Monday, 12 December 2011

Mad (wo)Men

Inspirating styles

WARNING     Long rambling one.........

Where's that Martini?
I would never put myself forward as a style icon or a predictor of fashions - I just make what I want and what I think might suit me - BUT - the following suit was made about four years ago - long before Mad Men hit the British TV screens. It was during my "Chanel"  period that I was researching and reading up on styles of the period that I thought I'd do a sixties inspired suit. 

DH (who is considerably older than I am by the way) was already an adult in the 1960s and hates that fashion era - so I might have done it just to annoy him. I don't know, who knows where artistic inspiration comes from, as long as it comes?

I love fashions from the 1950s and '60s - to me it's the epitome of sophistication and elegance, or is that just the subliminal power of advertising? I was a mere child back then. I adore the aloofness of the models, you could smoke and not get cancer back then. I crave the whole image that you put a suit on in the morning with stilettos, stockings and girdle; full make-up and hair, looking absolutely glossy advertisement picture perfect and are still looking like that at 8.00pm, regardless of the school run, peeling potatoes, working, gardening, shopping, housework, doing laundry and with total disregard for the number of martinis you may have imbibed since 4.00pm! Mmmmmm.... my kind of lifestyle apart from the housey and mummsie things - just the clothes and martinis, thank you.

The pattern is Vogue 1127 Badgley Mischka but with a few of my alterations.
That's not me by the way - that's Vogue's model

It is raglan sleeved boxy jacket, funnel collar and with straight skirt: there's also a chiffon blouse included but not used here. The fabric is a lilac/pale blue-ish wool with a boucle style weave and came from the local fabric shop. Sleeves were shortened to 3/4 length and the skirt lengthened to below knee because Coco said so....with slanted bound pockets inserted (apparently this slims the hips).
As I was in my 'Chanel' period, I added Chanelisms to the jacket too.

The jacket acquired two front patch pockets, and the whole thing was trimmed with a purchased braid but instead of sewing it to the edges, I offset it by about 5cm (2") at hem and sleeves.

The three huge buttons on the jacket cost a fortune and I'm only just noticing from these photos how unevenly spaced they are. But never mind... the buttonholes are made now!

Slanted pocket detail

The trim is also around the skirt waist. The skirt was always a little tight around the waist: it was fine when I was standing but I couldn't eat a dinner and still be comfortable, but I've lost a bit of weight recently (unintentionally, so I'm keeping my eye on that) and now it fits perfectly. Maybe I was this weight when I made it? More probably I didn't measure properly the first time around.

I read recently that when you go ('cause you know we're always there - LOL) to a haute couture house in Paris, they never fit you in front of a mirror - as we (mad women that we are) have a tendency to stand taller, squeeze in and refuse to breathe while looking at ourselves. This is probably what happened here at the try on four years ago - Yeah right!

The skirt has artificial Hong Kong seam finishes - the heavy satin lining was cut about 5cm (2") larger than the skirt pieces and folded over the raw edges and zig-zagged in place - because I don't have an overlocker (serger).
Do you think he heard that?

I lined the jacket with a spray-painted patterned silk in coordinating tones. This was quilted to the shell fabric and hand stitched at the side seams and arm scythes. I'm sure I have a stash of this silk still at the bottom of the box, always intended for a matching blouse - I'll have to dig around for that to see if I still have it.
I also added the chain which was really needed here to balance the weight of the buttons at the front.

Underneath the suit is a vintage Vogue blouse in navy silk, V2859. This is a backwards wrap, the wrap being unusually at the back with a knot/twist at the front neck. And just look - Mad Men top with the same sort of style style!


So what's for next year? I hear you ask.
Well, here's an idea......

 It's the Titanic centenary next April 2012,  so watch out for......

Blouses with high necklines and lace decorations made in muslin and lawn cotton

Straight and long skirts with mock wraps or decorative gores

High and tiny waistlines - I mean those women all piled on top of one another must have waists of about 20cm (9"). Are they human?

The hats I'm not sure of.....especially that ostrich feather on public transport.

Lots of buttons - lots and lots of buttons - lucky for me and the dreaded zip then.

Was the zip invented and widely available in 1912?

So anyway, where was I? Oh yeah I've moved from 1960 to 1912.

If you want to stay ahead of the game or maybe just a wee bit interested in the Titanic and all that stuff then head on over to the 1912 Project. They are lending out vintage patterns to people who love to sew and would be interested in re-creating 1912 fashions from original patterns. Now, there's a challenge! Here's a excerpt from their blog:

Through out the next few months, leading up to the Titanic Anniversary I will be transcribing patterns, graphics and information from the 1912 editions of La Mode Illustree – a beautiful French fashion journal of the period – with the goal of making all of the patterns from the entire year available.
How Can I Help?
If you love to sew, and are intrigued by the 1912 era – you can help!
The  Library is looking for test sewers willing to post to the blog their experiences and photos in working with these vintage patterns.  If you already have a blog, all you need to do is post there and send us a cross link to the entry.  In return we will send you copies of the patterns to sew from as they are transcribed from the journals!
For an information package about the project  – you can email direct to

As Titanic was built in Belfast this is what the city have done to commemorate the centenary. It's called the Titanic Project and houses a museum of the White Star Line and other stuff. The shape represents the bow of the ship. I think my maternal grandfather riveted the Titanic, but I'll have to check that out with my mother; he certainly worked in the shipyard and she isn't willing to admit her age. My college is just across the road from this iconic building.
Finally, a non-sequitur is needed for the title I guess.

Corsets at dawn until bedtime?
Martinis at breakfast?
Are we women mad to squeeze our bodies into unnatural shapes for the sake of fashion?
Are we mad to sew clothes that, along with the rest of the free world, we could buy?
Are we mad to want a career, make homes, raise children and partners, and look good doing it?
Are we just mad?

Thanks for reading. Ruth


  1. Wow! Yup my vocabulary just flat lined in the presence of your suit....that is really special. How long did it take? Awe. I can't wait to see you take on 1912. That's another period I love the shape of.

  2. Zippers took nearly 80 years after the first attempt in 1851 to actually being used in clothing (first used in boots and tobacco pouches). In the early 1930's they were promoted as a good way for children to dress themselves and in 1937 were embraced by the men's clothing industry. I drive my husband crazy when I complain during TV shows or movies (at home, not in the theatre) about zippers in period clothing. Cowboys in the Old West did not have zippers and the women did not have zippers up the back of their dresses! That said, go ahead and use a zipper in your dress.

  3. Thank you, both comments are both complimentary and informative. I'm not sure I will be doing 1912 - I thought some of you would take on the challenge, and I could watch.

  4. Hello,dear Ruth,

    i see that we like the same thinks,and congratulation for all:last week i bought 3 magazines friom 1950,1960 and 1937:a lot of inspiration....and work,so,my cakes are just finished,chutney,meat in a "marinade",and tomorrow,i'll be taxi for my mother coming from Burgondy.

    OH! i have made the pillbox:so nice.

    Merry CHRISTMAS FOR ALL THE FAMILLY,and sweet week end,

    JBB love*****

  5. JBB:folie de mode blogspot