Retro Inspired Sewing

Retro Inspired Sewing
The term retro has entered the contemporary lexicon of many languages. In English the word casually implies a nostalgia for the recently remembered past or a look backwards in time. Applied to a fashion timeframe for women’s clothing from the 1940’s to 1960’s, sewing retro would evoke visions of dirndl skirts (a full, wide or circle skirt with a tightly fitting waistband), print shirt dresses, crocheted snoods or hair nets to corral longish locks or turbans tied in a fashionable knot on top of the head and decorated with jewelry or flowers. Home cooking had women wearing half aprons tied into a fluffy bow at the back waist to protect clothing and colorful headbands for shielding hair tied and secured so the ends stick out jauntily to one side.

While both retro and vintage are often used interchangeably, they do have different meanings. Retro is a type of revivalism and vintage an acknowledgement that items made in the past have significant cultural and historic value.

Two simple retro sewing projects, no patterns needed:

Retro Half Apron – cut a rectangle of fabric the length of which will go around the waist and hips and meet in the back. The width will be measured from the waist to the knees. Cut a one-piece waistband and ties from the same or coordinating fabric 7-inches wide by the measured length of the rectangle. Next, gather one long edge of the apron rectangle so the length is shortened by half. Fold the waistband in half right-sides together and stitch in a 1/4-inch seam around the raw edges leaving an opening for turning. Turn, press flat and stitch opening closed. Overlap the waistband centered over the gathered edge of the apron by 1/2-inch and stitch to secure. Hem the bottom of the apron. Add a simple patch-pocket or two to the front if desired.

Note: This half apron can be made reversible, just use two coordinating fabrics stitched together and enclose the gathered top into the folded waistband seam.

Gathered Dirndl Skirt – basically a large tube of fabric that is gathered at the top, hemmed at the bottom and with a simple waistband. Much like the retro half apron only double the measurements for the length and determine a desirable waist to finished hem measurement plus a few inches to allow for hemming for the width. The top of the skirt will be gathered to fit the finished waistband. Cut the waistband width 4 and 1/2-inches wide by the wearer’s waist measurement plus seam allowance. Allow enough length in the waistband so when finished it will overlap slightly at the center back seam. Best to use fusible interfacing on the waistband’s wrong side for stiffening. Finally, fold the waistband in half right-sides together, stitch raw edges leaving an opening for turning. Turn right-sides out, press flat and stitch to the gathered waistline. Traditionally hook and eyes are used to close the finished waistband at the center back seam.

Note: Make the skirt out of a checked taffeta to wear to a fun holiday party.

Perhaps contemporary retro-style fashions are a pendulum swing to another era, a time perceived to be less fraught with the weighty concerns of today. Still, sewing retro is a fun retreat into a not-so-distant past. A past where clothing seemed to last longer, be made of durable quality and individual expression.

Vintage Sewing Projects found on

Sew happy, sew inspired.

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