It’s the gowns!… Well it is, but it’s not.

I’m sure the first thing I noticed about 30s fashion were the gowns. Heavens, Ginger Rogers gliding across the dance floor (backwards and in heels) in some floaty confection of a dress. And her partner was very elegant too (Fred Astaire, of course). Flying Down to Rio and Top Hat – that feather dress (first on the left, above)! And I don’t even like feathers!

But what really interested me were the details. The backs, or backlessness, really. The surprisingly casual flesh reveal. What was that about? Weren’t all bygone eras repressed? (Well no, thankfully). And the arm holes. You’re going to think this is weird (I mean, who thinks about armholes unless they pinch, right?), but armholes in evening wear were often practically non-existent. Sometimes the front of the dress connected to the back with a super long strap or clever fold of the front material and I’m sure they had already discovered body tape because you never saw anything but tasteful side-boob. As a matter of fact, for as much flesh as you might see, it was always tasteful, never shocking or “undressed”. More like revealing just enough to invite the imagination. (40s gowns, with the little high belly flesh peek-a-boo, always seemed like a sad, lesser version to me).

1930s low back gown

Look how low that arm hole is. And I’ve seen lower. Lower backs too.

The other thing I love about 30s (and 40s) clothing are the great variety of seam details. Today we have nothing to compare with our athilesiure and yoga pants. The multitude of dart options, plethora of sleeve options, collars, jabots, flounces, pintucks, gathering, roucheing, pleats! They took this design stuff seriously! Take a suit type jacket, designed for a woman’s shape. Today it would have princess seams, possibly an asymetrical hem and/or collar (don’t get me wrong, I love those things). In the 30s the side seams may have been rouched, or perhaps the shoulders would be. The shoulders may have had extra seams that went from shoulder to hem, or had a clever fold detail. Pockets might have been designed into curved seams or been… triangular! There could have been self piping details. Not all in the same jacket, you understand. And it would have fit beautifully. The closest we see to those things today are in expensive ready to wear and some of the more interesting Vogue patterns.


Via:  Look at those seams on the left jacket and the pockets are integrated. And the collar – with buttons! How fun!

I’m enjoying continued exploration of 30s garments and even some girly details that I would disdain in modern styles. I wonder why that is?

What’s your favorite thing about 1930s styles? Or 20s, 40s, or 50s?


Seriously, I just teared up a little watching the first trailer for Captain Marvel.

[Update: It’s not just me. This is about the 5th similar reaction I’ve read today. And I haven’t been looking for them one way or another. You should see the moviestar tweet reactions.]

After forever of not having a female led super hero film were getting one. Now don’t get me wrong, I saw Wonder Woman and overall it was pretty great. In my five-year-old’s heart I’m still wearing Wonder Woman Underoos. But Wonder Woman was missing something for me that I still want.

(I swear this post fits on this blog – I will talk about costumes.)

What’s different about Captain Marvel is the one thing that took Wonder Woman down a notch for me. Diana starts her movie as sort of an adult innocent. She’s strong, brave, skilled and self-assured in those skills, which are important things to show, but she’s sheltered, trusting, demure. She does see the negative things in the world and does change and grow, but I still left the movie with that initial impression of her. As if she couldn’t be a hero without somehow apologising a little. (To be fair, I haven’t seen the later movies she’s in yet). Of course the time period the film is set in was not known for showing women being strong. That was certainly a factor. But think about how different characters like Shuri, Okoye, Wasp and Black Widow are. They are strong, fierce and unapologetic. Now the costume part. Wonder Woman’s outfit, while iconic, is still a mini skirt and strapless top. What woman doesn’t want to wear a regular bra or sports bra with her fighting uniform? And maybe not bother to shave her legs.

Captain Marvel is strong from the get go. Determined. From child to adult, she gets knocked down and keeps getting back up. The way they put those images together for the trailer was particularly effective. And by god, she’s covered by her uniform! She’s as protected as any other superhero. It will be interesting to hear how the uniform felt while shooting. Evangeline Lilly’s Wasp costume included a corset in the internal structure. Captain Marvel’s probably does too and that’s ok (Captain America’s probably does too). But what she’s wearing is functional. She can kick ass without worrying about her undies showing or having exposed skin on her chest and still look good. She can be a hero, who just happens to be a woman. That’s what I want.

It’s a small thing, but in the trailer, when the word HER becomes A HERO, that got me.

Newly cute metallic blue shoes!

Man, I can be terrible about posting in a timely manner. This post is about shoes I transformed from dull taupe to fabulous metallic blue for a late 50s-ish blue dress I made in 2016.

I loved this project. The shoes are great, comfortable and inexpensive.

Several years back I found a cute but boring colored pair of shoes at the thrift store, clearly barely worn. I thought I’d use them for a Tweed Ride inspired semi-steampunk outfit that never came to fruition. I didn’t care at the time, but the shoes are pleather (non-breathable, not great for your feet).

Boring color thrift store find

When it came time to get shoes for the blue dress I looked online, but nothing caught my eye. I considered painting these taupe ones, but what would I use? Spray paint and acrylic tend to flake where the shoes bend and stress. To online research I went! and found Jacquard Lumiere paints.

They also have solid colors (the Neopaque) and the two are supposed to mix well. I bought the 570 Pearlescent Blue for my shoes and the 562 Metallic Olive Green because it’s beautiful. There are useful instructions in both the Jacquard and Dharma Trading websites.

First you need to prep your surface. Remove all the dust and debris. Next, if the shoes are leather, you wipe them down with rubbing alcohol. If pleather, with acetone. Mine were pleather, so acetone it was. I found that a quick wipe wasn’t enough, as the layers of paint started to come off while I worked. I spent probably 45 minutes getting them down to a consistent taupe color.

No, I didn’t leave the sandals part brown. I finished and donated them. In retrospect that wasn’t the color for that type of shoe. But I do love the color.

Once dry you use a fan bush to hand apply the paint (for a solid area). 2 – 3 coats are recommended, if I recall correctly, drying between. I didn’t apply a solid color under my blue since I’d gotten a consistent base shade during cleaning, but it’s something to consider. I also tested some leather sandals that had become uncomfortable and I’d never wear again. After drying and touching up, apply some sort of sealer. I used 2 coats of spray on Modge Podge Hi-Shine sealant. It says to dry for 24 hours. After wearing the blue shoes show no wear and no cracking!

Bogart and Bacall image restoration (1946):

As someone who loves history and participates in historical reenactment it’s a little disappointing to see many historical images. They feel drained of color, lessened, like they aren’t quite real. (Do people with color blindness feel the same way?)

I’ve seen a fair number of well colorized photos in recent years. That colorization does a lot to make the images feel more present, realistic and relatable. It brings them to life even more than black and white moving images.

Now that I’ve seen the colorized images of Mario Unger on Instagram (via BoingBoing) I’m not sure how I thought the others were so good. His images are simply stunning and full of life. I love seeing Billy Holiday mid performance, as if I was right there. There’s Ford, a group of Romani, turn off the century street scenes and Civil War soldiers, Freud, Che and a very young Frida Kahlo. And the image of this young woman, which I find particularly compelling:

View this post on Instagram

L. E. Jerome, by C. M. Bell, ca 1900

A post shared by Mario Unger (@ungermario) on

Modern Pattern Design, Harriet Pepin, 1942

Modern Pattern Design, Harriet Pepin, 1942

Modern Pattern Design, Harriet Pepin, 1942

We probably don’t think too much about types of darts in our clothing. Either they are present or not, short or long, narrow or wide.

When looking at historical sewing you sometimes see darts in groups, such as at the shoulder or waist, darts in odd to a modern eye places, such as near the hip or back of the neck, darts in multiple places, like the armscye and shoulder, or darts that are really more like vertical tucks, which let the fabric ease out at the top and or bottom (this can be especially nice at the ribcage, ending at the bottom of the bust, or top of the hip).

Modern Pattern Design, Harriet Pepin, 1942

Alterations for a prominent abdomen, Art of Dressmaking, Butterick, 1927

What you see in those cases are either straight line darts or those that jog in the middle, reducing the garment by a little wedge shape of fabric.

Clothing Construction, Clara Brown Arny, 1934

But they’re straight. Usually even when they transect the back waist.

Modern Pattern Design, Harriet Pepin, 1942

There are other cases where you see a curved seam in a standard dart location, but that is usually either used to gather in fullness above or below or as a design choice.

And then there are curved darts. I can’t believe I’ve only just discovered them. I guarantee that I’ve used them before, either as lazy sewing or to adjust fit, but I’ve only just realized that they can be a design intention, meant to solve a problem. Don’t laugh at me. I’m working with a pant pattern that has a long, slightly inward curving waist dart. The paint is high waisted and if the dart didn’t curve in, it wouldn’t fit the small of the back. But of course such darts can also be used for specific figures: inward curving for a flatter bum, outward curving for a rounder bum.

Straight dart at bust, 1970s pattern

Slightly inward curving dart, 2017 high waisted pant pattern

More of the bad, the unfortunate, and the downright funny, this time in 70s women’s patterns.

See my previous posts:

  1. Horror Stash part 1, or Bad Men’s 70s and 80s Sewing Patterns
  2. Horror Stash part 2, it Bad Women’s 80s Sewing Patterns

These are mostly just funny thanks to proportion, styling and/or fabric choices. Enjoy!

Looks like an 80s pattern, but it’s from the late 70s. I just don’t get the drawstring at hip level, let alone 2 of them on the red one. Can you imagine how it would look if it rode up?

Hello 70s! Double knit polyester! Front zip jumpsuit! Bonus gold boots! Stylish!

Here’s a 70s version of a Little House on the Prairie top. Not that I couldn’t use it to make a shirt for Renaissance Faire.

This one is deeply boring. I have two copies! Someone wrote on the other one that it was 4 inches too large. What does that say about standard ease at the time? Sheesh.

This one is sort of ethnic. Reminds me of a Folkware Pattern. Looks horrible in red and really the pleating at the stomach is not very flattering, especially as a top.

Look at the length of their legs! Silly. The floral choice is terrible.

Honestly this one makes me smile. Not that I’d wear it or anything! These pants are the basis for the 30s Beach Pajamas, however.

More of the bad, the unfortunate, and the downright funny, this time in 80s women’s patterns.

See my previous post, Horror Stash part 1, or Bad Men’s 70s and 80s Sewing Patterns.

Say hello to a Cathleen Turner look alike in clothes that don’t fit at all. How does that shirt stay in place and not end up sliding off her shoulder? How much fabric is in those pants? And let’s not forget big hair.

The only good thing I have to say is that I could see this as the basis for an early teens dress. Note Robin bow at the waist. How sweet.

It does have pockets going for it.

Again, this could be used as the basis for some previous era garment. The way it is, however, it looks childish. That collar!

Speaking of childish… But it’s sorta cute as a romper. I hate rompers.

This is just one of several Little House on the Prarie-esque patterns I have. High necks, pouf sleeves and ruffles! Others remind me of Dynasty. Funny thing though, I think I can use that square bodice front for the 30s Beach Pajamas I’m working on.

This one is just sad and shapeless. I didn’t know they were making house dresses for younger women in the 80s. Looks half way OK with a belt. And there’s that hair again.

Here’s a bonus bad early 90s pattern. It’s just boring and shameless. The funny thing is that I somehow have 4 copies. And they came from two sources. I also have at least 5 other ones that are basically identical.

Next up, bad patterns of the 70s!