Rescued Rayon

Flashback Summer: Rescued Rayon - restored 1940s dress

I think I found this dress in a flea market quite a long time ago for a few bucks, and although it was quite tattered I decided to bring it home.  (Never pass up good rayon, you know!)  It has sat in my closet for… probably a year, waiting to be brought back to life.  Finally, this past weekend I attended a wedding which was the catalyst to restore this dress!  It's been my unofficial tradition this summer to wear a new-to-me dress that I end up finishing on the way to the out-of-state weddings we've attended.  This dress continued that!

Flashback Summer: Rescued Rayon - restored 1940s dress

Flashback Summer: Rescued Rayon - vintage 1950s earrings

The problem with the dress was three things: it was a bit big on me, the darts were too low, and nearly all of the bodice and waist seams had frayed so the dress was falling apart.  But… good rayon!  First I took apart the bodice pieces completely.  I left the skirt intact because those seams remained strong.  I traced all the bodice and skirt pieces (for future re-creating, of course!), then I adjusted the darts.  This dress has two French darts on either side, and I've never made or adjusted such darts.  I put the bodice on my dress form and pinned where I wanted the darts to go.  I was sure to match both sides and to re-draw the darts on my pattern pieces.

The distance between both darts at the side seam and at the point aren't exactly right, but I was really hard up for fabric as I was trying to adjust this bodice, so it had to work.  It isn't very noticeable with the print anyway, so I'll leave it and just adjust them on any other future re-creations of the dress I do.

Flashback Summer: Rescued Rayon - restored 1940s dress

Flashback Summer: Rescued Rayon - restored 1940s dress, headscarf style

I trimmed away the fraying on all the seams and sewed the pieces back together on the sturdy sections of the fabric further in.  This did double duty in making the dress strong and smaller for me, and it fits beautifully now!  I love the drape of the flounces on the shoulder and hip, and the light rayon blows beautifully in the breeze!  It's really a perfect summer dress, and I am sad I waited until the end of the summer to fix it up!

There are also a couple holes that I'm going to need to patch.  They get lost in the busy print so it's not noticeable to anyone but me, but I want the dress to be strong and not fray further in those spots!  I am going to use the fabric from the old back neck facing that I replaced with bias tape.  If you are working on a vintage piece and realize you need to patch something, it's nearly impossible to find a matching fabric for it now.  You really need to find a piece of the garment you can repurpose for a patch, and neck facings, arm facings, and hems are great places to do that.  Facings are easily replaced with bias tape, and hems can be let down a bit sometimes.  Sewing hint for life!

Flashback Summer: Rescued Rayon - restored 1940s dress, 70s 80s wood leather heels

Flashback Summer: Rescued Rayon - restored 1940s dress

In my opinion, restoring vintage is a lot harder than recreating it from scratch.  It's difficult to work with limited fabric, especially knowing that you have no back up fabric to work with if you mess up.  You have to learn to be careful, intentional, and resourceful.  This is the beauty of the make do and mend skill set!

And another random note about this outfit… The headscarf coordination was actually a happy surprise.  That morning I pin curled my hair so it would be curly for this photo shoot after work.  I had no purple, pink or green solid scarves, so I grabbed the closest thing I could find, and I was bummed it didn't match. However, I realized I actually love this dress and scarf combo so much so that I decided to leave it for the photo shoot!  It's now one of my favorites!

Outfit details

dress: restored 1940s
shoes: from the 70s or 80s, wood & leather heels, gifted
earrings: belonged to my great-grandmother
headscarf and belt: flea market finds

What are your top tips for restoring a vintage garment?  Do you find it harder to restore or to sew from scratch?  Have you found any favorite outfit pairings by accident?

Controversial Post: War Commemoration

The other week, I posted on FB about one of my Holy Grail fabric prints (which I ended up finding and buying! I'll be posting about it soon!).  This 1940s fabric's motif is celebrating the victories of the Allied forces and, in 1940s terms, saying why the Axis powers sucked.

I wondered on the FB post why no one makes fabrics like this anymore. Obviously, there could be lots of reasons, but my cousin, a veteran, brought up a good point, "Because it is politically incorrect to celebrate military victories anymore."

I don't know if you've noticed, but the 1940s was all about celebrating military victories, on both sides. Some of the items are straight-up propaganda, but I've seen examples of fabrics, posters, dishes, clothing, even parties, all highlighting a victory or triumph in battle.  (Like all the D-Day stuff we see around!)

Flashback Summer: Controversial Post - War Commemoration
kimono, 1940’s. collection of yoku tanaka.
photo by nakagawa tadaaki/ARTEC studio. Source.

Flashback Summer: Controversial Post - War Commemoration
Now, without getting into politics and drawing party lines, I wanted to hear your views on this.  Especially since I know you readers are from all over the world, what do you think?  I mean, imagine. What if someone in your country made novelty print clothing or jewelry commemorating important combat victories? Would you feel comfortable wearing it?  Why or why not?

On one side, I can see wearing these items as perfectly fine.  It's a good thing to celebrate justice and freedom, and sometimes those things are achieved only through warfare.  It pays respect to the men and women that fought to win those victories and reminds us of the sacrifice and cost paid for ideals we value.

On the other hand, war is a terrible thing.  Especially in the midst of it, it can be hard to determine who is "right" or "just."  War wrecks peoples' lives, and to wear a piece celebrating it disrespects the people who have paid dearly because of war's effect in their lives.  It trivializes it.

Would you/do you wear war-themed items from the 30s and 40s?  Would you wear newer versions celebrating modern victories? What factors do you think are different now than they were during WW2 that may affect your opinion? 

Flashback Summer: Controversial Post - War Commemoration

Like I said, I'm not opening up a discussion for whether certain wars are justified, or if certain leaders/countries are doing the right thing.  I'm just asking, assuming your country had a very important victory that meant a lot to you, would you celebrate it through clothing or jewelry?  Why or why not?

Just a warning, I love for all of you to feel comfortable sharing your opinion and even welcome disagreement, but I will not tolerate blatant hatefulness or slandering of specific countries, cultures or military personnel of any kind.  Globalizing comments that lump all of a certain group of people into one shallow category are not acceptable and will be removed.

Native Max Magazine

I honestly don't remember how I ran across it, but as I was researching stuff I found out about Native Max Magazine.  Intrigued, I bought a copy and decided to try it out.  And now I'm sharing my findings with you!  Native Max is a magazine made by and featuring First Nations (Native American and Canadian) peoples and culture.

Having never read the magazine before, I opted for the smaller size hard copy of the magazine and got it shipped to my house.  There are cheaper e-versions available, but I love having a real paper magazine with my hot beverage.  

After contacting Native Max via Twitter asking about prices (so I'd have up-to-date info to share with you guys in this post!), they said their print options are a bit expensive at the moment, admittedly, but they're hoping to find other printing options in the future to lower costs.

I really like Native Max magazine!  I love the fact that it supports native communities in the U.S. and Canada by using native models, photographers, writers, etc.  I also like that they advertise native artists and designers.  Although not vintage like many of us wear, their designs are undeniably twinged with tradition.  HOWEVER, I found a lot of pieces that could be incorporated into vintage wardrobes beautifully.  I think more of us should buy from these designers.  Many of us love Western and  Native American-inspired vintage pieces, but sometimes these pieces border on racism or, at the very least, stereotypical and inaccurate. By incorporating actual native pieces into our closets, we can get the looks we love and support the community that inspired them!  I'm on the search for some pieces for myself because supporting traditional cultures of all kinds is very important to me.  And also because COME ON, Native Americans and Canadians have come up with some really legit fashion items over the years.

Another aspect of Native Max that I appreciated was the insight into the lives of modern native peoples.  When so many of us base our knowledge of native cultures on Pocahontas and old movies… We could do with some accuracy!  The articles were positive, encouraging, and real all at once.  They acknowledged the hardships native people face but also showed examples of people that are successfully overcoming them.  As a white reader, I'm probably not the intended audience, but I appreciated the fact that I didn't feel blamed at the end of the articles; I felt inspired.  I wanted to help support and preserve such beautiful cultures full of strong people!  I think the magazine has done its job effectively!

Native Max currently has several themed issues out, and you can buy them here.  And Canadians, you may also be excited to know that a Native Max Canada edition will be starting soon, featuring exclusively Native Canadian cultures.  In each issue you'll find themed articles (there are women's, gentlemen's, sports, and California-themed issues so far) along with highlights of businesses and influential people within the native community.  The tone is casual, the pictures plentiful, and the magazine lots of fun!

Is this a magazine you think you'd be interested in reading?  What most intrigues you about Native American and Canadian cultures, fashion, or art?  Do you know of any native designers the rest of us should check out?

This post was not sponsored by Native Max in any way. I spent my own money, and this post reflects my own opinions!

A Sharecropper's Daughter

my grandmother, Mary Lou
"[T]o the women of all generations who find themselves for one reason or another in the struggle of providing and supporting a family alone, fighting prejudice, hardship and other life uncertainties while still making a difference both in their family and the world. God bless you all."  - From the dedication of "A Sharecropper's Daughter"

I recently re-ran across one of my favorite parts of my family's history, and I wanted to share it with you guys today!  You may remember me mentioning my mother's side of the family was made up of sharecroppers back in the day and were very poor.  This affected my family a lot, and I remember my grandmother, Mary Lou, telling me stories of her childhood when I was a kid, before she passed away in 2003.  Before she passed away, my grandma worked with my aunt to tell a biography of her mother, my great-grandma Julia. My aunt has compiled it into an online version entitled "A Sharecropper's Daughter" that's about as long as 4-5 blog posts, and you can read it here

It's not only interesting reading, but there are lots of family photos and documents! If you've wondered what poorer people in the 1900s-50s wore, you'll find pictures of them here. This story will cover lots of things that aren't usually covered in our sources of vintage knowledge: poverty in the South among whites, single parenting, mental illness, and giving to others despite having almost nothing.

Here are some of my favorite snippets from the story:

"It seemed everyone born in the south was destined to have three names, families would name their children for friends and relatives whether it made sense or not. Julia's father Walter, however was different. He was called Babe until he was four years old, when his mother told him he had to have a Christian name. He told her he wanted to be called Walter and that was that. No middle name. No relative to be remembered. Just Walter."

"Julia was ready to leave the house with such high hopes for higher learning. When her cousin came for her, her mother made the statement that set Julia Ann on a path of determination and a goal of seeking knowledge for the rest of her life, 'You're not going.' Hardly believing her ears, Julia fought back the tears. She was going to be denied her one chance for education. Her mother told her she was needed at home more than she needed an education...But the desire to learn still burned like a molten ember that was forever being fanned to burn brightly for the rest of her days."
Granny "Anner" Block

"[Granny Block] and Nicholas set up housekeeping in a little house among the trees and raised a handful of children. During their married lives, Nicholas would, as many men in the community did at the time, frequent the local 'road house' (with the reputation that went with it). One fateful night, Granny Block had had enough of being alone with the kids and surmising where Nicholas was, she reached for the pistol, walked to the 'road house' and ordered Nicholas to 'Come out, blast ya!' He refused, she insisted, so she told him she was going to start blasting through the door if he didn't show himself. So the other men (probably not wanting to be identified) made Nicholas leave and Granny (all five feet of her) marched him the long way home with the gun nestled in the middle of his back."

"Later, Julia would learn to hunt ducks, geese and squirrels herself to help fill the larder for her family. She lived through two world wars, the time of ration stamps, saccharin, no coffee, doing without, riding buses as an only means of transportation and through it all good times and bad, she never lost her love for helping people or her sense of humor. She left a legacy of Christian love and compassion for all who knew her. She lives in the lives of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren who will keep her pioneering and need-to-know spirit both in learning and striving to new heights, alive in whatever their undertaking and horizons they cross."

Click to read the whole story...


A V-J Day Blouse

In case you didn't know, V-J day (the day marking Allied victory in Japan in WWII) was yesterday!  I happened to have made one of my most 'Merican shirts ever, so I took the opportunity to wear it, of course!  (And you saw it on the day I debuted my Smooth Sailing trousers, too!)

I used a 40s shirt pattern I have now made up several times (you can see my first version and pattern details here), but it turned out a bit blousier than I thought it would.  My first version doesn't seem to have this much ease, but it's also made by a thin, drapey cotton, which may explain it.  The fabric I used here is thicker, and I can't remember for the life of me exactly what it is content-wise. Obviously, I bought it for the print!

I saw this fabric at Joann a while ago and liked the Air Force theme and WWII symbols included.  I paired it with some gold US seal buttons with the classic eagles for a completely and utterly 'MERICA look.  My husband laughed when he saw it, but he knows I'm very patriotic.  I especially like to wear my patriotism as a fashionable garment.

However, the pattern is really busy.  I had the idea to do a contrast collar, but since the lower section of the collar and the blouse are cut in one piece, I figured it would be more work than I wanted to do. When I laid out the pieces on my fabric, though… I was short. Barely. (Isn't that how it ALWAYS works?!) To fix this, I made the blouse front facings into separate pieces cut of solid navy cotton. Although I wish I could say I was totally intentional about the contrast collar, it wasn't until I had sewn the facings on and flipped the collar section down that I realized it looked like a contrast collar with the fashion fabric "binding" the edge. I decided to run with it and cut a new navy collar which I edged in the 'Merica fabric.  It took some finagling to get things to fit and line up perfectly, but I'm pleased with the result!

Just as I couldn't tame the patriotism on this shirt, I couldn't tame the "more is more" that I usually try to suppress in favor of classiness. When I saw I had miniature gold eagle buttons in my stash that matched… I felt a sleeve accent coming on.  I added the buttons and navy triangles to each sleeve, and oilá! The shirt was done!

Not everything on the fabric is accurate as far as the art goes, but I've found it difficult to find a 100% accurate military fabric that isn't fleece or a straight up armed forces seal.  Not that I don't like the seals… but they aren't very artistic. (In fact, the one Air Force fleece that Joann carries right now… We already have in a blanket. NEW FABRICS, PLEASE.)  In fact, most of the Air Force fabric options available right now are aesthetically icky. Go ahead, google it now and see.

I've found some great WWII patriotic fabrics on Spoonflower though, so I think I'm going to build up my patriotic blouse collection!  One can never have too many of those, in my opinion!

Outfit details:
blouse: made by me, Simplicity 4762
trousers: made by me, Wearing History "Smooth Sailing" trousers
lipstick: F21

Aaaaaand, a side note, we're having a vintage chat this Thursday!  Brittany of Va-Voom Vintage and Lisa of Retro Housewife Goes Green will be hosting it with me, and we'd love to have lots of people join in!  Spread the word, and let's have fun talking vintage!

(If you'd like to follow me on Twitter, you can do that here!)

Finally, Smooth Sailing Trousers!

Flashback Summer: 1930s Wearing History Smooth Sailing Trousers

I don't know why I haven't jumped on the Smooth Sailing Trousers bandwagon until now… but here they are!

The Smooth Sailing Trousers pattern is from Wearing History, and it will become a staple of mine!  I wasn't happy with the look of some pants I made from a 40s pattern (there were two pleats at the top, and it just didn't seem flattering to me), so the one pleat at the top of these, in addition to the cuffs at the bottom, seemed like a version that would work better for me.  I think I was right!

I went all out on workmanship and supplies in order to make these pants a durable, quality addition to my wardrobe. I used wool (with 2% spandex, I think) and mounted/underlined it in bemberg rayon.

I also utilized several of the techniques I learned in an online couture class I recently tried out. I pressed things carefully, underlined, did balanced darts on the back, stitched the darts and pleats down, did a handpicked zipper, and put belting in the waistband. The pants feel fantastic and don't require nearly as much ironing because of the wool content and rayon underlining. The rayon also keeps the wool from bagging out at the bum and knees.

Flashback Summer: 1930s Wearing History Smooth Sailing Trousers - balanced dart

I added the belting at the waist because I'm tired of waistbands that fold over and wrinkle. I've also found it more comfortable to wear, since I made the trousers fairly fitted. I've found that I'm not so worried about the waistband snap coming undone, and I don't feel like I have to "suck it in" all the time.  The belting at the waistband and the rayon underlining hold their shape nicely.

Flashback Summer: 1930s Wearing History Smooth Sailing Trousers - belting waistband

Flashback Summer: 1930s Wearing History Smooth Sailing Trousers

I also used one more technique that I absolutely LOVE for seam finishing.  I don't know what it's called, but basically it allows the underlining to wrap around to the front of the fashion fabric, enclosing both raw seams and leaving just as much seam allowance as there was to begin with. (Here's the tutorial I used to explain.) IT IS THE BEST.  I didn't use it on the very curved seams, but it worked brilliantly for the side seams.  I ended up hand finishing the curved seams with rayon seam binding and closed up the other edges with the waistband and hem.

Flashback Summer: 1930s Wearing History Smooth Sailing Trousers

I won't lie, I'm proud of these trousers. I'm going to wear them a lot!  They're a bit wrinkly in these photos (I only steamed them after getting them out of a suitcase. Looking at the photos, I should've ironed them too!  Then I might have been crouching and flailing all over looking for a camera piece before this...), but I still like them.  I'll iron them before the next time I wear them, I promise!  The fit is still a bit strange around the crotch and bum area, but not enough to make me not wear them.  Pants are tricky this way, so maybe I'll be able to work it out on the next version.  (Suggestions are welcome!)

P.S. I'll tell you more about the shirt in the next post!

Flashback Summer: 1930s Wearing History Smooth Sailing Trousers

Here is a summary of the pattern details and things I changed:
Fabric: 98% wool/2% spandex and bemberg rayon
Pattern: Wearing History Smooth Sailing Trousers e-Pattern
Year: mid-30s
Notions: metal zipper, trouser hook, snap
How historically accurate is it? The only thing inaccurate is the spandex content in the wool. Other than that… I think it's 30s authentic!
Any tricky parts to the pattern?  Just general fitting, but most pants patterns need that. My muslin turned out a bit looser and longer than my wool fabric did for some reason, so I need to lengthen the legs and possibly increase the waist if I want more comfort next time.
Did you change anything?  Yes, I had to shorten the pattern a few inches (shocking? No.), and I graded from a 24" waist to the 35" hip size. I also adjusted the front crotch curve to remove some fabric. There are still some strange wrinkles that I'm not sure what to do about, but that may just be the result of the pleats and 30s fit. (If anyone knows a solution, please share!)
Time to complete: A week, due to hand sewing and carefulness!
First worn: August 4, 2015
Total cost: $35 wool + $20 rayon, everything else from stash = $55
Notes: Seriously, make a muslin.  It's always a good thing to do, especially when it comes to pants!

7 Steps to Start Historical Sewing

Flashback Summer: 7 Steps to Start Historical Sewing - Historical Costuming
Picture source

No, you don't actually have to sew a dress this ginormous… Unless you want to!

For… pretty much ever, I've loved  historical garments. Who doesn't like giant hoop skirts, elegant fabrics, and yards of lace?  Well, at least, I definitely do!  I loved to imagine what it would be like to wear clothing like Anne of Greene Gables, Elizabeth Bennett, or Scarlett O'Hara.  But I never really considered actually making it.  I mean, I thought it would be cool, but it just had to be hard.  All those new undergarments, and *gasp*… making a corset?! That's for couturiers and fancies, not "normal" sewing people. Surely one has to go to a sewing school for a while to make this sort of thing…

However, the more I learned about vintage sewing and, later, historical/antique sewing, I realized this isn't true!  While some things can definitely be complicated (and expensive), it's doable when attempted step by step, in bite-sized pieces.  So this is what I'm going to do!  I'm delving into the world of historical sewing!

(Obviously, I'm not a new sewist. If you are, I wouldn't start with historical costuming. Get basic sewing and pattern-altering skills down first!)

At first, I was totally overwhelmed. There seemed to be SO MANY new terms, sewing techniques, supplies, and things I had never heard of before.  If you're like me… Never fear!  It's going to be okay!  This IS possible!  In case you're in this spot, too, here are my tips so far in figuring out how to start historical costuming:

Now, understand, I am not an experienced historical costumer. I just know that I've hit some walls in starting historical sewing, and I thought I'd share my tips--from a beginner's point of view--that helped me not feel so overwhelmed and confused! I hope they help!

Get on Pinterest, read blogs, look at Google images of different time periods. Pin things that seem extra pretty to you, then go back and see if a certain era kept popping up. This may be the time period you should go for first!  If you like it… try it!

Another thing to consider would be what sort of historical costuming events may be happening in your area. This could be a good motivator, and it may also help determine a time period for you to work with.  I'm not planning for a specific event, so I went with the first Pinterest strategy.

Learn the nuances of the era you like.  If you've figured out, for example, that you like Civil War era dresses, then start studying what dresses looked like right before, during, and right after the war. Get familiar with trends and read up on what characteristics are particular to this period.  I even began to test myself on Pinterest by typing in a time range (like 1870s-1890s) and guessing specific years each garment was from in that era. (Of course, Pinterest isn't 100% reliable, but it makes you think!)  This helped me sharpen my observation skills and remember what trends are common in the era I'm looking for, and how to differentiate between the years before and after it.

3. Gather ideas.
Once again, I pinned.  I made a Natural Form Goals board in which I placed pictures of garments, fashion illustrations, paintings, and reproductions of Natural Form (or close) garments whose fabric, trim, or silhouette was especially lovely to me.  This will give me ideas for my garment projects later and determine what kind of look I'm shooting for. 

4. Figure out what's needed to create the look.
Blogs were especially useful to me at this point. Now that I knew what look I liked, I needed to figure out how to create it.  What undergarments are necessary?  Are there defining features of the corset or other undergarments that are particular to this period? For the Natural Form era, I learned that I will need Natural Form hoops, a corset, a petticoat, a chemise/drawers or combination, and probably a bum pad.  These are going to be my starting projects.  Also look into the kinds of fabrics used and what prints were common.  Fabric goes a long way in making a garment look authentic.

5. Who is the expert in this era?
Find out who is knowledgeable.  Look for blogs, Facebook groups, books, and articles written by experts that can help you in your journey. Especially when it comes to sewing the garment itself, look for pattern reviews or blog posts that can show made-up garments and tell how historically authentic something is.  If in doubt, join a Facebook group and ask lots of questions or contact a blogger that has a lot of experience to help clarify things for you.  (Though, as a blogger, I'd suggest combing their blog for relevant posts first. If you still don't find an answer, then ask!)

6. Decide what project to do first.
Take into consideration the order of your projects. It will do you no use to sew a dress if you don't have the proper undergarments. You'll have to readjust it all later anyway if you go that route (and it won't look right to begin with), so it makes sense to start with the inner layers and work out.  For me, this means I'll be making a chemise and set of drawers first, then a corset.  After that I'll do the other undergarments, then finally the outer layers and accessories!

Buy the pattern book. Get the sewing supplies. Get to clicking/shopping and just DO IT.  Take the leap.  I just got my pattern book, so this is the stage I'm at!  It's time to start SEWING!

Here are some blogs and resources I found helpful as I researched:
The Aristocat - This blogger has done a lot of time periods (back to the 1600s) and creates MAGIC.
Before the Automobile - This is the same blogger behind the blog above, with more posts! More awesome history and gorgeous garments to gawk at!

Festive Attyre - Jen creates clothing from the Renaissance up to mid-20th century. I found her posts on 1870s garments, skirt supports, and corsets VERY helpful.

American Duchess - Well-known in historical costuming circles, this blog is full of good stuff from lots of eras, especially the 1700s.

The Dreamstress - She has lots of examples of period garments with careful, observant descriptions, along with several sewing projects, explanations of terms, and history. Her 1870s posts were great for me!

What other blogs/websites have you found useful in researching for historical costuming information? Have you delved into historical costuming?  What eras are most intriguing to you?

I AM Alive!

I wanted to drop a note to tell you guys that I am indeed still alive, I'm just unable to post at the moment. I've been traveling for work the past week, and it was CRAZINESS.  Things snuck up on me faster than I anticipated, and I didn't have much time for blog planning-ahead.

Then, now that I'm back, I'm looking at getting caught up on things and this is a small glimpse of how I feel:

So, in order to preserve my sanity and get things back in order, I may have a bit more of a pause in my posting.  Don't worry, nothing is wrong, I'm just waiting until I have time to post some good content for you guys instead of shoddy "meh" posts.  I do have some sewing projects I've been working on that I can't wait to share, so stay tuned!