This past October, Threads Magazine invited members of ASDP (Association of Sewing and Design Professionals) to create an outfit based on historical patterns. For my entry, I chose to create a feminine version of a WWII bomber pilot jacket. The jacket was worn over a blouse of soft silk georgette and incorporated design elements found in 1930’s and 40’s clothing. Coordinating slacks of wool lined with silk crepe de chine completed the ensemble.
My entry was awarded “Finest Construction”!!! Due to space constraints of the magazine, some of the construction details couldn’t be included. Knowing that the competition would be other professionals, inspires you to produce your best work, plus incorporate couture level techniques.
Historical research revealed that most WWII bomber crews painted images of pin-up girls on their planes. The artwork was a bit of light-heartedness during dangerous times, served as a good luck charm and reminded the men of loved ones left at home. My late father-in-law was a B-24 bomber pilot stationed in the Philippines. His crew named the plane “Dumb Dora” after a popular cartoon strip of the time. Dumb Dora was embroidered on the lining as a nod to this tradition.
I feminized the jacket by using a French metallic lace (from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics). The lace was underlined with grey linen and black silk tulle; lined with silk charmeuse . I chose tiny tooth zippers which didn’t compete with the delicate feel of lace.
One particularly challenging detail was to line up the lace motifs to match when the front zip was closed. Collar and lining both inserted by hand.
The blouse is a modified version of a Marfy pattern, available free, on the Marfy website. Look under “patterns” for the free top. I extended the shoulders and added cap sleeves. If you use the Marfy pattern, be aware that the underarm is quite high. I lowered it about 1.5 inches. The pattern is designed with gathering along the front neck, but it’s easy to convert to released pleats. Blog post from 2014 explains how. Tiny self covered buttons close the back. Narrow French seams on sides and shoulders give a clean finish to the inside.
A typical hem finish in the 1930’s-40’s was a picot edge. I found considerable overlap of the terms “hemstitch” and “picot hem” while researching the topic. The Art of Dressmaking (Butterick Publishing Company, 1927) describes Picot Edging as “simply machine-hemstitching cut through the center.” Doesn’t work!! Cutting through the middle as described causes everything to come undone. Singer made a machine, the 72W19, which has two top threads but I think only one bobbin. I managed to find the instruction manual on-line but it seems to refer to only one bobbin. It’s also described as a hemstitch machine, so the stitches done with this machine also might come undone if cut through the middle. Attachments also exist for vintage Singer machines which move the fabric side to side, replicating a zig-zag stitch but again, one top thread and one bobbin.
My method of replicating the stitch is as follows: I used stitch 1345 (Bernina 780 machine). The stitch does a triple stitch lengthwise, then a triple stitch to the right side, repeat. Other machines probably have something similar. Adjusted stitch for length of 3.6mm and width of 3.5mm. I used a 90/14 topstitching needle; the wing needle created pulls and too large of a hole in my silk georgette fabric. If you are using a cotton or linen fabric, the wing needle may work better. Lay tissue paper over the fabric and (using 50 weight cotton thread) stitch about 3/4″ away from the raw edge. Tear the left side of the tissue away.
Tear the right side of tissue paper away. There will be little pieces of tissue between the stitches. I picked them out with fine tweezers. You could experiment with water soluble topping. I didn’t as I didn’t want to wash the completed silk georgette top. Using very sharp scissors, cut just outside the horizontal stitches. You don’t want to nick the thread as that would cause stitches to come undone. Run your fingers back and forth along the cut edge to fray it slightly.
Looks better when done with matching thread. A simple pair of solid tissue weight wool slacks, lined with silk crepe de chine complete the outfit. The challenge required a complete ensemble, so it was nice to have one uncomplicated piece.
I’m working on the next Challenge to be held in Denver this October. No previews as Threads prohibits any publishing of your work before it appears in the magazine. Wish me luck!!