Edith Head Bolero Getting Ready for Its Close-Up, Mr. DeMille

So I got going on that Edith Head bolero I’m making to wear to the Hollywood Costume exhibit in L.A.

First I prepped the silk (which feels like a heavy silk duppioni) by throwing it in the bathtub.

My experience is that it’s better to handwash silk first, so you don’t have shrinkage issues or nasty spots when your iron spits, but it’s a personal preference. I always test wash a 4″ x 4″ swatch first, with any fabric.
I went back and forth about what lining to use, because, though my first choice is usually silk crepe de chine, it could be 80 degrees F in L.A., and I didn’t want to have a hot flash in front of my husband’s clients. In the end I ordered a vintage rayon challis from Etsy.com, which I think will be comfortable and cool. The print has that late 50s/early 60s Doris Day vibe I’m going for (Karen of the blog Fifty Dresses brought that reference to my attention).

My adorable Bernina 560, AKA “My Swiss Intern, Karl,” has settled into his new Boston digs, in what I shall refer to as the sewing “nook,” as basically only me, Karl and a squirrel could fit in it.

IMG_3515.JPG That’s urban sewing for you! (For details about the Bernina USA/Jet Set Sewing arrangement, click the “Bernina Collaboration” tab above.)
(As an aside about this post’s title, it refers to Billy Wilder’s dark comedy “Sunset Boulevard” when, at the end, Norma Desmond is led off to the asylum having gone mad from basically not being able to work in Hollywood anymore. Her character is 50. 50!!!!)

You know the old Hollywood saying, “Better to be nuts with style than to have never had style at all…” Or something like that.
Since this pattern is not that hard to find on eBay and Etsy.com, (I have three copies in different sizes, speaking of being nuts over 50) I decided not to trace it, and just go ahead and cut it. First I used a giant sheet of wax tracing paper and roller to mark the pattern onto my muslin.

Little Miss In-A-Hurry did a lousy job of telling the cutting line from the seam line (it’s supposed to be the seam line) but I could still tell what was going on.

Of course these vintage patterns are always full of surprises, and on this one, it was that the roll-collar neckerchief thingy had a straight line that needed to be connected to the curved front neckline. What the what?

I have been wondering why the collar piece had been cut on the bias (I thought it was just an aesthetic element) but then realized that it gave it some give to go around the neckline. At least the two pieces weren’t curved in the opposite direction, like the Charles James pattern!

Kimono sleeves with two darts; be still my heart. I love the attention to detail in these vintage patterns.

Since the pattern was close to my size, and the sleeves were cut-in, I was happy to see that the muslin didn’t need much fitting.

Being married to a vintage (literally) man with OCD (Obsessive Collecting Disorder) all I had to say was “Honey, you still got that box of vintage buttons?” and a few minutes later, I had three choices.

Any opinions on which I should choose?
Right now I’d better get that fashion/lining fabric cut, I need to wear it in a week! How’s your sewing going?

31 thoughts on “Edith Head Bolero Getting Ready for Its Close-Up, Mr. DeMille

  1. From left to right on the buttons ~ love the first (but not necessarily with your fabric, just in general), middle look good with the fabric, last on right am not too keen on. (But might be fab with that lining, on reflection…) Project is looking great – congratulations on that silk bath!

    My sewing? MINE? Hah! LOL!! Dreaming’s more like it this week. C’est la vie. 😉
    Have a lovely time in LA!

  2. Lovely fabrics. I think the buttons in the middle match best with both fabrics, always like it when inside and outside of a garment correspond.
    And what a great husband you have. I have to buy all the buttons myself and when I ask him where I put my button box he just stares at me as if I have asked for the closest spaceship to travel to mars.^^
    Hope the bolero will get worn after all when it is so hot in LA, would be a shame.
    greets, ette

    • Hi Ette, Always nice to hear from you! I think the bolero will get a wearing regardless because I will be in an air-conditioned dinner. As for the husband…it’s great to have someone with style, but he is opinionated, too.

  3. Love the lining! And I am with you on those double darts on the kimono sleeves – it is these exact details that make me so smitten with vintage patterns. So – the buttons. If I had those buttons on the left, I’d find something very quickly on which to use them. But I don’t think it should be this bolero. The middle buttons have the right look, color and size, I think, for this project. It is going to be lovely, I know!

    • Hi Nancy! I’m making a muslin version of the bolero first to test the fit. It’s an haute couture technique that really helps, because it allows you to monkey around with the fit before you cut and sew your fabric. It’s very helpful with vintage patterns, because the fit can be all over the place. I really like Susan Khalje’s muslin-making technique, which I learned watching her “Couture Dress” course on craftsy.com. Susan is now creating her own line of videos, which you can find on susankhalje.com. She’s a wonderful teacher!

  4. I dunno.Three buttons, go middle sized? You’ll never match those colors, you just have to decide which is the color you want to emphasize. Most of my sets of vintage buttons are sewn onto cards in patterns and this makes them too pretty to use. And….oh dang, this reminds me. I have mystery fabric soaking in the laundry sink. Why does red ‘linen’ bleed olive green? Off to pull it out.

    • Hi Lynn, the buttons in the middle are actually less teal and more green in person, which is why I’m on the fence. When the jacket’s completed I think the jacket/button size ratio will be important, so I’ll figure it out then.

      • Love the pattern, especially the neck of the bolero. Buttons in the middle look best but that may be lighting and way color shows on screen. My first pick was the ones on the right but color is a little off; again you have a better read, having the fabric in hand. The outfit will be a hit. I smiled at your creative pattern weights; nothing like using what’s at hand.

      • Hi Mary, those are very exclusive pattern weights imported from the shores of Martha’s Vineyard! (I did rinse them off first…) As for the buttons, I’d better get going on the sewing, or there will be nothing to sew them onto.

  5. I, like many of your commentors, think the green button will look good and offer a connection to the dress fabric. However, the purple buttons are beautiful and this outfit deserves beautiful buttons. I’d also like to offer a fourth option: covered buttons. With the fourth option I see an amethyst broach/pin in the neckerchief.

    • That’s actually a great idea, as I’m thinking of wearing an amethyst bracelet with the bolero. I’m getting going on the jacket construction, and then I’ll give the all of the buttons a test drive.

    • Nice to hear from you, Patricia! I like the darts, too, but I’ve been cussing out that collar all day. The directions were spotty, but now that I have it figured out, I think it will be great.

  6. The muslin is looking great! It’s nice to see the vintage pattern coming to life. Which tool did you use to get the red dotted pattern lines on the muslin? Very useful looking technique! Thanks 🙂

    • I’m using large sheets of wax tracing paper and a tracing wheel. I got both of them from RichardTheThread.com, and the tracing paper is also available at SusanKhalje.com. It’s a very useful technique!

      • Thanks for letting me know! I hadn’t heard of the RichardTheThread website yet. Did you dip your tracing wheel in ink and then trace on the muslin? P.S. I am very jealous of your Claire McCardell pattern that you own. It’s incredibly hard to find them for sale!

      • I use the old-school method of putting a large sheet of waxed tracing paper under the muslin and pattern and rolling the wheel over the pattern. The marks end up on the back of the muslin. I use Susan a Khalje’s method, which is outline in her Craftsy.com course “The Couture Dress” and also in Threads Magazine articles she’s written. It’s labor-intensive but very precise. If you check out SusanKhalje.com you can learn about her videos and workshops. As for my growing Claire McCardell collection, it’s my dream to bring her designs to a wider world, so stay tuned.

  7. Pingback: 50s Scarf Free Downloadable Pattern, and my nemesis, Edith Head | Jet Set Sewing

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