Archive for the ‘Vintage’ Category

AG Doll Clothes, Vintage Version, With Bed and Trunk

December 31st, 2011 11 comments

They’re vintage because I made them for Noilette, when she was very little.   Years ago, before Mattel bought American Girl, the dolls (and their clothing) were excellent quality (unlike the books, which, despite their “educational” pretensions, are pretty weak all around).  The size of these girl-shaped dolls makes sewing for them fast and rewarding; you get a lot of bang for your sewing efforts.

Running across various posts about others’ AG sewing prompted me to finally get out the camera and immortalize Noilette’s collection.  Here are the garments I made for her AG dolls a long time ago. (And, at the bottom of the post, pictures of the trunk and bed I made for her, too.)

First up, a sou-wester slicker and hat, made from a flannel-backed table cloth, and lined (badly, I’m sorry to say) in navy nylon.  The dark nylon is why the coat looks darker than the unlined hat.  You can’t tell here, but the brim of the hat is elongated, just as it would be in a proper, full-sized version.  The coat’s collar is a very, very fine pinwale cord, in brown.  Much more comfortable than PVC next to the chin!

The back of the slicker has a little vent:

The little chrome “snaps” are fake; there’s hook-and-loop underneath.  All of these items were made on my Pfaff 1229, and most of what I’m posting here was made from American Girl patterns. Does Mattel still sell them?  They were quite wonderful.

Here’s a prairie dress, complete with bonnet, simple bloomers, an apron (with pocket) and a floating pocket that also wrapped around the waist.  I’m not sure why I made a pocket on the apron, since it’s a bit redundant.  Because I could?

You can barely see the “growth tuck” about an inch above the hem.  That’s so frugal mamas could let the skirt down as the child grew taller.  The hem is faced with blue gingham; I did that on a couple of the garments, probably  just because it seemed like fun.

Moving forward to Victorian times, here’s a very badly wrinkled little cotton pinafore, trimmed in rick-rack, with a pink gingham dress underneath, complete with mini leg o’mutton sleeves:

My iron and I are not getting along these days.  I have a vague recollection that I made Noilette a matching outfit.

Naturally, I made a full-circle poodle skirt, though it’s very much the worse for fuzz.  This wasn’t the best quality felt around.

Here’s a surprisingly badly-made tutu.  I’m not a fan of pink, and I see that I managed to find a rather mauve-y shade for the leotard:

There was only one slipper in the trunk when I unpacked it today.  If these little treasures get passed down someday, I’ll have to make a new pair.

Here’s another dress; a generic drop-waist style that, I think, was also supposed to be from around the turn of the century:

I know; wrinkle city.  It’s all-cotton.  Those are little, tiny, woven checks.  Lovely stuff!

This little sweater set was supposed to have matching mittens, and may yet acquire them:

I didn’t use a pattern for these, just copied some larger ones.  Fitting was not much of an issue, so they worked up very quickly.  I think the checkerboard pattern on the hat may be traditional; anyway, I liked it a lot.  The figure on the hat is skirted, wiht doubel stripes between, all around the crown.

I’d forgotten about this little sweater:

It was also a very quick knit, but I was surprised at the infinitesimal button holes.  Easy to do, though, since you  just drop a stitch, and then pick it back up.

I’m not sure what possessed me to use quite so many buttons.  Probably an attempt at miniature verisimilitude.

This is my favorite outfit:

It’s a separate blouse and skirt, with a little Russian flair.  The hem is faced with red-and-white gingham checks.

This Victorian cape set, complete with beret and gaiters, is made of practical polar fleece, and lined with the same navy nylon I used to line the sou-wester.  Wool would have been authentic, though probably not if it were white.

The collar has a lovely shape, only part of which can you see here:

Little corduroy overalls, with a pocket on the bib, and the same faux snaps as on the slicker:

The turtleneck is open down the back, and closes with hook-and-loop fasteners.  It’s not very inspirational, but a necessary accessory.

Naturally, there are nighties in the collection.  This one is of a lovely heavyweight all-cotton flannel, with ruffles at the shoulder, wrist and neck, as well as mauve ribbon woven through lace trim on the bodice:

Everyone needs a cloud nightie, don’t you think?  Noilette had a matching one, of course:

I made the wooden trunk Noilette’s doll wardrobe is store in, as well as the wooden bed that fits inside.  I love unexpected challenges, and, at the time, my father was handling the plumbing, so I had to look elsewhere for projects, unlike these days.

The bedding is just a ticking mattress, with matching pillow, and a little quilt — a thin quilt, like the ones my great-grandmother used to make.  She used flannel for the batt, so that’s what I did, too.

Naturally, I used scraps for the patchwork, and the doll’s doll is wearing a copy, sort of, of the white flannel nightie.  Yes, those are miniature Little Golden Books.  I hate them, and wouldn’t allow them in Noilette’s library (not that the issue came up), but apparently I thought they were good enough for dolls!

I’m no pro at stencilling; I was very relieved when this turned out.  However, I think that was because I faked it, and pencilled the design, then painted it.

The trunk lid is made of extremely thin plywood, like that used on vintage plane wings, and nailed and glued into place.

Because we had cats, I made a cozy for the lid; the elastic needs replacing, but it still provides protection from the depredations of the current herd of cats:

As it turned out, Noilette was never very fond of dolls, possibly because, unlike her mother, she has always been very social and very fond of living, breathing people.  Nonetheless, she still appreciates handmade things, and one day may pass all this stuff down to a child of her own.  If not, it may eventually become someone else’s treasure.  Or not .  .  .  regardless, her mother had a great time constructing every piece, and that’s quite enough, all on its own.

Categories: Misc, Vintage Tags:

FIT Exhibit: The Sporting Life

June 16th, 2011 2 comments

One of the myriad nearly-secret pleasures of New York City is the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.  Admission is free, and the gallery is always full of slightly eclectic, fascinating garments.  Until November 5, 2011, the exhibit is “The Sporting Life”, and featured clothing runs the gamut from the 1800s to the 21st century.

Sadly, photos aren’t allowed, and, generally speaking I’ve found that the photos released for publicity by FIT rarely illustrate the scope of the collections.  The current exhibit is no exception, and it’s a pity, because there is so much detail that is wonderful to discuss, and it’s very difficult to do that without images.

Here are two “sporting” outfits, both from the late 1800s, among the very few photos available online:

First, a two piece dress by Haas Brothers, with a middy blouse (I do love me a middy!):

The contrast looks orange here, but it’s not; even 117 years later it’s a bright, clear red.  The trim is a white flat soutache braid used in triple rows around the collar, hem and cuff, and double rows on the tie and belt.  The belt has no obvious fastener; just a diagonal keeper. It’s dressy athletic-wear, 1894 style!

Second, this gym suit, for more active young women:

I’m guessing that waist is about 18 inches, and perhaps it was corseted even for sport, but it does make for a marvelous profile, doesn’t it?  Careful examination (don’t you wish all clothing exhibits were staged with mirrors showing the reverse of the garments?) revealed that this, too, is a two-piece garment.  There’s a small peplum that tucks into the trousers below the very fitted waist on the top.

Another secret:  There are neat little buttoned tabs at the side waist, and longish openings at the side seams.  This suit has a drop seat!  Was it actually used as such?  Or was that just a simple way to accommodate entry and exit?  The collarless, side-buttoned blouse is classic; we’ve seen more than a few like this in the decades since.

Oddly, all of the other PR photos show what I found the least interesting of the garments:  A Patagonia jacket; generic biking jerseys; an OK Tom Ford Gucci ski jacket and an eh LaCroix beach ensemble — all of them from the 1990s.  There’s so much more to see, and many more decades represented than just these two.  I wish the bait had been a little more varied — or that I’d been allowed to show you far more of what I loved seeing!

Above, the Patagonia jacket.  Meh.  Clean design, but .  .  . more commercial than spellbinding.  It might be stupendous in a technical clothing exhibit.  Perhaps, thirty years from now, this will be a curious relic of a distant time in sportswear.  Today?  It just doesn’t seem either ground-breaking, nor particularly representative of a compelling era.  Design-wise, these garments are more utilitarian than cutting edge.  Don’t get me wrong; I love utilitarian clothing, but this sort of thing, like the biking jerseys, seemed out of place in an exhibit that generally celebrated the idea of sport as interpreted by designers responding to cultural change.

Among the rest:  Anne Cole’s “scandal suits” from the 1960s; a fabulous (fuchsia?) neoprene dress with box pleats, a bouffant skirt and a tiny waist; plus fours for golfing;  men’s (and a woman’s) shooting jackets; and a really odd Gaultier ski suit that resembles a cozy mattress cover; and much, much more.

Everything was interesting to one degree or another, but the outfit that amazed and astonished me was a sporting outfit from the mid-40s designed by Claire McCardell.  Think skinny leggings (black) topped with a sleek trim jacket, subtly and narrowly striped in black and gold.  A zipper up the front that terminates in a deep collar — almost a cowl, but with no excess fabric.

The zipper is closed only to the base of the collar; one side of the open collar stands up, the other is folded over.  (Verrry chic!)  Long, slim sleeves are finished with just a touch of elastic hidden in the hems.  There are nearly hidden vertical pockets — all you can see is the hint of the zippers — just at the side, and below, each breast.  Matching boot/shoes that are the same stripe as the jacket, and almost pixie-ish — except that they are the height of era-less style, and not cute at all.  To die for — and eminently wearable today, a mere seventy or so years later.

Categories: Misc, Vintage Tags:

Paper Modness

April 14th, 2011 4 comments

Shams, of Communing With Fabric, has a post up today about two surprisingly chic dresses made from candy wrappers, which reminded me of this post, which has been languishing in my queue since February.  This particular dress isn’t exactly made from wrappers, but it is made of paper — more or less.  The image is, of course, Andy Warhol’s iconic Campbell’s soup can:

I saw it in the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona.  According to its website, the Heard is “one of the world’s finest destinations for learning about American Indian arts and cultures”.  Where Polish-American Andy, or, for that matter, Campbell’s soup, fits into this mission is unclear, but nevermind .  .  .

In the late 1960s, soup lovers could acquire this dress by sending in a couple of Campbell’s labels and a small fee (a dollar, I believe).

Note the dart — both placement, and construction:

It’s sort of an interesting take on a one-dart-fits-all approach:  The dart is really just a pleat.  This works on a mannequin, but I suspect it just “poufed” in the wearing.

The late 60s were a great era for paper clothing.  I have a paper sari from around that time which was given to passengers by Air India; it’s rather charming, actually, though, of course, completely impractical as a garment.  How times have changed!  Now the best you can hope for on a plane is a cardboard sandwich.  If you’re lucky.

The Heard Museum seems less like a museum and more like a showcase for contemporary artists whose work is on sale, but that’s not all bad; it’s filled with interesting artifacts, and worth a trip if you find yourself in Arizona — which I hope you don’t, at least until the state legislature acquires some semblance of sanity and does a little productive soul-searching.

Categories: Misc, Vintage Tags:

Early Olfas

April 8th, 2010 No comments

The US Park Service maintains a printing office and bindery at 320 Market Street in Philadelphia.  Using replica presses, Park Service employees demonstrate 18th century printing presses and discuss printing in the era of Benjamin Franklin.  It’s a fascinating look at the process, but something that especially caught my eye were these devices:

ps-olf-300Look familiar?  Exactly:  Early Olfas.  These rotary cutters were used to cut paper, though.  It was another 300 years or so before  smaller versions made it into our sewing rooms.

Categories: Tools, Vintage Tags:

Vintage Nurse’s Cape

October 9th, 2009 5 comments

Mr. Noile and I found this cape in an antique shop this summer. It fit perfectly, so how could we resist it?  It needs a bit of pressing, but here it is on my dummy:


Based on its construction, and the other coats available in the shop from the same source, I’m tentatively dating it from the late 1950s to the early 1960s. It might be earlier, and I suppose there’s a slim chance it’s a bit later, but this feels right. It was made by the Hospital Clothing Co. of Philadelphia (though we found it in Northern Michigan). Here’s the label (woven!):

nc-lbl-400The design is absolutely classic. It’s all wool, as the label says, black on the outside, and fully lined in blue wool flannel. The blue lining is a little unusual; nurse’s capes were more commonly lined in red. There’s a beautifully made watch pocket inside the left opening:

nc-wtchpkt-300A nurse, of course, always carried a watch to use when checking a pulse.  A small brass button is missing just under the pocket; it secures an internal tab to help keep the cape closed.  You can see the thread that was left behind when the button was lost.

A large, sturdy hook-and-eye closes the neck at the collar. These bits weren’t applied after the garment was made, but are sewn into the collar seams.  Here’s the “eye” — it’s really a loop — part::

nc-lp-300Isn’t the collar piping beautiful?

All but one of the buttons is original. The buttons are metal and a very bright brass color.  The design has a shield with a crown in the middle, with two horses rampant on either side, and an eagle above::


Four large buttons close the front, two smaller ones hold the tab at the neck, and there is another tab inside the cape, toward the hem, that is also closed with another set of the smaller buttons. If you look closely at the first picture, you’ll see that someone has replaced one missing button, but it’s a very poor match.  I couldn’t find any in stores that came any closer myself.

Incredibly, I was able to locate the exact button used for my cape. It’s Waterbury 28393, called “Horses & Eagle”. Of course, it’s also completely obsolete.  Waterbury, in business since 1812, apparently keeps all its old button styles on its website (hurray!), but, unfortunately, couldn’t tell me when this button was discontinued.  In any case, I had to find something suitable to replace the ones on my cape.  It wasn’t easy, especially since I really didn’t know what the significance of the original buttons was.

It’s possible that the cape and the button combination was customized for a particular school of nursing, or for a particular hospital, but I wasn’t able to turn up any definitive information that was specific to this cape.  In the end I chose this button:


It’s Waterbury 29016 (Crest & Shield w/Angel & Eagle).  I chose it because it most closely resembles the original button, and also because the symbolism made sense, too.  In previous wars, nurses were often called “angels of the battlefield”, yet nurses also had to be fierce and tough like eagles, fighting their own battles in the wards and in the operating rooms.

Waterbury buttons are sold either in gross lots, or in specific sets, but not by the individual button.  It’s possible to buy just a single set; in my case, it was a “blazer set” of five large buttons and five smaller.  That gave me one extra of each size, which is always a good idea.  This is an expensive way to buy buttons — or perhaps these are just expensive buttons! — and they arrived in a velvet box, just the way they would have if someone had bought them for a blazer or a fine coat a bunch of decades ago:

nc-vlvt-bx-400Behind each button on the cape (even the one that was replaced) is a tiny, flat, black anchor button, used to secure the heavy shank buttons in place, and to stabilize them.  When I replace the gold buttons, I’ll  carefully sew these right back where they belong, too.

nc-sm-btn-300I was amazed that the closure tabs were all there; the buttons were the only thing that held them in place. The first thing I did, in fact, was to take a few stitches on the right side of each of the tabs, narrowing the buttonholes so that the tabs couldn’t fall off. This in no way changes the look of the tabs; it just keeps that one side from ever coming off the buttons.

I’ll post a picture of the cape with new buttons installed in a couple of days.

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