1940s | Vintage Sewing

1941 Bathrobe

By on February 16, 2015

For better or for worse, so much of my vintage sewing tends to be for plays – I work in theatre and my husband and I do a lot of community theatre, so I end up doing a lot of costume pieces for myself… which then work their way into my personal wardrobe. 🙂

This time around I’m playing Edith in Noel Coward’s Blithe Sprit, who comes out at the end of the play in a nightgown and bathrobe.  She’s the housemaid – so nothing too fancy – but I definitely wanted something that looked distinctively 1940’s.  I chose this sweet 1941 housecoat/dress pattern from EvaDress, partially because it was so sweet looking and partially because I wouldn’t have to do too much modification in sizing.

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The pattern calls for the dress/housecoat to be joined at the CF and zip up – I decided to finish off the CF edges and leave it open, like a bathrobe.  Because of that, I didn’t insert the sash into the waist as shown – I made that separate.  The only other modification was lengthening the sleeves (in the photos they still need to be hemmed) and leaving off the trim, other than on the pockets.

Due to fabric constraints I wasn’t able to pattern-match the plaids on the CF and SF pieces – I’m (mostly!) okay with that. 🙂  I love the swoop of the skirt and how nicely it fits – much more feminine than a modern bathrobe pattern!  Made out of lovely heather grey wool plaid flannel, with one pretty pink stripe in the tartan.  I used vintage pink rick-rack for trim.

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1940s | Dresses

Vintage Vogue 2569 – A 1943 Wool Dress

By on December 4, 2014

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Although I’ve worked in theatre for years, I’ve recently started acting – and when you do community theatre, you are often asked to scrounge up your own costumes for shows.  Especially when the director knows that you are a costume designer professionally. 🙂  So when my husband and I were cast in a local production of ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, I got busy!

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Although we’re setting the play in the later 40’s, this 1943 Vintage Vogue pattern really jumped out at me as being perfect for the character of ‘Shellhammer’ – a Macy’s department store employee.  I THOUGHT I was going to have to do a lot of drafting the pattern up (based on the size chart on the back of the pattern), and since the pattern is out of print I couldn’t just go out and buy the next set of sizes.  But knowing that there’s a lot of ease in these things, I decided to just cut the largest size and do a toile, to see what happened.

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Glad I did the toile – because the dress ended up actually almost fitting perfectly, straight out of the box (so to speak).  I had to take in the shoulders a touch (I always have to), nip in the waist (my waist to hip ratio is above average), and raise the bodice seams a touch – but otherwise, perfect.

I’ve been VERY pleased with the pattern – it’s not an easy one, but the directions are excellent.  If you follow step by step, and do exactly what they tell you to do (even if you’re scratching your head while you do it), it all falls into place beautifully.  I decided to under stitch the bodice detailing rather than topstitching it – but that’s the only thing that changed.  Lots of vintage sewing techniques – pattern pieces topstitched on top of other pieces.  It’s more like building a dress than sewing it together!

Done in a lovely tweedy brown wool.

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More photos in my blog, here!

 

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1910s

‘Happiness’ – 1916 Tea Dress. Well, INSPIRED by Happiness… :)

By on January 20, 2013

Well, it’s not an exact reproduction – but it’s definitely inspired by Happiness!

This was constructed for the character of Cinderella in a local production of ‘Into the Woods’.  Rather than go traditional Renaissance-esque fairy tale, I decided to set my upper classes in a vaguely Edwardian/Victorian look.  I’ve always LOVED the Lucile ‘Happiness’ dress, designed by Lady Duff-Gordon, and thought it would make a great “ball gown” for Cinderella.

Done in silver silk duiponi with applied gold lace, old-gold embroidered polyester, sheer gold net lace, and gold Venise lace trim.  Lavender silk duiponi for the cummerbund. The silver skirt and net bodice are removable, so the gold underdress can be used for a cute little 50’s-esque dress by itself.  If I can get my pinking sheers to work, I’d like to add a layer of self-fabric pleated trim around the silver skirt to give it a little more texture – but my pinking shears are just eating through the silk.  Don’t know if it’s because they’re crappy pinking shears (probably) or if they just don’t like the silk.

The net was surprisingly easy to work with, and I was super glad I had enough that I could make good use of the scalloped edge for the front of the bodice.

 

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1910s

Entering the Edwardian…

By on January 15, 2013

One of the schools I work for is doing a production of JB Priestly’s ‘An Inspector Calls’ in February, and our stock of Edwardian fashion is… non-existent.  Since the cast is small, we decided to build the women’s dresses – which means two evening dresses and a maid’s outfit.  Exciting!

This week, I’ve been working on the toile for Sheila, the daughter – the unbleached muslin will be a heavy peachy-pink satin.  The light blue is a sheer pink chiffon, and the white is the pink chiffon with a lace net overlay:

 

Looks simple, right?  Well, let’s break it down.  That white overlay will hook directly to the dress.  Let’s take that off:

One that is unhooked, then we need to unhook the overskirt (the blue, here – it will be a sheer chiffon on the actual dress:

The front bodice panel will open like so, to reveal an underbodice which closes with hooks and eyes.  The skirt has a center front opening which will close flush with snaps, which the overskirt hides.

That’s an awful lot of closures!  For such simple looking little dresses, these Edwardian frocks are complicated to get in and out of!

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1930s | Skirts

Dresses: not just the sum of their parts!

By on May 27, 2012

Now that we have our first summer show up and running, I get to concentrate on the second summer show – which goes into first dress rehearsal tomorrow!  Yikes!

The same actress who wore this dress will be in play #2, in a smaller role.  She’s playing a tightly-wound British secretary – I envisioned her in a tweedy skirt and white blouse.  The problem: my actress is allergic to wool!

I found this fabric at JoAnn’s – 100% acrylic, but it “reads” as wool.  I needed to turn the skirt around fast, and didn’t have time to futz around with toiles or new patterns.  So – I grabbed the skirt pattern from McCall’s 7345, and made it into a standalone skirt.  It worked like a charm!

I bet the top would make a super cute blouse, too…. Hmmm…..

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1930s

Vintage Vogue 2761 – Polka Dot Realness!

By on May 24, 2012

Well, our play opens tonight – which means that all of my toiles have been turned into garments, and everything is fit and ready to go!  Now I get to play catchup and post some fun things.

This dress ended up being my absolute favorite – the combination of the dress design and the fabric made it the perfect little 1930’s day dress.  My post about the toile is here – here’s the finished product!

A few notes: the dress was done using a combination of vintage techniques, theatre techniques, and modern sewing techniques.  A colleague showed me a super easy way to do machine rolled hems on chiffon last year, so the sleeves are machine hemmed.  The skirt is hand-hemmed using hem tape (I love hem tape!).  All internal pieces are serged around the edges and then stitched, for durability and to give us the option to alter at a later date for another production.

Unfortunately, the pleats at the front and back don’t show up well in the chiffon – but it’s still super cute!

More images at my blog!

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1930s

McCall’s 7345 – almost there!

By on May 19, 2012

Earlier this month, I posted the first of the toiles I made up for our upcoming production of ‘Fallen Angels’ – an adorable little mid-30′s dress, made using a vintage pattern.  Remember? 

Well, since then we had an initial fitting on the actress – there were some modifications that had to be made, which wasn’t surprising.  The original pattern was quite a bit smaller than the actress (not uncommon for vintage patterns), so I had to grade it up a fair amount.  Today was the final fitting – and it’s going to look great on stage!  All that’s left is the final hem – marked here with safety pins.  The fabric is a printed silk broadcloth – buttery soft and so easy to work with.  The drape of the skirt when it’s on a real person is amazing!

More photos on my blog!

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