Vintage Sewing

Free pattern for a Claire McCardell-inspired midcentury wrap

By on December 30, 2014


Hi everyone, just wanted to let you know that a free downloadable pattern for this Claire McCardell-inspired midcentury wrap is available now on The link is this post from my blog, which also includes instructions on how to make an asymmetrical version like this:


Or a longer Megan from Mad Men “Boho Poncho” version. Lots of info on sewing knits!

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1940s | 1950s | Dresses | Spadea | Vintage Sewing

Claire McCardell Dress from a 50s Spadea Pattern

By on December 10, 2014

This fall, I used a rare early 50s Claire McCardell pattern, released by Spadea, to create a copy of an original McCardell dress:

Janet in McCardell


There’s a version of this same dress in the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institutes’ online collection.

The dress was made from New Zealand merino wool jersey bought at The Fabric Store in L.A. I chose wool jersey because Claire McCardell popularized dresses in that fabric in the U.S. during the 30s and 40s.


Attaching piping

The dress is very wide, and gathered at the neckline. The front of the underbust is gathered, and 15 feet of self-fabric cording is attached to it, to be used to gather the waistline. McCardell created the concept for this adjustable design in the late 30s, when it became known at the “nada” dress.




I made this dress for my sister to wear while she was speaking at a “Dance and Fashion” event at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology last month, where one of the subjects was Claire McCardell. She even gave me a shoutout during the Q & A! Here’s more information about the making of the dress:

Janet at FIT


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50s Reverse Bolero by Edith Head

By on October 4, 2014

Edith Head Bolero


I just finished this reverse bolero, from a 50s pattern by Oscar-winning costume designer Edith Head, in time to wear it to an event at the Motion Picture Academy’s “Hollywood Costume” exhibit.


Here’s the pattern I used:

Edith Head Pattern








I made it from raw silk, and lined it with rayon challis. The rolled neckline was very tricky to figure out:

Bolero Neckline







I used vintage Bakelite buttons to fasten the back.

Edith Head Bolero Back






You can find more construction details on my blog:

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Vintage Sewing

Charles James Skirt and Claire McCardell Wrap

By on June 1, 2014

In honor of the Charles James exhibit “now playing” at the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute in NYC, I made a Charles James skirt from a 1950s mail order pattern.

As you can see from the side view, the skirt wraps forward from the back, and the waistband starts low in the back and arcs up in the front. It’s a very elegant design. I’m wearing it with a wool jersey shrug from a 1951 pattern by Claire McCardell.
The multicolored top is made of vintage 50s wool challis, lined with silk crepe de chine. It’s made from a “frankenpattern” of a 60s “crushed boatneck” design that I created. Details are on my blog

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Vintage Sewing

60s “Crushed” Bateau-neck top

By on February 23, 2014

Hi everyone, this winter I’ve been working on a 60s bateau-neck top with a pleat in the shoulder seam, making it a “crushed” bateau. It has a very Mad Men feel to it!
I made it from Italian wool from Janssens et Janssen in Paris, and lined it with silk crepe de chine.

Crushed Bateau-neck top

I used a “frankenpattern” I created from three different patterns, a 60s dress, a current Vogue, and a 50s Lutterloh. You can find details about how I made the muslin on my blog,, how I made the frankenpattern muslin.

The top has French darts in the front, waist and shoulder darts in the back, and two darts at the elbow. The here’s a picture of the dart in the shoulder seam that gives the neckline the crushed drape:

The wool was very soft and stretchy, so not all that easy to work with, but in the end it became beautiful top! You can find construction details on my blog: Making the crushed bateau-neck top.

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Vintage Sewing

60s-style Chanel Jacket

By on January 16, 2014
60s-style Chanel Jacket

60s-style Chanel Jacket
60s-style Chanel Jacket

This is a 60s-style Chanel quilted jacket that I made by modifying a Simplicity “Retro” pattern (2154). I made it using the traditional Chanel construction methods outlined by Susan Khalje and Claire Shaeffer, in that I quilted the lining pieces to the exterior fashion fabric pieces, and then sewed the jacket together largely by hand. You can see the details in my blog post, entitled: \"Blood, Sweat, and Tears\".

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1960s | Mail Order Patterns | Spadea | Vintage Sewing

1962 Jacket from Authentic Chanel Pattern

By on January 6, 2014
Jacket made from Chanel Pattern

I made this jacket using a pattern released in 1962 by the Spadea company. From my research, it appears to be the only officially licensed Chanel jacket pattern ever released, and it was drafted directly from a retail Chanel jacket, that was sold in the US by the Suzy Perette company. I loved the 60s boxy look, and the extremely thorough instructions, which made constructing the collar and welt pockets a breeze. You can check out details at on my blog,

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