Category Archives: 1940’s

Into 2012 we go… and a free mini cape pattern

Halfway through January already…. so hows that New Years Resolution working out for ya?

The papers have been merrily trumpeting the fact that most of us, if we even made one, will have given it up by the end of this month!

Well I made two and so far so good:
1st: Don’t Over Complicate Things aka Keepin’ It Simple
This can be applied to just about everything in life from sewing to relationships.

2nd: Finish What I’ve Started….. This applies particularly to the backlog of projects I started last year- that rouleaux shouldered dress (still love it and really want it to be ready for Spring), still more lace needing hand-whipping onto this black satin kimono and My Big Project: SewVeraVenus Lingerie. Yup, really fell behind on that one…. my apologies to all of you patiently waiting for the1940’s bra pattern I mentioned in the Autumn. Anyway I now have graded sizes from 30A-DD through 36A-DD and will be running a Birthday Give-Away of five patterns at the end of January to celebrate both a year of (very sporadic) blogging and another year of my life. If you are a subscriber you will be the first to know 🙂

2011 wasn’t all unfinished business though: in November I moved all my working equipment down from a London studio into my home. A major undertaking as I hadn’t realised quite how much stuff I had amassed. Anyway took a month to settle in but all put away now and a nice work-room to be in. I think my husand has just about gotten over losing his study… and now I have the option of working either home or away and it’s a huge improvement when working on my personal projects as the kitchen table really wasn’t great for sewing especially when family was making cups of tea around me.

Also VeraVenus™ is now officially trademarked so I can add the little™ letters after it, woohoo!

But back to sewing matters: the day before New Years Eve I decided I needed a new dress and whipped up this one:

New Years Eve dress

It’s based on the 1930’s bridal dress I made last spring and a project that had been lurking in my mind for some time and I had to get it in before that ‘finish the old before starting the new’ resolution kicked in. Setting a tight time deadline usually gives me the needed shot of adrenaline to stop messing about and get on with things. I had some pale lavender-grey fur scraps leftover from a costume job which I pieced together to make the square shouldered 30’s/40’s style shoulder cape to wear with it… just what the velvet needed.

Blue felt 1930’3-1940’s style capelet

Lastly for now, as a Happy New Years gift to SewVeraVenus readers this other cape pattern, as seen in this blue felt version, can be downloaded from my VV Free Patterns page. It could look great made in wools, felt, fake fur, even linen or heavier cottons… leave it plain or embellish like mad.

(NB:It is a pattern only, no instructions are included… but easy to make)

Happy 2012 sewing!

Wearing and shopping vintage, with a bit of camping thrown in… does it get better than that?


Not much better in my book!

That’s what it was like at the Twinwood-Glenn Miller Festival two weekends ago.

Fab outfits, brilliant music, tons of dancing, great people-watching and a fair amount of rain.

Day 1- I wore the raincoat I made from McCall 5760 over Vogue 5757 wool gabardine slacks I very recently made. The ground wasn’t too muddy yet so I could still wear my nice brogues.

My hair was really acting up in the damp windy weather …so I just ignored it.

Continue reading Wearing and shopping vintage, with a bit of camping thrown in… does it get better than that?

1940’s Copycat Coat

Circa late 30’s or very early 40’s I think…

The original coat doesn’t look all that fab here but it was just one of those things that you try on and go “Wow!”.  So over two months last Autumn I made a version for myself.

-First step was a re-drape of one side of the coat in muslin directly on top of the original to give me the basic shape and style lines. There was a lot more shaping under the arm than you can see in this photo and some tricky cutting near the pocket and I wouldn’t get that accurately if I worked on the flat from a modern coat block. Re-draping is fun anyway and I always learn something new when copying old garments with this method.

-Second step I transferred the muslin pattern onto paper and made corrections from measurements I’d taken from the coat. Then I made a toile from the corrected pattern. After fitting it on myself I decided to add an extra pleat on each side of the centre back pleat and to have them start right at the waist instead of a bit below the belt.

Third step etc- All seemed good enough to get on with my real fabric finally, a sturdy wool cavalry twill. The body went together reasonably easily though the curved dart that goes into a little horizontal seam at the top of the pocket was a real fiddle to do. The sleeves were a twisted disaster however… never did quite figure out what went wrong with them but I had enough fabric left (phew!!) to recut. To get them right I used one of my own modern basic sleeve patterns altered to the proportions of the original coat sleeves.

I like a snazzy lining in a coat and found this silk twill fabric that still makes me smile on the grimmest of days.

To build up big enough shoulder pads I used two mens suit pads in each side.
I didn’t like where the top two buttons hit my chest so left them off as well as leaving off the arrows on the end of the front darts.

The waist buttons holes are self-welted and though the sleeves are done with a proper button vent on the back seam I never actually did the buttonholes on them… and have been roundly told off for laziness by a tailor friend. I will do them …some day. All the under stitching on lapels and fronts was done by hand . I am lucky to have the use of an industrial steam iron as the cavalry twill is tough stuff to press and don’t think I could have managed with my home iron.

Just as a last note on the pleats: each individual pleat is seamed to the next one. It is more pieces to cut out and sew together but really helps the back of the coat keep its shape. The lining is not pleated however, it is just an A-line shape in the back.

I absolutely love this coat and consider it one of my most successful makes to date. I’ve worn it a few times this June even, can you believe it? Not the warmest summer here so far…

SaveSave

SaveSave

Dreaming of Dorothy Lamour

For me the ultimate beach-babe is not off Baywatch and isn’t remotely like Bo Derek .

No, I’ve always held Dorothy Lamour as being the ultimate queen of Glamour Beach.

(Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable do figure in there too as style consultants).

So I got the Dorothy hair style down but the swim suit was missing.

But no longer…

(sound of a fanfare here and a ta-da!)

Move over Dorothy, Vera’s gonna kick some sand in your face.

Lamour 2 piece

This is the most recent proto-type: I’m on version 2 of the pants and version 6 of the bra. It still has pins holding the straps on and a couple of construction issues to iron out but basically it’s the swimsuit of my dreams come to life.

The lycra is swimwear quality (apparently not all lycra is made equal? … something I need to find out more about)  and I lined the bottoms in power-net so don’t even have to remember to hold my tum in all the time- the suit does it for me. The bra cups are backed with a seamed cotton cup for better shaping than lycra alone would give though I’m going to try them in the power-net too just to see how that works… that would make the whole suit stretchy and more modern in construction.

There’s light nylon bones in the sides of the top so it doesn’t crumple and plastic swimwear clasps to close the back band and neck strap. The bottom cut is a little shorter than the one Dorothy is wearing but is still proper ‘big pants’ and I’m loving the modesty panel. Possibly the most flattering suit I’ve put on in recent years.

And a 1 piece version in the works too.

I’ll have a red one, a black one, more print ones, a stretchy lace one, a gold one… one for every day of the week!

Taking the plunge 1940’s style…

Project ‘Swimsuit’ is finally under way.

All last summer I talked about making some retro styled beachwear for myself, daughter and friends.

Did I actually get around to it ? weeelll,  I sketched ideas, collected some 1940’s and 1950’s patterns and original garments for reference… and then suddenly last summer was over.

But amazing early warm sunny weather has hit the south coast of England this last week and my thoughts turned once again to sun and sea.

 I saw this 1940’s pattern at the Vintage Pattern Lending Library  and decided it was the answer to my annual beachwear problems

The cotton fabric is from a French Connection skirt I bought 6 years ago. I always loved the print but finally the waist just became too tight so the skirt landed in my scrap bag only to be recently rediscovered and recycled into this swimsuit.

The top is bagged out with a lightweight black cotton poplin and that is what I used to make the shorts that attach under the skirt as well.As the fabric was limited cutting out was tight. The waistband is pieced from 3 scraps and I narrowed the band on the bottom of the bodice to be the same width as the waistband. My skirt finishes 1&1/2″ shorter than the pattern which was just too long for my 5’4″ height and I saved a bit more on the cutting layout by not including the 2″ hems allowed for on the pattern. The fit was perfect and the pattern for the shorts underneath could make a great pair of flat front wide legged trousers at a later date.

A cotton swimsuit will be quite a different experience from a lycra one especially in terms of drying out time after a dip. I’m ready to put up with some dampness in exchange for style though.

All in all I’m really pleased with the outcome and full sail ahead.



A very green coat.

Ready for an Easter parade I am in my exceedingly green coat. It’s a colour that cheers me to look at… but I need to be in an exuberant mood to actually wear it.

The pattern was a 9.65€ find at a local vintage fair and with my new zeal for old patterns I was impatient to try it out. So late one evening at the costume studio I quickly chalked the pattern lines on to my pre-washed linen, lengthened it, cut it out and dived into sewing. The water was cold! Caught out again by the generous amount of pattern ease in a vintage pattern plus it being a bit too big anyway I needed to make a fair few alterations as I went along. That was the night I accidentally got locked in the building and so had not much else to do but to keep on sewing until someone with keys could come back and unlock the front door. I got a lot done by the time I was actually let out.

It’s unlined and the seams are all edged with bias cotton binding. Happily linen is forgiving and easy to work with so all my un-picking and messing about with the fit wasn’t too obvious in the end.

Spring coat

Vintage kimono fabric used for facing and to cover shoulder pads
7 rows of Top-stitching on collar, cuffs, pockets & hem.

It’s a great shape pattern and I will make it as a jacket next for a summer suit with a pair of trousers like these Vogue 5757 I think.