Category Archives: 1950s

Summer dreaming….

When I was browsing the Minerva Crafts website a while ago, my eye got caught by this fabric. Believe it or not, it’s a Liberty lawn! One that isn’t super floral!! I’ve always wanted to try sewing with a Liberty fabric – it’s not something you tend to come across over here in New Zealand, and after reading so many posts by overseas bloggers who rave about it, my curiousity was well and truly piqued. But sadly, I’m just not that into busy floral prints, and most of the designs, while lovely on others, weren’t “me”.

Until this one. Ain’t it fantastic?!? It’s called “Hidden Floral” – yep, there are flowers in it, but they’re all hidden in the print. Pinks and greens and blues and oranges, what a fantastic riot of colour, while at the same time appearing almost subdued. (Not too sure how that works, but hey.)

Summer Dreaming halter dress - Modern Vintage Cupcakes

So thanks to Minerva, who enabled my Liberty curiousity to be fulfilled. 😉

When I spotted this print, I knew exactly what I wanted to make it into as well. I’ve had this vintage 1950’s halter neck dress pattern in my stash for a while, waiting to be made up. It features a button-front, side zip, and dramatically pointed collar. As well as pockets. And oh my gosh, what epic pockets they are! Check out the hugeness of them!! And the pocket flaps!!! They’re pockets perfectly designed for swanning around on a summers day, concealing all manner of lip balms and cell phones and entire blocks of chocolate where no kids can see you’re carrying candy and sneakily eating it when their backs are turned. (Not that I do that. Ever. *ahem*)

Summer Dreaming halter dress - Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The pattern is Butterick 5949, from around 1951. As stated on the back, it’s a “Halter Necked Day or Evening Dress. (A) The tailored look in a quick & easy evening or at-home gown. Halter neck, bare back bodice buttons down the front, has a perky collar. The full, dirndlish skirt flaunts two huge patch pockets. (B) Day length version.”

Summer Dreaming halter dress - Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Anyways – this fabric, that pattern. Perfect!

(Or maybe not perfect – in hindsight, a lawn is probably a little bit too lightweight for a halter neck dress like this. Although anything much heavier would result in a rather bulky waist, with the semi-circle skirt that is then gathered in…. Hmmm…. Perhaps a poplin? No matter, lawn it was, and as lawn it shall be worn!)

Summer Dreaming halter dress - Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The pattern needed a few modifications. First up, it’s a couple of sizes too small, at a 32″ bust. So I got my tracing game on, and made the following changes before cutting out the final fabric:

  • Graded up to a size 36″ bust / 42″ waist
  • Did a 1″ SBA (small bust adjustment) (so 1/2″ on the half bodice, to bring it to a total of 1″)
  • Lowered dart points
  • Lengthened the bodice by 3cm (possibly too long in hindsight, but I’ll get to that soon)
  • Narrowed the skirt a bit so it fit on the width of the fabric
  • Removed the side zipper and instead extended the front button placket (I have dreams of one day getting back to pre-baby-size, so all dresses are currently made in a way that side seams are easy to take in at some mythical point in the future)

Summer Dreaming halter dress - Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Changes made, and dress cut out, I got to sewing.

And let me just tell you – this Liberty lawn was all it was rumoured to be. Absolutely delicious to sew with – light and airy, presses well, doesn’t crease easily (except when you want it to), and holds it’s shape nicely while being sewn up. Gorgeous. *mini swoon*

The pattern, well, it’s a classic 1950’s pattern. Unprinted pattern pieces (they’re marked with punched holes instead, which are interpreted by a key. Which I find pretty easy to work with actually – it’s super easy to mark things with tailors chalk when there are conveninetly cut holes already in the pattern tissue!). And the usual sparse instructions. The instructions for the collar/neck facing confused me a little, so I just ignored them and did things my own way. 😉

The way the collar is shaped on this is very pretty – it’s narrow at the back, and swoops into a strong point in the front.

Summer Dreaming halter dress - Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Summer Dreaming halter dress - Modern Vintage Cupcakes

I made a few changes as I went through the sewing fun as well, as follows:

  • Stitched the side seams last to make it easy to adjust them in the future
  • Put interfacing onto the self-facing of the front bodice, rather than directly onto the front bodice itself (it looks a bit softer that way)
  • Added extra button holes below the waist to compensate for having removed the side zip, and then stitched the remainder of the placket closed from the last button to the hem
  • Understitched the neck facing
  • Got lazy and didn’t slip-sitch the opening that the pocket was turned through closed. The pocket got top-stitched onto the skirt anyway, so I figured it wouldn’t make a difference

I finished the inside seams and the hem with pink Hug Snug rayon seam binding. Those little bursts of colour on the inside of garments just make me happy, it’s true. 🙂

Summer Dreaming halter dress - Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Annoyingly enough, despite doing a quick-and-dirty muslin (the joy of using fabric for tracing onto – these days I just sew up my tracings of the pattern pieces as a muslin and then unpick them again to get the pattern back. So fast! So easy!), and trying the dress on a few times during construction, once it was finished I realised I needed to adjust the side seams. By quite a lot.

11cm, to be precise. Grading down to nothing at the waist.

Heck knows how that happened. Because that puts them back at a size 32″ bust, which I most certainly am not, and never have been. Oh well, such is life! Although with an adjustment that big on a halter neck, it does mess around with the curve of the neckline under the arm – somewhat annoying. But not insurmountable, so after a fair bit of unpicking and cutting and restitching, I now have a halter dress, all ready to wear this summer!

Yay, summer!!!

(Now, where are you, summer?!? Hurry up already!!)

Looks rather ideal for lounging around eating ice cream in, don’t you think? 😉

Summer Dreaming halter dress - Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Summary / Details:
Pattern used: Butterick 5949 from around 1951
Fabric: Hidden Floral Liberty lawn, from Minerva Crafts (sadly now sold out, so I can’t link you to it)
Changes made: Lots! All listed above
What I’d change next time: Take in the side seams by 11cm in total (so 2.75cm at front and back side seams on the pattern) before cutting out the fabric; possibly raise the waistline by 1cm. I’m not 100% sure about this yet – the volume of the skirt pulls the waist down a bit lower than it should be, but I also have pretty much no waist definition at all at the moment (thanks, little babies. Yeah.), so it may be in part due to that. Will revisit in a few months. Hopefully.
Would I make it again? Hopefully! I’m loving this pattern, and especially those pockets and the as-described “perky” collar! Love the idea of the evening dress length – such a fascinating combination – a semi-structured halter neck with huge pockets as an evening maxi. Must be done, sometime soon….

Summer Dreaming halter dress - Modern Vintage Cupcakes

So saying though, I’m not 100% sold on the fit of this on me just yet. Not sure how much of that is the softness of the lawn with this style, how much is that the fit just isn’t right, and how much of it is that my body is still changing size and shape quite a lot post-pregnancies. The littliest guy is finally starting to sleep a bit better (only getting woken up about 3 times a night now – a massive improvement!!) so I’m feeling hugely better as far as sleep deprivation goes – fingers crossed I start feeling healthier soon too, and all those crazy changes settle down. Either way, I’ll see how I’m feeling about the fit of this in another couple of months. 🙂

Big thanks to my lil’ sis’, who took these photos at the rugby field near her house. We saw ducks with ducklings (ducklings!! So cute!!!), the Little Guy ran around pretending to chase off robots (as one does when one is three), and one of the groundskeepers came over to ask what on earth we were doing and make jokes about being on New Zealand’s Next Top Model. Yep.

ducklings

Gothic Mystery dress

Well well, isn’t that a mysterious title? Kind of brings to mind images of flowing gowns, windswept castles and midnight strolls by candle light.

Sad to say, none of those are featured in this post. Although I nearly got New Zealand’s one-and-only castle in it! (Not that it’s really a castle – rather, it’s just an old-fashioned English style “country house”. Either way, my plan to have this finished in time for wearing to High Tea at Larnach Castle didn’t happen. Such is life!)

However, I do have a new dress to show you all!

And it’s a bit Gothic, with skulls and roses.

Gothic Mystery dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The mystery part? Well, that’s where the pattern comes in. More details on that soon.

This is my Minerva Bloggers Network make for the month. The fabric is a poly/cotton blend in a gothic roses print. It’s nice to sew with – crisp yet light, easy to manipulate, and behaves itself quite well. The 70% polyester content also means it doesn’t need ironing – win!

(But then I completely destroyed the ‘yay no ironing!’ factor by using a pure cotton for the contrast bands. Whoops.)

Gothic Mystery dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Since this fabric has a good amount of body, while still being lightweight, I paired it with a vintage 1950’s dress pattern with a gathered skirt. Sure enough, the skirt stands out nicely, and the gathers aren’t super bulky around the waist. Yay again for successful pattern-fabric pairings!

(Plus since the fabric is from the ‘budget’ range, it doesn’t break the bank to get the amount needed for those crazy big 1950’s skirts.)

Gothic Mystery dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The pattern is Academy 3883 – a dress featuring a darted bodice, gathered skirt, wide scoop neckline at front and back, and a wide button band down the centre front. It’s one I’ve wanted to make for a while, so it was nice to finally get it to the top of the sewing-ideas-list.

Academy 3883 | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

I took fabric, pattern and notions down to Dunedin on a trip we made the other weekend to visit my family, with the plan to sew it all up on my mother’s sewing machine. This Elna beauty from the 1980’s. According to my father, one of the last mechanical machines. I love this machine – it purrs along beautifully, feels so wonderfully solid, and has pretty colours. (Orange! Green!). It also has a weird foot pedal – it’s an air pedal, a circular disk with a half-circle of rubber on the top. You press down on the rubber half-circle to make it go. A lot harder to regulate the speed than on a traditional foot pedal! And I completely forgot to get a photo of the pedal. Whoops.

mums sewing machine

Since my mother’s overlocker hasn’t been used for a while, I decided not to risk having to spend hours getting it to go, and instead used some Hug Snug and bound all the seams. (Plus, it makes for pretty pink on the inside!)

Gothic Mystery dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

I made a few changes to the pattern straight away. Added 1cm width to the shoulders and 1cm length to the bodice (front and back) and did a small bust adjustment – all without bothering to check the pattern, as they’re fairly standard adjustments for me. I also added 8cm in total to the width at the waist, tapering to nothing under the arms. (Then had to let the side seams out at the waist a bit more during construction. Still working to get rid of that post-baby bulge….!) Since I’m still (hopefully!) getting rid of the post-baby bulge, I stitched the front bodice to front skirt and back bodice to back skirt first, then did the side seams all in one at the end to make it easy to take in in the future. Eventually. When I stop my “I need it because I’m sleep deprived” excuse/addiction to chocolate….

Gothic Mystery dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

While trying it on while making it up, I also lowered the side bust dart point by 1″ – if I was to make it again, I’d lower it by another cm as well, and also lower the point of the waist dart to match.

The neckband and button bands are done all as one, with a sharp corner at the top to add a bit of a challenge. The instructions called for the band to be stitched on with a lapped seam, then the inside to be hand stitched down. Um, yeah. A bit too much hand stitching for me, really. So instead I just stitched the band to the inside first, then folded it over to the front and top stitched it in place. Far faster! I love the way the wide contrast bands look on this, especially with the wide scoop neck. 🙂

Gothic Mystery dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The hem (and sleeve hems) are finished with Hug Snug and a machine blind hemming stitch.

Gothic Mystery dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Gothic Mystery dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Now, here’s where things started to get somewhat interesting. When I was cutting out the fabric, I discovered that some of the pattern pieces were copies, cut out and hand written as to what piece they were. I can only assume they were direct copies of the originals, as I have nothing to compare them to! (Although I have my doubts about the sleeves, which were also a copy – there was no way they were going to get set in without some gathers at the sleeve cap. Also, the ease in them is quite off for the bodice, which makes me suspect they were copied from a different pattern….)

Gothic Mystery dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

The pattern is an unprinted vintage pattern. And when I had finished the dress enough to try it on properly, I made a rather unwelcome discovery – for some strange and mysterious reason, the waist line curved up by about 1.5″ in the centre back. Thus ending up with it far above where it should be! Argh!!!! (And this is where the high-tea-at-the-castle plans got derailed abruptly.) Such an odd, odd fit, and no indication of it being like this on the line drawings. Which makes me wonder if some long-ago seamstress directly altered the pattern by cutting part off on an angle. Since it’s an unprinted pattern, I have no way I can tell…..!!!

It nearly signified disaster for this dress, though! Eek!!!

I played around with adjusting seams, but couldn’t adjust them enough to make up for that massive centre-back shortening. So then I had the idea of making a cummerbund to cover it.

But that all failed miserably as well. Gah.

Then I hit on the simple solution – just chuck a wide belt on over the top, and all is well/hidden! Phew!!!

And now (as long as I hide it’s waistline flaw with a belt!) I love it! Yay!

Gothic Mystery dress | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

(Also, it fits nicely with my Vintage Pattern Pledge. Yay for sewing vintage!) (And yes Gillian, more are in the works. I’m playing posting catch-up first. 😉

It’s all about the practicality

Or at least, it’s all about practicality with this creation!

Not that you’d think so to start with – after all, why on earth would one need a bed jacket? I’ve never really understood the concept – is it some sort of 1950’s ladies-who-lunch variation, where instead you sit up in bed eating breakfast and lounging around glamourously? Heck knows, but there seem to be a lot of patterns out there for sewn and knitted bed jackets from the 1950’s!

And inevitably, one (or maybe two) of those patterns has made it’s way into my stash. In this case, Simplicity 2778, from 1958.

Simplicity 2778

I bought this pattern for the slippers though, not the bed jacket. (And I’ve even made the slippers!) I never expected to make the bed jacket – sure, it’s kinda cute, but really, why?? (Also, why do they all have their mouths open on this pattern cover? Plus, those are all pretty massive earrings for wearing to bed. Yep, clearly bed jackets are all about glamour!)

And then I had the Little Man, and spent a heck of a lot of time sitting up in bed in the middle of the night feeding him. And the idea of a bed jacket started to make a lot of sense. Shorter than a dressing gown, so you can easily throw it on while sitting in bed for an extra layer of warmth. Yep, not a bad idea at all, really!

(Except that I never quite got around to making one while still doing night feeds with the Little Man.)

But this time, I am prepared! Yes indeed! (Well, semi-prepared. Got a five-days-overdue baby bump going on and I’ve only just finishing this, but still – it’s done before it’s needed! Win!)

A Practical Bed Jacket | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

And here it is – my version of a 1958 bed jacket. In a dusky pink sweatshirting. Because you know what? This is only ever going to be worn in the dead of night, in bed, while feeding a baby. It’s not about glamour, it’s about warmth. And it will Never Leave The House. Nuh-uh.

A Practical Bed Jacket | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

It will, instead, be cozy and warm. 🙂 (Or that’s the theory, anyway.)

A Practical Bed Jacket | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

A Practical Bed Jacket | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

So saying though, I did do a bunch of topstitching on it, just because I could. It wasn’t thought-out topstitching, there was no plan, I just did what I felt like at the time until I ran out of the pink thread I was using. So I ended up with some topstitching on the pockets, on the facings, and on the collar. I was going to do some down the centre back as well but then I ran out of thread, so it got left as it was.

(‘Scuse the alignment of this – it does line up in real life, I promise! Just clearly not in this photo, at all. This is where I miss having photos taken by fellow bloggers – they spot this type of thing, haha!)

A Practical Bed Jacket | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

(Pockets! Those are gonna be useful for a burp cloth on one side and snacks on the other side. Because let’s face it – there is a constant need for snacks when feeding a child in the middle of the night. Mmmm…. snacks….)

A Practical Bed Jacket | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

Speaking of the collar – rather than doing the collar facing in the same thick sweatshirting, I used some of the cotton left over from my Tania culottes. To stop it from peeking through at the edge, I trimmed a couple of mm off the collar facing’s outer edge and then aligned the inner seams when pressing so the collar rolled to the inside a little.

A Practical Bed Jacket | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

A Practical Bed Jacket | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

When I went to put the fastenings on, I had a moment of realising – this jacket’s never actually going to get done up, due to it’s purpose for existing. So, I flagged the fastenings and just did some top stitching instead. 🙂

Not really a lot to say about the construction of this – it’s a basic kimono-sleeve style, with cut-on facings, so very few pattern pieces. Fairly usual late-1950’s Simplicity instructions. And an unmarked pattern, so holes punched in it to indicate darts, grainlines, etc. (Which, by the way, I prefer – far easier to transfer markings when you can just chalk through the punched holes!)

Here’s something I hadn’t seen before, though – this pattern comes with a ‘fold sheet’ – a plain sheet of tissue paper that’s there for the sole purpose of having the rest of the pattern folded up in it. Brilliant! It keeps it nice and smooth in the envelope, and helps keep all the little pieces together.

A Practical Bed Jacket | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

So there we have it – one baby-night-feeding vintage bed-jacket pattern, made up and ready to go! (Whenever this little one decides to make an appearance, that is. Hmmm…. In the meantime though, it makes for a good book-resting-place.)

A Practical Bed Jacket | Modern Vintage Cupcakes