Tag Archives: 1950s

On The Road

On The Road, by Jack Kerouac, is infamous for causing a stir in the 1950s. It follows the philandering of a young man into the underground of America. I loved Catcher In The Rye and the in-depth insights it gave into the main character’s psyche, while he broke away from the expectations of his conservative society. On The Road doesn’t linger long enough to even express whether the narrator was happy or sad. It’s made up of one page events filled with a cacophony of interchangeable characters, each less developed and less memorable than the next. You don’t know their motivation for anything, only that they “go with it” and like to “dig” things. Now I am from a notoriously apathetic generation, but even I can’t relate to these layabouts; even the dullest adolescents have reasons for sitting around in car parks and lacking drive. There is no sense of the atmosphere of the American highway, or the cultural idiosyncrasies of the Hispanic neighborhoods. There’s little insight into the characters’ interaction with, or opinion of, the society in which they exist, beyond a superficial level. Kerouac’s language can only be described as jazz, in that it is unstructured, goes in all directions, runs on and on without form or adequate punctuation, jumps backwards and forwards with no reference point, uses unnecessarily obscure and inconsistent language – at times you need the Oxford dictionary, at others urbandictionary.com – and if you think this has been a long sentence and bulky paragraph, just wait until you read the book, because this collection of the meaningless gibberish drugged beatniks say goes on for 300 pages. I think there is a particular breed of Hipster that would enjoy this book, however, I did not.

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Unexpected Gifts

Vintage Gifts

I was lucky enough to be given a box of original vintage dress pattern, spanning from the 50s to 80s by a colleague of my sister. The thing about vintage patterns is the original owner would have cut them to their size, and only kept the bits they want. So while originally patterns come with variations and size options, these won’t be included in most second-hand packets. I am lucky to be short, and thus naturally petite, so this wasn’t such an issue, but it’s something to be aware of.

I made the above 1950 top for work out of one of these patterns using a quilting fabric. While they can seem stiff in the store, after a wash they soften up, and certainly even more so after it is worn and washed several times. They work well for older patterns which are tailored and structured, but probably not good for flowing, or very tight outfits, as they have no give.

I make a lot of clothes out of pretty quilting fabric

I have issues with side zips, and getting them to merge into the shape of the piece. This top I wear with a waist-hight skirt so it’s not such an issue. I like using buttons to break up necklines, as you would have seen on my Delftware dress.

Another vintage pattern

I have to say, I used to be one of those people who would throw out the bits of pattern I don’t use, rather than try and fit them back into the packet. However, since becoming an owner and user of second hand patterns, I have tried not to do this. You never know who might have a use for them down the track. I would like to make this 1954 pattern to the right next, but I haven’t yet been brave enough to see if it’s all in there!

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Delftware Dress

I had first used this 1957 Vintage Vogue pattern (V2903) to make a Queen of Hearts costume for my sister. I finally had the time and cash to attempt a more wearable version.

This pattern takes 6 metres of fabric, that is a lot, especially when you have a very small working space. I used a quilting fabric because of the beautiful design, which reminds me of Delftware plate motif.

Delftware (Wikimedia Image)

Being quite short, I ended up using only around 5m, as I cut the length a foot shorter, even before hemming. If like me, you find cutting the pattern a most tiresome activity, ready your forearm muscles for this beast. It is 8 large, long pieces, plus facings. Nevertheless, it is really quite a simple sew.

One down side of this pattern is the sleeves, as I learnt first time around. They were designed for a Vogue model, and are only suitable for sitting at a dinner table or standing in front of the sink, no reaching or waving allowed (a lady in the 1950s probably wouldn’t engage in such uncouth behaviour). Needless to say, I left the sleeves off this incarnation. 

1950s Delftware Dress

I added the embellishments of ribbon trim and a button as it is otherwise quite plain. I also wear a tutu/petticoat under-skirt underneath to fluff it out to a truer 1950s style. I didn’t iron in the pleats of this dress, because I quite like the looser flowing feel.

All things considered, I would use this pattern again.

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Blue Hawaii

(this post was prepared pre-flood, enjoy!)

My first attempt on this Vintage Vogue pattern ended up looking something like a pasty blue pillow case. The second incarnation was far more successful. Granted I didn’t add the collar, disregarded the skirt pattern, and raised the waistline about 4 inches, but an axe with three new blades and 5 new handles is still the same axe.

I had to stitch and restitch the skirt three times because I wasn’t using the recommended fabric. My second attempt included some tulle to support a full skirt. It wasn’t so much a throwback to On the Town as it was bulbous and unflattering. I pulled out the tulle to allow the gathered cotton to fall more naturally. The gathering was, however, too dense for the light fabric, so there was little improvement. Normally I would have given up, but the fabric was just too beautiful to turn into another pot holder.

After my fourth attempt the skirt sat flat with just two pleats at the front and some tapering down the back. It was as much a pencil skirt as my hips would allow. After two insertions of the zipper and restitching darts 5 times, the end result is something reminiscent of an Elvis Presley Hawaii movie circa 1962.  This is actually kind of great being I am recently in possession of several of these gems.

Lesson learned about patterns:

Use recommended fabric

Pay attention to where the waistlines are designed to sit

Making items bigger with the assumption you can always take it in, can make things worse

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