SEWN: 1950’s style Lemon Drop Dress (Vogue 2902)

sewing vintage 1950's dress Vogue V290208

sewing vintage 1950's dress Vogue V2902

Summer is my favourite season. My fabric stash is usually made up of fresh prints and vivid colours made for summer, and nothing screams summer like this vintage 1950’s style lemon print fabric.

gwenstella made sewing vintage V2902

gwenstella made sewing vintage V2902

I have had this fabric in my stash for a few years, but I have never quite gotten around to making something with it… I think I had been waiting for the “right” pattern to come to me. When I bought the vintage reproduction pattern Vogue 2902 a few months ago, I knew it was the perfect pattern for this fabric. The bright lemon print needed something to “frame” it to make it stand out even more, and the contrasting band on the bodice for V2902 was just what I wanted.

(via)

As usual, I didn’t have sufficient yardage to reproduce the pattern in its entirety. This is not shocking news when you don’t buy fabric with a project in mind and end up deciding to make a dress with a full circle skirt! It was definitely disappointing initially, but I think my decision to replace the original design with a simple gathered skirt worked out beautifully as well.

I love that having a gathered skirt means there’s no pressure to wear a petticoat to give the dress the structure for a more authentic 1950’s look (as illustrated on the envelope). I have always wanted this dress to be a casual, vintage style summer dress anyway! But still, I didn’t want the skirt to be entirely… limp.

sewing vintage 1950's dress Vogue V2902

sewing vintage 1950's dress Vogue V2902

And so, I decided to add just a itty bitty bit of structure to the skirt with a lining that resembles a petticoat. Here’s how I cut the layers for the lining:

FullSizeRender

Making the lining

I could add more layers to add more volume, but I decided that 3 sections was sufficient. As a general rule, you would want the next layer to be 1.5 times the length of the previous layer.

sewing vintage 1950's dress Vogue V2902

Cutting the pieces to make the lining, with the skirt layered underneath for comparison of length

sewing vintage 1950's dress Vogue V2902

Sewing up the lining

I chose different colours for the layers of lining because:

1) I wanted a coordinating colour to show if my lining does peek out by accident
2) I was afraid that a completely blue lining might make the skirt look more blue or somehow just show under sunlight

sewing vintage 1950's dress Vogue V2902

Peek-a-boo!

Replacing a circle skirt in a pattern with a gathered skirt is such an easy hack, and I had so much fun adding a fun lining to the skirt for my dress. The design of the bodice for this dress is such a classic vintage look, I think I will continue to have fun hacking the pattern. How about a wiggle dress with this same bodice next? Let me know what you think about my version of the V2902 pattern in the comments below! xx

sewing vintage 1950's dress Vogue V2902

DIY: Sweet Hair Bow & Tie in One

Living in hot and sunny Singapore means that I have my hair tied up when I am at home most of the time. After completing my adorable 1950’s baby doll pjs set, I decided that I had to have something just as cute to tie my hair up with.

A bow is the simplest thing you could add to your hair for an instant cute and retro flair. Using a ribbon to tie a bow to a ponytail is a very popular hairstyle in the 1950’s and 1960’s. While I like the idea of having bows in my hair at home, I don’t quite like the trouble of using a regular hair elastic and then adding a bow in later.

I wanted something quick, easy and fuss-free. And so, I decided to make a pair of these hair bow ties for use at home. It took me less than 5 minutes to whip both of them up, so I decided to share how I made them with everyone too!

Materials:

  • Toilet paper roll (or a pipe, a slim glass, or even a lover’s wrist – just something to tie your elastic around with)
  • Elastic (at least 28″ for 1 hair tie)
  • A pair of scissors

Method:

1. Lay your elastic under the toilet roll. Ensure you have at least 12″ to work with to the right of the toilet roll.

2. Hold the elastic on the right with your right hand, and the elastic on the left with your left hand. Cross them and pull one side under the other.

3. Create a loop on each side and cross your left loop over the right loop as shown in the photo.

4. After pulling the left loop over the right loop, pull it from under the right loop.

5. Pull the loops gently to tighten the bow.

6. Pull the elastic that is still wrapped around the toilet roll to tighten the bow even more. Neaten as you go along.

7. Cut the excess elastic off once you are done neatening the bow, to create the bow that you want. You may want to have a bow with longer strands coming down.

8. You now have a sturdy, and sweet hair bow tie!

I have been wearing this hair tie at home a lot with my baby doll pjs. Now all I need is a pair of pink fluffy house slippers to complete the dreamy 1950’s stay-home look!

SEWN: 1950’s style Baby Doll PJs Set

This is a project that I had planned as part of the basic 4 patterns for the year for my vintage pledge. To be honest, I didn’t think I would actually begin sewing this so soon. I have been busy working on a few different sewing projects concurrently for the past couple of months, like the lemon dress and pineapple bra top. However, progress for those projects have been slow (for reasons that I shall not elaborate on for the purpose of this post), and I decided to start on something new and simple.

Nothing screams classic mid-century home glamour like a baby doll pjs set. This Burda Style 7109 sleepwear pattern is an absolute anomaly for me. Specifically, it’s the one and only Burda Style paper pattern that I own. I am not sure if it’s a true vintage reproduction pattern, but the illustrations on the envelope and the description of the pattern on the Simplicity webpage suggest so:

Marvelous ensemble with all the charms of the 50’s: long, sleeveless night gown with elastic casing or shorter variant covering the knee, with short sleeves or cute baby doll with bloomers.

I always knew this light pink swiss dot fabric would be used for this project. When I dug it up from the abyss of my stash, I was afraid that I wouldn’t have enough yardage for the pattern. I only had 1.5 yards each of the swiss dot and the cotton lining I was going to use. This pattern suggests 2 1/4 yds for the top (option C), and 7/8 yds for the bloomers (option D) for the smallest size printed for the pattern – US size 10. Fortunately, after downsizing it by 2 sizes for it to fit my frame, I realised that I was able to squeeze all the pattern pieces onto just 1.5 yards of the fabric.

Only 4 pieces (excluding the ruffle on the top, option C)

Tip: I stitched a light pink cotton lining under the sheer swiss dot with the machine using a zig-zag stitch in slightly higher tension to make both pieces work together when stitching the pieces together.

Grading this pattern was easy peasy as it’s a very simple design. The most tricky thing about using this pattern was the cutting of the fabric. All of the patterns I have been using show the cut line on the pattern (i.e. 5/8″ seam allowance included), but this Burda Style pattern actually shows the stitch line (i.e. 5/8″ seam allowance NOT included). I forgot about this important piece of information along the way and actually cut the fabric along the stitch line. *gasp*

Oh the horror! And mind you, I only realised my mistake halfway through sewing everything. As you guessed, I did not make a muslin. Out of sheer luck, everything ended up fitting me pretty decently.

To give this baby doll pjs set an even greater and sweeter baby doll vibes than it already does, I decided to use floral bias tape binding, and added some ribbon roses to the centre front of the top and the sides of the bloomers. I’m so happy with how these details turned out. They make me feel that the reproduction is more true to the era, and give the entire set a more polished look.

I am not sure if I will make any more pjs for the rest of the year, since I have already made 2 so far (including this one). But I think this is a very versatile pattern which I will keep re-using. I am already thinking about making another pair of bloomers to go with a lonely vintage 1960’s baby blue pajamas blouse, and perhaps even making a variation at some point with puff sleeves. Hurrah to all the sewing that awaits! xo G

 

OUTFIT: ‘Til seams come apart

 

Wearing: True vintage 1960s dress, vintage London Fog sunnies, thrifted & upcycled wicker purse

You might find this dress familiar. You might be thinking that you have seen this dress on the blog prior to this post.

Yes, this dress was first featured in this post exclaiming the importance of owning a pair of white stockings for a vintage/retro wardrobe. You have seen this dress before, but today is the first time that you will be reading about the story of this dress…

This is a vintage 1960’s dress that I bought in Austin, Texas back in December 2014. I wore it out for the first time for Chinese New Year in 2015, then a couple more times after. It remained untouched in my wardrobe for most of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, until I took it out again for brunch a couple of weeks ago.

With the last week being Fashion Revolution Week, I am once again reminded of the importance of buying quality over quantity, and cultivating shopping habits that encourage sustainability. Admittedly, I don’t utilise my wardrobe as much as I want to, and I am still in the process of decluttering and learning to ‘choose joy’. Being a recovering shopaholic, I still have emotional attachment to all of the things I own and need a bit more time to learn to let go. But I always make sure I go through my wardrobe in cycles so my clothes get worn and I get to decide if I need to turn them in at a swap or sell them, in my own time. Check out my Instagram and you will see that the same few pieces of clothes will always tend to pop up for a certain period of time.

I love the concept of putting together a capsule wardrobe with what I already own, working through the pieces and being creative with the styling of an outfit. The same dress looks different when you roll up the sleeves, carry a different bag, and slap on a different pair of shades with it.

I don’t have a weekend capsule wardrobe right now, but I am working with a colour theme – pink. And so, here I am again with this pink dress which I first blogged about in 2015.The stressed seams on the front darts make it too precious to be worn out regularly, but every time I wear it, it’s like a new dress to me. You will probably see this dress on my Instagram or on this blog again some time in the future. Don’t be surprised if you do. Loved clothes last. x

If you are interested in learning more about the perils of fast fashion and the current dire state of consumerism, check out The True Cost documentary. I also love this article by The Telegraph. 

STYLE: Freddies Four Ways

If you’re a vintage gal into mid-century style, then you’ll most likely have a pair of high-waisted denim in your possession. I own a pair of high-waisted denim shorts that I purchased from a high-street store in Sydney years ago, as well as another pair of high-waisted skinny denim from H&M (also from a couple of years ago). Unfortunately, they create a more pin-up look than I like on some days, and give me a wedgie every few hours.

Ever since I discovered Freddies of Pinewood on Instagram, I have always been a big fan of the authentic mid-century design. I never thought I would actually buy one because of their rather hefty price tag. Months passed, and after a period of deliberation, I finally made a leap of faith and ordered a pair of Lana capris that was on sale. This happened a couple of years back and I have never regretted that decision.

I love the way it’s snug around the waist and roomy around the crotch. I have to admit, the waist felt a bit too snug on me at first, but they have eased pretty nicely and quickly over time – just like the website promised.

Lately, I have been wearing them more than usual on the weekends. It’s perfect for those lazy days when you want to be casual but still keep that vintage style. Here are the 4 different ways I have styled my Freddies of Pinewood Lana capris recently:

Freddies of Pinewood Lana 4 ways Vintage Style

Wearing: Gwenstella Made 50’s inspired blouse, thrifted & refashioned wicker bag, shifted Nine West shoes

Freddies of Pinewood Lana 4 ways Vintage Style

Wearing: Tara Starlet blouse, Sunjellies jelly shoes, thrifted Chinese takeaway box purse

Freddies of Pinewood Lana 4 ways Vintage Style

Wearing: Tara Starlet blouse, plastic granny-style retro sandals (from Hong Kong), Sunjellies Jasmine Atomic tote

Freddies of Pinewood Lana 4 ways Vintage Style

Wearing: High street brand basic striped tee, high street brand black loafers

What is your favourite way of wearing your vintage style high-waisted denim? Do you have a go-to casual vintage look?

My #VintagePledge (2017)

gwenstellamade vintage pledge 2017

Clockwise from top left: Vintage 1940’s McCall 6437, reproduced vintage 1950’s Burda 7109, reproduced vintage 1960’s Butterick 6582, vintage 1970’s Butterick 3148

My relationship with vintage and sewing goes a long way back. I picked up sewing from a dressmaking course in a community centre way back in early 2010, and my first project ever was a basic shirt in a vintage shabby-chic floral fabric. Back then, I was already deviating towards vintage style, but was still not sure of what I was going for.

The next sewing project I embarked on was a dress made from the vintage 1992 Butterick 6019 pattern that I found in a thrift shop. As you can see from the photo, I was still not sure what I was going for.

gwenstellamade vintage pledge 2017Months turned to years, and my style and understanding of sewing developed (albeit slowly). The turning point came when I made my best dress to date in 2012 – the Edith dress. It’s a sweet pastel green dress made with the vintage 1960 reproduction pattern Butterick 6582. In that same year, I found happiness with mid-century style. Since then, many of my sewing projects evolved around the 40s (e.g., the Rosie), 50s (e.g., the Green Gingham), and 60s (e.g., the Mondrian).

1950s 1960s floral dress butterick retro sewing hell bunny petticoat

Edith

gwenstellamade vintage pledge 2017

Left to right: 1940s vintage Butterick 5209, 1950s vintage Simplicity 1426, modern 1960’s inspired New Look 6049

So how is it possible that this is the first time I’m taking part in the Vintage Pledge? Honestly, I never knew about the Vintage Pledge until I chanced upon a tweet by Marie from Stitching Odyssey recently. Yes, this is the beauty of social media (and the use of hashtags).

I have been struggling with being consistent with my sewing for the past few years. If you check out my sewing posts on this blog, you will notice that I have been sewing (and posting about my sewing) very sporadically in the last 5 years. I could write down a long list of reasons for not keeping up with my sewing and my blog, but that won’t be helpful at all.

Never mind the years I have lost and not spent on sewing, because this is the year that I will finally come out of a creative rut and find my sewing mojo again. And I think making this pledge will really help in this regard. So here, ladies and gentlemen, is my Vintage Pledge for 2017:

“For the year 2017, I pledge to sew (at least) an item each for the purpose of home, work, play, and party. I will use a pattern from a different era for each project, and I will use a different type of fabric for each project.”

I’m hoping that in sewing different projects for the home, work, play, and party, each from a different era, I will be able to continue to explore my style, and develop a sense of sewing identity in my different areas of life. More importantly, I want to explore and learn about techniques needed for working with different types of fabric. Yes, it’s time I start moving away from weaved, stable fabrics!

Here’s a look at some of the patterns that I will be using:

gwenstellamade vintage pledge 2017

The vintage 1940’s McCall sewing pattern is actually a birthday present from a dear friend this year. ❤

gwenstellamade vintage pledge 2017I am still in the early stages of planning these sewing projects, and I can’t wait to share more with everyone once I have some concrete ideas for these projects. I’m so excited!

Are you also taking part in the Vintage Pledge? Let me know what you’re making! I’d love to have a look at the patterns that you have. x

SEWN: 1950’s style Gingham Blouse and Skirt

Wow, I can’t believe that this is already the second “Sewn” post for the year. This has been an incredible year of sewing for me so far (and it’s only March), and I am so excited to share this recent make with everyone! This green gingham fabric has been in my stash for a long long time. I remember purchasing it because it was cheap (which is a bad choice in retrospect) and putting it away with the rest of my stash while waiting for the “right pattern” to come around. When I purchased the Simplicity 1426 pattern late last year, I knew I wanted to use this fabric to create a cute 50’s inspired look with any of the bra tops in the pattern, complete with a matching skirt. It seemed easy when I planned it out in my head…

Back when I bought the fabric, I was a young and naive sewist. I didn’t know matching pattern was a thing. Watching The Great British Sewing Bee taught me a lot of things. For one, it taught me that pattern matching could either make or break a finished garment. As I began to plan the placement of pattern pieces for this project, my feelings towards this chirpy green fabric turned from that of happiness and hope to a kind of fear and resentment.

Alas, the fear of matching large gingham pattern got the better of me. I decided to shelf this project for a while (and later moved on to cutting and sewing my first handmade PJs set).

Somewhere in November, I finally mustered enough courage to start sewing the pieces together. Everything came together surprisingly well! It’s not perfect in all the spots, but I think it’s pretty darn good for someone who is doing pattern matching for the first time.

Sewing Simplicity 1426 Retro Vintage 1950s 1960s gwenstellamade

Fairly well-matched pattern

For the top, I made view A in size 4 which fitted me very well at all the important spots. As I wanted something that would look more like a top and less like a bra, I lengthened my bottom band to around 3.25″ wide. I also added some bra cups between the gingham fabric and the lining so that this could truly be a bra top and not worn with anything else underneath. More importantly, the bra cups help to fill up the top more than my boobies can!

I made the skirt without any pattern. It’s basically a long rectangular piece of fabric sewn at the ends to make a loop, then gathered at the top and sewn to a sturdy waistband. Working with limited yardage (as usual), I could not make a full circle skirt.

The first button: For days of multiple feasts

The second button: For more adventurous days

Both the bra top and the skirt have button closures. The top, in particular, has the cutest green flower buttons I found in my stash.

Have I mentioned anything about the buttonholes? Another thing that the GBSB taught me was the magic of a buttonhole foot. Every single button hole on the back of the top is of equal size. Every. Single. One.

In case you’re wondering, I wore my top over the band of my skirt

Wearing: Gwenstellamade top and skirt, thrifted wedges, vintage clutch

Moving ahead, I’m already in the midst of cutting up view C for another project. I also have this same gingham print in red and blue (in different yardage). Maybe I will be working on them soon in the next few months. If you like what I have been making so far this year, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and follow me on Instagram (@gwenstellamade) to join me in all of my adventures!

SEWN: My first handmade PJs set

Sewing Retro Blue Floral Pyjamas

Sewing Retro Blue Floral PyjamasGrowing up, I never owned any PJs. What  I usually wore to bed were a ratty tee and a pair of ugly, loose shorts. These were usually the same T-shirt and shorts that I wore to bum around at home and sometimes, for a quick run to the stores. It was not the classiest ensemble, but it was very comfy.

I always thought that PJs was a bourgeois practice. Why a different set of clothes was needed for going to bed was something I never understood.

But oh, how the times have changed.

Sewing Retro Blue Floral Pyjamas

Sewing Retro Blue Floral PyjamasI no longer wear any ratty t-shirts when heading out for a quick trip to the store, and I’ve grown fond of the idea of putting on something sweet and delicate after my shower in the evening. Yes, I’m turning towards the life of the bourgeois.

I’ve had this royal blue rose garden print flannel fabric in my stash forever. I think I found it in a fabric remnant bin and bought it for less than $10. I always thought I would make something Cath Kidston-inspired with it, like a purse or a hat. But I never got around doing that, and when the idea of making a pyjamas set came to me, it was clear that this was the perfect fabric for the project.

As I only had a short yardage to work with, I decided to make a simple sleeveless blouse and a pair of shorts – nothing too stuffy for bed in Singapore!

Sewing Retro Blue Floral Pyjamas

Front and back

Sewing Retro Blue Floral Pyjamas

Buttons

For the blouse, I drafted my own simple button-front top with waist darts on the front and back. The armholes were finished with bias tape. This is my favourite method for finishing sleeveless armholes.

Sewing Retro Blue Floral Pyjamas

Sewing Retro Blue Floral PyjamasFor the shorts, I used New Look 6055 (option E). In order to work with the limited yardage I had, I eliminated the pockets. I also created a curved hem and added ruffles along the hem of the shorts to make it look cuter than the regular pair of pyjamas shorts. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough fabric to make some ruffles for the blouse too.

Sewing Retro Blue Floral Pyjamas

Sewing Retro Blue Floral PyjamasNevertheless, I’m really happy with how this pyjamas set has turned out. The fact that the print reminds of Cath Kidston’s designs is an absolute bonus.

New year, new hair

gwenstella ash grey hair retro vintage style

gwenstella ash grey hair retro vintage styleI finally got my hair done again just a week before the Lunar New Year, and I’m so happy to go from cheap to chic!

My last hair dye job was in August 2016 and while the colour was glorious at the start, it faded fairly quickly despite the fact that I was only washing my hair 2-3 times each week. I ended up having to tolerate a cheap brassy tone for the longest time, because getting a hair appointment once every 3 months just for the colour isn’t quite the lifestyle that I want.

gwenstella ash grey hair retro vintage style

I am hoping that my new hair colour will last longer this time. My scalp has been slowly adjusting to the reduced frequency of hair washing, and I am now down to washing my hair 1-2 times only each week. (Hooray to less waster usage, less shampoo usage, and less time spent in the shower!)

gwenstella ash grey hair retro vintage style

gwenstella ash grey hair retro vintage style

On top of that, I am also using a colour shampoo once a week which will hopefully help to retain the vibrancy of my current dye job. As I said before, bleaching my hair and getting a balayage at a proper salon is definitely one of the best things I have done to my hair. My bleached locks is less slippery to work with when I put them in foam rollers. Also, curls show up so much better with the colour!

I haven’t quite decided on a go-to colour yet. I am not sure if I will ever have one. There’s a good chance that I will do pink again once my hair is long enough for the ends to be easily hidden in a bun for when I go to work. But for now, I’m just gonna stick with ash grey for at least the next 6 months or so. Let’s see if it works out! x

gwenstella ash grey hair retro vintage style

gwenstella ash grey hair retro vintage style

 

SEWN: 1950’s inspired Bateau Neckline Blouse

Dancing Couples 1950's Vintage Style Blouse Bateau Sewing

Wearing: Matching boat-neck blouse and skirt, and pom pom headband (all me-made)

Dancing Couples 1950's Vintage Style Blouse Bateau SewingI’m a real sucker for matching sportswear. They have endless outfit possibilities and let me pretend that I have created a collection for my own pretend fashion label for Fashion Week.

Ideally, I want to complete my matching sportswear within a month of making each item of clothing. But very often, that is not possible because of my general disregard for time. (I’m slowly getting better at this, I swear.)

I wrote about the “Dancing Couples Flared Skirt” back in January 2015, but only managed to make this matching bateau neckline top several months later, in October 2015. And for some reason, after completing it, I put it back in my closet and only wore it out for the first time in May this year for Me Made May. (What is wrong with me???)

All right, let’s get over the embarrassing timeline and focus on the subject of the post. The bateau aka boat-neck design was a very popular cut in the 50’s. Using pictures of vintage 1950’s sewing patterns I have found online as inspirations, I drafted my own pattern for a fitted blouse with a bateau neckline and cut-in armholes.

Front view

Front view


Dancing Couples 1950's Vintage Style Blouse Bateau Sewing

Back view

The construction of the blouse was easy. I didn’t even make a muslin for this. The trickiest thing was actually deciding the kind of fastening I wanted for the top. As the blouse has a pretty fitted waist, I needed something with an opening that was large enough for my arms, shoulders, head, and (non-existent) boobs. I didn’t have any separating zippers (and didn’t want to buy one), so I simply made do with an invisible zipper that I had.

Centre-back zipper fastening

Centre-back zipper fastening and contrast thread


Armhole finishes with bias tape

Armhole finishes with bias tape

I somehow managed to find a balance where I could *just* fit the blouse over my head. (Thank you, non-existent boobies.) But in hindsight, I probably should look into doing some research on vintage dressmaking techniques and doing a proper vintage fastening, like having the bottom fastened with buttons so I won’t have to do the wiggle every time I put this blouse on.

Dancing Couples 1950's Vintage Style Blouse Bateau Sewing

Dancing Couples 1950's Vintage Style Blouse Bateau SewingWell, live and you learn.

I still have maybe a quarter yard of this fabric available. I should look into making an accessory with the rest of the fabric, like a hat, a belt or a little purse. We’ll see!

Dancing Couples 1950's Vintage Style Blouse Bateau Sewing

Dancing Couples 1950's Vintage Style Blouse Bateau Sewing

Check out my post on the Dancing Couples flared skirt here.