Tuesday, 25 June 2013

New pattern: McCall 6523 - Misses' Blouse

I just got a new pattern today. :-) Well, as this is a vintage blog, new means: newly acquired. I bought it from Lanetz Living, a place I buy from since 5 years. Even though prices everywhere went up: They still have reasonable prices and a lovely choice throughout all eras. (But be careful: "This website is addictive and can be hazardous to your pocket book, proceed with caution!")

The pattern dates from 1946. I love raglan sleeves, and when it comes to sewing summer tops, there's nothing lovelier than a puffed sleeve raglan blouse. The blouse has a rounded front yoke that extends to the shoulders. Five buttons close the back which has a slightly tapered waist. The sleeves can be long and full, gathered to wrist cuffs or short, puff sleeves edged in piping. 

However, the buttoned back closure is not what I prefer, as usually I need someone to help me close all those buttons. BOAH (best of all husbands) usually is off to work... And I can't ask the postman to help me dress up. ;-) It might be worth trying to make this pattern with a light knit fabric, so the buttons become obsolete. What do you think? Has anyone made any similar experiences?

(Unfortunately, I forgot to save the original photograph when I purchased the pattern, and I have no time to make one myself this week, so I just took these pictures from sellers on Etsy... Hope they don't mind. I guess the item is still available there... My pattern is a size 12 only.)

Pattern: 6523
Manufacturer: mcCall (McCalls)
Year: 1946
Size: 12
Type: Misses' Blouse
Bought from: Lanetz Living

Monday, 17 June 2013

My Vintage Style Silk Wedding Gown

Maybe it could be a good way to make you know me a little bit better by showing you my handmade vintage wedding dress. As many of you I'm not a professional seamstress, and I never had a particular sewing education, so this project was really something special. It was my first vintage project EVER. And it was a lot of work.

The whole thing started when I tried on a wedding dress in a bridal shop. I liked it a lot, but it was not comfortable, I don't like polyester and I was afraid of the embroidered tulle train. Besides that, it seemed to be "not me". The seller tried to hurry and made a lot of pressure, as it was the last piece. But I needed more time to think about, and I was not really sure about it, so a real odyssey on the search of the perfect dress began. 

I don't know how many gowns I tried on. And I guess I lost a lot of weight trying them on. Wish I could repeat it, it was an entirely comfortable way of losing weight... In my head I had the picture of my wedding gown I once had seen in a Vogue pattern book in the early 90s, but no dress came close to that somehow blurry picture. It had to be something completely different that was available in all those posh shops. In the end, I was so desperate that I started to search the internet for Vogue wedding gown patterns, hoping to find the ONE pattern I thought I had in my mind. Of course it was a hopeless quest...

But I found something else instead: pages and pages with the most beautiful vintage patterns from the 30s, 40s and 50s - and they all were much closer to what I had in mind than any dress I had tried on before. I fell in love with this vintage Givenchy pattern so much, but the only copy I found was too expensive. The fact that Hubert Givenchy designed this dress for the unforgettable and outstanding Audrey Hepburn makes it a very searched after item for pattern collectors... 

But I saw very soon that there are many very similar designs. So I bought some of these patterns and thought that each one of them, without sleeves and with some accessories, could make the perfect wedding gown for me. I soon realised that I would have to make it myself, as there are not so many professional seamstresses here in Switzerland, but I thought it would be possible. I had made some decently good fitting garments for me before, and I was confident to make it in time. My choice was this vintage pattern from about 1956, Butterick 7708. As many other patterns, I bought it on Etsy.

Still, the whole idea made me very nervous... 

Finding the perfect fabric was sheer luck. There are only two fabric stores left in Zurich, and I was so lucky to find the most beautiful Duiponi silk in champagne colour. I love roses, so I knew already from the beginning that I would add some fabric rose accessories. I was lucky again that they had the same fabric in a shade of pink. I felt so happy when I came home with my big bag full of this wonderful silk. I love silk, and I love roses (did I mention it before?), and therefore I had to have roses on wedding gown!

First I made the ring-cushion, just to get an idea of the fabric, how it felt to work with this silk. Then I made some kind of moussline, a test-bodice from a cotton-fabric to make all necessary alterations. I don't tell you how many times I had to alter the pattern (I guess women in the 50s had different body measurements, and I have a rather small bust), how many times I had to change this and that, as I wanted the dress to be sleeve-less and with some boning added to the side of the bodice. You really don't want to know that I had to re-make the silk-bodice again as I made a terrible mistake when I cut it the first time... At a certain point my dear husband (DH) and me had some sleepless nights as it seemed my sewing-machine didn't work properly anymore, and we were afraid it was broken. I always was afraid to run out of fabric (I still have some left!), and of course, I always was afraid to run out of time. Of course, it's a nightmare for a bride to add such a project to all the other, regular wedding preparations. I had so many sleepless nights, and in those hours in my mind I was always trying to find the perfect solution for the boning, for the under-skirt, for the straps, for the fabric roses etc... I was mentally sewing, when I was at work in my office and even at night. And, in addition to all, we were expecting our little daughter (I was in the 2nd month of my pregnancy at the wedding). This was such a special time, and my DH and I still look back from time to time and lough about it - especially remembering all the many times when he had to assist and close the zipper of the almost finished bodice with his eyes closed...

My dear friend Kunigunde with the finished gown

Of course, at a certain point, he couldn't help me anymore, and I'm glad I had a dress-form. (Her name is, by the way, Kunigunde.) Of course, I put an awful lot of work and time and nerves in this dress, but the more the dress advanced, the more I enjoyed it. In the end, making a pompadour and the rose accessories was just like having a delicious desert. The roses were made after a Vogue pattern (Bridal accents V7009), as well as the ring-cushion. The pompadour was made after a pattern from a 90s Burda magazine, and, the day before the wedding, I even had to make a bolero, as the weather was not so good as expected.

I was so proud when I put my dress on on my wedding day, so proud. And so were my parents. You can't imagine the feeling, and it made me feel even more special on this special day. And my husband's smile and look when I entered the church - I was so happy, and it was worth all the labour and the fears and the troubles.

Yes, I was already pregnant, but it's not the belly that shows it but my gesture. But nobody noticed... :-)

Today, almost 5 years later, when I look back to those weeks and especially look at my pictures, I don't regret it at all. Of course, some people looked down their noses at my "homemade" wedding gown, the probably thought it was not chic enough or not as posh as this or that glittering designer dress sold in the boutiques in Zurich City. But I don't care - this is a one-of-a-kind vintage style wedding gown, as unique as I wanted to feel on that wonderful day, and nobody ever could take that away from me and from my DH's memories. I certainly would make SOME things in a different way, and definitely I would start earlier. But this dress really makes part of our wedding, and I would do it again. 

Monday, 10 June 2013

Aloha - Hawaiian Men's Shirt review

You may ask "What's so vintage about a Hawaiian shirt?" - well, first of all, a Hawaiian shirt is a classic, it never gets out of fashion. And it has a long history!

Hawaiian shirts, or Aloha shirts how they used to be called first, were made since the mid 30s or even earlier, by Japanese and Chinese immigrants - in Hawaii, obviously. They used to be made of left-over kimono fabrics.

 The shirt became constantly more and more fashionable, especially when after WW2 many soldiers brought back the garment to their mainland homes from the service in the Pacific islands. In the 50s, tourism on Hawaii increased due to faster airplanes. And so the colourful shirts with tropical prints became a standard souvenir.

Frank Sinatra, Montgomery Clift (r.) and Ernest Borgnine (l.) in the 1953 movie "From here to Eternity" - Photo: Ronald Grant

Renowned fashion designers and textile manufacturers like Alfred Shaheen raised the Aloha shirt to a higher level. He also produced the fabrics with tropical designs and traditional batiks.

Alfred Shaheen (1922-2008), Photo: AP

In 1961, Elvis Presley is wearing one of Shaheen's shirts on the cover of "Blue Hawaii". And of course in the movie as well...

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty

The Honolulu Chamber of Commerce 1946 funded a study of Aloha shirts and designs for comfortable business clothing worn during the hot Hawaiian summers. The City and County of Honolulu passed a resolution allowing their employees to wear sport shirts from June–October. City employees were not allowed to wear aloha shirts for business until the creation of the Aloha Week festival in 1947. Obviously this helped the textile industries on the islands and made the shirt even more attractive to visiting tourists.

Since the 50s high-end Aloha shirts are produced today by Tori Richard until today. In the 1983 movie "Scarface", even Al Pacino is wearing an Aloha shirt. Unfortunateyl tucked in his trousers. A terrible fashion faux-pas. The same mistake was also made by Mr. Moustache Tom Selleck aka Magnum P.I. in the famous series about a private investigator on Hawaii. Despite this (I guess it was common in the 80s) the Hawaiian shirt became more popular even in Europe. 

Magnum P.I.

Some of the shirts worn in these episodes are still available today. Funny thing: the unforgettable Frank Sinatra is appearing as guest in one of the episodes - again wearing an extremely cool Aloha shirt. Did I ever mention how much I adore Frank Sinatra? Who says men cannot wear flower-patterned shirts?

Don't mess with Frankie Boy (unknown source)

If you are interested in further details about Hawaiian dresses, have a look at Konadlicious' wonderful blog (Vintage Musing of a modern Pinup). Mainly about the most beautiful women's dresses... Awesome!

You may ask, after reading my post, why I am writing so much about the Aloha or Hawaiian shirt? Well, I recently fell in love with a vintage fabric on Etsy.com, and despite my cram-full stash I couldn't resist to buy it. 
It's an Alexander Henry fabric with marvelous, rather traditional white orchids, plumeria and hibiscus flowers on a dark-blue background. Of course I have no idea how old the fabric is, I guess it's from the 90s, not what comes close to the vintage range of my interest, but I thought it would be nonetheless nice to share it with you.

However, after getting my fabric I was talking to my husband about something, and somehow the conversation got to the subject of Hawaiian shirts. My husband is a keen admirer of Magnum P.I., and he told me how much he would like to have such a shirt. He even showed me a picture of his favourite pattern - it was a white hibiscus flower print on a dark-blue background. How cool is that?

So after being absent from my sewing machine for some weeks, this is going to be my next project. It's going to be a gift for my husband's birthday - today!

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