Tag Archives: project

1920s Dress with Some Issues

I didn’t need this dress. I bought it anyway. First of all, it is a really great dress. Secondly, it has some problems and I felt sorry for it. And finally, it was cheap. I just couldn’t leave it to become someone’s Halloween costume, and then be throughly trashed.

So, I brought it home. The truth is, I was in search of some wintertime projects. This one should occupy me through a few cold and snowy days.

I need to add that this is a really great dress. The asymmetrical chiffon layers are just stunning with the applied trim ovals. It’s a great balance of what the 1920s were all about – a straight (or boyish) silhouette with a touch of romance. I was hoping the dress would have a label, but sorry to say, there isn’t one.

Most of the problems are with the upper bodice. As you can see, the shoulders are pretty much gone. This dress is very light, but even a mostly chiffon 1920s dress with suffer in the shoulders if left to hang. That’s what’s going on here.

You might can tell that there are two layers of chiffon, one black and the other beige. Both will need to be replaced.

There are a few other little issues, like this small hole in the drape, and a rent on the bottom flounce. But ninety percent of the work will be to the upper bodice.

Note that there is an appendage on the right (your left) hip. I’m thinking of using it to replace the upper bodice. Will I be ruining the balance of the dress?

Another problem with the bodice is this lace. It seems to be there for a bit of modesty, as the sheer part of the bodice is quite low. At first I thought the lace was a later addition.

You can see that the stitching holding the lace in place is definitely not original to the dress. I was feeling all smug about thinking the lace was an afterthought until I spotted something else.

This is a bit of the lace where it was originally stitched to the bodice, and then cut away.

The lace is actually very nice, with that metallic thread over-embroidery. So after replacing the chiffon, I’ll reattach the lace in the original place.

After all this work, I’ll not be keeping this dress. This is a dress that needs to be seen, and it is definitely strong enough to wear. It doesn’t fit into my collection, and as pretty as this one is, most museums already have plenty of unlabeled black dinner dresses. The lack of provenance would make it difficult to fit into a history museum collection. So it will be sold, hopefully to someone who will cherish it and who will look marvelous in it.


Filed under Sewing, Uncategorized, Vintage Clothing

Sewing project – New Look 6100

It’s rare that I sew using a current pattern, but after searching all spring and summer for a shorts pattern I liked, I caved in to the new after spotting this New Look pattern on A Sewing Life.  I had a bit of a problem finding it locally, as it is at least a year old, but the fifth store I looked in did have the pattern in stock.  It is also available online.

I made view A, but without the cuffs.  I’m pretty short and just don’t need a horizontal line across the top of my knees.  That was the only adjustment I made as far as the cutting was concerned.  I made them just a touch longer to give more of a hem.  As far as the sizing went, the shorts fit as cut.

I really like the wider waistband, that sits just under the natural waist.  There is a side zipper, and the pockets are a must for me.

I really am the world’s slowest sewer.  Anyone who knows what they are doing should be able to make these in an afternoon, but it took me three of them.  Part of it is that I just like the process of sewing, so I take my time.  But I also decided to bind all the seams because my fabric wanted to unravel.


I’m not sure about the topstitching around the pockets.  There was supposed to be topstitching around the top and bottom of the waistband, but I decided to not do it.

I know a lot of women are not comfortable wearing shorts, especially women of my age, which is 58.  I believe one should wear what she feels good in, and in the summer in the South, that means shorts for casual occasions.  At 58 my legs are no longer perfect, but neither are my arms and my face, and I don’t cover them up.  Well, at least not completely!

I’m in the process of reviewing a new book , which is a kind of new agey guide to finding one’s fashion look.  It’s not the sort of thing that I’m usually attracted to, but the basic premise behind the book – knowing who you truly are and letting that guide your fashion choices – has a lot of merit.  More to come when the book is released.


Filed under Sewing

Beach Blanket Novelty Print X 2

I adore a great novelty print, especially one with a travel or a vacation theme, so this beach blanket print was right up my alley.  It was a tiny piece, maybe a fourth of a yard, and I’ve had it a long time – so long that I can’t remember where I found it.  Several years ago I used most of it to make a beach tote.

The tote is made from blue chambray  and the pockets are the beach print, trimmed with red dotted binding and blue rick-rack.  The interior is lined with a flowered bit of feedsack, with chambray pockets.

Last week I was stumbling around etsy, when I found this:

I know I don’t have to say how much I love this shirt.  It is in the shop,  WitchBabyKitsch, and the owner very kindly let me show off her photos here.  If it were my size, I’d have bought it already.

Finds like this remind us that most of the vintage items we encounter were massed-produced  and often you’ll see the same print used by different companies, or even yard goods matching manufactured garments.   I’ve even seen matching garment and fabric advertised together.

I love seeing prints that I have in a different colorway.  Now I’ll have to keep my eyes open for other versions of this print.  How about yellow and turquoise?

Finally, the label.  What could be more perfect than a Made in California label?

Shirt photos copyright WitchBabyKitsch.  Do not copy or Pin.

Did you notice my attempt at watermarking?


Filed under Novelty Prints

1970s Up-Cycled Shirt

Up-cycling is a 2000s term, but the concept behind the term is not.  Taking old clothes and turning them into something new or decorated goes way back, even further than the 1970s.  But like so many young crafters on etsy and 10 thousand DIY bloggers who think they invented the idea of re-using a garment, we girls of the 1960s and 70s thought we discovered recycling and crafting.

I usually don’t buy other people’s craft projects, but the shirt above is the quintessential 1970s crafted garment.  It is actually a man’s shirt – a navy issue chambray work shirt.  It’s very possible that it came from an army-navy store, one of the chief suppliers of clothing for all of us who were protesting the Vietnam War.  I actually have a similar shirt, but in denim, that I embroidered flowers and butterflies and such onto in 1972.

Don’t you just love how the stem goes through the hole?  What is that hole for, anyway?

There are even more appliqued flowers on the back, along with a speckled butterfly.

Nothing like a little eyelet edging to add a feminine touch!


Filed under Collecting, Sewing, Vintage Clothing

From Shawl to Scarf

If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that I’m not a fan of mindless “up-cycling.”  I didn’t arrive at that opinion quickly or lightly.  I’m a child of the 60s and 70s, and those of my generation thought we invented the re-crafting of old clothes.  Of course that was not true, no more than the DIYers of today invented the idea.

No, as long as there have been textiles, people have taken the old and tried to make it new.  Collectors of old clothes often come across garments that are reincarnations of an older item.  One favored material for such up-dating was the paisley shawl.

Shawls were popular during the age of the crinoline, the mid 1800s.  They were huge and rectangular in shape, and were used as a warm wrap over the voluminous dresses.   The very best ones were quite expensive.   After skirts began to shrink, so did the shawls.  Eventually, they became passe’.  But that did not mean that people discarded them.

I’ve seen many garments dating from the Edwardian era and the 1920s made from paisley shawls.  Many of them were cut into jackets and into robes.  Smaller pieces became handbags.  Here is an example form the 1890s.

Click to enlarge. From Handbags, by Anna Johnson

Even today, shawls are being made into new items.  A few years back, slipper-maker Stubbs and Wootton did a paisley slipper made from old shawls.

Several years ago I found what had once been a robe made from paisley.  It was missing an arm and most of one side, but the price was right – 50 cents if my memory is correct – and I knew that eventually I’d use it for something.  It was in such terrible shape that this was one piece that could be remade without guilt.  A few weeks ago it occurred to me that it would make a lovely scarf.

In order to get a good length, I had to piece the fabric.  I arranged and cut, and then resewed the paisley.

Then I had several larger holes to deal with.  I used a patch, but I’m not entirely happy with the results.  I may take off the patches and go with embroidery around each hole.

Finally, I backed the paisley with a length of black wool flannel.

To see more paisley, visit Brenna Barks’ blog, where Monica Murgia has written about an exhibition at the Allentown Art Museum.


Filed under Sewing

McCall’s 4494: Claire McCardell Play Set

And here, as promised is the end result of my latest vintage sewing project.   The pattern dates to 1958, the last year of McCardell’s life.  It looks like a playsuit, but this is actually two pieces – shorts and halter.

In approaching this project, I wanted to make the pieces as close to actual McCardell garments as possible.  I started by rereading Claire McCardell: Redefining Modernism by Kohle Yohannan and Nancy Nolf.  Then I went on a web search for images of garments that would be similar to the pieces I’d be making.  McCardell is very well represented in many museum collections, and thanks to the idea of the on-line gallery, I was able to locate not only two play sets that are similar to mine, but I was also able to closely study the details on these sets and other McCardell garments.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art site turned out to be the most useful, due to multiple photographs of garments of interest.  I first found a halter and skirt that looked interesting:

copyright Metropolitan Museum of Art

When I went to the Met site, I was pleased to find that this set also included a top and pleated shorts.  It dates to 1944, and was donated to the Met’s Costume Institute by McCardell in 1949.

Those lucky people at the Met have another set, this one with a one-piece playsuit and matching jacket and skirt.  It dates to 1943.

copyright Metropolitan Museum of Art

I wrote about how McCardell kept using ideas that worked, and these two designs along with my pattern is a great example of that design philosophy.  The structure of the shorts is basically the same in my pattern as what she used fifteen years prior, as is the shape of my halter and the 1943 design.

So what were the McCardellisms that I used in making these pieces?  First was my choice of fabric.  I wanted to use a cotton with some texture so that the bias cut would be obvious.  I also wanted to use a dark solid which would contrast nicely with the top-stitching.

In both of the play sets I found McCardell used white buttons.  I decided to go with another typical McCardell design feature, that of using metal buttons.  She loved the look of brass and often used brass hooks and buttons.

I liked the way the buttons were sewn on in a cross, and so I used that to attach my buttons as well. The red is the lining of the halter.  I like the way the red barely peeps out at the edges.

I took this photo before I finished the waist closing, but I changed the pattern which had a square button tab, to the arrow shaped one.  Yes, I did copy that feature from the two skirts and the shorts in the Met collection.

Sorry about the lack of a live model, but I’ll try to get some shots of me wearing it next month when we are at the beach.

As a side note:  I finally have found a constructive use for Pinterest.  That site was just as good at providing photos of McCardell garments as Google images, and there weren’t any random photos of this, that and the other thing.



Filed under Sewing

Butterick 3126

Well, I’ve got a new sewing project to share.  Seems like I always gravitate toward those 1970s Butterick Young Designers, and this time was no exception.  I was looking for a fairly straightforward shirtdress, and this pattern from Daniel Hechter fit the bill.

As with so many designs from the 70s, the collar looked huge in the drawing, so when I cut the piece, I made it considerably smaller.  Still, after stitching up the thing, I still thought it was just too large.  If you are a sewer, you know that at that point, the thing to do is to take the collar off and recut it.  But after removing the collar, with the band still attached, I decided that I liked the look of the dress with just a collarband.

Too big…

so a whole new look.

And here is the finished product.   I didn’t make the self-belt.  They always come off as looking too matchy-matchy for my taste.  And I have about a dozen belts and scarves that will work nicely at the waist.  When I think of chambray, I automatically think of red accessories, but what other color would make this look a little fresher?


Filed under Sewing