Saturday, August 31, 2013

Zig Zag Neckline: 1950's Little Black Dress as Inspiration

The little black dress shown here has all of the details we look for in a vintage cocktail dress, along with a rather astonishing zig-zag neckline. This look is a real show stopper, don't you think? When everyone else is in a Jackie O copy, here is a real designer look.

Sometimes the conservative early years of the 1960s could turn out a wild fashion look. This Mad Men era black cocktail dress from the very late 50s or early 60s is a great example of the creativity that could exist within the confines of a classic silhouette: the sheath dress. The simple label is from "Mr. Ray fo California". This is a designer that I haven't found any biography of business information on. It's just another California label produced during this era.

If you want your own little black dress as a fashion sewing project, I think that this idea could be carried out using a sheath style dress pattern. With careful planning in the muslin stage so that each point is in the right location, this faced neckline is not so difficult to sew. The version here is off the shoulders, but it could be set on a wide neckline instead. If that off shoulder effect was desired, a raglan sleeve or shoulder would work the best in this look. There are many 80s sewing patterns with "off the shoulder" styles that could be used instead.

The vintage dress shown here is from "French Laundry Co." on Etsy.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Downton Abbey Wedding Gowns: on exhibit at the FIDM museum, Los Angeles

The two 1920s era flapper wedding gowns from Downton Abbey are now on display at the FIDM gallery in Los Angeles. They are part of a larger exhibit on television costumes from various current shows, but we found the Downton Abbey costumes to be the most interesting.

This exhibit is an opportunity to settle once and for all, which wedding gown is the best. We could take a really close look, since the gowns are only a few feet away. It was great to see the soft hip drape, flowing drapery and subtle decorative details we could barely take in when they were worn during the last season as designed by costumer Caroline McCall. The two other gowns shown in this photo are also on display, along with many others worn by various characters in this series.

Seeing these flapper styles got us hungry for more, and to our delight, the adjacent historical gallery is currently showing part of the Helen Larson collection, and features a group of amazing 1920s beaded chemise evening gowns.

The dresses shown here are the real thing (not costumes), with a few Chanel designs to validate the set. Included in the full outfits shown on display forms are seamed stockings and exquisite leather shoes. This little gem of an exhibit is one of the best costume shows up now in southern California. It's something any vintage fashion junkie should not miss. You'll find this gallery hidden down a hall off to the side from the television costume show.


What: “The Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design”, 120+ costumes from more than 15 television shows from the current season

Also Featuring: Behind the Candelabra, Game of Thrones, Girls, House of Cards, Nashville, Scandal, Parks and Recreation.

Beaded Dressess: Gatsby’s Women: 1920s Evening Dress from The Helen Larson Historic Fashion Collection

Where: Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) Museum & Galleries, Los Angeles

When: 10am–5pm, Tuesday through Saturday, through October 19, 2013, admission is free
PS: When you are there, be sure to visit the FIDM outlet store that carries donated fabric, accessories and fashions. We found some great pieces of fabric there to use later in some sewing projects.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Dior's New Look: Retro Style Sewing Patterns

Isn't this fun! Butterick 5962 is a Dior New Look inspired pattern that is designed by Gertie at "Blog for Better Sewing". and it's really a charmer. As you can see here, like the original jacket, Butterick 5962 has an extreme hourglass fit with the darts and flared peplum hips. This is going to be a cute jacket to sew up in a variety of textiles, from wool worsted to silk shantung. The retro-style circle skirt shown with this jacket makes up the perfect New Look ensemble, for Fall 2013.

Two more vintage inspired looks are also available at Butterick. You can see that these dresses have lots of great retro-style details. The black checked sheath (Butterick 5953) with black 'wing' detail is also by Gertie. The shirred 40's look dress (Butterick 5961) would be gorgeous in a super drapey fabric like jersey or crepe. With either, it would be possible to re-capture a vintage look in your own fit and color scheme for something special this fall.



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Monday, August 19, 2013

Lanz Swimsuit from the 1960's: A Closer Look

This cute pink cotton swim suit by Lanz Originals is from the early 1960's. It has several features that help to create the fitted silhouette. It was cut with a bodice that has princess seamlines. Each has been boned to help the bodice stay in place. The front buttons are faux, since there is a metal zipper in the back.

The bottom shorts also have princess seamlines (in the back) that help to shape the fit. These are cut with darts in the front. Because cotton shorts can't be cut to fit skin tight like a knit, there are simple cotton bloomers as lining (for modesty).

California fashion with the Lanz brand was a high end junior label that was most popular in the post WWII era through the late 1960's. The company was mostly a dress line known for its simple silhouettes in Swiss cotton prints that were accented by trims such as ric-rack, piping, bows, velvet ribbon and rows of tiny buttons (most often covered to match). Their sportswear tended to carry over the dress quality into sport garments like this swimsuit.

The details seen in this swimsuit are identical to the dresses that this label produced, including the tiny buttons, piped seamlines and the pastel cotton mini-print. It is likely that a white cotton shirt was included as a coverup.

This dress maker style of swimwear was popular throughout the 1940's, 50's and early 60's when many suits were made from woven cotton fabrics. This swim suit is fully lined in white cotton, which will prevent 'show through' while swimming, and keep the seam lines from unraveling later. The fitted and boned bodice would keep the figure looking fashonably trim as well, whether wet or dry.

Here are some views that show the details more clearly.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

1920s Flapper: Face powder & Traveling in Style

Flapper on vacation! Traveling this month? This mid-1920's advertisement for face powder captures the luxury of travel on the great ocean liners, or even a ferry boat. The ad states, "In all countries and in all climes- on land and on sea--Bourgois" This is Java face powder by A. Bourjois & Co., New York and Paris.

Traveling in style, her outfit has classic details: deep buttoned cuffs, high buttoned collar and a low slung cloche style hat with a bit of her bob peeking below the brim. Wrapped up against the ocean breeze, only her nose needs a bit of powder.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Menswear and Dandys: 19th century Tailored Suits as Inspiration

Tailored menswear from the 19th and early 20th centuries, is back in the public eye. The current dandy inspired revival may have developed in response to the Steam Punk trend and a few recent feature films that were costumed in 1800's silhouettes. It appears that traditional men's tailoring and accessories are having the biggest interest since the dandies of the 1960's.

One contribution this season is the exhibition at Rhode Island School of Design: "Artist/Rebel/Dandy: Men of Fashion" on view now through Sunday, August 18, 2013. The grandfather of contemporary men's tailoring, Beau Brummell (1778–1840), is a key figure in this trend. When I think of Brummell's style, I am reminded of another important exhibition "Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700 - 1915" presented at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the spring of 2009.

The photos posted here are of men's tailoring dating from this era, taken by me at the LACMA exhibit. The exhibition's selection was inspiring and it details what men wore then, and how those items were worn. This was an opportunity to study both the full silhouette and the closer view. Of equal importance are the accessories: hat, shirt, neck wear, shoes, stocking, gloves and cane. I have labeled each type of jacket so that the subtle differences in cut are made more obvious.

If you haven't seen the film "Beau Brummell: This Charming Man", you will want to watch the dressing scenes and see his layered wardrobe. This film gives us an inside view into how the excessively ornate apparel style of European gentlemen was changed forever to the more subtle dark tailored wools in the English tradition by Beau Brummell.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Rosie the Riveter: Vintage Inspiration

I love the 1940's working girl styles that are being revived: bib-front overalls, side button wide leg pants, little shirts with button fronts, and head scarves. These WWII style coveralls are a cute way to look casual and vintage.

It could be the success of "Land Girls", the BBC series that has been such fun to watch that started the trend. Or maybe it's just the overall popularity of the 1930's and 40's that has opened up a new fashion look.

A few bloggers have been instrumental in showing us how these women dressed. "Unsung Sewing Patterns" has a great feature on women's work wear. This blog is full of inspiring work clothes and other styles from the past, not just fashion trends, so explore it to find more great details in apparel. Another great blog, "The Vintage Traveler" has regular features on workwear and sporting apparel. This article on overalls has great images and information on how women have worn denim and sportswear in the past.

If all of this has gotten you wanting to try a sewing up your own denim overalls, you might want to start with this new vintage inspired sewing pattern over at Eva Dress Patterns. It's got alot of cute details like side buttons and a full bodice upper body (not a bib front).

There are some great photos from the WWII era from the Library of Congress showing women working in the aircraft factories. These show us clearly how these women coped with dressing for the job. One well known image shows a worker in yellow coveralls with button sides at work. It's an inspiring photo on many levels. A quick bit of research will also bring up the one-piece coveralls worn by women. The Library of Congress set of photos has images of these as well.

If you are a difficult fit and want to sew your own overalls, try starting with a pants pattern that has a natural waistline, then adding either a bib front or full-body bodice to the pant waistband. In researching old photos, it is easy to notice that the crotch seems deeper or lower than how we wear pants today. This type of fit allows for more movement and reach. A tighter pant can be restrictive when attached to a bodice.

Here are a few easy to find sewing patterns that can be 'hacked' into this WWII overall look. I found pants with a true waist and princess bodices that could make up the bodice. You will have to add the side button (or zip), pockets and shoulder straps. I would suggest making up the entire pant with waistband first, then sewing the completed bodice to that waistband after a fitting, that way it can be adjusted to be the most comfortable to wear.

Bodice (from dress patterns): Simplicity 8864, Kwik Sew 3783, and McCall's 6646

Pants/Trousers (with true waistband): Vogue, 2532 view C, Kwik Sew 3363

The image here is an Etsy 'treasury' that I composed from Etsy items. If you like any, just click on the image and it will take you to that listing (have fun)