Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Muu-Muu dress - McCall's 6712

Pattern: Here it is. Finally. I found this dress pattern, McCall's 6712 (1963), at Lanetz Living a year ago. I thought the belted version was adorable and the fact that it had a self-fabric belt and pockets just made it ideal.

Description: A-line dress with side seam pockets and with shoulder-tied drawstrings through front and back casing necklines.

Fabric: As soon as I saw this Denyse Schmidt for Free Spirit Diamond Plaid & Dot (aka Plaid Tile) print in Geranium from her Katie Jump Rope collection, I knew it was the one for this dress; 2" tortoise shell plastic buckle from jcaroline creative in 2007.

However, it took me weeks to buy the pattern and then it took me a year to make the dress! I finished it just in time to catch the dwindling summer days of 2008. However, if I find the right knitted cardigan it could possibly stretch a bit into fall.

Here it is worn with my cheap but lovely 50's-style jacket from Forever 21. It just happened that the reds go together great.

There were a few things about this pattern that I want to address. I decided to make it according to the vintage directions but I should have used my own judgment. There were a few steps that modern patterns simplify that I should have substituted.

click for large view

Pocket insertion: 6712 wants you to sew the body of the pocket together before attaching it to the side of the dress. This make it a bit tricky trying to match up the stitched lines when the modern way of attaching it to the sides and then stitching the remainder of the pocket together makes much more sense.

click for large view

Drawstring casing: 6712 has the above instructions. However, by sewing the top of the dress that way, you have quite a mess when you try to turn that corner out. I suggest turning back the seam allowance for the drawstring, (from the number 11 to the edge in the drawing above) basting or stitching the area, and then following their instructions. This way the seam allowance will stay inside the armhole and give you a clean channel to push the drawstring through.

Otherwise, the only other problem I had with the dress was what kind of undergarment to wear with it. I tied the bows over my slip straps to keep them together and if my slip hadn't been black it would have worked! The color of the slip was also a problem with the low-ish armholes but a slip in a closer to skin-tone shade should do the trick.

By the way, I bought the cool 2" tortoise shell plastic buckle from J. Caroline Creative at the same time I ordered the fabric. They work together perfectly, though the belt's instructions call for a buckle with prongs.

Please excuse the blurry full-length photo.

Images: my own photos

Friday, September 26, 2008

It was one that got away...

I missed out on buying this necklace from Sparkling Lotus Designs' shop a week ago and I still think of it every day. I really wanted it in silver (which is all I wear) but now...I really don't care that it was brass.

Who else has missed the boat on something that you just can't forget?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More on Mad Women, S1, E1

I found a copy of the Mad Men pilot script online (!!!) and found how the women were described in the notes. I find this interesting as a way of seeing what the scriptwriter had in mind and then how the casting turned out. My personal notes are below in intalics.

"The door opens to reveal Midge Daniels, a sexy no-nonsense woman around Don's age (according to this script to be early 30's) wrapped in a red kimono." Then, "She turns and Don follows her shapely form into the apartment."
  • I like how they didn't go with the kimono (which in the script she was wearing with nothing underneath) and instead had her look like she was really working late, ink smudges on the sleeves and all. What I mean is: not waiting up for a man.

"Walking down a wide corridor with open offices on either side is Joan, mid-twenties, an incredibly put together office manager. A half step behind, carrying a cardboard box with supplies is Peggy Olson, who at 20 seems far younger."

  • Hmm, not really much to go on there.

"Dr. Guttman, fifty-ish German national who embodies the somber world of research right down to her bun hairstyle and clipboard".

  • I think they decided not to be so cartoonish, so no bun or clipboard. A two-line exchange that had Don alluding to her possibly being a lesbian was also removed from the final script.

"...Roger waits with a few people, including Rachel Mencken (sp), early twenties and stunning in a Chanel suit." And later at the bar, "She is stunning, her diamond earrings sparkling in the darkness". And then even later "Don looks at her. She is luminous."

  • I knew I was right about the Chanel, but I'm not sure about the 'early twenties'. A lot of the women on this show I can't get a good idea of what age they are playing. Having her in her early twenties would make her younger than Betty (see below) and I just don't see that.

"Suddenly, we are close on a woman's hand as it turns the switch on the end table lamp. We pull back and reveal Betty, 29, and beautiful despite having just awakened."

  • So the image of Betty being "too perfect" was right there in the script from the get-go. Placing her age at 29 (if they left it at that) lets her have a few years after college and marriage before she had Sally, who turned six in the third episode.

Thanks, Lee Thomson!

ALSO, really cool Mad Men fan site at Basket of Kisses!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mad Men: The Women - Season 1, Episode 1

Cast of Characters (in order of appearance):

Midge Daniels = The Modern Woman
Peggy Olson = The New Girl
Joan Holloway = The Bombshell
Dr. Greta Guttman = Our "Man" in Research
Rachel Menken = A Woman with Power

Midge is dressed in slim black pants and a white shirt tied at the waist over a black lace bra. Apparently, the shirt is a man’s but at this point, we do not know if it belongs to Don. This allows for the belief that she is not his “mistress” in the strictest terms, but instead the “modern woman” and he might not be her only lover. She informs Don in the morning that she” does not make plans and does not make breakfast.” We find that she is an independent illustrator who lives alone, works late, and normally may or may not be alone at that time of the night.

Our first look at Peggy is in the company elevator as she is checked out by her future co-workers. She is wearing a tiny yellow hat, simple pearl earrings, and a simple ponytail. Later, after she has removed her coat we can see that she is wearing a loose yellow Henley-style sweater with three-quarter length sleeves and a mid-calf-length full circle skirt. If she replaced her sensible black pumps with a pair of saddle shoes and bobby socks, she would look like a stereotypical "bobby soxer" from the 1940’s. The show being set in the early 60's is accurate in that the full skirt for day was still very popular even as the pencil skirt and "wiggle-dress" were moving into popularity. Peggy's naivety and newness to a job of that caliber is obvious when you realize her clothing most closely resembles that of the girls in the “Nerve Center” than the girls visible out in the secretarial pool.

Joan is first seen in an extremely form-fitting dark green dress with a modest and detailed v-neckline. Though obviously voluptuous; there is no visible cleavage, the sexiness of this outfit is implied and enhanced by her posture. Her only ornamentation is a small rhinestone broach, gold earrings and a very thin belt emphasizing her waistline atop her slim skirt

Note: No pictures from this episode were available from AMC for the next two female characters.

This is a shame because the
firm's German female researcher, Dr. Guttman, obviously was not a favorite of the men, perhaps because of her presumed lack of sex appeal, hence, her nickname, "our man in research". Costumed in a three-quarter-sleeved gray suit with rounded collar, this suit is worn with a gray ascot blouse. Her suit is adorned with rather large fabric-covered buttons; therefore, the two places where color could have been introduced (her blouse, buttons) were also done in the same dull gray. Though her suit does have a straight skirt like Joan's, this one is much fuller and not fitted to her curves. Her accessories of pearl earrings, dark-rimmed glasses on a chain around her neck, and a stiffly shellacked bob, also do not tie into the 1950’s appeal of either Marilyn, Audrey, or Grace.

I don't have a picture to show you of Rachel Menken's first appearance on Mad Men, so I'm using this picture from the third episode. It was oblivious to the men in the meeting, but the first sight of Rachel Menken should have told them at least some of what they were dealing with. This woman had both money and style. While they have a hard time connecting Menken's, the department store with Chanel, the upscale boutique, a woman might not have had such a hard time. Sitting in front of them was a perfect example of “the Chanel woman,” complete with the magenta tweed Chanel suit with braided trim and pearls; two strands at the neck and three at the wrist. Her cigarette holder was also a clue that she most definitely was not a housewife. This woman knew exactly what kind of customer she wanted because she was that customer.

I'm leaving out Betty Draper for this episode only because she comes in as sort of a surprise to let us know that Don has a family. I will definitely make up for this omission next episode. Thanks.

Mad Men: Details of the Recaps

I am done viewing the first three episodes of Season One. I am officially hooked on this show!

I' m still trying to figure out a way to do these posts on the women of Mad Men and their clothes. Initially, I was just going to talk about the outfits in the episodes. However, Episode One had quite a few and we weren't even introduced to a properly dressed Betty Draper yet! So my first post will just be a simple introductory of the women in that episode, a bit about their style and what it seems to tell us about them.

In future episodes, I think I might show patterns from that time period similar to the clothes in the episode for those who are into sewing with vintage patterns. Then some outfits, I might show modern patterns that would be good to use in order to replicate the style. Or perhaps, I'll just write each post in the way in which the episode drives me. Regardless, I hope you will enjoy them and find them good for some use.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

So-so sewing along...

I have been sewing but I don't have anything new to show just yet.

A few weeks ago I did make a few changes to my pattern mash-up shirt from this post. I tightened the elastic at the neck and wrists and then I shortened the hem to a more attractive length.

I am currently on the last steps of this dress, vintage McCall's 6712 (see fabric below). FINALLY. I just have the self-fabric belt to make.

The pattern called for woven interfacing which doesn't seem to be very popular anymore. I could only find black in the stores, when I needed white. My local fabric stores are convenient to a book store so I decided to check the content of their sewing books for a run-down on interfacing types. I wanted to know if there was a definite reason I should use woven instead of the now popular non-woven that comes in sew-in and fusible types. There was no information in the current crop of sewing books but then they aren't pushing using vintage patterns. The only two books that helped me were Sewing for Dummies (!) and, of course, the latest version of my Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing I have to say it again, this book is a definite Must-Have if you can't get your hand on any original sewing books from the 40's or 50's.

Dress above with friends

I'm also working on two Purl Fabric frogs, however, I'm stumped. The original designs were to be made as bean bags, but since these might be gifts for teething children, who will definitely put these in their mouths I don't know what to fill these with. If I fill with beans, they will sprout because of the moisture. I need to find something safe for children, anyone have any ideas?

Friday, September 19, 2008

The new "Wish Book"

Have you seen the new Harper's Bazaar Runway Report special issue? You probably have because it has been out since August but I just noticed it this past weekend. It is a look book of designer fall collections, 220 pages and $6.95. So, no, it's not covering the current Fashion Week but it's definitely handy if you are just starting to think about fall fashion, like me. Snatch it up now because it leaves newsstands November 1.

If they do this again in the Spring, I will be very grateful.

Make-for-less Marni

On label-free, a request for a pattern to recreate this adorable $855 Marni stole was posted. I thought the best place to look would be Vogue Patterns. I remember some similar shaped jackets years ago by designer Geoffrey Beene. Of course, those patterns are out-of-print, but I did find Vogue 8520.

Though it would result in a lot more detail than the original, I thought it could be quite easy to adapt this into that stole. It has the same simple neckline and the rounded shoulder. In addition, the pattern as is looks a lot like the other coats in the collection.

Anything you made would be cheaper too. Bonus.
What do you think?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Those Broad Shouldered Dames...

of the 1930's:

Eva Dress  New York 509

du Barry 1131

Simplicity 1462 Simplicity 1386

Patterns like these gems are available from sellers like Vintage Pattern Lending Library (VPL), EvaDress, Past Patterns, Vintage Martini and Blue Gardenia.

When purchasing a vintage pattern, I suggest finding a pattern you like and doing a Google search with the Brand and Pattern Number for the best price possible. Patterns from this era are rare and cost more than vintage patterns from 1940 and later. I've seen these patterns range in price from $15-25 at one place to $65-$85 at the next.

Pattern images courtesy of Vintage Pattern Lending Library, EvaDress, and Carbonated

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Great minds think alike?

UPDATE: I wasn't the only one thinking it! See!

Mad for Mad Men

Two nights ago I saw Season One, episodes 1 -3 of AMC's Mad Men. Yes, I know, I'm late to the game. I just don't get cable and am experiencing it all via Netflix. What did we do without Netflix?
The next day I couldn't wait to get to the AMC site to find out more about the clothes. However, there was nothing. How can there be nothing? There has been a huge run by designers to history's well for today's clothing collections. The blogging community is all about vintage and vintage-inspired clothing, which is obvious if you just check Flickr. And AMC, one of the keepers of our vintage celluloid history does not have an extensive section on the clothing displayed on their hot new show? I was shocked.

They do have a Fashion File column written by Faran Krentcil, founder of But I think what Faran knows best is modern fashion. I was surprised that no one with knowledge (and more importantly, love) of the vintage fashions portrayed was covering the subject for AMC. Wouldn't you just love to have someone like Erin of A Dress A Day have something to say on the subject after each episode? I know I would. Or someone from the show's own clothing department? Their last blog post was by Janie Bryant,
Mad Men's costume designer and I hope they ask her back.

I want someone who cares to discuss the reasons some characters wear what they wear, because in a show like this, the clothes can be our shortcut to understanding what the character is all about. Also, I wonder if the writers request a specific outfit because of the way it would read to us viewers, ex. would it make us think a particular thing about the character? I want to know things like that. Do you?
In an August 27 column, Faran told a story about how they found a bullet-cup brassiere at a thrift store, cut it apart, and replicated it to make bras for Christina Hendrick's Joan character. Of course, how could she not "be" the character when wearing one of those? Also her outfits are found many sizes too larger and cut down to fit her like a glove, basically each of her outfits are couture-fitted. Again, how can she not feel like a queen in that office? I think a blog covering the fashions on that show should have either more of that type of stuff and commentary on what makes up the wardrobe of the separate women characters; who represent so many different types of women, no matter how stereotypically alike the majority of them (middle-class white women, 20s to late 30s) seem at first glance. Or perhaps, a blog that strictly shows you how to replicate those outfits using modern fashion. However, right now AMC's Fashion File seems to be all over the place, with no focus. Which is unlike the show, where Mad Men is all about focus; knowing what your end goal is (success or marriage) and using your smarts and imagination to create whatever is needed to achieve that goal.
Whew...that was a lot of exposition, wasn't it?

So though I'm late to the game, for my own enjoyment, and hopefully yours too, what I'm going to do is post my observations episode by episode as I view the show. Note: I can't guarantee this will go swiftly, as I still have to depend on availability of episodes on Netflix and I have Christina Ricci's Penelope up next in my queue!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sing-Along and Be Happy!

The world is a mess and...I just need to rule it.

Dr. Horrible

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Marc Jacobs Bias Skirts - Vogue 2068 (& 2070)

Pattern: Vogue 2068

Pattern Description: Semi-fitted, bias skirt (below contour waist), above mid-knee, has elastic waist.

Pattern Sizing: 8-10-12

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, very much.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I love how simple it is yet how professionally finished it ends up looking.

Fabric Used: I used a drapey polyester blend that had a bit of body to it.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: The pattern is ten years old, so I added some width to the pattern piece for my larger hips and I made the skirt a few inches longer as the original skirt was only 16 3/4 inches long!

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes, this is my third version of this skirt. I love how the waistband looks, very professional. Even though it is an elastic waistband, once worn the waistband resembles a straight band. The elastic, when stretched, is only wide enough to get over the hips and then relaxes to fit just a little lower than the waist. It's also a quick sew.

Conclusion: This is one of my favorite straight skirt patterns.

I finished the skirt, already wore it to work, and wrote a review of said skirt. The review for this out-of-print pattern, Vogue 2068, can also be found here at

I now have three versions of this skirt. The blue, tan. and cream one I can still wear since I took out the hem but the third brown polka-dot one will probably be given away. The fabric I found for this new version was this great drapey polyester blend I bought at Jo-Ann's Fabrics that has a lot of body to it. I love the color combination and it just happens that the diagonal plaid mimics the pattern on the original skirt.

This Vogue American Designer wardrobe pattern is ten years old, so I am a different size than when I first made it. I added some width to the pattern piece for my now larger hips and of course made it many inches longer as the original skirt was truly meant to be a mini-skirt at little more than 16 inches long. And yes, I did wear it at that length but always with black tights and boots. This past week I wore the new longer one without and still felt awkward. I keep forgetting that my job involves a lot of bending and stooping. Good that fall is coming because I really like this skirt and want to keep wearing it.

Vogue 2068

Eventually, I'll get a picture of me wearing the skirt on the blog because I want to show off how cool the waistband on this skirt is.
If you get a chance to pick this pattern up on eBay or one of the vintage pattern links to the right, do it. Besides the skirts, I also made the bias top and am tempted to try out the jacket.

Vogue 2070

I also have the sister pattern to this, Vogue 2070, which includes the Marc Jacobs coat and dress. I have had some red challis for the dress for years (!) but I have yet to cut this pattern out. I think I keep missing the right season.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

During the Republican Convention...

and Sarah Palin's speech last night all I could think was:

too bad Tina Fey isn't on Saturday Night Live anymore. She would have OWNED that impression!

UPDATE: I wasn't the only one thinking it! See!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Traditional Techniques Make Modern Magic

Note: This was originally published on the 2Modern Design Talk blog.

The Vlisco company in the Netherlands creates West and Central African fabric designs. They specialize in traditional wax prints on 100% cotton that is used to create modern clothing and accessories. The wonderful thing about this fabric is that it is wax printed and dyed on both sides of the cloth; therefore, the designs are rich, textural, and full of body.

Also their incredibly lovely advertising images makes the fabric instantly covetable.

Even the simplest dress design would be amazing in these fabrics. Purchase of the fabric is available here in increments of six yards each for only 45 to 60 Euros or $65 or $8 US. That price is extremely reasonable!

Use Anthropologie as sewing inspiration

Every now and then I go to Anthropologie for some visual stimulation and inspiration. I rarely buy anything (only two things that were very much on sale a few years ago). But I always come out of that store with ideas. Sometimes I see a way I could embellish something I already own or I see something that I could create once I give a second look through my pattern stash and buy a few new pieces of trim. This is what I saw this past holiday weekend:

RicRac Anya Tee, $39

Great fit, love the collar and sleeves, but I'm not buying black tops anymore and it only came in black! Has anyone seen a sewing pattern similar to this?

Velvet's Whirly Gig Cowlneck, $58

This top is more basic than the one above because of simpler sleeves and cowlneck. So, how about a pattern for this one?

Sleeping on Snow's Armana Jasmine Cardigan, $128

I love the felted wool applique petals and flowers. I must add some of these to my old sweaters and make some colorful pins for all my black jackets and coats.

Moth's Capacious cardigan, $98
This had an ingenious design. Once opened up it was just a large trapezoid, wider at the bottom with two inset sleeves located halfway down. The two layers of very thin knit were attached only through the sleeves, the button area at the right and then tacked together at the same place on the left front. Check out the quick sketch I made of its construction in the dressing room:

I swear that's what it looks like!