Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Saving Vintage: A Cocktail Dress Revival

It was bound to hapen eventually. Following the craziness of the holidays, I hit a sewing wall. I lost all motivation to sew, I had no creative urges. My sewing machine sat in a corner collecting dust. I kept trying to force myself to get in the sewing mood. I fixed a torn dress. I tried hemming a curtain. But every task felt just like that, another uninspiring task on my never ending to-do list. And then as I was checking off another task, cleaning my room, I pulled out this very sad, very damaged and much avoided cocktail dress.


This dress was one of the many wounded birds that I have collected but by far, one of the worst.


I kept pushing it to the bottom of my to-fix pile because it just felt so daunting. The tag was long gone but a similar dress (but in near perfect condition) was listed online as a 1950's Laurie Jane cocktail dress that came with a matching little jacket. 


This sad little lady was riddled with holes and I must admit, I foolishy tried to wash out nicotine staining on the top and in the process, killed the netting (though it was riddled with holes anyhow) and some of the black dye lifted to a red color in spots. I wasn't heartbroken over this based on the fact that the skirt was so riddled with holes that I knew I would be patching and attempting to blend my fixes into the dress. 


I decided that I had no choice, I would have to take the entire dress apart. I was extremely nervous but on the plus side, this would allow me to trace all the pieces to hopefully keep a pattern of the dress for re-creating in the future. 


Deconstructing the dress was a breeze. Most of the thread seemed to just fall apart with a slight tug of the seam ripper.


Each piece was laid on top of muslin, so I could trace the pieces out. Then I used the pieces to trace out pieces of lace that I used as an overlayer on top of the old taffeta pieces. I would carefully pin all in place, then baste it all down so I could treat the two layers as one. My only difficulty came with the skirt front. My lace was not as wide as the taffeta so I had to try to create the skirt out of 3 pieces of lace. I tried to measure it up to have the seams falling just below the bodice darts. I was close but my finished product has a slight difference between the seams and the bodice. Shhhh . . . I am trusting you not to tell anyone who might see me wearing this out! 


Once the skirt was re-assembled, I moved on to the bodice. 


I actually left the ivory taffeta untouched. It was in nearly perfect shape. There is one little spot of discoloring but it was nothing worth covering up. I like for the dress to keep a little bit of it's history showing. But I did pick off the old netting. Unfortunately, I am not sure what sort of netting this was and trying to keep this as affordable as possible, I went into my stash of vintage lace. It worked out well as I think the lace stays consistent with the lace overlay through out the rest of the dress but also stands and ruffles the way that I believe the old netting would have. 


I sewed the darts back in and reattached the sides of the dress. I also kept the straps original as they were still in great shape as well. I reattached them and tested it all out on the form. 


At this point, I finally breathed a sigh of relief. It still looked like the original but with a fresh spin to hide it's imperfections (and my undergarments)! 


I hemmed by hand and paired it with a petticoat, and realized that I had created my dream cocktail dress! I actually think I like it better than the original!


I think it may be time to start tackling the rest of the repair pile.


Until next time, happy sewing (and mending)! 


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Retro Halloween: I Have Some 'Splaining To Do

Okay, I did not fall off the face of the earth. Although I am sure you are wondering how it is possible that I could go 3 months without a single post. I have no good excuses for you. All I can say is that the adjustment to our new routines now that my oldest started preschool has been a little rocky. I have had very little time for creating and even less time for posting about my fun vintage finds. Top it all off with lots of preschool germs and we have been battling non-stop colds cycling through the house since September. But we weren't going to let it stop us from enjoying one of my favorite holidays!

There is nothing I enjoy more than being able to create the costumes of my kids' dreams every year. So you cannot even imagine my delight when my daughter asked to be Lucy this Halloween. Let me repeat that, my 2 year old daughter asked to be Lucy! I was such a proud momma. 

For her costume, I worked with patterns from my favorite book of patterns, "Sew Classic Clothes for Girls" by Lindsay Wilkes. I have utilized this book so many times already and I know I will continue to do so for years to come. If you sew for little girls you have got to check out her patterns over on her blog, The Cottage Mama. For this dress I worked between the Sweet Dress and the Dainty Darling dress with some modifications to the collar. 


I also decided to make the apron snap onto the waist band so that she could also wear the dress around the holidays without it looking like a costume. When you put this much work into a dress it has to be worn more than once! 

For my own dress, I used a great reprint of a vintage pattern from 1952, Butterick's B6018. 


I created view A with one very small change. I traded out the matching collar and cuffs for a contrast fabric (in my case, white). 


First, I have to say, I have had a lot of failed dresses with fit issues and this pattern was an absolute breeze to sew. I was sooo happy with the fit and the ease of sewing. I did some tissue fitting this time around and was so happy I took the time to do so. 

The final step to completing my costume was creating an apron to wear with it. I used a vintage hostess apron that I already had on hand and traced around it to make an apron that would lay wonderfully on top the full skirt of the dress without restricting it at all. 


Once put together I was quite happy with the turn out of our costumes. 


And still so pleased with the dresses. We will definitely be wearing them again without the aprons as a cute mommy and me outfit. 



I will most definitely be sewing this pattern up again in the future! Hope every one had a safe and Happy Halloween! 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Bringing Vintage Style to the Beach Bash


My husband and I have been enjoying dance lessons for the last few months! I absolutely love taking the lessons but I also love their occasional themed dance parties that they host. Not only are they extremely fun but they present me with great sewing challenges. This past week's theme was "beach bash". Rather than grabbing a fun Hawaiian print dress I decided I would infuse a little retro vibe into their party.

I have always loved the vintage playsuits and decided that I would finally make myself one. The only problem was the price of the patterns. Vintage playsuit patterns come at a steep cost. So I had to get a little creative. Luckily, in all my research I stumbled across a blog, Sew Weekly, in which someone else had used a modern romper pattern to create their vintage playsuit. The pattern she used was McCalls 6331. A quick search online led me to an etsy seller who had this pattern at a much lower price than the vintage ones.

However, as much as I love a pin up look, I felt it needed a bit of class for a dance party. So I started sketching up my plans to make this as functional as possible. It would be a playsuit for fun in the sun but it would have a conservative skirt for wearing beyond my backyard.



As you can tell, I mixed up a few of the views from the pattern I was using and added some of my own touches. The bust was the only challenging bit of this to sew, and that was only because it was my first time sewing this type of bodice. 


But once I had done it for the outer layer, it went rather quickly for the lining. I also have to note that I love a nicely lined garment, adds such a beautiful touch that you don't always get when you are out shopping for clothes. 


Once I finished the top, the shorts went very quickly. It wasn't long until I had the finished romper/playsuit. 


The skirt took another couple of hours to complete. Mostly because I decided to attempt piecing a trim to the bottom of the circle skirt and then fully lining that as well. I wanted something pretty to be showing if it was flapping open in the wind. 


The finished piece was exactly as I had hoped it would be. Although it does need a little bit of extra fitting done. Despite numerous try-ons through out the sewing process it still ended up too loose in the bodice. But because I am a procrastinator, this was finished just in time for the party. I will have to make the adjustments later this week. In the meantime, I just paired the romper with a halter top to be sure I was covered just in case. 



I am absolutely thrilled with how this turned out. I am definitely going to be making another playsuit with the other bodice very soon, when I am not too busy soaking up the sun in this one!





Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Sewing Fails and Vintage Finds

It has been a long while since I have taken the time to come and write a blog post. Part of this is due to a bit of frustration in my garment sewing lately. I seem to have more fails than successes lately but I suppose this is all just a part of the journey. I guess sometimes after a few fails you have to walk away for a bit.

My latest failure was an attempt at a Butterick skirt that had a 40's feel to it. I have been on an Agent Carter kick, so I was trying to channel my inner Peggy Carter. The clothes in this show give me major wardrobe envy! In any case, I had this Butterick 4859 in my collection of patterns that I have thrifted.


I chose some peach skin fabric from Joann Fabrics in her signature red and blue and grabbed some seam binding to try a new finishing technique I had seen online. My contrasting fabric seams were basted together and then backed with the white seam binding. 


I was so excited as the skirt came together. The flares at the bottom back are so pretty and the contrast is a fun twist. I put it on my dress form and it was looking lovely.



On myself, it is a whole other story. When will I learn to always make a muslin first. Apparently, I will need to a full butt adjustment on some of my patterns from now on (which is weird though, beacause my capris never needed that).

It is pretty to look at but I am worried I will never be able to get this adjusted now to fit me quite right. 

I also have been chugging away at Mccall's 7154, the 1930's gown. But I am going to wait to share progress until it is completely finished. I am not holding my breath on this one either. Technically it is my muslin as I am using some fabric that I scored for $5. 

After the failed skirt, I kind of shelved my sewing machine for bit. But doing so gave me a little time to get out and hunt for vintage finds. And I had two very good weekends doing so. The first resulted in plenty of good sewing material. 



And this past weekend surprised me with many beautiful vintage clothing finds. Some of my favorites include this Pomare Tahiti dress, I am assuming from the late 60s or 70s.


Okay, I know the front is kind of plain jane but check out these awesome sleeves! I just couldn't leave it to be passed up at the thrift store.


Another very cute polyester number:


And my two favorites that I have to keep for myself:


Who wouldn't feel like an old hollywood star in this number. 


The details are just stunning. Of course, I pick wounded items to save so there are some stains and some holes to be fixed up before I can rock this one around the house!


And this number which I am thinking is just early 90s but I just couldn't get over the ruching on the waist and the full circle skirt. I love anything that will swish and spin! 



Next time I will have to share the beautiful vintage dresses that my grandmother just passed down to me. I am in the process of restoring them all and can't wait to share them in all their glory! 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Red Rockabilly Dress

I am actually keeping up with my sewing 2 garments a month so far. I cannot believe it. And it has been a great boost to the sewing confidence. I have had a few mishaps . . . like this poor jumpsuit.


Don't get me wrong, everything sewed up beautifully. It looks just plain gorgeous. If only I could get it on. I somehow cut or sewed the legs wrong. What a devastating experience that was. For that weekend I put my sewing machine on the shelf and said, I was done. But after a great Monday night (can you believe that, a good Monday?) I was feeling like myself again and decided to get right back to work. 

So I began a little red rockabilly dress using Simplicity's 8051. 


Yeah, I did not get too creative with the fabric choice. What can I say . . . I absolutely loved the pattern cover's dress and I already had enough of the red and white polka dot fabric on hand! It's like it was meant to be.

This was a surprisingly quick sew. I find working with cotton usually helps . . . slippery fabrics always require a lot more pinning. And I think I am in love with the finished dress. I ended up purchasing a crinoline/petticoat on ebay to help boost the 50's flare on this dress. 


I just love a dress with a full circle skirt!


But the back of this dress is what thrills me the most. I love unexpected touches and I think the peek-a-boo back is not what you would expect to see when this dress is walking away from you!


Oh, and those buttons . . . of course from my vintage button stash . . . along with the zipper which was appropriately titled as atomic red! 

This dress gave me my sew-jo back. In fact, the very next day I took a store bought convertible dress and re-created it using some knit fabric from my stash.


It ended up being a great week for sewing over here. Let's hope I can keep up this pace!