Category: Ladies

Sewing mostly clothing for ladies.

Liesl + Co: Cinema Dress

I’m getting ready to speak in public for the first time in .. oh many years – and realised I have nothing currently wearable that is not just a bit too comfortable (scruffy) and full of holes. My style is pretty laid back, necessarily so until I release this extra 50lbs, so I was looking for something feminine, modest, sewable in linen and with possible areas for embellishment – well, I do have an awesome embroidery machine. I wanted something not too obviously tent like but so that I can still sit on the floor, garden or (if needed) prostrations in church.

 

Pattern: Style & Inspiration

Enter the Liesl + Co Cinema Dress. (not an affiliate link!) – you can see how it fits all of the above almost perfectly.

 

The first version here has a contrast yoke and back yoke facing, which I think I will borrow – it gives a secret ‘pop’ and as the instructions are helpful about slightly rolling the facing under so that when top-stitched there won’t be any lining showing, it will be my own secret ūüôācinema2The main official image shows a lovely terracotta linen, view B (the longer length), on a very pretty model.

cinema1

 

I had a quick look a the Very Kerry Berry blog post and she used a beautiful vintage contrast print for the front and back yoke and sleeve cuffs, which finish off the sleeves beautifully – however, she is a very slender sewer and I was beginning to get anxious that no-one over a UK 14 had tried making it.

I found another beautiful print example over at Ivy Arch blog with a great use of print and colour – i love her confident mixing.

IvyArch_CinemaDress

It wouldn’t suit me at the moment but it’s something to think of for the future!

So to summarise: we have an a-line skirted, princess seamed dress with a decent length skirt and cuffed sleeves that are shown at 3/4 length. It buttons up the back and seems to be quite flattering but have only seen examples on slim bloggers so far, which is kind of odd as it goes up to US size 20 – so it’s decent in range and the actual garment sizes are generous, it’s not mean to be fitted. It has pockets (of course) although they are placed on the front panel seam, rather than the sides: I’m kind of conflicted about that, as it could make my belly look bigger (as opposed to side pockets which do the same for the hips – so can I win? no? but pockets are essential).  Plus: It has a matching child’s pattern, the Hide and Seek Girl’s Dress, so I can (with enough material) make a matching one for Miss K! Right now, it’s a good fit for what I’m looking for.

Pattern printing and Changes to the pattern:

  • FBA: Liesl says the pattern is drafted for a B and if you have 2 inches difference between full bust and rib cage, you will need to make an adjustment. I have done it (unsuccessfully) before but this time, I’ve followed the instructions given. It took a while because I was being careful and tired, but it worked really well. Now I know what I’m doing I feel really confident about how to alter similar styles of dress.
  • Blend sizes: for the upper bust measurement I used a US 10, blended out to a 16 from the waist. It wasn’t difficult at all, although I added too much on the front sides of the princess seamed panels that meet the yoke instead of at the sides… I will adjust that in the final dress. With too much it just looks a bit maternity – handy for that post-Friday-night-curry-bloat?
  • Lengthen skirt and sleeves: I HATE 3/4 sleeves that sit just below the elbow. I have long-ish arms yes but I just don’t get why the 3/4 are so popular. I’ve added 2 inches already but will add more, so they sit just above my wrists (hey, no fat wrists yet! FTW!). The skirt needs, for me, about 5 inches. I like my dresses long enough so that I can be pretty undignified and it won’t show my knees. It’s a modesty thing (and a lazy thing). I think longer dresses are more practical and since I don’t wear trousers unless I am desperate, they need to be quite sturdy.
  • Widen sleeves and adjust armholes: a personal choice. I need about an extra inch of width at the bicep right now, to be comfortable. This was easy to do with a cut and slash tutorial plus I looked at this one, adding movement in a fitted sleeve – it isn’t bad, compared to lots of patterns, but it does still lift up when you try to move your arms high. I am not stressing about it right now. I’ve added width on the bicep, slightly lengthened and raised the ‘wings’ of the sleeves – this tutorial shows why/how and my goodness, it’s good to know I’m not the only one who goes into a meltdown when the sleeves are too tight – which of course necessitates adding a little just at the top of the bodice side seams (blended down into the waist)

I decided against doing a forward shoulder adjustment on this – the toile definitely didn’t need one – and the sleeves turned out very well. Mark of a good pattern drafter – the front of the sleeves is a different shape from the back and there is more space behind the top of the shoulder point (where it meets the shoulder bodice seams) than the front. WE ARE NOT EQUAL SHAPES PEOPLE – especially not after years of computer use and painting hunched over a desk.

I spent about two hours doing the pattern adjustments, onto a pattern paper, then traced the whole lot onto swedish tracing paper (so I can adjust again), then made a toile from plain calico (¬£4 per metre). I know this seems like an *awful* Faff but in the past I have wasted a lot of money on fabric and time on patterns that just look *shocking* – I have about four dresses hidden away right now that need to be adjusted before they are wearable. I am a perfectionist, true, but why shouldn’t we be when we are making the clothes for ourselves?

No photos as I managed to fit in assembling it while DD and I played during a quiet home day of school holidays – she made glitter masks (yay) and sequin signs (double yay) and I ignored the mess to stitch it together.

Instructions

I’d say these are very clearly written by an experienced sewer who understands the ‘whuck’ moments we all have when dealing with things like bodice and back yoke facings, welts for in-seam pockets and cuffs on set-in sleeves. All of these are clearly illustrated by line drawings – no photographs – and rather than print them out, I used my trusty chromebook next to the sewing machine. NB: Pattern printing requires many, many A4 sheets. I chose to use my local copy shop which luckily had an extra-wide plotter printer, and I think the two sheets were about ¬£5 each? Moral of the story: BUY THE PAPER PATTERN it will be easier and cheaper in the long run, if you are like me and happy to trace off the pieces. If you don’t mind taping 50 sheets of paper together to trace, then get on with your bad self and tape away..

Assembly

The assembly is straightforward: I liked the almost flat construction, with set-in sleeves. It is intuitive and easy to follow, logically steering you through the pattern.  Take your time and don’t try to rush too much – this is a dress that needs your attention, but not because it’s hard to follow: it expects a certain level of experience I think, for techniques that make it look handmade, not homemade.

Initial fit

I didn’t fit pockets into the toile because, you know, time. I DID choose to fit two sleeves – I know some people will think “it’s a toile, why fit two sleeves?” Answer: because there will be two sleeves on the finished garment and it will hang/fit/drag differently, if there are equal forces on each side of the bodice. Plus I hate the binding sleeve thing (see above). I also omitted the yoke facing and back facing, to save time and make adjustments easier.

I was amazed: it actually fitted me through the shoulders. I have relatively narrow shoulders and a neat upper chest, compared to everything else, and this dress is the first to have fitted me properly ever. Yes, you read that, ever. The width was absolutely spot on for me, so happy happy day. The adjusted sleeves fitted in nicely, no obvious gathers at the easing. Over the FBA princess seams, I preferred the seam on the side where I didn’t snip into the seam allowance – it seemed to hold it better, but bear in mind there was no facing on this toile so that might change things. The length of the sleeves even with an additional 4cm was irritating – personal peeve – so I will add more. The length of the skirt was fine, with my extra 5″ (10cm) and the side seams on the bodice from armscye to waist were hanging straight.

The only changes I plan on making are at the front yoke beneath the bust – I will blend out the additional fabric I put in by about 1/2 inch, maximum, so it swings in under the curve a little instead of hanging so straight down. At the side seams, there was a ton of extra fabric – I suspect that might be because of the calico I used being stiffer than linen but all the same, I think about 1/2 maximum either side from waist to hem should fix that for my first go.

Next Stage

I will be cutting this out of a fabric from my hoard first, I’ll see if I can find something bland or neutral, or perhaps I will just go mad and use some linen.. I want to decorate the yoke with embroidery from the Urban Threads Las Flores Collection

UT10858

Or perhaps their Folklorico, although the designs are a bit more limited and rectangular – but they do have some pretty birds that I already used to customise my denim jacket.

In fact this will look really pretty over a very fine linen or lawn petticoat or bloomers, like the ones from Sew Tina Givens, which could make it look a lot more relaxed when I’m not pretending to be a grown up.

 

 

 

A Vintage (inspired) Wardrobe: made by me mostly

Ever look in your wardrobe and drawers and just sigh because, being brutally honest, there’s nothing there that you wear and feel good in? Nothing that sets your heart beating a little faster or makes you feel a million dollars? Or, more mundanely, little that fits, doesn’t have holes in it or is less than five years old?

*raises hand to all of the above*

I decided, quite insanely, that I want to completely revamp my wardrobe. There are a few pieces I’ll be keeping but here’s the thing: NOT MUCH. So why and where did I start?

WHY start over?

I’ve got to a point in my life where I’m at peace with who I am. I’m never going to have the shape that society idolizes. I’m unlikely to develop buns of steel or thighs of iron that never touch at this point. And you know what? That’s FINE BY ME. I’m 41 and that is so so different from 39 or even 40 I can’t explain it. I’m here, right now. I’m mostly healthy and my life is so fantastic on a global comparison type scale that frankly it’s not worth mentioning the tiny things that bug me… no, really.

You may recall my vintage hair-do a few months back. I loved it. My husband tolerated it. My friends loved it. Best of all? I felt groomed. That is such a rare thing for me but it made me feel more together somehow.

Ava-Gardner dressing table vintage lady

What am I going to wear today? Something SASSY I think.

I came across other women who felt the same and who had not only blogged about it but generously shared WHY they had done it:¬†for example, the Glamorous Housewife or Tuppence Ha’Penny.

My main motivations are:

  • to streamline my morning decisions (even if we go ahead and homeschool, who wants to make every morning a big production?)
  • to feel like I care about myself and how I look, even if that seems a bit trivial sometimes
  • to show my daughter we can look after ourselves and still be fun, intelligent, modest and loving women
  • to make my husband glad he comes home every night
  • to simplify. So much of life feels like there’s just TOO MUCH of everything – today’s example, buying black eyeliner. Why do we need a zillion types of eyeliner? Gah.
  • to motivate myself to maintain my health, fitness and alignment. It’s easy, oh so easy, to slob about in my worn and threadbare Flax pinafores which allow my weight to fluctuate by anything up to thirty pounds (SERIOUSLY). But I’m 41 and there will come a point soon where losing those pounds gets harder and harder and has more of an impact on my overall health. With my darling mama facing double knee replacements aged (much younger than she has any right to be), that lazy laissez-faire attitude to health is not a great thing.
What type of FABULOUS do you want today?

What type of FABULOUS do you want today?

Where to Start

I began with the awesomeness that is the Tuppence Ha’Penny 1949 wardrobe blog. Please take the time to read it – what I loved was the practicality and simplicity of the items and the reasoning behind them – it really will take you anywhere.

The list includes: two suits, light grey, black. six dresses (print dinner dress, heavy crepe dress, four cotton); Petticoats, cami knickers, pants in tricot; 2 bras, girdles, six nylons(!); four pairs of shoes (tan walking, bronze ankle strap, black suede ankle strap, double strap); 2 pringle twin sets, one black evening sweater; four hats; accessories (4 gloves, long woolen stole, 3 cotton headscarves, gold necklace/belt).

So I sat down, wrote a list of what I did on a daily basis: I go to Church and occasionally coffee (although my hyperosmia imposes stupid limits on my socialising these days); I stay at home and paint, sew and clean (when I’m not blogging or browsing for patterns); I garden and look after chickens (currently four adorable bantams) and finally I suppose it makes sense to include clothes that would work for things like yoga or my wonderful MuTu. From that list, it’s really easy to see what kind of clothes I need.

I broke that down into:

  • Working at home: day dresses (cotton, jersey). Cardigans. Skirt & Blouse. Aprons. Tunic & long bloomers (for feeling funky or bloated).
  • Gardening Dungarees (from kwik sew pattern), skirts (yes, I garden in skirts), 2-3 jersey tops.
  • Church/Shops: day dresses (cotton, jersey). Skirt & Blouse. Cardigan (although it gets stinking hot in our wee church each week).
  • Walking/Working Out: tracksuit bottoms (2-3), jersey tops, one t-shirt (I don’t do upper arms).

That’s not bad, is it?

From my current wardrobe, I will be keeping:

  • ¬†Unmentionables
  • Black velvet long hooded coat; tailored velvet jacket (although it’s not that great, it could work)
  • Green wool jacket (handmade, with a convertible collar and sort of 1915 styling)
  • Brown velvet cape (mainly for stroking)
  • Purple anorak (because I live in Scotland and the rain is horizontal).
  • White linen blouse (hip length, elbow length sleeves, self tie belt & pintuck front)
  • Grey linen waterfall front jacket and matching wide leg trousers (that don’t quite fit at the moment)
  • Black linen dress (to hide in: peter pan collar, long sleeves, waist ties and floor length skirt)
  • Tracksuit bottoms and v-neck jersey tops that don’t have paint on them. Yet.

This means my “To be made” list includes:

  • Grey wool fitted coat (5 metres of grey coating, 100% wool has been in my wardrobe for, oh, 7 years?)
  • Grey skirt, Black skirt
  • Dungarees (pattern and fabric¬†– floral denim and burgundy corduroy – already in cupboard).
  • Tunic and Bloomers (for when I’m feeling funky or fat)
  • Cotton Dresses: The Colette Hawthorn, McCalls Shirtdress and possibly Miz Mozelle too.
  • Jersey Dresses: Black, Grey, Red or Purple, using various patterns; Tiramisu by Cake which has a long sleeve hack, Vogue 1027 like Kate and maybe New Look 6823 which reminds me of Gertie’s “Background Dress” – I like the Vogue one here too but a zip? in a jersey dress?
  • Blouses: print voile, grey print cotton lawn, 2 or 3 solid colours. I’m a bit stuck on the patterns for these but the Colette Hawthorn also makes a peplum blouse, Sewaholic “Alma” is adaptable but I’m open to suggestions!
  • Aprons: 1 full length (I have the Sensibility Edwardian pattern for me and Wee Bear) and 2 or 3 bib front ones for wearing while cooking.

And so that means that my list of What To Buy is admirable short:

  • new knickers. I have TONS of cute lingerie fabric but I’m not spending precious sewing time cutting and sewing up plain underwear, which is a different animal altogether.
  • Twin sets: Black, green, red. Maybe two black sets.
  • Hats: black, green, red or purple. Maybe both. My friend Joyce Paton is an extraordinary dressmaker and milliner who I’m hoping will either do a guest post on millinery or erm, let me try some hats on!
  • Shoes: walking shoes in black and neutral. This is tricky because I can’t do heels. I have plantar fasciitis that has caused huge issues over the last year and is only slightly resolving now, thanks to Katy Bowman and her stretches. So. Flat black walking shoes, either tan or grey walking shoes, and something like a slip on mary jane – but all FLAT and all breathable. I have to confess I spend nearly 9 months of the year in sandals because I hate having hot feet.
  • Handbags, scarves and gloves. I want natty cotton gloves in black, grey and possibly red. Why not? Women look amazing when their accessories bring neutral colours to life.

 

I don't have enough hats.

I don’t have enough hats.

Wish me luck! I will be throwing things out or selling them before I fill up my wardrobe again so I’d better get sewing fast.

All photographs are from the site of Penny Dreadful Vintage: they sell all manner of glorious vintage clothing (a few things I remember first time around…) and ship globally.