Four woman aviators; one with a side hustle as a designer

MARY ELLIS

Several times this summer, women aviators were on my mind.  Most recently, the news that Mary Ellis, one of the last living female WWII pilots has passed away.  This BBC article gives a summary of her wartime service and her life after the war, when she was put in charge of Sandown Airport on the Isle of Wight.

Woman WWII pilot

 

AMELIA EARHART

Amelia and I were born more than six decades, but only about 50 miles apart.  Hers was one of the first biographies I read as a young girl.

Amelia-Earhart-propeller a

Her accomplishments as an aviator are universally known.  But did you know:

  • She sewed her own clothes
  • She designed practical flying attire for women pilots, and
  • She launched her own line of women’s clothing designs.

Amelia Earhart Adjusting Sleeve

Amelia clothing line2

Amelia Earhart fashion label a

Amelia Earhart fashion magazine page5 a

She pioneered the use of ‘Lastex’ yarn, that may be a sort of precurser to the now-ubiquitous and indispensable Spandex.

amelia earhart vogue ad Lastex a

From the Merriam-Webster dictionary–“Lastex”:

Lastex definition from Merriam Webster

During the Great Depression, she made her designs available as sewing patterns.

Amelia Earhart patterns magazine article

It’s more well known that Amelia had a line of suitcases.

amelia-earhart-travel-luggage

 

 

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The suitcase line bearing her name continued after her disappearance.  Below is a May 1947 ad; ten years after her disappearance.

Amelia Earhart luggage ad 1947 a

Before she became a pilot, she served as a nurse during WWI.  During this duty, she contracted pneumonia.  The pneumonia treatment left her with a sinus injury that plagued her with headaches and other complications, requiring occasional treatment and hospitalization for the rest of her life.

Amelia Earhart WWI nurse

From the time I was little, she inspired me with her independence and determined character.

More reading about Amelia’s sewing and designing:

 

AMY JOHNSON

Amy was a British pioneer aviator.  I’d never heard of her until I one day looked up the meaning of Al Stewart’s song, Flying Sorcery.  Wow, what a lovely tribute.   Amy Johnson is another person I wish I could have known.  In 1930, she became the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia.  She set other flight distance records as well.  Like Mary Ellis, she flew for England in WWII; ferrying planes to the war front.  While on one of her missions in 1941, she died in a crash in the Thames Estuary.  The circumstances of her crash have never been fully explained.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amy_Johnson 

 

ONE MORE

So, why women aviators, and why now?  The answer is that on the same day I read the news about Mary Ellis’ passing, I was talking to an acquaintance who’s had a long career as an aviation engineer.  She casually mentioned being able to ‘cross another thing off her bucket list’.  That ‘thing’ was an emergency landing she’d made a few days before, while flying alone through rural Oklahoma.  (By crossing it off her bucket list, she meant she never wants to experience it again.)  She told the story calmly and technically, how the engine started acting up, so she maydayed the nearest manned air traffic control tower, which was an entire state away, in Fort Worth, TX.  The controllers stayed in continuous contact with her and talked her through the entire process.  Long story short, she safely landed at an unmanned airstrip in rural Oklahoma.  I was hanging on every word she said; my mouth probably gaping open in awe.  She immediately shot to the top of the list of women badasses I personally know.

 

Another trip to the best vintage clothing store ever.

It is probably a good thing this vintage clothing store is in my old home town, and not where I live now.  If it were closer to me, I’d have to build on a room addition just to hold my vintage purchases.  I was there earlier this month, and came home with four awesome dresses.  Here they are, starting with my fave, which I’ll wear as soon as the hottest part of summer is over:

Dress #1 is a  vintage 100% cotton calico print elbow-length sleeve shirt dress will be worn as-is, with a lightweight cardigan in chillier air.  The center front button placket stops at the waist, eliminating the need to fuss with buttons down the front of the skirt.  I’m not sure where it has been hiding these past decades, but it has never been worn or laundered.

Red calico floral shirtdress RSR

Dress #2 still had the store tags on it, so it too has never been laundered or worn.  It’s the one I’m less sure about than the others.  I think it is lovely, but I’m not sure about the style on me; not sure it is ‘my’ style.

Dress with long collar tie2 RSR

Tags RSR

On me, I like its appearance better with the long ties tossed back over the shoulder (see below).  That modification would be a shame though, because it’s main feature is the long ties down the front, and I love that feature.  Maybe it is the pleated skirt that isn’t right.  I could easily remove the pleated panel and replace it with a different fabric, or leave it off and make it a tunic instead of a dress.  As a tunic, I think the long ties down the front would be okay.  Bottom line, this one is going to be a puzzle.

Dress with long collar tie to the back RSR

Dress #3 is handmade of lightweight wool or wool blend, unlined.  It’s nicely sewn, and the fit is perfect.  It doesn’t look boxy like a suit jacket; it fits like a dress.  I’ll wear it this Autumn with a thin turtleneck or blouse underneath.

Purple wool blazer dress RSR

Dress #4!  Burberry plaid has been on my wish list for a long while now, so this lined rayon-cotton (I think) jumper that was on the half-price rack, was a no-brainer.  It too is handmade.  I hope to wear it to the office this Autumn with a white blouse underneath.  Because of the roomy pleated skirt, it should be great for the bicycle commute.

I am making one modification to this dress, and that is to turn half of the pleats the other direction.  The way they are now — pleats all turned one way, is interesting, but looks awkward on me.

Burberry plaid jumper RSR

More coolness from Burberry.  They have dynamite live music for their runway shows……

 

Paris, someday soon.

In my mind, I have my day-trip to Paris all planned.  I’ll take an early train from London or Amsterdam, and spend the day seeing the sights on foot–the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Seine; and eat at a sidewalk cafe, and then catch the night train back.

I’d like to visit the Beat Hotel

And the Boulevard de la Madeleine

This book, Fall Irmgard, has strengthened my resolve to make the trip.  It is the only book I’ve ever won in a Goodreads giveaway, and lucky me, I won an exceptionally good one.  It is the first published novel by Rand Charles.Fall Irmgard2 a RSR

The story took place in occupied Paris in April 1941, a few months before the US entered WWII.  A young American woman named Addie Bridges, who had been working in Paris and loving it, was reluctantly trying to get back home while leaving France was still possible.  The German occupiers were getting in her way at every turn, while Parisians had all they could handle just trying to endure the Nazi occupation and keep their lives and livelihoods intact.  The book was a long, slow, captivating read.  The author enabled me to effortlessly visualize the scenes–the settings and the mannerisms of each character at every encounter.  Highly recommend for readers interested in that period in history.

Meanwhile over in the sewing corner, I’m trying to figure out what to make with this Paris-themed fabric:  Dress, skirt, curtains, or all three; … andIMG_20180720_071127065_LL b panel RSR

I’m savoring Paris-inspired music.

 

Daisies, linen and box pleats for bicycling

I was so excited when I brought this 1960s daisy dress home from the vintage clothing store in August 2015, that I mentioned it in my blog right away.

vintage-dress-green-daisies RSR

For two summers I wore the dress as-is and loved its style.  But bicycling in it was a no-go, because the dress is narrow and straight with no stretch and no pleat for getting on and off the bike and for pedaling.  I loved the dress too much to change it.

Eventually my desire to wear it on my bike commute won out.  I formed a bold plan to add box pleats, and worked up the courage to make the first cut.  I measured and sliced the skirt where four pleats would go.  I was lucky to find some fabric for the pleats that was a near exact match of the creamy white color in the dress.

The result:  Ta-da!

vintage-dress-green-daisies pleats added RSR

The next morning as I was preparing to wear the modified dress for the first time, I took a mirror selfie, BHM (before hair and makeup).

Mirror selfie BHM RSR

On its first outing with the box pleats, I bicycled a total of 14 commute + errand miles.  The skirt was perfect, in roominess, length and drape.

After that first wearing, I decided the top of the pleats should be reinforced to prevent inevitable strain and fraying in the corners.  So I added little tabs.

pleat tabs RSR

This project was an unqualified success.  The person most surprised is me.  I feared I was going to ruin the lovely dress for good.  But no, I’ll be using the box pleat ‘hack’ again sometime when I need to convert another dress for bike-ability.  I want to post a set of instructions, but I feel like I need to try it again a time or two before telling others how to do it.  Stay tuned.

 

And their love that was more than the clothes that they wore,
Could be seen in the gleam of an eye…