Sunday, March 21, 2010

My Summer Dresses....Part Two

I love to sew pretty things - it is such a creative outlet. However, this was not always the case as my family and my dear friend Brookie will attest....many a time they saw me throw a dress to the ground (or across the room!!!) in sheer frustration, because I couldn't get it to come together as I envisioned! I have always loved creating things and would hand make dresses and outfits for my Barbie Dolls as a child, but as I grew older the needles and threads began to gather dust. It wasn't until my grandmother in law passed away, and I  inherited her sewing machine and substantial sewing equipment (she was a seamstress at a factory), that my love for sewing was rekindled. Initially I began by making drapes and cushions etc for our house, but as I began to get immersed in vintage culture, I discovered that making vintage look dresses was tremendously satisfying.

It seems that women in the 1950's were alot shorter and more petite than I, hence, being very tall, I would find the waist lines of vintage dresses were more princess line on me! What to do? I began having sewing afternoons with Brookie who had a wealth of patience, and an awesome collection of vintage sewing patterns from the 1920's to the 1960's. We would make up dresses from these patterns, while I learnt from Brooke some valuable tips such as how to suit a fabric to a pattern or style, and the necessity of matching pattern measurements to your size, instead of simply going on the sizes stipulated on the front of the pattern (the sizings have changed over the years). Any skill or love of creating vintage clothing I pretty much owe to Brooke and her inspiring cases of patterns!

The final stage in my clothing making education came when I bought myself a maniquin off ebay. If you are interested in sewing your own clothing, I cannot stress highly enough the importance of getting yourself a maniquin - at least, it has made a world of difference for me. I can fit things properly now, and it also allows me to experiment and change things with the ease of knowing they will fit and 'work'. I am also blessed to have a local, and utterly brilliant dressmaker in town for a friend (love you Jean!) on whom I can call if I ever find myself in a jam !

For me the learning element of sewing and creating does not end.....I have recently obtained a 1951 McCalls entire pattern book....the Bible for any vintage sewers or fashion lovers ! The next step for me will be to learn to create patterns for outfits from these images....this will no doubt involve some sort of short course, but the inspiration of these fabulous pictures is enough to motivate me !!

Here are the remaining dresses from my 'summer collection' little maniquin (my display girl - not my creation maniquin which is an ugly bright red) will be making a number of trips to various local destinations over the coming seasons, so be sure and stay tuned for her adventures !

Above is a pretty, flowey vintage fabric (my guess is 1960's or 1970's) that I received in a bundle of old patterns etc. I made it up to a reproduction McCalls vintage evening dress pattern top and simply popped an A line skirt on the bottom - I really do need to make this one again as it looks quite lovely on !

A simple green spotted 'wiggle dress' - this is actually some Christmas quilters cotton material, but I thought  was a nice variation of the whole spotted look - love the inclusion of aqua in there !

You might recognise this material from Part One - I loved it so much that I made up two dresses from it - just in case one was in the wash when I wanted to wear it !! This one has a standard top and a pleated skirt which looks very flattering and 'Grace Kelly' or 'Betty Draper' like when worn.

Hmmmm, this pink one was a triumph in sewing, but somewhat of a disaster in style. It looks so dowdy on me that I am thinking of taking the skirt off and making it a strait one (instead of full circle) to try and 'lift' the whole look....I am not going for 1950's grandmother style ! And I was so proud of the lace detail at the sleeve and collar - oh well!


Ok, so three photos (at the same angle !!) of the one dress is a bit over board, but I do love this one ! I very rarely wear it as it is quite tisey for alot of the events I attend, but it is oh so beautiful ! The fabric was from the Sydney '50s Fair at Rose Seidler House and I must confess I had this one made up for me by Jean - I was lacking in confidence of my own abilities and didn't want to wreak this lovely material ! I designed the dress, drew it for Jean and she made it up for me...and I am delighted with it....very easy to feel like a little girl playing princesses in this floaty number !

One thing I have learnt in sewing is to simply have a go! So many people tell me they would love to be able to make their own clothes but don't have skill....well, no one has the skill until the practise and have a go ! It took me many failures, alot of patience and perseverance to reach a point where I can actually have some pride in what I create, dive in and try, there is nothing like the sense of achievement and satisfaction it brings in the end !!

If you would like to undertake a sewing course, particularly a vintage one, then I recommend contacting the girls at Thread Den in Melbourne for all the help you could possibly need ! (If there are any such places in other cities world wide, then please contact me and let me know - I will include them in this post.)


  1. Perfect for your svelte figure! Just divine, have thoroughly enjoyed your showcase! Do you summer styles flow in Autumn's cooler days with the petite cardigans? Look forward to winter sneak peaks of your glamorous style!

  2. All those dresses look fantastic, well done! I hope you can salvage the pink one, it looks like lots of work went into it!

  3. Making your own clothes is such a skill to have. I can't think of anything more valuable (in the world of fashion) than being able to create something no one else will ever have. Your dresses look so amazing! Even the dowdy one :-D You can use it as a house dress - if it's comfortable it is still more fashionable than any pair of trackpants! :-D

  4. I've got my sewing hat on too making some new frocks for wintersun. I cannot tell you how excited I am to be a part of it this year and so looking forward to having a plethora of opportunities to get frocked up with all the girls.
    The dresses you have here are just beautiful!

  5. Wow. Wow. Absolutely beautiful! I love to sew my own clothing, but I have never seen such lovely dresses before! Did you use vintage patterns? Thanks for the inspiration... I now need to go get out my sewing machine and try a couple vintage patterns I've had floating around for forever!



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