Thursday, September 3, 2015

Sewing Vintage Fashion: How to Flat LIne a Dress

1960's Print Dress in a cotton screen print, I.Magnin label

Sewing vintage styles can be a new experience if you have been sewing crafts and modern fashions. One of the best ways to learn how-to sew dresses, especially vintage dresses, is to study examples. Trying to get the right effect usually means following the same, or similar sewing techniques along the way.

I am going to take you through a close look at this cute 1960's era dress, to see what makes it 'tick' and how you can get the same professional results when you sew vintage.

This dress has two personalities, the fashion fabric exterior, and the technical interior. What makes this dress seem smooth and well fit is a simple process termed flat lining.

Flat lining
This technique is used for many (most?) dresses that were made before knits came into fashion during the late 1960's. Simply, it is a method where the fashion fabric is backed by a lining. Both are cut at the same time, stabilized by sewing around all edges to make them handle like one fabric, then sewn into the garment.  Sometimes this is called "interlining".

Darts and seams are sewn after the fashion fabric has been flat lined.
In this example, white cotton broadcloth has been used to flat line the cotton fashion fabric.

Why cotton broadcloth?
Since the fashion shell is cotton, using cotton in the lining will retain the cool property of the original fashion fabric. Cotton is also strong, and will prevent the seams from pulling out or the skirt from stretching while seated. It can also be washable, although this garment was not designed to be laundered.

This inside view shows the details of a bodice.

Flat lining: the white cotton can be seen as the inner layer that is sewn to the fashion fabric around all edges about 1/4" from those edges. It was trimmed with pinking shears.

Dart: the dart has been slashed and spread open to minimize bulk. In the preparation process both fabric layers were sewn 1/4" from the edge as shown

Waistline: to keep the waistline from ripping out or popping stitches, wide twill tape was sewn over the seamline where bodice meets skirt. Also notice that the skirt is flat lined. Sometimes the skirt is not flat lined if it is very full or gathered.

Hem tape: This close look at the hem shows how hem tape is sewn to the edge of the hem, then it is turned up and stitched to the flat lining. If done this way, the hem stitches will not show. Hem tape does two things: it keeps the hem edge from unraveling while it provides a non-bulky method of sewing it up. A hem that has been turned back and machine sewn before hemming has two layers, and will often leave a shadow or thickness. This way the hem is not 'pressed' forward into the skirt fabric where it will leave a mark when pressing.

Facing: Facing will clean finish the neckline and armholes. The edge here has been turned and stitched to prevent unraveling.

Under-stitching: Stitching around the curved edges of the arm hole and neckline will prevent the lining from pulling and showing when worn. These stitches are around the seamline, but sewn only on the facing. This is different from top stitching.


Getting started: Start with a big, smooth cutting surface (probably your floor).

#1--Lay out the flat lining fabric, be sure it is straight and on grain (not crooked).

#2--Spread the fashion fabric 'face' up over the lining, smooth it out to remove bubbles and wrinkles, be sure the grain lines match by aligning the selvage edges. If possible, press both layers. This will help to smooth them out and creates a 'bond' between them.

#3--Pin selvage edges together so they won't shift as you work.

#4--Layout pattern as usual. Because this method uses the fabric in an open layout, without a center fold, you may need to flip some patterns to get both right and left sides.

For the bodice front pattern, tape a large piece of plain tissue to the center front line of your pattern, fold down center front and cut around the cutting lines. When cut, open tissue and you should have a full front pattern with both left and right sides.  Use this same method for any pattern piece (skirt front? neckline facing?) that is also cut on a center fold line.

While laying out the pattern, consider the print of your fabric as well.  Because you can see both left and right sides of the bodice clearly during layout process it is easier to locate the pattern design where you want to see it.

#5--Pin pattern pieces to the fabric and cut through both layers. Keep shears perpendicular to the cutting surface. Cutting at an angle will make the layers different sizes.

#6-- When removing the paper pattern from the fabric layers, re-pin the two layers of fabric together again.  Pin away from edges to keep fabric from shifting.  Each pattern piece will now be pinned together in layers like a 'sandwich'.

#7--Machine sew around each fabric 'sandwich' piece using 1/4" seam lines and a medium length stitch. MODERN: use an overlock to clean finish all edges instead, but don't trim off fabric or you will reduce the pattern size (!!!)

#8--Your flat lining process is complete. Now proceed with marking darts on the inner layers and preparing to sew.

Sew your dress as usual, following pattern instructions and refering to your sewing books for more details. Remember to press the seams open because the extra layers will add up to more bulk.

I think you will be happy with the results. Let me know if you have further questions about this technique.

Throwback Thursday: This popular post was edited and re-posted from an original article dated 7/28/2010.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

1950s Sportswear: Paddle & Saddle Summer Separates

Vintage women's spring and summer sportswear during the 1950's opened new ideals for leisure fashion. Pants in all forms became an option to a cotton sun dress as women played sports and sunned on their vacations and at home on the weekends. These were often designed as separates with matching details like the the two outfits shown here by "Paddle and Saddle".

The halter and shorts set is a simple design, with an accent edge of bias cut gingham check to spice up the look.

For the girl who wanted more coverage, a playful vest with pedal pushers is also cut from gingham check. Both of these outfits were probably easy to launder and could be worn with other separates in a girl's wardrobe, to maximize her options.  Notice the strappy sandals, a style that continues to be worn today.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Fashion Book: Fashion Now, iD selects the worlds 150 most important designers

"Fashion Now: iD selects the worlds 150 most important designers" is a thick little Tashen publication that does just that. The names read like a contemporary 'who's who' of fashion within a 20 year period. Looking at this book is like bringing together current magazines articles on global fashion designers. Each is given information that can include interviews, profiles and general bio information along with several photos of their work.  This is the kind of book every designer, or student of design should have.

Having all of this information in one book makes it easy to look up a name, check out a designer's 'look' or get a quick overview. Just to give you a better idea of the scope of this book, I include here only a few pages of the comprehensive index of names.

Title: Fashion Now: ID selects the worlds 150 most important designers
Author: T Jones, A Mair

Paperback: 576 pages
Publisher: Taschen, 2005
ISBN-10: 3822840750
Book size: 6.2 x 1.8 x 7.7 inches

This book may be available in my shop.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Turn Around to See the Back View: early 1930's Fashion

1930 dress
1930's dress
1930's fashion
1930 vintage fashion

Fashion during the 1930's was cut with diagonal bias seam lines to be smooth and slinky. The back view of a dress was often its best feature. These illustrations are from an old scrap book of mine, so I can't give you the exact dates, however most are from the early half of this decade. Fashion illustrations like these are just a peek into the wide range of back views seen during that era.

If you are dating a vintage dress that seems to be from this time period, check out the back, that may help determine what decade it is from even more than the front view. And if you are going to sew as dress anytime soon, why not consider adding some back interest to your project, that could make it something special.

Throwback Thursday: this was originally posted on May 24, 2011

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Vintage Esprit: 1981 Summer Sarongs and Sun Dresses

Vintage fashion does seem to reoccur in many ways.  In the early 80's, there was a strong trend towards 40's and 50's style revivals. Designed by Susie Tompkins for Esprit, this 1981 group of tropical print summer sarongs and sun dresses is from the summer 1981 collection. Adaptions of sarong skirts, fashion bras, and strappy or strapless Hawaiian style beach dresses like these were wildly popular at that time.

Part of a marketing style for Esprit, this group of models was shot on location at Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey, in Florida.

The two Hawaiian print dresses above are from Esprit's summer 1980 collection.  They both have a halter tie neckline with shirred elastic back to make the fit better and are styled with a hint at 40's Hollywood glamour.

from: Esprit, the Making of an Image, by Helene Robertson, 1985, with photos by Oliviero Toscani.
also: read more about Esprit in my first blog post last week, August 19, 2015


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