real life. Fit and availability are other issues. These problems can be solved nicely by sewing your own vintage looks. But this project can present another problem: where to find vintage styled patterns and fabric?
A good place to start are casual shirts with a 1950's or early 60's design style sewn up in fabrics that seem very vintage in look. Shirts and blouses fit easily into our modern lives, while capturing the essence of vintage fashion. They are also some of the easiest fashion sewing projects, and can be a great way to start sewing for yourself.

retro fabric
Button front blouses with a fitted silhouette are available from several of the big pattern companies. Keeping the fit close to the body provides the retro silhouette you want. Slim sleeves, worn short or long are classic. Note the details: collar shape and button fronts.
The best fit for a curvey body shape are the long princess seam lines that will make up a slender style. These are also easier to alter.
For more design details, the Vogue7003 blouse has several front darts, with is such a vintage look. This style also comes with French cuffs.

retro fabric
Selecting the right printed fabric comes next. Three of the most popular themes are nature (top), pictorial (middle) and graphic (bottom). The 'all over' prints are easiest to lay out, since you won't need to match anything. These prints are a good choice when sewing a princess seam line style. The horizontal motifs in the bottom set are best in patterns that have simple bodice darts and only the center front needs to be aligned.

So, consider making a blouse for summer (no sleeves, now that's easy!).

All of the retro style fabrics shown here are from BonBonAtelier on Etsy.

Blouse Patterns:
VOGUE 7903

Monday, May 2, 2011

Royal Wedding Gown: Vintage Inspirations

1950's wedding gowns1950's Wedding Gowns are a source of inspiration for current trends in wedding styles. The royal wedding gown showed this with its lovely lace jacket worn over a classic sweet heart neckline, strapless gown. Most reviews point out the connection between the Grace Kelly gown with its own lace bodice, but a review of current vintage gowns for sale on shows many versions of this style.

Sewing patterns are perfect if you want to create your own version of a lace bodice. You'll notice that many have higher necklines, prim and proper for the bride in 1950! The handmade gown could use a modern sewing pattern for the strapless dress, but a vintage pattern for the lace over-bodice. By using both, a well fit style is possible for a modern figure who may not fit the tiny 1950 waistline.

1950's wedding gowns, lace bodiceIf the bride wants to re-capture a true vintage look, there's nothing like a gown from that era. Shown here are some of the many lace bodice gowns available on Etsy. Necklines can vary from high to a wide cut with lace edging, as most have here. These are so flattering because they widen the shoulder line, making the waistline appear more narrow. This creates the perfect hour glass silhouette.

Not getting married this summer? Well, wouldn't it be fun to use this inspiration to sew up a summer cocktail dress with matching lace jacket? Another more easy option would be to make a black lace jacket to wear over an existing little black dress that you already own. Those long black lace sleeves would be gorgeous!

(See better details: Click on slides to see them in full size)