1930s | 1940s | Burlesque / Pinup | Hats | Jackets | Skirts | Vintage Sewing

A couple of projects

December 22, 2012
Olive drab uniform
Olive drab uniform
Click for full size.

Hello everyone! It struck me the other day that I’ve been rather productive this year, and I haven’t posted here in ages. This is part of what I’ve been up to.

– Another fictive uniform, because apparently I need more of those. I found a wonderful olive drab Prada cotton twill that feels more like a wool suiting, soft with a nice drape to it, bought less than I should have and managed to scrape a short jacket with sleeves to just past the elbows, a plain skirt and a small side cap out of it. It’s finished off with WWII American Red Cross bakelite buttons, and the embroidered Red Cross armband is German.

The skirt is lined, straight with a very slight flare at the bottom that doesn’t show up in this photo, and the jacked is lined with the interfacing, so to speak, a heavy black linen. I wanted this one to be cool and breathable, but still rather structured. At some point I should take out the sleeves and mess around a bit with the fit in the area around the armhole in front, it’s slightly too wide and loose there, but that’s a later project.

Off-white wool/poly blend, red cotton and galloon.

And then I made another one for a party, a Victorian circus-themed burlesque night. I don’t really do Victorian right now, so I made a cigarette girl kind of outfit; in part because I like the way they look, and in part because I have a ton of vintage Swedish military gold galloon – those heavy gold bands, you know – that I wanted to try out. In the end I was appointed lion tamer, too, so no cigarette tray.

Back of the jacket during the fitting process.
Back of the jacket during the fitting process.

So. Short, fitted jacket with a stand-up collar, puffed elbow-length sleeves and a pleated peplum in the back, short circle skirt and a pillbox hat, simple enough. I put a lot of heavy interfacing in the front of the jacket to carry all the metal the galloon contains, a very heavy vintage linen/horsehair interfacing fabric I found a roll of ages ago, and ended up flatlining everything with white cotton muslin to counteract the slight transparency of the loosely woven wool blend. The jacket is lined with red cotton. The skirt is unlined, although interfaced with the same white cotton as everything else, and has side seam pockets that aren’t as well hidden as I would have liked. I didn’t want to have to carry a bag, what with the lion and all; she was rather frisky and became completely unmanageable by the end of the night. She did win the costume contest, though – unfortunately the prize was a bottle of champagne, which lasted about a quarter of an hour, but still.

Lion and lion tamer
...and the end result. Prize-winning lion and lion tamer.

I’ve actually never made a pillbox hat before, although I’ve dabbled with hat-making quite a bit, but it has to be fairly straight-forward, right? Simpler hat shapes are hard to think of. I still have a large piece of extra-thick red felt left from the shoe hat, so I used that for both hat sides and top. Ended up cutting down the size of the thing quite a bit – I measured one of my favourite hats, a simple 40’s sailor hat, and used the same height and circumference for starters, but it turned out way too large. I flatlined the main fabric with white cotton, sewed the two pieces together, pressed and made sure the stiff felt pieces fit well into it. Then I added the galloon to the outer layer, hand-basted the felt pieces together, pushed them well into the outer layer, tucked the seam allowance into the hat and sewed it to the inside. It all stays in place with a comb attached to the bottom edge.

I will definitely be making more pillbox hats in the future, they’re easy, flattering and satisfying. This was a fun project.


  1. Wow, so sweet and you really suit the uniform. I sometimes have struggles with setting sleeves, but I keep saying the more you do the better you get. Well this is what I am hoping anyway 😉 looking forward to seeing more next year 😀

  2. Thank you!

    This is more of an issue with the fit and construction in the chest area between shoulder seam and bust, though. I have a fairly large bust and the shoulder is heavily built and padded on this jacket; there is some slight surplus of fabric horizontally close to the sleeve in that area, above the bust, which I think I will adjust by either shifting the armhole a bit – probably moving it a tiny bit upwards, lengthening the side seam by a cm or two, and cutting out the front of the bodice a bit there; or by adding (even more) interfacing and padding there, filling out the slight inward curve between shoulder and bust. There’s already a couple of layers of linen and horsehair weave there, but I may need to add something bulkier too.

  3. Wow, your costumes are always my favorites. OK I can only think of one other post offhand, but I remembered it. Just stunning! Please keep it up!

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