Tag Archive | 1940s

Tissue paper time machines

I grew up in the 80s and, while I did partake of poofy bangs, pegged jeans, and neon colors, I’m not your typical “child of the 80s.” Musically, I grew up in a time warp — from the time I got my first radio, I always listened to the Oldies station. My dad and I used to play a game in the car to see who could name the band first: Buddy Holly, the Beatles, Three Dog Night, CCR. And those are the easy ones! In high school, I even discovered an AM station that played 30s and 40s music and I loved it! I lived blissfully ignorant of the crime that is 80s music until I married Mr. Gren, who has made it his mission to educate me; I would still lose on the “name the band” game.

Like my musical tastes, my sartorial aesthetic definitely veers towards older styles, specifically the 40s and 50s (well, and pretty much everything between 1200 and 1830, too, but it’s harder to get away with that in modern life). I like a lot of the tailored looks and hairstyles from the early 40s and I drool over the full skirts of the late 40s/early 50s, but, up until just a few years ago, it never occurred to me that I could actually make these styles. Somehow, I stumbled upon the great blog A Dress a Day. Not only is it about dresses, it’s about vintage dresses and vintage sewing patterns. I didn’t even know these existed! This was an epiphany, an awakening, the beginning of an addiction (don’t worry; I can stop any time). There are sellers of vintage sewing patterns all over the Innermet! Another revelation! I don’t often buy, but I do love scrolling through listings of all these great patterns. To date, I’ve made 8 dresses from vintage patterns from the 40s and 50s. A lot of times, they make more sense than the modern patterns.

I’ve got two to show you today. The first is the Very First Ever dress I made from a vintage pattern. There was some minor panic when I first opened the envelope to discover that, Hey! The really old ones aren’t printed! Probably other people knew that, but remember, this was all new to me. Well, it turned out that this pattern went together like a dream. Never before nor since have I had a dress come together without a hitch like this one. I had no way of knowing it would work so nicely, so I made my first dress out of a king-size sheet. One day, I will make this one again in a fabric I’m actually excited about, but for now, this does alright.

What the heck am I doing? Hugging an invisible child? Preparing to salute?

Look at those humongous pockets! I need more dresses like that, then I wouldn’t have to carry a purse. This dress has princess seams and a flared skirt. The side pieces of the dress form the cap sleeves, so no setting in sleeves, gathering, easing and all that rigmarole.

My most recent vintage project was actually started last summer. But then our weather turned icky and I had no occasion to wear a sleeveless dress, so I abandoned it, just a zipper and hem shy of completion. This spring, I finally got tired of it laying around my sewing room, so I buckled down one day and finished it. Hurray! Here is the pattern I used:

I liked View 2 with the collar, pleats and narrow keyhole (which is hard to see in the picture). I thought the other style made her shoulders look wide. I used a great black cotton with a big cherry print to make this one. Cherries belong on a 1950s dress. The one thing that disappointed me when I was done is that the collar is too small to fasten at my neck without choking me. I don’t get that cute keyhole effect, but oh well. It looks pretty good and no one’s the wiser. Except you, because now you read this. But you’re going to agree with me that it looks fine. Right? Of course, right.

A friend of mine took some lovely photos of me wearing my awesome black cherry dress this past weekend. See what you think!

I am wearing a crinoline (that I made) under this; it makes a huge difference in the look.

If I can ever satisfy Rana’s appetite for new dresses, I will make something for myself again. I’ve already got lots of fabric paired with some more of my vintage patterns. I’ve got 5 yds of white cotton with big navy polka dots that would make a fantastic dress for summertime. I’d better get on it soon, though, otherwise you’ll be reading about it this time next year.

Everybody needs a cherry apron

And by “everybody,” I mean, specifically, me, although I do think any kitchen is enhanced by the addition of an apron in a bright cherry print. Cherry = Cheery. See? Ok, those words aren’t related at all. But for some interesting etymology, check this out: The word “apron” is not the original form. Prior to the 14th century, the word was actually “napron,” related to “nappe” and “napkin.” After awhile, people’s ears stopped hearing “a napron” and converted it to “an apron.” Nifty, huh? (If you like this kind of stuff, check out one of my favorite sites, The Word Detective. He’s got all kinds of great stories!)

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I do, in fact, already own a cherry print apron which I received in a craft swap quite some time ago. I like it, it’s just that… it’s a half apron and, well, it’s usually not my lap that needs protecting from rogue tomato sauce. My tally (before today) of full aprons came to a grand total of two. 2. Dos. Two unusually sloppy nights of cooking and those aprons are down for the count. One is a heavy cotton with a toile print that Mr. Gren gave me years ago. The second is another one I received in a swap and has snowmen all over it. Even though our temp today hovered around 55 F, it’s still June and wearing snowmen in June… just makes me feel weird. Spring may never arrive outside this year, but it sure will in my kitchen, by golly.

I bought this cherry fabric over a year ago. It has been languishing in the bottom of a large sack full of fabric, all destined for various projects, all sitting there for over a year. Sometimes I get distracted. For some reason, knowing that we are moving soon (within a few weeks), has lit a fire under me to bust through my fabric and yarn stashes as much as possible. I don’t know why it makes a difference; I’m going to pack it all with me. If anyone wants to psychoanalyze this compulsion, feel free.

The pattern I used is a 1940s reproduction. I liked the halter top design and the pleating. The pattern called for bias tape trim around the edges of the halter, but I didn’t have any in a color that would go, and since Mr. Gren is currently unemployed, I’m trying hard not to spend any extra money on craft supplies. Maybe that’s why I’m concentrating so hard on my stash. Anyway, instead of trimming in bias tape, I just made a narrow hem to finish the edges. Overall, I’m happy with how it came out. Easy on, easy off. And who knows, maybe the lure of wearing a cheery cherry apron will inspire me to cook tomorrow night. My family probably hopes so.