sewing, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

My New Reading List

I finished Jane Eye. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a page turner of a book that kept me from sleeping, but this one was definitely that. Given the fact that I’ve never seen any of the movies associated with it, I had zero idea of how it ended. Wow. What a book. I’ll definitely be keeping it so that I can read it again. I wish I was more of a pensive, watchful Jane Eyre type, but I’m more of a Lizzie Bennet type.

That being said yes, I also finished Pride and Prejudice, and now I am more than a little bitter that no one pushed it on me sooner. Given that I’ve always been a voracious reader, I’m not sure how I didn’t. Being married to someone 18 years older than me gives me a different view of the world, and though I grew up watching old movies, I am realizing now how many I didn’t see, and the same is true for books. Hence, why I am visiting the classics. Pride and Prejudice is the only book in my fifty some years of life that I finished, an immediately wanted to reread. It is just. that. good.

It’s also the only book I’ve ever read on a Kindle. I’ve tried before, but found that I just like having the pages in my hand. I’m a bit sorry that I don’t have an actual copy of the book, because I’d love to easily revisit some passages, but given that the Kindle I have is a first generation, I don’t know if I can do it, and if I can, haven’t figured out how. I will definitely be buying a beautifully bound copy of Pride and Prejudice, so that I can share it with the grandgirls some day.

I’ve seen the Kiera Knightley version of P&P, but not the Colin First one. It’s on my list, but I find it really hard to sit down to watch movies or series, unless I’m watching them with my husband (who probably would balk at watching a period drama like this). I love the Kiera Knightley version, but have heard that Colin Firth’s is the preferred one. I also love Rosamund Pike, and can’t imagine anyone else playing Jane, so there’s that.

We’re off on a LONG awaited vacation next week (don’t worry, it’s very low contact, but I need to get out of here for a break), and I’m taking Gone With the Wind with me. I’ve read it before when I was younger but want to revisit it whilst we are in the South. I’ll probably download another Jane Austen book on the Kindle as well. Which would you recommend?

I leave you with my favorite moment from Pride & Prejudice — the harried craziness when Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy return to the Bennet house. Notice the incredible detail of Mrs Bennet’s gown, which is lost except in closeup. The costumes here are amazing, and rightfully garnered an Oscar nomination. But this scene? It cracks me up every time.

vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Creepy

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned my dislike of Halloween, but now I have. I don’t know if it’s because of a long standing grudge that my brother’s birthday is on Halloween, and we always had to do birthday stuff before trick or treating, or if it’s because of my hatred of figuring out costumes for my kids. I call Halloween “the holiday for uncreative parents,” because yeah, I was always on the struggle bus about it. Plus, I just hate creepy things in general, so that adds to my general October angst.

Recently, I came into possession of a number of Spiegel, Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs, from the 40s to the 70s. They are really cool. Did you know that you could buy a pig through the Spiegel catalog in the 40s? You could literally buy anything. I’ve been posting these catalogs in my eBay store recently, and came across this horrifying one:

Photo: Spiegel’s catalog, 1944.

Just look at that. Apparently, women were in short supply as models during the war years, so they just used these terrifying mannequins? That’s my guess. Here’s another one.

Photo: Spiegel’s catalog, 1944.

I don’t know if it’s better or worse when they are juxtaposed with real models, but it’s got a super Stepford Wives feel to it, doesn’t it? Not all of the photos are like this — it seems that it’s only women’s clothing, but still. CREEPY.

Happy October, and if you are interested in the catalog, you can buy it here. I kinda want it out of my house.

sewing

I Need a Do Over

The Stolen Lady, by Laura Morelli. Now available at http://www.lauramorelli.com

I bought a new book for my mom for Christmas. We are both voracious readers, with Mom devouring a book every couple of days, even at the age of 88. I am slower these days, because of the eye problems I developed after my spinal tumor. Nonetheless, I’m really excited about this one. It’s called The Stolen Lady, and it’s by Laura Morelli, an art historian. At the center of the story is the Mona Lisa, which I’ve felt a connection with ever since I found out about her. As a kid, I thought it was cool that she had part of my name (Lisa), and I set a goal that one day, I would see her in person.

Fast forward to my twenties. I was engaged, and we decided that we would take the trip of our lives — one that we probably couldn’t do once we had kids. After much discussion, we decided to spend three weeks in France. We had a lot of ideas of what we wanted to do whilst we were there, but at the top of my list was the Mona Lisa, followed by Versailles. I would finally get my chance to see the mysterious lady.

Our wedding happened, despite totalling my brand new car the day before, having to change the location and time the day before, my dress getting lost two days before, our passports getting lost in the mail two weeks before, and many other hints that God threw my way and that I promptly ignored. Off we flew to Paris.

I’ll save you the story of how I thought we were being kidnapped by a terrorist and how I thought we’d end up on CNN, and tell you that we finally made our way to the Louvre. My moment had arrived, after a lifetime of waiting. I was so excited to be at the Louvre. I can’t even begin to explain how I felt as we made our way into the museum. My elation didn’t last long, as my new husband began to have what I recognize now as a panic attack.

We were in an area that had a lot, as in dozens, of religious paintings. He began to question why there were no windows in there. Then he began to ask why all the paintings looked like. Then he began to complain. Then he decided that we needed to get out of there. NOW. I promptly responded that I was not going to leave until I saw the Mona Lisa, because I was in Paris and it was my life goal, and he was just going to have to deal with his complaints. And complain, he did. Over and over and over, as I followed the little signs with arrows that said Mona Lisa.

We finally entered a large room, having skipped everything that we had passed since that fateful room of religious paintings. The room was packed, mostly with women who appeared to be Italian, exclaiming loudly and pushing toward the front. I had no idea what was going on, but I was gonna make it to the front and see my girl. I pushed my way up front, and was standing there next to my husband, completely having a moment. You know, that kind of moment where the planets align, the clouds open up, angels sing and all is right with the world? Yes. That kind of moment. And then it happened.

“So,” says the husband, “what’s the big deal with this painting?”

I did one of those slow pivots, my mouth dropping open, staring at him incredulously, and wondering what the heck was wrong with him. “It’s the MONA LISA,” I said. I mean, what else did I need to say? We were standing in front of probably the most iconic painting in the history of paint, and my husband, a future (house) painter, said probably the stupidest thing I will ever hear in my lifetime. “SO?”, he said. “I don’t get it.”

And that, dear friends, is when my bubble burst. The magic disappeared. We left the Louvre without seeing anything else, and never went back. I’m pretty sure I didn’t say much to him the rest of the day. And Versailles? Well, he threw a little fit about wanting to stop to eat after we got off the train, and we missed the last tour of the day. I was NOT a happy camper. We agreed to go back to Paris for our twenty fifth anniversary, and I vowed to spend three days wandering the Louvre without him. He was fine with that.

Fast forward twenty four years. I was in the middle of a messy divorce from said husband (c’mon, you’re not really surprised, are you?), and our youngest got the opportunity to go to Europe with his high school class. He paid for the majority of the trip by working at Colts games, but I paid for the side trip to Versailles. I told him yes, I was living vicariously through him, but doggone it, I now had missed two opportunities to see the Louvre and Versailles, so he was gonna do it for me. “But what if I don’t want to go,” he joked (he’s a sweetheart. He really was joking.) I promptly responded that if he came home and hadn’t been to Versailles, I was cutting him out of my will.

He came home and told me that something had happened — I don’t remember what — and he hadn’t gotten to go to Versailles. It really wasn’t his fault. But he did see the Mona Lisa, and even though he himself didn’t really grasp that moment like I did, I at least knew I had done my part in trying to connect with her again.

One day, I will go back for my three days alone in the Louvre. I don’t know when, but it will happen, along with a side trip to Giverny, and the Dior Museum, and the beaches of Normandy, and a channel crossing to go to the V&A. Everyone has to have goals in life. But meantime, I will spend a nice winter night curled up under the blankets with my girl, via The Stolen Lady.

Purchase here. No, I don’t get any kickback. You just need the book.

sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

It’s FALL!

Vogue 1234, 1990s.

I hate summer with the fire of 1000 suns. Seriously. I have zero tolerance for any kind of heat. I’d say that it’s since my lymphoma showed up, but that’s not true. I’ve always hated summer. I grew up in Missouri, where the asphalt bubbled up under our feet because it was so hot outside. We, of course, ran around barefoot, burning our feet as we went.

We would occasionally try to go into the house, where we could take refuge in the one air conditioner we owned, which was in the living room. As soon as Mom saw us inside, she would shoo us back out, where we’d stay until dark. She doesn’t remember now how she tormented us into staying out in the heat, but we didn’t grow up any worse for the wear, so there’s that. I hated the heat then, I hate it even more now.

I love winter clothes. I love sweaters, and boots, and all the accoutrements. They are so much more creative than summer clothes. I absolutely LOVE coats — Kate Middleton’s coat game is like no other — but I rarely wear one. We actually figured out last year that it’s been at least three years since I’ve actually put a coat on. I carry one, just in case of car trouble, but I would melt if I actually wore it. I’m that warm blooded.

I do wear a light jacket, like a light fleece or something like that. I’d love to have this jacket, designed by Bill Blass (who was also from Indiana). I just love the unexpected shape, the sleeves, and the lines of it. Combine it with the skirt and you get an Edwardian/Equestrian/Lady Mary vibe that I am all about. Plus, it pairs well with boots, which are my real love.

What do you think? Do you like winter? Have a coat you love? Or are you waiting for summer, complaining bitterly whilst under three blankets, with a cup of hot cocoa?

Pattern is available in the Etsy shop, here.

1950s fashion, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Fabulous Friday (or, It’s Friday Somewhere)

McCalls 1954.

OK, so it’s not Friday here in the US, but as Jimmy Buffet says (or my version of it), it’s Friday somewhere. Actually probably not, but it’s been a crazy week. I’ve been driving my dear husband to cardiac rehab twice a week, because he’s not allowed to drive till late October. They play some pretty righteous 80’s tunes while I’m in there, so it’s fun to sit there and wait, listening to Prince and the club music of my day, while reading Jane Eyre. But let’s get on with the pretty.

Isn’t this little girls’ dress just lovely? I think it’s probably my all time favorite girls dress, in over twenty years of selling patterns. I’d make it without the lace, but I think it’s perfect otherwise. That little drawstring bag is the perfect addition to the look. It’s size 4, and I could see my granddaughter really loving this, since she loves to wear her Elsa and Anna outfits anywhere she goes. What do you think?

Have a great Friday, Saturday, or whatever day you’d like for it to be. Enjoy the weekend!

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sewing

Call the Pelisse

I’m reading some classic books right now, because there are so many I’ve never read. I started Pride and Prejudice, loaned it to my mom (who didn’t like it and returned it without finishing it), started Jane Eyre (which she gave to me – no word on how she liked it), so now I have both going. I find it hard to restart a book once I put it down, so I’m going to finish Jane Eyre before going back to Pride and Prejudice.

I know the story of Pride & Prejudice, having seen the Kiera Knightley version of the movie. I love it, though I know, everyone says to watch the Colin Firth version. I’ll get there eventually, but I’m not much of a TV/movie person, except when hubby and I watch our British TV at night. I can’t get him on board with period dramas, so it’ll be a while. But I digress.

I know nothing of Jane Eyre, except that it’s about an orphan. I’m learning so much though. I’m still in the early part of the book. Jane just left for school, and the book mentions that she went to the gatehouse wearing her pelisse. What the heck is that? I had no idea, but now I have a name for the wonderful garment I’ve always seen and loved (including in Pride & Prejudice). Here it is.

Pelisse, circa 1809. Photo: V & A Museum, London.

Basically, it’s a dress that’s like a coat. It was of the Regency era, and was often worn for walking. See some worn here, in the Colin First Pride & Prejudice version.

I have always been in love with these, but never knew what they were called. Now I really want one, but being a fluffy middle aged woman, I doubt it would be very flattering. But I still want one. And though as a fair redhead, I’m not much for blue, I really want one in a powder blue, like the one on the left.

The thing that makes this funny is that I haven’t worn a coat in over three years. I’m SO warm blooded — probably why I hate summer so much — that it’s very unusual to see me wearing anything more than a light jacket, even when it’s freezing outside. I carry a coat in my car in case I get stuck in the winter, but I never, ever wear it. I’m the one you’ll see driving in gloves with no coat, because my hands get cold, but the rest of me doesn’t. But seriously, I want a pelisse, please.

Celebrity, designers, Hollywood

The Red Carpet Conundrum

Anya Taylor-Joy at the Emmys, wearing Dior Couture. Photo Credit: Francis Specker/CBS, Rich Fury/Getty Images

This has been a big week in the US. My husband loves (American) football, and all I’ve been hearing is commentators falling over themselves, happy that the stadiums are full of (COVID and) fans again. Like having stadiums full of thousands of (unmasked) people is a good thing right now. But I digress.

For those of us with finer tastes, we got not only the Met Gala, but also the Emmys red carpet this week, and it was fun to watch. Though the trend of naked dresses has me yawning (ok, you have a nice body, cover it up cause it’s boring), and the trend of yellow (which, as a very fair redhead, is not in my wheelhouse, or a lot of other people’s either), there is a bigger thing that has me thinking. It’s the current fashion conundrum.

Fashion has been taking a big hit in the past few years, for how un-environmentally friendly it is. They are putting out more and more collections to fewer and fewer buyers, and the environment is paying the price with the manufacturing impact, as well as the overall waste. Designers are talking about using renewable sources, and manufacturing with less impact, but these red carpets had me wondering, do they really get it?

Billie Eilish at the Met Gala, in Oscar de la Renta. Photo Credit: ABACA USA/INSTARimages.com, Janet Mayer/Startraksphoto.com, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Take these dresses in point. They are beautiful, of course. Gorgeous, in fact. Though Anya Taylor-Joy’s dress is very minimal, that coat was made with that huge train, just to be dragged along for photos? And Billie Eilish’s dress is gorgeous, but you can see it from space. Add to that that she changed to another beautiful, less over-the-top dress for dinner. Anya literally wore her knickers to the Emmys afterparty. So is all of this really necessary? It’s gorgeous, but this is the kind of thing that makes the criticism rain down on the fashion industry.

I don’t know the answer. I love, love, love to look at all kinds of fashion, but I think if we are going to talk about caring for our planet, we need to walk the walk, not just give it lip service. ::end rant::

Oh, and this week, I found out that my cancer is, indeed, in remission. YAY!

1920s fashion, designers, sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Look what I found!

I don’t know if you remember, but I mentioned McCall 4882 in a former post about 1920s designer patterns from McCall. Well, waddya know, I found the Model by Jenny of Paris in my stash! Truthfully, I had the pattern for some time, but thought the envelope was long gone. Look what happens when one actually tidies:

McCall 4882, 1928.

I am so excited, because this is something of a rare find, much less in factory folds AND in a bust size 34 which, for some, is a wearable size. How cool is that?

Jenny of Paris is quoted in 1929 (the year after this pattern was printed) as saying, “I not only believe but actually preach the creed that it is vitally necessary for the modern woman to be as lovely and charming as is possible for her to be, and accordingly I design.” She goes on to say that the suffrage movement took as long as it did because of the way the women dressed, including stiff collars and flat shoes, and then says that chivalry in men also had dropped because of the way women chose to clothe themselves. Miss Jenny took her fashion SERIOUSLY. She says that women in fiction were only admired if they were not dowdy (she obviously didn’t read Pride and Prejudice), and that men will never woo a woman unless she is fashionable.

Jenny said to choose your clothing carefully, regardless of your budget. She favored carefully selected black dresses, and liked velvet trim as an accessory. She strongly disliked the robe de style, first saying women didn’t take the time to choose a frock that favored them, and second, saying basically that she didn’t understand why women would dress in a style from the past when the entire future of fashion was in front of them. She was also not a fan of fads, though she would toss in a trendy item or two like a bustle, in each collection, just to keep people interested.

She mentions that she prefers natural waistlines, though she would drop them occasionally. This jacket is a case in point. Though it doesn’t officially have a dropped waist, it gives the illusion of one with the lower placement of buttons and belt. The jacket itself really has no waistline, as the silhouette is straight. Miss Jenny knew how to design something that was on trend, without compromising her ideals.

Side note, I just finished Season One of Making the Cut on Amazon Prime. I have mixed feelings about it. I find Heidi Klum to be insufferably narcissistic, and actually have to fast forward the little Heidi and Tim segments — I love Tim Gunn, but Heidi is such an attention hound I just cannot. Plus, I would much rather see the design process or even the business side of things instead of seeing Heidi dance half naked at the Moulin Rouge, or fence with Tim. The insights the designers give to how the fashion business works is really interesting, and of course the fashion is wonderful. Miss Jenny’s idea of designing on trend without losing herself and loving black reminded me of Esther on MtC. ***SPOILER ALERT*** Esther, without a doubt, was a FAR superior designer to Jonny, but I think that the judges probably chose the right winner, since she was unlikely to veer from her black color palette. Jonny, however, should’ve been booted at least a couple of episodes prior, since he couldn’t finish without help from other designers, but the judges didn’t see that. I must say too that the judges should have listened to Naomi, as she gave the best insights, and was obviously frustrated by Heidi running over her all the time. I would’ve been surprised if she had come back for season 2, but I miss her. She was a good judge. And for those who think that the judges were rough on the designers: these were not rookie designers. All of these people had their own lines coming in. They know the business is tough. I think the judges were just being truthful and direct, though I could do without the “have you changed your mind” schtick from Heidi. UGH. I really don’t like her. And I hate myself for starting Season 2, but that’s life. I just love fashion.

Now available in the Etsy shop.

sewing, sewing patterns, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

Surprising

Simplicity 1170, 1944.

I added this beautiful pattern to the website this morning. I find it interesting, because it came out in 1944, in the height of World War 2. The war changed fashion quite a bit, because the war effort even affected fabric. Though the US didn’t strictly ration fabric as Europe did, the recommendations in the US were to try to limit textile useage for fashion by 15%. This meant that hemlines went up, and fripperies were very limited: you saw very extras like ruffles, lace, pockets, and the like.

It is amazing to look at war era fashion and see what inventiveness comes out when you are limited in what you use. Perhaps the war years were a pre-Project-Runway reality challenge, to figure out how to create style out of limited means, or by upcycling old clothes. Remember, these were people who had lived through the Depression years, having to scrape by, so they knew how to pinch a penny. But this pretty pattern just surprises me in its timing. Having lived through so much conservation mindset is part of what set people off when Dior came up with his “New Look” in the late 40s, because it required voluminous amounts of fabric, compared to what had been seen in the war years. The culture shock shocked people, and they picketed in protest about what was seen as a perceived waste of fabric.

This look coming from 1944 surprised me. Had it been 1948 or 1949, it wouldn’t surprise me, as I think women really came out of the war wanting to look feminine. But 1944? Surprising. There are not only pockets that aren’t really necessary, but there are ruffles everywhere. It’s gorgeous, but surprising in its timing during a period of minimalism. Perhaps it was seen as a protest against the guidelines. Perhaps women just wanted to feel pretty with everything they were going through. The result is gorgeous, but again, sometimes it’s just the timing that makes me wonder what is going on.

sewing, vintage clothing, vintage fashion

A Tidbit

Whenever I go to visit my mom, I come home with things. LOTS of things. Lots of random things. I generally toss them into my back seat and then clean out the car when it piles up too high. I’ve been sent home with grapes, potatoes, chicken nuggets, random magazines, bills, family pictures, funeral arrangements, books, love letters — you name it.

Last week when I was visiting, she sent me home with a Reader’s Digest. I grew up reading it. I think it probably helped me learn to read. I liked reading “Drama in Real Life” and “This is Joe’s (insert body part).” The jokes were fun, and I liked challenging myself with the monthly vocabulary test. All of those elements are still there, with the exception of Joe, whose (insert body part) probably gave up long ago.

I was reading through it and came across the vocabulary test. This month, the theme was names, so the words were ones like “Jimmy” and “Sally.” I did not, however, expect this.

My husband grew up attending Pilgrim Congregational Church in Cleveland, a beautiful church with a domed stained glass ceiling created by Tiffany himself. Of course, I went with A. I mean, we have a Tiffany lamp. I also have my grandparents’ Tiffany coffee set, but that wasn’t a choice. A it was.

I was wrong. Look:

What the heck? I’ve never heard of a Tiffany fabric. It’s in Merriam Webster’s dictionary, so it must be true, but I have never seen the term before. There are lots of fabrics and stores named Tiffany, but it’s just a name of the store or the actual product, not a descriptor of the actual fabric itself. I guess I’ll have to keep my eyes open. Let me know if you come across it. I’m off to clean out my car.