Friday, August 28, 2020

Making a 1950s Pin-Up Top | Simplicity 1426

 The perfect ingredients for a quick, satisfying sewing project:

  • 1 scrap of fabric
  • 2 matching vintage buttons
  • Remnant of thread long enough to sew on those buttons
  • a Big 4 pattern without ridiculous amounts of ease (Simplicity 1426!)
I'm currently working on an 1850's corset, but I needed a quick, palette cleanser project to keep my sewing motivation high. I found Simplicity 1426 in my stash, a reproduction 1950s pattern for 5 different bra tops that I've been wanting to try for years. I had a remnant of vintage printed cotton (given to me by my grandma, who likely bought in between the 1960s-80s) that was just enough to cut out View B, with some piecing on the back.

Changes I made to the pattern:
  • I changed the arrangement of the buttons so that the two buttons were placed horizontally rather than vertically; this was more aesthetically pleasing and allowed me to tighten up the band of the "bra" for more support
  • I added bias strips of white cotton sateen to the straps for some subtle contrast (you can watch my video below to learn how I did that!)

Overall, I really enjoyed working with this pattern. I cut a Size 8, which had barely any ease and fit almost perfectly, with the exception of the straps that are a bit too long -- but I'm petite anyway, and should've checked the strap length before sewing. Not only is the pattern true to size, it's a quick, easy make that can be achieved in a few hours. You can adapt most of the views of the pattern into tops by extending the bottom bands to cover the midriff. 

I also had just enough fabric left over to make a matching face mask! Safe and stylish 😍

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Examining an Original 1860s Chemise & Nightgown


I recently had the extraordinary luck of finding an antique chemise and nightgown set on Facebook Marketplace for $10! I believe the set dates to the 1860s. Both garments are decorated with tatted lace and drawn thread work, and the nightgown is additionally ornamented with pintucks.

Remarkably, both the chemise and nightgown appear to be made of linen, and the side seams - like in 18th century shifts - take advantage of the linen selvedges by having the selvedges whip stitched together.

If you're interested in seeing more of the technical and decorative details of these garments, please watch my video, below!

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Examining 1840s Bodice Styles

The 1840s is my favorite decade of Victorian fashion. Coming right after the absurdly voluminous silhouette of the 1830s, women’s fashion of the 1840s was characterized by details that emphasized a slim silhouette: straight, fitted sleeves; long, full skirts, and perhaps the most emblematic of the era: the “fan front,” so called because of the gathering at the center front of the bodice fans over the bust. But there is a stunning variety of bodice styles from the 1840s in addition to the "fan front"! 

Please watch my video below (part of this weekend's Cocovid programming) to see how I examined daguerreotypes, portraits, and extant garments from the 1840s to identify common and unusual design elements of that period to better understand the beautiful variety of bodice styles that existed.

Sources (from the Metropolitan Museum of Art):

Thumbnail/Header image: The Clark Sisters, 1840s colorized by Klimbim

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Victorian/Edwardian Kitchen Apron Tutorial & Pattern

I designed this apron by looking at examples of similar aprons in drawings, books, and magazines from the 1890s-1900s. Often referred to as a nurse's apron or kitchen apron, the bib and full skirt help protect your garment from dirt and grime. We might refer to a garment like this as a "pinafore apron" today!

This style of apron is perfect for a Downton Abbey cosplay or Alice in Wonderland cosplay. It's a neat and functional apron for use in modern kitchens, too!

This apron is an easy project that can be accomplished in a few hours. It can be customized with tucks, ruffles, lace insertion, or embroidery, and it's suitable for hand sewing, machine sewing, or a combination of the two.

Materials required:

  • 2 yards of 45” fabric
  • 2 buttons
  • Matching thread


Pattern pieces:

All pattern pieces include ¼” seam allowance

Bib: Cut one 9.5 inches x 7.5 inches

Straps: Cut two 3.5 inches x 33 inches

Waistband: Cut one 1.75 inches x 22.5 inches

Waistband facing: Cut one 1.75 inches x 22.5 inches

Ties: Cut two 2.5 inches x 30 inches

Skirt: Cut one 34.5 inches x 44 inches, and cut two 34.5 inches x 14.5 inches (this will vary if you’re using narrower or wider fabric; generally, avoid having a seam down the center front; the apron skirt should be at least 1.5 yards wide).

Cutting layout:


1.      Assemble the apron skirts:

a.       Pin and sew together the side seams of the skirt pieces. If you’re using 60” wide fabric, you won’t need side seams; you can just use one breadth of the fabric from selvedge to selvedge.

b.       Flat fell the side seams, felling towards the center back.

c.       Fold up and press ¼” at the bottom of the apron; then fold up and press 3” to make a 3” hem. Stitch.

d.       Fold, press, and stitch a ¼” hem on the side edges of the apron.

e.       Mark the center front of the apron. Sew two rows of gathering stitches across the top of the apron.

f.        Mark the center front of the waistband pieces. Take one waistband piece and press down ¼” on the short ends.

g.       Right sides to right sides, match up the center front of the apron with the center front of the waistband. Match up the side hems of the apron with the ¼” fold of the waistband. Adjust the gathers of the apron to fit the waistband, pin, and stitch.

h.       Press the seam towards the waistband. Trim seam allowance.

2.       Assemble the bib and straps:

a.       At the top edge of the bib, fold down and press ¼”. Fold down and press 1.25” to create the hem at the top of the bib. Stitch and press.

b.       Pin the straps to the wrong side of the bib, lining up the bottom of the straps with the bottom of the bib. Stitch and press the seam towards the straps.

c.       Press down ¼” on the long sides of the straps.

d.       Fold the straps in half and pin along the long edge, matching up the folded down ¼” seam allowance. Stitch and press.

e.       Topstitch along the folded edge of the straps.

f.        Mark the center front of the bib. Run two lines of gathering stitches along the bottom edge of the bib.

g.       Match up the center front of the waistband with the center front of the apron. Determine how wide you want your gathered bib to be. Gather the bib to fit the measurement you’ve chosen (my bib was gathered down to 6.5” wide) and pin it to the waistband. Stitch and press. Trim seam allowance.

3.       Assemble the apron:

a.       Fold, press, and stitch a narrow hem on the long edges of the apron ties. On one of the short edges of the apron ties, fold, press, and stitch a ¼” hem.

b.       Match up the right sides of the unhemmed, short edge of the apron ties with the right side, short edge of waistband. Make a pleat in the center of the ties. Pin, stitch, and press.

c.       Match up the long edge at the top of the waistband facing to the right side of the waistband. Pin and stitch. Trim seam allowance.

d.       Press waistband facing down, wrong side to wrong side, over the waistband. Fold under ¼” on the remaining edges of the waistband facing. Topstitch or hand stitch facing to waistband.

e.       Try on the apron, cross the straps and determine where the straps should button to the waistband. Sew buttons onto the straps and corresponding buttonholes on the waistband.


  • Sew hems and seams by hand
  • Sew hems with a hemstitch
  • Add tucks or lace insertion to the bib and/or skirt
  • Sew the straps to the waistband instead of using buttons and buttonholes
  • Lengthen the ties
  • Add a pocket to the apron skirt

Fitting Tips:

  • Adjust the apron to your proportions by lengthening/shortening the waistband, straps, and bib. 


McCall’s Spring & Summer Pattern Catalog, 1907