Friday, September 18, 2015

Fabric Shopping for my Art Deco Weekender Wardrobe

With the patterns all picked the next - and probably the most fun - job is to pick the fabrics and bits and pieces to make my Art Deco Wardrobe.

I'm trying to keep the fabrics and prints I'm using as era appropriate as possible.  Ideally I'd make it all out of vintage fabrics, but finding fabric that old, and in long enough lengths seems to be like finding a needle in a haystack.  I'm getting around this problem by using modern fabrics that have vintage-y looking prints, and vintage fancy bits like buttons, belt buckles, and collars.

So this is what I've picked!

This is a sheer polyester chiffon, and its hard to see, but it has a gold shimmer.  I thought the small scale floral print was suitably vintage-y so I bought enough to make the dress on the left.  I am toying with the idea of using a gold rayon velvet to make the cape collar, but its a day time outfit so I'm not sure.  Thoughts?  And I have bought this vintage belt buckle, which dates from the 1930s.  It hasn't arrived yet, so I have borrowed the sellers photo.

I'm also thinking of using my bead embroidery skills to make a beaded collar in a V shape, like on the pattern illustration.  I think it will finish the outfit off perfectly.

This is the evening gown pattern I have used before, and I decided to turn it up a notch by making it out of lace.  I have also purchased a rhinestone encrusted belt buckle - well actually, I purchased a whole damaged 1930s silk dress that still had the undamaged belt buckle attached.  It hasn't arrived yet, and the seller has removed the photo from Instagram, so I can't show you what it looks like.

But the other thing an evening outfit needs is a cape.  Thankfully, the same store that had the lace, also had a rayon velvet in the same colour!

I'm going to be making a floor length cape with a hood!  So I'm on the hunt for another belt buckle to use as a closure for the cape.

For the dinner dance dress I found this fabric.  Is there such a thing as a burn-out satin???  Cause to be honest, I can't think of a better way to describe this!

You see, its sheer and the solid bits have a satiny texture.  I like the deco-y print and I think it will make up really nicely.  And I already own a 1930s cape in the same colour!

I'm really excited about this one!  It all started with the vintage 1920s beaded collar I found on Etsy.  I remembered that I had seen a chiffon printed with bows!  A match made in heaven!!  When the fabric gets here I am going to find a plain fabric in the same shade of blue for the jacket.

And here is my needle in a haystack.  Some 1930s rayon crepe fabric that I'm going to use to make this dress.  There are quite a lot of colours that I could pick out to make the solid coloured jacket, but I'm pretty sure I can easily get some plumy purple rayon which would be perfect!

So that just leaves one day dress with a jacket, and the beach pajamas.  I do think I have enough to go on with at this point, so I will probably stop searching and see if the right things find me.

But then I am faced with the biggest dilemma.  Recently I have started to lose weight.  I have been working hard at the gym and watching what I eat for AGES (ie. two years) but for one reason an another (probably mostly medication for my depression, which was actually bipolar) I haven't put on weight, I've actually gained it. But in the past 5 weeks I have lost an inch off my bust, two inches off my waist, and another two inches off my hips.  My personal trainer, who has been with me for this whole rollercoaster, has set me a goal of getting my waist down three inches to 28" by the end of the year.  He says its achievable and I believe him.

So this leaves me with an issue - what size to I make all of my dresses?  I can't leave it until January to start because I won't have enough time.  All I can do I think is make them to approximate measurements (I'm thinking 38/29/41) and leave a generous side seam allowance so I can let them out an inch, or take them in, whatever is necessary.

Any opinions or advice???


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

2016 Art Deco Weekender in Napier, NZ - I'M GOING!!!!

Back in January of 2014 I went on a holiday with my family to New Zealand, and fell in love with the town of Napier.  You can read that post here.  In that blog post I expressed a wish to go to the Art Deco Weekender.  Well, it didn't happen this year, but it is happening next year!

The Tour Master Extraordinaire of the group of ladies that I travel with organised a trip to the weekender in February 2016.  How she managed to find a hotel with 5 available rooms is beyond me!  There were 10 spots available, and they went like lightening.  I was so lucky to get one!

But get one I did.  Now for the fun bit - OUTFIT PLANNING!

As much as I would love to put together an amazing purely vintage wardrobe for the event, I just can't afford to do it.  So I've decided to make my outfits, and have vintage accessories wherever possible.   

The next question to ask is what era to make.  A lot of the photos I've seen of the event show lots of 1920s outfits BUT the town of Napier was rebuilt in the Art Deco style between 1931 and 1934, so I decided to concentrate on patterns from the early 1930s.  Not only is it more historically accurate for the town, its much more forgiving on my figure!

Then there is the question of WHAT to make.  Thank goodness for Evadress!  I wrote down all the events included on the itinerary (even though there are so many other things we might do, this gave me a place to start), and thought about what I might like to wear to each of them as I dawdled through the 11 pages of 1930s patterns, trying to concentrate most of my attention on the patterns from 1930 to 1935.

It was hard, but this is what I've come up with.

Marian Martin 9963

This first one isn't from Evadress.  Its a pattern I've had in my Etsy favourites for a little while.  We are arriving in Napier on Thursday afternoon, so I though this could be my outfit for whatever we get up to Thursday evening.  The fact that it has a little jacket will make it perfect for twilight near the ocean.

Friday during the day we are going to a clothing market and a guided walk of Napier's CBD.  In this outfit I think I will look elegant whilst elbowing people out of the way to get to the bargains.  And then later when I put the jacket on to wander Napier, hopefully people won't realise I'm the same person.

Friday night we are going to a dinner dance, where some poor person is gong to have to teach me how to do the Charleston.  This dress made in a chiffon will be pretty, era appropriate, AND light and floaty to dance in.

Saturday morning is a visit to a church garden fete, or a sale at the Surf Life Saving Club, so I have picked another perfect-to-elbow-in dress and jacket ensemble.  I'm hoping to track down a vintage lace collar for this one.

This next outfit is going to be a frankenpattern based on this outfit.

How beautiful are these ladies!  I'm completely in love with the beach pajama outfit on the left.  Yes the stripes are going to be a complete pain in the behind, but it will be worth it!

I can draft the top half of the beach pajamas, but I have no experience in drafting pants.  Luckily I found this pattern:

Yes its from the 1970s, but the pants look pretty much identical.  So despite the fact that I feel weird about using a pattern from the 70s to emulate something from the 30s, I'll be doing it anyway.  I will also make a jacket (cause you never know what the weather is going to be like) using the Marian Martin pattern above.

I plan on wearing this outfit on Saturday afternoon.  We will be going to the fashion parades and other fun things that will be going on at the Sound Shell, which is right by the sea side - hence the beach pajama outfit.

Saturday night we will be going to the Silver Slipper Ball, so I think a 1930s gown is in order.  I have used this pattern before to make a dress to wear to the Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries Speakeasy in Melbourne (see it here).  This time I think I'm going to step it up by making the dress from lace, and wearing it with a nude coloured slip.

Well I thought I was going to do that... then Pamela Smith had to go and show me this.

I now have a bruise under my chin from where my jaw fell open and hit the table.  Isn't it amazing!!!  I've now decided that I will make the other gown, but if I have time before I leave, I'll make this one too.  Then the tough decision will have to be made when I get dressed for the ball.

Sunday is the day of the Gatsby Picnic, so of course I need a gorgeous tea frock to wear!  I'm going to make the one on the left.  I love the attached cape!

Sunday night we are having dinner at the Masonic Hotel (which is the hotel I stayed in when I was there in 2014, so there are photos of it in the blog post I linked to at the start), and I already have the gown cut out in a gorgeous jade rayon crepe, so I figured why not finish it for this night out?  The Masonic is definitely worthy of an amazing gown.

Monday morning it will all be over, and we will be on our way home.  I would love to make this dress to go home in style, but I have lots of other things to sew!  If I have time I will make it, if not I will save it for another time.

So what do you think?  I've got a lot of work ahead of me, but I think its going to make interesting reading!


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sew Retro Rose, Where Have You Been!!!

Its true, I have been absent from this blog for a while.

I have been struggling with my mental health for a while now, and managing everything just got too much for me.  I probably should have let you all know what was happening, but I couldn't manage that either.

And then the holiday that my husband and I had been looking forward to for a whole year was upon us.  A four week long trip to Dubai, England, and Paris.  I've decided for my first post back I should do a holiday summary!

So, on our holiday I :

- Rode a camel in the Arabian Desert

This whole afternoon/evening was a pretty amazing experience culminating in a talk by an astronomer.  We lay around on rugs and pillows in a traditional camp with all the lights off while the astronomer showed us constellations and explained how the Bedouins navigated by the stars.

- Saw a real life Dior New Look suit in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London

I may have stood at the glass with my mouth hanging open for a bit...

- Shopped for my dinner in the Harrods Food Hall

Steve was out late with the cricket team he is part of, so instead of going to a restaurant on my own, I went shopping at Harrods!  Champagne, cheese, a slice of delicious terrine, and some chocolate truffles.  Mmmmmmm

- Drank a magnum of Verve at Lords Cricket Ground (yes, I did share)

In Australia there is absolutely no way you would be allowed to take this much glass into a stadium, let alone the fact that its full of full strength alcohol.

- Got a new tattoo

 Its Miss Stella!!!
Thanks so much to Hannah Calavera for the tattoo and the photo

- Watched my husband play cricket against The Royal Household at Windsor Castle (the Queen drove past, and Prince Phillip stopped his car to watch a few overs)

 It was located in the grounds of Windsor Castle, and we required security clearance and photo ID to get in.  It was a perfect day even though we lost...

- Visited some fabulous English pubs

 I just loved how all the pubs were covered in flowers!  Actually, pretty much everything in England was covered in flowers!!!

- Drank more champagne

 These particular photos were taken at a ground at Broad Half-penny Downs, which was right across a country lane from a pub called The Bat and Ball (where the rules of cricket were first written down) and we drank them out of Verve Cliquot, then we drank them out of Moet, and then we drank them out of Collet (another french champagne).  We were on fire.

- Was lost for words at Winchester Cathedral

Saint George's Chapel at Windsor Castle brought me to tears, but this one just blew me away.  Absolutely incredible.

- Attended a formal dinner in the Long Room at Lords Cricket Ground to celebrate our (the Sydney Cricket Ground XI's) game against the MCC

 Steve had spent all day in the Member's Pavilion at Lords, as the team played there that day.  Being able to join him for a formal dinner was a wonderful experience.

- Wandered around Highgate Cemetery

 I have wanted to go to this Victorian era cemetery since I read a couple of books that featured it.  What an amazing, magical, surreal place!

- Saw the Fashion On The Ration exhibition at the Imperial War Museum

You weren't allowed to take photos of this exhibition (but I took one - sneaky sneaky!), and wonderful though it was, I found it was like going through my friends wardrobes, but with captions!

- Saw Big Ben (or at least, the tower in which Big Ben hangs)

So I had no idea that Big Ben was the name of the bell, not the tower....

- Saw my most opulent room to date at the Ópera National de Paris (don't mention Versailles to me. I am NOT HAPPY about missing it)

My jaw just dropped.  So did my husbands.

- Saw lots of dancing boobies at Moulin Rouge

Great fun show!  Lots of (small) naked dancing boobies.  And feathers.  SO MANY FEATHERS!!!!

...and last but not least
- Kissed my husband on top of the Arc de Triomphe overlooking the Champs Élysées 

There are so many more things that I could have highlighted here.  So many.  But I hope this gave you a glimpse into what I experienced.  I have lots of fun things coming up and some great plans for this blog.  I'm back and I'm invigorated!

Have any of you done or seen what I have?  I'd love to hear what you thought!


Monday, August 17, 2015

Guest Post : Baking Coco-nut Cakes with Melanie

Hi everyone! I’m Mel and Beccie has been kind enough to let me take over a post here at her blog today! Usually, I blog about cooking and baking over at, but I’ve been on a bit of a cooking hiatus lately. So I’m using this opportunity to share a nice recipe with you, and to launch a big project that will continue on over at my blog.

Firsty, a bit about me and the project! 

Among many other vintage-related hobbies, I am a collector. But the root of all my vintage obsessions is kitchenalia. While I inherited a love of antiques from my mum, I didn’t really start collecting until I stumbled across a pastel blue Sunbeam Mixmaster online somewhere, then Smeg released a blue retro reproduction fridge and I fell in love with that beautiful duck egg colour. These days, somewhat ironically, the only kitchen items I still need to consider my collection complete are the mixers and the fridge. 

But from this obsession, I acquired a lot of other kitchen-related items, developed a love for baking and cake decorating, and inherited (and bought) many, many vintage cookbooks. At the moment, they make pretty displays on the tea caddy which sits on my (antique) dining room table, form a nice display in a cube full of books and knick-knacks in my living room… and are displayed in the kitchen too.

My favourite vintage cookbook is the Good Housekeeping Cooking Compendium that I bought from Kijaro Vintage last year. But as much as I love it, the closest it’s been to being used is as a prop for a photo shoot. 

So today, in my guest post, I’m making a promise to get those cookbooks out, around once a month, and recreate something from them and blog about it. I’m also going to follow instructions and try and cook the vintage way. This means: no Thermomix, no mix master (unless it’s a book that instructs me to use it). It also means I’ll probably be cooking with more ‘vintage’ ingredients — that is, more ingredients from a can or processed, like tinned pineapple — just to keep some authenticity. 

I also want to talk a little bit about where the books came from, how they’re written compared to modern books and do a little research on vintage cooking. It’s a chance to make sure I can cook without the aid of modern appliances, but also learn about vintage cookbook publishing! 

In the next couple of days I’ll pop some more details up on my blog about how the project will work, but for now, onto the book and recipe I’m starting with…

The book I’ve chosen is one that’s much coveted in my family, The Esk Valley CWA Cookery Book.

This book comes out of the various branches of the CWA in the Esk Valley in Tasmania and I’ve seen a few different editions spread throughout my family. I tried to pinch a more modern copy off a cousin once, but it didn’t work out! Karma was good to me though and I inherited a much older, much more exciting copy from a great-aunt who was downsizing. My research tells me it’s a third edition, and while it’s not dated, I’m pretty sure this is late 50s (the fourth edition was ‘prior to 1966’).

It’s tiny, not very thick at all, but the recipes aren’t set out with really detailed instructions, so there are quite a few per page. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who isn’t familiar and happy to find their way around the kitchen, because the directions assume you know the order to add ingredients to a cake, or make a brine or mince. For example, C. Panitzki’s recipe for Christmas Mince Mean has a list of ingredients and then says: “Mince all together, add a little brandy and put in a jar for a few weeks.”

One of the other things I really love about this book are the ads. Selling ads would have helped with printing costs back in the days where printing wasn’t as accessible as it is now. 

Now as a food blogger, I can tell you republishing recipes without the publisher’s permission is a no-no. But in this case, because these came from housewives’ kitchens with the intention they were shared, and because the way the recipes are written really provide the point of interest, I’m going to give you one. Also, copyright says that if you modify a recipe, it’s okay to share it. I’ve had to modify the measurements from imperial to metric.

I wanted to go for something small for a start, and I’m a confident cake baker, so I chose H.J. Heathcote of Campbell Town’s ‘Coco-nut Cakes (1).’ Yes, there are two hyphenated coco-nut cake recipes in the book!

141 grams self-raising flour
85 grams of sugar
70 grams of butter
1 egg
Pinch of salt
Desiccated coconut for rolling (I used around a ¼ of a cup)

The verbatim instructions say: “Mix well, roll in coco-nut, put on buttered tin and bake until light brown, about 15 minutes.”

My more modern instructions to you would be: 
  • Soften your butter slightly so it’s easy to incorporate, then mix all ingredients together.
  • Roll into small balls (around a teaspoonful of mix) and through the coconut.

  • Place on a spray-greased cooking tray (or baking paper if you prefer not to use spray oils)

  • Bake in a moderate oven (mine is electric, not fan forced and I went at about 280 degrees Celsius) until light brown, which is around 15 minutes

Be warned, they spread quite a bit!! So while I made mine quite big, you might like to reduce your mixture down for a more delicate cake.  

What they come out like is more like what my late Nanna would have described as a rock cake; something between a biscuit and a cake. They’re light and delicious, and go really well as a light morning tea.

If you’re interested in The Esk Valley CWA Cookery Book I found quite a few links to various editions on like this one on Amazon and other second hand book sellers for around $10-20 AUD.


Thank you so much for your post Melanie!  I'm off to pre-heat my oven and make a pot of tea...