Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sewing Meltdowns, Sweet Boys

Readers, I don't want to be overly dramatic. But: I had a sewing meltdown today. I've been working on a skirt from a vintage Vogue Couturier pattern, and it was poised to be fabulous. Black boucle, high waist, back pleats, the whole deal. Except I somehow made it about two inches too small in the waist. And serged off the seam allowances. I actually broke the zipper trying it on. So I did what any of us would do - I flopped down dramatically on the bed and started crying.

Jeff gave me an excellent pep talk about creativity and art, and taking a break from the whole process. (He's a novelist so he understands these things.) And then little Henry came padding up, put his head down on my chest and collapsed sweetly into my arms, resulting in the photo above. (This is what a no makeup day looks like, in case you were curious.) Aren't my boys the sweetest?

So, as you might have gathered . . . I'm in a bad place, sewing-wise. I'm going to take the rest of the day to recuperate. I hope you all are having a better time of it than me! And, if not, don't be afraid to have a little cry and then relax a bit. There's always tomorrow, right?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday Set

You know what I love about the weekends? (Besides the obvious.) I can try really weird things with my hair sets and not worry about it looking totally freaky for work the next day. This look is a result of trying several different methods of wet curls, all in one set. I had some rag curls, large pin curls, and upright pin curls all going on it one shebang. No method to the madness really. But here's my question: why does this often turn out better than when I'm very methodical with my sets? That's life, I guess.

I was really aiming to get some good height on the bang portion, which I definitely succeeded in. This was a result of small pin curls rolled and set so they were standing up rather than smooshed down against my head. They weren't affected by sleeping on them at all, since I don't sleep face-down. (Do you? That's weird.) I should also metion that I haven't washed my hair in seven days and that I used a heck of a lot of LottaBody setting lotion. After brushing out the curls, I then finished the bangs off with some dry shampoo, which not only gets rid of greasiness, it helps with body and hold as well, since you can really get some good product build-up going on.

Yeah, I'm probably due for a good hairwash. Guess I know what I'm doing tonight. Sorry, boys! I'm busy washing my hair.

"Make It Crafty" Must Be Stopped! (Plus $3.99 Sale!)

Readers, there's an evil force threatening the integrity of sewists everywhere: McCall's "Make It Crafty" Patterns. This is a line of perfectly fine patterns that have been obscenely degraded with scattered lace appliques, big honkin' rosettes, and the over-enthusiastic use of bedazzling. Don't fall victim to its siren song!

The pattern jacket pictured above, for instance? Is from a collection of Chanel-inspired cardigan jackets that would be fabulous with some tasteful trim. Why, oh why, must it be made crafty?

Then there's this new knit top pattern. Perfectly acceptable in theory. Hey, I know! Let's throw some randomly placed crap on it!

Be careful, readers. I beseech you: Resist the urge to Make it Crafty!

Oh! And the impetus for this whole rant is that there's a $3.99 pattern sale going on at Vogue, Butterick, and McCall. Guess who's getting some new patterns?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Gertie, Girl Reporter {1.29.10}

It's that time of the week again! Here's a round-up of the best articles I read in fashion, pop culture, and feminism this week.

  • Sick of constantly hearing that you're wearing the wrong bra size? Yeah, so's Kate Harding.
  • Sick of hearing about "boyfriend jeans" and "boyfriend sweaters"? Yeah, so's Anna N. from Jezebel.
  • Um, the dictionary was banned from a school library? And then returned but put on restricted access? Hold me, I'm scared.
  • I was so relieved that I wasn't the only one disturbed by the latest Campbell Soup commercials, where women are shocked to learn that their lunches contain OMG 310 CALORIES!
  • Tina Fey's gonna be on the cover of Vogue! Yay!
  • So, you know that 13-year-old fashion blogger who's caused a big splash? Apparently she wore a big hat to a couture show, and all these bitchy fashion editors started tweeting about it in a back-stabby way. Way to be the adults there, guys.
  • Speaking of the couture shows, did you see any of the Dior images? I died over the cool equestrienne/dominatrix thing Monsieur Galliano had going on. (See above!)
Happy weekend, lovely friends!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

And the Winner Is . . .

. . . AMY! Amy, who entered last night, just in the nick of time, was chosen by random number generator. She will receive a copy of Lauren Rennell's awesome book Vintage Hairstyling.

Amy, I hope you'll show us the fabulous new styles you try out! To the rest of you, I hope you will support this wonderful author by ordering a copy of the book directly from her here. Thanks again to Lauren for sponsoring such a fantastic giveaway!

Hemming a Circle Skirt, Part Two

Here's the second part of this video tutorial on narrow-hemming a circle skirt! There are several ways to do this; this is the one that worked best for me. Another method is to use a narrow hemmer foot on your machine (check out this article for more info). Many people get great results from it, but I've definitely yet to master it! So this is a nice alternative that gives you greater control and is super easy.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Last Day to Enter!

Just a reminder that today is your last day to enter the giveaway for a free copy of Vintage Hairstyling by Lauren Rennells! Leave a comment on the original post by midnight EST to be part of the drawing. I'll announce the winner tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hemming a Circle Skirt, Part One

Hello, friends! When I posted my version of Vogue 8615, a few of you mentioned wanting to make this as your first dress project. This is a great choice for a beginner, but the hem is a little tricky since it's a circular shape. So I thought I'd do a little two-part video series showing you how to make a narrow hem on this kind of skirt. (A narrow hem is the best choice, since you won't have to deal with easing in the fullness on a wider hem.)

In this first part, you'll see how I marked the hem on my skirt. This involves putting the dress on a dressform and using a mark on a wall to get a level hem all the way around. (You'll see what I mean!)

I had wanted this to be a one-part video, but it got a little long. So watch out for the next part soon!

On the Ideals of Vintage Beauty

[image from]

I realize that through all my recent posts on the various accoutrements* of "doing" a vintage look (the undergarments, the hair, the heels), I might be giving the impression that I'm trying to make myself over into some sort of airbrushed pinup ideal. In fact, the truth is that I'm distinctly uncomfortable with the idea of looking too "done."

I recently tried to do a look that was over-the-top vintage. False eyelashes, girdle, padded bra, high heels, the works. And I hated how I felt, sort of like a fembot/drag queen version of myself. I know that some women say that they feel "empowered" when they get all sex-kittened up. That's great for them. But I have to admit, I'll die a happy girl if I never hear someone say she feels "empowered" by things like this again. (I believe that empowered is the most overused - and erroneously used - word by modern women. But I digress.)

I guess what I'm saying is that I sometimes find the art of doing vintage at odds with my feminist ideals. If anyone else tried to tell me that I had to meet some exacting set of beauty ideals to be a part of a subculture, I'd tell them where they could go. But there's something about the standards of vintage beauty that can have me losing myself at times - feeling overly done, out of sorts, and not measuring up - as much as I desperately try. When it stops being fun and starts being another excuse to beat up on ourselves, there's a problem.

So, on to the solution. Personally, I try to temper a more "done" look with some down-to-earth elements: unpainted nails, geeky glasses, scuffed ankle boots, polka dot tights. That sort of thing. I guess I see it as sort of the anti-Dita Von Teese philosophy. While she's gorgeous, she admits to going to extraordinary lengths to get her look - breast implants, fake beauty mark, corset tightlacing, etc. She makes a point to never be seen wearing anything less than a full vintage look. She proclaims that she lounges around in vintage slips, not t-shirts. Running to the store in jeans is not an option for her.

That's great for Dita Von Teese. I admire the woman's commitment and I just adore her in general. I have to remind myself, however, that she makes her living by virtue of looking the way that she does. I think we everyday vintage-lovers could stand to be a little easier on ourselves. (And hell! If Dita feels like it, she should also be easier on herself. Screw the Hollywood/burlesque status quo.)

And - at least for me - another thing that ties into all this is that pesky notion of "authenticity" that I see showing up so often. In other words, that to "do" a certain era authentically, it has to be done a certain way. As though there were only one genuine way of being a woman in the 40s of 50s, for example. But more disturbing is that often this notion of authenticity carries with it a certain amount of judgment - against tattoos, jeans, straight hair, whatever. I must admit to finding this strange. I mean, is the joy of vintage dressing in authentically, realistically, rigidly reproducing an era gone by? For me, it's not. It's in celebrating the beauty of another era and incorporating it into my life in 2010. Some days that means victory rolls with torn jeans and Chucks. Some days it might mean doing the whole shebang - heels, crinolines, and all that. Other days I might just stay in my flannel sock-monkey print pajamas. Who knows? The beauty of being me is that I'm still myself in all of these get-ups. And so are you! After all, at the end of the day - the only one who has to live in your skin is you.

What do you think of all this? Do you strive to be more like Dita everyday? Or are you content to incorporate retro looks into a more modern look overall? Do you ever feel uncomfortable with the standards of vintage beauty?

*I also just realized that the plural of accoutrement is . . . accoutrement. Not accoutrements! (Right?) I hope you'll allow me this crass Americanization.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Faux Fifties Dress in Plum Shantung

Here's Vogue 8615, which is a current pattern that secretly believes it's a vintage pattern. Vogue thinks so too. The pattern supplies include a "purchased crinoline"! I'm wearing one of my "modern crinolines" here, which gives it just the right amount of pouf for everyday, I think. (Here's my crinoline tutorial if you're interested!)

This lighting shows the color better, along with every crease and wrinkle in the fabric. Sigh.

And here's my attempt at "sexy face," effectively proving that I would be the worst pin-up model ever. There goes that dream.

All in all, I really liked this pattern. I made a size 14 and only made two alterations: one for my forward-rounded shoulders and one to adjust the length. You know what drives me crazy about modern patterns? They usually have two lengths, one of which is way above the knee, and the other of which is mid-calf. Srsly? Can't we all agree on a nice, flattering below-the-knee length? I usually end up splitting the difference between the two offered lengths.

I like the v-neckline in the back.

Also, it has sideseam pockets - yay!

One construction thing that I thought was a little screwy was this: the directions tell you to line the sleeves and the bodice to the edges, and then treat each lined piece as one when you set in the sleeve. So, you would have an ugly unfinished seam in the armhole. Isn't the whole point of lining to conceal these things? To avoid this, I set in just the dress layer of the sleeve, and then sewed the sleeve lining in by hand. Nice and finished!

The lining I used is a mauve-ish Ambience bemberg rayon. I love this stuff!

I would definitely recommend this pattern, especially if you want a retro look but don't want to use a vintage pattern for whatever reason.

I spent the weekend prepping some other projects. I cut out two blouses and a skirt! I have high hopes that prepping over the weekend will make some weeknight sewing easier. Wish me luck! I hope you all had a lovely, productive weekend of sewing.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Vintage Hairstyling: A Giveaway!

Readers, I am thrilled to announce this lovely sponsored giveaway. Lauren Rennells is the author of the absolutely fabulous book Vintage Hairstyling. And she's provided a copy for one very lucky reader!

I've been using my copy of this book for a couple weeks now, and it's helped me tremendously. I'll admit that I used to think I could gain all the knowledge I needed on this subject from YouTube - but having a printed reference from a professional is so helpful and is definitely taking my 'dos to the next level.

The photographs and copy are clear and easy to understand, and I love that all the tools she uses are easy to find. The basics section has been the most helpful to me so far - it explains the difference between wet and hot sets and shows you how the details (like what direction you roll the curl in) make all the difference. There are sections on finger waves, hot rollers, pin curls, curling iron sets, victory rolls, pompadours . . . and the list goes on! (Go to Lauren's website to see full-size sample pages of the book.)

There are lots of elaborate styles explained step-by-step.

I was amazed at all the different styles I can do with my length of hair - fake bobs, a pageboy, and more. There's also a look inspired by Joan Holloway, which you know I'll have to try at some point.

To make a long story short, if you're interested in trying vintage hairstyles, you need this book. And you can win one right here! To enter, just leave a comment on this post by midnight EST on Wednesday, January 29th. I'll pick a winner by random number and announce it the next day. (Note: you'll need to see the post to claim your prize, so subscribe to this blog if you haven't already!)

A big thanks to Lauren Rennells for sponsoring this awesome giveaway. Be sure to check out her website, order her book, and read her fantastic blog.

Update: contest is open to all countries. As long as you can receive mail, you're in!

Update #2: To answer Nathalie's question, becoming a follower means subscribing to my blog by your method of choice: e-mail (see the link in the right sidebar), Google reader, Blogger (that's the little widget with all the profile pics), Blog Lovin', etc.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Gertie, Girl Reporter {01.22.10}

Readers, I'm really enjoying doing these news/gossip round-up posts. It's a fun way for me to share all the stuff that may be vaguely related to what we talk about here - fashion, beauty, feminism, pop culture, etc - but isn't big enough to do an entire post on. I hope you enjoy them too!

Here's what I read this week.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Self-Portrait with Trash Can

I've been playing around with hot rollers quite a bit lately, so I thought I would document my hair today. Why? I don't know. Maybe I wanted to capture this special moment I'm sharing with the trash can in my office.

The real news, though is that I have finally found a set of hot rollers that I love!

They're made by Babyliss, and they're fantastic. Lots of different sizes, and they get nice and hot. The curls last all day for me. Please don't buy these, a crappy set from Remington. Seriously! They MELTED when I heated them up. What the what? (As Liz Lemon would say.)

Tissue-Fitting Vlog, Part Three!

Here's third and final part in my tissue-fitting vlog mini-series! Now, guys, I have a favor to ask of you.

I would really love to get your feedback on these videos. Maybe I'm being overly self-critical, but I don't know that I'm entirely happy with them. Basically, I worry that they're not completely clear. (Correct me if I'm wrong though!) The biggest change that I want to make is adding pictures of the pattern alterations so that you can see better what I'm doing. Obviously, that means more time and planning from me, so I need to be realistic about what I can do.

In any case, I would love to hear your feedback, dear readers! Are you satisfied customers? Or do you have some complaints to lodge?

Thank you for helping me make the blog better!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Me, Illustrated

Hey, how cool is this? A fellow blogger named Colleen sent me the link to this drawing she made of me in my new coat! I'm pleased as punch! And tickled pink! I feel like I'm a sassy heroine in an edgy graphic novel.

Thanks, Colleen!

Is My Girdle Making Me Dumb?

Bear with me. This is just a theory I'm working on, based solely on personal experience. So, as you know, I've been exploring more retro foundation garments, as many wise ladies feel that they are the KEY to making your vintage ensemble look smokin'. Spanx, these women proclaim, do not shape the body like a foundation garment should. I'm keeping an open mind, and trying some new things. But, quite frankly, I'm worried about killing brain cells in the process.

The one foundation garment I've really been able to get behind is the longline bra. You know how a lot of 50s style dresses have that smooth, willowy torso look? I'm convinced that the longline bra is the key to this. It lengthens the torso and also shapes it quite a bit: mine reduces my waist measurement by 1-1/2 inches. Worn with undies with a bit of shaping to them (a girdle panty, I suppose you would call it), I can get a serious hourglass thing going on. Which I like. (See above. On me, not Henry.) The problem, however, is a grave one: Readers, I think my foundation garments are cutting off blood flow to my brain.

The thing is, I feel a bit . . . spacey . . . when I wear this undergarment get-up. I'm overly focused on my abdomen, and I feel vaguely headachey and fuzzy-minded, like my thoughts can't push their way up to the surface. I found myself searching just a little too hard for the right words when I was presenting a project in a meeting. Not good, folks. Not good.

. . . I'm sorry, what were we talking about? Ah yes, my underwear.

Now, I can guess that the first thing you might suggest is that I'm wearing the wrong size. But I really don't think that I am. I have tried wearing the size up in various undergarments, they feel loose and I don't get any shaping whatsoever. (Yes, I've actually compared before and after measurements. Don't look at me like that.) In which case, why bother wearing them?

More thoughts: perhaps I'm not breathing deeply enough? Maybe I'm not used to the restraint around my midsection and it's making me woozy. (Fetch me my smelling salts, please!) Perhaps I just need time to adjust? I remember reading an interview with the costume designer of Mad Men that the actresses on that show hated the underpinnings they had to wear at first, but in time, came to love them. Hmm. I do know that I've probably thought about underwear for way longer than is necessary for one day.

Does anyone else have this problem? Also, I have to say: it's no wonder lots of women associate the end of girdle-wearing with the liberation of women. I mean, if you can't think because your undies are too tight, how are you going to tackle world domination?

P.S. Recognize the dress I'm wearing above? It's the Simplicity Slenderette!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Thanks, Vogue!

Ladies, the sewing blogosphere is atwitter! And for good reason: the new Vogue patterns were just released. Remember this post, where I bitched and moaned that Vogue should hire cooler designers like Nanette Lepore and Rebecca Taylor? Well, half of my fantasy has come true! Rebecca Taylor is the newest addition to their designer line. (Do you think this means that I'm psychic and that next season we'll be treated to some patterns from Nanette Lepore? Oh, I hope so!)

There are two new patterns from Ms. Taylor: the fab skirt suit above and this flowy little dress.

The suit is going to be a must-buy for me. I love the retro silhouette and interesting details, like the cool lapels, flower brooch, and couture details. Part of the embellishment comes from hand pickstitches! I'm having fun imagining different color schemes for this suit. The neutral gray and black is a nice classic choice, but it's a little corporate for me.

The dress is a pass. It's fine, just not a must-have for my stash.

The other new Vogue I'm loving is 8640. Check out the lines on this skirt. SO vintage!

Sadly, there's only one new Vintage Vogue, and it's a collection of aprons. Sigh.

So, what do you think? Any new favorites?

Scheming and Sewing

Now that I've finished my coat, I'm in extreme project-planning mode. And it's a problem: I can't seem to stop daydreaming about all the lovely fabrics and patterns I have stockpiled. I actually couldn't get to sleep last night as I was obsessing about it! (Please tell me that I'm not the only one who's ever lost sleep in a delirium of pencil skirt and secretary blouse fantasies.)

I've been putting the finishing touches on Vogue 8615, the pattern with which I've been demonstrating tissue-fitting. I'm making it in a lovely wine-colored silk shantung that makes the most delightful rustling sound when I walk. (Sneak peek above! Excuse the wrinkles please. Lesson learned: shantung is tricky to press!) But I wasn't even midway through that project before I was obsessing about the ones to come.

I think all this scattered-mindedness might be the result of working so long and diligently on just one project. That was great and all, but now I want some instant gratification. And lots of it, please! Preferably, in the form of a whole new wardrobe of office separates.

I'm going with the theory that I just need to get this out of my system, maybe make a few easy blouses and skirts. For instance! Check out this "teen" skirt pattern I just snagged:

Isn't the suspender version on the left incredible? Can't you just see it in something black and stretchy? Maybe paired with a bow-tied blouse? Don't try to convince me that a 30-year-old woman shouldn't be wearing suspender skirts that were marketed to teenagers sixty years ago. I won't listen!

Also, a lovely reader named Lee Ann sent me this blouse pattern and I'm dying to make it. Don't you love the cowl action?

And another lovely reader, Sarah, sent me this one. (You guys are so sweet to me!) Check out the awesome high-waisted skirt.

Okay, I better stop or I'll be here all day.

But don't think I've forgotten the Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing project! (As you may recall, I took a little break once I reached the half way point.) In truth, I've also been scheming about old VoNBBS quite a bit. I think I've come up with a good way to shake it up . . . details to come!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

And the Winner Is . . .

. . . RACHEL! Rachel (of this lovely blog) is the winner of the tube of MAC Russian Red lipstick and matching lip liner. Rachel, please get in touch with me by e-mail and I'll get your goodies to you right away. Thanks to everyone who entered! I hope you're not sick of giveaways, because I have another awesome one coming up this weekend.

Speaking of MAC lipsticks, I discovered something amazing this morning: a layer of Russian Red over a layer of Lady Danger. Shazam!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tissue-Fitting Vlog, Part Two!

Hey, friends! I'm back with part two in this little vlog mini-series on tissue-fitting.

The pattern I'm using is Vogue 8615. Also, if you're interested in more information of tissue-fitting check out the book Fit for Real People - it's excellent. Let me know if you have questions!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

500th Follower Giveaway!

Last week, I reached a big blog milestone - my 500th follower! To celebrate, I'm doing a little giveaway. The lucky winner will receive a tube of MAC Russian Red matte lipstick (my signature color!) and MAC Redd lip pencil, the matching liner. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post by midnight EST on Monday, January 18th.

Just a disclaimer: MAC is not a sponsor, and this giveaway is a gift from me to thank you for reading! Check back later this week for a FABULOUS sponsored giveaway.

Update: Amanda, thank you for reminding me about Google Reader subscribers! I had not forgotten you guys - after all, your ranks reached over 1,000 this week. Yet another reason to celebrate! I wish I could give you ALL a lipstick!

Update #2 (Goodness, I'm forgetful today!): All are welcome to enter, regardless of location! As long as you can get mail, you're in.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Geek (Chic?)

New year, new me? I got a makeover of sorts today: new haircut, new lipstick, and new glasses!

My first stop this afternoon was a salon on the Lower East Side called Pimps & Pinups, which I found by Googling "retro hair salon." (Jeff insists on calling it Pimps & Ho's, but who can blame him really?) I was very pleased when I met my stylist Michelle and she was wearing a 50s frock and a big, lovely roll on top of her forehead. Whew! I'd found my people.

Michelle really had her work cut out for her (ha, ha) as I hadn't had so much as a trim in over six months. I have thick hair that works its way into a dry tangly mess when I neglect it, which I most certainly had. I told Michelle I wanted a versatile cut that could be worked into a variety of retro 'dos. She recommended a blunt cut with some layers throughout. She also took off a couple inches of length and thinned it out, which was a revelation! My heavy mess of hair was suddenly manageable. She blew it out very straight so she could see the layers, but I confess I hate my hair in that style (Jeff was relieved to see my "underbrush" had been hacked off, but he joked that the blowout made me look like a yuppie.) It was fun to get home and play with it - I set it briefly in some big rollers and then did a Victory Roll on my forehead and twisted both sides back. I don't know if this is actually an authentic look from the 40s or some sort of weird hybrid, but I like it.

Next I stopped at MAC in Soho and bought a new matte lipstick: Lady Danger. (Great name, eh?) One of you lovely readers recommended it, and I'm absolutely loving it. It's much more orange than my usual Russian Red, and it's a nice change I think. This pic (with major flash action) shows the color the best:

Next I got a call from my optometrist saying my new glasses were in. I picked these out a couple weeks ago and was super excited to get them. I was going to go with my usual cateye shape, but then I (half-jokingly) tried these on. Jeff was smitten, and I loved the way they looked with red lips and a 40s 'do.

So here I am, totally made over! What do you think?

And the Winner Is . . . (Plus a Discount for Everyone!)

EMILY! Emily (comment #116), you are the winner of a $15 voucher to ZipZapKap's fabulous vintage pattern store on Etsy, chosen by a random number generator. I need you to email me at gertie [at] blogforbettersewing [dot] com to redeem your prize.

Didn't win? Well, guess what?! The ever generous Katherine of ZipZapKap is offering a 10% discount off all the patterns in your order to readers of my blog until January 31st. Simply enter the code GERTIE in the "message to seller" field and Katherine will refund the 10% to you via PayPal. (I must tell you that I'm enormously pleased that my nickname is now a coupon code!)

Also, there will be TWO more giveaways in the next week, so check back soon for more lovely prizes!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Gertie, Girl Reporter {01.15.10}

Happy Friday, readers! Once again, I'm channeling my inner Lois Lane to bring you some of my favorite articles of the week. Enjoy!

  • A reader sent me the link to this awesome article on the ModCloth blog: "Vintage Sexism: the Marital Bliss Edition." The Lysol feminine hygiene ad is not to be missed. Scary stuff, people. (Thanks, Molly!)

  • Here's some hilarious commentary on the latest Anthropologie catalog. Eat your heart out, Amelie!

  • Project Runway season 7 debuted. YAWN.

  • The New York Times called Crystal Renn's success the "Triumph of the Size 12s."

  • Jezebel begged to differ.

  • Guys, there's a whole blog devoted to the fashions of Roseanne! (I don't care what anyone says, Roseanne is one of the best tv shows ever made.)

  • Vintage couture got some love in this article in NYT's Thursday Styles. Choice quote: "Lily et Cie, a Los Angeles institution for more than 30 years, is famous for being a veritable museum collection of, it says, more than a half-million pieces of vintage fashion. It is almost equally famous for having some of the most unpleasant service this side of France."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tissue-Fitting Vlog, Part One!

Hello, all! And welcome to my new vlog mini-series on tissue-fitting a pattern. In this first part, I prep the pattern for the fitting. The pattern I'm demonstrating with is Vogue 8615, a contemporary pattern with a very 50s feel.

Some of you pointed out that the way Blogger formats videos makes it impossible to watch on a mobile device, so I've uploaded this one onto YouTube (even though I'm convinced it's a savage internet wasteland where people make mean and inappropriate comments). We'll see how it goes!

Bullet Bras: Yea or Nay?

In my pursuit to educate myself about the accoutrements involved in dressing vintage, no subject has proved more prevalent - or more puzzling - than lingerie. It's all so involved! As I've been researching, one company comes up again and again: the UK lingerie business What Katie Did. Though they sell all sorts of lovely lingerie, their signature product is the bullet bra, which is based on an actual pattern from the 1950s and graded to suit a wide range of contemporary figures. But the question is: does this really have a place in the wardrobe of a modern vintage-lover?

I'll be the first to admit that I think this is one cool-looking bra that would come in very handy for theatre productions, burlesque troops, and Claudia Schiffer (see below, modeling a What Katie Did bra - hot!).

But as much as I'm seduced by the look of the actual bra (and I do know that plenty of ladies would probably love to wear one of these under their vintage dresses), I really have to take a step back and think: what purpose would this really serve in my life besides making me feel like everyone was staring at my torpedo-shaped breasts? Check out this side view. The pointiness factor is off the charts.

And, for what it's worth, Jeff has given these a thumbs-down on the sexy factor. Granted, I did not show him the Claudia Schiffer photo. Or this one:

But what do you think - yea or nay? Could you see yourself making use of one of these? Or perhaps you already do! If so, please tell us all about it.

P.S. Also, as I contemplate placing an overseas order for a couple of the other fabulous things that What Katie Did sells, I would love to hear from anyone who's actually tried their products.

Thanks, and stay perky! (Heh heh.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

ZipZapKap: Featured Sponsor - and a Giveaway!

Readers, I am so excited to introduce my first sponsor, pattern shop ZipZapKap. A one-woman show who sells on Etsy, Katherine of ZipZapKap is just the type of partner I had in mind for this blog: smart, funny, and a fellow fashion-history geek. Her answers to my interview questions below reveal a kindred spirit, and I'm very proud to have her as a sponsor. Plus, she's generous - read to the bottom of the post for an awesome giveaway from ZipZapKap!

But first, just a little interview to get to know Katherine better.
Gertie: I love your "found objects" section of your website, where you post unexpected souvenirs you find inside pattern envelopes. What's your favorite thing you've ever found in a vintage pattern?

ZipZapKap: I've come across handwritten letters, scraps of fabric, receipts and even the label from a tin of beans with a handwritten note detailing when they were eaten (?!). My absolute favorite has to be an envelope of about 50 negatives. I haven't had a chance to have them developed yet but I scanned one and inverted the colors in Photoshop for a quick and dirty preview. This is the result:

Anyone want to take a stab at dating that car?

G: As a self-proclaimed pattern history nerd, do you have any special research methods? It seems like the information online and in books is fairly limited. Any secrets you can share with us?

ZZK: You’re right, there isn’t much information online and what there is seems to be largely recycled from the same source: Wade Laboissonniere’s Blueprints of Fashion. They are great books - a must-buy for the pattern geek - but there is so much left unsaid. When I’m not riffling through boxes of fashions past, I work at a university and this gives me access to academic databases like ProjectMuse and JSTOR.

But my absolute favorite is the Google patent archive. Reading old patents is such a convenient way to bring yourself up to speed on a subject because by their very nature patents must be concise and carefully worded summaries of both the status quo and a new invention. Everyone assumes previous generations of seamstresses were so much more competent than we are today, but the major sewing pattern patents suggest otherwise. Pattern companies had to set up entire departments to deal with correspondence from confused seamstresses and the push behind every major innovation in pattern design was to disseminate patterns from the professional dressmakers to the average woman. You can find a guide to searching the patent archives and some sewing related patents at

G: Besides the infamous apron-chaps, are there any other patterns you've come across that are amazingly, awesomely bad?

ZZK: The apron-chaps remain undefeated champion, but I get a kick out of this one. Although the pattern itself is fine here, the horrendously sexist envelope art just cracks me up. Men are clearly only interested in newspapers, smoking and golf in patternland. Why would anyone be brandishing a golf club in pajamas? It just looks like a threat.

Isn't she charming, readers? Now get a load of this: ZipZapKap is also sponsoring a fantastic giveaway right here. A $15 voucher to her fabulous Etsy shop! All you have to do to enter is to leave a comment here by midnight EST this Friday, January 15th. The winner will be announced in a post shortly thereafter, so make sure you check back. (Hey, while you're at it, why not become a follower of this blog? I'm going to be hosting another fantastic giveaway when I reach 500 followers!)

Wondering what you can get for $15 at ZipZapKap? How about these lovelies!

A fabulous cowl-neck wiggle dress:

Or perhaps this amazing weekend wardrobe? (If you don't buy it, I'm going to.)

But I'm sure you want to pick for yourself. So, go! Browse ZipZapKap for some fantastic pattern finds. And be sure to comment here for your chance to win the giveaway.

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