Mending a feather hat

Vintage dressing often includes hats, and there are lots of examples in old films. Before I post Part 3 of How to Wear Vintage Hats, I thought I would share how I mended one of them. Often bargains are damaged, so learning how to mend vintage is a valuable skill.

This lovely Biba hat was missing a few feathers when I was entrusted with it. I managed to find a multi-pack of natural coloured feathers in a craft shop. Finding the right notions to fix things is the most difficult part!

After picking out the best colour and size, I trimmed the fluffy bits off the feathers.

I experimented with a black Sharpie pen to draw on spots to match the original. I glued the ends to slide under the feathers already fixed onto the hat.

I think I managed pretty well matching the feathers. Can you spot the replacement feathers?

Marilyn’s chunky knit cardigan

Marilyn Monroe cardigan
Photo by George Barris

In 1962, George Barris took a series of photos of Marilyn Monroe on Santa Monica beach. So, technically, this isn’t from the silver screen. This shoot takes chunky cardigans into a wardrobe staple, if not a pin up status. This is very similar to the one in Starsky & Hutch too.

If you love barbeques on the beach, even in the summer you need something warm to wrap up in as the sun sets.

I’ve wanted to have one of these for a while, but nobody seems to knit it to look like the photo. The stitches seem more textured than plain knit, perhaps because it’s chunky. I couldn’t get the right look, so I experimented with some different stitches to find he right look.

 

Compared to that, drawing out the Cowichan deign was easy! Figuring out the colours we fun too. It was my brother who pointed out that there is a fourth colour. Look carefully at the diamonds in some of the photos, and you can pick out a dark grey.

 

I used a similar cardigan pattern from the Seventies, although I think I ended up altering most of it to get the right look.

Contact me if you’re interested in commissioning one!

 

How to Wear Vintage Hats – Part 2

 

In Part 2 I’ll show some of my inspiration for styling Thirties and Forties hats.

ITV’s Poirot is a delight to watch, not just for the story, but the attention to detail for the era. It’s difficult to find photos of the characters that only show up in one episode, which means you have to watch it to see their headgear! Miss Lemon is a resident character at Poirot’s flat, working as his secretary, so I found photos of her hats! I think she is a good example of a well-dressed lady, without being from the upperclasses, so a good role model everyday or office wear dressing in the Thirties.

One way to wear a hat for a Thirties style outfit is to wear the hat on top of your head, which sounds silly, because isn’t that where it’s meant to be anyway! Look at the photos to see what I mean. Hair is shorter or done up close to the head.

I don’t often wear hats with my Forties outfits as I tend to go for high updo’s, then it’s a shame to cover it up. Look at Death by Deco for a masterclass in hat wearing, especially the Forties styles – and brilliant turban tying lessons!

Forties hats

The series Agent Carter is one of my favourite Forties set TV shows. The red hat! Interestingly, the more masculine, power dressing style and tailoring for the Forties was partly born from wartime ‘make do and mend’ ingenuity. The women at home were encouraged to keep up appearances for the troops morale, and that meant one was allowed to raid the husband’s wardrobe for altering to womenswear! This was not just jackets, but hats too. That’s why some of the hats have a trilby look.

I’ve styled the same hat from the Thirties look for the Forties, by wearing at the back of my head, so the brim frames my hairstyle and face like a halo. If you don’t have a high updo at the front, you can wear perch (or tilt) hats like in the original photos above.

For historical accuracy, Forties films, (I like film noir), will give you some amazing creations to look out for. This turban/ knitted headband from Hitchcock’s Suspicion, worn by Joan Fontaine had me rewinding the final scene. I think this is going on my wish list of knits.

Joan Fontaine in Suspicion - knitted turban hat headband

In Part 3 we’ll look at the Fifties and Sixties.

Marilyn’s Niagara dress

 

This is an amazing summer dress from the film Niagara, that Marilyn’s character Rose wears on a supposedly romantic holiday with her husband. The story is great too, with a definite Hitchcockian feel to it. Marilyn gets to play a darker role and pulls it off with flying colours.

I needed help to draw up the pattern for this, and my Mum did an amazing job. I’m a hard taskmaster for accuracy! I’m not too keen on wearing hot pink, although the colour looks good on Marilyn with her bottle blonde hair. I chose a teal cotton, which I think looks better with dark hair and pale skin.

Unlike similar reproductions you Ind online I kept the skirt looser from the hips down by cutting it straight, and also putting the split at the back. As there are no pintucks at the front, the curve of the waist to hip was sewn in the side seam. The fastening is a front zip, with the gathers stitched in place.

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Detail on Niagara dress

For a smooth look, I sew bullet bra pads into the top. Marilyn didn’t need to do this, but I think it gives a better shape and makes me feel like I am wearing something underneath! This is a good trick for tops or dresses with cutouts in awkward places. Multilayer bras aren’t always hidden, and stick ons don’t give an authentic vintage silouette. You can buy these from What Katie Did in black or white.

The sandals have been the closest similar to the original photos as I have found so far. See more about these sandals here. I have accessorised with gold hoops and heart charm bangles. I think Marilyn’s bracelet is a chain with a single charm.

In the film, she accessorises with a pale, possibly white, floaty scarf and a white clutch.

I’ve worn this dress to, among other times, a summer wedding abroad and a surfer/ Hawaiian themed party. Red or hot pink go well with teal.

I hope to recreate some of her other outfits from this film in the future. The wool jackets are beautiful.

How to Wear Vintage Hats – Part 1

I love hats, but often feel overdressed or a spectacle in public because so few people wear hats now. It’s a shame not to wear them when they’re so pretty, or sometimes just fun.

Here, I’ll feature some of my hats styled through the decades. In Part 1 we can look at my inspiration and take on Edwardian to Twenties hats.

My favourite Edwardian inspiration comes filtered through the Sixties in The Assassination Bureau. Miss Winter, played by Diana Rigg, wears some stylish outfits, topped off with tilt, or perch, hats. Look at my post for more about this hat. This style is best with updo’s, as you’ll need hair to pin the hat to secure it. Think of it like wearing a fascinator and don’t take it off indoors. It won’t be in anyone’s way!

There are lots of modern takes in the Twenties, most recently Phryne Fisher. Wide brimmed to brimless, including the classic beret, all require some hair showing at the front to frame the face more softly. Phryne’s Bob is perfection if you have straight hair like Louise Brooks, the original bob trendsetter. If your hair is long, tie most of it up inside the hat, and style the front. Marcel waves or pin curls will scream Twenties starlet. If you can’t tame your hair, channel It girl Clara Bow and embrace the wild curls. A bit of rouge and dangly earrings look great with a cloche hat. Of course, matching a hat to your outfit or accessories pulls a look together.

The beret will take you through any era, but for the Twenties look pull it down to create a bigger shape, like in the photo of Miss Fisher.

 

Another favourite of mine is Some Like it Hot. Marilyn’s hat in her opening scene as Sugar is beautiful in the style and fit. The feather is perfectly proportioned to the close fit of the cloche hat.

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Marilyn Monroe as Sugar

In Part 2, I’ll show you my Thirties and Forties style hats.

 

 

Thoroughly Modern Millie Loungewear

The current underwear as outerwear fad has a more wearable sister – Loungewear as daywear. Even if you’re not brave enough to wear silk pyjama’s as an evening suit or a flowing dressing gown as a duster coat, don’t miss out on the better high street collection of feminine daywear to create some pretty vintage style loungewear sets.

Miss Fisher has some good examples of Twenties loungewear and the film Thoroughly Modern Millie has some wonderful pyjamas. I especially like the set Julie Andrews wears while wafting down a grandiose corridor.

Matching tops and bottoms is key for a fluid look. Lace or embroidery are beautiful details to look for. Silk is wonderful, but satin is an easy care option. Look for wide leg, floaty trousers and long blouses or tunics that match the bottoms.

Here is my interpretation, styling a dress and trousers from H&M.

The kimono jacket and satin mules are also from H&M, while the black peep toe slippers are Fifties vintage.

There are lots of pretty mules like vintage slippers at the moment, so now is the time to stock up!

Have you found a good place to buy pretty loungewear? How do you mix and match?

 

Vintage and Retro Sunglasses

Vintage dressing always  looks best finished with accessories. Generally, I plan jewellery with my clothes, but with sunny weather here, sunglasses are picked up as I rush out the door. I try to make it simple by having a few pairs (not too many!) that cover the decades I like.

For the Twenties, Thirties and Forties small round glasses were popular. There are some fun frame designs from the Forties, like petals around the eyes to create flowers! Watch Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun (film or ITV) for some great Thirties summer outfits and sunglasses. I love the colourised photo of a young blonde Bette Davis with an icecream.

Bette Davis sunglasses
Round Thirties sunglasses

Cat eye glasses epitomised the Fifties, from bookish to pin-up. Marilyn Monroe wore a thinner black design that won’t flatter everyone, but I like the wider frames that go to the edge of the face, and up to the eyebrow. Classic black or tortoiseshell goes with everything, but there is plenty of scope for fun. Coloured frames to match lipstick, dresses or accessories were popular, as were diamante details and shapes on the upper edge. Ray-Ban wayferers were worn by Marilyn too, and these are a classic style that’s still popular.

Going into the Sixties, sunglasses got bigger and any shape and design imaginable show up. Generally, bug-eye and soft edged square shapes were popular. Grace Kelly had a huge selection of sunglasses, and that might be a good place to start if you want to have a reference to shapes and styles before you shop round.

Grace-kelly-Sunglasses-To-catch-a-thief

My dream pair of sunglasses are the pair Audrey Hepburn wears as Holly Golighty in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. They have a tortoiseshell framework greenish lenses. These were designed by Oliver Goldsmith. It’s worth checking out some of his other designs too. There are lots of similar designs out there, but if you want the real thing, Oliver Goldsmith reissued a line!

Breakfast at Tiffany's - Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses

This style covers the Seventies owl eyes and modern styles currently popular.

They are well worth it, they met all my expectations. Now I’m scared of scratching them, so I am learning to be glasses conscious, not wearing them on top of my head and always putting them in a hard case when I’m not wearing them.

Here’s my line-up of necessary styles to have a pair for any outfit from the Twenties to the Sixties.

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All these eras are covered by modern styles available to buy on the high street. Now you know what to look for, I hope you find a style you like.

 

Fifties cropped trousers

I love the fit of vintage clothes, that high street brands rarely match. Trousers that fit snug on the waist but actually fit over my hips are difficult to find.

See how nicely Fifties trousers fit, and you’ll be glad to know there are replica vintage brands that fill the need. For example, Collectif, Bernie Dexter, Pinup Girl Clothing, Heyday and Vivien of Holloway.

However, the price tag isn’t always level with the high street because of the work that goes into shaping. Still, they may not match the difference between your waist and hips as they have to size ready-to-wear with an ‘average’ difference. Vintage clothing generally gives a 10″ difference between hips and waist for an hourglass figure, or 12″ appears on my vintage patterns. Let me know if you’re lucky enough to find high waisted trousers with this difference in a high street brand!

I love my replica vintage ladies jeans from Vivien of Holloway. The fit is perfect at the waist and over my hips. This makes them so comfortable, as they just stay put, and don’t require me pulling them up as they stretch. The leg is pretty much a classic straight cut and and the seams don’t twist. The belt loops are fairly big, over an inch, so a belt can be worn. They were sold as rolled up jeans, but i do unroll mine and they come to my ankles. I’m 5’2″, so no supermodel. I guess if you have long legs, they’d be 7/8th length? Still perfect pin up jeans, good with flats or heels, a really flattering fit with a slight stretch to the fabric.

The other trousers I love wearing because they fit well, are a pair I made from a vintage replica sewing pattern.  I bought some black and white gingham for making Miss Winter’s skirt The Assassination Bureau, and had plenty left over for making a pair of cropped trousers inspired by Marilyn Monroe.

A friend asked me to make her a pair, and here she is channelling Audrey Hepburn, modelling them.

 

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Photo credit: Gina Walbridge

Here’s what to wear with vintage style trousers;

  • A lightweight knit with heels like Marilyn
  • Boat neck top and ballet flats like Audrey
  • Shirt and loafers like Grace

Notice the details too;

  • The decorated flats Audrey wears or the laces on Grace’s flats
  • a scarf as a belt
  • The variety of patterns used for the trousers, while keeping the top plain.

How do you wear yours?

The Avengers – Tara King’s thigh high boots

 

While Diana Rigg as Mrs Peel is my favourite (and her clothes), a few things from Tara King’s wardrobe have been on my wish list. The late Sixties fashion Tara wears generally have a Seventies feel, with garish colour combinations, brown, mini skirts and wide collars, which I don’t wear. I like the purple Palazzo pants and the mustard pair Tara wears with a purple wrapover top.

The evening dresses are pretty, and also the Edwardian outfits in the episode Pandora. For similar inspiration see my post on The Assassination Bureau.

Before the Sixties were over, however, there was one brief moment where thigh high boots were set to replace the need for stockings and tights. Tights reigned supreme though, easy to change, cheap to buy multiple colours and patterns, with the added bonus of modesty with ever decreasing hemlines.

Now some features of this era are back on the high street, like playsuits and over-the-knee boots, I redoubled my efforts to find thigh high boots. Only, I had specifications. They must fit well like Tara’s.

  • Snug on the ankle
  • Stretch pull-on
  • Thigh high
  • Preferably leather shoe uppers (for longer lasting wear)
  • Mid block heel
  • Round to square toes

So many of the boots on offer are suede or suede effect, which living in a rainy country, reduces wearability drastically. I don’t want to wear boots in the Summer, but in the Winter! Also, because they are high street, the average fit is larger of ankle and narrower above the knee, which is no good for a shapely pair of pins.

My first pair I bought are over-the-knee brown suede look boots. I was so pleased to find an affordable pair I actually liked, even though they were suede. You can see them on How to Wear (Faux) Fur.

However, I am now ecstatic at finding a leather pair of thigh high boots that meet the other specs too. Now I’ll have to make the playsuit.

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Bowler hat and thigh high boots Tara King style

So, A-line cut shorts are the flattering and modest way to go with this look. I’ve tried leggings under a tunic/ mini dress, but the leg slips slowly down. Jeans have little more friction. Bare legs are no good for keeping these boots up, either. There must be a trick to it. Hairspray à la Miss Congeniality?

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A few of my favourite outfits. Find a definitive breakdown of all The Avengers clothes at dissolute.au.

Vintage wedding dresses

In England, Queen Victoria wore the first white wedding dress, and due to her celebrity status, they became popular. Before that, brides would wear their Sunday best. White has remained popular ever since.

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Queen Victoria’s wedding dress

Here are two true vintage wedding dresses I have on loan from a friend. They are roughly from the Thirties. The What Katie Did CC09 bra is perfect for creating the right shape for the cut of the dresses. Both dresses look home-made from the finishing on the inside.

The lace dress has a square, slightly sweetheart neckline and fits close to the body, with a sweeping train. There is piping on the bodice to add shape. The mutton sleeves have ruching and piping with stuffed shoulder pads stitched into the shoulder seams to hold the lace up and out. The lower part of the sleeves have a row of buttons and a point over the back of the hand. The fastening is under the arm, so the waist is fitted. There is a row of metal poppers (snap fastening) and a hook and eye under the sash.

There is no lining, so I assume, like many dresses of the era, it was made to wear over a slip already owned by the wearer. I am wearing a vintage, probably Fifties midi- length slip. The lace bodice and wide pleated border of lace blend well with the lace of the dress.

The back has a row of decorative covered buttons down the spine, to where the satin sash ties. The lace has only a few holes that need mending, mostly on the fitted part of the sleeves. The hem has suffered some wear and tear and the buttons have discoloured in places. I think this adds to the charm of finding vintage clothes that others have loved and treasured.

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The satin wedding dress has the same fluid shaped skirt and mutton sleeves with pointed cuffs. The V-neck and gathers from the shoulders to under the bust. The seamstress has inserted a modesty panel in the deep V. This dress has no fastening on the body except the sash and poppers in the front panel. The cuffs also have a popper each, with slight wear around one of them.

The front seam was unpicked when I was given this dress. It was only tacked and looked like there were some threads through the front. This makes me think there were buttons that were used again on another dress. I used some satin covered buttons to finish the dress.

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Wallis Simpson sports the high neck, buttons and gathers, with the body skimming skirt. The neckline, shoulders and gathers on the dress worn by Ginger Rogers are heading into the Forties, but are echoed in the vintage dresses I have shared with you.

For Fifties and Sixties inspiration, search Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. White wasn’t always the choice, and the styles vary dramatically. Some have stood the test of time, while others are of their time.