Channeling Emily Hartley

Amongst vintage devotees, there is a fair amount of discussion as to what era defines you.  Do you love the flapper styles of the 20s?  The mod 60s?  The nipped in waist of the New Look 1950s?  Every time I go to answer this question I find myself totally unable to answer it.  The answer for me would be “All of them, and none of them.”  There are certain styles from each era that I love, and others that I could do without.  It all depends on the look I want, and what I’m in the mood for.

I love the elegance of the 30s, the tailored looks of the 40s, the extreme silhouette of the 50s, the cute mod dresses of the 60s, and even the peasant styles of the 70s and even the more elegant 80s styles.  My wardrobe is a mishmash of all those, although I probably am more likely to dress in a 1940s fashion than anything else.  I like being able to mix items from (and inspired by) different decades to create different looks.

Lately I’ve found myself strangely attracted to the 70s, rewatching my dvds of Mary Tyler Moore and The Bob Newhart show (I love Bob and Emily’s marriage… they remind me of my husband and I.  One of my favorite TV couples ever!)  Anyway, in one episode Emily is wearing this fabulous plaid maxi skirt (I think they called them “Hostess skirts,) with this crazy ruffled blouse.  It was very similar to this pattern:

That’s a whole lot of look (says Tim Gunn.)  I like it, but I’m not really sure I want to wear a ruff.   Right now I want a skirt inspired by Emily’s skirt on the show – bias cut in a plaid that has red but isn’t Christmassy.  I’m using the pattern I showed the other day:

I am only making the skirt.  It’s long (that model must be tall) but not quite to maxi length.  I’m going to be using a red/black/gray suiting fabric that I got from Denver Fabrics.

It’s a poly/rayon blend.  It feels quite nice – not too synthetic.  I think it’s mostly rayon. I like that it doesn’t wrinkle easily, as past experience tells me that I will not iron skirts very often.  The skirt itself is easy to make – 2 main pieces and a waistband.  It is bias cut, so that will be a new thing for me.  I love long bias skirts because the drape is so nice.  I’m not a fan of bias cuts in general, as I find shorter or silky bias cut skirts to be really unflattering on me, but it a long skirt it’s great!  I have been reading up on working with bias cut fabric, as that’s my way – before I do anything I read as much as possible about the new skill online and in books.  When I put in that invisible zipper earlier in the week I spent a solid hour watching people do them on Youtube before I felt confident enough to try it myself (I have a hard time learning from diagrams or still photos.)

I’m not making a muslin of this (shocking I know!) because literally the only thing to fit is the waistband.  I want it to fit at the natural waist (and I plan to wear it with a belt) but I have a fear of tight things for some reason… I have to constantly fight against my urge to make things too big.  I’ll probably make the size 10 – if it doesn’t fit then a waistband is easy to take in.  The skirt itself is just full, and there is very little difference between sizes.  I love that the skirt is long enough that you have to tape the pieces together since it wouldn’t fit on one piece of tissue.

And what does one wear with a skirt like this?  A black turtleneck like the modern pattern, or a ruffled blouse like the 70s pattern?  I’m not allowed to cut it unless I can figure out what I will wear with it.  I have a problem of buying separates without considering that they match nothing else in my wardrobe, so I must have a plan for such a distinctive skirt.  I mentioned that I plan to use a belt – that’s a big step for me, since I’ve actively avoided belts since the mid 1990s.  One of my favorite style blogs, Almost Pretty, has a great primer on belts for the belt-phobic today.  I’ve discovered that I really like wide belts, and I love the stretchy ones too – they always fit, and I never have to make extra holes.  I may be making a trip to the thriftstore soon, with looking at belts specifically on the agenda!

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13 thoughts on “Channeling Emily Hartley

  1. Sue says:

    I love that pattern! Wore a long plaid bias cut skirt back in the 70’s and still wish I had the skirt. Mine was a red/black/white plaid and I wore it with red, black and white long sleeved tops similar to the round neck one on the pattern. This sure brings back some great memories of that skirt. It was the warmest thing I think I ever owned.

  2. Melanie says:

    My mother had a skirt in like the vintage pattern you showed first. In beige and green patchwork that words cannot describe (plaid, floral print cotton, and that weird flocked velvet like you get on cheap floral ribbon). With a horrid scratchy lace blouse exactly like the one in the picture. It gives me nightmares.

    Yours, I am sure, will be elegant and tasteful!

  3. you probably think i’m a stalker because I keep commenting, but i love following this blog! partly because i’m a transplanted kentuckian, but also because you and i seem to have the same body type/fitting issues, and i find your sense of style refreshing and inspiring. i dress pretty plain (re: jeans, t-shirts, sometimes a hand knit sweater) but i like to imagine having a good reason to dress up someday.

    anyway, i was wondering where you buy fabric. do you go to stores in your town? or do you mostly order online? i find it difficult to find things i like at joann’s…

  4. Oh. My. Lord.
    My mom wore something eerily similar to this when she married my dad in 1975. It was all one piece and sleeveless but the extreme ruffle and maxi length. There was also a ruffle on the edge of the armhole and at the bottom hem of the skirt. It was ruffle overload. In a pale yellow floral print.
    I can’t wait to see your skirt finished!! The fabric is beautiful and bias cut skirts are my absolute favorite.

  5. Susan says:

    I wore those the first time round.

    I think some fashions have come and gone about 3 times in my life time.

    And at nearly 47 you would have thought that I’d have found a style I love and looks good on me, but, ho hum………

  6. Sleeveless black turtleneck sweater.

    I love that plaid fabric you’re using. Really pretty.

    (btw…I bought my first sewing pattern and some fabric today, also to make a long skirt. Thanks for the inspiration. If you hear panicked screaming coming from the San Diego area, you’ll know my worst fears have been realized, and I have, indeed, been sucked into the sewing machine. We all have our irrational fears.)

  7. I would go with either a black turtleneck or a relatively simple sweater. I can see a cute puff-sleeve blouse looking great too. I definitely relate to your feelings on vintage – although I’m drawn to 40s and 50s styles, occasionally I really love things from other decades too. It’s not about dressing like you’re straight from a particular era, it’s about wearing things that you really like.

  8. I love the hats and coats of the 1920s, but the dresses don’t flatter my figure at all. My most figure-flattering eras would be the 1930s-1960s (early). The mod shapes don’t flatter me at all. I need to show my waist.

    I really love the wool 1970s a-line skirts that I’ve been finding at thrift stores as they hit my waist at a good point and skim the hips — all of which makes me look about 10lbs thinner.

    Good luck on the thrift hunt for belts. The belt racks are generally over-flowing, but there’s a lot of boring stuff there. For the stretchy (1950s type) belts, you should check out Forever 21. They never run more than $8.00.

  9. I apologize in advance for the unsolicited advice. If you cut your bias skirt with larger seam allowances, and then of course sew on the actual stitching line producing larger seams, your skirt will hang better. That’s because the bias edge of the fabric wants to stretch a bit as you sew, and if you are sewing further in from the cut edge, the stretched out portion is well away from your actual seam. Another method I’ve used to control the stretch is to stay-stitch the cut edges immediately after cutting (again with larger seam allowances). You can always trim the seam allowances as you like after you’ve sewn the seams.

  10. I need to not weigh in here. When I watch Project Runway, I am consistently drawn to looks the judges describe as costumey. I guess I have a high costume tolerance in my everyday clothes, which I didn’t realize before I started watching the show.

  11. Love that skirt pattern! I see it worn with a long sleeve close fitting black t. Scoop neck, maybe with a patterened red/white/black scarf (or even with a splash of yellow in it), and definetely a wide belt!

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