Sunday, 2 May 2021

Hack it or draft it - part 2, finally complete!

My hack-it-or-draft-it challenge dress (the one which was meant to be completed in *coughs* March), is done at last!

Once I had an actual dress-shaped garment to try on, I decided to take out the front skirt pleat - it wasn't needed, and it seemed to make the skirt hang oddly. The next thing to consider was the waist ties. On the original pattern they are cut as a single layer of fabric and hemmed, but because I was using satin, I had to make them double thickness. My initial cutting layout had allowed for very long ties, and I chose to make them the full length of the fabric available, on the basis that I could shorten them later if I wanted, but I couldn't lengthen them.

This did make the ties quite heavy, and when tied they pulled down from the waist. To get round this I added a belt loop at the point where the bow is tied. Both waist ties are pulled through the loop, but despite this it only needed to be small, as the fabric compacts a lot.

The teeny tiny belt loop

The loop sewn is stitched through the dress and onto the waist stay inside. I have put waist stays into several dresses, but Gisella's comment on last week's post (and a huge thank you to her and to everyone else who takes time to comment - I do read them all) reminded me that not everyone may be familiar with this handy feature.

A waist stay or stay tape is basically a close-fitting internal fabric belt on a dress. It is usually made from petersham or grosgrain ribbon, with either a snap or hook-and-eye fasten (I prefer the latter). In effect, it acts as a waistband and provides structure to the dress; supporting full, heavy skirts such as those on Vogue 8789, and/or allowing the bodice to create a blouse effect, such as Vogue 5215. Without a waist stay, both of these dresses would just hang from shoulders and distort.

Dresses with waist stays - Vogue 8789 and Vogue 5215

The waist stay is usually only attached to the dress at the seams; sides, centre front and centre back. However, because this dress is made from such a drapey fabric, I chose to attach the stay to the waist seam allowance all the way round. Sewing the belt loop onto the stay rather than just the dress gives it more support to hold the weight of the ties. I also attached long hanging loops to the stay, to take the weight when the dress is on a hanger.

The waist stay and a hanging loop

After the amount of effort which went into this dress, I would have liked to get some decent pictures of it. Unfortunately, other commitments meant that this was not possible just now, so it was quick back yard shots instead.*

I started off with the waist ties in a big bow, as per my inspiration image.

In a bow at the side

But then I realised that I could wrap them round my waist, and have a small tie like the one on the pattern illustration.

Centre front tie

Back view showing the wrapover

Clearly I need a longer slip, as the skirt generates static and sticks to my legs with the slightest movement, but I'm really pleased with the dress. Plus, it's more fabric out of the stash, and my first UseNine2021 project completed as well - woot!

Getting closer to stash-neutral (for this year at least)

One down, a mere eight to go!

* - In other news, I am experimenting with growing out my fringe. I've had it for over 25 years, and decided that if I wanted to grow it out, the time when it already had five months of lockdown growth was the time to try. Prepare for all manner of unfortunate hairstyles until either I give up or it gets long enough to fasten back properly!

Sunday, 25 April 2021

Slow going

This pretty much sums it up

Take a more-complex-than-anticipated project, add a sewjo which has apparently decided to go on holiday without me, and top off with still not entirely fixed dominant hand and you get - not much, really.

Last week I had a top part of a dress and a skirt part of a dress, and 'all' I needed to do was join them. Doing so has left me with a new admiration of the people who design sewing patterns, and in particular the ones who work out the order of construction and write the instruction sheets so that it all makes sense. Time and again I found myself hitting the following problem:
--I couldn't do A until B was completed,
----I couldn't do B until C was completed, and
------I couldn't do C until A was completed.

For example, I can't decide on the waist tie lengths until I see how they look on the completed dress, and I can't complete the dress without including the waist ties.

Waist tie options - long or short?

There was also the problem that I had decided to omit the bound buttonhole which the tie comes through, and replace it with an opening in the side seam. Then I realised that this left the bodice back unattached to anything. I didn't think that a couple of stitches to secure it would be strong enough, so ended up joining the two sides with a short length of narrow tape, attached to the seam allowances to make it invisible.

The new opening for the waist tie

I am at least pleased that the way the skirt fastens worked out as planned.

The dress unfastened

Step 1 - fasten the waist stay

Step 2 - pull the tie through the opening

Step 3 - do up the zip

Part of the reason why this dress has taken so long is that early on I formed the suspicion that it wouldn't work, so eagerly grabbed any excuse to work on something else. When I tried it on, I was pleasantly surprised by the fit and general appearance, but somehow I'm still struggling to get myself into my workroom and crack on with it. I just keep telling myself that the end is now in sight!

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Current progress and future plans

My hand is taking an annoyingly long time to recover. I can sew a little, but only for short periods. (One thing I've noticed in the last couple of years is that any sort of injury takes far longer to mend than it used to - the joys of ageing!) So not a lot of progress has been made with my dress. I do at least have a completed (albeit unhemmed) skirt, and an almost completed bodice now.

The unusual shape and construction of the 1935 blouse which I'm using for the bodice meant that I seemed to spend a lot of time sewing apparently random raw edges together, before a blouse-shaped article eventually appeared. It was also difficult to neaten the edges as I went along, because I couldn't work out what was going to become of that edge later on. Having my previous version to hand, to use as reference, was very helpful.

Seams everywhere

The blouse front is shaped with three vertical tucks from the waistline on each side. I wanted the middle tuck to line up with the seams of the central skirt panel, and realised early on that I had calculated its position wrongly. The easiest solution was to leave the tucks until both skirt and bodice were made up but, even then, the correct placement eluded me. Eventually, I decided that the best thing to do was write it up in my new sewing notebook and - it worked! There was just something about showing my workings out (complete with diagram) in my best writing, which seemed to move my brain up a gear.

Success! All this . . .

. . . led to this - matching seams!

There has been one advantage to my slow progress. The skirt has a side opening and as I didn't have a suitable zip, I was resigned to making a side placket with press studs. However, by the time I actually got round to this part, non-essential retail had reopened in England, including fabric shops.

I only popped in for a zip and some more curved petersham, honest. Well, you don't need me to tell you how that ended! During lockdown, I'd treated myself to a pair of American Duchess Harriets in blue, and decided that I quite fancied a blouse and skirt to go with them (yes, my foray into the world of separates continues). A 'quick look' through the "suiting" remnants bin turned up a perfect mid-blue fabric with a narrow red check.

The fabric, with the shoes

I'm actually going to cheat a bit with the skirt. View 2 of this 1970s Style pattern has a very similar look, and is in my size (unlike the Simplicity pattern, which is actually two sizes smaller). So, rather than redraft the Simplicity pattern, I’m going to alter the Style one to use period construction techniques. I'm hoping that with careful cutting out, I might be able to eke a waistcoat front out of the remaining fabric as well.

Simplicity 2480 from 1937 and Style 2025 from 1977

Part of the reason for choosing this particular remnant was that I knew it would go well with this length of Liberty lawn which has lurked in my stash for years, and which I want to use for a 1940s blouse.

Stashed blouse fabric with the skirt length

The Stashometer has been pushed further into the red by this, but hopefully not for long. However, I really do want to finish the dress before I start anything else, as otherwise it will definitely get pushed to the back of the queue and become a PHD*.


* - Project Half Done. It sounds so much more impressive than UFO (UnFinished Object!)

Sunday, 11 April 2021

The fashion stakes - 1934 edition

Today's post should have been about my (finally) completed hack-it-or-draft-it dress. Unfortunately, I had an accident earlier in the week and bruised my left hand (my dominant hand) so badly that I can't grip a needle - so the dress remains unfinished.

There is a certain irony to this. Because I haven't been exactly confident that my plan for the dress would work, it has progressed very slowly: any excuse to do something else instead was eagerly snapped up. But of course, now I can't sew, I'm desperate to get on with it.

So in the absence of any sewing, here's something rather different, a 'board game' which appeared in a March 1934 issue of Vogue. Various of the places on the board contain either fashion-forward items which give the players benefits, or fashion faux-pas which lead to forfeits, or even (horrors!) disqualification.

The complete game

Choosing clothing in 1934 was a complex business, with different outfits required for myriad subtly different occasions. Getting it wrong was a source of severe social anxiety, for the middle classes at least. The same issue of Vogue plays upon this concern with an advertisement for the upcoming three issues, headed "One shilling invested in Vogue can save you many guineas"*. It continues "During the next few weeks you will be buying your entire wardrobe for the coming season". Rather than looking forward to a shopping spree on suits, hats, dresses, and accessories (and fabrics), it describes this as a "trying period", with the risk of "costly failures".

Vogue emphasising the perils of shopping

Obviously, Vogue is stressing the difficulties in order to sell its expertise, but the problem was a real one: Catherine Horwood's Keeping Up Appearances: Fashion and Class Between the Wars provides a detailed and entertaining account of the complexities involved. In this context, Vogue's 'Race Game of Fashion' can be seen as a light-hearted way to advise readers what was in, and what was most definitely out.

Small drawings appear on 24 of the 95 places, with the key given at the centre of the 'board' - I have quoted these above each illustration. The rules of the game are as follows:

I particularly like rule three

Now all that is clear, let the game commence!

An elegantly manicured hand throws a dice to begin

Place 2 - Coat with wind-blown silhouette. Player blown forward, three places.

Fashion yay

Place 6 - Too much fur-trimming for spring. Player is exhausted, and misses two throws.

Fashion nay

Place 11 - Military effect with epaulettes. Player confined to barracks. Return to No. 1.

Another fashion fail, but no reason given

Place 15 - Player revives wardrobe with jabot. Receives extra throw.

Jabots were quite the thing at the time

Place 19 - Chinese coolie coat [sic]. Very new. Travel to No. 25.

I feel this image has not aged well

Place 24 - Feather boa. Over-elaboration. Player loses throw.

Also, very strange gloves!

Place 28 - Redingote and redingote stocks. Other players sent back three places.

A redingote is always elegant

Place 31 - Player goes out in stocking cap. Hides head until passed by all her rivals.

Surely no-one actually did this?

Place 37 - Three-quarter length coat. Player moves forward six places.

Obviously highly fashionable

Place 41 - Draw-string neckline. Hangs player up for one turn.

Not quite the thing

Place 42 - Player wears new sailor hat and obliterates rivals. Her next throw is doubled.

Old-fashioned hat styles in the background

Place 46 - Flower garden print frock. Player dances forward three places.

Just the thing for spring

Place 51 - Bare arms and shoulders. Player is cold-shouldered. Waits until she throws a six.

Whereas this is not

Place 56 - Ruched tulle cape. Player is excused next forfeit.

Elegant evening dress

Place 57 - Dropped waistline at back. Rival players drop back two places.

Rivals are blown away

Place 59 - Wind-blown hair. Blows player back to number 52.

Wind-blown is good for coats, but not for hair

Place 64 - Tunic dress. Go forward three places.

Tunic over a full-length skirt

Place 68 - Lots of long monkey fur trimming. Bad taste. Out of race.

The ultimate no-no, but is it the fur itself or the excess that's the problem?

Place 70 - Front coat fullness. Very advanced. Player is excused all future forfeits.

Bonus points for the cute dog, surely?

Place 75 - Tyrolean hat. Player waits for next turn until passed by an adversary.

Presumably such hats were passé?

Place 79 - Crisp blouses. Player moves forward to number 94.

They may be crisp, but they look rather fussy as well

Place 85 - Fan train. Player moves forward with dignity five places.

A fan train, and a footman

Place 89 - Unexpected cheque. Player buys winged ear clips and moves to finish.

Winged ear clips for the (literal) win

Place 92 - Riot of lace and velvet. Player goes backward instead of forward for next two throws.

Fallen at the last fence

Goal - Winner crowned with laurel (while wearing something which looks very like the ruched tulle cape on place 56).

Crowned the victor

* - A guinea was one pound and one shilling, £1.05 in today's money. Guinea coins ceased to be minted in 1813, but the sum continued to be used for high-end goods. By using the word 'guineas' rather than 'pounds', Vogue implies that its readers will be purchasing good quality as a matter of course. (In terms of selling the magazine, though, Georgina Howell's later slogan 'Buy nothing until you buy Vogue' arguably did the same job far more elegantly.)