February 15, 2018

Power Suited

To be honest, in an idealized fully social media savvy world, I would have liked to have a few more *ahem* normal outfits between this look and the last one I shared here on the blog, since they are so stylistically similar. The online world also craves reality though right? This is the look I've been wearing lately on repeat, I can't help it!

Frankly, it's outfits like this one, ensembles that are so empowering, make me feel so confident and great, that make me wonder why everyone able doesn't choose to dress in 1940's suits. I mean, sure some people still have a fear of shoulder pads from the 1980's, but listen...shoulder pads are amazing. Give me big shoulders, big faux fur collars, a cinched waist and flicked out eyeliner any day and I'm a happy gal.

Of course, this outfit is once again very Rachael from Blade Runner. Which is why I'm afraid I am boring you with all these derivative looks. I'm not exactly cosplaying, but at this point it's getting close. The look is just too good, I can't help but adopt it to suit my tastes. If anyone wants to donate some 1940's Adrian suits to my wardrobe to complete the full true vintage meets Blade Runner loop I'm happy to accept them. The only thing that really makes this ensemble inappropriate for the 1940s would be the black fishnets, which would have been scandalous perhaps for a day wear outfit like this. Other than that though, it's only due to the look becoming so associated with science fiction versions of Noir that this outfit seems futuristic in anyway. Well, I guess that, and my purple hair, and choice of a street art backdrop here...

There is no mystery to my sartorial inspirations these days, but that's alright with me. As you can see here, we went on a search for graffiti recently downtown and found so much cool street art! I'd love to just walk around and document it all but it's simply too cold to be doing that for now. Very different vibes from the sterile suburban area I live most of my daily life in, but so much more vibrant. Though who am I kidding, I live my life here on the internet ;)

Suit, Clutch, Gloves, Earrings: Vintage
Faux Fur Collar: Made by me
Fishnets: TJ Maxx
Shoes: Nine West

February 14, 2018

Cataloging Catalogs: Montgomery Ward's Fall/Winter 1947-1948

It's been a little while since we last had some new catalog pages up here on the blog hasn't it? I finally sat down at our scanner this past weekend to start work on digitizing the next Montgomery Wards catalog in my collection. I am excited to share with all of you the Ward's Fall/Winter 1947-1948 catalog! Today we begun our dive into this cooler season catalog with some serious suiting and coats from the later half of the 1940s.

I tend to try and stick to buying Spring and Summer catalogs more than the Fall and Winter ones because personally I am most interested in discovering interesting details and style lines for reproducing dresses, and I have much less of a talent for making suiting or coats which tend to be featured heavily (naturally...) in the F/W catalogs. Still, my area of interest and focus is not the same as everyone else's! So I am happy to be able to share this resource with all of you :)

Of course, even though I doubt I'll be reproducing any of these particular styles myself anytime soon, the styling and color inspiration found within these pages is still useful in styling my vintage inspired wardrobe. I also quite like seeing the typical hairstyles, clearly I need to wear my hair in side combs more often...

More pages below the jump, in a nice large size for your zooming and reading pleasure...

February 12, 2018

4 Favorite Fabrics From Joann's & How I've Used Them

Here in the United States, fabric stores other than Joann's are getting harder and harder to come by, especially if you live out in suburbia in the mid west like me. So what's a seamstress to do? Sure you can buy fabric online, but it's just not the same when you can't touch and feel and see the textiles there in front of you. When you only have Joann's small selection of apparel fabrics to choose from, which are the best? One can't make everything out of quilting cotton after all...

If they offered 5% of the adorable quilting cotton prints they have at Joann's in an apparel weight as well (a nice voile perhaps? Sateen?) I would be more than happy to buy yards and yards of them, but seeing as modern fabric and craft stores cater to quilters and occasional textile crafters (and once a year Halloween costume shoppers) and not apparel seamstresses, we're just out of luck most of the time. Unless you love polyester, and who loves polyester?

So today I thought for those of you who are stuck in the same Joann's dominated wasteland predicament, or are perhaps just new to sewing and would like some fabric recommendations, I would go over my top 4 favorite fabrics available at Joann's and explain why I return to buy more of them again and again.

Sew Classic Bottomweight Stretch Sateen Fabric - $12.99 a yard

This is my top favorite pick from Joann's. Granted I love me some cotton sateen in general, but the weight of this particular sateen is perfect for so many projects being neither too heavy for dresses, nor too lightweight for more structured pieces. The amount of stretch (97% cotton, 3% spandex) is just enough to not be annoying and allows things move nicely when you've made something more fitted. As a rule I never buy stretch fabrics, I like structure, but this fabric is the exception to that rule for me.

At 49" wide, I feel I get a little more for my dollar with this sateen since many Joann's fabrics are only 45" wide. This slightly wider width means I can eke out fuller A-line skirts and longer sleeves without having to buy more yardage. I find this fabric washes well for me, and for a sateen it's not too shiny. When I'm buying sateen fabric I prefer they not be too shiny despite the name, if I wanted a true satin finish after all, I'd buy satin. This fabric currently comes in 7 solid colors, but they need to add at least one green, come on Joann...

I've made a lot of projects with this fabric over the past few years. Most notably I like it for crisp full circle skirts, I have one in black, bright red, and the dark purple. I also have used the dark red/burgundy shade to make a sheath dress and a pencil skirt, have a dress out of the black (seen below), and used the navy and red colorways to make a dress inspired by of one of Peggy Carter's dresses (seen above). Then I've got a basic black pencil skirt out of this sateen too, it's really all over my closet! I only wish they would add even more colors to the range, but I don't hold out hope.

Sew Classic Bottomweight Cotton Twill Solid Fabric - $12.99 a yard

Another classic bottom weight (what does this even mean? Like, it's thick enough for pants? ... okay.) is cotton twill weave of course. Similar to denim in many regards, since denim is woven with a twill weave as well, twill fabrics have a small diagonal ribbed texture up close. Supposedly this weave structure is both strong and helps hide dirt, which is why it's used for more rugged apparel sometimes. Twill is a great fabric for more structured summer projects, which is what I have mainly used it for in my sewing.

In 100% cotton, this particular twill from Joann's has no stretch, which as previously noted is fine by me. They actually have a smaller different selection of cotton twills at Joanns and they all have their uses. I've used another version from them that's a bit thicker to make a more utility looking army green a-line skirt before and liked the results. Perhaps a little too bulky/weighty for something like a circle skirt, I like using Joann's twills to make pencil skirted suits for the summer time like the two you see below here. I've also used them to make more skirts all on their own, but something I always do now with this sort of fabric is to add top-stitching for that extra rough and tumble looking (ahem, safari ready) effect, even if the actual garment style is tailored. 

Sew Classics Linen Look Fabric 54''-Solid - $12.99 a yard

If you are sensing a theme, its because all the best apparel fabrics at Joann's tend to be on the same aisle, the bottom weights are where it's at in Joann Fabrics. Of course you can find some nice rayon challis or a wild voile or cotton eyelet in their seasonal ranges, but the reliably in stock apparel fabrics in natural fibers tend to be of a heavier weight. Which is why it's nice that they have this rayon linen blend available in so many colors (14 shades) when you need something with just a bit more drape. It's got the crisp slightly slubbed natural texture of the linen, with the the added benefit of the silkier rayon helping out with linen's stubborn wrinkle factor.

At 54" wide this fabric also helps you economize on yardage for budget friendly projects. Iv'e used it to make two bolero and A-line skirt suit combinations in natural and black, for a fluted turquoise 30's skirt, and to make my dark red 1930's inspired wrap dress. I'm always trying to find time to make a 1930's dress in the rusty orange color of this fabric with nice vintage carved wooden buttons to wear in the summer. I know this is a fabric I will be returning to again and again as the texture is just perfect for making warm weather apparel with that natural linen look.

Fashion Brocade Fabric 45" - $9.99-$14.99 a yard

Okay, to be fair, this last one could be rather polarizing. Some people just find polyester Chinese brocades like these cheesy, and that's totally fine, it's just I disagree. I think the fabrics and resulting garments can be really fun if used in the right way, which I have tried to do with my more recent projects.

Of course vintage styles out of similar fabrics have several advantages going for them. The brocades of the past were more likely to be real silk or at least rayon, instead of the polyester Nylon blends we get today. Real silk fabric just looks a hell of a lot nicer, and feels nicer, but polyester is much less expensive of course. I do think the Chinese brocades at Joanns really vary in quality these days compared to the standard quality that were available 10 years ago when I first started sewing with them. Sometimes you can still find one with a higher thread count and nicer structure, but it's rarer these days. I'll be looking into other sources for similar fabrics soon, but I still have my eye on some new dark plum purple brocades Joann's have in stock online.

I have used Joann's poly brocades to make several dresses and a few pencil skirts over the years, and I want to make a circle skirt out of the aforementioned dark purple fabric soon. Of course more typical (or stereotypical really) apparel items made in this fabric would be vintage style cheongsam dresses or jackets with frogged closures, but be careful with projects inspired by garments that may have possibly been culturally appropriative in their time and can remain so now. It's important to just be aware these fabrics and projects can easily come off costumey which is something to avoid when making real clothes of course.

So those are my top picks from Joann's! What are your favorite fabrics from America's most pervasive fabric store? The only US state without a Joann's store location is Hawaii by the way, but they do still ship there. Are you lucky enough to live near real fabric shops with nice apparel fabrics? Feel free to brag about that and make me want to move ;) I am lucky that here in Colorado we do have two main other fabric shops near enough to Denver that I don't go too mad stuck with Joann's small selection. I do love shopping from Mood Fabrics online as well, and though sometimes I still get surprised with just how the fabrics look and feel when they arrive in the mail, I have yet to be actually disappointed with anything I have ordered from Mood.

Also-- I know I usually post a new ensemble on Mondays, but it's been snowy and too cold to stand outside for photos so I hope you can forgive me for not documenting my pajamas since I'm staying inside! Stay cozy my friends!

February 8, 2018

Within Cells Interlinked

"A system of cells interlinked, within cells interlinked, within cells interlinked within one stem... And dreadfully distinct against the dark, a tall white fountain played."

Yeah, I still love Blade Runner you guys, no surprise there right? This quote used the film is actually from the novel Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov. I reeeally want to make a video essay comparing the two films and talking about how the female characters are handled/treated, but I also don't want to open myself up to the very real wrath of the oft angry anti-feminists on YouTube. So instead, I keep jotting down thoughts on the topic in a spare document to be used someday, perhaps I should just write an article about it? Hmm, perhaps, perhaps.

Until I decide how to proceed, at least I can still mine the films for their aesthetic genius. The day I figured out how to do this hairstyle was a truly great day! I find myself wanting to mix the 1940's and 1980's the way the first Blade Runner film did more and more these days, forever drawn to the futuristic version of film noir. Can I have the new look and the new wave? This outfit sure combines the two, with a shining patent clutch from the 1980's, an amazing 1940's coat (that I really wish I could just wear every day), and modern Lucite heels and ear cuff style earrings. I wouldn't mind having variations of this ensemble to wear everyday forever really, and I want to edit my wardrobe and this years sewing plans to fit this focus. Not that I have been acting on sewing plans much lately!

What are your favorite film noir or science fiction films? I love each genre, and when they combine and keep both visual style intact...!!! Yes please. If any of you like some stunning visuals and odd films about what defines humans as such and haven't seen Blade Runner 2019 yet, I highly recommend giving the film a watch. :)

Coat, Necklace, Gloves, Hat, & Handbag: Vintage
Dress, Birdcage Veil: Made by me
Belt: Banana Republic Factory
Shoes: Margiela for H&M
Fishnets: TJ Maxx
Earrings: Forever 21

February 5, 2018

Concrete Conservatory

Let us pretend I was going for a retro film grain look, and that't why today's photos have that lovely touch of noise and hint of blur...yeah? Okay cool, thanks. In reality, the lighting was just weird because I was in a faux jungle of concrete and ferns. I looove a greenhouse, and the Denver Botanic Gardens even had an orchid show on! Aren't the white flowers with the dark pink splotches divine?

This skirt was a bit of an impulse buy from the not great mega fast-fashion giant known as H&M, and honestly, I'm embarrassed to say that. I don't want to shop at fast fashion brands anymore, or really, anywhere that isn't sustainable and ethical. I want to talk about this decision more in a dedicated post soon, but I think it's safe to say this may have been my very last H&M purchase. All that said, I need to hem this skirt don't I? Just a little bit, but it's just a tad too long. The colors of the embroidery are very pretty and feel a bit springy during this foliage free season. I paired the more feminine skirt with my plush vintage velvet jacket and mostly black accessories. The bee brooch and green gloves added a touch more color, along with my colorful hair of course!

You may have noticed there has been a lot of vintage clothing appearing here on the blog recently, as opposed to new sewing projects, and that's because honestly...I haven't been sewing! This is probably the longest I have gone without sewing in years actually, and it does feel strange. I have been spending my time writing instead, and it feels almost like I don't have a choice because there are ideas/characters banging on the inside of my skull begging to get put into type. I really hope someone else gets to enjoy these stories half as much as I do one day when they're finished, because I sure am enjoying working on writing fiction right now. It's impossible to know whether that will ever be the case, but what is really freeing is that I (almost...) don't care because I am having such a good time writing!

How about you all, what medium are you working in this year so far? I've simply got to get some sewing done one of these day soon, but then I'll still be up writing all night long ;)

Skirt: H&M
Jacket, Clutch, Gloves, Brooch, & Earrings: Vintage
Fishnets: TJ Maxx
Shoes: Remix Vintage Shoes

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