Monthly Archives: September 2012

Dresses and Hats: In Search of the Just Right for Now Designs.

Imagining this:

There I am in a chic city – right now – moderate temperature, a happy sun in the sky – not too intense, a bit of a breeze. I might walk to my destination, or perhaps take the metro, city bus, or a taxi and I don’t want to call the wrong type of attention to myself. The dress I’m postulating is modest. When I sit, it doesn’t ride up. Due to this dress, I have the look of a polished, well-put-together lady – with a head full of important and artistic thoughts. When I walk in the breeze, the dress moves gracefully around me, but doesn’t billow up – threatening exposure.

Now on my head I have a hat – there in that chic city – and I want it to stay on my head. Maybe, when I get to where I’m going, I’ll remove the hat – with a flourish – for a moment… so my hair should stay nice and neat beneath the hat. This hat doesn’t make my head hot, and this hat is small enough to allow other people to see around me – wherever I am. This hat stays on my head – even in an unexpected gust of wind – and should it rain, this hat is not forever ruined. This hat also makes me look like a polished, well-put-together lady – with a head full of important and artistic thoughts.

As I breeze past, onlookers think – my goodness, what an interesting lady… I wonder what she’s thinking.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

A dress and a hat to embody the persona of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis… in essence, refined. However, the Cassini/Halston look of the sixties requires some twenty-first century mindset to fit into today’s context.

For daytime, substitute a clever-something for the pearls. I think the daytime accessory should read “smart”, not “pricey”.  Notice, Jackie’s hat is brimless. I’m postulating a just-right-for-now hat with a brim, to provide a little shade. “Just right” would be a hat with a brim not so large that I have to turn my head to see you from the corner of my eye. “Just right” would be a hat with a brim small enough to allow me to wear super-sized shades when I desire privacy.

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Clever Vintage Blouse Construction…and a Grand Bell Hat: VPLL.

If fashions of the past make your heart thump a little faster, don’t miss out on Vintage Pattern Lending Library’s great design collections. Earlier in the year I’d learned of VPLL’s Titanic project, which involves recreating 1912 fashions from La Mode Illustree – a major turn-of-the-century sartorial arbiter. As a project volunteer, I test-sewed a hat, two women’s blouses, and a child’s apron.

Test-sewing the hat was an unusual experience for me – as I’d never created a hat with a wire armature. However, the Ladies’ Spring Hat depicted a frame… so I produced a small-scale practice model. As life goes, other responsibilities began to demand my time – but I still like to check VPLL’s Titanic progress… and was ecstatic to discover a new hat pattern there tonight!

Check this link to see the beautiful hat project – this time it’s a Bell Hat (much like the ones Marc Jacobs presented in his Fall 2012 Louis Vuitton collection!) You’ll see this hat is also based on a wire armature – but, using a stiffer fabric, one might avoid the necessity for the framework structure.

Louis Vuitton Fall 2012 by Marc Jacobs. Runway collections image at

Now, the other thing that may excite you (especially if you sew) – is this 1912 La Mode Illustree blouse design, which is fabulously engineered so that the side-body and sleeve are in one piece. You just have to see it to understand, so don’t miss the link directly above.

Small-scale toile created to test La Mode Illustree 1912 Blouse 0219. Toile La La toile and photo.

VPLL has recently announced they have a sufficiency of volunteers, but don’t fret… you can still investigate the website to see the great work of VPLL’s testers, view vintage fashion illustrations, and look for great sewing patterns!

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Dresses and Hats: Comme des Garcons Fall 2012 Runway Videos.

It was exciting to find this Kawaii Kakkoii Sugoi blog link featuring the Fall/Winter 2012/2013 men’s and women’s Ready-to-Wear runway collections of Rei Kawakubo’s Comme des Garcons.

I’d been noticing the unusual dresses of Kawakubo’s Fall 2012 collection pictured in several fashion publications, but was even more imaginatively-inspired when I saw the Kawaii Kakkoii Sugoi fashion videos with both men’s and women’s presentations.

I particularly like these dress-within-a-dress styles, which I could imagine being scaled down for a very figure-flattering look. The colored wigs seem like a safe and worry-free haircoloring option. The menswear kilt styles are very nice and I was glad to see the great variety of hats as well.


Dress-Within-a-Dress. Rei Kawakubo Comme des Garcons Fall 2012. Image Collections at

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Madame Agnes 1937 Zipper Hat.

Madame Agnes Millinery zipper hat. Illustration from Woman’s Home Companion October 1937 “Taken from the French” article. Scan by Toile La La.

Appearing in Woman’s Home Companion of October 1937, this hat is described by  Marjorie Howard in an article “Taken from the French”:  “…intended primarily for October weekends when you travel in a car and must curtail your luggage… a long curved strip of felt with metal slide fastenings artfully disposed along the edges. You begin at the top, slip one end of the fastening into the other and wind spirally till your hat emerges, crown, brim, and all. And it really works for I have tried it. To pack you unzip and roll the strip into a ball.” Howard continues to say she’s not sure a home-milliner could “succeed” in creating her own zipper hat as “it is pretty tricky to cut. Agnes told me that it took her three weeks of experimentation to work it out properly. The curve has to be as accurate as in an engineer’s working model.” Fascinating!

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Heirloom Embellishments for Vintage Sewing.

In the 25th anniversary issue of Sew Beautiful, there appear many wonderful examples of antique embroidery and French sewing techniques – many dating back to Victorian times. Included are directions for embroidered eyelets, granito dots, joining lace to lace, adding entredeux panels, puffing, shark’s teeth points, and adding shaped lace embellishments.

During the time I was test-sewing La Mode Illustree Patterns for Vintage Pattern Lending Library’s Titanic Project, I would have particularly appreciated reading about these techniques.  Now I’ve moved on to other projects, but thought some of you might like to see these instructions for eyelets and for embroidered granito dots.

Heirloom embroidery techniques: eyelet, granito dot. 25th Anniversary Issue Sew Beautiful 2012.

Blouse 1000 La Mode Illustree (at VPLL) featured granito dot embroidery, scalloped edges, pintucks, and a peplum. The blouse pattern did not include embroidery instructions, although specific placement of the granito dots was pictured on the pattern.

I was happy to discover these stitches illustrated in Sew Beautiful (which featured the work of Margaret Boyles -appointed “First Lady of Needlwork” by Sew Beautiful.)

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