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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

· Working Girl ·

Dress for the job you want.  That's the saying, right?

When I decided to transition away from doing entreprenurial/creative work as my main source of income, I knew that a predictable office job would fill the deficiencies I felt.  Something entirely unrelated to sewing has freed me up to pursue personal work and a few select customer projects without feeling extra pressure.  It's been a win-win so far, and I'm so glad I took this step!

Of course, what would the point of this blog be if I didn't have clothes on the brain while coming to this decision?? As you can tell from my Film Fashions series, I've been crushing on vintage secretarial clothes for well over a year now and I'm so excited to have an excuse to "need" them!

My work place is sadly not in this epic Art Deco beauty (love, love, LOVE it!!), and my office's dress code is rather casual, but that's no reason why I can't get excited about fulfilling my own fantasies of working as a secretary in a 1930s private detective's office or a 1950s department store.  My workplace's dress code allows for lots of lee-way, so I'm still able to dress for my fantasy job. ;-)

Years ago, I purchased as much of this herringbone rayon as the store had- which was not much.  I've been hoarding it ever since and trying to decide on the perfect use.  You know, like I always do with fabric, haha!

I had a test-run of this pattern with my red wool 1930s dress a couple years ago and I knew this would be the perfect fit!  Re-capping from my dress post, this pattern is from Mrs. Depew and it's a 1930s French pattern drafting system style pattern.  I've had sort of mixed success with this style of pattern- I mean, they always turn out looking like the illustration, but I never can tell how much major re-engineering of the pattern was required to get it to that point! ;-)  In short, it can be a fun challenge but must always be viewed from that angle- no quick and easy project here!

The fabric is so lusciously drape-y and perfect for this blouse!  I wish I could find this fabric in tons of colors!

The fact that I decided to make a skirt from the same pattern (McCalls 6993) I used for the aforementioned dress made for a funny coincidence!  I really adore the seaming on this pattern and we had just enough of this rust wool suiting left from a different project to make a skirt!  Bonus- stash busting!

This pattern has rather odd views of how to achieve a high-waisted skirt, however.  I'm not really sure how to accomplish that, but I'm pretty sure this wasn't the best way. ;-)  I was hoping this waist area would be less of an issue over time, but it seems to keep having issues- sigh. :-P

Hem lace- I feel like such a noob to have taken so long to appreciate the wonder of it!  Way back when I made the copy-cat dress, I was in a quandry as to how best to achieve a truly invisible hem.  Answer: hem lace.  WHY was I so resistant for so long??  Say hello to my newest friend and closest ally!  I'll definitely be making up for lost time now!  This is going on EVERY project from here on out!

Back view! Hand-picked zipper! Let's look at anything other than the fact that, goodness gracious, this poor skirt is crying out for an iron! ;-)

Here's to more vintage secretary-inspired makes!

· photos by the ever wonderful Kathryn! ·

Thursday, March 23, 2017

· Lindy Hop Vibes ·

Do you have any outfits that will predictably garner the same comments/compliments each time you wear them?  Every time I wear this outfit, without fail, I'll receive some form of "do you dance Lindy Hop?".  It cracks me up how predictable the response is, and I find it fascinating in a way.  Of course, this is veering more into the "teenybopper, soda fountain" style of 1950s than I usually tend towards, so I suppose that makes enough of a difference!

I'm pleased to report that within the last few months, I've finally learned the basics of Lindy Hop though!  Now I don't have to feel like such a lame person when people ask.  Because really- if you're going to dress like this all the time, you really *should* know some moves, right?? ;-)

This outfit is so simple that it's practically boring!  My apologies in advance that my "sewing" blog is so lame.  We'll just categorize this one under "vintage style" instead. ;-)  The skirt is made from one of my favorite fabric lines from Denise Schmidt ever.  It's so vintage-y, what with its printed bias plaid, that I couldn't resist the chance to pick some up on clearance.  It was unfortunately one of those annoying JoAnns "clearance" experiences where the marked down price is more than half the original price, so there's no more savings than if I had purchased at the regular price and used a coupon. (grrrr, I'm really not fond of that new habit of theirs!)  However, I was desperate since I knew I'd regret it if I never purchased any and I picked up just enough for a full dirndl skirt.  I figured it would be a nice basic skirt for my tops and sweaters and I was right!  It's just the right shade to work with several different things in my wardrobe. :-)

I wasn't quite sure how to make it a bit more exciting.... and I really never did figure it out!  So plain and simple it is, and I focused all my extra energy on matching the plaid everywhere.  Because having a simple AND quick project is against my principles. ;-)

The belt came from my all-time favorite source: a local thrift store that sells them for 10¢!  I never really know what I'm looking for in a belt while I'm there but at that price I can just buy lots and see what ends up working with my wardrobe!

(side note- no clue what my foot is doing there, haha!)

My trusty beret finishes off the look- this silly little purchase has inspired so many compliments and I'm constantly amused by that!  I purchased it from Wal-Mart of all places, for $2.  And I wear it All. The. Time.  Of all the amazing vintage hats I have to choose from, this silly little modern beret gets the most mileage of any! :-P

The zipper/pocket combo is hidden in a pleat in the side seam.  After trying on three different skirts, I *finally* figured out my favorite way to assemble this combo! :-)

And as a final nail in the lame seamstress outfit... a store-bought knit top!  Well over a year ago I was seized by a need for some Breton stripe knit tops.  I'm not sure exactly why, but I went with it.  Fortuitously enough, they were in style at that moment and easily available at Target!  I knew I wanted the typical white with black stripes, but this blue/navy combo, the mint/white stripe, and the pink/navy stripe were so tempting!  I solved the dilemma by giving my sister the mint and pink (you know, for convenient "sharing"... ;-)) and keeping the blue and white shirts.  The blue, funnily enough, has become the most loved color!

Heehee!  The thing about (amazing! awesome!) local theaters is that you never can control what they might be billing on the marquee. ;-)  Maybe not my typical choice of offering.... but when you take photos in Oct, I guess you really can't expect much different. ;-)

· photos by Kathryn ·

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

· Estate Sale Score! ·

My apologies for neglecting this blog of late!  Life has been a new kind of busy lately and I'm still working on settling into the new normal :-)  I've had several posts waiting in my drafts folder and I'm super excited to share them!  Of course, I've been enjoying the anticipation of sharing these for the past few months, but that only does so much for you...  This post has been waiting too long to share, but in my defense- it's only just now seasonally appropriate again. ;-)

This was one of our very first vintage dresses that actually *fit*!  We happened upon it at our first estate sale and didn't have the opportunity to try it on before purchasing, but it ended up fitting like a glove. :-)  We've picked up several vintage pieces that we can wear in the past couple years and like I've said before, it really has had a big impact on my personal style and mental process of creating new garments.

It's also funny what I'll wear for the sake of vintage- I'm really not a big fan of navy.  I've never been fond of it and I don't think it's a good color for me.  It's something I'm definitely willing to overlook in the cause of wearing an amazing and fun 1940s dress though!

This dress was also one of my first steps towards building up a tolerance for high, high necklines.  Oh, the mid-century love of choke-y necklines!  I've become quite adjusted to them by now, thankfully. ;-)

Can we just take a moment and admire that awesome neckline?!!  I think it's so clever to use just the smallest hints of a contrasting color to add interest to this dress and the zig-zag neckline gets major cool points in my book.  The overall styling of the dress is just enough different from my usual designs that it is a great inspiration to think outside of my usual rut!

GAH. Miss L Fire wins again.

These great shoes were a purchase from Royal Vintage last year, although they're out of stock now. :-(  RV has more Miss L Fire styles in stock, and the detailing of them is always superb!  I adore the shape of these and that little curlicue is the icing on the cake!

My only caveat is that I think MLF's peep-toe styles fit me better than the closed toe...  These shoes don't live up to an all-day outing, but that just means I have all the more reason to wear them on partial-day outings. ;-)

And then vintage dresses have funny little quirks like this!  A back neck zipper, 5" of seam, then a back waist zipper.  This is a subject I'm pretty ignorant on- anyone know why they did that?  I always thought it was because a zipper going all the way down a back seam ends up bubbling due to the extra bit of bodice length for ease.  Is that true?  I've come across long vintage zippers before, so I don't think that was the deciding factor.  Pipe up if you have any insight!! :-)

Since I don't gravitate towards navy or maroon, I didn't have any accessories in those colors.  I do have lots of black, though!  This 1940s hat was a surprise find at an antique store when I was least expecting it, but it's become such a staple for my 40s looks! 

Sweet scalloped gloves!  And also- why do I ever wear black?? So. Much. Lint. :-P

Until I had this dress, I was under the impression that peplums and larger hips didn't go well together.  Now that I've dispelled that notion, and I'm excited about the options that have opened up! :-)

Dramatic vintage poses are always a good idea.  Until you're posing in front of a public building and then discover that you've attracted an audience of spectators inside.

Ahem. I may or may not have this experience frequently during photoshoots... "Carry on! Nothing to see here!"  Just yet another chapter in The Awkward Life of Lily. ;-)

· photos, as ever, by the remarkable Kathryn! ·

*I received my shoes at a discount in exchange for posting online and all links to RV are affiliates- thanks for helping me indulge my love of shoes! ;-)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

· A Touch of the Tropical ·

What should you do if it's the middle of winter, but you find yourself without any seasonally appropriate blog posts? Pull out something super summery for complete change of pace!

I bought this fabric in a desperate search for something out of the box and new a few years ago.  I was feeling like I was getting into a rut, and wanted to shake things up a bit.  This large floral rayon certainly qualified! ;-)  The color scheme is so fun and while I was most excited to accessorize with mustard or one of these pretty blues, when I went to my accessory drawer I couldn't resist the chance to finally incorporate this wooden bangle!  To help tie it in with the dress, I added this block-printed silk scarf while the rest of the accessories remained pretty neutral.  I'm looking forward to figuring out a few more ideas to accessorize this dress once the weather warms up again- I think the possibilities will be endless!

It took me a few years to decide what pattern I wanted to use for this fabric, but I eventually settled upon Butterick 6927 (an out-of-print 1940s reprint pattern).  The pattern details are amazing and it's such a comfortable style - I really should make it up again in a solid so that the details are showcased, but I always say that and never buy solid fabrics. ;-)

Angled released darts, slashes and inset gathers, fiddly seaming: this pattern has it all!

To top it all off, I was such a dutiful seamstress on this dress!  My experience with rayon is that it frays like MAD, so after learning that the hard way on my first project, I've made sure to serge all of my raw edges since then.  I really wanted to see how using rayon seam binding compared to serging and I think I'm a fan!  I'm not sure it made enough of a difference to justify the extra work on *every* project, but it was easy to work with!  And as for using it to finish off the hem.... I'm a HUGE fan.  Love the way it finishes it off beautifully, love the way it lays so perfectly!

Since this is a 1940s dress, I had my usual dilemma about shoulder pads- to add them, or not??  I was totally committed and ready to do it, but for whatever reason they were looking horrible in this dress so I left them out.  I figured I'd wait until I did a photoshoot and could view it more objectively to see if they needed to be added.

However, now I can't decide.  So, dear readers, help me out and give me your opinion!  Does this dress really need a little extra love in the shoulder area?  If so, what's your favorite method for making shoulder pads?

Now enough of the nit-picking and onto the accessories!  This silk scarf came from a church sale a couple summers ago and while it's not something I'd typically go for, I'm really happy I kept it!

I'm still looking for a really great statement necklace to complete this outfit, but I haven't stumbled upon it yet... This is a great shot of the neckline though!  I've used this blouse pattern before (my gold dotty dress), and the ingenious sweetheart neckline still thrills me!


Earrings! Or at least clip-ons. ;-)  Definitely an unusual look for me, but it did make me realize how much I love the look of earrings with turbans!  I'm hooked now, and my poor earlobes will just have to cope with the clip-on pain.  I'm way too much of a wimp to pierce my ears, so this is as good as it'll get! ;-)

For an entirely different look, I went with a pared-down styling of the dress.  The rayon fabric releases wrinkles and dries quickly, which it a great candidate for traveling.  I though I'd take a cue from that and style it with a casual resort vibe!

(Plus it's just a fun excuse to pull out my round vintage sunglasses!)

· Photos by Kathryn! ·

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Beaded Cashmere · The Joy of Vintage

I've already shared this amazing Mexican painted skirt on the blog before, but I wanted to take the opportunity to finally feature my lovely vintage beaded cashmere cardigan!  I received this as a gift a couple years ago, and I was delighted that it was in pristine condition- never worn!  I soon found out why- one of the sleeve linings was sewn in upside down.  I know, right- how did that pass QC?? Needless to say, it's obvious why no one ever wore it since it was impossible to get on, but thankfully I happen to have plenty of needles and thread so it was a quick fix. :-)

It's so fun to see how my real-vintage wardrobe has blossomed since I started this blog!  I was shocked to remember that 3 years ago I only had one genuine vintage garment- since then I've amassed quite a few, now here I am posting an outfit with not a single piece that I've created.  I really do love the connection to the past that I feel whenever I wear something vintage, but I still love the creative process of making my own clothing. Not to mention the fact that vintage in my price range usually requires enough TLC that the time invested would take you halfway through making something from scratch! ;-)

While I haven't made any terribly startling changes, I've found that owning vintage clothing has also given me a boost towards more era-appropriate creations as well.  In a way, it is a reminder to get my me-made wardrobe up to "par" (but in the best sort of motivational way!) and it's been fascinating and fun to see how differently I will approach the design and construction processes now.  And it will be fun to see where I am and what inspires me 3 years from now- who knows! :-)

While I've made-do quite a bit with altering modern knitwear to suit my style, there's something special about the extra detailing involved in older pieces.  I know they're much more likely stand up to lots of wear since they've already survived decades!

Also, I love how cost-cutting didn't seem to be quite as paramount in the design process on most vintage pieces- why, the beading even continues around the back!  Wool sweaters are always lined!

And a wee detail for the sleeve!  I do so admire a little attention to detail. :-)

The beading on this is so thick and the stamens are even tiny little tassels! Also, I adore how it's such an appropriate sweater for me- the flowers are lilies! :-)

Kathryn was such a dear and let me borrow her darling Miss L Fire "Gabrielle"s for this photoshoot.
Perks of being the same shoe size as friends! ;-)

Eeeep!  Mustard shoes. With studs. And bows.  How much more perfect can you get???

(answer: not very.)

· Photos by Kathryn ·

How about you- do you own much vintage?  Has it made a difference in your creative process?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Vintage Pin-Curls for Short Hair · Tutorial

It seemed like it was about time to finally post another update on my current endeavors with vintage hairstyling!  You can read through all my older posts about my various triumphs and failures under the "Hair" label.

To re-cap briefly, I have fine hair that holds a curl quite a bit better than it did 3 years ago, but still requires some extra care and attention to achieve "curly" status.  Humidity is my biggest hurdle, so I decided to get a perm this past summer.  It was a great decision and I'm definitely doing that again!  I have also found that cutting off length will increase my curliness dramatically!  So the combo of above-shoulder-length + perm kept me happy the majority of the summer.  The days of the most intense weather (either extreme humidity, rain, or strong wind) still overpowered my best attempts, so back-up headscarves were my best friends then. ;-)

I have alternated over the past year on haircut styles.  I've tried out straight-cut bobs, layered bobs, layers with shaping, etc.  I go back and forth on my favorite, but I typically use this setting pattern regardless of the cut.  I might vary it up slightly if I'm trying to achieve a different look at the front.

I start with freshly brushed hair, parted on the side.  On clean hair, I use setting lotion to moisten each strand individually.  On next-day hair I use plain water, again, applied individually. (I found that using setting lotion again didn't help enough to justify the expense and mainly just left extra residue on my brush the next morning)  If I want a looser curl on the next-day or third-day set, I will set without moistening.

On the smaller side, section off the hair in front of the ear.  Divide in half and moisten the top section.

Grasp the hair near the ends and wrap once or twice around finger, being careful not to twist the section while wrapping.  Curl this section away from the face.

Ensure that the ends stay nicely curled while continuing to curl up the section upon itself.

When you reach the base of the hair, secure with clips or bobby pins.

Curl the bottom section of hair in the same manner, this time with the curl aiming towards the face.

Now I curl the larger side of the front hair.  Section off a piece of the top hair and curl away from the part.

Curl in the same manner, starting at the bottom and curling up to the scalp.

Secure with clip or bobby pins.

My hair is thickest at the top center of my head, so I choose to do two large curls there.  I also choose to make them "standing" pin curls since the curl contains more hair than usual.  The standing pin curl means that they are only secured on the lower half of the pin curl.

On the other side, the top half gets curled away from my face while the bottom curls towards it. This alternating pattern helps guide the hair into a wave during the brush-out.

(If you don't know the basics of wet-setting/pin-curling, I *highly* recommend "Vintage Hairstyling" by Lauren Rennells.  She talks about setting patterns, different curler options and wet- vs dry-sets in a way that just makes so much sense and really gives you the knowledge you need to achieve any style you desire.)

Now for the back!  This is the part where you build up a little upper arm strength and muscle memory!

It helps me if I envision the remaining hair being divided into 3 rows of pin curls, so I section off portions of the top row and curl all of those in the same direction (in this example- towards the left).  I'm not super precise with sectioning and number of curls is entirely dependent upon my hair's thickness- I make each pin curl a size that is easily held by one bobby pin.

A note about using one bobby pin- I found that I didn't actually need the extra security of crossed bobby pins, so I decided to save a little time and only use those on the sides/front/nape of my neck.  I sleep with a scarf over the pin curls, which adds extra security.

Speaking of time- I was so intimidated by pin-curling for years because I thought it would be a major time commitment.  With practice and muscle memory, it takes me 7 minutes each night to set my hair.  And 5-7 to style it in the morning.  Not too shabby! 

The second row gets curled in the other direction- in this case, off to the left.

The third row is my nape hairs.  They just do whatever they can to get pinned into submission!  I generally attempt to have them curled in the opposite direction (left, in this case), but I don't sweat it.

Tada!  Ready for a good night's sleep!

When the curls are fully dry, remove all the clips/pins.  The level of dryness will affect the strength of the curl, so if you have extra time leave them in longer!

Finger comb through all the curls to break them up before brushing....

And then brush away!  I use a Denman brush and I've been really happy with it.  Firm, good-quality bristles with no extra tips on the end.

And then it's time to style!  I take the smaller side and gently smooth it back and pin right behind the ear.

And ironically, shortly after taking these photos, I started just securing the side with one bobby pin- so feel free to use whatever works best for you!

On the other side, I like to add a bit of back-combing for a little volume at the top.

Brush the rest of the hair until it is smooth...

And then softly arrange the top hair.

I follow my hair's lead on how to style each day- from experience, that yields the happiest experience. ;-)  You'll find that slight differences in the wet set will yield different results, so play around with it!

Secure with a bobby pin and you're done!

As a finishing touch, I like to form my hair into the natural wave that's formed by the setting pattern.  It's pretty much at this point after the brush-out, but a little extra definition never hurt anyone. ;-)

And voila!  Add a bit of hairspray and you're golden!

And here's a handy little image to put it concisely!

Don't hesitate to ask any questions! 

· Photos by Kathryn! ·

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