Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I was thrilled when an Etsy member contacted me recently about making her a really special fishtail skirt for her birthday, which just happens to fall right on Halloween! Given the happy coincidence of birthday and Halloween celebration, each year she goes all out when it comes to her special costume. This year my client decided to dress up as a mermaid, inspired by Kim Kardashian's 2012 Halloween costume, which is really lovely:

I designed both a calf-length and maxi-length fishtail skirt a few years ago which I sell in my etsy store, but I usually make it in ever-popular black woven fabric (with spandex for extra wiggle);  making it in bright emerald green foiled spandex was going to be fun! Never having sewn spandex costume fabric before, it was going to be a great learning experience as well.

 One thing - I didn't like the way the Kardashian skirt dips down in the front at the knee, as it looks a little awky; I was sure the indentations from knobbly knees would show through the spandex with that cut, plus, it would most likely impose a Morticia-like shuffle on Katelyn (my customer). So, we both agreed we'd stick to my original design which has a rise both centre front and centre back, as being generally more graceful and practical.

The next task was to track down some drapey chiffons in varying shades of green with which to make the fishtail fronds. Do you think I could find any green chiffon ANYWHERE??? No! Nothing, zip, nada - obviously green is out this year. It's times like these that I wish I lived in New York or somewhere, where there's an infinity of fabric choice! Eventually I found a great pleaty grass green georgette, which I decided to layer with dark green organza. I was less than happy with these replacement fabrics before I actually got the skirt mocked up, but once I saw the complete effect my worries were put to rest:

My client decided she wanted to get happy with a glue gun, clam shells and pearls and embellish her own mermaid bustier, so I've shown the skirt with a lovely dark green sheer lace top. Here's a side and back view, showing the lovely flow to the organza tail:

I ended up hand sewing (with pin-prick stitches) the top organza layers to the skirt, as machine zig-zag stitch produced a clunky ridge of stitching that sort of puckered and distorted the lovely flow and drape of the spandex. I found that out the hard way, having to unpick the entire thing, each zig by zag, as the thread would not pull through the grippy spandex. It turned out well in the end - I just love the frothy, floaty mermaid tail!

This was a really fun project - I can't wait to make more costume-style clothes now!

#mermaid skirt  #fishtail skirt#  #Kim Kardashian mermaid costume #Halloween costume

Monday, June 3, 2013

I love Mid-Century Swimsuits!

Mid 20th century swimsuits are such fun! I love the ingenuity of how designers and home-sewers got around working with non-stretch fabrics (usually pure woven cotton), and all the pretty details you find on old bathing suits. It wasn't unusual for a home-sewer to sew her own swimsuits; I remember my mother making bikinis for us both (I have fond memories of a yellow gingham bikini with broderie anglaise trim).

It seems to me that contemporary swimsuits are much less ingenious and interesting, design-wise, and less pretty, due to the laziness that comes with lycra, I suppose, and also with mass-production. I have to say, though, the larger manufacturers have finally got the hint that we really love VINTAGE and are now offering super cute, up-dated versions of vintage-style swimsuits (a gorgeous VELVET - yes, velvet! - swimsuit offered by modcloth is a case in point). They're making lycra versions with cute vintage detailing, like high waists, frills and bows, 'modesty' skirts, ruching, nautical inserts and wrap ties; however, I've yet to see any made from woven fabrics.

So, like a few other handmade garment sellers, I've decided to make a more serious foray into making woven cotton vintage-style swimsuits. They'll feature shirring and elastication (with swimsuit elastic), boning, longer leg lengths, bias cut bottoms for ease, sarong skirts, white cotton linings, zippers, buttons, and removable, button-on straps! Although not necessarily all on the one suit ;)

Here's the first, a Hawaiian Sarong Swimsuit faithfully made from a hard-to-find vintage 1950s swimsuit pattern:

It's made from vintage fabric (35" wide cotton) sporting the classic Hawaiian motifs of skiffs, palm trees, islands and waves in a restricted palette. It has a zip and hook and eye up the side and is fully lined in soft, white cotton, just like the originals.

It has really interesting darting at the centre bust of a kind I've never seen before and which produces almost a bullet-bra point (hard to see due to the busy print). A cute pleated sarong skirt covers the built-in bias-cut bloomers.

I'm really happy with this suit! My model loved it and really enjoyed wearing it for the photos. It's for a size 42" bust - go here to check it out in my store:

Next post: Vintage swimsuit No. 2!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Half and Half Dress

The Half and Half Dress is something I've been thinking of for a while. I came across the very well known and extremely coveted Advance pattern 6238 (from 1949, I believe) after I'd actually drafted my own version:

I made my first half and half dress from black moire taffeta (for the overdress) and bubblegum pink taffeta for the strapless underdress, which I made as a fitted sheath. I decided to put buttons all down the side of the black overdress; the plan was to cover the buttons in the contrasting pink moire - snazzy! I was on the home run with it when I slipped whilst slitting one of the buttonholes, creating a huge gash in an awkward spot on the overskirt and effectively ruining the whole thing :( 
I was so upset about it that I put off making another (yes, possibly a bit of an over-reaction)...until NOW. I came across this wonderful rose petal fabric and bingo! was inspired again:

I had some amazing pink coated fabric in my stash that I thought would be wonderful with it! It's a candy pink stretch woven cotton that has a pale pink pearlescent coating on it. It feels cold and strange and makes an interesting papery swishing! Here's the dress:

I'm so happy with it! And the great thing is the pink underdress, or perhaps foundation dress should I say, is lovely on its own as well.

I plan to do another very soon, possibly in black and white. I'll also perhaps do a combo of two different coloured halves and a sheath...the possibilities are endless!

Find it here:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

VIntage Vogue 5643: Young Fashionables

After years of admiring and acquiring vintage patterns and amassing quite a substantial collection, I've decided that I'm finally going to take the time out to make up some of my favourite vintage designs for myself (and anyone else who may be interested). My daughter's recent school graduation dinner was the perfect opportunity to make something glam, so I promised myself that once I'd finished my daughter's dress (an original design, and quite ambitious for me) I'd quickly run myself up something new to wear to the event. I chose  the gorgeous vintage Vogue Young Fashionables 5643 (featured in Vogue Pattern Book December 1962/January 1963 and Vogue Pattern Book June/July 1963). I love the mod shape of this design, not to mention the back view - I love any dress that gives such good back!

I'd had squirelled away some very psychedelic, 1960s orange tie silk (yes, that's 'tie', not Thai - men's necktie fabric I found in a warehouse, only about 20" in width), and just knew that the fabulously architectural silhouette and seaming would really sing made up in the mad, over-the-top swirls and whorls of the brocade. I decided to eke out the very narrow brocade with some donated shot orange/pink silk dupioni, as the angled lay-out of the pattern pieces and very narrow tie silk meant I'd end up using about 7 yards of fabric otherwise! I also thought it'd be fun to highlight the great triangular central skirt panel in a contrasting fabric.

I'm really happy with the result - not least because the whole project, including pattern, cost me less than $25! The brocade gives the dress great structure and really maintains the triangular shape nicely. I did underline the dupioni panels. One thing, I was surprised to find that I had to take it in about a size, even though the original size 14 (Bust 34) of my pattern paralleled my measurements exactly. I had expected that there would be much less ease, but it seems there was really quite a lot of ease built into the pattern.
All in all, though, it was a joy to make, and I'll definitely be making another, perhaps a bit shorter, and perhaps with a nautical theme, say in red, white and blue linen!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Roman Holiday Summer Ensemble: a sunsuit with matching overskirt

Often when I make a garment I'll have a particular person in mind, usually a favourite movie star, and it's almost like I imagine I'm designing an outfit for her to wear in a particular movie. I can see Audrey Hepburn wearing my latest two-piece ensemble in Sabrina, or better still, as she was in Roman Holiday, zipping along through the streets of Roma on a Vespa, not needing to worry about the wind flipping up her skirt, as she's wearing a full-piece sunsuit underneath! lol

I'm really pleased with the result; I took care with cutting and piecing the double-border print fabric to make the most of the vintage-inspired ric rac stripes and cherry toss print:

The style is very easy to wear and very flattering - the high-waisted sunsuit shorts are not skin tight but slightly A-line, and a slightly more modest length, too (3 1/2" inleg):

I'll be making more of these soon! I have some fab Hawaiin-style hibiscus print fabric which would be great made into a 1950s bubble-leg playsuit with matching draped sarong skirt!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I've gone a bit mad over rompers lately - you know, those very very cute, very retro-looking all-in-one cotton shorts suits? Here are some of the designs I've run up, in different types of fabrics and with different styles of legs, some high-waisted and others empire waist. The one thing they all have in common is most are made from woven, not stretch fabric (my attempt to be faithful to the rompers of the 30s, 40s and 50s). There'll be more on the way, including more one- and two-piece suits that can be worn swimming!

How I love polkadots! "Minnie", made from stretch fabric:

The latest plaid romper, for sale on etsy:

Polkadot romper #1:

Polkadot romper #2, doubles as a swimsuit:

My own batik butterfly romper that I wore all summer a couple of years ago:

A cherry and ric-rac print sunsuit (and matching skirt) soon to be listed on etsy:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Most Beautiful Lounge in the Universe

The Most Beautiful Lounge in the Universe, at
I am suffering some serious Lounge Envy. I cannot get this wonderful mid-century aqua lounge off my mind or out of my greedy little heart. Of course, I don't have a spare $4000 lying around, and if I did, well, I'd hate to think how much it would cost to get it shipped out in a container from the US. So, rather than futilely hankering after it from afar and leaving it at that, I'm going to use it as the inspiration for my Lounge Room Make-Over. So unbeknownst to my partner, I am completely re-decorating our living area, and it's all down to The Most Beautiful Lounge in The Universe. I'll blame johnnyvintage when questioned.
Re-decorating in this case does not mean getting in an expert and paying squillions to have someone "do" my loungeroom. It means painting some bits and pieces to give them a facelift and a different feel, making new cushion and divan covers from some fab (yet economically viable) new or thrifted fabric, and picking up a few bits and pieces off ebay and etsy.

I already have a great faux leather 4 seater couch and a matching chair and pouffe that I got from Vinnies for $60. Here it is, here:

I'm going to have a theme of 1940s Hollywood Regency style - it has echoes of the previous 1930s style (sleek, low, a little ritzy, faux bamboo, metallics) but is also tipping over into the coming mid-century style. I have these two great gold damask mid-century chairs, only $40 from Salvos, what a great buy:

As we are renting, the curtains and swags pose a problem. They are made from a blue fabric which is neither dusty enough to be wedgwood blue, nor interesting enough to be much of anything else. They are purpose made for the space - 3 large floor to ceiling windows - so would be expensive to replace (and hard to store!). I'll meet that bridge when I come to it.

I've bought some wonderful cut chenille in powder blue from Spotlight (on sale, naturellment), which has an over-sized Damask pattern, with which I'll cover the divan (although it's huge and takes up too much room, we'll never get rid of it, it's so squishy and comfy for watching TV). Here's the fabric:

Then, I'll add cushions in peacock fabric and silk in various shades of aqua and blue:

I have a beautiful very 1940s convex mirror on hold for me, so Hollywood, from

I'm trying to figure out how to work in my starbusrst sconces and clock:

Then, finally, a few mid-century cachivachis (bits n pieces) made from brass or chrome, or wood:

(antelope head available at - but don't buy it, I want it!!)

This won't be a project I get finished in only a few weeks - my sewing workload is too heavy for that. I'll post photos when it's done!