Tuesday 29 May 2012

Shirt dress musings...and a mini giveaway

Who doesn't love a shirt dress?  They're simple and cute, yet still manage to retain a vintage edge.  Plus, you've got your whole outfit sorted at once, just do up a few buttons and you're good to go. I love them.  I've got a few in my wardrobe but my absolute favourite is a navy polka dot one from Primark that's definitely on its last legs.  Amazingly for Primark tat, it's seven years old but this really and truly is its last summer - if nothing else, the many washes it's had has faded the colour and it looks very weary.  It's time for a replacement.

I've been on the search for the perfect shirt dress pattern for awhile, and seem to have amassed quite a few vintage ones.  Who would have thought there was such variety?

Miss Moneypenny 

...dinner lady chic

...raglan sleeves...

 ...almost perfect but with strange collar...

...Vogue chic gorgeousness...

...Mad Men stylee 1)

...Mad Men stylee 2)...

I wanted to make one that I'd wear as much as my beloved worn out Primark specimen.  There was a big temptation to make another version of the kimono-sleeved wiggle dress I made for the Mad Men dress challenge.  But strangely, there's not much call for skin tight wiggle dresses down at the school gates and it probably wouldn't get worn as much as it deserves to do.

So.... amidst all that vintage glory, what did I decide on?  Well, if you follow Peter on Pinterest, you'll know he has a board entitled Worst Women's Patterns EVER and yes, on first glance, you'd be forgiven for thinking that my chosen pattern - the monster that is McCall's 4769 - deserves to be cast amongst the mutant patterns there.  

But look carefully and you'll notice that it does have a lot of potential.  The collar shaping is pretty and it's got just the right amount of shape to the skirt - not too full and not too pencilly. Once I've chopped a whole foot off the length, I KNOW this pattern will be awesome, I just know it.... It's like going to view a house and being able to see the home of your dreams underneath the artexed ceilings and stone cladding.  Plus, it's too late to change my mind now because I've cut it out.  I'll be using a sky blue and red polka dot cotton, along with the red vintage buttons you can see on my blog header.

Oh gawd, I'm getting the beginnings of cold feet now that I've written it all down.  I really hope I haven't pissed on my chips.  Whatever the result, I'll post the finished dress here, whether I end up with a stunning replacement or end up looking like the blonde frump modelling view C.  

In the meantime, I've decided to do the decent thing and release a couple of my shirt dress patterns back into the wild in the form of a mini giveaway. First up is Simplicity 6700, which is very similar to the Lisette Traveler dress pattern, this is a half size pattern (14 1/2), bust 35

Also up for grabs is Maudella 5184 - if you can see past the helmeted matrons on the front, I'm sure this will make a very chic shirtdress. It's bust size 38.

If you'd like any of them, just leave a comment on this post, stating which one you're interested in (you're welcome to put your name down for both) and I'll draw names out of a hat.  I'll leave this open until the end of the day on Sunday 3rd June.  Good luck!

Does anybody have any other shirt dress patterns they'd like to share?  I'm still open to suggestions for next time around - this isn't the first shirt dress I've made and it certainly won't be the last! Enjoy the sunshine. x

Monday 21 May 2012

Another Peony, this time in gingham....

I'm currently in a state of trauma and it's all because of The Bridge.  Two reasons: 1) the series has now finished so there's officially nothing good on telly any more and 2) the events at the end of the final episode completely finished me off emotionally.  Maybe you need to read point number four from this post to get a better idea of what I'm wittering on about, but basically I need cheering up, big time, which is where my new gingham dress comes to the rescue. 

This is my second version of the Colette Patterns Peony dress, which is in navy gingham.  If you've read this post and seen this board on Pinterest, then you'll know I've got a serious crush on gingham - it just lifts the spirits completely, which is why it's the perfect dress to photograph on my sad "end of The Bridge" day.
Sad face to start off with.....
...wahay, a big smile five minutes later 
The fabric is a cheap-as-chips poly cotton, which my local fabric shop was selling off for £1 a metre in a closing down sale.  The quality of the fabric was pretty shoddy and transparent, which is why I decided to underline it. Blimey, what a difference. From looking pretty sorry for itself and actually a bit grey around the edges, the gingham suddenly looks fresher, cleaner, whiter and quite frankly much more expensive, when coupled with a nice white muslin underlining.  I'd highly recommend underlining a cheap fabric -  as well as massively improving the appearance, it also gives the fabric much more structure and strength.  

When I made my first Peony, I made quite a few adjustments to the back bodice, which still came out baggy due to the stretchy nature of the cotton pique fabric I used.  This time though, my beautiful underlined gingham behaved itself and the bodice sewed up without a hitch - all my adjustments from the first time round working perfectly with a woven fabric.  Fit-wise, this second version is more or less spot on, but I still decided on  a few further tweaks to the overall pattern:

I reduced the width of the boat neck in order to hide my bra straps, and lowered the curve of the neckline by about an inch.

I added pleats to the skirt section rather than gathers, inspired by Beth's lovely version.

I eliminated facings in favour of gingham bias tape. This was used on the neckline and also on the sleeves. I blatantly copied this from Lauren whose own sleeveless gingham version of the Peony I adore.  Here's her tutorial for using bias tape as a facing. 

In a rare moment of forward planning, I also took a bit of time to try and cut the pattern pieces out to ensure the gingham lined up. It was MOSTLY a success and luckily it doesn't bother me too much if my makes aren't absolutely perfect.  Considering how slapdash my method was, I think the lining up of the checks is pretty damn miraculous.

This could well become my favourite dress of the summer - it's comfortable, fits well and feels fab to wear because of the lovely underlining.

It's also navy blue and white, so goes perfectly with most things, especially red accessories!  What's not to love? Hoorah for gingham, it definitely cheers you up! Happy Monday everybody. x

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Mystery Vintage Dress

A few months ago I was given this beautiful vintage dress by my mother-in-law.  She bought it from a vintage shop several years ago but having only ever wore it once, decided she'd like to pass it onto somebody who would appreciate it.  Me, me, me!!  

It fits me perfectly, but the dress and my figure are probably not the best pairing.  I'm too curvy and I think the style would look best on somebody taller, flatter and a bit more gamine.  Nevertheless, it's a wonderful period garment that I'm very happy to have in my wardrobe and get out to play with from time to time.  I'd also love to give my mother-in-law a little more information on what period the dress hails from, and date it as accurately as I can.  This is where I need your help, lovely readers!

My guesstimate would be that this is a 1930's piece.  Perhaps earlier rather than later in the decade as there's definitely a hint of flapper style about it.  I also feel very strongly that this dress would have been worn with a hat as was typical then. If anybody who has knowledge of clothing from that period can shed any light, I'd be SO grateful.  Or indeed if you have anything at all to say on when you think the dress might originate from, please chip in, I may be completely wrong so I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts.

Here are a few tailoring details:

The dress is totally handmade, from what appears to be plum coloured silk crepe with dark green lace inset details.  There's an impressive amount of hand finishing too.

It has two kick pleats to the front and back and a dropped waist.

The neckline is low, with a ruffle detail and shoulder tucks.  

It has what I think is called a dicky i.e. a detachable triangle of fabric that fits across a low neckline to preserve one's modesty!

The sleeves are slightly puffed with a cuffed edge and lace inserts to add volume. 

It's just below knee length on me (I'm 5' 2").

There's a lovely shaped detail to the skirt, which is mirrored on the back bodice yoke.  

This is what made me think it was reminiscent of 1930's styles as my 1930's blouse has a V-shaped yoke.  

But when I re-examined it more closely, the V on my blouse was pointing down rather than up like the dress.  Anybody know if this is significant?

So, lots of nice period details, I just need to work out exactly what period we're talking about.  What do you think?  I know there are many, many bloggers out there who are very knowledgeable about such things, and I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thank you so much in advance! x

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Portobello Curtain Blouse

Yes, in true Sound of Music style, my latest make started life as a pair of old curtains. 
I bought them from a stall on Portobello Road market, along with these buttons, and just knew the two together would make a fab vintage style blouse.  
I used Megan Nielsen's Banksia pattern, primarily because I was drawn in by the oversized Peter Pan collar. The pattern was a delight: the instructions and diagrams are clear and well written and I like the fact that she gives lots of other suggestions for tweaking the pattern for different looks.  I made a size small, but ended up taking it in quite a lot at the sides.  If I'd taken the trouble to make a muslin, instead of slacking as usual, I'd have probably cut a medium at the bust (the small only just fits), tapering to an XS at the hips. Ah well. I'm reasonably pleased with the fit, but will probably wear it tucked in as it looks more flattering that way.

What else can I say? Well, I learnt a new technique - inserting a placket - which sadly I inserted upside down (sigh) - you can't tell though!  The collar seams are finished with bias tape rather than a facing, which was another plus point for me - facings are just tiresome.  I liked the look of the inside collar so much, I finished the sleeve edges the same way.

I'm pretty pleased with my Banksia and will almost certainly make it again with a few tweaks.  I've convinced myself it's definitely more Anthropologie chic than Von Trapp frump.  

I just need the UK weather to improve so I can wear it in what is technically supposed to be spring season.  I suppose that's what the cardigan was invented for…..!  x

Saturday 5 May 2012

The Frumble Fabric Giveaway Winner......

.....is Clare from Magpie Makes!!! Congratulations Clare, please send me an email and I'll forward you the special £25 voucher code to spend in the Frumble online shop.

Many thanks to everybody for participating.  Have a great weekend. x


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