Wednesday, June 30, 2010

One of those days...

I'm having one of those days that is so bad you have a hard time thinking about it and when you think about it your stomach knots up.

All I want to do is procrastinate (like writing on my blog, cutting out a new dress, doing laundry) instead of dealing with it. I need a new job.

I put my car in the shop because it desperately needed it. Loud mystery noises, no AC during the hottest June on record here, and the VA state inspection was due. Now my car is stuck at the mechanics because the only credit card I still have does not have the space for this repair and I do not have the cash for it either. I was so sure I had at least $200 available, but no.

So, besides that I literally do not have the money to get through this month especially if my landlord expects the full rent payment. However, I'm hoping I can get a few hundred off that because of the lack of ac for an entire week and the expected higher electricity bills for the two portable AC units that they put in place now. I did sell a pattern today but $7 isn't really going to help much. How did I do this to myself?!!!!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Some Pretty for the Weekend

I love the mint green tea, raspberry, and lemonade color palette of these pattern covers! Yum. That actually makes me think of raspberry (or strawberry) lemonade, one of my summer drink staples.

Simplicity 2229

I want View 1, check out the open back and neck collar, it's slinky, a bit bare, but still very covered in front.

Customode* 8169

This one, I'm all over the green tea dress, it is simple in design with the gathered neckline but the added flounce (mini-train) at the hem and the elegantly draped sash add so much to the dress. I also adore the raspberry velvet(?) wrap jacket. Do you see how it wraps both in front and in the back? Gorgeous!

* Customode was actually produced by Simplicity Patterns so maybe that's why I have the same feeling for these both and why the design and colors are similar.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hot enough for you?!!

The air conditioning unit in my apartment has been malfunctioning since last Friday. No AC at all during the weekend and minimal cooling since Monday. The building management has informed me that I need a completely new unit and has lent me a mobile AC unit for the time being. I swear this thing is the size of an old-school R2D2 unit. (I will insert pictures later)

However, whatever cooling air comes out the top of it is immediately overpowered by the pizza-oven-hot air coming out the vent in the back. So let's just say, I have been miserable in my apartment for days. My brain cells run away and hide, I have no energy, and I actually look forward to going to work every day because of the constant AC going on there. Now, that's sad, right?

That right vent is the devil!

Update: I realized I forgot to mention that I live on the third floor (heat rises) and my living room ceilings are 13 feet high (again heat rises) and that is a lot of space for one droid AC unit to cool.

So, basically, all the great plans I came up with last Friday during an all-day work meeting (my little written notes in the margins became brilliant ideas for the future) and the plans I had to sew (including an actual one-hour dress) have all been stalled. The only thing I can do when I go home is try to move as little as possible, turn off all the lights, eat Popsicles, and hover over the unit while avoiding the waves of heat from its' backside.

In addition, here's what I have to look forward to for the next week:

Thurs, Jun 24, PM T-Storms 103°

Fri, Jun 25, Mostly Sunny 96°

Sat, Jun 26, Isolated T-Storms 100°

Sun, Jun 27, Partly Cloudy 103°

Mon, Jun 28, Isolated T-Storms 96°

Tue, Jun 29, Isolated T-Storms 91°

Wed, Jun 30, Partly Cloudy 88°

Thu, Jul 01, Sunny 87°

Pray for me, please?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What's Going On Now

I know I have been bombarding you with lots of long, photo-packed posts, but I hope you've been enjoying them because I have a few more to go.


  • There are new patterns in the shop (these are even cheaper!) and there will be additions every week. Please check them out.

  • I have a post almost ready on the unique cuff, collar, pocket, and other details once common in sewing patterns (1940-60s) that gave a garment an extra zing. Most of these details could be revived as additions to modern patterns already in your home.

  • In need of a new top, I finished this muslin for my Built By Wendy-Vogue pattern mash-up. I reinforced the basted seams and replaced the elastic. I know it's still muslin but no one who doesn't sew will know the difference. Maybe, one day when I have the facilities, I'll dye it.

  • I am finally working on the last item of my long overdue mini-wardrobe; the 1960's Butterick button-back top. Don't know what my procrastination problem was with it. Still up in the air about the bound buttonholes and looking at related tutorials.

  • Working on fixing the muslin for the yellow dress. I realize I never followed through on it's progress on the blog. Long story short, that sheet was the worst fabric for this dress and also for this top, but I still wear it. It's far too stiff, has NO give and I had not added enough width to the pattern's hip seams. Of course, the pattern did say Recommended For Knits...which I then ignored. Once I alter the pattern though this will look great in one of the new stretch bengalines that Jo-Anns has right now.

  • I am about to tackle the alterations I need to make in order to finally finish my Colette Pattern's Oolong dress. Following a suggestion to decrease the seam allowances in the hip area and therefore allow more ease, did in fact, eliminate a lot of the sway back lines in the yellow dress above so I am going to apply that knowledge to both the slip and fashion fabric layers of this dress. Also, it seems I need to decrease the seam allowances on the sleeves or bite the bullet and cut a sleeve with a larger arm opening. The sleeves seem a bit too tight now. Luckily I may have enough leftover fabric. I'm also tempting to substitute the sleeves from this dress, Simplicity 6034, which has a similar look but gives the sleeves some more interest. I have also seen drafting instructions for similar sleeves here on Vintage

Friday, June 18, 2010

They Sell Fabric, Don't They?

There are two independent fabric stores in Richmond that I've discovered, can't wait to find the others. One I've known about for a while, Quilting Adventures. In it's original location it mostly carried...quilting fabrics. Whoa, did you see that coming? Along with those they carry all the patterns and things you would need to make bags and stuffed animals and have a large sewing magazine and book section. But now I notice more clothing fabric in the back, knits, batiks, canvas prints, laminated cottons, and corduroy. But even cooler, I've also seen some designer bolts. First some Nicole Miller, Marc Jacobs, Anne Klein, some Helen Wang raspberry eyelet, and then some Ralph Lauren sateen the last time I was in.

The last time I was in I asked if they were going to carry any of Anna Maria Horner's fabrics not even thinking of her voile. As it turns out they will likely be carrying some of her fabric but NOT the voile. However, they let me know that the Bernina shop in the West End was carrying it NOW.

Yes, the Bernina sewing machine shop had it. What did I find when I showed up there 10 minutes before they closed on Saturday? Lovely, lovely voile!

I have touched it and it is everything that everyone on the blogs is saying it is. I now want all my summer dresses and tops to be made out of this fabric, all floaty and fine! Even at $15 a yard, it is worth it.

Diamond Mine - Sky, Coloring Garden - Sea

Little Honey - Berry, Coloring Garden - Citrus

So if you are in Virginia, Anna Maria Horner's cotton voile (seen above) is available to touch in person at the Bernina of Richmond store. They also carry Kwik Sew, Sewing Workshop, and some Jalie patterns so you don't have to online order them all the time.

Quilting Adventures
Bernina of Richmond

Both stores also hold sewing and quilting classes. Check their individual websites above for schedules.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Inspire Me: Baby Face - The At-Home Game

As you can see from my last few posts I have become obsessed with late 1920 and 1930s fashions.

The movie Baby Face (1933), really put a fire under me. Also the discovery of Fashion Service magazine, a drafting pattern exercise from the past, a friend's vintage English pattern booklet, and an old publication (seen here and here) that is currently available as a reprint, I'm pretty happy right now.

I took a look around the Internet to see if I could find examples of Lily Power's movie costumes existing in real life (or at least in home sewing patterns). I found the best source of images was at The Blue Gardenia. Enjoy these pretties and the costumes that may have really inspired these designs:

Simplicity 1935

Now these two have to be related, right?! Just crop the gathered sleeves , remove the sleeve band and adjust the size of the collar and I think this one is almost 90% there. What do you think?

Simplicity 1708

Simplicity 1778, Butterick 6698

Construct the ruffles of white organdy and lengthen the sleeves of Simplicity 1708 and there you are!

I couldn't really find this one, but I found a lot of work dresses with great eye catching collars and larger-than-life adornments framing the face.


Simplicity 1827, Hollywood 832, McCall* 9034

Look how similar the patterns on the ends are with those full, floppy bows. Two different pattern companies but if they came out in the same season they were probably knock-offs of some designer fashion or could have been adapted from a movie costume.
The pattern in the middle is significant too because the actress pictured, Kay Francis was also frequently costumed by Orry-Kelly of Baby Face.

Simplicity 1645, McCall 7404, Simplicity 1804

These all use contrasting fabrics to great advantage.

McCall 7981, du Barry 1131

These two invoke the use of big ruffles to make a statement. I'm loving that last one so much, I think I need a yellow plaid something in my life.

Hollywood 994 and Pictorial Pattern 7298

For the lady who shops, with super glamorous Carole Lombard on the Hollywood pattern.

Now, check out who it is on this Hollywood pattern below, "Babs" Stanwyck herself! Wonder if this lingerie-inspired gown could have been modeled after an Orry-Kelly design made especially for her?

 Hollywood 984

Images: Blue Gardenia, Peppermintchick's Flickr stream (Hollywood 832 + McCall 7404),

* McCall was officially the company's name before they added the -'s to it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


This made me cry and smile at the same time. Go out and make someone's day! We all need validation, right?

Friday, June 11, 2010

From Me to You:

When I found this sweater pattern in my friend's 1941 copy of the British Weldon's Home Dressmaker, no. 562, I decided to type it up and offer it to anyone interested in making it up.

It is a Word document, I can also convert it to rich text or plain text, if needed. If you would like a copy just send me an email via this blog or comment below with your email address and I'll send it to you.

To see more scans from this particular issue focusing on homemade lingerie, The Prettiest Undies, check it out in my Flickr set here.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Fashion In Film: Baby Face (1933)

Director: Alfred E. Green
Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent
Costume Design: Orry-Kelly

Baby Face - a story of rags to riches, with a lot of sin mixed in. Available in an uncensored and censored version, it was extremely racy for it's day as Barbara Stanwyck's character, Lily Powers, literally sleeps her way to the top of a Manhattan finance company, ending up living in the penthouse.

Again, the clothes in a movie that inspires me turns out to have been designed by designer Orry-Kelly.* As it turns out, Orry-Kelly designed most of the outfits in Barbara Stanwyck and Bette Davis' film wardrobes that I have loved. Movies like Now, Voyager, The Little Foxes, and Gambling Lady. He also designed the costumes for Auntie Mame, Some Like it Hot, Irma La Douce and one of my favorites, An American in Paris.** So in this post we'll look at what he created for a girl from the Erie, Pennsylvania slums "working" her way to the top.

Please note how great these screen captures are. I was given permission to borrow them from Kate at Small Earth Vintage, do yourself a favor and check out her great vintage shop here.

Chic in the Big City

Lily's first job in the Big City and she wears a cute polka-dot bias dress with flutter sleeves, topped with an attached white cape-collar, adorned with large metallic buttons and larger than average buttonholes. Note that this is pre-makeover.

Movin' on up!

This is worn as she makes her move for advancement, standing out from the other ladies by adding flare to her wardrobe with an infusion of (organdy?) ruffles not only at the decolletage but also at the wrists, all topped with a new permanent wave in her hair. See the plainer version of the white collar and cuffs dress in the background?

My fave look!

Now in the midst of having an affair with the bank president's future son-in-law, she ups the stakes by wearing a classic background dress jazzed up with a large quilted (yes, quilted!) scarf and matching cuffs. This one says clean, classy and professional, so what is her character doing wearing it? I can't help but read that monogram as a giant red letter "A".

Bubbles and sparkly things bought by her Sugar Daddy

Soon after, she dumps the son-in-law and moves up to the bank's much older president. Lily no longer needs to work and is set up in a doorman apartment and given an obviously generous clothing budget. Check out those jewels!

Lady of Leisure

She is now wearing full ensembles with accessories such as hats, gloves and fur capes and I suspect she now spends her days shopping.

In time, great scandal happens threatening the company and she is shipped to the company's Paris branch. (Yeah, I wish that was how it works!) Lily is soon pursued by the brand new company president (George Brent), a much younger and hunkier model. Once married to him, she is quickly spoiled rotten (real rotten!) in the company's penthouse apartment.

The Big Time!

I guess this is her "just hanging out at home" outfit. Black satin bias gown with metallic encrusted, draped open-shoulder sleeves, a slight train and a jeweled brooch at neck.

She's got plenty of nothing...

Fitted satin (charmeuse?) gown with voluminous dolman sleeves, draped buttoned back collar and scandalous open back.

Another view of the pure Glamour

Images: courtesy of Small Earth Vintage

* If anyone knows of a coffee table book on Orry-Kelly, please let me know. I can't believe with his list of credits that no one has documented his genius yet.

** Two of the movies mentioned above will be the future subjects of new Inspire Me segments, guess which ones?

Friday, June 04, 2010

Atonement Dress in Real Life

A while ago, I wrote about the green silk dress from the movie Atonement and how it was created. Well, Gemma commented that her wedding dress was inspired by that movie costume and that she had pictures. So, I emailed her back to send them and then also sent her a little questionnaire about how it all came about that she wore a version of Cece Tallis' dress on her own wedding day. Please enjoy her answers (and the gorgeous pictures!) below:

 Happy couple + Mr. Rory McCrory

I'm Gemma McCrory from Belfast, Northern Ireland but now living in London, England. I am a Deputy Head of a primary school in Hackney, east London. Any spare time that I have I love to shop! Depending on my mood I either like trawling through vintage shops and warehouses or searching on the high street for vintage styled pieces. I am not very good with my hands so am a bit hopeless at actually making my own, but what I am good at is finding vintage patterns and emailing them to my sister-in-law in Belfast to make for me. It was Marie, my sister-in-law and 1940s fanatic, who actually alerted me to Lisa's post about my wedding dress.

 Jacqueline Durran's design

Were you influenced by the movie Atonement in choosing your dress or was it a coincidence?
I watched Atonement and hated the movie but instantly fell in love with the dress, when my husband proposed I knew that I had to get that dress made. Being 6 feet tall I knew that any 'off-the-peg' dresses just would not do. Also being a lover of 1920s/30s clothing, the dress ticked all the boxes!

How did you find your dressmaker or did a family member/friend make it for you?
My dress maker was the wonderful Lucia Silver based in London. Believe it or not I just googled "1920 wedding dress maker" and up she popped! She has an amazing studio in Notting Hill which is dripping with vintage gowns, clothing and jewellery, as soon as I walked in I knew that she was the one for me. There was a hand made flapper dress hanging in every panel in the bay windows- stunning! When I arrived Lucia was just as excited as me when she saw the pictures I had brought with me as she was just about to start designing a dress similar- so I guess I was the guinea pig. She now uses the dress (a.k.a the goddess dress) on the main page of her web site, The State of Grace.

How difficult was it to make the dress? How long did it take?
From start to finish it took about 6 months to complete. Lucia and her team of pattern cutters made the dress from a block, they then used this to create a toile from cheap satin. After this they made adjustments to the toile and created the gorgeous finished article! It all seemed relatively straightforward to me -but I wasn't making it. Also the final costing had to be changed as so much fabric had to be used due to the length of my legs!

Gemma and the Jacqueline Durran sketch of the dress

Did they use that same Vogue pattern to make it or did they copy the dress from pictures? How many tries (muslins) were made before the final dress?
No, they made the dress from a block which they drew my measurements on. From this they were able to make one toile then finito! Experts!

What fabric is your dress made out of? It moved so beautifully in the wind.
It is made from pearl crepe-back silk satin bought from Morocco.

Did you buy or make the fascinator/headdress?
The hatlette was also made by the same team it is made from the same fabric as the dress with hand stitched silver seams. The feathers and veil were also hand attached. Lucia also made some vintage single drop rhinestone and pearl earrings which she gave me as a gift.

If given the choice, would you have worn the dress the same way that Keira did in the movie, with the long slit in the front of the skirt that was only revealed when she was walking?
No, I wouldn't have had the slit as the dress was backless and quite low-cut at the front, I think that the addition of a slit would have made it a bit less glamorous, would have been a bit OTT.

What did your intended/now husband think of the dress? Did he have an idea that you would be wearing it, had he seen it before that day?
He thought it was 'nice'-typical man! I think he was glad to see that it wasn't a meringue or something equally vile. He liked the 30s styling and hopefully thought I looked gorgeous, I think he was too nervous to notice the finer details! He hadn't seen it before but I had pictures of the Atonement dress everywhere around the house so unless he was completely stupid I am sure he could have guessed.....but then again maybe not!

And last, but not least, what is the name of that sweet ginger dog?
The sweet ginger dog is my sister-in-law's beautiful Mr. Rory McCrory, he came to visit us at the reception and I had to have a picture with him.

Thank you, Gemma for sharing your story!

Images: property of Gemma McCrory, Focus Features Films, State of Grace