Thursday, January 28, 2010

28 January 1956 “Elvis on TV, Ekberg on Life, Cookies and A Recipe for a Dress”

elvis56 Elvis Presley would occasionally pop up in my 1955 year, but he was still not ELVIS yet. Today, he makes his first TV appearance on the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show. The Dorsey Brothers were the famous Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. Tommy Dorsey was very well known from the 30s-40s. From 1955-'56 the Brothers had their own show on the CBS network, "Stage Show," which gave them nationwide coverage.
 lifejan56 On the cover of Life from the 16th of this month, 1956, we see Anita Ekberg filming War and Peace. It is interesting that she is on the cover as she was not yet that famous in this film, staring Audrey Hepburn.war_and_peace  In fact, she is only billed at the bottom of the movie poster. Here is a trailer I would see for the film here in 56.
Ekberg would eventually become a cult ‘sex symbol’ appearing in playboy and participating in various ‘stunts arranged by the studios’, such as her top coming off while photographers were on hand. She is most remembered for this scene in the 1960 Fellini film La Dolce Vita.(four years away for me, how the world will begin to change)
I made this little recipe up the other day, as I wanted to make a chocolate chip cookie without the chips, but wanted to give it a chocolate flavor. I merely ‘adjusted’ a chocolate chip recipe, but did have to add more liquid in order to give it the chewy, fudge like quality I wanted. They turned out really well and the recipe for 50’s Gal’s Fudgey Chip-less Cookies are going permanently in the recipe box!
50’s Gals Fudgey Chip-less Cookies
(you can also make these delicious Mocha cookies by adding 1 1/2 tsp. instant coffee to the flour/cocoa mixture.)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick) softened
1/2 cup brown sugar packed
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla (or 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/2 tsp almond extract)
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
coconut for topping (could use walnuts or whatever you prefer)
Beat the sugars and butter until light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time. In a separate bowl blend ( I use a whisk or you could use a flour sifter) the flour, chocolate powder, and soda, salt and powder. Then gradually add to butter mixture. Spoon as you wood a chocolate chip cookie dough onto a greased or paper lined baking sheet and then sprinkle with coconut(it gets toasted in the oven, yum!) Bake about 9 minutes. If you watch these and take them out when they have spread and puffed some but still look a little underdone, that is the perfect time to take them out. This will keep them soft and fudgey.
I have not been able to find a pattern where in the bodice and sleeves are cut as two pieces. I have seen these following patterns which gave me the idea as well as seeing the look in many magazines.coatdresssimplicity patternHere you can see thet the bodice and sleeve are cut together, but there still seems to be two pieces for the top. Sometimes you can see that when it is cut as one piece, as herepattern1simplicity1714 you have a more ‘bat wing’ look. I am going to try making a pattern like this next, a more open roomy are. As you also see heresimplicity 4403And for the summer, such a top as the short sleeved version here would be such a dream to cut and sew. I actually know very little about sewing. I have never had a formal class and though my mother was an amazing seamstress, would never really show me how, as she said it was easier to ‘just do it herself’. Therefore, at university I learned how to thread a machine, sew a straight line and guessed at putting in a zipper. I still have no idea how to make a button hole on a machine and will, when needed, simply hand stitch the opening. I hope, in time, to learn more. But, with the very basics, I feel comfortable enough to make clothes for myself and have done so in 1955 year. I wanted to ‘make a pattern’ for this dress I had in my head and I did.
I also wanted to try a fitted lower waist look, as seen here.lowwaist50sdress Where the dress is fitted to you (not loose like a 1920’s style)but falls below the natural waist before it becomes full again. I also decided for wide pleats, but you could easily gather the skirt or cut the skirt as a circle or gored skirt. In making a dress, the skirt attaches to the bodice, that is it, so you can have the freedom to interpret this pattern any way you wish. It would also be lovely with a fitted pencil skirt bottom making it more of a ‘wiggle dress’ or a sheath dress.
Here is the steps I took. I did not, however, cut out a pattern to use again, as I wanted to make one up first and see how it fit, ease of sewing etc. SO, here we go:
bluedress1 Step one: I took a cardigan that fit me the way I wanted the finished bodice to fit and my main fabric and some white bleached muslin.bluedress2 Next, I determined how long I wanted the sleeves (knowing I would have the final sleeve have a fold to show the white lining).I then folded up the bottom of the cardigan to show where I wanted to hit my on the hip. You can see the curve of the cardigan and where I chose to have the fold or end of the bodice hit a little below my natural waist. I also used the buttons to denote where the centerline of the dress would be. I have the two pieces of fabric doubled on themselves so when I cut on the fold (the fold is under where the buttons are as that will be the middle of the bodice when the cut pieces are opened.) And by cutting both the outside and lining fabric at once, I am certain of their fitting together as I am not using a pattern.
What is nice about taking something that you know fits your bodice how you want the finish product to be, is perfect. And, I used my cardigan to show, you do not have to use a dress or fitted top to achieve this.
bluedress3 The cardigan obviously has some give, as it is yarn, while this dress was to be unforgiving cotton. SO, I cut about 2” around the outside as in here. Next time I will cut it a bit larger as I had forgot I would lose some inches when I sewed the two pieces (the fabric and the muslin lining) together I would lose inches when it was turned right side out.
bluedress4 So you can see how simple this bodice it. It is cut on the fold (the straight side) and cut in once with the muslin underneath. You can see the slight curve of the waist to the hit. I left the top straight as I wanted a boat neck I could iron down. But at this stage I could have cut a slope of any length or style to make a neckline.
bluedress5 Now I opened up the fabric and ended with four pieces (two of the dress fabric, two of the muslin lining). So with wrong sides facing in I pined a dress side to a muslin/lining side as show. Then, I simply sewed around the whole bodice around the neck arms all except the very bottom (which would be the waist). So that when I was done I simply flipped it right side out and had finished edges. I then pressed it flat.
bluedress7 So, now I have two identical pieces sewn to the lining and turned right side out and pressed flat. Those two pieces now get pinned to one another inside facing in. You can see here where I decided how long to make the ‘cuff’. I simply made sure I pinned to this point and then stopped sewing evenly so that the ‘cuff’ is really the two sides of the sleeve (with the finished ends) flipped out. Very easy and darling, I think. I also put it on while pinned on one side and sleeves pinned to determine how large to make the neck opening and then just pinned there. So , now just sew the arms and one side (leaving one side open for the zipper and the shoulers (don’t sew the neck shut). At this point I put it on and wanted to pin darts into it, but it was too tight, so I had to leave it as is. It looks fine and feels comfortable, but the bust would be more flattering with darts, so next time I will cut it larger to allow for this. You always are learning with sewing. (well I do, as I am NO expert at sewing that is for certain)
So that is your bodice done. Now, for the skirt you have many options. I chose to use a pleated skirt as it is very easy and looks very finished. I took the yardage of my remaining fabric (about 4 yards) and held it up to me to decide the length I wanted the skirt to be. I then pinned that and while it is still one long flat piece, I used the pattern as a guide and pre-hemmed the skirt. This, I am sure, will be a major no-no to you expert sewers out there, but I know when I was first learning (and really still am) hemming was always a bit scary. I discovered this makes a perfect hem and if you are careful when pinning the skirt to the bodice, it will not be crooked.
bluedress8 So, here you can see I found the length I wanted the skirt and then, using the pattern as a guide, pinned that straight line along the fabric. Then using the patern I sew the finished hem in while it was still a flat piece of material (later cutting the excess fabric off the inside hem).bluedress9 Here you can see up-close ( I drew a yellow line around it) how I followed the pattern as a guide to make a straight hem line that blends with the color of the fabric.
Next, even before I sew the skirt together to make a tube, I pleat it onto the bodice. bluedress10 An easier way is to gather the fabric and sew that on for a gathered skirt, I like the looks of the pleats and find it very easy to do as the skirt is not yet a skirt but on long piece of fabric pre-hemmed. Your pleat size will be determined by the amount of fabric you have. So, after that is pinned, I sewed that to the bodice. Then I take the zipper ( I used a 12”) and place it on the bodice side where it will go and see how far into the skirt it will need to be, then I pin that spot and sew the skirt together to that point. Now I know the opening is the exact size needed for the zipper.
Finally, the zipper is sewn in and then the dress pressed and you have a finished 1950’s inspired cotton dress. This is an easy dress that can be completed in one day.
bluedress6 bluedress11 The skirt still needs to be pressed and darts in the front would be more flattering especially as I am on the smaller busted side and every little bit helps. But I like the lowered waits, the pleats are comfortable. The dress will also look nice with a petticoat ( I am not wearing one now and my face was not worth keeping in this shot ladies!)This shot also doesn’t show very well how the boat neck folds down to reveal the white and I didn't flip both sleeves very well either. These will be held in place by taking vintage buttons and hand sewing them in those spots both for decorative affect as well as to hold it in place. It would be fine without, but I love those little touches. This picture had to be snapped quickly by hubby last night as he was on his way to bed.
So, I hope this helped any of you wanting to start to learn to sew or wanting to try your own pattern.Though this is hardly a masterpiece, it was a doable dress from conception to finished dress in one afternoon. With this concept, I can now veer off this main idea and make patterns of varying degree. I could add a collar. Cut the neckline differently. Cut the back and front neckline differently. I could also cut the back piece as two pieces, rather than the one, to put the zip in the back.  Though, I really prefer the look and ease of a side zip.Cut the front as two pieces and add buttons; Endless possibilities.mcalls3820This pattern here (which I do not own) has inspired me to try my idea and cut the top half as I did in this dress up to the bust line and cut it larger )To allow for the darts. and then a separate fitted piece in the center and then add the skirt. Maybe that will be February’s dress challenge.
If you can learn to thread and run a straight stitch, you could easily follow these steps and make your own ‘vintage style’ dress. I hope you will try it. I will post these instructions on the website as well, for future reference.
And, for those amazing seamstresses out there, you will forgive  my ignorance and hopefully, tell us better ways this could have been done. We all must learn form one another, don’t you think? I would love any tips to make this ‘pattern making’ easier so let’s hear from you.
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