Posts Tagged ‘retro’

With the refashioning and remaking of men’s shirts, I’ve been mostly making casual and “work” wear plus-sized dresses but that’s not all I’ve needed. One of the other problems with finding suitable plus-sized clothing is when you have an special event or need things a bit more costumey. Last fall I was going to a 20’s themed event and wanted a period flapper style dress. There are some places doing repro dresses, but I couldn’t find anything I liked in my size so making it became necessary. I did a bit of research into period dress styles first to see if I was going to have to invest in a pattern but looking at how big the range of variations was, I decided it was possible to get away with just upping my modding game.

We had a couple of beaded/sequined jackets in the stash and the original plan was to salvage panels from them, mix the panels with silk or crepe fabric and make the bottom from another skirt or a scarf. We had a couple of black silk burnout velvet scarves but went looking and found another silk scarf and 2 large polyester velvet ones.

As I was laying out the various possible parts, and sketching some options, I realized that the scarves were large enough that we could just skip the whole plan of fussing with the beaded stuff and use the scarves as the upper body of the dress. The 2 polyester scarves were quite large and rectangular and had designs that were already very 20’s while the new silk scarf was long and narrow with a great chevron pattern and beading that coordinated with some beaded trim in the stash. I had seen a few period dresses that used a faux scarf detail as the low “waist” so that seemed like a good way to transition to a skirt and complete the dress.


It seemed like a good design concept, but I was concerned about how well it would work out in practice and I wanted to be sure that the fit would be right. Rather than making a muslin prototype, I figured that we had 2 of the big scarves and a pair of possible skirts so I might as well go ahead and make a second dress.

The first step was basic math. I measured the scarf in both directions and then myself, both around the widest section and then down the front to get the dropped waist length. The scarf was quite a bit longer than needed for the top so a section was taken out of the middle, leaving 2 pieces the right length. (and handily with finished hems on 3 sides) I calculated the size for a pair of fabric inserts for the sides. They were a bit narrower at the top, and slightly curved there since that was the bottom of the arm-holes. The thin black crepe that was used for the inserts also made up the bottom of the sleeves. The sleeve tops were done using the left-over section of the scarf. The split-top style really appealed to me since it gives a sense of being sleeveless without actually exposing the upper-arms and is still period accurate.


For the bottom of the dress, I used a pleated black satin skirt. It was small, but I only needed the bottom 1′ or so and there was enough flair to it that it fit just fine. It had some nice button details on the waist band so that was removed and used as the front panel of the transition section. The back was cut from some black satin we had in the stash.

The donor scarf was dark pink/purple as well as black and we had some beaded trim that matched so a line of it was added between the bottom of the scarf and the top of the transition section.

The neckline had to be hand-finished with a rolled hem but I cheated on the inside of the sleeves and did those with the machine.


The whole thing came together really quickly and mostly had simple straight seams. Making the trial version helped out since this one came out a bit bigger than needed as well as too short for me. I also found the beaded trim more of hassle than expected but figured out how to work with it by doing this one. It didn’t help that the trim was on a bright pink ribbon so any spots where it wasn’t perfectly caught are super obvious.

The biggest issue is that the burnout velvet is partially see-through. I’m wearing a sports-bra in the pictures, which is an option, but any black or colour coordinating slip, tank or camisole worn underneath will work.


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Sometimes I have to think on some of the supply finds for a while,  to figure out what I want to do with them. A little over a year ago, Mother brought me a bag of vintage architects models. It included a few buildings and things like streetlights, but the bulk of the batch were assorted cars. The styles made it clear that they were from the late sixties or early seventies. In fact, one of the car types is a “fastback” which was the car we had when I was very young. (We had a Fairlane) They are so tiny that I had always had the idea of using them in some sort of jewellery design from the start but it took me a while to figure how I wanted to do it. Eventually I realized I could make a little road for them to be travelling on. I used reclaimed wooden tiles, painted the road on them and then mounted them on a ring base. (I spent way too much time making some miniature rubber stamps for super authenticity on the road markings, but they didn’t work as well as hand-painting them) I’m calling them “Open Road” and people can choose what car/colour combos they want.

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Some of the things that mother finds, take a bit of research for me to even be sure what

Balinese shadow puppets

they are. These were one of those times I had to do some checking to be sure that they were really what I had first thought. It turns out that they are actual Balinese shadow puppets. Dating them is harder, but it seems most likely that they are somewhere in the 30-50 year age range since they are finely done, and leather with horn and wood fittings but are painted, not gilded. The larger one is god/demon figure while the smaller is one of a trio of brothers, who tend to be comic relief characters. Considering that it’s really only the arms are articulated, I was surprised at how easy it move them in ways that give a sense of life. I could try and frame them, but it seemed a waste, since they couldn’t be played with then.

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What comes in can be random, but in the end it’s all about the look of it.

pair of vintage glass sconces

Mother found this great pair of vintage, glass scones and I’m thrilled to have them out in the shop. They’ve got a great set of glass panels and drops as well as decorative rosettes. I can’t be sure about the state of their wiring, but it wouldn’t be all that hard to replace, if it is past it’s prime. (it’s possible that their buyer may want to change the sockets anyway since they are fitted for the small chandelier bulbs) In these cases, it just doesn’t make much sense for us to do the rewiring, since we can never predict what people will want them for.

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This is one of another trio of this years Steampunk ornaments.

steampunk bulb ornament

They also started with vintage ornaments. These ones have a glass bulb, topped with pressed metal and filled with a smaller thing, something like a those foiled vinyl bells. If they had been in good condition, I wouldn’t have changed them since they did have a cool, retro vibe but they had been kept in a damp space at some point. The result was that the interior decorations had discoloured and the glass had become spotted. To steam them up, I peeled off the tops then took out the damaged insides and cleaned the bulbs. The top opening was wide enough that I was able to fit in a good sized watch spring that mostly filled the interior. (it helped that the spring could squish down a bit to go through the top) The spring was jazzed up with a couple of additional mini gears, as well as a couple added to the bottom, and then the ornament was re-assembled. I ended up with three, in this style, although each one is slightly different.

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We don’t deal much in electrical items, except for the occasional lamp.

Anabella Nordmende Radio

However, for the second time, mother has brought me a vintage radio/record player. This one is probably from the fifties and is very German. In that, I think it was actually moved here from Germany. The buttons are all labelled in Deutsch and the radio tuner has a very large list of European cities, that I guess had stations you could listen to. We were able to get the radio part to work, but it does look like it needs an exterior antenna to get good reception. (there is a plug, to add one, on the back) Dad wasn’t able to figure out the controls for the record player, or it may not be working, we’re just not sure. The sides have racks to hold 45’s and it also has the adaptor for the player tucked away. It looks intact and there is a box of spare bits and pieces with it, including a replacement needle, so I expect it could be restored. The case is beautiful and would made a stunning decor piece, but it would be a shame to just convert it to a storage unit. I’m hoping it will attract a music lover, who will take it home and both restore and enjoy it!

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I have some severe geeky tendencies but mostly manage to control them

Vintage Rumph Star Wars mug

in terms of the stuff for the store. (except for some of the masks I’ll make) Sometimes however, a piece will show up that makes me make all sorts of squeeing noises and seriously consider keeping it for myself. This mug is one of those things. It is a ceramic mug that came out for the first movie in 1977. It would have been painted by someone at a ceramic studio, probably as a gift for a fan. It looks like they went with the suggested style for the decoration and it works well. The figure is “Ben” Kenobi, with his hood up and the back has “May the Force be with you” on it and the interior is a rich deep blue. What I find especially cool is that, due to the way the face is modelled and painted, it also sort of looks like how Liam Neeson appeared as Qui-Gon in Phantom Menace over twenty years later. It’s a cool bit of vintage Star Wars memorabilia that I expect I’ll regret letting go, once it finds a home.

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