Here's my next sewing creation with maternity in mind, though the original pattern is a teen girl's style and not intended at all for pregnancy. Yet I think it will work very well, and doesn't look like a maternity pattern so I can wear it afterwards too!
I made it out of some lightweight cotton in cheery nautical stripes. It features an adjustable waist via wrapped ties and loose front panel that can gather more or less as needed. I think the panel would hang well in rayon or a drapier fabric as well, but this fabric makes a great summer 1940s house dress.
I had a few adventures with this pattern. For starters, when I opened it up I found out it was missing two pieces - the collar and the front panel. The collar I knew I could substitute, and the front panel thankfully I could eyeball when I compared the sketches of the front and front side on the back of the pattern envelope. It worked!
Then too, I had to size it up 4-5 inches, which created a few bumps later on with fitting. Again, though, since there is no waist seam in the front and the panel is adjustable depending on how tightly it's tied, it wasn't as big a deal as it might have been since I could already adjust the fit. I overdid it a bit, ended up having to take a few darts in the back neck, and still couldn't quite fit the collar correctly. I also had to open the front seams a bit and move down the ties which I first placed too high, and it ended up on the short side despite the narrow hem. But I have a better idea of how to size it up if I make it again - and for an everyday dress I'm not terribly particular about perfection.
The front panel I did differently so that it could open for nursing. I still sewed it at the top to the yoke, but faced it at the top down to the waist and overlapped it all the way down, topstitching it from the waist down to the side front. On the under layer, I used wide bias facing to double as both seam finishing and a more solid base to sew the buttons to. It adds a fun interior touch.
Facing on the top inside:
Because of the wide waist and the neck zipper, I don't need to use the buttons to take the dress on and off, so I won't find out until it's time to use it for nursing if I left enough room to do it comfortably. Meanwhile I think they add such a cute, double-breasted touch to the dress! They are some of my favorites from my new additions to the button stash and I have a few left for another project yet.
I used a bodkin for the first time to turn the belts and it made the process a lot easier! I definitely recommend.
I simply turned up and top stitched the sleeve and hem edges since it's an everyday dress...that saved some time, so the only hand sewing was the neck facing, hand picked zipper, and the buttons. Once more my one step buttonhole foot came in handy.
I really like the way the front panel looks. It is very comfy, and there is plenty of room for expansion. On me it looks like a maternity dress at the moment, but on my mannequin (whose size I used to be) it looks very trim. I have a dress pattern of similar design actually intended for maternity which would need less alterations and has all the pattern pieces, so I don't know if I'll do this pattern again - I may just stick with the other. At least I'm pretty sure now I will like it when I do make it up.
Because it is for everyday, I merely accessorized it with my comfy red 1940s slingbacks. A brooch distracts from the buttons, and a house dress like this one most likely wouldn't have been worn out of the house, so gloves and hat weren't necessary. Another time I might add red nail polish and a bracelet, but otherwise leave it simple.
This was yet another one of those projects I cut out, eventually got around to putting the front together (the difficult part since I had to figure out how to make it work with buttons), then had to drag myself to work on it more...until I actually sat down and started. Then it was a breeze to finish and really enjoyable. I guess it really helps to take my own procrastination advice! ;-)
The dress is trim, breezy, and comfortable - everything a house dress should be. Despite the few hitches in the process, I'm fairly pleased with this dress, chalk it down as another successful learning curve, and am definitely ready to keep experimenting with maternity-friendly vintage dresses in the future.
The classic trench coat is a style that has been in fashion with very little change since the 1940s, which makes it a great easy to find addition to your costume wardrobe without having to make one. Mine is this modern lightweight lavender coat, scored at a thrift store years ago for a dollar or two, which I break out every spring.
It's very basic, with straight lines, a tie belt, buttons down the front, collar, and patch pockets. All very typical of 1940s coats, which were yet another civilian way to incorporate military styles in their fashion. This particular style is very practical and turned out to be extremely popular and worn yet today.
While a lot - perhaps most - 1940s trench coats were double breasted, there were also the single breasted coats like this one, so you don't have to worry about accuracy in that regard when coat shopping.
In the 1950s, trench coats tended to be either boxier and worn without a belt (though belts were also worn), so the style we know today is most suitable, costume wise, for the 1940s era.
Long coats were usually the same length as the dress hem, or perhaps a little shorter as hem lines varied from year to year - but never, never longer than the dress underneath - something to keep in mind if you want to look well put together.
While trench coats are typically neutral colors today, especially khaki, in the 1940s they were often bright and interesting shades like mustard yellow, sky blue, forest green, etc. So again, the lavender color of this one is right on track - and it's surprisingly easy to pair with different outfits, something that I wasn't sure about when I got it.
One nice thing about a trench coat style is that it isn't fitted at the waist, which makes it adjustable and more likely to fit different body types, rather than a princess style coat - also a popular vintage style from the 1930s on.
This was my Palm Sunday ensemble this year. I paired the coat with a season-transitional dress I made for Thanksgiving a few years ago. It's another one of those dresses that was too big for me and now fits me again, with an alternate (i.e adjustable) belt. :-)
I still want to make another one eventually in a solid color so the details show better - and try narrower ruffles this time.
Once again...wind made pictures challenging.
I always enjoy a change from my heavy winter coats and sweaters once it's spring enough to wear my light coats! When it costs practically nothing, is suitable vintage style, and I didn't have to make it, so much the better!
I have to say that I'm not a fan of a lot of modern maternity clothes. Too tight. Nor do I want to look like a walking tent. I am hoping that the vintage maternity patterns I have - from back in the day when it was in good taste to disguise your pregnancy as much as possible - will turn out to be helpful with being tastefully dressed even when I feel like a lumbering walrus.
Not that I've ever felt like a lumbering walrus. But I've heard descriptions from friends who have experienced something similar towards the end of the third trimester, so I expect my time's coming.
Some of these vintage maternity patterns are quite creative, with a fitted front or back and an adjustable panel on the other side, which means you can fit it to your particular size at any given time. I look forward to seeing how well it works in real life.
There are also the classic 1950s styles with a narrow skirt that has a cut-out around the belly, and a long, drop-from-the-shoulders blouse. Though I think that is less becoming, especially on women with wider shoulders (aka me).
However, I'm not limited to just the few patterns I have labeled "maternity". As I looked through my pattern stash, I was surprised how many dress patterns are suitable, especially in the early stages when you just need a bit more room. First of all, just princess seam dresses without the restricting waist seam will work for a while.
Peplums and inverted pleats can help to disguise the growing bump as well.
Wrap dress styles are still used for maternity.
For later on, there are dresses with releasable gathers on the front or side, draw strings, or waistless like my recent project. Of course they are shown with a belt, but that can be easily omitted. Some of these may not fit all the way through the pregnancy, but on the other hand they don't look "maternity" either, since they weren't intended to be. So they can be worn afterwards too.
You will likely see makes of most of these patterns appearing on the blog in the next few months.
I also know that many women's bodies mature and change after their first pregnancy (not everyone can fit back in their wedding dresses after a few sit-ups), so it's a good idea to avoid making super fitted dresses at this stage when you don't know if you will be able to wear them again. With that in mind, a dress like this pink striped one that I made last year I find very comfortable for early pregnancy. No belt, a waist that hits above the belly, the bias skirt has some give to it around the hips and plenty of fullness under the pleat in the front, and since it has a blousy, button-down bodice, I will be able to wear it after the baby comes even if I do develop into a different shape. (Though of course I'm going to try very hard to regain a trim figure afterwards.) Another version of this pattern is in the works.
For afterwards, I can look for normal dresses that open down the front - or can be made to open down the front. Almost any dress with a center front bodice seam can be made to open with an invisible zipper, or buttons - though that means a bit more alteration since it either has to overlap or have a modesty panel and button loops. A dress with a center front seam means you can put a longer zipper in and do away with a side zipper altogether, which makes it easier to get in and out of.
There's always the classic tunic for a more modern look. Similarly, shirt style blouse patterns from the 1940s and 1950s that are not fitted at the waist are also fairly easy to find, and can be worn tucked in when you're trim, and out over top when needed.
I've also discovered that it's a good thing to have a range of pattern sizes is the stash and some too-big clothes in your wardrobe - you know, the ones that didn't fit you anymore but you didn't want to get rid of. There is a stage where a few extra inches at the waist doesn't need to be cinched in with a belt anymore. When I was closet purging before I got married, my mother warned me not to get rid of all the clothes too big for me since I lost weight, and I'm glad I listened. It's called being between sizes, though it also means keeping a larger wardrobe on hand, and one where what fits you well fluctuates at any given time.
But of course, for some days it's awfully nice to have in your wardrobe some modern dresses, skirts, and tops in the comfy knits we've come to enjoy - things that will stretch, have elastic waist seams, or with empire waists. They can be pretty too.
Of course, some of this still remains theory. As I actually make and wear different outfits as the pregnancy progresses, I'll be able to experiment with just what does work best in real life!
And I just got some yummy new fabric, so it's time to get back to the sewing machine...
Item of the week is this pair of gorgeous chocolate brown suede 1950s sandals, size 7.5-8. Half price for one week only, they are slashed from $35.
Also, in honor of Easter coming this month and the long standing tradition to break out spring hats on that day, use the coupon code 10OFFHATS to get 10% off any hat in my shop, vintage or crocheted. Sale runs all month long.
I've finally gotten interested in sewing again after a few rather unproductive months at the sewing machine. Before warm weather fully arrives, I made a transitional late 1930s dress that is in fall and winter colors, but with short sleeves and lightweight fabric so it can be worn all year.
I used some rayon suiting with a fine plaid pattern, and was very pleased with the fabric and how it behaved during the construction process.
The dress is unique - it has no waist seam, but rather front and back panels are gathered into a round yoke. A belt at your natural waistline makes the waist. That is very handy for a good fit, but you do have to keep checking to make sure the gathers remain even. Another plus is that with both bust and waist free, if you can fit it to your shoulders you don't have to worry about sizing. A few inches more or less wouldn't be a problem.
The yoke construction was easy to do - though I didn't help myself by sewing the sides together as if they were the center front first and needing to undo an entire serged seam!...
I double stitched the yoke for trim and to keep it lying flat. The embossed antique buttons are a thrift store find and likely older even than the original pattern. I had four tiny ones, so they were a perfect choice.
Sewing the wrong seam was my fault...but the other headache was working with the velvet for collar and cuffs! After ripping the lining seam several times I had to hand baste the layers together before stitching them on the machine. Then I finally gave up trying to put on the collar the way they told me, hand basted the collar in place, then did a bias neck facing over it all. The cuffs I didn't even try to face after the collar fiasco - I just serged the edge, turned it up, and hand stitched it underneath to make a band instead of a flip up cuff. So much easier, and though it's narrower, it has the same basic look.
With velvet, a serger is your friend!
Because it's a late '30s pattern, the skirt is longer and a lot wider than styles both before and after. I imagine in cotton it would be too poofy, but the limpness of rayon makes it hang nicely, with graceful movement when I walk.
I need more black and/or elastic belts, so I don't keep wearing ones that look a little too...1980s. But I do love my 1930s original gauntlets! The brown leather inserts into the thin black rayon gabardine make them a perfect match for the dress. The fingers are a little worn and mended, but I still like these gloves - a find at an antique store years ago.
And - I'm so excited - I finally have a pair of Miss L Fire shoes! I've been watching Ebay for years to find one of their lovely reproductions in my size and a low price range, and my patience paid off when I finally scored these beauties. I was a little concerned that the tan would be too orange in person and I wouldn't end up with much to wear them with, but after seeing all the outfits Lily accessorizes with her pair like these, I decided to risk it and am glad I did!
They have the classic 1940s shape (with a tad bit of adjustability thanks to the strap and buckle), but with the diamond motif on the toe I think they also have a 1930s flair - certainly suitable for late '30s like this dress. They are comfortable too. I absolutely love my collection of vintage heels, but it is nice to have a reproduction pair with modern comfort for wearing in rough weather or all day. And they fit perfectly too! Now I look forward to discovering what I can wear them with and hopefully find some new and adventurous wardrobe combinations.
Now for the confession...I've had a secret, and won't be able to keep it much longer, because it's a secret that becomes self evident, if you know what I mean. I've had this pattern for a while and probably would not have bumped it up to the top of my sewing queue, except that my sewing queue for the next year or so suddenly needed certain adjustments. It's time to sew maternity friendly vintage, as we prepare to welcome a new little member of the family in September!
(And this one, while not intended to be maternity, works perfectly. I can use a narrower belt, or leave it off altogether as the months progress and because of the shaping it shouldn't look like a tent.)
I'm just starting to get a little bit of a baby bump now! Over the next month or two it should grow a lot more noticeable.
So suddenly, all those dresses I made just a few months ago don't fit, and might not again for a long time. (So much for trying my Christmas dress with summer accessories! :-) And all the maternity or could-be maternity patterns in my stash got a top place in my sewing priority; also for a while after the birth, I'll be limited to patterns that open down the front.
However, I've already found a lot of fun in being creative about it. Quite a few patterns that don't open down the front can be altered to do so. This dress is one of them - under the yoke I added a short invisible zipper. So I should be able to wear this dress both now as non-maternity, throughout the entire summer as I grow, and after the birth. Definitely making the most of my sewing time!
I know...these pictures look like drab winter. Spring really is almost here, but the grass hasn't greened up quite yet here at the ranch. So the colors of the dress are still appropriate. All my next projects, though, are floral and light colored cottons and rayons! Because it's almost April! And it's time to plan an Easter dress!
Aside from the few hiccups that slowed the process, I enjoyed sewing this dress (finished in two days) and am glad to get back to the machine. Already I can tell the next few weeks will be a lot more productive!
I've mentioned before how I like to use vintage millinery flowers with wire stems in my hairstyles. The only difficulty is they can be hard to find, come in odd colors and sizes, and often are crushed, stained, or have other flaws from being poorly stored, or simply from age.
A cheaper and more readily available option is paper flowers.
There is a huge variety of these available, ranging from large roses to tiny baby's breath. My favorite size for hairstyling are blooms about 1 1/2 inch in diameter, like these dainty daises.
Because they have wire stems, they are easy to arrange in your hair and generally the stems are invisible because they are so thin. I usually don't need to pin them in at all in a structured hairstyle like this one, but a bobby pin underneath that crosses the stem is sure to secure it if your hair is loose.
Hair flowers are popular today with ladies styling the vintage look, and with good reason. They are very period correct in almost any placement, size, and combination. They add a dash of color to your hair, often coordinating with the outfit, and are (my favorite reason) incredibly helpful in hiding a not quite smooth roll or wave, or filling an unbecoming space in your curls. If your hairstyle didn't turn out as symmetrical as you were hoping, hair flowers on one side can make it look intentionally asymmetrical. They can add height to a lower hairstyle, or width to a built-up one. If you need to soften the edges of a wave or roll, tuck in some small flowers behind it to fill it in. Their uses are endless!
In the 1940s, hair flowers reached their peak of popularity. You can find pictures of them worn in every way, from a few dainty blossoms...
...to the slightly more outrageous.
A rose clipped over the ear on one side or both sides was popular, or nestled in an up-do. But pretty much any placement anywhere in any hairstyle was acceptable. See the variety in these vintage images.
By the 1950s, hair flowers had largely gone out of fashion, though flower covered hats and headbands were very popular (as well as flower wreaths or headbands for brides). But after some searching I did find a few images of 1950s hairstyles sporting flowers.
One benefit of paper flowers is they are so pose-able and lightweight, as well as cost-efficient and realistic. But on the other hand, you don't want to get them wet, and though usually pretty sturdy, they can be crushed. So far the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, in my experience, and I love how cheap and easy to find they are, and how many colors and sizes are available - something that is not the case with vintage millinery flowers.
Daisies in particular add a breath of spring to your outfit.
Incidentally, this is another case when a hairnet is an instant fix for a disaster hairstyle. Instead of working for a long time trying to tame too-wild curls with pokey ends, a hairnet smooths it all down and tucks it all up - like magic!
Hair flowers are quintessentially feminine, perfect for everyday or dress-up occasions, stay put for worry free hairstyles if you initially secure them well, and add a lift to your mood and special touch to your outfit, while staying relatively out of the way of small fingers, if you have children - unlike a corsage, brooch, or necklace. I just need to add more colors to my collection!