Hu-rray!  The April Dress is done.  I have to admit, for a while there, I wasn't completely convinced that this was a good looking dress, but I have changed my mind.  I like it.  Which is good.  You know, to make a dress for myself that I like.

It was the ruffle.  I was on the fence and it really got me thinking about my tastes and how they may be changing.  Could be that ruffles and bows are on their way out.  Could be.  Could be that sleek and simple silhouettes are on their way in.  I may put up a little fight, but I think adulthood is really upon me.  (And yet my hemlines seem to be getting shorter.  Being a grown-up is confusing!)

Well, I'll worry about my dresses and their existential impact later.  Now, I want to think about bright colors.  And sun.  And sundresses.  And sandals. 

Needles broken/replaced:  1
Spools of Thread used:  0


Basic Style Glossary.

While I am finishing up this month's projects, I thought I would leave you with a little light reading.  I will be taking bets on when the Leg-O-Mutton sleeve style makes a comeback.  Hopefully not in my lifetime.
Now, I expect an Argumentative Essay on the subject Dolman vs. Raglan by Friday.
Yes, yes . . . the April Dress is almost finished.  As is the first Viola project. I'll have the sccop on those for you next week.  

In the meantime, I am leaving the finally sunny city of Portland for a gray and rainy camping weekend at the beach.  Perhaps it is a poor life choice, but it's my birthday and I do what I want

Figure Out Your Figure.


My mom is 5'7" and swears up and down that when she was growing up that was really tall.  For the record, she is the shortest person in my immediate family.  I am an only daughter and measure in at a whopping 6'.  Fortunately, the familial scales are balanced as my two brothers have a good 3-4" on me.  (I am sure you can guess that this height problem of mine partially contributed to my dressmaking habit.)

I was recently reading that the average female height in the United States is somewhere  in the 5'4 to 5'5" range.  Now maybe we are a hardy lot in the Pacific Northwest or perhaps I unconsciously surround myself by taller folk, but that average seems a little shrimpy to me.  Compare that to the above "Are You" height chart and we find that things don't seem to have changed all that much since 1953 in this regard.  I guess I would be like, totally, off the charts regardless of decade. 

Something else that apparently hasn't changed much since the early 50s is that women's bodies  are not uniform.  Fortunately there is something that looks good on everyone.  Any more, I can look at an article of clothing on a hanger and know whether or not it will work for me.  Things that do not work?  1) drawstring waists (no real loss), 2)  skirts cut on the bias (heartbreak as I sometimes want to be Jean Harlowe), 3) boy cut swimsuit bottoms (hip alert!) . . . just to name a few. 

This silly page from my Sew With Distinction books may be a little antiquated (foundation garments?), but the rules of getting dressed remain the same.  Find what works for you and dress in a way that makes you feel good.  Most of the time the two ideas converge into one heck of smashing outfit. 

I stand by my claim (that I am making just now) that Fashion Law #1 is: Recognize that every style is not for every body. 

That's just how it is kids.  Sky is blue. 

April in Pieces



The thing that will make this dress really work is a perfectly fitting pencil skirt.  So, I thought, why not start from the bottom and work up.

One of the unwritten rules I made when starting this project was that I would try to use fabric and notions that I already have on hand.  As previously mentioned, the floral fabric was from a long ago DotMC dress.  The purple fabric I am using for the skirt was similarly left over from our Sara Dress (November 2009).  In about a week when I can actually wear all this material and call it a dress I will most likely complain that the dress is shorter than I would like.  Now you know:  The reason is that I am trying to use up what I have and sometimes there is not quite enough. 

Along those lines, you may have noticed a bit of burgundy peeking out from the bottom of the skirt.  While I do enjoy a good contrasting lining (contrary to what my mother taught me), in this particular case I am just pulling from my stash. 

Now the blouse is lined in a lovely dark green.  See?  You can't even tell. 

I have gone a bit retro with a ruffle at the neckline.  I am still toying with it so that it looks less like an Elizabethan ruff and more like something Claudette Colbert would wear.  I'm afraid the line is finer than you'd think.

I have also been giving a lot of thought to sleeves.  Initially I toyed with cute little puffy things, but there is a good chance I may leave them as they are now - dolman-esque.

I like to think I am moving in the right direction.  This is the third week of April after all! 

Still to do:  1)  Figure out a smooth, clean method of attaching top to bottom along with the linings.  2)  Stick in a zipper (which is going to be tricky for reasons I'll may share later).  3)  Complete the usual hand work.  4)  Get to the bottom of this ruffle business.  5)  Hem and hem.
The Complete Glenn Miller and his Orchestra, if you must know. 1938-1940.

Seeking a different approach after last month's debacle, I asked Adorable Boyfriend what he thought the new dress should look like this month.  His rather inspired answer was something to the effect of "You should make a dress like the ones in the play we saw last night." 

Now, this would have been an amazing response if the play had been West Side Story or even A Streetcar Named Desire.  Alas no.  The play we saw was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.  Even those who barely know the storyline must be aware that the cast is comprised of mostly of men.  Nutty ones.  Who sometimes prance about in their underpants.  While I give A.B. points for keeping it local with those Pacific Northwest ties, I question . . . well, pretty much everything else.

Knowing of his extreme distaste for anything medical related, I can honestly say that Adorable Boyfriend was not daydreaming about a little nurse's uniform.  This, of course, leaves only the . . . shall we say . . . loose women? (This is a family blog after all.)  Ah yes, Candy and Sandy:  The inspiration behind the April Dress.

Of course, the play we saw had Candy and Sandy in vintagey pencil skirts and tucked in shirts, so I think this was just AB's way of reiterating his distaste for full skirts. While I completely disagree with his anti-poof sentiments, I think I can support a pencil skirt every once in a while. 

For April I am also going to pull from a design we did way back in February 2009 (Hi Carissa!) that never got the attention it really deserved (Thank you very little blizzard!).   I also happen to have saved (hoarded?) extra floral charmeuse from that dress which I am still crazy about.  So a breezy blousy top in the floral attached to a high waisted pencil skirt.  This time around, the skirt shall be purple.  I think the hookers would approve.


The invention of the paper tissue dress pattern is often attributed to the wonderfully named Ebenezer Butterick of Massachusetts. Way back in 1863, the enterprising Ebenezer and his wife, Ellen, began selling the first patterns available in varying sizes. 

Prior to this wives and mothers (as was most often the case) had one size of pattern available to them and continually experienced the frustration of resizing before even beginning a project.  As a tailor, Ebenezer was adept at custom pattern drafting and thus the modern dress pattern as we know it was born. 

The first paper patterns were cut from the same tissue paper that is still being used for patterns today.  Of course, back then they were cut by hand before being packaged up.  The pattern pieces also had no markings other than a rather cryptic series of holes punched into the paper.  The uncut, yet clearly marked, patterns as we now know them  became the standard in the late 1940s.

Needless to say Butterick, a company still alive and kicking, revolutionized and economized the dress making industry.  Fashion as a whole was impacted by the availabilty of size-graded patterns.  While initially patterns were a luxury item (a whopping 25-75 cents in 1870), the latest styles were suddenly more accessible to the ever growing American middle class.

Working with unmarked pieces of tissue paper was a new experience for me.  I don't think I have ever even held a pattern predating the 1950s. 

From the recently acquired Viola Collection, this particular pattern is a pajama trouser set that could only be from the 1930s.  And should only ever be made from satin.  Think Carole Lombard!

Utilizing Adorable Boyfriend's bike tools as weights (I'm a pin girl, but not THIS time.) I carefully cut out each piece from some old curtains I had lying around. 

I meticulously marked the fabric with the proper piece numbers, darts, folds, natural waistline, and  seams.  I also photocopied the instruction sheet and envelope. 


Although happily surprised by the wonderful condition of the pattern considering it's age (roughly 76 years old) the less I mess around with it, the better.  I put away the old pattern envelope and pieces. 

Once I had put all my new cloth pattern pieces in a labeled envelope, I must admit, I was quite pleased with my work.  The whole thing is just such a nice, tidy little bundle.

This lounging set is the oldest pattern in the Viola Collection and so this is where I will begin.  Contrary to the whole Butterick philosophy, my first step will be to resize the pattern.   Woe.

Coming soon: More on Viola and the adventures of making some super slinky PJs. 

A recent and unexpected encounter with the friend of a friend left me with a wonderful gift and the inspiration for a new project.

I am the happy recipient of a beat up box full of sewing patterns ranging from the 1940s through the 1970s.  Even more intriguing is that they belonged to one woman who I shall not-so-fictitiously refer to as Viola.  Essentially, the box contains the story of Viola's life in sewing patterns. 

I have been drafting a plan for Viola in my head which involves putting together the chronology of her life and creating garments from these patterns.  I can't wait to share my findings.

A very special thank you goes out to Kristy for this little adventure.


Make Your Own Dress Form.


No, My Double and I are still not speaking.  While I cannot in good conscience lay complete blame on her for the imperfections of the March Dress, she isn’t completely innocent either.  I am thinking of loaning her to a friend for a night or two just on principle.  And if that doesn’t work, it might just teach M.D. a lesson to dangle a replacement in front of her non-existent nose. 

Coincidentally a homemade dress form is a project I have been wanting to try for quite some time and according to Sew with Distinction creating a clone is pretty easy, if a little creepy.  A taped up version of my own headless body is not something I really want to see lounging in my workspace.  Still, the benefits when it comes time for fittings or draping might be nice.

It seems all one needs are:

            1)  1” wide tape

            2)  Long men’s undershirt

            3)  Scissors

            4)  Garter belt and stockings

            5)  A friend

I might just have to make time for this experiment in cloning at some point.  What a wild afternoon that would be.  Torso party, anyone?

Once, not too long ago, I ran away from home and for an all-too brief period of time I lived the lonely, unfashionable existence of a solo, single-bag traveler.  The "alone part" of my trip began at Heathrow insufficiently armed with an incomplete map and rudimentary knowledge the Underground.  I somehow managed to get to the general vicinity of the hotel and upon exiting my station stop could only guess as to whether to take a right or a left.  I took a right and was, of course, wrong. 
Day Dress by Horrockses Fashion
Exhausted from a whirlwind roadtrip across Ireland and inflicted with the requisite airplane-caught cold, I also found myself lost in London.  If, judging from my rolled jeans and trainers, passers by had any questions as to what I  was exactly, my over-packed backpack (in a subtle shade of orange) proved beyond a doubt that I was, in fact, a tourist.  This was the state of my affairs as I wearily accepted defeat and claimed an obliging step outside the Victoria and Albert Museum

As silly as it may seem, the V&A allowed me a couple minutes to sit still, blow my nose, and find my bearings anonymously among the throngs of other map-studying types.  Amazingly wonderful exhibits aside, this particular museum will always be a special place for me.  Sitting outside the V&A I realized that being alone in foreign parts isn't all that terrifying. 

I could go on and on about the unforgettably lavish couture exhibit that just happened to be open or the unforgivably expensive History of Fashion measuring tape I purchased in the gift shop, but I won't.  Simply put, the V&A is an amazing museum with eclectic collections covering the full spectrum of the Fine Arts from printmaking to theater.  It goes without saying (and   yet . . .) that my favorite rooms housed fashion and jewelry stretching back to the 17th Century.  And, like most museums in London, you get to see it all for free.

In addition to an overwhelming barrage of exhibits at the museum itself, the V&A has an impressive and interactive on-line presence as well.  One of the more intriguing additions on the website which recently caught my eye, is an open invitation to create a couture inspired design with the help of a downloadable sewing pattern for a 1950s Day Dress by Horrockses Fashion.  I have, rather weakly, attempted to draw the dress (I do it all for you.) which just serves as a reminder that  I should stick to fabric.  In fact maybe I should get some fabric and try to make my own version of this springy vintage frock. 

Click on the drawing to learn more about this dress and to see what it really looks like. Cheers!