My “Elton John” inpsired outfit

The Facts
: Leopard printed polyester for blouse, black gabardine for pants
Pattern: New York pattern # 1779 for shirt, Simplicity 3688 for pants
Year: 1940′s
Notions: Interfacing and 7 buttons for shirt from stash; 1 hook-n-eye & waistband interfacing for pants from stash
Time to complete: ~4 hours
First worn: May 2012
Wear again? YES!!

Total Cost: $13.03 for blouse fabric, pants fabric from Angie’s stash but I did buy pattern for $1.08




Vegas….Vegas….what to do…

Many years ago I actually worked in Las Vegas designing uniforms for casinos such as Cesars, Treasure Island, Mirage, MGM Grand and Binion’s. I know there were others but memory fails me at the moment. It’s not as glamorous as you may think, you spend a lot of time in meetings trying to out-guess the competition and trying to explain the evils of sweat-shop produced clothing. Not that I didn’t meet a lot of nice, hard working people but trying to make an item of clothing cheaper than a factory in Vietnam isn’t my idea of the dream job. And the day I was trying, very delicately, to explain to a roomful of men why having a leotard with an 8″ wide crotch might be uncomfortable to the average woman (and then having Steve Wynn walk up behind me…yeah…) was the day I knew that I needed to do something else : )

So when it came to the Vegas challenge it was just a matter of picking an era and an icon AND it needed to be something I could wear in public. The last time I was in Las Vegas was about six years ago and the highlight of my trip was getting to shop at the Elton John store in Ceaser’s. One of the prized items in my wardrobe is the shirt I bought, here is the label:

The very first Elton John song I ever heard was “The Bitch is Back”. Considering that I was raised on a steady diet of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart and was in the third grade before I heard that “rock-n-roll stuff” this song just made my JAW DROP. We were able to play records during Art classes in high school and this was the first song played my first day there. I was IN LOVE. Elton John was the first live concert I ever went to, it was the first live show I took my daughter to (but she dragged me to No Doubt, Offspring and a BFD concert so she returned the favor, at least I side stepped Korn). I tried making some of his outfits, I played the piano so I got some of his sheet music, I saw his shows as often as possible and onetime spent a whole 20 seconds talking to “him” on a radio station!  He may not be Mr. Las Vegas (I think Wayne Newton still has that honor) but to me he epitomizes Vegas. So I’m channeling the outfit he wore on the very first album of his I ever bought, Caribou.

I was tired this week, work was busy but I knew I was REALLY tired when trying to describe what I was thinking of making to Angie and I said “He’s wearing a shirt on the cover that is zebra print only orange and black” and she looked at me funny and said “You mean tiger?” Yeah…. My big mission of the week was to find some sort of animal print that wouldn’t make me look like I re-worked little kids PJ’s or a Halloween costume. I actually found the leopard print at JoAnn’s and was set. I decided to try the retro 40′s pant pattern that Trish most recently raved about and guess what? It’s fabulous. Just as easy as everyone says, the only tweaks I made were tapering the outside leg seam an inch and altering the waistline of the pant so the waistband sits in the right place. When I put these on I felt like they shaved 10 pounds off!

I used the same shirt pattern I’ve used several times lately because I wanted that yoke at the top and this time I made the long sleeved version and just gathered the sleeves instead of doing those pleats.I used three different styles of button, it’s what I had on hand that worked and ironically the buttons down the center front were left over from a project for the Mirage! Little touch of Vegas there for you…

That is the album I bought in 1974, my very first, along with the piano I grew up playing : )  Cool glasses too, huh?

Then my daughter and I started playing around with photos and photoshop-

But my favorite photo that came out of the day has to be this:

We were trying to figure out just WHAT the heck his hands were doing in the original shot. Was he dancing? Was he grooving to his own drummer? What was going on there?

I tried to see if we could reproduce that postion without feeling totally awkward…

Yeah…dork central…but what the heck…we were laughing and having a good time : ) I think when I wear this to work I’ll leave the glasses at home and not dance on BART.

And now for one of my prized possessions, the shirt I bought in the boutique:

I don’t wear it often, not because of the reaction I might get but because I don’t want the glitter to wear off : ) At least you know what you’re getting into if you see me in this…

The “Rosie the Riveter” ensemble

The Facts
Fabric:Stretch Denim, red and white polka dot fabric from stash
Pattern: New York pattern # 1779 for shirt, Folkwear # 250 Hollywood pants
Year: 1940′s
Notions: Interfacing and 5 buttons for shirt; 4 buttons for pants all from stash
Time to complete: ~4 1/2  hours, SIX hours and an emotional journey for photos
First worn: May 2012
Wear again? Yes! but not together

Total Cost: $27.67 for denim

I will unequivocally say this weeks challenge has so far produced the most emotional journey, and that’s saying something since the two family challenges nearly sent me back to therapy! One week ago I had no idea what I was going to do but since I have a stack of vintage 40′s patterns I wasn’t worried. It wasn’t until I was talking with a friend Monday night about some of the current political nuttiness that inspiration struck like a lightening bolt…I just HAD to channel the most recognizable iconic figure of the 40′s!

Made a fast trip to Joann’s for some basic stretch denim, I knew I wanted dark blue something with some stretch to it and denim was the best candidate. Washed, dried, pre-shrunk, good to go. Wednesday everything was cut out, Thursday I figured I had a few days to sew and then my schedule changed and photos would have to be done Saturday or I would be learning all about the timer feature of my camera : ) I used my go-to blouse pattern for the top and the knickers pattern of the Hollywood pants since I wanted a smooth waisted slimmer legged pant. I did not want a jumpsuit that, while period accurate, I would never wear so separates it was. All I did was taper the leg a bit and cut them longer. Then it was a mad sewing session Friday during which I watched, of all things, “League of their Own”. Oh, and the fly of the pants is all buttons, no zips!

In researching Rosie I found out we have not one but MANY Rosie sites here in the Bay Area, after all this was her home : ) Here is a brief synopsis of the Rosie story:

“World War II profoundly changed the status of  American women. As the military’s need for manpower increased, so did industry’s need for womanpower. In 1940-1944 over six million women joined the workforce. Despite initial concerns, by WWII’s end women had proven to be an invaluable and formidable force in the War effort.

The ‘We Can Do It’ poster created in 1943 by J. Howard Miller, encourage women entering the workforce. 1942′s “Rosie the Riveter”, a popular homefront song, became a nickname for women in the workforce.

As men returned from WWII most women left the factories. But the confidence, competence and earning power they had experienced forever changed the American workplace. Over time Rosie has become an icon symbolizing women’s strength, determination and ability to do any job.” That’s on the back of my new Rosie lunch box that I purchased at a museum shop : )

I mean seriously, how could I NOT channel that this week?

We started our journey at the Rosie the Riveter Memorial Park in Richmond. It is this very open steel structure meant to evoke the form of an unfinished hull. The walkway is the length of a ships keel, slopes towards the water and aligns with the Golden Gate Bridge. A timeline about the homefront and quotes from women workers are inscribed on the path. There are photos of the women in their various jobs on panels around the structure, you can just see some on the right. This was one of the more poignant quotes, almost made me cry:

And this was one of my favorite pictures:

At the bottom it says “We may have thought a year ago we couldn’t get along with them. Today we know we can never get along without them. – Aircraft Executive” They’re all sitting in a life boat eating lunch: ) You can read more about the memorial here.

Next we wanted to see if we could get on the USS Iowa. It was docked nearby and being towed to LA on Sunday to be a floating museum but for boat aficionados and WWII buffs this was a REALLY. BIG. DEAL. We quickly discovered we couldn’t get anywhere near it so we headed to the Red Oak Victory ship.

We got lost, we were in a part of town that two women in a red car with one wearing a red head scarf was perhaps not the best idea : ) When we finally found the ship we discovered a vintage T-bird car show in the parking lot!

While drooling over the pristine cars we came across the 1942 Fire truck that had been discovered somewhere in the mid-West (I think) and brought back “home” where it had served at the Kaiser shipyard #3 during the war!

Yes, its kind of a “wreck” and I have no idea if they’re planning a full restoration or just going to maintain it “as is”. You can see the official website here. This was pretty awesome, touching history like that!

Angie and I headed on board only to discover several large events, almost all participants of the generation that had either served in the military or supported those who did during WWII. It got a little intense : )

To get this shot we had to ask permission of the gentlemen in charge, all volunteers and all who had served onboard. They took one look at me and had big smiles on their faces. There was posing while some had their pictures taken with me : ) When you portray an icon so recognizable you have to be prepared for the reactions of others and so my college motto came in every handy “Remember who you are and what you represent”.

What’s important about this shot is what’s in the upper center of the pic – the USS Iowa.

We wandered the ship and found the museum, they have an original welders suit from a Rosie!

And as one of the gentlemen pointed out, by the time the Red Oak Victory was built they had moved away from riveting to welding as a stronger technique so that ship was built by Wendy the Welder : )

I posed by the original poster just for fun. On our way out, HOURS after we meant to leave, the park rangers asked me if I would come by on May 26th in my outfit for the grand opening of the new Visitor Center : ) We’ll see…

I was honored to have portrayed Rosie for a day, I was humbled by the smiles of a generation that is leaving us with just their stories and as the unnamed woman said on the sidewalk stone “I would appreciate if you would check and find out that I was truly there and did my part to the end.”

To all the women who just wanted, and still want, to be known that “they were there and did their part to the end” I honor you.

The “It could always be a quilt” outift

The Facts
Fabric: Three pieces from quilting stash, two of them very VIP!
Pattern: New York pattern # 1779 for shirt, skirt self drafted
Year: 1950′s
Notions: Interfacing and 5 buttons for shirt; interfacing and hook-n-eye for skirt
Time to complete: ~4 hours + 4 days of searching for inspiration
First worn: May 2012
Wear again? Yes!

Total Cost: ~$8.80

This was one of those challenges that I figured I’d just magically come up with some brilliant idea in the middle of the night, pull together the fabrics and BOOM! Done : )

Hah! I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do until Thursday. I spent three days looking through books, looking through boxes of fabric, asking friends for ideas… It started with the shirt fabric. I really love that piece and thought that if I HAD to do something with multiple prints then this was as good a start as any. I had several choices from two other pieces that were black/red/white combo to several co-coordinating prints that were so cutesy they were giving me a toothache.

What finally got me going was finding the Golden Girl of the West and her wonderful Mix it up print dress!

Isn’t she fabulous? You can check out her blog here. This outfit of hers is from August of 2010 and most likely a rayon or nylon print skirt/top combo. I also adore her hair, the snood, the shoes….

So I took my cue from her simple top and pulled out my new favorite top pattern, the same one I used for the Childhood challenge and wore with my circle skirt. The only thing I changed was cutting the sleeves about 2″ shorter. Easy, right?

The other two fabrics are in my “highly prized” collection, not only because they are cherry fabrics but because they are designed by someone I actually know! Sandy Klop designed the bottom two prints for Moda Fabrics and used to work at a local quilt store in town. She also does professional machine quilting and has quilted a couple of my quilts. The only one I’ve ever entered into a show won first place, partly due to her amazing work : )

I bought those fabrics at least 8 years ago and had plans to “one day” make a fabulous cherry quilt. When I pulled them out of the box they were so bright and cheerful that I figured if I didn’t like the finished outfit I could at least cut the skirt up and make my quilt anyway!

I wanted a skirt like Syd’s above, a little swingy but not full. I wanted the prints to work together and not look like I either skimped or was on my way to square dance social. I finally decided to try doing small pleats using my ruffler (you do know you can makes pleats with a ruffler as well as ruffles, right?) and liked the even-ness here, the slight 1.5/1 ratio works.

Had I know what I was doing from the start I could have had this sucker done by Wednesday and cruised through the rest of the week. Total sewing time was around 4 hours with lots of fussing in front of the mirror making sure lines were hitting me in the right place, considering whether I wanted to line the collar and sleeve edges with one of the skirt prints or…? The key to making these things work is editing! Otherwise I’d look like one of the Wicked Step Sisters I designed for a 50′s version of “Cinderella” and THAT was orange, yellow and lime gingham AND polka dots! (I’ll pull it out one of these days along with the platform shoes that match…)

I went a *little* overboard with the accessories! My cherry bakelite necklace HAD to be included and I piled on the red and butterscotch bakelite bracelets. I left some at home believe it or not : ) Those patent red “leather” shoes with bows over the toes are a very recent Target purchase. I’m telling you, ladies, since you liked my purple shoes of last week so much, you’ve gotta check out the shoe section at Target this season : )

My daughter and I went back to the local community gardens and park to take advantage of the 50′s Chevy wagon and the roses. I also tried doing Victory rolls with my hair for the first time in years. Turned out pretty well and when I took my mom an orchid for Mother’s day she said my grandfather used to call that hairstyle the “toilet seat”. I can see what he meant : ) BUT more importantly, my grandmother used to do this daily so I’m going to go see her for a one-on-one tutorial!

While I realize this isn’t multiple prints this is how I will most likely wear the shirt : ) Because I was so relieved to have finished this outfit and LIKED it I did a little dance of joy –

I’m including this last picture because it made my daughter laugh –

It’s a total blooper and makes me look like I’m in the middle of an “I Love Lucy” routine : )

Have I mentioned how much fun the last 20 weeks have been?

My Grandma Bertha dress

The Facts
: 4 yards linen, 2 1/2 yards from stash, had to purchase 1 1/2 more yards to make sure I had enough
Pattern: Vogue 2960
Year: 1954
Notions: 1 zipper, interfacing, 9 self-covered buttons all from stash, belt
Time to complete: ~3 1/2 hours
First worn: May 2012
Wear again? Definitely!
Total Cost:
$10.65 for fabric, $4.36 for pattern for a total of $15.01

When I saw this challenge in the list I knew immediately I wanted to make something like my Grandma Bertha would have worn. She was my dad’s mom, the one who taught my mother’s Girl Scout troop how to make circle skirts (you can see I come from a long line of radical females!) and eventually taught me how to sew. Sewing is like breathing to me, it’s just part of my soul and who I am. I sewed my way through junior high, high school and college, I sewed my way back to financial health after my first husband went rogue and I’ve sewn everything from Greek chitons to yellow patent leather Gwen Stefani pants for my daughter. You name it, I’ve probably made it or made a conscious decision NOT to : )

Now I work at a job where wearing something like this isn’t really going to raise any eyebrows. And I work in an office, not a shop underground that is prone to flooding and has widely variant temperature changes. Dresses are quickly making their way into my wardrobe and I’m pretty happy about that!

Me, my Grandma Bertha and Wendy the dog

This is me around 9 months of age, my mom thinks it was Memorial Day weekend. In this photo my grandma is one year younger than I am right now. She taught sewing for a living, believed in dressing “correctly” all the time (I’m pretty sure my habit of wearing jeans to work would HORRIFY her…or she would have embraced the change and worn them too!), and if you can’t tell from my blog, she believed in setting a “correct” table ALL the time, even if we were eating macaroni and cheese. You just never know who might stop by and heaven forbid if  there were no spoons on the table… I can guarantee you she has a camisole and half slip on under her dress or a full slip. A lady NEVER went without! She loved purple, which was pretty radical at the time, and I don’t remember her ever NOT having something purple on her self.

She also had a pretty cha-cha shoe collection, I have one pic of her in a lilac colored chiffon dress with super full pleated skirt and dyed-to-match shoes. I’m sure Michael Kors and Issac Mizrahi would be horrified but that’s just too bad. I thought she was wonderful and she would let me wear her shoes if I didn’t get them wet : )

When I saw this print many months ago I bought a random chunk just to have, a concept I’m sure one or two others might understand : ) As soon as I saw the pattern and that voluminous skirt I bought the extra yardage just to make sure and yes, I needed all of it. Too bad you can’t really tell I’m wearing one HUGE petticoat! A friend sent me her old bridal petticoat so I just cut 16″ off the top, re-gathered the pieces and put on a new waistband. That extra heavy netting and layers of gathered nylon make one really big pouff. It wasn’t until I saw the pics I realized I should have put on 2 petticoats! The purple hat with the rose on it is vintage as are my rhinestone earrings

This dress was easy, easy, easy to make! I looked at the very low cut back and raised it up about 3″ so I could wear a bra and not worry about something showing. I did NOT make the bound buttonholes down the front! One thing I’ve learned through the years is that my boobs and button front dresses aren’t friends. I just tacked the fronts together and stitched on the buttons so they’re not functional. Instead I inserted a zipper up the center back and called it good. Now I can get in and out easily and I don’t have to worry about gap-osis, pulling or popping a button.

. The only problem I had with this outfit was the darn belt! I did eventually get the belting that was inadvertently left out of my bag back in February but now I’ve put it somewhere so safe even I can’t find it! I covered another belt of mine with some purple silk close to the color of the shoes. I’m sure my grandmother would have approved : ) The dress is super comfy, I feel pretty (oh so pretty!) and if the weather keeps up like it is you’ll be seeing it on BART very soon…

The “Good-n-Plenty Disco” dress

The Facts
Fabric: 2 yards 16 inches of vintage 70′s Qiana from Mena’s fabric swap earlier this year, cotton/poly lining from stash
Pattern: Simplicity 2549
Year: Most likely mid to late 70′s
Notions: 1 zipper, scraps of interfacing
Time to complete: ~3 hours of actual sewing time, 6 hours over 3 nights of futsing time First worn: April 2012
Wear again? Probably not unless to a period costume party
Total Cost:

Let’s just say up front that pink just isn’t my thing any more. I almost sat out this challenge, and honestly if I hadn’t received this fun piece at the fabric swap Mena hosted a while back I would have been silent. But what is a challenge without being challenged so I tried, I REALLY tried to MAKE IT WORK! I pulled out no less than 7 patterns, including one Issey Miyake jacket pattern, to make something cool. First problem – 2 yards and 16 inches of 44″ wide and a border print to boot. OK, need to show off that border otherwise half of the fun factor is for naught. Second problem – holes in the fabric. Not a surprise considering its age but I doubt moths had a feast on all this polyester goodness : )

Two nights of nothing but trying design after design I went back to the pattern I used for the “Make this Look” challenge (that you can check out here). It fit, barely, with an issue in the border print but I went for it anyway and kept trying to make it work in my dreams. Finally around Thursday I ended up piecing one side of the skirt back border that, if I don’t point it out, most people don’t see. That’s ok, when I finally put it on I was so “Meh” about it I almost didn’t finish. The print reminds me of those dreadful Good-n-Plenty candies that people tried to convince me were “good” when I was little. Are you kidding me?! Even at 6 years of age I knew the only “real” candy must be chocolate, and good chocolate like See’s, not that icky chocolate you get at the drug store in plastic wrapped boxes…

I know full well not to judge a project when its not done and frankly this one worked out a little better than I thought, but the thing that really kept me going? The shoes : )


That is not a typo, they are Fluevogs : ) If you’ve never heard of them, or even if you have but never checked out their website go here. Peruse the “About” section and be prepared to laugh. They are amazingly awesome, stupidly comfy and my inspiration for finishing the dress.

I went to my girlfriends house for photos since her roses are in bloom, but she just got bees into her 2 hives so in the interest of not disturbing them or getting my daughter stung we kept our distance. I did channel my version of a “The Real Housewives of…” with her lemon tree. Did I like the dress any better at the end of the day? Not really. I also managed to nicely sabotage myself just about every step of the way – wore a dark grey bra instead of white, put on black underwear instead of a light color, forget my lipstick, did nothing with my hair…I mean really…and after a week of chilly temps mid week we were back up to 90 degrees and the sweat was dripping down my back…

Speaking of the back…I didn’t have enough fabric to match the print exactly but I did have enough to make it match in a little different way:

It matches yet doesn’t and you can see the right side of the border print is a “little” different. I can live with it, at least the hole the size of a quarter is gone.

If I were to give myself a grade on this project it would be a “C”. It went together quickly and easily once I solved the fabric problems but I find it pretty unexciting. (Looking at it here it reminds me of Neapolitan ice cream that I didn’t like as a child either!) I get a “B” for perseverance and finishing but as far as style goes, if it weren’t for the shoes it would be even more “meh” and I don’t think it does much for me or me for it.

Win some, lose some but its done : ) The good news is I used a good part of my weekend cleaning up my sewing room, even got the floor mopped! AND I’m very excited about the next challenge so life is good. Onward!!