Wednesday, January 30, 2013

On Redingotes

Have you seen the new Vintage Vogues? I'm super excited about 8875, seen above. It's a sheath dress topped with a redingote (with a cool double collar, the second of which is removable and can be made in fabric to match the dress). 

Here's the original pattern; isn't it beautiful?

(The blogger who sent the pattern to Vogue is doing a giveaway, BTW!)

A redingote, for those not aware, is a sort of frock coat which closes only at the front, usually creating an opening in the front of the skirt. The name comes from the English phrase "riding coat", which was borrowed by the French and pronounced like "redingote." In a strange turn of events, the English came to pronounce the word as the French do. (According to wikipedia, this pehnomenon is called "reborrowing," defined as "the process where a word travels from one language to another and then back to the originating language in a different form or with a different meaning." Interesting!)

I would love to do the Vogue version, perhaps in a blue color scheme and with some horsehair braid to give the hem of the redingote more flare, as in the original pattern. 

And, just for fun, a few more vintage redingtoe patterns!


 P.S. Vogues are currently $3.99!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Inside a Contemporary Jacket

Apparently once you start ripping jackets apart, you can't stop! I remembered that I had this Banana Republic jacket in my closet from my early editorial career. I would guess that it's about 8-9 years old at this point. It's a little conservative for me these days, so I thought it would make a great comparative example to my 40s jacket deconstruction.

Of course, it's not a very fair comparison. I got this jacket on the clearance rack (I would guess I paid around $50, tops) while the 40s jacket was custom made by a tailor and would have been very expensive. The fashion in the early 2000s called for a very different silhouette than a 1940s silhouette, so it's no huge surprise not to find a lot of tailoring structure (or even shoulder pads) in the Banana Republic jacket. However, I honestly remember quite liking the soft silhouette of this jacket; which is part of why I bought it. Looking at it now, though . . . it may as well be a cardigan jacket. The thing is rawther filmsy.

From the outside, it looks pretty nicely tailored, if a little limp.

 The shoulder line, sleeve caps, and under sleeves look a bit sad.
(Like my new clock?)
The inside is another story. It's unlined (a detail I had forgotten), but all the seams, darts, and hem are finished with lavender bias binding.

 The back facing extends all the way across the back, giving the upper back some support.

I removed the front facing, back facing, and upper collar. The facings are fused with a lightweight tricot interfacing. 

The under and upper collars are exactly the same; both have a separate pattern piece for the stand and both are fused only with one layer of the tricot.

Inside the jacket, I found interfacing on the front and back (where the facings were).

This is good for support across the shoulder, but you'll notice that the area around the arm (which is prone to stretching) has no support.

There is a line of stay tape along the roll line, stitched on with a blind hem stitch.

I'm sure the whole thing was steamed well, which gave the roll line and collar some definition and set the shape.

That's really all there is to show--it was a bit of a letdown after that 40s marvel of tailoring, don't you think?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

40s Jacket Deconstruction

Cool news: I have an exciting new job teaching fashion part time at Marist College. The class is for juniors, and it focuses on the development of a tailored collection. And you know how I love my tailoring! Over winter break, the students had a really interesting assignment: to find and deconstruct a vintage jacket, making a pattern and several new designs from it. I didn't want to be left out of the fun, so I decided to get in on the deconstruction action myself, which I shall document here.

First, the jacket. I found the perfect candidate at great shop called Bygones in Richmond, VA, over my holiday break. It's dated from the 40s, has a great tailored silhouette, but wasn't in great shape to wear. The fabric was corroded in spots and the lining was in tatters around the armholes. (You know I couldn't stand to completely take apart a stellar vintage garment!)

Bonus: it fits me perfectly so I can use the pattern I make from it.

It has a lovely crisp notched collar, classic two-piece sleeves, princess seams, a strong shoulder line, and double flap pockets.

There's a side panel under the arm for extra shaping.

It has a felt undercollar (which is traditional in fine tailoring), and very crisp roll line on the lapel--you can see the dimples from the pad stitching on the back.

The lining is a pretty rose-colored silk.

 Not in great condition in places.

There's a nice little handsewn hook at the collar. There's no designer's tag, but later clues have led me to believe it was custom-made by a professional.

Another cool detail: open vents at the side seams of the lining, where lots of wear and tear usually happens.

I could hardly wait to start taking this thing apart. (It felt wrong, but oh so right.) As you can see, the lining was entirely sewn in by hand with a slipstitch.

Once I got the lining out, I could see the jacket body's inner construction. The front revealed two different weights of hair canvas, and some thin batting for upper chest padding, all stitched together with diagonal basting. The shoulder pads were handmade with wadding.

 See labels below!
The pocket bags are made from tightly-woven pocketing fabric.
The back has padding to give a smooth line to the shoulder blades. There is no shoulder stay or reinforcement.

The seam allowances are uneven all over, and especially large at the fitting seams, indicating that this was a custom-made piece.

Next, I removed one of the facings for the Holy Grail of tailoring. There's twill tape on the edges and a wide strip of some sort of interfacing on the roll line. The whole thing is neatly pad stitched.

 I had to cut around the machine-made buttonholes to remove it.
Now I could peek under the collar to see the pad stitching there. 

A few other notes, if you're still reading at this point:

  • Lining: seams and darts on each individual piece machine sewn, then hand stitched into jacket separately with a fell stitch. The handstitching tacks the lining down to jacket interior in several places. Lining sleeves set in by hand.
  • Hem is pressed up and held in place with large catch stitches. 
  • Delicate hand pick stitches all around jacket front, lapels, and collar for crisp look.
  • Felt undercollar applied by hand with fell stitches--felt undercollar has no seam allowances; raw edge is aligned with turned-under seam allowances of the upper collar.
My next step is to completely deconstruct the pieces to make a pattern from. More to come!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inspiration: The Talented Mr. Ripley

I've been on spree of reading mystery novels, mostly contemporary. But when I came across a used copy of The Talented Mr. Ripley, a 1955 novel by Patricia Highsmith, in an L.A. bookstore, I snapped it up. For those not familiar with the plot: it's the story of an amoral conman (Tom Ripley) who becomes obsessed with a rich young playboy (Dickie Greenleaf) living in Italy. Tom does everything he can to come between Dickie and his close friend Marge, finally cooking up a plot to kill Dickie and assume his identity.

Of course, this work is primarily known as the 1999 film starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, and Gwyneth Paltrow. But the book is pretty wonderful: the disturbing and violent elements are perfectly tempered by Highsmith's lush 50s Italian summer scenes. It's easy to see why Tom gets caught up in this world of privilege and glamour (the food descriptions alone make me want to drop everything and move to Italy). The narrative is told through Tom's point of view, giving insights into the character that the film lacks.

Fashion is a huge part of both the movie and the book, and the film's costume design won an Academy Award. Clothes represent so much in this world: lifestyle, status, privilege, and identity. In one of the most cringe-worthy scenes, Tom goes into Dickie's room while Dickie is out. Tom tries on Dickie's suit and hat, even imitating Dickie's facial expressions in the mirror, while fantasizing about killing Marge out of jealousy. Of course, he is caught by Dickie, and that's the moment their friendship begins to turn sour. (I could barely stand to skim this scene, it was so embarrassing.)

The character of Marge is fascinating, clothing-wise.

She dresses in a sort of boho resort style, in crisp white shirts tied over bikini tops, espadrilles, and peasant tops and skirts.

One of the book's more telling passages relates to Marge's clothing, in a way. Tom catches a glimpse of Dickie and Marge embracing, and his reaction is one of utter disgust.
What disgusted him was the big bulge of her behind in the peasant skirt below Dickie's arm that circled her waist. And Dickie--! Tom really wouldn't have believed it possible of Dickie!
There are two chief interpretations of this scene: that Tom is a misogynist or gay (or both). While the movie portrayed Tom as gay or bisexual (later becoming involved in a sexual relationship with a man), author Patricia Highsmith maintained that Ripley wasn't gay, just sociopathic in his need for devotion from Dickie. And clothing was hugely symbolic to him. He later spends whole evenings looking at Dickie's clothing, saying that material possessions "reminded him that he existed."

Cat Blanchett was a supporting actress in the film, in a role created specifically for the movie. There's not much to say about that, except that her clothes are fabulous.

How darling is this sweater? The trim could be easily added to an existing cardigan (check out my post and how-to on soutache).

The nipped-in waist on this suit is to die for.

And my favorite, her opera gown with an embroidered shelf bust and floral embellishment.

All in all, both the book and the movie are of definite interest to vintage fashion enthusiasts. Have you seen or read it?
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