Aug 292017
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Vintage Sewing Pattern Plus Montage Dance & More

For many years my family and I have participated in Vaudeville at the Baker,  an old-fashioned variety show. This year’s theme was Rat Pack Vegas a la 1950s style. We were involved in three acts as well as my hubby playing Frank Sinatra and myself as a cigar/cigarette girl.

For this show, I made use of almost all my talents (no writing), I costumed three acts using a vintage sewing pattern for one, choreographed all the dance sequences, assisted with hair and make-up backstage, and acted–playing the part of a Vegas lounge cigarette girl, (interesting how often Vegas comes up in my life–check out my blog post about getting secretly married there and renewing our vows for our ten-year anniversary, and how it connects to the second book (Hops the Atlantic) in my Jitterbug Dress series.

Vintage Sewing

First up was my daughter and two other talented ladies who performed Please Mr. Postman a cappella, which required 1950s matching costumes, of course. For this song I broke out the sewing machine and worked from a 1950s vintage sewing pattern. We choose a bold fabric that we could incorporate a red, white, and blue US Postal theme. Not quite a circle skirt, but almost, it gave the girls plenty of room to dance with nice movement on stage.

1950s vintage sewing pattern skirt

We went with a discount fabric from Wal-Mart that was only a dollar a yard. I needed at least three yards per skirt per girl, plus all the notions, plus all the other costume accessories. Below is the vintage sewing pattern laid out on my dining room table. The pattern shows a seam front and back (plus sides-four-gore), but instead, I cut two on the bias, making it nice and full. I really like the way fabric hangs when cut on the bias, especially for anything dance related.

50's skirt vintage sewing for Mr. Postman


I actually almost ran out of fabric on the third skirt. Thank goodness my daughter is so short, although I did bring the volume of the skirt in a little since I had to fold the fabric a different direction. I was afraid the skirt would look odd when put together, but it didn’t. The colors ended up being perfect with the red blouses, red shoes, and white bobby socks.

Here they are with the postman in their fave Charlie’s Angels‘ pose.

angels postman vintage sewing skirts sized for BLOG Right


Silly as their pose is, you can really see how nicely the skirt hangs, and how cool the pattern ended up looking. I used vintage red 1950s buttons that you cannot see, but the girls really appreciated the small detail. Now to see them in action:


Costuming: Amazon to the Rescue

I had originally intended to make the dresses for the Little Shop of Horrors act, but after shopping for fabric, working days on end on the choreography, I realized, there was not enough time to make three killer diller dresses. Surprisingly, Amazon had just what we needed. We found 1950s style dresses at a great price along with a crinoline petticoat to give both the Little Shop dresses and the Postman skirts a nice lift.

little shop montser 1950s vintage amazon dresses

My very talented friend and mother of one of the girls, made the awesome Audrey II head for my son. Green turned out to be a very difficult color to find in long sleeve anything or pants, so we went with camo which is quite abundant in Texas. The biggest challenge was altering the dresses to fit each girl’s body type.  I had to shorten my daughter’s dress by three inches and that new stretch microfiber is awful to sew on. I much prefer vintage sewing and real vintage, but in a time crunch this worked.


Choreography: 1950s 1960s Dance Montage

We always have an abundance of singing for the show and originally the director had asked my husband and I to do some swing dance, maybe a little Shag or Lindy, but he just started a new job, with a second career after retiring from the Navy. He was overwhelmed, and as you can see, I was overwhelmed with helping the kids.

My friend’s daughter got it in her head that she wanted to do a dance act with my son. Originally I was going to choreograph Make ’em Laugh from Singing in the Rain, but for novice dancers, there was far too many complicated moves. When I was listening to the radio, the Jive Bunny mix came on and eureka! the kids could do a dance montage. I knew most of the old dances and could easily teach them.

lindy hop swing out chas kat vintage dance montage

We outfitted my son, Chas,  in a 1950s gabardine flap pocket shirt and vintage 1960s tie. Kathryn was decked out in an authentic 1960s dress she’d picked up at our local vintage store, Magic Mirror. We found a matching scarf for her in the theatre’s costume collection, and viola, an act was born.

I had originally wanted them to start the montage with the Jive Bunny mix, but it turned out to be too fast for such new Lindy hoppers, and besides. Sh-Boom, had always been one of my favorite songs. In fact, in my first novel: The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress, I have my main 1990s character try to dance to it. I’ve included the choreography notes below. As you can see we spiced up some of the dances, cut and pasted them into a small snippet, and added a sprinkle of humor. Also note, this recording was at a matinée show and not as amazing as their evening performance.

The Dance Steps Breakdown

  • Sh-Boom – Swing Dance
    • 3-6 count East Coast swing
    • 1-4 count Jitterbug Send Out
    • 2-8 count Lindy Swing Outs
  • The Twist – Chubby Checker 
    • 1-8 count twist face forward
    • 2-8 count twist look stage right
    • 1-8 count twist look each other
    • 1-8 count twist back to back, bump butts, done
  • It’s Madison Time 
    • All Madison basic
  • Nitty Gritty 
    • 1-8 count scoops
    • 1-8 count digs 2 (1-2 count) slow 4 fast
    • 1-8 count side swish 2 slow (1-2 count) 4 fast
    • 1-4 count cross shuffle
    • 1-8 count side swish 2 slow (1-2 count) 4 fast
    • 1-4 count cross shuffle
    • 1-8 count digs 2 (1-2 count) slow 4 fast
    • 1-8 count scoops
  • The Bug Jerry Dallman & the Knightcaps 
    • 2-8 counts Kat bug
    • 2-8 count Chas Bug
    • 2-8 count Chas chase Kat with bug
    • 2-8 count both bug last count throw to audience
  • C’mon and Swim – Bobby Freeman 
    • 2-8 count overhand
    • 1-8 count side strokes separate
    • 1-8 count breast stroke
    • 1-8 count hold nose (four counts with each hand)
    • 1-4 Chas Doggie paddle
    • 1-4 Kat notice reprimand
    • 1-8 count overhand swim BOTH
    • 1-8 Dive, Chas goes to ground, Kat shrugs and surfs
    • 2-8 Kat surf then finish out with swims
  • The Fly –  Chubby Checker 
    • 2-8 count (shake 2 right low, shake 2 left low, shake 2 right High, shake 2 left high)
    • 3-4 count shake 2 low, shake 2 right, repeat 3x
    • 1-4 count hop on right foot
    • 1-4 count hop on left foot
  • Born to Hand Jive 
    • 1-8 count basic handjive forward
    • 1-8 count handjive facing
    • 2-8 count hand slap, floor slap secret handshake
    • 3-5 count cotton eye joe, rotating right, left, right
    • 1-8 count basic handjive facing forward
  •  Pony  –  Chubby Checker 
    • 1-8 count face forward pony
    • 1-8 count face each other pony
    • 1-8 count switch places
    • 1-8 count joust
    • 1-8 count Kat hop on Chas back, gallop off stage to fade

Extra: Yours Truly and the Hubby

To round out the performance, my husband played a skirt-chasing, Scotch-drinking Frank Sinatra and I a cigarette girl. Again, I had wanted to make my own costume, but the kids took priority. Amazon came through with a cheesy, but workable outfit, adding a micro crinoline to make it that much more vintage. I took the horrible brass buttons off and ditched the sailor hat, opting for a unique headpiece that seemed oh so much more Vegas! Adding the long sleeve gloves gave it that much more of a vintage glamour feel. In my second book, Hops the Atlantic, my 1940s character has a similar outfit when she’s a camera girl. To finish off the outfit, I made a box in which I sold candy cigarettes and gum cigars (all sales went to the non-profit theatre).

vintage cigarette girl costume with frank sinatra

As my daughter graduates this year and will be off to college, I fear it our last time to all be on stage together. Having us all there together made all the hard work worth it. So besides the launch of the new novel,The Flapper Affair, this was my summer. How was your summer?


Did you do anything interesting over the summer? Do you like live theatre? Which act did you like best of the three videos? What did you think of the vintage sewing pattern and how the skirts turned out? do you have any sewing tricks? What’s your favorite vintage novel of mine? Have you read any? What arty things do you do yourself or with your family?

Tam Francis, authorTam Francis is a writer, blogger, swing dance teacher, avid vintage collector, and seamstress. She  shares her love of this genre through her novels, blog, and short stories. She enjoys hearing from you, sharing ideas, forging friendships, and exchanging guest blogs. For all the Girl in the Jitterbug Dress news, give-aways, events, and excitement, make sure to join her list and like her FB page! Join my list ~ Facebook page

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The Flapper Affair Fun Facts

 Posted by on Jul 15, 2017 at 8:09 AM
Jul 152017
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The Flapper Affair ebook launches today

In honor of the big launch of The Flapper Affair ebook, I wanted to share my first 5 Star review and some fun historical facts from my research while writing the novel. Add this to your summer reading list, today! (Yup, I’d love for you to download it or buy the paperback).

Flapper Affair fashion passion 1920s romance
on July 15, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition

Having much enjoyed the author’s short story compilation Ghostoria: Vintage Romantic Tales of Fright, I was excited to read her new novel The Flapper Affair.

I wasn’t disappointed. Both in and out of step with time, this book dances to its own tune. I love original tales where I’m truly not sure what’s going to happen, and I thought this story went from strength to strength. A love letter to the 1920s, it twists and turns, seductive and colorful characters waltzing you through what is at once an intriguing murder mystery and an absorbing paranormal romance.

Eduard and Mia experience the throes of teenage love while exploring the bounds of what’s possible and trying to set the past right. But what if setting things right means being ripped apart?

This book is a treat for anyone who likes historical romance with a difference. Executed with twist and flair, in turns playful and poignant, The Flapper Affair will keep you on your toes till the very last step.

As with any historical fiction, an author uses the facts as a jumping off place for the fiction. It also hampers the story to include all the research and facts, so I’ve shared some of the most interesting bits and where I veered from pure fact into fun fiction. 


black bottom candy bar Flapper affair fun facts

The Black Bottom 

This little bit of info didn’t make it into the novel, but influenced one of the scenes. My critique group thought it was just a little too heavy-handed and I had already include a few facts about the dance and song.

The Original Black Bottom Dance, was printed in 1919. It came from an earlier dance called Jacksonville Rounders’ Dance printed in 1907. Here’s an interesting little tidbit, the word rounder was a synonym for pimp. Both dance-songs were written by black pianist, composer and dancer Perry Bradford, and were based on a dance done in Jacksonville, Florida. It became a national craze.

Theatre_ChampsElysee_ Art Nouveau Flapper Affair

Auguste Perret 

Mr. Perret (12 February 1874 – 25 February 1954) was a French architect and entrepreneur who I ran across when searching for Art Nouveau building as inspiration for my fictional Waverly Mansion. He worked with his two younger brothers, Claude and Gustave Perret and was a pioneer in the use of reinforced concrete, building the first residential structures using that method.

His more famous works include the Théatre des Champs-Élysées, the first Art Deco building in Paris, the Church of Notre-Dame du Raincy (1922–23); the Mobilier Nationale in Paris (1937); and the French Economic, Social and Environmental Council building in Paris (1937–39).

Although I could not find evidence of Perret working in America, I imagined my wealthy Mr. Waverly hiring him to build his one-of-a-kind show home.

Four-Seasons Mucha Art nouveau Flapper affair fun facts

Alfons Maria Mucha 

I ran across his artwork at a young age and was memorized by the ethereal beauties with the swirling flowers and amorphic shapes. When I created my fictional Waverly mansion, I knew it needed to be filled with his artwork and wanted to introduce his work to my readers. Known as Alphonse Mucha, he was born in the Czech Republic known then as Moravia, (July 24, 1860 – July 14, 1939).

He began his career painting sets, but moved to Paris in 1887, studying at Académie Julian and Académie Colarossi while also producing magazine and advertising illustrations. He volunteered to produce a lithograph poster a play starring Sarah Bernhardt, the most famous actress in Paris, at the Théatre de la Renaissance. It was an overwhelming success, which garnered him six-year contract with Ms. Bernhardt.

His style of painting coincided with the art nouveau style gaining popularity in Paris at that time. In his life, he produced many paintings, illustrations, advertisements, postcards, and designs.

Two-Way Radio use for Police 

In one scene, I needed my police to use two-way radio to call for back up to stop the murder. My critique group flagged my scene, disputing when two-way radios use in police vehicles in the 1920s. After much research, I deemed it believable enough to keep in the story, though fiction veers from fact here as the first radios were large and cumbersome and not the dashboard radios we think of today. Below are some fun facts about two-way radio.

  • Two-way communication was used as early as 1907 in military and commercial means
  • The first real two-way radio didn’t make its appearance until 1923.
  • Despite some controversy surrounding who really created the first two-way radio, Frederick William Downie, Senior Constable of the Victorian Police in Australia developed the first real two-way radio.
  • Prior to the invention of two-way radio, officers needed to stop every half hour to call in their locations and check for updates.
  • In 1933 – Bayonne NJ Police department operated two-way radio system between a fixed location and police cars for emergency response.
  • During WWII, hand-held radio transceivers were used by air and ground troops

Queenie Wild Party 1920s hot jazz

Joseph Moncure

 In my college years of writing poetry, competing in poetry slams, and performing in spoken word events, I was introduced to Moncure’s Wild Party. The novella so epitomized the wildness and debauchery of the 1920s Flapper era, I had to make mention of it in my book.

Wild Party Booze, smokes, guns, molls, and sex are all guests at The Wild Party. Moncure originally published the book in 1928, finishing the manuscript in 1926 after resigning as editor for The New Yorker (that little Algonquin Round Table magazine). But the manuscript was so hot and steamy no publisher would touch it for fear of being burned.

After it zoomed to the top of the Times Bestseller list, he packed his bags and headed west. He wrote screenplays and collaborated on Hell’s Angles, contributing dialogue to the 1930s darling that made Jean Harlow a star. March also wrote documentaries and was a featured writer for the New York Times until his death in 1977.

It is Moncure and his descriptions in his writing that influence the fictional character of Eduard in The Flapper Affair.

Paris Expo 1925 art deco Flapper Affair fun facts

Paris Expo 1925

I make mention of L’Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in the novel without going very in-depth in the narrative. The International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts was a World’s fair held in Paris, France, from April to October 1925.  The French government designed the fair to highlight the new style moderne of architecture, interior decoration, furniture, glass, jewelry and other decorative arts.

Twenty different countries and over fifteen thousand exhibitors participated in the fair, with sixteen million people visiting during its seven-month run. The Style Moderne presented at the Exposition later branded Art Deco, after the name of the Exposition.

Although the verbiage Art Deco was not yet coined, the style, design, and art displayed at the exhibition would inspire many iconic buildings around the globe from skyscrapers in New York City like the Empire State Building, the ocean liners like The Queen Mary, to movie theaters around the world. Not to mention the influence of glass, metalwork, textiles fashion, jewelry, furniture, and fine art.

Although the fair featured heavily on the Art Deco style, there was plenty of examples of the Art Nouveau style as well. I have tried to blend them into the description of the fictional Waverly mansion.


Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare

 In brainstorming the novel with my critique partner, we felt Eduard and Mia needed unifying words that would resonate through the decades. What better source that Shakespeare whose words continue to resonate through the centuries.

At twenty-one, I sold everything I owned and backpacked Europe with the complete works of Shakespeare, hoping to read the entire anthology before the trips end. I did not, but the passionate love between Cleopatra and Antony resonated within me.

Although in Act I, scene III, Cleopatra is being manipulative and selfish, the truth of her love rings true in her words. Mia is the first to recognize her depth of love for Eduard and connects the feelings with Cleopatra’s love for Antony. The passage is much longer, but too laced with jealousy and to use in its entirety, though I think the lines do an admirable job of suggesting love, longing, fear of losing their time together.

   Eternity was in our lips and eyes,

     Bliss in our brows’ bent; none our parts so poor,

     But was a race of heaven.


Did you enjoy those fun facts? Any favorites. Have you read the novel and wondered if a part was based on fact or complete fiction? How much fact do you like woven into your fiction?

Tam Francis, authorTam Francis is a writer, blogger, swing dance teacher, avid vintage collector, and seamstress. She  shares her love of this genre through her novels, blog, and short stories. She enjoys hearing from you, sharing ideas, forging friendships, and exchanging guest blogs. For all the Girl in the Jitterbug Dress news, give-aways, events, and excitement, make sure to join her list and like her FB page! Join my list ~ Facebook page


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