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The One-Hour Dress, c. 1924

This was a project I worked on earlier this summer, just in time to go to the Gatsby on the Isles event with the Swell Society in August. It was a gorgeous day – wonderful people – amazing music – delicious food – fun games! Can’t wait to attend next year as well… although admittedly summer seems a long ways off!

1HourDress1924smIn any case, I had purchased one of the various reprints of Mary Brooks Pickens’ The OneHour Dress books and it happened to be the 1924 version. The basic dress is a very shapeless sack… or at least it would have been with me wearing it. Instead, I opted for the fuller skirt and choose the alternative version that was featured on the cover. I was using some lovely lavender silk satin organza – amazing drape and so soft! The book suggested organdy or eyelet for the skirt and it’s pretty obvious that it would have helped the skirt stand out a bit further, but I was using what I had on hand.

The instructions are incredibly simple – and totally doable in an hour. Basically you take a few key measurements – bust, hip, skirt length, and torso length and cut four pieces of fabric based on calculations provided in the book. Unfortunately, I erred a bit on the short side for my finished torso length so the dropped waist isn’t as low as I would have liked. Solution? Add a wide sash! (It helped that one was pictured with the dress I was making!)

gatsbyisles2013You have to forgive the slight is-she-pregnant-or-not look as this photo was taken at the end of the day and I’m pretty sure all my slips and such kept shifting up each time I stood up! The new 1920’s corset I made will hopefully eliminate that effect next time around.

There is a second dress below the sheer layer, made from a god-awful crepe-back poly satin. Ugh. But it was on hand and matched the silk so the cost was right. I made the underdress in the same way as the organza layer except that I cut off the sleeve extensions to form a sleeveless version. The underdress ended up being too long in the torso… apparently I overcompensated for shorting the organza layer. Go figure! The satin underdress was finished with narrow hems along the neckline, armsyces, and hem. The organza dress hems, as recommended in the book, were bound with bias strips of fabric – in this case, I used some of the poly satin. The original instructions state to use two bias strips, one for the front neckline and one for the back neckline. Personally I thought this turned out rather messy and would definitely just use a single piece all the way around for future versions. The sleeve hems were treated the same way.

IMG_9815The cover dress was described as having 3 1/3 yards of 7″ ribbon used as a sash but as that’s pretty hard to come by these days, I made my own from more of the crepe-back satin. It was two lengths of 15″ wide by 60″ long fabric joined to make one long piece. The sash was then sewn right sides together along the long edge and flipped right side out. I cut the ends at an angle and whip-stitched them closed by hand.

The sash didn’t stay in place very well while I was wearing it, but that may have had more to do with not wearing a corset and having bumpy slips underneath everything. The sash was also pretty heavy and the poly-satin didn’t stay tied very tightly.

The gloves I was wearing are vintage, something from my great  Aunt’s collection and the pearls are your typical ‘flapper costume beads’ available at any ol’ party store. The shoes (which I adore!) are the Gibsons from American Duchess. I don’t get to wear them often these days as they being used as part of the Behind the Seams exhibit at work. They return to my closet next April!

The hat? I love the hat! I used the crepe side of the crepe-back poly satin so it would coordinate but not be too matchy-matchy. The pattern is one I found on etsy at Elsewhen Millinery and was very quick to put together. It’s lined in white cotton and has two cut steel vintage buttons trimming the right side.

The whole ensemble took less than 6 hours to cut, sew, and be ready for wearing… so I have to say, Mary Brooks Picken was really onto something with her 1-hour dress instructions! The hat and the sash were a bit fussier, but the two dresses were definitely done in under three hours – and that was with some hand-sewn finishing. Look forward to trying this again with all the proper underpinnings next time. Last but not least, here I am with my beautiful sister-in-law! Fun sewing but even more fun spending the day with her!

gatsbyisles2013-2

Pretty Pink Corselet: Part Two

corselet suppliesApparently I was feeling pretty motivated… the corselet is finished! As usual, I wasn’t tracking working time too closely, but I’d estimate this in the 10-12 hour category.

Of course that doesn’t include the two trips to Jo-Ann’s looking for garter clips and slides. (If you’re wondering, I forgot to buy enough for all six garter elastics during the first trip!) Since I was on a mission to just get this done, I wasn’t too fussy about the non-periodness of the those pieces. I may swap them out at some point, but they work perfectly as is… and really, who will see them? I’m expecting to wear the corselet this weekend and also didn’t want to wait on special ordering the hardware!

DSC_00043/4″ pajama/underwear elastic did the trick for the garters and I left them pretty long because I was too lazy to try it on again to figure out what the distance was from the top of my stockings to the base of the corselet. As it turns out, they are way too long, but that is easily remedied! They do the trick for now, but shortening them will help pull the corselet down a bit better for future wearings. (The 1/2″ elastic was a potential supply item but I ended up preferring the 3/4″) They went together pretty easily with the elastic handstitched to attached the slide and the detachable ‘hose grips’ just staying in place with the slightly bulky elastic. I ended up adding three pair and with my particular curves below the waist, a fourth pair might have been even better.

corselet full view

Sorry… I hate headless photos. But I also hate the look on my face in this one! Nightgown and stockings are vintage… and work great with the corselet! I’m now imagining silk cami-knickers as a future project.

The real test came when I tried it on over a vintage 1920s silk nightgown. All I can say is…. un-sexy but very cool at the same time! I was taking these photos myself so didn’t get too many useable ones. I was hoping for a decent profile shot that shows exactly how un-curvy I am while wearing the corselet but alas, this one is the best I could do. While I won’t share my natural measurements here, I will say that the numbers as seen in the photo are 34-33-39. So yes, it changed my shape just a tad!

While I was wandering the house wearing this ensemble last night, I did take the opportunity to try on two 1920s dresses – 1 vintage and 1 repro. Not surprisingly, both looked much better, and I felt more comfortable wearing them. Honestly, it feels much like a second skin, and I don’t expect that will change much, even when adding the 3 pieces of horizontal boning across the front stomach area.

So… lessons learned? The 1920s are growing on me… and the undergarments are pretty fabulous in their own way. If or when I make another one of these, I’d make the following changes:

  • Order garter hardware in advance, enough for 4 pair of attachments
  • Lengthen the pattern to extend another 2″ lower to help compress the hips a bit more
  • Remove elastic from shoulder straps. Just because.
  • Shorten the garter elastics
  • Narrow the base of the elastic gore by 1′ to 1.5″

So mostly little tweaks, really! This corselet was easy to make and easy to wear and I’m getting excited to do more 1920s sewing to add some layers above and below. Happy sewing!

Pretty Pink Corselet: Part One

Been sewing, not writing. But I suppose that’s obvious from a quick read-through of posts! Today I’m doing a bit of both! My most recent sewing has been 1920s related as we have a dress making workshop coming up at work, plus several Gatsby-esque fun events happening in the near future.

After making my first 1920s dress in mid-August, it was quickly apparent that I needed some proper 1920s undergarments to wear with it. Fast forward to today and I finally got around to just that.

corselet front

About as un-sexy as you can get from a modern point of view!

A bit of searching turned up a few vintage patterns, plus the rather amazing blog, Bridges on the Body, which discusses the 1925 corselet patterned in Corsets & Crinolines by Norah Waugh. I scanned that pattern and enlarged it as described on the blog, with the only change being that I did the enlarging within my graphic program (GIMP) and saved the file as a pdf that I could print out as a poster. That saved some time, but I still needed to check the full size pattern against me to see what other alterations were needed. Ultimately, I ended up adding 2″ below the waist to each pattern piece and just crossed my fingers…

I actually did some test fitting with a bit of ivory twill and it fit well enough that I was able to use that as the underlining for the final version. Some scrounging through my stash produced this pale pink satin-y striped damask, probably a rayon blend. The damask and the twill were assembled as one and all the seams were felled.

corselet fabrics

For markings I used a combination of basting, heat-sensitive ink, and also wax transfer paper – the black lines across the seam allowance above are from some of the transfer paper and indicate the boning channels across the stomach. I haven’t gotten to those yet but the markings are ready!

corselet back

Corselet back view, with the non-matchy-matchy elastic gores

I ended up teaching a sewing lesson for a few hours today so total time on this project is a bit tough to estimate. I think it was about 8-9 hours so far, starting with scanning, enlarging and printing the pattern. During that time, I managed to get the full corselet assembled, using the damask/twill combo for the main body and 2 layers of flesh-colored powernet for the back gore. I wish I had something that matched better but I couldn’t beat the elasticity of the powernet. It also meant that everything so far has come from my stash! 1.25″ shoulder straps were created with a single layer of the damask with a short extension of 1.25″ white waistband/pajama elastic. I have enough to also use for the garters but haven’t found the hardware for that.

corselet closeup hooksThe hook & eye tape worked almost perfectly… I had a package on hand and it measured 18″. It was maybe .25″ short but barely noticeable so I opted not to worry about it! The only glitch with the hooks/eyes was folding back too much of the front edge before sewing the eye tape. When the corselet is closed, a narrow strip of the tape is visible. And although it’s annoying to look at, it is still perfectly functional so I didn’t take the time to redo it.

The top binding is a single layer of 2″ wide bias-cut damask and since it only needed to finish the edge and not confine boning, the single thin layer worked perfectly.

It was challenging fitting myself (and no, I took no pictures of that craziness!) but since the opening is on the left front, it is doable. The straps were marked (and sewn) in place as indicated on the pattern, but as you can see from the full length shots, they seem a bit awkwardly placed. I’ll likely move them towards the sides, at least on the front.

The corselet definitely needs garters (and stockings to attach them to) in order to work properly. It fits great when I pull it down, but as soon as I move, it starts to creep up. Hopefully I can find some garter hardware tomorrow and finish the bottom edge. Then this might be the quickest corset-like garment I’ve ever made!

1911 Petticoat Drafting

Continuing (or just plain reminiscing) on the 1911 trend… I wanted to share some of the details of drafting a petticoat a la 1911 based on a contemporary sewing textbook. Once again it’s Google Books to the rescue and this is one I found a few years ago when I was first exploring early 20th century pattern drafting.

1911 textbook cover

I’m sure I was partially drawn to it because the author’s name is also Carrie, but more importantly, it was published in 1911 and that was the year I was most particularly interested in. I would have made a poor student because of course I skipped right over all the excellent basic sewing instructions that make up the first section of the book and jumped right into the garment drafting!

The instructions are fantastic although I recommend a bit of patience, a really big table, extra tracing paper, a yardstick or two, and plenty of erasers for your pencil markings. I can’t remember which garment I started with but the petticoat, or 5 Gored Underskirt, is definitely a great place to start. It’s almost all straight lines and the measurements are very easy to take on yourself. I’ve also made a corset cover, chemise, and drawers from this book but those will have to wait until later posts. And while the book does use a mix of photos and illustrations, there’s not a great deal provided for this garment. In my downloaded copy the instructions start on page 74, and what follows are the adapted instructions in the hopes that I could simplify the process for others.

5-goredI probably don’t need to point out that I do not fit the model measurements! So here’s what I did based on those original steps and filling in my measurements along the way:

Drafting the Petticoat Pattern

For this petticoat/underskirt, I drafted the pattern directly on the fabric. That being said, if you plan to make several at the same time, a paper pattern is probably a good idea! Take the following measurements over your corset.

  • Waist
  • Hip
  • Front Length
  • Side Length
  • Back Length

Place fabric (or drafting/tracing paper) on cutting table as illustrated below:

underskirt-side-front

Draw lines as illustrated in the diagrams, starting with Front Gore.

FRONT GORE

  1. Starting 6” from left, mark the center front line (= ________ ) of the front gore.
  2.  Next draw in the perpendicular line measuring waist divided by 8. (= ________ ) Redraw that line so that the further end is 1/4” to the left. This will be your front waistline.
  3.  Six inches to the right of the line you just drew, add a parallel line measuring waist divided by 8 plus 1”. (= ________ ) This will be your front hip.
  4.  At the right hand side of your center front line, draw a perpendicular line. This is your front hem.
  5.  Using a yardstick, draw a line from the end of your front waist line to the front hem, being sure to pass through the end of your hip line. This is your side front seam.
  6.  Add ¼” seam allowance to waist and hem edges, and add ¾” seam allowance to side edge.

SIDE GORE

Note: The side gore will be drawn 3/4” away from the selvage. This will allow you to use the selvage as part of the seam allowance.

  1. Measure the side front seam on the front gore. (= ________ ) Draw a line equal to the length 3/4” away from the selvage.
  2. Next draw in the perpendicular line measuring waist divided by 6. (= ________ ) Redraw that line so that the further end is 1/2” to the right. This will be your side waistline.
  3. Six inches to the left of the line you just drew, add a parallel line measuring waist divided by 6 and then multiplied by 1.5. (= ________ )This will be your side hip.
  4. Using a yardstick, draw a line from the end of your front waist line to the end of your hip line and continuing for the distance of your side length measurement minus 8”. (= ________ ) This is your side back seam. Draw a gentle curve to create hem line.
  5. Add ¼” seam allowance to waist and hem edges, and add ¾” seam allowance to side edges.

BACK GORE

Note: The back gore will be drawn 3/4” away from the selvage. This will allow you to use the selvage as part of the seam allowance.

back gore

  1. Measure the side back seam on the side gore. (= ________ ) Draw a line equal to that length ¾” away from the selvage.
  2. Next draw in the perpendicular line measuring ½ total waist minus front and side waist measurements. (= ________ ) Extend the line 3.”
  3. Redraw that line so that the further end is ¾” to the right. This will be your back waistline.
  4. Six inches to the left of the line you just drew, add a parallel line measuring ½ total hip measurement minus front and side hip measurements. (= ________ ) This will be your back hip.
  5. Using a yardstick, draw a line from the end of your original back waist line (minus the 3” you added) to the end of your hip line and continuing for the distance of your back length measurement minus 8”. (= ________ )
  6. To create your back seam line, draw a line from the end of the back waist to 3” past the leftmost point on the line you last drew. This is your back seam. Curve the left edge for the back hem. Starting from waist, make a mark at 10½” on the center back. This is for the placket.
  7. Add ¼” seam allowance to waist and hem edges, and add ¾” seam allowance to side edges.

BELT

Belt pattern is 2” wide by the waist measurement plus 1” (=_________ ) This extra 1” is for lap. Add ½” seam allowance to short ends and ¼” seam allowance to long edges.

PLACKET

Placket pattern is 2½” wide by 21½”

DUST RUFFLE

Finished dust ruffle should measure 4” deep when finished. To achieve this, cut or tear enough 5” wide strips of cloth to measure 1.5 times the hem width. (=_________ )

FLOUNCE

Finished flounce should measure 12” deep or more when finished. To achieve this, cut or tear enough 13” (or wider) strips of cloth to measure 1.5 times the hem width. (=_________ ) If you wish to add tucks, cut dust ruffle long enough to accommodate the additional length.

SEWING INSTRUCTIONS

Skirt

  1. To join skirt together, start on right side with front gore. Match right side gore with front gore at waist, hip, and hem, pinning at these places so as not to stretch the bias edge beyond the straight edge. Sew wrong sides together with ¼” seam allowance, keeping bias edge on top.

  2. Join left side gore to front gore in the same manner, and the back gores to each side gore. Join back gore pieces, sewing center back seam from hem to placket marking only.

  3. Trim and press seams and sew right sides together, resulting in French seams along each long edge. Lightly press all seams toward center back.

Placket

  1. To insert placket, press under ¼” on one long edge of placket. With right sides of placket against wrong side of skirt, sew unpressed long edge to back gore at center back from left waist to placket marking and back to right waist. Fold pressed edge over seam and handstitch or topstitch closed. The placket should be 1” wide when finished.

  2. Gather back gores at waistline within one inch of side back seams, and right side, turning lap or fly underneath.

Waist Belt

  1. For waist belt, turn under raw edges ¼” on long edges and ½” on short edges. Find center, not counting extra inch for lap to be extended on left side, and cut small notch. Also notch the middle of the front gore at waist. (88 min)

  2. Join belt to skirt, matching center fronts, and easing remaining waistline into the band with puckering. Baste close to folded edge of belt. Fold the opposite long edge of belt over the waist and baste. Stitch one or two rows through all layers to keep in place.

  3. Cut horizontal buttonhole on right ½” from end, and sew button firmly on left end of belt, so lap will not be seen.

Dust Ruffle

  1. To make dust ruffle, join all 5” strips along short edges using a French seam when two selvages do not come together. Hem one long edge of dust ruffle with a 3/8” narrow hem.

  2. Run two rows of gathering threads along raw edge of dust ruffle.

  3. Divide long raw edge into halves and quarters before pulling up gathering threads, marking the points with pins, notches or disappearing ink. Divide the bottom edge of the skirt in the same manner.

  4. With wrong sides together, join dust ruffle to skirt, matching markings, making sure no seam is placed at center front. Pull up gathering threads on dust ruffle until it matches skirt edge. Pin edges regularly to evenly distribute gathers. Baste and stitch ¼” from edge.

  5. Turn on wrong side, fold cloth the depth of seam and stitch on edge of gathers to hide first stitching – basically a French seam. Turn this seam up towards waist, baste flat, and stitch on right side on upper edge.

Flounce

  1. To make flounce, join all 13” strips along short edges using a French seam when two selvages do not come together. Hem one long edge of flounce with a 3/8” narrow hem. Optional: If tucks are desired, sew them at this time.

  2. Run two rows of gathering threads along raw edge of flounce.

  3. Divide long raw edge into halves and quarters before pulling up gathering threads, marking the points with pins, notches or disappearing ink. Divide the skirt in the same manner.

  4. With right sides together, join flounce to skirt, matching markings, making sure no seam is placed at center front. Hem of flounce should be even with hem of dust ruffle. Pull up gathering threads on dust ruffle until it matches skirt edge. Pin edges regularly to evenly distribute gathers. Baste and stitch ¼” from edge.

  5. Finish raw edges with binding or braiding trim.

Oh… and then wear it and enjoy compliments on your underwear!!

Horrible flat picture... but the petticoat itself is pretty! It's been worn many a time under both an evening gown and day dress. And it's made up in a a pink cotton sateen, in case you were wondering! Later petticoats have been white, but I'm eying some striped fabric in the future!

Horrible flat picture… but the petticoat itself is pretty! Only the dust ruffle has been attached in this photo but the flounce looks similar – just deeper and placed higher. It’s been worn many a time under both an evening gown and day dress. And it’s made up in a a pink cotton sateen, in case you were wondering. Later petticoats have been white, but I’m eying some striped fabric in the future!

VPLL 1912 Project: Corset Cover E0176

A birthday earlier this week, along with a busy work schedule has kept me from getting much writing done, but in an effort to get back in the habit, here are some of my notes and photos from making up the Corset Cover as part of the Vintage Pattern Lending Library (VPLL) 1912 Project. I was so sad to see that the project has closed down but I thoroughly applaud the ambition of the organizers and only wish I had had more time to get to the many wonderful patterns that were available.

In working up some of my circa 1911 clothing over the last few years, I figured it only made sense to start with some of the lingerie. Well that and the simple fact that those pieces tend to require less fabric!

I never did get around to finding silk ribbon to replace what is shown here, but I so still love the red!

I never did get around to finding silk ribbon to replace what is shown here, but I do still love the red!

I got exceptionally lucky with this pattern in that I made it exactly as drafted (or as exact as I could manage) and it was a very close fit for me. Whenever possible, when using vintage patterns, I like to make it up as drafted to get a sense of the proportions before I go ahead and start making changes to suit me. If and when I get around to making another one of these, I’d give myself another 1″ or so of ease around the bust and waist, and add 1″ or so of length above the peplum. That being said, with a corset on this was a pretty nice fit, as is! (And if I could pull my corset tighter, it would fit even better!)

The cotton lace (insertion, beading, and trimming) was sourced from a lovely little shop in Salem, NH: The Victorian Cupboard. I’ve also purchased gorgeous heirloom quality batiste there but in this case I used some handkerchief weight linen for the body of the corset cover.

IMG_5172

Each of the insertion lace sections was handsewn to form the mitered point at the point at the bottom.

IMG_5176

It’s tough to see the white on white detail, but once the lace was mitered and finished, it was pinned in place according to the pattern. I used a Frixion pen to mark placement, knowing that iron would make it all disappear later.

IMG_5180

And here is the top edge of the bodice with the linen trimmed and turned away from the insertion on the back to give the delicate look so typical of trimmed lingerie of the period.

This whole project probably went together in under four hours – it’s a nice change to be able to machine sew almost everything after so many years of 18th century handsewing! There’s are two dart for shaping in each front piece, and a center back is cut on the fold. A two piece peplum (Seamed at the center back) completes the pattern. Again, since I was doing the exact pattern size, all the seams matched up pretty perfectly. I’m not sure I’d get as lucky once it’s redrafted with my slight sizing tweaks…

IMG_5183 IMG_5184

I did have to fudge the top edge just a little bit. You’ll notice in the photos above that one of the lace insertion lengths stops short of the top edge… oops! When I sewed the beading lace to the top edge to create a drawstring area, there are parts where it’s not really attached to anything as a result. Luckily this garment doesn’t have much stress placed on it so no harm done there.

IMG_5188

The peplum attached cleanly to the bodice and then it was felled to create a finished edge.

The buttons and buttonholes are nothing exciting. I raided my stash and found some mother of pearl buttons that all matched – each was about 3/8″ in diameter. A narrow hem completed the rest of the raw edges (at least that’s my best memory, I may need to update that the next time I take a closer look!) and then a flat lace was added to the neckline and armhole openings. The red ribbon was a last minute touch because I just couldn’t stand looking at any more white!

It was wonderful to wear for the few times that went out and about in my 1911 finery and it also laundered quite well. After having a chance to remember this project and going back to look at some of the old photos, I’ll definitely be hunting down more La Mode Illustree patterns to try my hand at more projects from that series!

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Update! I meant to include an image of the pattern but my midnight brain power was not at it’s highest last night. So belatedly, here’s what the pattern said it should be looking like!

E0176_COVER