Vintage Sewing

Sewing Resolutions 2013

January 8, 2013

The only kind of New Year’s resolutions I make are sewing resolutions, because those are the only ones worth keeping.  I’m not talking about grand sweeping statements like “I’m not going to buy any more fabric” or “No more vintage patterns! I mean it!” because those are utterly silly and will be broken by the third week of January anyway. But I have some goals that I think will help me grow and stretch in the coming year.

1. Actually wear my vintage dresses sometimes. I have this amazing me-made wardrobe (and about fifteen pairs of wonderful shoes) and yet all I ever wear are jeans, T shirts, and the same ratty sneakers I’ve owned since 2008. My dresses only get to come out and play for church on Sundays, and that’s 3 hours out of 168. Can you ladies give me some pointers on integrating my vintage wardrobe into my everyday life?

2. (Not really a sewing resolution but) Acquire some really nice crinoline petticoats to replace this cheap scratchy made-in-China thing I’ve been wearing. I’m drooling over Malco Modes, which come in a rainbow of delicious colors and several different lengths.

3. Use something beyond quilting-weight novelty cottons. Yes, I love me a good novelty print as you may have noticed. But my stash also includes: red lightweight wool suiting; red faille with a vintage-Hawaiian-postcard print; 100% linen ($2/yard on clearance) with a wonderful 50s-inspired barkcloth print; some actual vintage fabrics in pristine condition, and probably other thhigs I’ve forgotten. And speaking of which:

4. Make something out of silk. I actually have not one, but two lengths of gorgeous silk dupioni (one lipstick red and one shocking pink) that I’ve been stashing for ‘someday.’ But I don’t think ‘someday’ is going to come if I sit around and wait for it – time to grab the bull by the horns, so to speak. The corollary to this resolution: Get my husband to take me somewhere where I can wear a silk vintage gown.

5. Sew this pattern:

It was a gift from my mother, and a more perfect dress for Joni you couldn’t hope to find, but I am having a dickens of a time finding the right fabric. I had a cotton/linen blend at one point but it wasn’t right so I sent it back (bless you and your generous return policy). I usually use Kona for this sort of thing but I don’t know. Maybe a nice sateen? And what color?

6. Be mindful in adding vintage patterns to my stash. I own enough patterns at this point that I’ve got all the basics covered… no, I do NOT need yet another early-Sixties shirtwaist pattern! Anything new that I bring home needs to have a new and interesting design element, like an asymmetrical pocket flap or a portrait collar or bows. Note: Any pattern  under $5 is exempt from this ruling.

7. (Probably the most difficult one of all) Stop being afraid of my figure. Have you noticed that most things I sew for myself are full-skirted shirtwaists? There’s a reason for that, and that reason is my giant hips. 🙁 But Christina Hendricks is hippy too, and she looks AMAZING in all those fitted dresses they put her in on Mad Men. It probably wouldn’t kill me to don a wiggle dress or a pencil skirt once in a while – I think my husband actually like it a lot!

Fellow sewists, what are your Sewing Resolutions 2013?

  1. oh you’ve mentioned so many things ive promised myself .I bought some 50’s patterns that i have to size up.As for wearing them more we have to remember this was daily wear for women then.
    Thanks for the heads up on scratchy petticoats!

  2. When I decided last year that I would stop wearing jeans and t-shirts, the first thing I did was get rid of most of my jeans. I still have two pairs, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I wore either of them– if I can get through this winter without feeling like it’s too cold for skirts and tights, then I’ll donate those jeans, too. Mostly, though, I simply started wearing the durn skirts! I figured that, as a stay-at-home Mom, I might not have any real reason to dress up, but I also don’t really have any reason *not * to dress up, so why not have fun? True, I still wear t- shirts with the skirts, but that’s mostly because I don’t have/haven’t made that many buttoned shirts… yet… And I do want to make more dresses!
    I don’t have any real petticoats yet (what I do have are things I’ve seen myself– gotta love that ruffler…), but I know that Jillian Ventners, of Gothic Charm School, uses square dance petticoats (‘though she prefers several at a time.). For some reason, I have ReSashay in my browser history, but I suppose a normal person would check eBay *grin*
    I used to avoid sheath skirts, too, until I realized that those kinds of skirts *need* hips to look right!

    1. I’m currently a SAHM too, and separates are a great suggestion! In fact, you’ve inspired me to haul out a length of fabric previously earmarked for a dress [novelty quilting cotton, don’t judge] and it’s now being turned into a Forties-style blouse. Part of me is mourning the dress that will not be but the other part of me knows any hypothetical dress wouldn’t have been sewn until 2015 at the soonest anyway!

  3. I’m not sure if this will be helpful or will lead you astray, but here goes:

    1) Just do it. My question is: Why aren’t you wearing vintage more? Figure that out and you’ll figure out how to fix it. Are your vintage/newly-sewn-from-vintage-pattern dresses not in line with your daily life? Maybe you need more casual housedresses, or vintage-y pants, or whatever. What do you do on a daily basis, and what kind of vintage clothing would suit it? Right now, I need both housedresses, because on weekends I wear the same elastic-waist skirt all the time, and office dresses, because my office wardrobe is tired skirts and turtlenecks. They cover my nakedness, yes, but they’re not really doing much for my mood or my self-image.

    3) I’m a quilting cotton girl myself but, yes, I’m at a point where I’m going to have to branch out. So . . . no advice here but at least you know we’re in the same boat?

    5) SEW THAT PATTERN! That pattern ROCKS! Maybe go to a good fabric store and browse until you find something you like, or that you almost like so at least you have a better idea of what you need to look for?

    6) I go through waves of mindfulness and, well, mindlessness. I hope to sew a lot of what I have, but, realistically, I could dress myself for the rest of my life on my pattern collection as it stands. However, some of my patterns are there as collector’s items because they are too weird or too outlandish or too whatever to really be sewn and worn. The 1940’s ladies’ one-piece playsuit comes to mind: I refuse to wear anything that requires me to disrobe completely to, um, powder my nose. That, at it looks positively infantile.

    7) I have to say: Learning to sew and fit things to myself did absolute wonders for my body image. I have big hips and even bigger thighs, and finding commercial clothes that fit has reduced me to tears for years. Pants? Forget it. If the waist fits, I can only pull them up to my knees. If I can pull them up, the waist is six inches too big. Jeans haven’t actually fit me since the wide-leg era, circa 1995. Being able to take stuff in here, lengthen bodices there, let hips out, etc., has allowed me to stop fighting with my clothes. You’ll find that a lot of things that “don’t work” on your figure in fact do work if they fit you properly.

    1. LittleBlackCar, I really should print out your entire post and frame it and hang it on my sewing room wall. Especially Part One. I’ve been trying to adjust my lifestyle to fit my wardrobe [which isn’t a bad idea in general but it’s causing me frustration!] when what I *should* be doing is fitting my wardrobe to my lifestyle. Maybe I don’t need any more full skirted shirtwaists until I’ve sewn some separates and some practical housedresses!

    2. 5) Sew That pattern!
      YES! It’s quintessentially 50s gorgeous, and I wouldn’t hesitate, were I you. I can see it made up in a light- to-mid-weight linen, or even a cotton chambray. For a muslin, that would be my first choice; a medium weight cotton with contrasting warp and weft colors; charming and authentic. Of course, it will require a full slip to be correct for the time.

      BTW, I’m old enough to remember my Grandma sewing for me in the 50s, and have been sewing and passionately interested in fashion since I was 5.

  4. I agree with Andrea that separates are a really helpful way to get vintage into your everyday life. They’re easier to get in and out of, and you don’t have to commit to a top-to-toe vintage look.

    As for The Pattern, it really is fab and yes, please step away from the quilting cotton! In the period that would have been made up in something with a bit more body and a better drape than quilting cotton: shantung (silk or blend), tropical wool, that heavy rayon faille that’s so hard to find nowadays. Consider a middleweight twill, usually considered a “bottom weight” but entirely appropriate for a somewhat structured but still drapey dress like this. Or for summer, a crisp cotton pique, or a heavier-than-shirt-weight linen.

  5. I want to make some petticoats this year too, it’s the one thing I’m badly in need of!

    I agree with the others on wearing separates as a good way to introduce the vintage styles to your everyday wear. If you live in jeans and tshirts, just swap out the styles. Go for a vintage style trouser pattern: I’ve made up Simplicity 3688 (the reprint) as jeans, adding side pockets and big turn up cuffs, and love them for wearing about the house. Simplicity 2645 also makes up nicely as sailor-style trousers with buttons placed in 2 rows over the front pleats.

    I’m very pear-shaped myself with wide hips and heavy thighs, and I love wearing pencil skirts, so don’t be afraid of them! I do find that a straight shape can sometimes be more flattering, rather than one where it nips back in towards the hemline.

    As for that pattern, DO IT! It’s beautiful! But definitely step away from the quilting cottons. A dress like that needs a fabric with a bit of body. A lightweight denim or a chambray would make a beautiful everyday wear dress.

  6. I can relate! I too have a closet full of dresses I’ve sewn, (in quilting cotton too except for one flannel sheath dress), and I rarely wear them. I will wear one on date night with my husband, but he’s a trucker, so that’s not often.

    One of my problems is that I live in an adorable little logging town in Oregon, it looks just like a 50s postcard…… except everyone wears jeans and hoodies, (camouflage no less, ick!). So my usual outfit of jeans and a nice sweater makes me stand out, I think a dress would have people thinking I’m crazier then I really am, lol.

      1. That’s what I thought too when I heard ‘Oregon logging town.’ Solanah of Vixen Vintage does this look quite a bit – complete with victory rolls – and it looks absolutely smashing while being quite wearable.

  7. pencil skirts are made for hips and don’t look right without them.I wear my vintage style dresses out for any reason,they make me feel pretty and together
    (of course I’ve also worn out victorian underpinnings,just to test for comfort)

  8. I never wear any kind of pant – I find them too uncomfortable. OK, I do put them on occasionally for dirty jobs. I prefer to wear dresses – they are so easy to put on – just add a sweater or cardigan and you’re done. Thick tights in winter and slips keep you warm. Be brave – once you start wearing your dresses, it will become second nature. Yes, people think I’m a bit odd but give me a dress any day over separates.

  9. Hmm sewing resolutions, what I novel idea. I will have to do this, it actually sounds fun. I pretty much live in vintage dresses, many of which are made of quilting cotton. I went through the same things and I think the way to stop feeling self conscious is to ease into it. Try wearing a vintage dress with modern everything else (hair, shoes, jewelry) to start, that way you don’t feel like you are wearing a costume. Once you start wearing the dresses and the compliments start rolling in I don’t think you will ever go back to jeans.

  10. I can relate to everything you said! I too was mad for novelty quilting fabrics then I realised you get a lighter and crisper finish and better drape with cotton poplins, and voiles for a lighter feel. I also buy kona dimensions from (as used by Heartbreaker repro), just wish it came in more colours. I too became addicted to shirtwaister patterns, but I keeping finding better ones than the ones I started with! Don’t worry good vintage patterns willl retain their value and you can always sell them if you have too many double-ups. As to where to wear everything? I started at fifties fairs, vintage markets and rock’n’roll dances and any vintagey events where you see the same people who are ‘known’ faces. I then learnt to copy their style as to how to wear vintage casually, as many of the frocks can be overdressed for everyday. I am going to make some capri pants and fifties blouses. I have also started to wear my genuine vintage frocks as well as repro and homemade at mainstream events but it’s harder as modern suburban people don’t ‘get it’ but you will get compliments because you look better than everyone else! The trick is to not look like “dressups” but wear something that is appropriate and flattering for its own sake, something that is timeless (and in good condition so you don’t look like you got it from a thrift store). Ditto to what Tassie said. You want to look stylish, not eccentric. Recently I wore a vintage 50s dress with genuine 50s earrings and wicker handbag and only one of the women commented on my shirtdress, and was surprised to learn that it was so old! Women are too busy competing with each other to wear the latest fads but I can assure you men will notice your outfit because you will look better than the rest! Just have the courage to do it and you won’t regret it! Enjoy!

  11. I forgot to mention petticoats – I have a couple of the ones by Hell Bunny, they are a very soft frilly concoction that don’t scratch and don’t snag on your hose. You just fluff them up, don’t need ironing, come in lots of colours, and two different lengths.

  12. 1. To clear my work table after every project.
    2. To keep up with my repairs & hand sewing.
    3. To complete half of the Historical Sewing Fortnightly challenge. That’s 13 historical items in ’13.
    4. To use stash as much as possible.

  13. I thought of some more,
    5. To finish items properly & not be tempted to wear them unfinished as I never go back & get the job done.
    6. Cull the crap from my wardrobe & make some classic pieces that work together. A couple of work appropriate dresses. A few blouses & skirts. A pair of pants & the 1950’s suit jacket that scares me senseless.
    That should keep me busy!

  14. Joni,

    You have really made me think about some resolutions that I really need to take seriously this year. I was thinking about your pattern and was just watching an old Doris Day movie on AMC. You really should consider a fabric with more weight, by doing so you could use this dress as a semi-formal dress for an evening out with your husband. I’m not sure about your coloring but it would look fabulous in a deep eggplant. BTW which version are you going to make? I couldn’t find a picture of back of this pattern but does it suggest an specific type of fabric?


  15. I know what you mean. There was a time when I first started getting serious about vintage where I had 7 or 8 beautiful dresses from the 1950s- all very expensive but all very beautiful and the keyword…..DELICATE. I was too scared to wear them because I’m a klutz when it comes to the food+ clothing equation! I hated that these clothes would survive 50+ years and I would have it for 5 minutes and get a stain on it! So I started buying cheap vintage from the 60s and 70s that cost a fraction of the price of my vintage dresses. I can wear these everyday and even throw some of the 70s stuff in the ‘normal’ washing! What I’m trying to suggest, is maybe start wearing more simpler vintage before jumping in to the sometimes ‘theatrical’ feel of 50s vintage and back. As when I wear my 50s vintage ( which I LOVE doing btw ) I can’t simply put on a dress. You need the Petticoats, the shoes, the make-up, the right underwear and the hair( which means for me, a day ahead planning in a wet set). It can feel a bit much for everyday living.

    I love that McCalls pattern! Can’t wait to see it made!

  16. Actually wearing your vintage and mindfully adding patterns are also my top sewing resolutions. As I glance at all the patterns on Etsy and Ebay, I keep thinking that I can take a pattern I already have and use that unusual design element to create it without having to get yet another pattern. That should please the husband too! 🙂

  17. I’m so glad you’re sharing your sewing resolutions, I have similar goals.. but I’m yet to blog them!

    Love to read other WSR sewers comments too…

    What do I think?

    Wearing your beautiful clothes.. I got to the point where I just started wearing my clothes, experimenting with hair do’s, shoes etc at home (which is not as easy as it may seem with two littlees..) then I just wear my dresses, not too OTT with jewelry etc. for going to the library, supermarket shopping, whatever, I feel good, better than when I would if I was in pants and tops. It’s fun, most of the people I know, and in my community are jeans/sweatpants and baggy clothes wearers, so I do stand out a bit, at times, but I’d rather just feel good in my clothes. Life is short!

    And I do agree about making up some separates, I have some cool 60s pants (which are my house pants, for GnT’s in the arvos.) which I wear more and more (and I think I have the right style for my figure now – would you believe I also have hip ‘issues’? Like many of us!).

    Also, host or get into some fun parties, a good friend of mine who is now new to vintage sewing started hosting monthly high teas, I am hooked on cocktail parties, so.. you make the event happen, as low key or over the top as you like, pretty soon (I’ve found) friend’s start getting into dressing up once in a while. Perhaps this is ‘normalising’ our obsession! He he he.

    Petticoats? I have a couple of my nana’s old petticoats, which I love, but I need to fix the waistband etc.. and I need a longer one. I saw this great tutorial ( a while back, and I have mine cut and ready to sew, will share how it goes, it looks, honestly pretty easy! Give it a go, I’ve found some firm net (but not the standard drappy net) curtains at my mum’s and plan to try that, no cost, good way to test the pattern. Bought vintage or vintage style petticoats are quite pricey, here (in New Zealand) at least.

    Yes! Use those vintage fabrics! Oh well cared for vintage fabrics are to die for, I started with vintage fabrics, and I wish I’d done a wee bit more research first, find out the content, and find our how best they are cared for, say, will you need to hand wash every time, or can you make some little underarm dress protectors (from Gertie’s Book for Better Sewing) vintage fabrics tend to have a far better body (I’ve found) than some of the cotton fabrics you might have been using, I don’t like to use anything else now. You already know how to sew beautifully, so you’ll be fine 🙂

    Sewing vintage for myself has definitely healed some of those body image issues I have. Making clothes to fit me, rather than trying on clothes in the hope that my body fits the images I see in advertising and media around is far healthier, and actually possible. And I think the great thing about the sewing we do, the styles, colours and patterns are flattering and beautiful.

    Happy sewing 2013!

  18. My resolutions are a carbon copy of this list! I currently have four dresses worth of novelty cotton sitting in my stash. Do we need to start Novelty Cottons Anonymous?

    One big resolution I have is to not make another dress until I get a better bra. I am always amazed at just how important foundation garments are for a well fitting outfit.

    As far as wearing vintage goes, try wearing modern shoes, like a ballet flat or gladiator sandal flats with a cotton summer dress. A knitted cardigan would be good, too.

    You definitely need to make that McCalls pattern. I second the suggestion for deep eggplant. I also see this in deep royal blue. If you are wanting a spring or summer dress, maybe a frost green? I love it!

    1. My favorite bra EVER is the Bali Flower Bra (I got them for under $20 the last time Bare Necessities had a sale). I just LOVE how I look with Fifties-style pointy boobs.

  19. I absolutely agree about the Bali Flower (style 180 for those of you who are looking for it). Unfortunately, it doesn’t come in my size. I have a small band and (very) large cup.

    I also think a vintage bustline needs a fair amount of lift, which the currently fashionable underwire/molded cup does a bad job with.

    Way back in the Jurassic era, I was a bra fitter for a department store. This was my “go to” bra. I always put clients in this one first, because I could immediately diagnose their bra issues.

    Ladies, if you are looking for a vintage bustline that is pointy-but-not-too-much-so, this should be the first bra you try on. I hope they never discontinue it!

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