History of the Panama Hat with Muchana

Flashback Summer: History of the Panama Hat with Muchana

When it comes to being content with one's wardrobe, I've figured out that a key ingredient is choosing classic, timeless pieces to begin with.  These are the pieces that you keep for years because they never go out of style and they work for your life.

A Panama hat is one of those classic pieces!  I've got a short history on the Panama hat, along with a discount code at the bottom from Muchana, in case you'd like to order one of these classic hats for your very own!  Muchana is a company I met at the Go Blog Social conference, and they offered to send me a complimentary hat so I could share my honest thoughts of it with you all.  The company works with Ecuadorian artists to create some of the most lovely hats I've ever seen!  The weave is beautiful, and I could distinctly feel the high quality when I touched the hat for the first time.  It's going to be my summer staple, guaranteed.

Flashback Summer: History of the Panama Hat with Muchana

Flashback Summer: History of the Panama Hat with Muchana

So now for you vintage history lovers... Where did the Panama hat come from?  And in case you think you know about Panamas already, the history goes back further than you might think!

With documentation as early as the 1600s, the Panama hat is a staple for the vintage wardrobe, or even a historical one!

The Panama hat actual began as a traditional hat of Ecuador.  As far back as the 1600s, Ecuadorians would make hats out of toquilla grass, weaving them and shaping them with expertise. 

Flashback Summer: History of the Panama Hat with Muchana

Then, in the 1850s, the Gold Rush began.  As miners took sea routes from the Eastern portion of the U.S. to California, they stopped in Panama.  Savvy Ecuadorian businessmen saw a new market for their traditional hats and realized Ecuador wasn't as convenient a stopping point, so they exported hats to Panama to sell to the traveling miners.  These hats were a big hit in the warm, humid climate.  The grass made the hats very breathable while providing necessary sun protection.  This is why they're called Panama hats instead of Ecuador hats!

Besides miners, 1855 brought the Panama hat to a new audience at the World Exposition in Paris.  It was immediately embraced as the fashionable hat of the time, and rich and elite Europeans scrambled to buy their own.  Prices skyrocketed, and King Edward VII even paid about $13,700 (in today's money) for the finest Panama hat that could be made. 

Flashback Summer: History of the Panama Hat with Muchana

Flashback Summer: History of the Panama Hat with Muchana

Not only were the hats stylish, they were also so practical that a version of them were issued to the U.S. military in the 1898 Spanish-American War as part of soldier's uniforms.

In the UK, the royal family left their mark on Panama style, too.  After the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1901, many people wore a black band around their Panamas as a sign of respect.  Most Panama hats still retain this black band today.

1904 was also a big year for the Panama hat in the U.S.  In this year, President Theodore Roosevelt began work on the Panama Canal.  He was snapped in an iconic photo holding a Panama hat, and it became a dapper style choice for men all over the U.S. 

Flashback Summer: History of the Panama Hat with Muchana

Movie stars and foreign dignitaries were all seen sporting the Panama, and lest you think men were the only ones getting in on the Panama action, here's a picture of the fabulous Marlene Dietrich wearing her own feminized version:

Flashback Summer: History of the Panama Hat with Muchana

The Panama hat influence is clearly seen in the styles of women's hats, especially in the 30s and 40s.  I wanted to channel that sort of look with my styling of this hat, and throughout this post are photos of my Marlene-menswear-inspired look incorporating a Panama hat from Muchana

Flashback Summer: History of the Panama Hat with Muchana

Flashback Summer: History of the Panama Hat with Muchana

I was surprised at how my pants, blazer, and Panama are all, essentially, exact reproductions of what could have been worn in the 30s and 40s, but the look felt so modern.  THAT is what classic, timeless pieces do for your wardrobe!

Nowadays, the Panama hat is mostly worn by rural peoples in Ecuador, but it's experiencing a bit of a resurgence in the West.  Personally, I'm loving mine.  It's so much lighter than most other hats, and it really does keep my head cool in the summer heat!  What's better than a practical and fashionable and vintage-appropriate hat?!

Flashback Summer: History of the Panama Hat with Muchana

If you'd like to buy your own Panama, use this 30% off Muchana discount code: VintageSummer
They have lots of other colors and styles!

Outfit Details
Blazer: made by me
Pants: made by me
Shirt: Charlotte Russe?
Panama Hat:  c/o Muchana, natural color

This panama hat was given to me by Muchana, but all thoughts and opinions are my own and honest!

Controversial Post: Talking to Your White Friend About Race

Update 18 November 2015: Since publishing this post, I have gone back and forth on whether or not to delete it.  I decided I'm going to leave it as an example of where I was at a certain place in my journey. While I do feel that most of the points themselves do describe real thoughts and states of many white people, I'm not sure that all of my action points in how to address them are communicated well or even a good route to take.  However, I'm going to leave this here.  Too many of us are terrified to make mistakes when it comes to racial discussions, too scared to be honest. I hope this post encourages you guys to voice your thoughts so we can work through them together, to be patient with each other as we all learn. If you decide to grow and change your mind on issues related to race like I have, that's totally okay. Let's help the atmosphere around racial discussions move from labeling & hate to conversation & forgiving grace.   

Added note: I didn't intend for this article to be a reflection of how things should be, all of my own opinions, or a list of things that are right.  I simply mean for it to be a reflection of what white people actually think during conversations about race but rarely voice to people of color.  It represents white people at different levels of awareness, so not everything is ideal for a positive race-centered conversation, but it is real. Hopefully it can help us understand our own biases and the biases of those we interact with, give each other grace when necessary, and learn to communicate better.

Issues centered on race and racism have entered the news headlines in a big way the past couple years (although, obviously, it has been present all along), and many of us are engaging in discussions on race and culture in ways we've never done before.  In some cases, this is incredible!  It leads to greater understanding between groups and impacts positive change.  In other cases, it results in bitter, ever-deepening divides between people.

Obviously, I'd like to have more positive-change kinds of talks in our society! So, today, I've got a list of eight things to keep in mind when talking to white people about race, with the goal of increasing your odds of being heard and being persuasive.  If you're a person of color that has been frustrated in your discussions on race with white people, this might help you communicate your message in a way that will keep the dialogue open and constructive instead of leading to an emotional shut down.  If you're white, it could be a good reminder when talking to other white people about race, which is a really important thing we can do to advance equality.

This in no way is a post telling anyone to coddle white people, to change your opinions, or to cater to the whims of the pasty race.  It's just that communication tailored to your audience can make you more persuasive and likely to win people over, and that applies in any context where you hope to get people on your side.

Below are some tips/insights, and they work best in the context of a personal relationship.  They may be harder to implement on a larger scale or, say, in a conversation with a random person on Facebook, so keep that in mind.

Here are eight things white people wish you knew in talking to them about race:

As I hope is obvious, not all of these things will apply to every white person and some of them may even seem to conflict, but that's because they represent the views of white people at different levels of cultural awareness and experience. Not every white person will identify with all of them, but every white person will identify with at least some of them.

1. My experience as a white person is different from other white people.
White people come from lots of cultural backgrounds, socioeconomic levels, and life experiences.  Technically, white people can be American, German, South African, Chilean, etc. in background and those are all very different. We don't all have the same outlook.  We don't all have the same opinions.  Or even if some of us do have the same opinion, we don't have the same reasons for holding those opinions.  It could definitely be worth your while to probe a bit and see where we're coming from.  Not everyone's experience of whiteness is the same.

2. I'm not used to talking about race.
It's a good idea to acknowledge "white fragility" right off.  White fragility is the concept that white people are often easily upset by or wary of entering into race-based discussions because we have isolated ourselves from those issues and built walls to protect ourselves from having to think about it.

While I don't mean to imply that this is okay, I think it is wise to acknowledge it.  Nobody likes to talk about uncomfortable subjects of any kind unless they feel they have to.  While people of color generally don't have a choice on whether or not to think about racial issues, white people do.  Unlike a person of color, we can care or not care to think about race and our life will look pretty much the same either way (in the sense that our safety doesn't depend on it).

Acknowledge this "sheltering" that many white people have when it comes to racial issues (whether it's been done intentionally or not).  If we seem defensive or quick to disagree, remember that the habit of many white folks is just to avoid it or end the conversation quickly, and just mentioning the subject of race is enough to put some white people on edge.  Simply because you want to talk about race and may even have a good heart behind it isn't enough to instantly change the years of habits some people have.  Be patient with them and know that you personally may not be the cause of anger or a sharp response.  It might be the white fragility talking.

3. I'm scared to talk about race.
For many white people, we've built up walls to avoid racial discussions because we're scared.  We're nervous we're going to offend people and get labeled a racist, so we just don't want to talk about it at all. (This is especially true if we disagree with something a person of color has said.)  Oftentimes we're curious, SO CURIOUS, about your experience, but we don't want to ask dumb questions or, worse yet, insult you.  So we just never ask, or we try to avoid the conversation to avoid potential conflict.

For example, before college I always wondered about black people's hair.  I thought it was awesome and wanted a 'fro so bad.  (Obviously, never gonna happen.)  However, I never asked anyone about it because I didn't want to seem ignorant or to make someone feel singled out.  But when one of my best friends started the process of embracing her natural hair and let me in on it, I learned so much.  I suddenly realized why it was important to have a hair stylist in town that knew how to work with natural hair.  Another girl gave me a tutorial on how to do cornrows, and an especially gracious friend even let me practice on her hair a couple times.  Because people allowed me to ask dumb questions, I have a better grasp of their experiences as African American women in a 96% white town.  And that's not just about hair, either.  There are all sorts of cultural nuances wrapped up in our daily activities, like styling our hair, that people of other races may never learn if we don't share them.  If you're a person of color, please try to be gracious with our dumb questions and use them as an opportunity to kindly let us in on what it's like to be you.  Oftentimes we aren't trying to be insulting; we just really don't know.

4. I don't know "the rules."
You know those rules on what to say and what not to say when it comes to racial discussions (or regular discussions, for that matter)?  You know, those rules about which people group prefers to be called by which term, which stereotyping jokes are funny and which are going too far, and what is okay to ask and talk about?  How did you learn those rules?  I'm pretty sure no one ever wrote them down for you, gave them to you in a memo, or had them all typed out for you in a textbook.  You learned by watching others' conversations and talking to people, right?

Well, consider this: many white people have never talked to a person of color on a deep level.  They've only talked to other white people.  How would we have learned what other peoples do and do not like being called if we've never talked to one, if we've only ever relied on certain media sources or hearsay?  How would we know what joke is insulting to a Chinese person if no one has ever told us they were offended?  (Or if we've only told the joke to non-Chinese people who don't care?)

I know, it sounds crazy because the rules are oftentimes so obvious to people of color.  You think, "Surely they KNOW what they just said.  That was totally intentional and wrong."  Well, they may not know.  For example, I know white people that call people of other races "colored," but it's not because they're trying to be insulting.  They're just from an older generation/rural area where that was acceptable.  They've never really talked to a person of color on a deep level to know it's not alright, and the white people they're around aren't bothered by the term.  How would they know it's not okay to say that when no one has ever told them?  Sometimes it's just ignorance, not intentional insult.  (And in case you're wondering, no worries, I speak up in those moments.)

Obviously, there are people who are trying to be insulting and know exactly what they're saying, and that's not acceptable.  However, if you're in a conversation with someone about race and they use a word or phrase that grates on you, take a moment to determine if they are trying to be insulting or just don't realize the word they used is loaded.  Especially if you have a good relationship with this person otherwise, it could be a great teaching moment instead of a friendship-breaker.  Instead of getting angry and exploding on them, maybe take a minute to tell them that word was offensive to you and even explain the meaning it carries for you.  This way the person doesn't feel randomly attacked, knows what they said wrong, and knows why they should avoid saying it.  You will have just shared your cultural knowledge with someone, and hopefully they will accept your experience and avoid that word/phrase/comment in the future.

5. I have experienced pain, too.
While it is true that "white privilege" affords white people the chance to have some things in life easier than other people, it doesn't mean that white people automatically have an easier life or don't understand hardship.  Many white people have even experienced racism themselves (although, granted, most have not experienced systemic or institutional racism).  I was prejudiced against when living in Africa on a daily basis.  It has profoundly shaped who I am, and it's a big part of why issues about race are important to me.  Sometimes white women that marry black men experience negativity from both the white and black communities and aren't fully accepted in either one, and the opposite is also true.  White people that post pictures with their minority-race relatives aren't believed when they claim them as family. While white people in the West don't generally experience systemic/institutionalized racism, many of them do have personal situations where prejudice was a reality.  Of course this doesn't mean they "get" the experience of a person of color; it just means they have a point of reference when it comes to racism.

Instead of minimizing these stories--even if they do seem very small in light of the difficulties you've faced--use them as a foundation on which to build your case.  If a person has had even one small moment of experiencing prejudice, it will be easier for him to empathize with your story because of an emotional connection, not just a cerebral one.  Knowing about racism and feeling it is the difference between an apathetic bystander and a passionate advocate.  Tap into that person's felt experience and connect it to what it's like to be you.  Explain to your friend what it would be like to have a story like theirs… but every day.  Expand on it and help them feel the effects of racism.
6. I don't like to be lumped in with all other white people in the past.
It really bothers me when people say, "Well, racism is here because white people did this in the past," or "If white people would stop doing that..."  Referring back to point number one... not all white people are the same.  Just as there were slave owners, there were conductors on the Underground Railroad.  Just as there were policemen at Selma, there were white people killed by other whites for marching with Martin Luther King, Jr. Just as there were colonialists, there were white people fighting for the rights of native peoples and advocating for them before their own governments.

Please do not lump us all together into one category and blame us for the wrongdoings of past people.  I swear, if I had been there I would have marched with Dr. King.  I would have fought on the side of the Union.  I would have proudly taken my seat next to Rosa Parks on the bus. If you lump me in with people in history as if I had been there actively helping them to create the problems we are facing now, it really doesn't make me want to partner with you for equality. I just feel invalidated in my efforts to help.

7. I want to help, but I don't know how.
So a lot of white people agree that racism is a big issue, but we aren't sure what to do about it.  Odds are good that we aren't magazine editors that can choose to use people of color in our editorials, or policemen high enough in the chain of command to make policy decisions, or influential celebrities with giant platforms giving speeches.  We probably feel the way you do a lot of times: how do we tiny people bring change in the face of such a big problem? We're trying to listen to your experience and support you… but now what?  What do I do about it?

And this is where a lot of white people get stuck.  We know it's a problem, but we don't know what to do about it.  Instead of looking at us as apathetic or uncaring, tell us tangible things we can do to help you. It might be obvious to you, but it may not be obvious to someone else.  We want to help; show us how!

8.  I want to fight with you.
When white people see that racism is a real issue, we often want to help eliminate it.  Let us help in the fight for equality.  The vast, vast majority of white people don't offer to fight racism because we believe white people are necessary to that process.  We just want to help because we think racism sucks, too, and we don't want to leave all the people of color to fight on their own when we could add our resources, fight with you, and quite possibly end racism even sooner.  Show us how to help in an actually helpful way. 

We know we have white privilege.  We know some people are more willing to listen to another white person on these issues than a person of color.  Instead of resenting that, let us use those things to your advantage.  Let's collaborate and work together.  I'm really sorry that there's such a thing as white privilege and that some people don't give others' views the time of day, but let's work the system together and beat it!

What do you think of the points above?  Do you identify with any of them, or have you encountered these things in any real-life discussions?  Are there any that bother you?  Any that have surprised you?

As usual, please keep comments respectful and avoid sweeping statements or assumptions of others.  If you disagree with me, I'd be glad to discuss things with you, but I'm a real person behind this blog and I appreciate respect, too!

Other useful posts on this topic:
- 10 Simple Ways White People Can Step Up to Fight Everyday Racism - Derrick Clinton for Identities.mic
Why Don't my White Friends Talk About Race?  Here's What They Told Me - Heather Barmore for the Huffington Post
- 3 Tips for Talking to Other White People About Racism - Samantha Allen for The Daily Dot
- What Color Am I?: Why White People Avoid Talking About Race and Why People of Color Keep Bringing It Up - Judy Wu Dominick

How to Embroider Tulips

Flashback Summer: how to embroider tulips - sewing DIY

While continuing to await the arrival of rescue fabric, I've got a simple embroidery tutorial on how to make a tulip.  This is probably the easiest of the flower embroidery tutorials, so if you've never embroidered before this could be a great intro project!

Embroidery is a great way to add some unique personality to garments you already have in your closet.  Whether it's a nice floral detail or a monogrammed initial, it immediately personalizes your garment.

Flashback Summer: how to embroider tulips - sewing DIY

You'll need:
- needle
- embroidery floss
- something to embroider
- hoop
- scissors

Flashback Summer: how to embroider tulips - sewing DIY

1. Thread your needle.  On the fabric, draw your tulip as large as you would like it to be by first drawing a “U”, then starting at the top of the “U,” draw four points .  This is your tulip template.   Put your fabric in a hoop.

Flashback Summer: how to embroider tulips - sewing DIY

2. Next, you’ll be stitching on the lines you just drew.  If you’re nervous about keeping your stitches even, draw evenly spaced dots along this line to mark where your needle will go through the fabric. Keep the dots close enough together that you’ll be able to “curve” the line of stitches in the design.  Starting at the bottom of the tulip, go up through your first dot, and down through the second.  Next, go up through your third dot, and down through the second.

Flashback Summer: how to embroider tulips - sewing DIY

3. Essentially from this point on you’ll be sewing one dot forward, one dot back.  So your next stitch will go up into the fourth dot, down into the third.  Next, up into the fifth dot, down into the fourth, and so on all the way around the tulip.

Here are other tutorials if you'd like to try different flowers:
How to Embroider Lazy Daisies
How to Embroider Dandelions

Flashback Summer: how to embroider tulips - sewing DIY

How Do You Sew & Accessorize?

While we take a brief  hiatus on the make do & mend series because of my epic fail, I've been pondering some potential crafting endeavors for the future.  As I consider some things I may be able to create for sale, I want to see if it's something you guys would even be interested in!

If you wouldn't mind taking the 5-question survey at the link below, I'd be much obliged.  It'll help me with some research and to potentially create accessories and sewing notions you guys will love to add to your wardrobes!

Thank you very much for your help!

Click here to take the survey

Make Do and Mend Gray Suit Project: Dyeing the Fabric

Well, this is going to be a fun post.

Basically, I learned several lessons about dyeing fabric.  Some of which are things I will definitely repeat every time I dye something; others are things I will never, ever do again.  Let me share the learning with you.

The first thing I did was to read the instructions from the 1938 book by Mary Brooks Picken.  Many times.  It basically divided fabrics into two categories: cottons and silks/wools.  It made a couple brief mentions of "artificial silk," which I took to be rayon. It emphasized over and over the need for the dye bath to get up to a high enough temperature or the dye wouldn't set into the fabric properly.  It also said to boil the fabric.  (Click here to read all of the original instructions.)

Boil?  I was pretty sure you aren't supposed to wash rayon in hot water or dry it due to shrinking, and that's pretty much what all the advice I found online said, too.  So I found the smallest bit of fabric that could be spared from the 30s ensemble: the fabric belt loops.  I took one and boiled it for half an hour, measuring it before and after to see if it would shrink.  As you can see, nothing much happened:

Flashback Summer: Make Do and Mend Gray Suit Project - Dyeing the Fabric - 1930s instructions, 1938 Mary Brooks Picken

So I considered it a go to boil the rayon, although I still had some major reservations.  I thought maybe the rayon had been treated, or that it had been pre-washed by the seamstress that made it or any other number of situations that would keep the belt loop from shrinking. I had left the other fabric pieces in the sink to soak in clean water, so they were wet and ready to be boiled.  (The 1938 book said to put wet fabric into the dye, not dry, to prevent streaks and blotches.)

Flashback Summer: Make Do and Mend Gray Suit Project - Dyeing the Fabric - 1930s instructions, 1938 Mary Brooks Picken

I put in 3 gallons of water and half a bottle of the Rit Pearl Gray dye, along with one cup of salt. I stirred it a LOT to make sure everything was thoroughly mixed before any fabric got to it.  This prevents blotches and streaks, too.

Flashback Summer: Make Do and Mend Gray Suit Project - Dyeing the Fabric - 1930s instructions, 1938 Mary Brooks Picken

When the water was lukewarm, I tossed the fabric pieces in and let them sit for 15 minutes at that temperature.  Next, I raised the heat to boiling (well, steaming really, not a rolling boil), and left it in for 30 minutes.  (I stirred the entire time.  That is important.  I also made sure to try to keep pieces untwisted and to give each piece equal time at the bottom where the heat is greatest.) I turned off the heat and let it sit for another 30 minutes, then rinsed it all in cool, clear water. 

Flashback Summer: Make Do and Mend Gray Suit Project - Dyeing the Fabric - 1930s instructions, 1938 Mary Brooks Picken

As I began hanging the pieces outside on the line to dry, I noticed a horrible thing.  I think the fabric shrank.  But mostly in width, not evenly overall.  While some people recommend trying to re-stretch rayon that has been shrunk while it's wet, DO NOT DO IT. (I didn't, no worries.)  Rayon, especially vintage rayon, loses a lot of its strength when it's wet, so the odds are good that you will tear the fabric rather than get it back to its original size.  Resist the temptation!

Flashback Summer: Make Do and Mend Gray Suit Project - Dyeing the Fabric - 1930s instructions, 1938 Mary Brooks Picken

So, currently, the shrunk fabric bits are hanging on the line and drying thoroughly.  I think I will give the dress pieces one more dip in the dye bath to match it up with the jacket pieces.  (The jacket had not faded as much as the dress had originally, so they differed in color a bit to begin with.)

After having a dramatic moment last night after realizing I shrank the fabric, I have come up with a plan to save the suit.  I'm following some recommended ideas for adding width to garments found in the 1938 book, and I think I'm actually going to end up liking this piece more than before!  However, until some rescue fabric arrives we're going to take a brief recess on this project.

Lesson learned, I stirred beautifully and heated too much.  If you plan on dyeing rayon, listen to others.  Do it in cool water.  But do it with lots of stirring, 'cuz even though my pieces are now too small, they are beautifully, evenly dyed with no blotches!  At least I got THAT part right!  Live and learn.  This is why you learn with vintage that isn't in good condition…  In case you didn't know, bloggers aren't perfect and don't always do things right.

Update: In a Twitter conversation with Rit dye, they affirmed that the dye does need to have a high heat temperature to set into a fabric. However, garments can still be dyed successfully by using warm water (if both the garment and intended dye color are light).

If you want to read the original book instructions, click here.  (They're pretty long, so I figured a pin would be better than on here!)

Make Do and Mend Gray Suit Project: Trace

The step for this post is actually an optional one, but I thought I'd take full advantage of having to take apart the whole suit in that last step.  While it's all in pieces… I'm going to trace it for a pattern!  Then I can reproduce it like crazy if I want!

After taking apart the suit, I ironed all the pieces so they were nice and flat:

Then, yep, the rest is pretty self explanatory.  I laid out some paper and….. drumroll please….. traced the pieces!  Although this dress didn't have much shaping, I made sure to include the darts and any other such bits for future renditions.

Got them all labeled, and now I have a new-old 1930s pattern!

I know that in the future I'll want to change the shaping and size of this ensemble just slightly, but these paper pattern pieces will give me a good place to start.  (And I also noticed that not only do the shoulders look really sloped when worn, but the pattern pieces were actually very sloped, too!  I think I'll be changing that on the next version. Not very flattering to my already-narrow-as-a-pencil shoulders)

Next up, we'll be DYEING THE DRESS!  (This is the scariest part, to me!)

Make Do and Mend Gray Suit Project: Prep the Garment

Flashback Summer - Make Do and Mend Gray Suit Project: Prep the Garment

Introducing.... my first make do & mend project for the month!  This one is a "go big or go home" project to start off the series with a bang.  I have this 1930s gray suit that I bought on Etsy.  It has a lot off issues including missing buttons, fraying seams, weird fading, and it doesn't fit me quite right.  However, it's close to my size, has lovely fabric, and it's a perfect basic piece to fit in my wardrobe... if I can restore it to glory!

Flashback Summer - Make Do and Mend Gray Suit Project: Prep the Garment
Flashback Summer - Make Do and Mend Gray Suit Project: Prep the Garment

This post is going to be the first of several as I go step-by-step in my revamping process.  I'll be utilizing the info from my 1938 book by Mary Brooks Picken, creator of a college for women that taught them lots of life skills.  This book is part of a mail order course on dressmaking, and it is entirely focused on dyeing and refinishing garments.  I'll be sharing snippets from the book and following the steps it recommends in making over this 1930s suit.  I plan on repairing, dyeing, and slightly altering the size of this suit.  I may also be adding some decorative elements at the end.

So, first up, you've got to prepare your garment for revamping.  Remove any buttons or sequins and save them for later.  (This will also keep them from being damaged in the steps ahead.) Treat the garment for any stains it may have and wash it according to its fabric.  This suit is rayon crepe, so I washed it on a very gentle cycle with cold water in the washing machine and let it air dry.  (This step is especially important if you're dyeing a garment.  Oils and residues can mess up the dyeing process and leave splotches on a garment.)  The instructions from the book below say to leave the garment wet until it goes in the dye bath, but since I'm making this into a several-day process, it'll be more practical for me to just re-wet it later.

Flashback Summer - Make Do and Mend Gray Suit Project: Prep the Garment

For future steps that will make sense later, I am now going to measure the dried garment.  I drew a diagram of the suit pieces and filled in the measurements as I found them.  I measured:
- bust and waist of both the jacket and dress

- hips of the dress
- total length and torso length of the dress (just the total length on the jacket)
- shoulder width of both pieces
- sleeve length of the jacket
- jacket cuff circumference
- average seam allowance width on both pieces
- hem depth of both pieces (mine was just 1/2" like the seam allowances)

Flashback Summer - Make Do and Mend Gray Suit Project: Prep the Garment

Next is the gut-wrenching part.  As recommended by the 1930s book, it is best to unpick all the stitches in a garment and get it back down to its individual pattern pieces.

Flashback Summer - Make Do and Mend Gray Suit Project: Prep the Garment

So, I'm going to pop in a movie, pour myself a cup of tea and settle in for the night!  My seam ripper and I are going to have a lovely evening.  

In the next post I'll be talking about tracing the garment pieces and the dyeing process, so stay tuned!

(And in case you are interested, here are the original instructions from the book shown at the top that I'm basing this project on!  They go a bit more in depth for other types of projects and fabrics, too.  I didn't know about old silks having tin in them!)

Flashback Summer - Make Do and Mend Gray Suit Project: Prep the Garment - 1930s dyeing instructions, 1938 Mary Brooks Picken

Make Do and Mend Projects: Intro

This month's theme is all about being content with what you have, and what better way to tangibly express that than to have a make do and mend project?  It doesn't get any better than that! 

Whether through necessity because of a lack of finances or fabric rations, women back in the day made it a habit of altering the clothing they already had to make it feel fresh and new again.  To me, this is a lost art!  How many times, before discovering vintage, did I throw out a garment because it got a hole in it?  How many vintage pieces do we overlook because of fading or discoloration, relegating it to the dreaded "as is" pile?  Well, no longer!  This month I will be going through the steps of a major make do and mend project, and I'll be sharing what I learn with all of you!  I'll also have a couple smaller ones as well.  Hopefully they'll inspire you to refresh the items you have in your wardrobe already, too!

I'm going to show you the garment I'm going to majorly alter in a post coming soon, but today I want to talk about the kinds of alterations that were common in the first half of the 20th century.  Women used lots of creativity to adjust sizing, cover up repairs, and bring new personality to old garments.  Here are some actual vintage garments showing the ways women embraced "make do and mend":

They crocheted, knitted, and sewed new cuffs, collars, trims, and hats to accessorize plain dresses.  (Source)
This dress shows how women took dresses and added bits to match new trends.  The photo shows the woman on the right wearing the dress in the 20s, and sometime in the 30s she added a cape to fit the new, more feminine silhouette.  Isn't it cool to see a garment on its original owner?!  (Learn more about the garment on the University of Georgia Historic Clothing & Textile FB page.  Photo credit for dress picture: Charity Calvin)

They also made accessories out of old items.  This lady took old shoe laces and made floral corsages out of them!  (Tutorial here!)
GASP, they even cut new garments out of old ones!  Heaven forbid!  (Source)
Here's a video highlighting some other ways women revamped their clothing.  The robe made of scraps is my favorite!
I think we vintage wearers live with this idea that women bought new clothes to follow all of the latest trends.  While I'm sure many wealthy ladies did just that, the vast majority of women, especially in the 30s and 40s, were digging in their grandma's attic to find clothes to re-do!  They reused beaded bits from old 20s dresses, the trims from their grandma's Victorian clothes, and added waistlines back to their flapper dresses when the 30s came around.  While I'm not a huge proponent of the idea that we should alter all the vintage... we should use these skills to save vintage that might otherwise be thrown away, unwearable, or homely looking due to aging.
Not to mention, there are no holds barred when it comes to altering the pieces we've sewn from scratch!  I know I've made several projects that just don't work anymore, and I'd love to give them some updates.  These classic make do and mend tips can help us learn to be content with the items we have while unleashing the creativity!
What garment(s) just isn't working in your wardrobe right now that could be revived with a little creativity?  What is your favorite vintage make do and mend solution you've seen on a garment?

$20 Flash Sale THIS SUNDAY!

This Sunday, June 14th, I'm going to have a giant flash sale!  All items are $20 or less and include pieces from both my personal collection and from when I sold things on Etsy, so there will be lots of sizes offered!

Here are some of the things that will be up for grabs:
- pretty dresses!
- lingerie
- 1950s movie posters (original, not reproduction)
- jewelry
- hats
- antique clothing
- some of my me-made items I'm passing to a new home
- sewing patterns (up to volup sizes, too!)

Be sure to follow me on Instagram so you don't miss out!  I'll post all of the details on Sunday morning (Central Standard Time), and the sale will last all day!  If you could spread the word to folks you think would be interested, I'd HUGELY appreciate it.  I need ROOM IN MY CLOSET, so everything needs to be sold!

If you have any questions or would like to be tagged for specific things when I post them, leave a comment below!

Monthly Theme: #JuneContentment

Flashback Summer - Monthly Theme: #JuneContentment

In the month traditionally known for being "wedding season," it can be easy to become discontent, to wish we were at a different stage of life, that things were like they were back then, that we were as great/smart/loved/pretty/happy as that other person.

Something I'm having to work on these days is trying to stop wishing I was further down the road in life.  "Someday, when I'm at my dream job…"  "Maybe someday I'll be able to do this…"  "It will be so much better when this is what my day looks like…"  or "Man, it would be so much better if I could just be at this point in my life already!"

Contentment is hard, especially living in a Western society that constantly screams, "Progress!"  "Ambition!" and "More!" in our ears all the time.  Discontent is everywhere we look.  It's in the makeup ad that promises better, clearer skin and fewer wrinkles.  It's in the internet ads you read on your commute that promise "Make money doing what you love!" as you dread going to your day job. It's even in the comparison we oftentimes get into in the vintage community over that girl with the perfect figure, the huge bakelite collection, the amazing blog stats, or the Si & Am skirt. (Haha.)

For me, (I'm gettin' all personal and Bible-y here for a moment) this quote from a Christian leader in the Bible named Paul sums it up, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through [God] who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13)"  There are some situations in life that are unbearable, that are so difficult, that are so hard I'm not sure how I will stand up under the pressure.  I know that when I ask Jesus to help me carry a load that is too heavy for me, he's always there and ready to help.  I can be content in difficult situations because God gives me the strength to get through another day, and I know I'm not going to crumble.
Flashback Summer - Monthly Theme: #JuneContentment
So join with me and fight the man!  Rail against the machine of our society! Wave the contentment banner!  Find those things, however small, that you can be content about in the moment you are in.  Wear the dress that reminds you how awesome your legs are.  Take a walk out in nature to admire God's creativity.  Make time to grab coffee with that amazing friend you're so glad you have.  

I'll be tweeting and Instagramming something I have to be content about everyday using the hashtag #JuneContentment, and I'd love for you to join me!  Use the phrase #JuneContentment, and I'll re-tweet/re-gram one every day.  Let's help the vintage community embrace contentment a little more this month and, at the same time, remind ourselves of why this moment right now is great!

Vintage Lookbook Video - Spring 2015

First of all.... I don't know if you've glanced at the header or sidebar since coming to the blog, but you may have noticed a new blog design!  It's a far better, more polished version of what I had been trying to do myself, but Brittany brought it to life and un-hokey'd it for me.  That being said, I'm still updating and sorting things (especially on the new, more specific pages you can find in the navigation bar), so I appreciate your patience as I catch up on things!

NOW, onto the lookbook!

This began with a trip to Youtube when I found out there are such things as lookbook videos.  (I'm sure most of you already knew of those forever ago, but I'm an old lady and don't catch onto these new-fangled interwebs fads as quickly.)  I was APPALLED at the utter lack of vintage lookbooks.  (And by "vintage" I mean the kind of vintage that incorporates mid-century and older looks.  Not 80s jumpsuits and 90s daisy duke shorts.)

So, of course, I had to remedy that.  My amazing friend Maureen offered to help me!  

In this video I've got three looks that I've been wearing this spring.  It may look a bit scattered as to the seasonality of each outfit, but that's because Missouri is being RIDICULOUS, as usual, with its spring weather. Only a few days ago I was wearing shorts and sweating, and today I wore a coat to work.  Ridiculous.

However, this lets you readers in both the northern and southern hemispheres check out some clothing that may fit your current season.  I hope you guys enjoy it!  (And if you do, please share, comment, etc. to let me know that you do, and I'll be sure to make more of these videos!)

Links from this video:
Pink 1930s jacket from Joanna

1940s navy suit sewing details