Thursday, 16 February 2012

If they don't make 'em like they used to - make 'em yourself!

It's no secret to those who know me that as well as superheroes and skulls, I'm also a big fan of all things vintage.

The vintage scene is huge at the moment and there are a lot of fabulous bloggers out there who are much better and more knowledgeable about it than me*, so don't worry, I'm not going to start writing fashion columns or telling you how to achieve perfect Victory rolls while plucking your eyebrows into a sublime arch and rocking your latest peplum (although I'd love to be able to tell you how to do all those things. In fact, if you guys find out, can you tell me, please? I'm rubbish at all of that). In fact I am very much a beginner, until recently more of an admirer from afar, but I have found myself with more and more 'vintage inspired' pieces in my wardrobe.

Being a sensibly-sized person, and with some experience of trying costumes on for stage productions, I find it tricky to find genuine vintage pieces that fit. They'll often fit my waist and hips, but get up to the shoulders and I've no chance. Seriously, did women prior to 1970 have no shoulders at all? It's a pet theory of mine that women of yesteryear never had any need to raise their arms above waist height and therefore it didn't matter that it was impossible to move out of the penguin position at any time.

But, oh, it's those 1930's and 40's outfits, with their slim sleeves, exquisite tailoring and glorious silhouettes that I am drawn to again and again. A 50's circle dress, such as the wonderful repro versions available from Vivien of Holloway, is great for a party (or, indeed, a team of piratical bridesmaids), but it's so much harder to find - and wear - that Golden Age look from a few decades earlier, especially if you don't have the money to a) buy genuine pieces and b) hire minions to hail taxis for you and do all the other things that might require you to lift your arms to an unladylike angle.

So it was with great joy and jubilation that I came across a wonderful US pattern site the other day. offer a drool-worthy collection of clothing patterns from yesteryear, all re-drafted in order to cater for multiple modern sizes. Everything from achingly beautiful evening gowns to dapper gents trousers (don't forget your pipe), and this frankly batshit-awesome 1887 halloween costume.

My wings are a shield of steel. And crinoline.
It's a costume-lover's candy store and I want to buy and make everything. In the end, I have settled on this beautiful trouser ensemble from 1936. I'm planning on making the view on the left from some sort of smashing tweedy sort of material.

I shall also endeavour to perfect the  Sideways Look of Disdain

The pattern arrived in the post yesterday and I have only had time to glance at it briefly. Like all patterns, upon first glance it feels a little like stumbling across an ancient manuscript covered in complex diagrams and symbols from a language that time forgot, but I'm sure it will come into focus once I look more closely. Otherwise I'll just nip to the British Museum and see if they'll lend me the Rosetta Stone.

It's likely to be a slow project, as I'm simultaneously launching the made-to-order-clothing side of the Emporium (follow me on Facebook for more news on that!), but I shall pop back with updates and let you know how I get on.

I'd love to hear from anyone else who's used an Evadress pattern. How did it work out for you?

*Check out the gorgeous ladies who make up the Vintage Mafia, for starters. The marvellous Fleur de Guerre's Diary of a Vintage Girl is one of my particular favourites. 


  1. Oh, good luck with the pattern! I love that trouser and waistcoat set - it would look great in a tweedy fabrid, yes!
    Should you feel the need to purchase Vintage style dresses, try this shop on Etsy - Eleanor Callaghan makes the most fabulous stuff!

    By the way, your "Not a Robot" wants me to type Greek characters... does anyone have a Greek keyboard please?

    1. I swear the 'not a robot' things are getting deliberately more obtuse. They're just making them up at random now...

  2. I am dying to get into dressmaking - unfortunately the only course anywhere near me was cancelled because so few people applied :( I want to be able to make my own clothes - especially vintage pieces!

    And have I missed something? (probably lols) what be this clothing line???

    Katie x

  3. Lizzie - I adore Dig For Victory and covet many of her pieces, they're lovely!

    Katie - if you can't find a course, teach yourself! I am a mixture of self-taught, mother-taught, school-taught and internet taught and am still learning all the time. Choose a pattern that you would love to wear that is quite simple - a skirt, or a shift dress, for example - and follow the instructions. When you get stuck, stop and think and work through it, or seek help on the interwebs. You'd be surprised what you can achieve. Wearing an outfit you made yourself is the most fulfilling thing - and I promise, nobody notices those little mistakes on your first tries except you ;)

  4. ....and keep an eye on my Facebook page for updates on my soon-to-be-available made to order dress ;)

  5. "follow the instructions" ah yes. that's where i always go wrong.

    i've made several versions of a gorgeous, long, bias-cut skirt off of a 70s pattern. and the only one that hangs right, is the one where i actually had enough (of the correct) fabric (type) to cut across the bias. like it said.
    and wait 48 hours for the bias set set. like it said.

    they really write those lengthy instruction sheets for a reason!

  6. I'm quite good at following instructions, I think it's the nerd in me. I like doing lots of little steps, neatly, and then all of a sudden finding it has turned into a whole Thing. Which is weird, because the rest of my world is very disorganised.

    I'd actually love to be able to make stuff up as I go along with clothes - I have a friend who is brilliant at altering and revamping garments and works completely by eye and I am in awe of her cleverness. But she finds it harder to follow patterns than I do.... each their own! I think the key is to remember that dressmaking isn't rocket science - not that long ago it was far more common to have to make a lot of your own clothes, and you weren't expected to have gone to the London Fashion School to do it. Just have a go!

  7. Im one of those who fails when it comes to instructions - I have a very short attention span!

    Katie x