This vintage sewing kit is complete with everything you need to make your very own 1950s skirt. It is Item of the Week in my Etsy shop, half price for one week only - slashed from $20.
This vintage sewing kit is complete with everything you need to make your very own 1950s skirt. It is Item of the Week in my Etsy shop, half price for one week only - slashed from $20.
One of my favorite ways to dress up in vintage style for everyday is to incorporate sweaters during the cooler months. Sweaters with 1940s styling are easily found in thrift stores and are generally very comfortable to wear for everyday since they have no motion restriction.
I've written before about wearing sweaters as a collegiate style, but sweaters were actually worn by women of all ages and occupations, so they can be quite suitable for anyone to incorporate into their wardrobe.
There are many different pictures available of women in the 1940s wearing sweaters which can give us a wide range of options when we are sweater shopping. As a 1940s sweater buying guide, you should look for two different styles. One comes just to the waist, or just past it. This type of sweater was generally worn as a blouse. It could be button down or pullover. This kind of sweater might not have shoulder pads; it could have gently puffed sleeves of any length (short sleeves were common) and usually was fitted at the waist while it could remain a little more blousy or be fitted on the top.
This cardigan has cute front detail, shoulder pads, and a collar.
Loretta Young wears a more casual style here - a fitted pullover with a novelty design, and a rare turtleneck.
The other style you can look for is a longer cardigan, which would have been worn as a jacket, sometimes even instead of a suit jacket. This type of sweater, always button-down (or even closing with a front zipper), usually has shoulder pads and is generally in more of a jacket style. Close the top button on these and button them all the way as long as the sweater is hip length.
Here's a sweater that is a jacket replica. Notice the crossed scarf to fill in the neck - a great idea!
This color block knitted sweater zips up the front and has a plain high neckline.
The cardigan I'm wearing falls in the 2nd category. It has patch pockets and cute sleeve detail. It did not originally have shoulder pads, but the nice thing about shoulder pads are they are super easy to add to a finished garment like I did here.
I paired it with a vintage dickey and one of my new finds at an antique store - a dangling heart 1940s brooch.
Another style you can look for would be a long pullover to be worn with a belt, or if you want a sloppier teenage look, a slightly too-big sweater can be paired with a simple skirt and bobby socks. No belt.
Here are some less fitted schoolgirl style sweaters. Notice the initials at the neck of the one on the left.
Things to Look For
Sweaters in the 1940s often were solid colors, sometimes with shoulder detail. If they were unadorned, a lady would often wear a brooch or some sort of decoration on the shoulder. Novelty designs in sweaters were very common (hearts, arrows, animals, etc), and fair isle was popular especially for ski sweaters. Sweaters of some style or other could be worn for almost every dress code, including evening wear, though that was less common.
Fair isle pullover, a little longer than some. A ski type of sweater but since it's short sleeve, probably not worn for skiing!
Sweaters often were blouse style, worn as blouses, and would have collars. This is not so common today, but don't worry - many sweaters were without collars back then as well. A plain round close neck was common, but if you have a sweater with a V, wear it with an undershirt or dickey that sports a collar - preferably white. The rule of thumb is if you have a sweater or jacket with a lapel or collar, wear a plain round neck dickey (maybe with a bow for a fussier style). If the sweater or jacket has a plain neck, wear it with a dickey with a collar.
V neck simple cardigans, worn with white collared blouses or dickeys.
If you are crafty, you can make 1940s sweaters yourself! Many vintage knitting patterns for lovely sweaters are available online and you can make the real thing.
Most of these guidelines apply to other eras of sweaters as well. 1930s sweaters might have more neck and shoulder detail, worn belted, and often sported raglan sleeves and button embellishments. 1950s sweaters were usually plain and snug, always without shoulder pads, and sweater sets were in vogue. So if you know what to look for and what to pair it with, these can be some of the easiest modern pieces to incorporate into your costumes or vintage-themed wear of any decade.
With these guidelines, just keep the options in mind when sweater shopping. A plain cardigan when worn with a white collared blouse and an A line skirt is a great, easy to find, everyday style for comfort for us vintage dressing gals, and still can be worn as a period correct costume if paired with the right accessories.
(All pictures not of me were found in the public domain.)
I've always loved the pleated, wide cummerbund belts so common on formal wear and little girls' dresses. Recently when sewing a dress for a special occasion (check back next week for photos!) I was wishing to spice up the normal matching belt a little just for an extra elegant touch, and had the idea to make a narrow, easy version of a pleated cummerbund. Enter the Pleated Belt.
It's easy! And quick!
To make it, cut out 2 pieces of fabric 3 in. wide and about 3 in. longer than your waist measurement. There is lots of leeway here for your own creativity. If you want a wider belt or one with a wider pleat, you can easily just cut the belt wider.
Because of its construction, you won't want to use interfacing unless you're using a sheer fabric. Then you can cut out an interfacing of muslin. For my belt I used just the 2 pieces of rayon.
Sew down one long side, across a short end, and up the other long side, using a 3/8 in. seam (presser foot width). This way you shouldn't need to trim the seam allowance. Clip the corners; leave the other narrow end open.
Turn and press the belt.
Turn in the open end and top stitch it shut. At this point it's reversible and so far it's been like any other belt.
Now to make the pleat you fold it in half horizontally, with the long sides together, and stitch the fold at 3/8 in. seam allowance. Keep the edges even, and make sure both piece of folded fabric are smooth under the sewing machine foot.
Next you can open up the belt. The fold will stick up in the middle. You can flatten the fold you just stitched by pushing it down on the top so the fold's seam is in the center bottom of the fold, and press it flat. You may need to press with some care to keep it even and flatten it sufficiently. This forms the pleat, and gives enough sturdiness to the belt that it should retain its shape without interfacing. It will end up about 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 in. wide.
Sew a skirt hook and eye or a large snap to the ends, with the top-stitched end underneath. You can try it on and adjust the overlap for the perfect fit. Then hide the ends under a flower clip for a perfect vintage-y touch! (I wear it here as vintage appropriate but of course you can wear it with modern outfits too.)
Flowers were often worn at the waist, especially for formal or dressier gowns. Wear the closure and flower in the center, or off to the side, depending on what looks best. And presto! A quick and easy pleated belt to add just the right special touch to a special outfit.
Thanks for stopping by this month!
Till next time,
~Kristen - Verity Vintage Studio
Look for my new tutorials posted sometime during the first full week of every month. Hairstyles, crafts, repurposing, project journals, do-it-yourself vintage or alterations, etc.
I finally pulled out and made up a piece of fabric that has been in my stash from back when I first started making vintage clothing and found the print on the Red Tag rack at JoAnn. I like it so much stitched up that I only wish now I'd gotten more of it!
The dress has long been on my to make list, and I realized after looking at the illustrations more closely that it was a princess style dress with triple front darts. So I jumped it up to the top of my sewing queue and made it out of the little-over-3-yards of this cotton print.
The bonus of a princess style dress is that it can be worn without a belt - perfect for a house dress!
I do love the front darts, and with a dress like this it's easy to adjust for size since instead of folding the pattern pieces to make the torso shorter, I just nip in the waist a little higher up.
I did make some changes to the dress. I did not do the neck band quite like the photo (crossing it instead of looping it back and tied it with a ribbon), and made it of a contrasting fabric - a fine-ribbed cotton beige corduroy. The darts and the neck shirring are the only fancy elements of the dress - it's just enough to keep it from being too plain, but not too challenging to whip up in a few hours - especially since there are only 4 pattern pieces to make the entire dress.
Then I can pair it with a belt and gloves to jump it up from house dress to a run-to-the-store or receiving-calls dress.
I made it longer than specified and raised the neck opening V. But the major modification I did to this dress was, besides sizing it up a few inches, I added some seam allowance and cut the neck band in half to allow me to use the back center seam for a long zipper. That makes a dress so much easier to put on and off, and I was glad I did that extra bit of work instead of a side zipper.
In case you wanted to know, turning a 1 in. belt made of corduroy takes a looooong time and is hard on the fingernails!
Then to take the dress all the way up to an about-town or church dress, I switched out accessories and put on the matching corduroy bolero I made. I usually don't like non-fitted styles on me, but the cropped, loose look over top of a fitted dress is so 1930s...and I can always overlap and pin it at the waist if I want it fitted.
The bolero was easy to put together with just a few darts for shaping. I used the sleeves from another pattern and fiddled with the facing a little bit. Because it matches the neck band it makes a nice layered matching look, which I like, but each of them can be worn separately and I definitely can use a beige outerwear garment in my wardrobe.
I also got to wear my new 1930s hat, and some vintage style blue fabric laced Aerosoles heels. I do love the notched back hem of the bolero and it is quite warm, actually. (Pardon the very not Art Deco background...)
Unlike many of my sewing projects which get an outing once or a couple times a year, I've already found myself wearing this dress on its own a lot as a nicer everyday dress. It's flattering and comfortable. Another version from this pattern is definitely on my to do list!
So far this year has been the year of sewing 1930s patterns. I guess to make up for the one or two I have made so far, I've been sewing almost exclusively 1930s things since 2016 turned the corner, with a few 1950s things thrown in for good measure. Here I'm going to show you three of my latest projects, which I created both to fill needs in my wardrobe and to mix and match for different and distinct looks.
This skirt is one of the few times I've used a modern or reprinted pattern - I'm sure you'll recognize it as McCalls' MP384. I believe it's out of print but still easy to find.
It's a quintessentially 1930s skirt, with the yoke and pleat detail. I have to confess...I skipped the lining instructions for the yoke, so the inside looks kind of untidy, and I cheated when doing the waist so it's not as high as originally intended. But I figure if I don't care, it's all good.
When I was deciding what to do about a skirt pattern, I remembered Lily's amazing 1930s outfit and decided to check out which skirt pattern she had used. Here it was McCall's MP384, which I already owned and had been thinking of making anyway! So I went ahead with it and while it wasn't the easiest to put together it wasn't too bad and I was very pleased with the style lines when finished.
I used a short vintage metal zipper for the closure, and did a narrow hem and it still ended up shorter than I expected, so next time I think I'll lengthen it a bit. Classic 1930s styles were fairly long.
The blouse is from a 1950s pattern, but I have an almost identical one from the 1930s so I decided to make it up so I could hopefully wear it with both eras. The bow on the neckline and the gathered yoke and puffy sleeves do look 1930s! What do you think? Does it work?
The pattern I used...
...and a similar one from the 1930s...
It was a fabric hog. I was hoping to get 2 blouses out of this length of white rayon, but after cutting out this blous there isn't much left. But on the other hand, I like it a lot and badly needed some tuck-in white blouses for my closet!
These sleeves are flattering and very non-restricting but not very handy to wear inside a coat!
And to insert a short rhapsody here, oh how I love my serger! To take a mess of gathering threads and fraying edges and turn it into a neatly bound narrow edge is like magic.
For these photos I pulled out a pair of petal pink gloves with the cutest cuffs to add a touch of spring, and wore a belt from another project using this fabric.
My vintage button and rhinestone earrings from a favorite Etsy shop are the exact same shade of teal, too.
But when I want to wear a 2 piece dress, I can wear my 3rd piece - a matching blouse from a 1940 pattern.
It was very easy to make, with just three pieces to cut out plus the bias facing. Just lots and lots of tucks to do all the shaping!
(And lots and lots more tucks!)
The pattern had a Peter Pan collar but I decided to leave the neck plain so I could get a chance to wear some of my little used vintage collars.
Of course I can remove the collar and wear it plain as well, so it has options.
I have to say how very much I love wide fabric! I got 4 yards of 60 in. teal rayon suiting, and out of those 4 yards I got the dress I posted about earlier, and these two pieces, and still have enough left to use as contrast on something else yet.
I've often thought how funny it is that sewing used to be the cheap way to get your own clothes, but usually it doesn't work out that way for me since we exclusively shop at thrift stores. I might pay $5-$7 for a dress at a thrift store, but the fabric to make it will cost between $12-$15, so it's a lot more about the love of sewing for me than budgeting.
On the other hand, when I can get 4 yards of rayon for only $3 a yard and can get 3 garments out of it, that is thrift store prices! So once in a while sewing is still actually the economical way to go.
I know this 2 piece is actually a mix of styles, with a classic 1930s skirt and a later style of blouse, so while I may not wear them together as a costume, I like the ability to wear them together and separately. Solid color skirts are needed in my closet, as well as dark solid blouses, so this outfit scored on several points.
I love the way the skirt pleats play when walking. Oh, and the double buttons! I've been wanting to do something with buttons grouped in twos, and finally got it done. I like how it looks, so I'm sure I'll do it again on future projects
This was a trial and I overcorrected my usual problem with too long of a torso and made this waist too short. I'm hoping it looks okay anyway because of the style, and now I know for next time.
And...one last picture because I like my hat so much and it went so well with my outfit.
I don't know...even with the mixed styles I'm hoping it looks pretty 1930s anyway!
Progress on my Christmas outfit is slow, but I finally have pictures of the blue 1950s housedress I made weeks ago. I made it right before we moved, and obviously moving and unpacking doesn't leave much time for pictures. Then when I started getting caught up on the work, the weather didn't cooperate and I don't have a good place to take indoor pictures (we'll see how that goes this winter...) But at any rate, here it finally is!
I used some nice cotton shirting, in a practical shade and pattern for everyday wear, and this pattern.
I've found it to be quite easy care (the cotton blend looks only a tad wrinkly so I usually don't bother ironing it) and comfortable to wear for everyday. It's a dark print, so it can be worn in just about every season; since it's a thin cotton even with the 3/4 sleeves I can wear it in summer, or add a white sweater and wear it just as comfortably in colder weather.
It was very easy to make, and I kept it simple. I love the way the skirt is done, with the front fullness that is still nice and trim at the waist due to the inside tucks. This is also the dress that I first used my vintage hem ruler on.
In the back, it only has a few darts, and the skirt is fairly narrow.
This was one project I didn't need to debate over finding the perfect buttons. These cute nautical thrifted buttons I paired with the fabric almost immediately and was so pleased with how it turned out!
The dress may be a tad more constraining than a modern spandex-cotton blouse or sweater, but I've found it certainly comfortable enough to work in without inconvenience.
Apart from the buttons, the only trim is a little bias band around each sleeve, and of course the wing collar and shoulder gathers.
Keeping it simple for the housedress-style outfit, I only paired it with my Two Old Beans vintage pumps and pearl earrings for these photos. And of course a thrifted belt that I hadn't gotten much wear out of previous to wearing it with this dress, which it matches perfectly.
As a little aside...I've also been experimenting with my hair, trying to soften it up so it still will retain the curls and yet not look so frizzy after a hair wash and new curl set. I keep striving for that perfect smoothly rippled look you see in vintage photos, where the hair is well brushed (not ring-letty) yet still well shaped. I tried a slightly different curler size arrangement, and added more conditioner to my hair washings, and think I've succeeded since this day's hairstyle looks softer and better controlled than the 1930s gold blouse photos, which was also a fresh set. Also it's easier to brush.
But at any rate, I do definitely enjoy my new housedress (it certainly has been a nice addition to my everyday wardrobe) and feel very 1950s when I put it on. In case you didn't know, daily chores around the house are much more pleasant to do when you're wearing a vintage dress and maybe a cheerful apron, and have your hair styled! If you don't believe me, try it and see. :-)
I seized one sunny day between two snowy ones to sneak in some fall photos with one of my more recent projects, my new 1930s blouse.
Though I have many 1930s patterns to make on my sewing queue, somehow I have only managed to actually make two 1930s blouses from that list, of which this is one.
It was a sort of trial version for a future project, for which I wanted a blouse that could be worn tucked or untucked. This one I thought might fit the bill.
And it does work both tucked and untucked, so that was a winner! In fact, since the peplum is fitted, it seems to stay tucked in better than loose blouses with a shirt-tail hem.
I used the Thistleberry fabric leftover from my gold dress. It's such a good color for autumn wear!
I adapted the pattern a little by putting the zipper upside down and opening from under the arm all the way down to the hem. It makes a wonderful difference with the ease in getting it over my head and shoulders! I'm going to incorporate that idea in other sewing projects, where applicable.
I also changed up the pattern a little by lining the peplum instead of using a bias facing. I don't like bias facings that much, and thought for a peplum where the underside might show, a double layer of fabric might be better. And as a bonus, it encased the zipper for me. Much more comfortable.
It was a simple pattern overall and quick to make, with a few of those little details that make vintage fashion so special.
I found when I was putting the outfit together that I have a terrible lack of solid color skirts, and 1930s style skirts. That's something I'm going to fix! This one doesn't coordinate very well; next time I'll do better.
But the blouse did go well with one of my few 1930s hats.
The style of the blouse has more ease across the shoulders than some I've made from other eras, so it's actually quite comfortable to wear for everyday and is a useful piece in my fall wardrobe. Time to make more 1930s garments - after my Thanksgiving dress is finished, anyway.
Need a hairstyling secret? Hairnets are it. The right kind of hairnets. They can save a bad hair day in a perfectly authentic manner!
There are several kinds of hairnets, but I'm going to share with you the type I've found to work the best – these neat vintage-style envelopes, with two fine-gauge hairnets inside. (The type of hairnet is what I recommend, not necessarily this brand.)
They come in several different sizes – I use the Bob Size.
I will use the heavier gauge ones as well, but those I wear at night to keep my curls in curl-shape. They are lighter than a snood but much too heavy to be invisible. These really are practically invisible. They are super fine and very light weight, as you can see below. Yet they will corral all those stray ends or frizzes poking out from rolling your hair after it's washed (or at least, that's when I have trouble with mine).
Wearing a hairnet over a vintage 'do is also a good idea on a windy day, or when you want to keep your curls fresh for an evening event. They are invaluable for a rainy day when your curls might get damp and start drooping!
I also like them for summertime wear since my hair still looks “down” but it's kept off the back of my neck which helps a lot when it's hot outside.
These hairnets, however, since they are so fine, are most suitable for what they were designed for – wearing over an already arranged hairdo to keep it tidy, rather than holding up the weight of long or uncurled hair. If your hair is too long or not cut right for an authentic 1940s styling, one of the best ways to “cheat” is to wear a snood (heavier than a hairnet, can be crocheted or knitted) filled with your back hair, and do victory rolls with your front hair.
The only obvious part of the hairnet is the fine line of elastic that goes around your head. This can be disguised easily enough by wearing a narrow scarf or ribbon around your head on top of the elastic, like the lady in the ad below.
Or, like in this case, I saved out a front section of my hair on each side, and did the rolls over top of the elastic. This hid the elastic and secured it at the same time since the bobby pins went through the net to hold the rolls.
The little stretch of elastic still visible across the top was easily hidden by a few vintage millinery flowers which I find a handy hair accessory.
And all the better – wearing flowers this way is a great typical vintage look found in many magazines and photos from the '40s.
Yes, this type of nets are fragile, but unless you tear it by getting it caught in your necklace clasp or in a barrette, each one will last through quite a few wearings. And they are inexpensive enough that, with 2 nets per package, you can afford to replace them when needed.
So if you haven't tried them yet, I highly recommend it!
Find a good selection in all colors and sizes here (different picture on envelope).
There are many different types of personal styles in the fascinating fashion decade that is the 1940s, from cotton print wrap housedresses to sophisticated shirred dresses, worn with tilt hats and furs. One of the easiest to put together, especially from modern wardrobes, is the simple styles worn by teens and college age girls.
Most 1940s dresses and blouses had a defined waist, almost always with a belt. The one exception would be some sweaters and tunic length vests and blouses, which were frequently worn for the more comfortable casual outfits, like for study halls and classes. This type of top would often have pockets, or buttons down the side, and when worn with a short white skirt works for sportswear as well.
Example of youthful fashions of the 1940s, with an untucked top worn without a belt. Notice the hair bow and the simple hairstyles. See my version of this pattern here.
Thankfully, it's fairly easy to find sweaters and tunic length blouses in thrift stores, like this blue one I got for a few dollars. The basic slashed neck, loose ¾ sleeves, and patch pockets are very period correct. It should probably have shoulder pads, but those are easy to add. The fabric is a ribbed knit fabric which also gives it a more casual air like a sweater.
Some sweaters and long blouses could be worn belted, but also not, so you have some options with wear. If you find one, look for either long tops with a straight hem, like the one I'm wearing, or if it's a sweater, you can also do well with short cardigans and pullovers that come just to the hips or just past the hips. There are lots of great patterns out there for hand knit sweaters that can show you what to look for, if you glance over their illustrations, like the one below which shows a trim, short sweater in classic 1940s style.
Also from the 1940s, here's an example of a heavier sports sweater that zips up the front, and is worn longer with a belt.
For this type of outfit – very wearable in real life, by the way – you want to pair the top with an A line skirt preferably that can be just below the knee to mid-calf. Pleated skirts work great too, in solids or plaids.
You'll want to wear white ankle socks, with tops that fold down (I didn't have any so I had to make do), and for shoes wear something like these classic loafers, or lower wedge heels or sandals. Espadrilles can also be suitable but they have a little more summery flavor.
Hairstyles for schoolgirls were usually simple and well-brushed, since being well groomed was a very big part of being attractive, according to the women's magazines of the time. Hairbows could be worn, fitting in with the youthful look.
For this type of outfit you wouldn't need a hat, but if you wear a hat it should be a simple one with a round brim, a sailor type, a lightly trimmed felt cap or beret - all worn on the back of the head - or even a pixie knitted stocking cap!
Usually jewelry was kept to a minimum, with a brooch or fraternity pin on the shoulder, and perhaps a charm bracelet or bead necklace. Rings were popular.
Vintage images are the best inspiration, and Pinterest is a gold mine.. Notice the sweaters these girls are wearing - their low shoes, the simple hairstyles, and the universal white Peter Pan collar - another mark of a well-groomed girl was that touch of spotless white. But only if it was spotless!
These two ladies are modeling a more casual and dressy outfit suitable for college. Notice the round hat, off-the-face hairstyle, lack of jewelry and gloves, and the sensible shoes.
All these elements can be easy to collect from thrift stores if you know what to look for. And since a hat and seamed nylons and even gloves aren't necessary, it's a great outfit idea for a gal who wants to wear a costume but doesn't have the right accessories!