I sewed for the Oscars again, and lived!

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If you’ve been reading my blog for the past few years, you know that I am an Oscar widow – meaning that I hand my husband over to the show for several months, and then I get to go!

I’ve worn me-made on the red carpet a couple of times, first this “crushed” boatneck (with a pleat in the neckline) and long skirt:

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(I have no idea what happened to the rest of that picture…)

And last year I wore the Madame Gres dress from hell that I wrote about ad nauseum:

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But I swore I wouldn’t go down the eveningwear road again without doing a “sit and sew” with Kenneth King or Susan Khalje. You need someone like that to have your back.

However, when Santa brought me these bakelite Art Deco dress clips:

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I got to thinking about the gorgeous, houndstoothy black tweed in my stash, waiting around to become the perfect quilted “little black jacket” with three-part sleeves, princess seams and all that jazz. I even had lining and trim.

Yet in my heart of hearts, having made jackets like that before, I knew that going the full Chanel was never, ever going to happen again.

And here’s why:

(Watching this Chanel Haute Couture Video will probably give you anxiety…)

But I needed to use the stash for something, so I started thinking about making a version of this McCardelligan that I’ve made a couple of times from knits. It’s based on an original McCardell jacket in my collection. She often designed similar jackets in wovens, and since the pieces were cut on the bias, the fabric is stretchy under the arms – no gusset needed.

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I decided to go for it, because stash-busting is my middle name this year.

I started out cutting out the exterior fashion fabric, joyful that I was cutting out four pieces instead of 13 for a traditional jacket.IMG_5589

I always cut bias pieces in a single layer, and check and double check when pinning and cutting to ensure that they’re going to meet in the center front and center back in a “V”. If both sides end up going in the same direction, the whole thing can twist.

Who else hates thread tracing? That’s the haute couture technique where you baste around the pattern pieces on the seam line to help with construction and fitting.

I decided to fake it with a long machine basting stitch. Because sometimes if you get too bogged down in this stuff, you never get the thing done.

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I marked the two darts and started putting the whole thing together.

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With only two darts and five seams, it was pretty much smooth sailing. I even had a chain I’d bought, pre-sewn onto a ribbon, that I attached to the hem with a piping foot:

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Yee haw! Then all I had to make was…the bias silk lining. Eep!

Now cutting and sewing silk on the bias is a different animal. It slips! It slides! It shifts! It sucks! (But it feels so good when you stop.)

Once again I laid out the pattern in a single layer, pinned it with loads of pins, and started cutting with my Kai serrated shears, which are the only game in town. (FYI, I’m not a Kai affiliate, just an addict.)

Then I kept the pattern pinned to the silk and faked the thread tracing again, with a narrow zigzag.

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So far so good, until I goofed up and, noting that the fabric was burbling up as it got to the feed dogs, I started repinning as I was sewing. Big mistake! That works when I’m sewing things on the grain, but since bias fabric will move all around, I should have left well enough alone.

Fortunately, I had cut large seam allowances, so I literally had some wiggle room. I had to move things around as I sewed the lining together (again with a narrow zigzag, which is forgiving when you’re sewing on the bias).

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And in the end it looked okay:

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When I put the whole thing together, matching the lining seams to the exterior seams on the “wiggly” side was not happening.

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But I was able to shift things around and smooth it out.

I attached the neckline (nervous nervous nervous):

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By then I’d realized that I just needed to break down and hand-baste to keep the lining stable.

I had thought that I could do some quilting of the exterior and lining at this point, but since the bias was wonky, I stitched in the ditch by hand a little to tamp down the seams, then edge-stitched by hand around the neck and center fronts.

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My clever pre-sewn chain was making the hem too stiff, so I trimmed the ribbon.

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When I finally got everything stabilized, I pinned the hem, trying on the jacket several times to make sure that everything was lying flat.

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Whew! After that, sewing on the trim was smooth sailing. (Even though I was doing most of it the day of the show!)

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At the very last minute, I sewed on some brass hooks and eyes (lacking McCardell’s traditional brass shoe hooks and rings) and added the dress clips. Even the backs of the clips were Art Deco.

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Then came the hardest part – pressing the crappy ready-to-wear viscose dress I’d bought to go with it on the hotel ironing board. The dress was a simple sleeveless long dress with a big slit and a sort of 30s godet, so get a good picture in your mind’s eye because that’s where it’s going to stay.IMG_5909

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Showtime!

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I was so excited about wearing a wool and silk jacket in L.A. in February, because I’m usually freezing on the red carpet and in the theater. This time around, though, it was 80 degrees! My husband was walking about 90 miles an hour and for some weird reason was more interested in getting inside to schmooze with people than to photograph me seven or eight times on the red carpet as I was having a hot flash. I tried to pull a Norma Desmond on him but he was not buying it. Consequently, the red carpet picture was awful.

So I’ll stick with pictures from the Governors’ Ball, which was so chilly that I overheard Charlize Theron, in Dior Haute Couture, complaining about the cold.

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Next year I’m sure she’ll be sensible and show up in toasty jacket like me.

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I did get a peek at Jennifer Garner (tall, in Versace) and Reese Witherspoon (shorter, in Oscar de la Renta) and really wished I could have gotten up closer to inspect the construction of their dresses. I’m sure they would have thought that it was just super-girly and not weird at all.

jennifer-garner-oscars-red-carpet-2016reese-witherspoon-oscars-red-carpet-2016There weren’t a lot of dresses I was crazy about, though I did like that Kerry Washington took a walk on the wild side in Versace:

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And Amy Poehler, in Andrew GN, proved that you don’t have to be undressed to be fierce:

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Here’s the most important picture – the desserts!

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(A tiramisu push-up, creme brûlée on a stick, and a chocolate Oscar. Chomp!)

Oh no! I bit off Oscar’s legs!

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And here, at long last, is my official red carpet portrait:

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Okay, it’s a bad wall selfie, because my husband is so FIRED as my photographer. (Oops, just remembered that he’s my ride to the Oscars. Just kidding, hon!) But you get the picture on the jacket.

Of course McCardell, being a minimalist, would have put topstitching on the edges instead of that Chanel-y trim. But it’s really comfy, and now after going to all of that trouble, I have something to wear out to dinner, too.

To misquote Scarlett O’Hara, “as God is my witness, I will never Chanel again!”

How’s your sewing going?

 

More Faking Vintage Looks with Modern Patterns, and first official Intergalactic Sewing Blog!

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It’s been awhile since I’ve written about using modern, commercially available patterns to create vintage looks. Some new releases have inspired me, though!

Vogue 9126, for example, is a 40s style that’s wearable in modern life.

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I like to mix vintage in my day-to-day look, as my “true vintage” days are behind me. This would be a fun dress for a mother (or in my case, stepmother) of the bride to wear to a hipster wedding. Comfortable, easy to dance in, and SLEEVES! We like sleeves!

This Vogue Badgley Mischka pattern is modern, but has a 60s element to the neckline. It’s a “crushed boatneck” with a little fold in the shoulder seam to give it some drape.

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I like this pattern as a dress, and the bodice would be easy to hack into a top. I made a top with a neckline like this several years ago, and you can read all about it here: Crushed Boatneck Frankenpattern

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I’ve made three versions of that top, and have worn them to death.

I like this new “Retro” pattern from Butterick, as well, with a boatneck, cut-in sleeves, binding on the neck and sleeve edges, and a bias cummerbund to hide a multitude of desserts. It looks like it’s flattering and easy to wear.

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And how about these cute sailor pants from Sandra Betzina? I wore the real thing from the Army/Navy store in the 70s, but now, I’d go for something like this, made from a stretch woven. We all need a little lycra in our lives, don’t we?

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Earlier in the year, Simplicity released this playsuit pattern that I ended up buying. Even though the bra top and skirt are not for me at this age, I really like the way the sleeves are cut into the blouse. I’m not much of a blouse-wearer, but this one looks stylish and easy to wear.

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(I still haven’t made it though…)

And how adorable is this pattern from Simplicity?

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Even though my granddaughters would not wear this unless it was pink, sparkly and had a giant picture of Elsa from “Frozen” on it, it’s fun to think about them in it.

Come to think of it, I have seen a version of this design made up…

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Yep, the little girl on the right is me! My sister Janet is on the left, and my sister Diane is in the middle. Diane, a choreographer and dance instructor, is also a world-class knitter. (I remember she taught me the “popcorn stitch” as a kid.) She’s the one that whips up fun, gourmet party food in about a half an hour and throws warm, relaxed family gatherings. A few months ago, she sent me our grandmother’s button box, full of vintage buttons!

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The photo of we three sisters is from 1961, at which point, when you wore a dress, it was going to have a “stick-out slip” under it (AKA a crinoline). I remember being in first grade in a dress like this (because you weren’t allowed to wear pants), with an itchy crinoline, sitting on the freezing, gritty linoleum floor for 45 minutes watching a tiny black and white TV, waiting for one of the Apollo rockets to launch. It would always get delayed, and it was so boring! And cold! And dirty!

I was in northern Michigan, which is cold and snowy, so we would either have snowpants under the crinolines when we went outside, or we stuffed the whole thing, slip and skirt, inside the snowpants.

So if you’re wondering why baby boomer-aged women in the U.S. run around in yoga jeans, black sneakers, knit Breton tops, and giant sweaters long enough to sit on, that pretty much sums it up.

I’m glad that the Big 4 pattern companies are offering a variety of vintage styles, and not just the big “I Love Lucy” full skirts that have been popular for awhile. I have to give a shoutout to Vogue-Butterick-McCalls for reaching out to sewing enthusiasts and doing market research about what types of patterns we’re looking for. Their new collections are quite appealing.

And here’s my all-time favorite of the Big 4 vintage style patterns…

(Are you expecting this?)

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McCalls 7154 has been the talk of the town on vintage blogs and boards, and it is gorgeous. I can’t pull it off at this age, but Lisa of Paprika Patterns  is giving it a go now. We’ll see how it turns out!

No, my favorite of the Big 4 vintage-style patterns is this:

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Isn’t McCalls 7206 the most fabulous young guy hipster/old guy hipster pattern!?! You can make it solid, in two colors, or in three colors. It could be made into a bowling shirt, a Hawaiian shirt, or you could embroider it for a Cuban guayabera… And those seams are like princess seams. Someone needs to hack this for a girl!

The indy patternmakers have been busy as well.

Decades of Style has a new line of easy vintage patterns. I know some of you readers are just learning to sew or returning to sewing after a long time, and these look like fun projects.

Here’s the “Given A Chance” Dress pattern:

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It really has that “let’s have highballs on the patio” look to it, doesn’t it?

Eva Dress is another reliable pattern re-release company, and they’ve just put out this pattern for 1935 Beach Pajamas…something I wish I could wear to the beach now:

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I like the retro patterns from both Decades of Style and Eva Dress, because they spend time testing their patterns and rewriting the instructions to make them clear for modern sewing enthusiasts. Having worked with original vintage patterns myself, it can be like reading hieroglyphics!

I’d also like to mention that the blogger Shelley, of New Vintage Lady, offers some extremely cool plus-size vintage pattern repros on Etsy.

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She’s an animator, and her indy comic called “Vintageville,” sold through her Etsy shop, is so unique and worth a look.

If you’re in the mood to make a Chanel jacket (or French jacket or cardigan jacket), Susan Khalje’s new jacket pattern is available on her website, with or without her Couture French Jacket course. The pattern makes the two jackets pictured here:

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70 years later, they’re still in style.

And just a reminder that my two free vintage-style patterns, for the 50s Buttonhole Scarf and the Claire McCardell-Inspired Wrap, are still available on WeAllSew.com. Just download and go!

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As for being the first officially-sanctioned Intergalactic Sewing Blog, well, it’s true!

I know that you (and perhaps Karl) may be skeptical, but I have proof.

My last post was about finishing a Claire McCardell UFO (AKA an “Unfinished Object”) from my stash pile, just in time for International UFO Day, which of course we all celebrate by wearing hats with antennae and exchanging gifts of small porous rocks.

A couple of days later, I was looking at my Twitter feed and saw this:

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My post had been picked up by an international UFO sighting website (which is mostly in Japanese), and clearly broadcast throughout the Universe and beyond! Who cares about some NASA pictures from Pluto! Pluto’s not even a planet anymore. This is the real deal.

So even though some of you may think that your blog posts have communed with the heavens, I’m the first one to have proof.

Be that as it may, you won’t be seeing me in any of those manned flights to Mars that are coming up. How would I take all of my sewing stuff?

Hope your sewing’s entering a new dimension!

Free patterns for quick projects! (So not like me, right?)

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While I’m getting my summer sewing operation set up, (the “thinking about it” phase is so much more fun that the “pinning and cutting” phase…) here are a couple of free patterns I had fun with earlier in the year.

The first is a hack of the Maria Denmark “Kirsten Kimono Tee.” Maria Denmark offers a line of simple, classic indie patterns, and this pattern is free when you sign up for her newsletter. (Here’s the Maria Denmark website)

I got the idea reading the rules for the Pattern Review “Best Patterns” contest in March, and, darn you Deepika, you always get me with those contests!!! I start reading the rules and discussions and the next thing you know, I’m rooting through my stash to make a copy of the wardrobe from “Titanic” in a week and a half.

The Kirsten Tee was one of the patterns in the contest, so of course the night before the contest was over, there I was downloading it. (You can see the original pattern and reviews here.)

The original pattern is a very simple tee with a ballet neck and kimono shoulders that extend to cap sleeves. I decided to raise the neckline to be more bateau-shaped and extend the sleeve lines to the elbow.

The next morning, I laid out and cut the two pattern pieces on some organic cotton French terry in my stash.

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(Yes, one of those pattern weights is my son’s Nintendo…)

The one thing that’s confusing about the pattern is that you need to add different-sized seam allowances at different places. So I compared the pattern to a ready-to-wear tee in my drawer to ballpark the size and seam allowances. I cut it a little big, since at this age “negative ease” (cutting knits a little tight so they stretch on your body) is not my friend.

Then I used a narrow zigzag on the seams to check the fit, since that stitch is easy to pick out if needed. The fit was looking good, so I used a stretchy lingerie stitch to finish the seams.

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I decided to jazz up the neckline and hems by using the “Greek Key” stitch I’d tried on the Issey Miyake knit top I’d just finished. I just turned up the edges and went for it.

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Done for ten o’clock yoga class!

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(I was so not in the mood to ask my husband to take more pictures, and I’ve been going to that class for so long that no one thought I was nuts.)

The other free pattern is one of mine, and I bet you’re going to giggle when you see it.

I came up with the idea for making a “cuff” bracelet out of fabric last summer (with a button and working buttonhole), and then thought, “why not make it look like the cuff of a Chanel jacket?”

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If you’ve ever wanted to make a Chanel jacket, but don’t have the patience, you can make one of these in an afternoon and get it out of your system!

My pattern and instructions are free on WeAllSew.com, and you can find them by clicking here.

This pattern is part of JetSetSewing.com’s collaboration with BERNINA of America, and you can see the details by clicking the “Bernina Collaboration” tab.

As for my next project? Well, the Pattern Review Historical Fashion Contest does start on July 1st. Uh oh…

Hope your sewing’s going well!

Susan Khalje on Making a French Jacket, Issey Miyake, and Kiss Me Karl

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Hi everyone! Just a heads up that part two of my interview with Susan Khalje, where she spills the secrets of “The Little French Jacket” (AKA making a Chanel Jacket, cardigan jacket etc.) has been posted on WeAllSew.com, and you can find it by clicking here. When I spoke to her, she gave me the history of this enduring design, and explained how the famous three-part sleeve is fantastic for fitting.

Aren’t those jackets she made beautiful? Her online “French Jacket” course has just launched, and I’m eager to take a look at it! You can find the info on SusanKhalje.com.

As for my sewing, hm, the end of my son’s school year kind of did that in. But now that I’m back in my island summer sewing shed, I’m going to get right on it. Just as soon as…

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Somebody, GET THAT MAN OUT OF HERE! (Just because I can run a high-tech machine doesn’t mean I know how to fix the printer for you, hon…)

During the winter, I had fun making up some classic Issey Miyake Vogue patterns. The construction was so fascinating! Even though, technically, patterns from the early 2000s aren’t “vintage,” these designs definitely fit under the “modernist” umbrella, which starts with Vionnet and continues through Claire McCardell and Halston.

When I looked up info on Issey Miyake’s theories of design, which include using technically advanced fabrics and manufacturing techniques, I found that trying to pin down his Japanese philosophy and express it in English was beyond my cross-cultural capabilities. So here’s the bio from his official website: Issey Miyake Bio

I decided to make up two of his patterns as part of the PatternReview.com Travel Wardrobe contest, which was loads of fun. I was short on time, so I wanted to make things that required only one or two pattern pieces.

My first make was from this pattern, Vogue 2814:

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The sleeveless top on the right was intriguing, because the pattern was cut as all one piece!

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That’s it, you’re looking at it. I cut it out from some light cotton/lycra jersey in my stash, and proceeded to scratch my head over the instructions. (I don’t envy the people who had to write up the guide sheet at Vogue.)

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In lieu of top-stitching the edges (but leaving them raw, as called for in the pattern), I used a kind of 50s-looking Greek Key decorative stitch to finish the edges with a little stretch.

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After a number of twists and turns, and more head-scratching, I ended up marking the center front, left and right sides etc. with chalk so I could figure it all out.

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Lo and behold, the pinwheel became a nice summer top with a twist!

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It only took a few hours start to finish, which has got to be a new record for me. Here’s the play-by-play on Pattern Review.

Then I decided to go for a Miyake skirt, from Vogue 2437. (Alas, I don’t have a photo of the pattern at present, but if you go to my review on Pattern Review Vogue 2437, it should turn up.)

This skirt is also cut from one pattern piece, and here I’m using Eileen Fisher rayon ponte, which has a nice drape.

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Just a big rectangle-ish piece, right? Not so fast. There are so many weird darts and closures that I used white tracing paper and a tracing wheel to mark them, followed by chalk.

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See what I mean? Yes, those are overlapping darts.

The only closures on this skirt are two rows of snap tape. The idea is that you can snap it how you want to give it variations in the drape. I had some brass snap tape from Paris that did the trick.

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Upon giving the skirt a test drive, though, I discovered that the snap tape did not have enough hold for my middle-aged behind, so I added a giant snap at the top.

Voila!

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It’s a hard to photograph, but it’s a really fun design. I used Steam-a-Seam Lite 2 to secure the edges and snap tape before top-stitching, which helped a lot.

Here’s one way that I “styled” the two pieces for the contest.

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(You may recall that I made that quilted Chanel bag “homage” last year, and the info on that is in this post.)

I really recommend the Miyake patterns from this era!

In other news, last June I announced that BERNINA of America was loaning me a B560 for a year, and, of course, my on-going love affair with my “Swiss Intern Karl” has been fodder for the tabloids ever since. I’m happy to let you know the good news that Karl has signed on for another couple of semesters here at JetSetSewing.com! Which is great because I don’t know what I would do without his fabulous feed and New Wave yodeling. My thanks again to Bernina of America for their generosity. Details can be found by clicking the “Bernina Collaboration” tab above.

Do you think Karl is sticking around because he’s jealous of this new member of the Jet Set Sewing team?

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Well hello, sweet little Carline! Fresh off the Ebay assembly line. She’s gotta be 50-something, and yet this little Minimatic can still satin-stitch like a champ. (I did my research before I bid, because the cam gears on these girls can crack after all of this time. This one had an overhaul by a collector.)  25 pounds of fun in her own little suitcase!

Hope your sewing’s going well!

Boston’s “Hollywood Glamour” Exhibit, and Step Away from the 20s Chanel, Ma’am.

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I wanted to share a few pictures from a beautifully-curated “jewel box” of an exhibit I attended recently at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. “Hollywood Glamour: Fashion and Jewelry from the Silver Screen” features gowns by Chanel, Edith Head, Travis Banton, Schiaparelli and other famous designers and costumers from the 20s through 40s, along with some big flippin’ ROCKS of jewelry…okay, I may be getting a little overexcited, but trust me, if you saw them, you’d have a hot flash, too.

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Let’s start with what, to me, is the best, most beautifully preserved vintage dress I’ve ever seen in person, and that’s saying a lot, as I’ve attended a number of the big fashion exhibits over the past couple of decades.

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The dress was created in the mid-20s by Chanel, and it was worn by actress Ina Claire in a photo for Vogue by Edward Steichen.

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The dress appears to have a black silk bias underslip, and over it is a mesh dress with the most exquisite sequin and beaded flowers. It’s so Chanel and ahead of the curve. The preservation is just pristine.

Though photos without flash are allowed in the exhibit, as I leaned in to get a closeup of the beading, a loud BEEEEEEPPPPPP rang out through the hushed room, and I was suddenly worried the “authorities” from Casablanca would come bursting in. Readers, these are the risks I take for you.

The dress is from the collection of U.S. Vogue Editor-at-Large Hamish Bowles. In previous posts, I’ve written about my extreme jealousy of his writing prowess and large couture collection. Hamish, invite me over to look through your closet anytime; your articles are always favorites of mine.

The exhibit has a number of dresses and outfits from 30s and 40s movies, with a clever film loop running in the back, showing them in the films:

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I loved this dress, created by the costume designer Gilbert Adrian, which Greta Garbo wore in the movie “Inspiration”:

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I’m already trying to figure out how I can hack that pattern.

And how about this dress, created for Mae West by Schiaparelli?

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The exhibit also features the special platform shoes Mae West had made up to wear in films, to give her a few inches of extra height:

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And there was this Vionnet-inspired gown, designed by Edith Head, for a young Betty Grable:

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The exhibit also includes costume design sketches, like this one by Travis Banton, created for Marlene Dietrich.

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Then I moved on to the bling, and sadly I was too dazzled to take many notes. Can you blame me?

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(Those are Mae West’s gigantic aquamarines…)

This excellent exhibit was put together by Michelle Tolini Finamore, Curator of Fashion Arts, and Emily Stoehrer, Curator of Jewelry at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; two jobs I’d like to have in another life. The exhibit runs through March 8th, so if you’re in the Boston area, check it out!

Here’s more about the exhibit from National Public Radio, journalists who are far less lazy than I.

I always enjoy wandering around the Boston MFA (particularly now that their new addition includes a huge atrium and restaurant), and even though the museum seems big on the outside, it always has a nice flow and intimacy.

For example, on my way to the exhibit, I stopped for awhile at the top of a grand staircase, to sit in one of the club chairs provided and ruminate on a small collection of hand-woven Persian rugs.

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A little later, walking down a hallway, there was a mini-exhibit of vintage advertising from WWI:

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Then I went around the corner to a modern installation and found:

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My fabric stash!! I knew I left it somewhere!

Actually, it’s a work by artist Shinique Smith, (but it really does look like my stash):

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Now that I’ve found my fabric…back to work!

And just a quick reminder, if you’re stuck in the snow in the Northeastern U.S… I have a couple of free downloadable patterns available on Bernina’s WeAllSew.com, which can be sewn up quickly using pieces from your stash. The first is a Midcentury Claire McCardell-inspired Infinity Wrap/Scarf made from knits:

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The second is an authentic 50s design for a scarf with tucks and a buttonhole, known as The Hepburn Scarf:

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Both projects are part of a vintage project collaboration between Jet Set Sewing and Bernina USA. For details, click the “Bernina Collaboration” tab above. And if you give either pattern a try, please let me know!

Hope your sewing’s going well!

 

An Epic Road Trip and Meeting Susan Khalje!

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Okay, despite the title, there was only one thing truly epic about my road trip to Maryland, and that was meeting haute couture sewing expert and master teacher Susan Khalje!

When I contacted Susan, she graciously invited me to visit her studio, north of Baltimore, where her popular haute couture sewing classes are held. I wanted to hear about her recently-launched online video series, which includes “The Cocktail Dress” course (now available), and a number of other courses in the pipeline. (Find details here on SusanKhalje.com)

Susan has given me access to the Cocktail Dress course for review, and I’m very eager to have a look. Here’s the pretty pattern that goes with the course (which comes in a range of sizes, up to a 50″ bust):

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Susan even gave me a sneak peek at the French jacket pattern she’s currently tweaking, which will be released in conjunction with her highly-anticipated “French Couture Jacket” online course:

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Between you and me, I think it will be the go-to pattern for a lot of sewing enthusiasts, so if making a Chanel-style jacket is on your bucket list, you may want to hold off until that course launches in the fall.

Susan and I talked about the sleeve alone for about 20 minutes, during which I learned its little secret… (Shhh…I’ve taken a vow of silence on that subject until the course is launched.)

Susan very nicely allowed me to interview her for a whopping two hours, giving me enough material for about 10 articles. So in the coming weeks I’ll be going over my notes and writing an article to be featured on Bernina USA’s website WeAllSew.com. (For details about the collaboration between Bernina USA and JetSetSewing.com, please click the “Bernina Collaboration” tab at the top of this post.)

I’ll let you know when that post goes up. Many thanks to Susan Khalje for taking the time to meet up with me!

While I was on the road, I decided to join Instagram, and discovered that most of you sewing peeps were already having a party there without me! So I’ve started daily posts featuring my favorite vintage patterns, using the hashtag #patterndujour.

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You can find me on Instagram under the name “jetsetsewing.” Let me know if you’re a reader, and I’ll be happy to follow you!

Though I was torn away from my dear Bernina 560, “Karl,” for a week, sewing was still on my mind, so I visited G Street fabrics in Rockville, Maryland, which is right outside of Washington, DC.

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I’ll admit that I’m a little spoiled having shopped for fabrics in L.A. and Paris this year, but I did find a few fun things among the fabrics rolls.

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I really liked this selection of vintage-style oilcloth yardage, but just couldn’t get in the mood to make a tablecloth.

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They do have a nice selection of fabrics for both basic garment sewing and high-end dress-making, as well as some quality suit fabrics and designer fabrics, like this brocade from Anna Sui.

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While I was there, I picked up supplies for my next project, which is to make a Claire McCardell dress and bolero jacket from this 50s Spadea pattern.

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This style of Grecian-inspired design, with long adjustable strings cinching the waist, is a recurring theme in McCardell’s collections, and in fact there’s a black rayon version in the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute collection.

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(Claire McCardell Dress in the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute’s Collection)

Though this style may look familiar now, the dart-free, adjustable-waist concept pioneered by McCardell was radical in its time.

I’ve written in the past about how the Spadea pattern company took existing garments that were being sold in stores, deconstructed them, and drafted patterns from the pieces. So by using this pattern, I should be able to create a clone of the dress in the Met. Here’s a brief history of the Spadea company, written by Lizzie of The Vintage Traveler blog: (Article about Spadea Patterns)

The pattern has a matching bolero, and in researching McCardell, I found this description of the outfit in an ad: “Evening Elegance: black crinkle-crepe sheath, red and black reversible jacket, $55.” Sounds great, huh? I’ve also seen modified versions of this dress in wool jersey, another McCardell signature.

So if all goes well, I’ll be putting together this dress from black merino jersey bought during my mad dash through The Fabric Store in L.A., (L.A. Fabric Stores), and lining the bolero with the red wool jersey I just bought at G Street Fabrics.

And the dress will be worn by…my sister?!?! No fair!

Well, here’s what we’re cooking up.

I’ve mentioned before that my sister, Janet Eilber, is the artistic director of the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance, AKA The Martha Graham Dance Company. You can peruse Janet’s impressive bio here.

Like McCardell, Martha Graham knew her way around a length of jersey, and one of her most famous dances, Lamentation, is danced entirely inside a jersey tube. Graham used the fabric to give the feeling of “stretching in your own skin” from grief. Janet also told me that Martha designed many of her own costumes, via draping.

I’ve always thought that Claire McCardell’s designs, which use a recurring set of pared-down “American Look” elements, have a lot in common with Martha Graham’s spare choreography, which uses a recurring language of movement to reveal the emotional core of the dances.

So, when my sis told me that she would be speaking at the upcoming DANCE & FASHION (!!) exhibit held by the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, and that she needed a dress to wear, I said “have I got a designer for you!”

Here’s a link that describes the exhibit in depth: (Dance & Fashion MFIT exhibit details) The exhibit will feature actual dance costumes as well as dance-inspired designer gowns and streetwear. It sounds fantastic, so I’ll definitely be there!

The exhibit opens at The Museum at FIT on Monday, September 12th, 2014, and runs through January 3rd, 2015. On Tuesday, October 28th, dancers from the Martha Graham Company will be performing Graham’s works “Lamentation” and “Spectre-1914,” to be followed by a panel discussion including Janet, designer Doo-Ri Chung, and Melissa Marra of MFIT.

So we’re going to find out if this ingeniously simple design can be easily adjusted to fit a variety of figures, which was McCardell’s intention. I’ll be making up the dress here, then sending it to my string-bean sister to see if we can fit it via photos and sister mental telepathy. (Or possibly via Skype, as my blogging pal CarmencitaB does with some of her clients in France.)

If the whole thing’s a bust, I have some original McCardell dresses in my collection that I just might be willing to loan to my sister. Considering how many times I raided her closet as a teen, it seems only fair.

Speaking of L.A., the West Coast branch of Mood Fabrics has just reopened, after sustaining earthquake damage in the spring. I’m glad they had the opportunity to work on their roof, as the day I was there (during an early March deluge) there were garbage cans everywhere to catch the raindrops dribbling in from the old skylights.

Phew, that’s it for me! How’s your sewing going?

Hello Sailor! Breton Top patterns shove off…

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Okay, I’ll admit it; I’m a Breton top abuser. Right now in my drawers and closet there are at least 10 shirts in this classic style in various colors and fabrics. Walking around the grocery store, I see that I’m not alone. You put one on, and it’s not like you’re wearing a T-shirt, right? You’re not a slob–you’re Audrey!

So it’s no surprise that patterns for boatneck tops like this have been among the most popular releases this year.

The latest is this pattern from Tessuti for the “Brigitte” Top, which I like because it has a high boatneck line, and four options for sleeve lengths:

Tessuti Brigitte pattern

I’m assuming the Brigitte it’s named after is Bardot:

Bardot

(Love it with the red pants, red shoes, red car…)

Another pattern released this spring is the “Coco” pattern from “Tilly and the Buttons,” for both a Breton top and dress:

Tilly Coco pattern

She always manages to get her dimple lit just right.

And I’m assuming that the “Coco” this pattern is named after is Mademoiselle Chanel, who stole this look from the boys in the 30s, and basically started the “girl in a jersey shirt” thing.

Chanel

(At the end of the post, you’ll find a pinterest page with links to all of the patterns shown in this post, saving me hours of cut and paste…)

Those of you hanging out at Jet Set Sewing over the winter already know that I have a thing for this style, as I wrangled with making a 60s “crushed boatneck” pattern for about six weeks. The resulting knit version, with matching Chanel-style bag, looks like this:

Crushed boatneck top and 2.55 bag (Details of how I made it are here.)

I recently saw a Burberry version of this style, with the boatneck folded out:

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For $250! I wouldn’t say that stripe matching is very impressive, either.

What is the enduring appeal of this style?

Well, here’s the original inspiration:

French Sailor

Bonjour sailor, new in town? My sewing pal Carmen (of the CarmencitaB blog), who lives in Breton, France, told me that the original inspiration was the French Navy’s uniform, which included a striped jersey shirt and the traditional red pom pom on the hat. Then Carmen, as I recall, you told me that nowadays French women wouldn’t be caught dead in a bourgeois Breton shirt, unless she was a rich Parisian, right? We Americans are nuts for the look, though, because secretly we want to be as haughty cool as the French.

But like the tunics I wrote about last time, this look has woven (or should I say knit) itself into western culture during the past 100 years, going from a working-man’s uniform, to a modernists’ casual-wear:

Picasso (Picasso)

Morphing to 50s film, both mainstream and new wave:

AudreyJean Seberg (Audrey Hepburn and Jean Seburg)

Going rock ‘n’ roll and pop:

MickMadonna (Mick and Madonna)

And then inspiring designers like Jean-Paul Gaultier to riff on the classic design for years.

GaulthierPrincess Caroline in Gaultier (Princess Caroline of Monaco in Gaultier)

And the look is still a modern girl’s best friend:

Sofia CoppolaDuchess of Cambridge (Sophia Coppola and the Duchess of Cambridge)

Over stateside, this look has become a wardrobe staple, (or default, in my case) so let’s all save roughly $225 and make our own, shall we?

In addition to the “Brigitte” and “Coco” patterns, there are a number of patterns that can be used to create this style. Once you’ve found a favorite, and have it properly fitted, these tops can be easy to crank out (if you have the patience to match those stripes). If you’re not accustomed to sewing with knits, Colette Patterns has just released a new book, The Colette Guide to Sewing Knits, with a lot of up-to-date information.

Here are some other Breton shirt patterns that are out now:

These two are from BurdaStyle. The one on the left has a chic Audrey-like band detail across the top, and the one on the right is fitted for larger sizes, and can be color-blocked:

Burda Jersey Tunic patternBurda Tunic pattern

I’ve tried this pattern from New Look, and it’s authentic and easy:

New Look 6838

This Sandra Betzina pattern, Vogue 1363, can be made with or without darts, making for better fit options if you’re busty. I would bring up and straighten out that ballerina neckline a bit to make it a true boatneck. This pattern goes up to a 55″ bust.

Vogue 1363

 

And here’s a recently re-released Simplicity vintage pattern, which can be made with a woven:

Simplicity 1364 boatneck pattern re-release

I really like the French darts and dropped shoulders on that one.

Here’s where you can find the links to all of these patterns, as well as pictures of the zillions of celebrities who’ve used this look to pretend they’re not wearing a T-shirt.

In my last post, I found I touched a nerve writing about the history of the tunic, as many readers confessed to having tunic moments in their past.

Some of you are making tunics this summer, and I’d love it if you would send photos to me so I can post them. Lynn, Lizzie and Mary, I’ll be looking for photos from you! If anyone else is making a tunic or vintage-style beach cover-up, please send it my way. My email address is under the “about” tab above.

As for me, seconds before I was going to cut that modern Vogue tunic pattern:

Vogue patterns 8897

to make a Tory Burch “homage” out of striped linen, I had a change of heart, and decided to try to recreate this 40s beach robe instead:

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Unfortunately, even though the pattern is a vintage size medium (which usually runs small), it turned out to be enormously wide under the arms. So I’ll be posting pictures when I’ve gotten it fitted and it stops looking like Gertrude Stein’s bathrobe.

In the meantime, I’m waiting for a new arrival in my summer sewing Batcave. (No, not THAT kind of new arrival…good grief, it was bad enough that I had my baby at 44…) I’ll let you in on my new bundle of joy when it arrives next week. Actually, it’s more like dreamy personal assistant that never talks back.

I hope your summer sewing is going well!

$9 Couture Course

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As I was listlessly shlumping through the grocery store yesterday, (because I’m a sewing enthusiast, not a cooking enthusiast) I spotted a new edition of the “Best of Threads Magazine: Designer Techniques” series tucked among the quiltin’ and craftin’ magazines.

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As I leafed through it, my eyes bugged out, because it’s FULL of great articles by, first of all, the two Godmothers of Haute Couture I wrote about recently, Susan Khalje and Claire Shaeffer, as well as  numerous other articles about vintage designers and their techniques, all from the Threads Magazine archives.

For example, there’s an article by Susan Khalje giving the play-by-play of her method of constructing Chanel-style jackets, which I used in my research to construct my jackets:

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The magazine also includes articles by Susan about making muslins and creating her version of the couture little black dress. (Note: if you’re thinking of making a Chanel-style jacket using Susan’s method, I would hold out until later in the year when she releases her video series.)

There’s a large section about various vintage designers and their techniques, including articles about Scaasi, Galanos, and Valentina, all written by couture expert Claire Shaeffer.

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My favorites were two articles about how Madeleine Vionnet and Madame Gres manipulated fabric to create their geometric designs, which included drawings of how Madame Gres’ jersey wraps were constructed:

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Let me tell you, I wanted to skip making dinner and run into my studio to muslin the red wrap made with one seam on the right.

Throughout the magazine there are pages of clearly-illustrated sewing tips demonstrating vintage and haute couture construction and finishing methods. So worth the $9 price tag! And it made my trip to the grocery store bearable!

The magazine can be ordered from the Threads website, in either hard copy or PDF download form here: (Best of Threads Designer Techniques: Make It Couture). Check it out!

Before I left Boston, I did a little window shopping on Newbury Street as I was on my to Starbucks to get pastries for breakfast (avoiding the grocery store again). Valentino had just been renovated, and there were a number of interesting fabrics and details in the window:

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Love that embroidered fabric. And check this out:

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A little black dress trimmed at the neckline and cuffs with multicolored feathers!

In the window of the Italian luxury store Loro Piana, they were showing a short fur Chanel-style jacket, which I guess is what you wear when it gets chilly on the yacht:

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In the 70s we used to call that style a “chubby.”

The outpost of the upscale Swiss brand Akris, known for it’s simple designs made from luxury fabrics, had this pretty black knit dress and some of their classic bags in the window:

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Chanel was getting festive with a pink boucle 2.55 bag crafted out of tweed (how long is that going to last?):

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as well as, shall we call it a “bedazzled” 2.55 bag covered in crystals, along with a plastic cuff bracelet with the “Double C” logo in faux pearls:

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Give me a break, Karl.

Also on this high-end street is a new branch of the a vintage-repro company called “Bettie Paige,” named after the 50s cult pin-up. It seems like a strange place for this store, but they do have some cute designs:

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Perfect if you need costumes in a hurry for a revival of the musical “State Fair.”

But soon it was time to pack up the car and head for the Martha’s Vineyard ferry. When I got to the island, I saw that the roses were blooming:

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The barn swallows have two nests under the eaves this year:

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The peach tree we thought had bitten the dust was miraculously budding fruit:

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And my summer sewing space was there, patiently waiting for me to unpack:

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More “Faking Vintage Looks with Modern Patterns”

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To continue my series on “Faking Vintage Looks with Modern Patterns” (Vintage Schmintage), here’s a look at recent pattern releases that could be used to create vintage-style garments without the hassle of working with a vintage pattern. I’ve chosen these from the summer catalogs of the major commercial pattern companies.

You can find all of these patterns, and more, on my pinterest page Vintage Pattern Re-releases.

Claire Shaeffer’s new Chanel-style cardigan jacket pattern for Vogue has a nice cut with narrow sleeves that could easily work for a 1950s-60s look.

Shaeffer Chanel Jacket Pattern (Claire Shaeffer jacket pattern)

The mandarin-style collar is similar to the collar on this 60s Chanel pattern in my collection:

Chanel pattern

and you can see a number of similar jackets from this era in the online collection of the Metropolitan Museum’s costume institute.

1958 Chanel Suit 1958 Chanel Suit

Here are the technical drawings of the pattern:

Shaeffer Technical Drawings

though what they don’t show clearly is that front of the jacket has a center-front panel that curves into the neckline, which may make matching plaids difficult. (If this is your first time at the Chanel jacket rodeo, take my advice and don’t pick a plaid. This post explains why: Chanel Jacket #2: Blood, Sweat and Tears.)

The instructions in the Shaeffer pattern are quite comprehesive, outlining her well-researched and very precise haute couture method. For more information, Claire Shaeffer’s book  The Couture Cardigan Jacket comes with a DVD explaining her style of construction step by step. Just a heads up that her method is extremely labor-intensive with lots of hand-basting and hand-stitching, and this pattern is no exception. Typically it takes more than 70 hours to make a Chanel-style quilted jacket, and in truth 100+ hours is more realistic.

Gretchen Hirsch of “Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing” has come up with a new lingerie pattern for Butterick, which is vintage in feel, though it’s drafted for knits, rather than the traditional bias-cut wovens that were used in these kinds of slips from the 20s through the 60s.

Gertie PatternGertie Lingerie

(Butterick Lingerie Pattern)

I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing, as knits are easier to manage than slippery charmeuse-type fabrics cut on the bias.

Something else that’s nice about the pattern is that it comes with separate bodice bust pieces sized in A through D cups, making it much easier to fit. Gretchen is currently doing a sew-along of this pattern, and in this post she demonstrates how to modify the pattern for an even larger bust: (Sew-along). Since many original vintage patterns are sized for the tiny people who lived several generations ago, having this kind of fit flexibility is one of the benefits of using a modern pattern to make vintage looks.

When you’re done, you’ll either have a sexy “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” full slip:

Liz Taylor (there she is again…)

or a more 70s undies and cammie set.

charlies-angels-header

Sort of like that, anyway. The pattern looks cute.

As for true vintage reproductions, I think the companies under the Simplicity umbrella in the U.S. (Simplicity, Burda Style, and New Look) have done the best job lately of re-releasing patterns reflecting the wide range of vintage sewing styles I’m seeing in sewing blogs. Much of current vintage sewing can be lumped into the following groups:

* Medieval through Downton Abbey: costumers who are pretty much in their own high-level sewing time zone;

* Flapper through Film Noir: People who re-create 20s, 30s, and 40s daytime and cabaret-type looks, including the WWII reenactors (many of them women). You can frequently find this style on blogs like We Sew Retro and Lucky Lucille, who’s running a 40s Sew For Victory Sew-along this month.

* 50s/60s Rockabilly meets “I Love Lucy”-style vintage, with crinolines, beehive hairdos and atomic attitude thrown in (Check out Sew Retro Rose); you’ll also see sleek “wiggle” dresses in the style of Joan from “Mad Men.”

* 50s/60s Sweet or Mod Twiggy-style dresses, often with Peter Pan collars and a thick frosting of “Twee.” Several indy companies make patterns for this group, including Colette Patterns.

*A new group of 70s-style boho psychedelic looks, thanks to Mad Men’s latest season;

* Steampunk and Cosplay, which you’re just going to have to google (as I’ve already gotten in enough trouble with my new Steampunk pals thanks to this post (Steampunk Chanel?);

*And finally, a group of sewing and vintage style mavens who are zealously researching and/or sewing particular garments that stand out in fashion history, including The Vintage Traveler, CarmencitaB, American Age Fashion, and patternmaker Studio Faro. And to that group I would add haute couture sewing enthusiasts, such as Cloning Couture, because there’s a lot of crossover between vintage and haute couture.

Now that I’ve completely stereotyped my fellow vintage sewing enthusiasts, I know you’re ALL going to be mad at me!

While you get over it, check out the “Mad Men Challenge” on Julia Bobbin’s blog to see some great takes on style from the 50s through the early 70s: Julia Bobbin’s “Mad Men Challenge”. Excellent job, everyone!

Here are some vintage-style patterns recently released by Simplicity and Burda Style:

Simplicity boatneckBardot in Breton  Simplicity Boatneck Pattern

This basic version of the 60s boatneck top has French darts (starting low on the bodice near the waist then going up toward the bust point) and dropped shoulders, which is very wearable and “Bardot” in my book. I used French darts when I made this similar crushed boatneck top and I liked how they curved the bodice in from the bust to the waist. Though cut for a woven, I think the pattern would work with a stable knit as well. It’s fun to see the “Jiffy” patterns again, and they’re easy to make. (To see more patterns in this style, check out my pinterest page: The Breton Shirt)

Bombshell suit Monroe in BikiniBombshell suit

I don’t know about the wrap, but the retro suit is cute, particularly the Marilyn Monroe bikini.

Halter tops 2Kristy-McNichol-kristy-mcnichol-10827210-376-500

I’ll admit I’m guilty of having worn 70s Halter Tops like these back in the day, but I don’t know, too Kristy McNichol?

Burda halter Burda palazzo pantsValley-of-the-dolls(Burda Halter pattern) (Burda Palazzo Pants)

I think I could actually pull off this “Valley of the Dolls” style. (Not the hair, though.)

Burda coat patternBrando in bomber jacketBurda coat pattern

For the men, I like this classic coat and bomber jacket. You could be a contender.

Burda bohoBurda Hippy Skirt(Megan Mad MenBurda hippy-wear)(Burda Style Boho Skirt)

And having grown up in the 60s and 70s, I can’t go back to the Age of Aquarius, but for someone younger, these patterns will give you that Mad Men “Megan” look.

Here’s another place I’m not going again:

Burda wedding dress (Burda 50s Wedding Dress)

Burda 60s wedding dress (Burda 60s Wedding Dress)

The 60s pattern would make a nice cocktail dress, though, and I like the horizontal pintucks on the 50s gown bodice.

Simplicity has also released some cute retro clothes for baby:

Simplicity babyBooties (Layette and baby booties)

And Barbie…

Barbie (Barbie clothes pattern)

The green coat with scarf collar is pretty great, and you could also make Barbie a Chanel jacket!

All of these major companies have issued so many wonderful patterns over the past 100 years. I would love to see more re-releases of classics like these:

Diane Von Furstenberg’s original wrap dress patterns for Vogue:

DVF Wrap Patternvogue15491976Christian Bale;Amy Adams (Amy Adams wearing one in “American Hustle”)

Butterick’s late 60s- early 70s “Young Designer” patterns by Betsey Johnson, Kenzo, Mary Quant, John Kloss, and Willi Smith.

Betsey Johnson Bateau-neck patternKenzo PatternMary Quant patternJohn Kloss PatternWilli Smith

I remember making that Kenzo double-wrap skirt as a teen; it’s very clever design.

 

Vogue Paris Original patterns from the 50s and 60s, like these by Schiaparelli and Yves St. Laurent:

imageMondrian dress pattern

50s McCalls “Black Line” patterns by Claire McCardell, Givenchy, and Pauline Trigere…

imageMcCalls GivenchyMcCalls Trigere

How about it, readers, are there any vintage pattern you’d like to see re-released?

 

Chanel 2.55 “Tribute” bag: stunt or status sewing?

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Let’s talk about fashion and status. And making yourself a Chanel(ish) bag. I just did.

Chanel 2.55 style bag

You can’t walk half a block down tony Newbury Street in Boston without practically getting hit by a Chanel 2.55. 

Chanel 2.55 leather bag

In the U.S., our culture is less “melting pot” and more cheerleading pyramid.

Vintage Cheerleading

You know that blonde’s going to get thrown off of the top of the heap at some point. They always are.

For those who came here via Ellis Island, or in my great-great grandfather’s case, on a “coffin ship” from the Irish potato famine to the east coast of Canada, then somehow, without a cent, to Detroit, the U.S. was a place to completely reinvent yourself.

If you grew up in Michigan in the 50s and 60s, as my husband and I did, the wealth of the auto industry made it possible for whole generations to elevate their status in giant leaps, so that my grandfather, son of blacksmith, could send my mother to college by selling wall-to-wall carpeting to soldiers returning from WWII.

C & C Carol's Grad Jan 44 - 005 My gorgeous Mom and handsome Dad in the 40s.

In these culturally shifting sands, the things that were signifiers of wealth and class in the old countries were completely out the window, so everybody had to grab onto new ones. I think this created a herd mentality when it comes to style that has gripped the U.S. for a lot of years. Having recognizable products that people know the cost of (a Cartier Tank watch would be a current upper-middle class example) demonstrates where you stand in the U.S. social system.

Cartier Tank Watch

You have no idea how many of these I see at the beach in Martha’s Vineyard. (Meanwhile, I’ve been running around wearing a Timex from Target because I like the style.)

The only problem with status dressing is that everyone’s style gets really boring, because people will buy something highly recognizable to show off their wealth (like a Chanel bag) or to fit in with their clan (earth mama, power-suiter, goth chick) instead of picking out something really interesting and different. So then the stuff in the stores is boring.

I was tired of boring, so I started sewing again. Now my closet’s pretty zesty.

My Closet

So anyway, I was looking Chanel ads, and even though I’m not a fan of their bags (because, let’s face it, they are pretty repetitive and boring and “rich chick at the country club”) I noticed that lately they’ve been made of festive things like painted canvas with unfinished seams.

Chanel canvas bag For $5,000.

I saw this one in particular and thought, “I could totally make that.”

Chanel 2.55 bag original

I was making a Breton shirt anyway, from the frankenpattern muslin (Muslin Madness) for the crushed bateau-neck I just made (Bateau-neck Top, fait accompli). Speaking of boring style statements, I have a tendency to default to Breton shirts and jeans about 90% of the time when I’m kicking around, as I’m in the “boomer gal who likes France” clan. So I figured I’d ought to start making my own. If you want to see a lot of old Hollywood types in Breton shirts, as well as some good Breton shirt sewing patterns, check out my pinterest page (Breton Shirt Pinterest Page).

I ordered some fabric made by the French brand St. James, who make and export the traditional Breton shirts, or Marinieres, to groovy middle-aged Americans like me. I’ve had a bunch of St. James shirts and they last for years. I found the fabric at Hart Fabrics (hartfabrics.com) . This fabric is medium weight viscose/poly, and though it’s not the typical heavy cotton jersey, it’s easy to wash and sew.

I thought making the shirt would be a breeze. Then I remembered that I had to match all of those stripes.

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I got a little obsessive, but it worked. You can match the stripes part way up the sleeve cap, but when you get to the top half, forget it.

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I think that’s why a number of these shirts have white at the top instead of stripes.

For those of you who expressed interest in how the shoulder tuck is constructed in the crushed bateau-neck design, here’s a look at the inside:

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and the outside. image

You make the front shoulder seam about an inch longer than the back seam, and make a tuck in the middle of the front shoulder. Then the neckline goes straight across from one shoulder seam to the other. (If you add an extension of about 1 1/2 inches to the top of the neckline, it folds inside to become a self-facing.)

I also decided to try “tailors’ tacks” on this project, a vintage method of marking fabrics without chalk or tracing paper. I thought it would be a pain, but it was fast and easy.

I doubled a long thread on a needle (do you have one of these automatic needle-threaders from Clover? I’d be blind without mine…)

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I sewed large thread loops through the muslin pattern and both layers of fabric, at places that I had to mark things like gathers and dart points:

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Then I gently separated the layers of fabric and clipped.

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Now I had precise markings on both sides of the fabric, but didn’t have to worry about the fabric being discolored.

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To finish the seams, I decided it was time to get out of the 50s and use the stretch stitch on my Bernette 20. It worked fine and didn’t pucker, so I made another row of the stitches 1/4 away and then trimmed the seam.

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So I had enough fabric left over to make a bag, and this crazy pattern that Vogue released for about two seconds in the early 2000s.

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Make your own Chanel 2.55, Hermes Kelly or Birkin? We’ll show you how! (I love the notes I get from sellers when I buy patterns on Ebay.)

I measured out the pattern pieces and saw that they were the exact dimensions of the Chanel 2.55’s I saw online. So did the Vogue pattern editor put a Chanel, Kelly and Birkin bag in her budget to draft the pattern? Somebody get legal on the phone!

I thought that it would be a lark to make a knock-off, and put on the chain and hardware and blog about it, and how hard would it be to make a bag, right?

So I headed down to Winmil Fabrics in Boston’s Chinatown to get the “fusible fleece” required, and ordered hardware on Ebay to look like the rectangular “Mademoiselle” toggle closure that was on the bags before Karl tarted them up in the 80s with the tacky double “C”s. I even got a grommet-setter so the chain could go through grommets.

Chanel Bag Elements I was pumped!

There are all sorts of design legends surrounding this bag, which I read about in this blog: (history of the Chanel 2.55 bag); that the chain handle was inspired by the key chains carried by the nuns at the orphanage where Chanel lived as a child, that the garnet color of the lining was the same as her school uniform, that the zipper pocket was where she kept her love letters, that the interlaced “double C’s” of the logo were taken from a church window, and blah-dee-blah-dee-blah. For more on the Chanel mystique and why it’s creepy, check out my recent post: Chanel/Vionnet Smackdown! My only pattern modification was to bring the edges of the front flap down on either side to look more like a 2.55 bag.

An hour or two into cutting fabric, lining, fusible fleece, and an interlining of fusible hair canvas, I started thinking maybe this wouldn’t be so easy.

You’re supposed to fuse the fleece onto a 26″ x 26″ square of fabric, and then quilt it into diamond shapes, coming up with perfectly spaced 45 degree lines that cross. But they don’t tell you how to mark the lines. I couldn’t use tracing paper or chalk, because it would show. So I cut out the pieces, and used this quilter’s ruler and painter’s tape to mark the lines and then quilt them.

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This was tedious, but I’d already cut the stuff out and fused it, so I wasn’t quitting. When it came time to quilt the sides, I decided to go in parallel lines in the style of the quilting on a Chanel jacket, because there was no way I was marking off any more diamonds.

As I quilted, I thought a lot about the people in off-shore factories who sew the same seam on a “fast fashion” hoodie or bag, day after day, twelve hours a day, for maybe $35 a month. A lot of them are scarcely older than my 12-year-old. Apparently factories that make black market bag knock-offs are even worse.

I got the fusing and quilting done, and stuck fusible hair canvas on the back of the fleece.

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Then I realized that I had to match the stripes to put it all together. AAAyyyyyeeeeeiiiiii! First of all, the fusible fleece, which is one of the most disgusting and artificial things known to man, was completely gumming up my needle and making my machine skip stitches. And I wouldn’t be able to see the stripes to match them as I sewed anyway. And I was completely over the whole thing.

Reader…I resorted Steam-a-Seam. That’s right, I glued my Chanel bag together. I was turned on to Steam-a-Seam Lite 2 watching a craftsy.com class with Sandra Betzina, which had a lot of helpful hints about sewing on the bias that I’ll be using in my constantly upcoming Claire McCardell projects.

As I was watching her throw stuff together and thinking “she’s the laziest gal in town” I also thought, “I should get me some of that Steam-a-Seam.” It’s a fusible webbing that you can use to line up your seams, then glue them for good with a steam iron. It works well to secure bias hems without puckering, and in this case, those stripes matched up like a dream. I stitched through after that to reinforce the seams, stopping frequently to scrape the fusible crud off my needle as I went.

Chanel Bag Construction

At that point, I started thinking, “this looks kind of good,” so I decided that rather than go full jokey knock-off, I would make the bag into something I wouldn’t be embarrassed to use. I lined it with quilting cotton, and rather than the Ebay hardware, put on a vintage label (with Steam-a-Seam).

The bag turned out pretty well, don’t you think? (Please note the matching stripes in this lousy picture taken by my crabby husband.)

Chanel Bag and Breton Top

I’m never doing THAT again.

I still can’t see spending $5,000 for a bag that’s made from jersey or canvas (or leather, for that matter), but you can make your own for about, oh, thirty bucks. I have some gold Tyvek in my stash…maybe a Birkin?

After I first posted this, I heard from fellow blogger Karin of “Karin’s Chamber” about her own “re-make” of the Chanel 2.55. Take a look; she did a great job and managed to figure out the design and pockets through internet research. (Karin’s Chanel 2.55 Bag)

And lastly, here’s a take on the whole Chanel international marketing juggernaut, from designer Jeremy Scott’s Autumn/Winter collection for Moschino:

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Big Mac, anyone?