1980s | Buttons | Skirts

Simplicity 5454: The London Fog Skirt

By on January 16, 2013

Hi everyone! I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I’ve posted. Wow. In truth, this is the first vintage pattern I’ve sewn in quite a while. How odd is it to call a 1980s pattern “vintage”?!

Since I last posted, I moved back to my native New York (I was in Virginia last we spoke). These photos were taken on a particularly foggy afternoon.

Pattern: Simplicity 5454 Wrap Skirt (1982)
Size: 12
Fabric: Cotton/Linen Canvas by Echino (2.5 yards from Sew L.A.)
Notions: 4 gold flower buttons (from the Pasadena Flea Market)

I chose Simplicity 5454, a pattern from 1982 that I thrifted in North Carolina a year and a half ago. It’s a skirt that wraps in the back. I love that the skirt has pockets – in all these photos I’m actually holding my cell phone and my keys in each pocket!

The skirt was easy to make, and it includes darts for shaping at the front and back. I ended up shortening the skirt 4″ so it hit just above the knee rather than at mid-calf. The back edge and skirt hem are finished by creating mitered corners with a machine stitch finish. I usually hand sew my hems, but, dare I say, I like this finish!

I had exactly four of these buttons! When I lived in L.A. I had visited the HUGE Pasadena Flea Market every so often, and these were my first sewing-related purchase. Ah, fond memories. They were at a table watched over by an elderly lady who had a ton of random things for sale.

A view of the pockets. This is leftover fabric from my first skirt ever in 2009! I’m glad you can see the fabric (a Japanese print called “Tiny Flowers”) because I think it’s just really sweet and my other skirt is pre-blog. Doesn’t this skirt just scream springtime? A little early, but at the rate I sew I’ll be thankful it’s done now.

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1980s | Dresses | Shirts

Spring Projects

By on December 28, 2012

It is winter break for my district, which means loads of down time for me.  It may sound crazy, but I really don’t do well with too much time off.  I get bored and the cabin fever sets in.

To help quell my boredom, I am collecting spring clothing patterns and projects.  I have found a few so far on Merrick’s Art.  If you haven’t checked out the blog before, take a gander.  There are some great tutorials.

Here are a few that I found and am planning on trying.

Tunic Dress
http://www.merricksart.com
Doman Sleeve Top
http://www.merricksart.com

Both of these are super simple tops, made from knit cotton.  I can’t wait to give them a try.  I will let you guys know how they turn out!

Here area  few more links to projects I want to try.
http://www.merricksart.com/2012/06/easiest-pencil-skirt-youll-ever-make.html
http://www.merricksart.com/2012/03/jersey-pencil-skirt-tutorial.html
– Nikki
To see more, check out my blog at http://retro-phile.blogspot.com/

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1980s | Pattern Catalogs | Pattern Drafting | Vintage Sewing

Lutterloh find

By on September 30, 2012

 

I was browsing the local Goodwill in the craft section when I happened upon a box that caught my eye. I had heard about the Lutterloh system many years ago and had forgotten about it, but the box was intriguing. I looked inside and saw all the lovely illustrations for patterns but I didn’t know if I wanted to fool with it. I put it down, then picked it back up, what the heck, it was only $3.99. Well, I am glad I purchased it. I can’t wait to make some of the lovely items from the book. It is dated 1984, so it’s not that old but still somewhat retro,hmmmm? I have also been inspired by those of you who have made some great items from a Lutterloh pattern, thanks for sharing!

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1970s | 1980s | Mens | Shirts | Vintage Sewing

Vintage western shirt #2

By on September 3, 2012

Flowery vintage western shirt

This is the second time I have made this shirt for Mr Ooobop!, using Butterick 5007. The last one was quite literally a year ago. I added some contrasting detail this time. Under the collar, the inside collar stand, under side of pocket flaps and inside cuffs.

contrast red detail

I also added some bias trim on the hem to retain some length but I love how it has ended up defining the shirt-tails and adding some more popping red!

bound hem

I made a couple of adjustments namely to the chest, shoulders and sleeve length but the most time-consuming thing of all on this shirt was the topstitching and flat felled seams.

Defo worth the effort though! More info over at ooobop!

 

 

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1980s | Children | Dresses | Kids | Vintage Sewing

Grace’s first day of school dress

By on August 18, 2012

Grace’s first day of school was a few weeks ago, and, of course, I had to make her a new dress to start school in.  I had this pattern picked out a long time ago–  McCalls 8859 from 1983.  I made my standard changes to the pattern by cutting off the seam allowance around the neck and lengthening it to knee length.  It ended up a little longer than that, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s fine, because now there’s some growth room!  Gracie requested a “pink Pooh dress”, so this fabric was my only option.

 

  I made bows to match, too.  🙂 Grace is pleased as punch about being big enough for school and has been proclaiming how she’s a “Big-big kid now!”  Instead of the appliques, I tracked down vintage 90s Classic Pooh buttons and made simple “frogs” from pink cording.

 

 

 

Grace loves her dress, and it fits pretty well.  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a little surreal that I made a dress for Bit that my mom could have made for me! The piping is whipstitch piping I had in my stash from a grab bag I bought a while ago.

 

 

 

 

 

The pleats were different on this one–they have underlays in them, making the pleats a little different than average.  The buttons are actually Gracie’s favorite part!

 

 

I think the only improvement I could have made was to add pockets.

 

More on my blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1980s | Pants / Trousers | Sewing Machines | Vintage Sewing

Tablecloth Trousers – Simplicity 6443

By on August 9, 2012
These are my trousers, in which I am well pleased

(Click on the smaller images to access fullsize versions)

With everybody else raving about Simplicity 3688, I went to Simplicity 6433 and its ‘Fuss Free Fit’ for my first pair of ‘granny trousers’: it suddenly dawned on me that back in the 1980s trousers actually used to fit me right off the rail in addition to covering my navel (otherwise known as ‘not having my waist coming untucked all the time’!). So when I was trading my mother’s 1940s childhood dress patterns for a vintage style I could actually use, I asked for the cheap-as-chips 1980s trouser pattern to be thrown in… and back in February, I started work on making it up.

I assumed that as a complete trouser novice with very little fitting experience of any kind I was going to need that extra detailed sheet explaining alteration lines and guidance. But to my surprise, once the pattern arrived and I’d taken the stipulated measurements it seemed that I wasn’t going to have to make any changes at all. The only place where mr proportions didn’t already match the design size of the pattern was leg length, where I was a good two inches short – I blame it on the high heels in the photo….

Tailor's tacks and roughly embroidered pattern-piece labelling visible here as I insert a pocket into the right front...
Having learnt to sew largely on vintage unprinted patterns, I found myself at a bit of a loss as to how I was going to transfer the markings from a fully printed pattern onto a working copy without being able simply to draw around the edges! In the end I bought two large and expensive sheets of tracing paper from the local art shop and traced off the seam lines without seam allowance, so that I could just tack my markings round the edge of the pattern pieces: where tucks, darts and so on had to be marked I ended up cutting out holes as in a ‘normal’ unprinted pattern, in order to avoid weakening the tracing paper.

To make a toile I deployed a large circular orange tablecloth, somewhat faded and rather more stained than I had expected. It had been made in two halves sewn together with the selvedges down the middle, and I spent a lot of time unpicking the seam so that I could salvage the selvedges, but only one half was really usable in the end due to the stripes of sunlight-fading and the spill-marks on the other, evidently the side that had faced towards the window. Cutting pieces ‘double’ was impossible due to the difficulty of lining up the grain accurately on this circular material, let alone positioning around the various stains, so I was forced to go the couture route and pin everything multiple times. In fact I actually cut out one back leg on the ‘wrong’ side of the fabric by mistake – you’d never know the difference.

When my toile was finally tacked up I was astonished to find that it did indeed fit perfectly: no ‘smile’, no ‘frown’, no straining over my thighs, no trouble sitting down. Apparently in the 1980s I really was a “perfect 12”! And in fact the colour wasn’t nearly so obtrusive as I was expecting, so I decided simply to go ahead and stitch up the tablecloth trousers as my final project.

Jones CS Family machine (rear view)All the machine-sewing, including the topstitching on the belt carriers and pockets, was done on the 1916 vibrating-shuttle machine my great-grandmother had received as a wedding present (being manufactured in the middle of WW1, it bears the pointed legend “English Made” in the centre of the machine bed, in contrast to its German and American rivals!) Since this doesn’t have a reverse, let alone a zigzag, I had to elaborate on the pattern instructions a bit in order to ensure that all the internal seams had a proper enclosed seam finish, instead of just relying on zigzagging the edges.

All the interior seams have a smooth finish
The outer leg seams are flat-felled (on the inside, due to the constraints of enclosing the pocket edges in the same seam), as is the crotch, and the inner leg uses French seams. The pocket bags were made with very narrow French seams around the curve,and even the fly extensions had to have their raw edges trapped under the zip seams. To finish the hems I used my great-grandmother’s leftover bias binding in order to match the navy blue brass-toothed zip: the latter not a ‘vintage’ design choice, just the only secondhand seven-inch zipper I happened to have!

The button, an almost perfect match for the faded cloth and exactly the right size, came out of my Vast Vintage Box of Buttons.
Hand-cranked topstitching

Vintage packaging - who needs plastic?

This was my first attempt at using genuine buttonhole twist (also ‘vintage’) and also my first attempt at doing a ‘proper’ buttonhole with one square and one round end. From a functional point of view the thick thread created a perfect row of purls to guard the raw edge of the buttonhole, but in spite of all the care I tried to put into it the buttonhole still isn’t even, alas. Exquisite accuracy is just not my strong point.

The only change I made from the toile was to take up my usual swayback adjustment to account for my very arched back: I do wonder if I overdid this slightly as the tops of the pocket facing have a tendency to wrinkle slightly at the sides – but as this was for some reason the only unstayed area around the waistband it’s also possible that they stretched during the months of trying-on and picking up the project by its waistline.

Otherwise, these high-waisted, wide-legged (believe it or not, this was the tapered variant!) trousers are an ideal fit, and highly flattering. The front tucks in place of darts create the appearance of a flat front instead of a bulging abdomen: the shaping above the buttocks gives the illusion of lifting the rump, while the loose cut below conceals the remainder in a straight fall to the back of the knee, to give a ‘Humphrey Bogart effect’ (these trousers would be good for male impersonation!) – they even manage to make you look good when you bend over. My only grouse would be that the pockets came out a little shallower than I like, though they look capacious in the flat… an easy fix to make next time round.

And I’ve been told that there should definitely be a ‘next time’ – really good trouser patterns being like gold dust!

They're tight in the right places and loose in the right places...

...even bending over...

The obligatory silly cat-pic… can you spot the cat in the background of one of the earlier photos? I didn’t when I was taking it!

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1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s | Katherine's picks | Pants / Trousers

In Defense of: “Mom” Jeans, “Granny” Panties + “High” Waists

By on April 23, 2012
High Waisted Denim Love

“But you don’t want to wear MOM jeans, do you?”

Said my mom, to me, after a frustrating hour-long jeans try-on-a-thon at our local Old Navy. I had just rejected yet another pair of “classic-rise” jeans that weren’t even making a serious attempt at approaching my belly button (or covering the stretch marks), and I was about to cry.

My sole pair of halfway-decently-fitting jeans are falling down and falling apart, and I had searched high and low for a pair–just ONE pair–of jeans that might replace them, even if that meant trying out the skinny jeans trend.

Well, maybe I do want “Mom jeans” (minus the stonewashing and pleating, anyway). Because I’m sick of jeans labeled “high rise” resting five inches below my natural waist. What conspiracy decided that “modern” jeans should sit barely above the hips, requiring tunic-length shirts to awkwardly hide exposed bellies, and belted tops to emphasize a natural waist that could just as easily be emphasized by a well, waistband?

I am perfectly fine with my post-baby belly–stretch-marks and squish and all–because I couldn’t begrudge anything having to do with the birth of my amazing wonderful little girl. But that doesn’t mean I covet the muffin-top look, and I would much rather the emphasis be on my waist than my belly, thank you very much.

And as a vintage lover, I reject the idea that a low-waisted jean is inherently superior (though it certainly works awesomely for many, of course). Seriously, when and how DID this happen? If you look at any pants or skirt sewing patterns from the WHENEVER up to the 1980s, they pretty much rest on the so-called “natural” waist:

1930s:

1940s:

Source: etsy.com via Mikhaela on Pinterest

1950s:

Source: etsy.com via Mikhaela on Pinterest

1960s:

Source: etsy.com via Mikhaela on Pinterest

1970s:

Source: etsy.com via Mikhaela on Pinterest

Oh wait!

Source: etsy.com via Mikhaela on Pinterest

Yeah, there you have it–the hip-hugger jean (and that pattern envelope girl is even striking a pose worthy of Tant-Isis, queen of the low-rise jean!). Perhaps we can blame the 1970s? The natural waisted jean had a brief revival in the 1980s:

Source: etsy.com via Mikhaela on Pinterest

And then somehow, somewhen–in the 90s?–someone permanently decided that it was more modern to ignore the laws of logic and gravity and figure flattery and decree that natural waists were not only outdated, but UGLY, PASSE, and FRUMPY, retraining the eyes of millions over time until we could not but be horrified and terrified by so-called “Mom jeans.” This (admittedly hilarious, thank you Tina Fey) Saturday Night Live video didn’t help.

So where does this leave me? Frustrated and jeansless, pretty much. That Craftsy copy-your-favorite-jeans Jean-ius class wouldn’t work for me, as I have no jeans I’d even want to copy, so I think this means I need to do a little vintage-inspired jeans sewing (pattern TBD–I think I have some good ones in my stash).

And speaking of natural waists–what’s a girl supposed to wear with her high-waisted jeans, pencil skirts and so on? It’s almost IMPOSSIBLE to find cute, reasonably priced high-waisted underthings… in fact, most of these are actually retro swimwear bottoms from Modcloth:

Not Your Granny's High-Waisted Panties

So I think a little sewing might be in order here, too!

Finally, some questions for you:

  • How do you feel about natural-waisted women’s jeans and panties? Do you think they can be sexy, or do they automatically scream “FRUMP-VILLE” or “80s” to you?
  • Do you have any favorite sources or sewing patterns for high-er waisted jeans and panties?
  • Have you ever been accused of wearing “Mom jeans”?

Cross-posted in slighty modified form on my blog, Polka Dot Overload.

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