Wednesday, 30 July 2014

World War I QAIMNS Reserve nurse uniform

Pattern: Wingeo #411 1910-1915 skirt pattern, heavily modified
Fabric: grey cotton chambray, ca. 4 m white ‘nurses cotton’, grey wool, red wool, white linen
Haberdasheries: Six mother-of-pearl buttons, seven wire hooks, four mother-of-pearl collar studs

Two years ago Welmode and I made a Boer war nurse uniform, using a chambray quilt cover from H&M (and a straw hat from H&M as well!). Now, for the WWI commemoration events, we, along with a few other ladies, decided to make a QAIMNS Reserve nurse uniform as well, and amazingly, the same quilt covers were still available, so we all ordered those again!

This single quilt cover, when cut open, gave me 4.5 metres of 1.4 m wide fabric, which is pretty and lovely to work with. I’d find it rather boring as a quilt cover so I can’t think why it’s apparently so popular, but I do think it makes a nice dress!

To make the dress, we used the Wingeo Titanic skirt pattern, but altered it to suit our purpose. The pattern is for a hobble skirt, but nurse dresses were quite a bit wider and longer than those worn by fashionable ladies. So we made it wider by cutting the two back pieces as one, making it 1.5 times as wide in total, and gathering it at the top (leaving out the pleats). We also added some more space at the bottom of each pattern piece.
The bodice is improvised. It’s got a blind closure with four mother-of-pearl buttons; the collar closes with two wire hooks and thread loops, and the waistband and skirt close with five more hooks and thread loops (in all, the finished skirt has remarkably little to do with the Wingeo pattern :P).

Because the chambray is very thin, I lined the dress with thick ‘verpleegsterskatoen’ (‘nurses’ cotton’), which I thought nicely appropriate, treating outer fabric and lining as one when sewing everything together. When I bought the fabric I wasn’t sure how much of it I needed, so I got something like 4 metres, which turned out to be enough to make an apron as well.

The apron goes over the dress, and over that, a starched waistband closing with two mother-of-pearl buttons, and a wool tippet, which I lined with leftover chambray. On top of that come a starched collar and cuffs closed with collar studs. On our head, we wear a starched veil. A silver medal, circular with the letter ‘R’ in the centre, is worn in the right lapel of the tippet. This is not because I portray a decorated nurse, but it is standard issue, worn by all QAIMNS nurses. The R stands for ‘reserve’.

Have a look at the different layers of the uniform (this way I can show off the dress a bit, which I think is really pretty, but which no one ever gets to see because it’s almost entirely covered):


And the back of the uniform:

On the back of the tippet is a red wool rose. This looks strangely pretty and dainty for a uniform, but apparently it had a use – it makes leaning back in a chair uncomfortable, so it prevented nurses from slouching and from falling asleep!

With some of the other nurses in our group, Tommy’s Sisters 1914-1918:

  (Photos taken at Archeon by Hans Splinter.)

My starching failed here! When making the mixture for starching, one should first mix the starch powder with a little cold water, and then add boiling water, which cooks the starch and turns the mixture to a semi-transparent liquid, but strangely, the instructions on my package of Crackfree said to use warm water instead. My mixture looked like milk and didn’t work as it was supposed to.

Should you want to know more about nurses in World War I, I can recommend the book ‘The Roses of No Man’s Land’ by Lyn MacDonald. Very interesting and utterly readable, unlike some history books ;).

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Light blue 1940s blouse

Pattern: Vintage Simplicity 2277, size 16
Fabric: Light blue poly cotton
Haberdasheries: Three buttons, a snap fastener

This is the blouse I almost finished during Sew For Victory. I used leftover fabric from my mother’s stash, and also the matching G├╝termann yarn she still had, which was made in West-Germany! There wasn’t enough of it though, and when I bought an additional bobbin it turned out the colour number was still the same.

Here are all the pieces cut according to the pattern:

Usually I always make a mock-up when using a pattern for the first time, but since the Simplicity patterns I used before all fitted well, I didn’t make one for this blouse. I added three centimetres at the bottom to make it the same length as my other 1940s blouse, which became untucked before I lengthened it. I did notice the back seemed quite a bit wider than that of my other 1940s blouse, but I thought that would somehow make sense once the blouse was sewn up. It didn’t! I thought the blouse much too wide, even when trying to look upon it with 1940s eyes, and considering the fact that tops tended to be much wider then than they are now. The shoulder seam was also going to hang down my arm if I put the sleeves in without altering the cut.

So I took the back in by 8 cm, leaving the front as it was, and also made the shoulders narrower. I cut the sleeves wider, and made them puffy by adding a band, because I thought the suggested straight sleeves would have made the blouse a bit masculine.

I found the instructions difficult to follow, even with the added illustrations, but managed together with my boyfriend after explaining the sewing terms to him. I had to ignore my own ideas about how to sew this in order to understand what I had to do. Other than that, the blouse wasn’t hard to sew.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

1940s pinstripe skirt

Pattern: Vintage Simplicity 3417, bust 34”
Fabric: 1.6 m pinstripe fabric (with 75 x 75 cm left over), I’m not sure what material
Haberdasheries: A zipper, a button, 1.85 m black twill tape

When I realised this fabric from my stash would be nice to use for a 1940s suit, I searched online for another suit pattern, but all the patterns I found were either similar to the one I already had, or I liked them less than the one I had. So I decided to make the jacket using my Simplicity 4915 pattern, and the skirt using the bottom part of the Simplicity 3417 dress pattern. If I just added a waistband to that, I figured I’d have a very nice skirt.

I shortened the skirt by 8 cm. Also, because the bottom part of the dress is a bit wide at the waist, and I wanted to attach it to the waist band without gathers, I took the skirt in by 1.2cm at every seam, so it follows my body at the top, after which it flares out.

This was a nice quick project!

Here’s the skirt laid out flat, to show the shape. Not a particularly sharp picture, I’m afraid.


These are the side closure and the twill tape on the inside:

And here’s me wearing the skirt in Normandy:

(Photo by Jaap Gordijn, edited by me)

Thursday, 3 July 2014

1940s knickers and mini bloomers

Pattern: Vera Venus French knickers pattern (free)
Fabric: about 0.6 m light pink rayon (?) each
Haberdasheries: A button and three snap fasteners each; 1.7 m lace for the knickers, 1 m elastic for the bloomers

When I made my first 1940s clothes, I also made two pairs of knickers, because the event I was attending was two days long. But the D-Day trip was going to have us walking around in 1940s style for four days, so I needed two more pairs of knickers! I think it’s fun to wear authentic underwear below my historical clothes, even if no one sees it, but also, it’s often more handy. In the case of 1940s clothing, wearing knickers over a suspender belt is really much handier than wearing modern briefs underneath the suspender when going to the lavatory, because you can lower the knickers leaving the suspender neatly in place.

Because I’m not that fond of making exactly the same thing twice, I decided to use a new pattern: the Vera Venus French knickers pattern.
Printing the pattern did take a LOT of paper. Page 7 could easily have been skipped or left empty. I cut up the leftovers into grocery list papers.

After printing the pattern and sticking it together, I looked at my previous undie patterns and thought this one was almost the same as the Complete Course In Dressmaking one, but it isn’t – there’s a lot less fabric in this one.

Vera suggests “you may like to put elastic in the hem of the legs turn them into […] mini-bloomers”. Wait, did I hear mini bloomers? I thought that sounded fabulous, so I made one regular pair and one pair of mini bloomers, which I cut 4 cm longer than the pattern, because otherwise I thought them a bit short for bloomers. As I thought might be the case, the elastic in the bloomers needs to be pulled down regularly when wearing them.

The knickers are definitely my favourite 1930s-40s underpants so far. They fit perfectly and aren’t too airy, so it doesn’t feel like I haven’t got any knickers on. I also love this colour fabric!