1940’s Suit: The Pattern…

I think that most people who read my blog, know that I have a bit of a thing about vintage.  I used to wear lots of vintage clothing when I was quite young and much of my normal wardrobe is vintage inspired, with quite a few original pieces thrown in.  On a daily basis I have become very lazy with my appearance, which is something I’d like to rectify.  I think I keep waiting to lose the weight I put on when I had the boys, and in doing so, to be able to wear the 80% of my wardrobe that I currently can’t fit into.  Although I am working on this (the weight loss), I have been making an effort to increase that 20% that I can wear by adding some new pretty pieces, ie. not just Chie Mihara shoes, but actual clothes.

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On of my recent buys is this vintage suit.  I love it, but it does have a few problems.  Although it fits me on the skirt and waist, the shoulders are HUGE.  Basically, it has already been messed about with, the skirt has been taken in and there have been changes to the jacket, although these alterations are also ‘original’ I can’t wear it well as it is.  I plan to do some alterations of my own, if it was ‘pure’ vintage and had never been touched I would probably feel very guilty about this, but as is, I am happy to do so.

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In the meantime, it got me thinking that I might like to make myself a nice 40’s suit that fits me perfectly.  I have a quite specific idea of the fabric and shape of my ideal version, this, of course, has lead to many hours of trawling the internet, trying to find a good original pattern and the perfect tweed.

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I’m in love with this pattern (Advance 5399), how fabulous is that collar, the turned cuff and the scallop hem on the jacket?   Sadly, it is not meant to be as none exist even remotely near my size.

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In the end, I bought a Hollywood pattern (1145) in a size 18 and a Mc Call in a size 40.  I would like to point out, just in case you don’t know this, that vintage pattern sizing is teeny tiny in comparison to modern dress sizes.  I am a 14.  I was a size 8 when I got married  – boo hoo!  I had assumed I’d return to nearer that size after kids (which is when I gained most of the weight), now I hope to land near a neat 12 if I keep up my current, very slow, weight loss up, maybe even a 10 if I’m lucky.  Oh and dress size is relative to each person, I am in no way suggesting that a 14 is large, it isn’t, but for me and my personal frame, I’d prefer to be a bit smaller.

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Anyhow, if you want to know more about vintage patterns and sizing, plus learn some great sewing techniques I would suggest Gertie’s book ‘New Book For Better Sewing‘ it’s brilliant and also contains some great patterns.  I hesitated about buying this, as I tend to think I know quite a lot about sewing but in reality, I know about drafting patterns and historical design and construction, but reading this I realised there is so much I don’t know, especially about the kind of sewing I’m about to do.  A perfect example is Gertie’s (I write this like she’s my new BF – ha ha!) way to work out your vintage size.  She suggests you actually measure your upper bust measurement (directly under your arms) and use this for old pattern sizing, as the actual bust measurement (ie around the widest point) is all about  how busty you are and not about your actual frame size.  This way, the shoulders and arm of the pattern will fit and you should only need to make a simple bust adjustment, if needed.  So I’m between a vintage 18 and 20.  Whichever pattern I choose to use I’ll have to adjust it up or down, but this I am comfortable with.
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Next came the trawl for fabric.  My initial choice being the dog-tooth check above, but it’s too heavy and a much bigger design than I’d realised.  I am not disheartened as it’s lovely fabric and will be fabulous for bags and purses, but that’ll teach me to get samples in future.  Oh and the other small check is for a skirt.  No idea why the new Donna Wilson catalogue is there, I think I just took the photo as, at the time, it made a neat little pile on my desk.

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I decided on the Hollywood pattern, against my better judgement, the McCall was much easier to follow and the pieces were fully marked, but I fell in love with the peplum on the Hollywood one, so the Ginny Simms suit it is.  Also, my second order of fabric, this beautiful green/grey/blue/brown tweed is perfect for the job….and looks surprisingly like the image on the packet cover, I hadn’t noticed that until now.

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I had ordered 4 meters of fabric, as the width is wider than those given on the pattern back (which I didn’t actually have at the point of ordering the fabric as it was coming back from the US with my husband), so the first thing I did was carefully lay out the pieces to make sure I had enough.  I did and actually 3 meters would have been perfect.  When I was at college, we used to lay our patterns pieces on the large cutting table so see how much fabric to order.  Always a good trick.

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Next, I very carefully ironed the pattern pieces and copied them onto brown paper which I buy in long rolls (another old habit, I always use it for pattern cutting, even for my Linen Cat work).

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I then spent the rest of yesterday obsessively marking up the brown paper versions so they made easy sense to me, marking in grain lines, darts etc and even the stitch lines – I pretty much only ever work from patterns that are drafted without seams included so I’m bound to forget if I re-visit this in the future.

I’ve stopped there, as I need to make a few decisions.  Do I wait to lose more weight before altering the pattern and making it up?  Or do I make it to fit me now.  I’m going to wait a while at least.  There is no hurry and I want this to be a keeper, after all 4 meters of tweed, lining and a vintage pattern don’t come cheap.

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And now for a little eye candy.  I wanted to show you this fabulous purse I bought last Autumn from Sarah Culleton.  I’m sorry if I’ve shown it before, but don’t think I have and the image has been sitting on my laptop waiting to be mentioned.  It has had so many lovely compliments, I’m always a good girl and point out it isn’t one of mine.  The detail of adding a vintage brooch (which comes with the purse) is one I particularly like.

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I couldn’t resist this as well.

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Finally, as I just mentioned vintage jewellery, the brooch in the tweed shot above and this cute earring/brooch set (which I bought because I owned a similar one for dressing up with when I was a child) are from the UK Etsy shop Pearls Scarlet Vintage.  I’m really enjoying vintage brooches at the moment, it’s quite a nice and affordable way to cheer up an outfit. Our kitchen table needs some TLC doesn’t it!

Right, back to housework and refereeing the kids.