Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Flirting with 1940 Fashion

Well, our small group had a fun time at the OC Great Park Chamber Music and Picnic event dressed in our 1940’s attire.  The Park had a retro "Farmers to Flyers” art exhibit covering the start of the El Toro Marine Base in the 1940s to current times.  From there we enjoyed the final installment performance of the OC Great Parks Chamber Music series, which was all classical music from 1940’s as well. 

For this outing I opted to go with an actual 1940s Butterick Pattern #4381.  What drew my attention was the clever little “Bustle” back on the jacket.  I think if the ruffles had gone all the way around to the front it might have been called a peplum, but as it was only on the back the pattern referred to it as a “bustle”.  I also really liked the way the front of the suit looked so fitted, but the back of the jacket had this flirty little ruffled bustle and the skirt had a lot of softly gathered fabric with great movement.   So feminine!   

Now, you can see from the picture it was a Size 14 w/a 32” bust and a 23” waist!  LOL  Might be more like a size four by today’s measurement standards.  I needed to scale it up to my size, and knew it was going to be a challenge. 

  I started with the skirt.  I hand scaled, cut, and sewed it three times before I got it to drape correctly in the back.  After that I knew I was going to be in trouble with the jacket.  So, I cheated.  I hand drafted all the pattern pieces, taped them all  together, and went to Kinko’s and enlarged it 120%.   Next time I will make sure to get the 25% off coupon!  So, I get this revised pattern home, cut it out, and try pinning it onto my dress form just to see if we are still in the range for a fit, and as luck would have it, for the most part, it was right on with a few minor corrections!  I did decide to make two mock-ups for the bodice for sizing, but felt I was right on for the last one.  Third time was a charm!

I really liked the short sleeved version, and had found a brilliant turquoise, medium weight, linen up at the LA Garment District that was in my stash, then I opted for a true black linen for the skirt.   Lastly, I had purchased some vintage black 1 ½” buttons at the Irvine Antique Market the month prior, so I was finally ready to cut. 

I love washed linen, the more it is washed the softer it becomes.  I know it wrinkles, but that’s a small price to pay for how comfortable it can be on warm days, and how great it drapes and flows.   The skirt came together quickly and easily, cut to fitting probably less than three hours with a metal zipper (lol – as they did not have synthetics ones yet right?  So ugly it was cute!).

The jacket, well that was certainly a problem right from the start even with the upsizing.   Can you say “shoulder padding”?  Absolutely necessary to give it the correct fit and fall of the fabric on the jacket.  I tried it on the first time without the shoulder pads and was going crazy as it was drooping at the shoulders approximately one inch, then it hit me – I forgot to insert the pads, added the padding and walla – perfection!  

Finished hem on Left & Right w/unfinished hem in the middle

Next, there were so many little ridiculous sewing instructions that I wanted to cry.  I am including a photo of just one.  I have two finished hemmed edges and a third “middle section” that ends up unfinished that now has to be hand tacked to line up correctly with the other two hemlines on the jacket.  You can see exactly what I was working with in the picture of the pattern instructions.  Those were the easy fixes.  The rest was a struggle.  It was the instructions; I just could not make them work to my full satisfaction.  I think I ripped it apart more than it was actually sewn together.  The collar was a nightmare from the get go.  It had an interior facing that was attached after the exterior portion was attached to the jacket bodice and it had squared edges at the shoulders.  The collar itself has a softly curved edge.  I knew where I needed to get to; I just could not get the pieces to fall into place easily.  There are eleven pieces or twenty-two pieces total to the bodice after you doubled it, and I opted not to line this jacket due to a time constraint.  I finally resorted to an age old panacea, wine!  After a couple of glasses, I was ready to get back into the ring with this jacket and wrestle it to a finish!  

I wore the finished ensemble with some basic black 2” T-strap pumps, a vintage black handbag, vintage beaded black ¾ length gloves, and I finished it off with a vintage black felt tilt hat with some greenish blue feathers and net veil.  I am such a fiend for hats with veils.  I really made the entire outfit so I could wear the hat!

My hairstyle was researched as well.  It was a low, thick “Victory Roll” on the sides and back, and was finished off by pulling the front sides up into a soft bun that I then used to anchor the hat pins to for the tilt hat.

 From the first day I took the pattern pieces out of the envelope (very carefully as both the envelope and the pattern pieces themselves were very fragile) to the day I wore the outfit was only seven days.  It was a big challenge, and I am proud that I pulled it off.  

Looking at it objectively, I made this suit three times – never the same way twice, as I was tweaking it each time.  I will probably remake it again, and the one big change I will make next time will be to shorten it length-wise.  I had originally thought when looking at the picture that the arched panel on the front of the jacket was a couple of inches lower than the waist, or at high hip, but now I think it should be at the waist.  I will also go with a longer hem.  I think at THAT point it will be perfect, but I really liked how this version turned out and it was a lot of fun to wear.  Enjoy!

PS: Yes, I know that Simplicity has a pattern similar, but it lacks the draping in the back of the skirt that I liked, and does not have the double ruffled bustle back on the jacket either.  Plus, I wanted to work with an actual vintage pattern

1 comment:

  1. I have a Vintage Butterick 6759 (1948) that I like just for the same reason, that little "bustle" in the back, or rather the peplum. Still on the planning list but kudos to you for working so hard on making this. I'd love to have seen it in person. It looks so cute on you.