Part of Our World

     As an adult, I now see that the cliché phrase about the grass being greener on the other side is a suitable summary for the story of Ariel, The Little Mermaid.  She longed for a world that was not her own.  As a child, however, I loved the character of Ariel – as told through the 1989 Disney animated version of her story – for the curiosity, spunk, courage, and determination she manifested.  That special feeling of connecting to my first princess ‘heroine’ character has not faded after all these years…I can still sing the movie’s songs by heart!  Now that a remake of her story by Disney is on the big screens anew for 2023, I am excited to take advantage of the opportunity to showcase yet another one of my “Pandemic Princess” projects and happily revisit Ariel’s character once again. 

     My other two Ariel inspired projects focused on her being a mermaid with connections to the sea (see this post as well as this one), even though they were trouser outfits.  For the third iteration, I wanted to focus on the magical, sparky, fancy dress Ariel receives from her father when she finally becomes human…part of our world!  I have a staunch loathing of glitter for many reasons, so for me to actually make a dress in a glitter fabric shows just how much I was driven to recreate this particular Ariel inspired project.  

I still despise glitter, but at least I had a good reason to try and see if this dress could be the redeeming reason to make an exemption.  It is everything I could have wanted for my own version of Ariel’s “Transformation Dress” so it is indeed the only reason I have to ever deal with glitter.  For once I actually enjoy a sparkly trail everywhere…it’s as if I’m leaving a memory of my presence in the car, at a restaurant, and everywhere I sit!  Most importantly, the light blue background of the glitter fabric makes me feel like a human embodiment of shimmering water…just what I was aiming for.  However, my husband says the dress reminds him of something worn by Vanna White from “Wheel of Fortune” instead!  Oh well.  Either way, my dress is a success and definitely something new and different.


FABRIC:  a “Casa Collection Super Shine Metallic” polyester knit fabric from JoAnn

PATTERN:  Vogue #7669, year 1989

NOTIONS NEEDED:  nothing but thread

TIME TO COMPLETE:  It took about 10 hours and was finished in July 2022

THE INSIDES:  as the fabric does not ravel the inner edges are left raw

TOTAL COST:  $24 – I found .9 of a yard as a remnant on sale for $3.50 but one yard was not enough….so I had to pay the regular price of $20 for another one yard  

     My dress is basic in design and simple in its pattern lines but it became such a complicated, difficult, and slow-process to sew.  This trouble was not entirely due to the problematic fabric.  The pattern had its issues as well and I exasperated them by trying to adapt the lines.  The Vogue pattern was sized generously with ample wearing ease and proportioned as if for someone who was tall.  Yet, I found this out a bit too late.  In my rush to ‘dive in’ making this, I cut and slashed the pattern at the lines for the bust-waist-hips to change it to a full length gown.  I ended up with a shapeless sack that was way too long on me.  Oh boy, I got myself in over my head!

     I had to rework much of the shaping to have the dress turn out using what I had – one front panel and one back panel.  I did not want to rebuy more of this glitter fabric or waste what I had!  First, I brought in the side seams in and then shirred (gathered) up along those seams from the waistline through the hips.  The shirring feature actually gives the dress a very appealing detail, and a mermaid-like aura!  The waistline is defined without a tight fit by adding the side seam shirring.  I like it better now than how the pattern showed the dress, but it was crazy difficult to get to gather in the tricky, sticky fabric (more on this later on). 

Next, I sewed in the droopy shoulders to pick up the last of the overly long body length of the dress.  This meant I had to newly recut the arm openings and make them even, too.  Finally, I added a small pleat along the neckline and above the point of the front tapered hem to add further shaping and elegant draping.  With the profuse refitting I had executed, it was too tricky to use the original neckline and armhole facings, and so I simply turned those edges under once.  Every little thing I changed meant I had to adjust something else, like a chain reaction.  When the need for fitting tweaks was no longer repeating itself and the dress looked natural on me, I knew the overall construction of this project was finally over.

     After all my adaptions, I wished I had just drafted my own design rather than relying on a pre-printed pattern.  Nevertheless, by using the pattern I chose I was trying to refer back to the year of the original animated film – just as had been done with my other two Ariel inspired projects.  As far as I have come since I started blogging about my stitching adventures, I still learn with every sewing attempt.  I wouldn’t have it any other way, though. 

     The unusual novelty fabric was an education in itself, and not necessarily a good experience.  I would not recommend this fabric in the least, even if I did successfully sew a dress out of it.  What amazes me is that the JoAnn’s summary for the fabric calls it “perfect for beginners”.  Pfft – I had the utmost difficulty and I see myself as the opposite of a beginner.  At a basic level, the fabric is unstitchable.  No matter what trick I tried, my sewing machine would not sew through the fabric.  Thus, my dress was entirely hand sewn.  I am ashamed that with all the fine fabrics I have and all the high-end garments I have made, buying some cheaply made fabric forced this odd glitter dress to be my first solely hand-sewn garment.  As nice as that may sound, my handiwork is sloppy looking inside – the fabric prevented me from stitching as cleanly as I would’ve liked to.  I do not expect the dress to last all that long beyond a few wearings and washings, as the fabric quality is so low, and “good enough” hand stitching is all this dress was getting.  However, my dress fulfilled a dream, an idea, a challenge, and for that alone it was worth my time.  This was a very grand and standout gown to wear for the first time to celebrate my birthday (last year)!

     There were multiple layers of issues with the fabric.  Firstly, the glitter does not stay but is always shedding.  I did a hand wash of the fabric before cutting so as to (as I thought) knock off most of the loose glitter.  The tub contained enough loose glitter to fill a vial with just that first wash.  A glitter coating was left on the floor when I was cutting the fabric out, it fell everywhere as I was sewing, and ends up sticking to my skin in a way that only a full shower will take care of.  I think the fabric may go bald soon enough.   Secondly, I’m assuming the ‘glue’ which permeates the fabric is intended to keep the glitter adhered but it doesn’t work and only becomes part of the reason sewing was so difficult.  The incredibly sticky glue seems to permeate the overall fabric both front and back.  The glue coated my hand sewing needle so heavily after a few inches of stitches and doesn’t wipe off unless you use a chemical solvent.  Finally, I dislike how the fabric is supposed to be a knit yet there is no forgiveness in the stretch.  I had to be so careful when sewing, but especially when putting the dress on.  Once a spot is stretched, that area stays wonky and rippled out of shape.  I fixed this issue a few times along a seam just by pulling in the thread tighter.  I’m hoping such a sewing nightmare is a one-time thing for me to deal with. 

     Nevertheless, I do have a memorable “tall tale” kind of story to share about the aftereffects of introducing glitter into your home.  After my dress had been finished, and I thought I had wiped, swept, and vacuumed the floor in the living room well enough to barely leave a trace left of the project.  Yet my story takes place one late night a week or so after my dress had been worn and put away in a bag.  That night, everyone else in the house was already asleep but I was at the dining room table catching some quiet time and a snack before going to bed.  I noticed (by the light of the one small sconce which was on in the living room) that there was a tiny intermittent flash coming from the floor and moving its location at every blink.  I was very tired, so the unpredictable flashing made me half-suspect I may have been seeing things.  I called for my hubby to wake up and be an eyewitness.  Out of my seat and turning on all the lights, I went to check out the source of the flashing because there *had* to have been a sensible explanation…right?  There was an unusual one, indeed!  An ant was traveling across the living room floor holding a small single square of glitter in its mouth!  I am not making this up.  Truth can be stranger than fiction.

I have so many questions that will never be answered.  Did the ant hill have a party going on?  Do ants have Disco parties?  Was this ant going to impress the Queen?  What did the ant think the glitter was?  Were they going to try to eat it?  Why did it want a piece of glitter to begin with?  I left the ant go his way and leave our house through a crack under the front door with its piece of glitter.  If Ariel wanted to be part of our world, I don’t think she fully understood how wild and unpredictable it can be.  Seeing an ant carrying around a piece of glitter is one of the weirdest human experiences I have had.

     It is perhaps one of the most basic philosophical questions to reflect upon what it means to be human.  Ariel was a big thinker for a mermaid of 16!  However, looking inward rather than outward comes more easily and big questions are often brought up when there are big problems.  I am not here to offer a philosophical rant, though.  What I do know is that a major part of the human experience is to make mistakes.  What defines us is how we persist through our difficulties, though, and learn from our failings.  Ariel made a mistake making a deal with the Sea Witch in a quest to follow her heart, yet learned what was really important from the terrible outcome that came of it.  She then did her best to make things right again and had her “happily ever after.”  I learned from my mistake of buying glitter fabric to not be taken in by an eye-catching fabric that promises a pretty dress far so away from the sensibility of my sewing room.  I found that glitter is never a good idea and hand sewing a dress is not as bad as that may sound.  In the same breath, I also hope I have also taught you to persist in making that dream ideal sewing project and persist in bring it to life.  Glitter can be good when you want to try something different and sparkle like a mermaid out of the water!

Queen Bee

This year will be the 6th anniversary for celebrating World Bee Day, which comes yearly on May 20, the day Anton Janša, the pioneer of beekeeping, was born in 1734.  This commemoration is observed in order to have a worldwide celebration of bees as pollinators for the ecosystem and to appreciate the efforts of beekeepers. World Bee Day was first proposed by the country of Slovenia, and after 3 years of lobbying, was approved by United Nations members in 2017.  The Slovenian website for World Bee Day asks that “the world will begin to think more broadly about bees, in particular in the context of ensuring the conditions for their survival, and thus for the survival of the human race.”  That site says that studies have shown about every third spoonful of food depends on bee pollination, and this to me is the most striking (and scary) statistic.  That we owe so much of our daily bread to these little creatures who go about minding their own beeswax doing their humble work, rarely being valued for their benefits to society, is a daily wonder when I think about it.  Being that my father-in-law had long been a beekeeper and the honeybee is the unofficial family symbol, it was high time I took this holiday to heart and sewed myself an appropriate dress to pair with the day!  This gives me perfect excuse to indulge in my love for wearing yellow and orange, anyways!

     World Bee Day 2023 has the specific theme of “Bee engaged in pollinator-friendly agricultural production”.  This makes me think back to the origins of the organic earth stewardship movement where people began to make intentional efforts to reduce usage of pollinator harming chemicals and practices that deplete the environment.  What better year to channel that specific message than with a dress from 1962, the year that is considered the benchmark beginning for the organic movement. That year the famous book Silent Spring, which chronicles the effects of DDT and other common pesticides on the environment, was published by the prominent scientist and naturalist Rachael Carson.  Her book was a bestseller in the US and many other countries and has been called “an iconic piece of literature”.  The book is credited for launching a mass determined effort to act sustainably which led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as well as the eventual passing of the ban on DDT in 1972.  As it was, connecting oneself to nature and being a good steward of the earth was a popular social issue during the 1960s era, and the message of Silent Spring came at the right time.

Notice the honeycomb hexagon printed fabric at the top of the fabric pile in Mary Quant’s arms?

     On the topic of a message being in touch with things, I thought it would be the perfect time to use the designer Mary Quant’s 1962 “Georgie Dress” pattern as my basis for my honeybee inspired project.  The world just saw the loss of the designer Mary Quant on April 13 this year.  She was another catalyst type of person like Rachael Carson, only Quant was the main influencer behind the London-based Mod and youth fashion movements of the 1960s, popularizing miniskirts, ‘hot pants’, bold color combinations, and the gamine look.  The free “Georgie Dress” pattern (offered through the V & A Museum in London) had been on my mind before Quant’s passing, but her death suddenly reminded me that the “Georgie Dress” would work out perfectly for the pile of honeycomb print cotton scraps that I had to work with.  It was the year I was looking for, would be a great way to honor the people and topics I wanted to include, and would be a fun and unexpected way to use both my material and the pattern.  With my choice of fabric, I knew this dress was going to be a bit out-of-the box, so I might as well channel a designer that did the same thing with her designs.  Nevertheless, being from early in the decade, this particular design is more unadventurous and 50s inspired than her styles offered later in 60s.  Even, still it turned out a comfortable and cute garment that is simple enough to be perfect for customization…such as what I did! 


FABRIC:  a Robert Kaufman brand 100% Kona cotton in two different color schemes of the “Spring Shimmer” print by Jennifer Sampou

PATTERN:  Mary Quant “Georgie Dress” dated to 1962

NOTIONS NEEDED:  lots of thread, three buttons leftover from this past project (posted here), bias tape for finishing the edges, and a spool of glimmer tulle

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This project took me just under 20 hours to make, and was finished at the end of April 2023.

THE INSIDES:  cleanly finished with a mix of bias tape, using the selvedge edge, and zig-zag stitching

TOTAL COST:  This dress cost me next to nothing!  The fabric came from a rummage sale in which all you could stuff in a grocery bag was $2! The tulle was a clearance item from JoAnn Fabrics store and I used a coupon to have the spool come to 50 cents.  Everything else I needed was on hand.  This dress cost me no more than a few dollars.  What a deal, right?!

     I am the “Queen Bee” in my own close family circle, and so I am embracing that sort of role with my thoughts towards this dress and also the facts I am trying to learn about bees in general.  I didn’t want this dress to be a costume or have a cosplay type of feel, so I kept my honeybee influences subtle.  It is wonderful to see how people I interact with when I am wearing this dress only realize as they are talking to me that the print is honeycomb!  Far away distance viewing is for appreciation of the overall dress silhouette while admiration for the details is only possible when comin’ on up to me.  Don’t worry – I don’t sting!

     The print itself has no bees but only features the hexagonal comb inside the hive.  The hive is the colony’s home and life’s work as well as the only setting the queen ever sees (she doesn’t get away from her domestic duties).  A print that features the comb is more low-key to wear and also a better homage to bees, I figure.  The honey that bees make in the hive is the commonly associated and enjoyably palatable connection they have to humans, after all, and a small miracle in my opinion.  The bee brooches are vintage and meant to be like the drones (the only male bees) following the queen (the big pin closest to my neck).  The big bee and one of the small bees had been bought by me from a thrift sale back when I was a pre-teen.  The other two smaller bee pins were from my paternal grandmother, and it was amazing when I found they matched with my own!  The delicate sparling mesh along my neck reminds me of the dainty, beautiful wings of a honeybee, which are said to beat about 200 times per second.  Every little fact about bees is mind-blowing.

     I’m always a big fan of Robert Kaufman fabric, but it is a coincidence that this is the second time I have gravitated towards a Jennifer Sampou print.  I bought one of her gradient ombré “Sky” prints two years ago and have since turned that into its own fantastic project yet to be posted.  Here, though, I only found out that my honeycomb cotton was by her once I got home to layout my rummage sale findings.  The Sampou “Spring Shimmer” cotton was found as a pile of cut squares, only remnants and not a whole yardage.  As impossible as the task seemed, I still *had* to try to do something with them because I adored the print, the luxurious quality of the Kaufman cotton, and the golden colors.  Luckily the squares were bigger than a quilter’s fat quarter – about 21” by 22”.  I had 4 squares of each (thus 8 in total) of the two colors I used in my dress as well as two more colorways (a grey/red and a blue/white).  I used 3 out of the 4 squares of the two best complimenting colors, and will save the rest to sew a shirt for my husband in the future. 

     The Mary Quant pattern pieces were small enough in my size to just fit onto the odd shaped squares of fabric.  I was thrilled!  The fit chart was spot on and the instruction booklet was clear and easy to follow.  Many 1960s dresses and tops provide me with limited reach room because of my larger upper arms, but this design is easy for me to move in, with good reach room, and roomy in its proportions.  There is a lot to print out for this dress so it was unexpected to find that the PDF download only gives you 3 pattern pieces to tile together and use.  Besides the bodice and the sleeves, the rest of the pattern needs to be self-drafted.  This ‘forced’ me to be creative and customize the pleated trim and the skirt to my own imagination.  I did still use the fork pleating method that the pattern instructions provided for making the tulle trim along the neckline.  That was really fun and the easiest yet most consistently precise pleating I have done.  Otherwise, I made some changes to the dress in a way that does not at all affect the design lines.

      The “Georgie Dress” is supposed to be a mock wrap dress…well, I took it one step further and made this a real working wrap dress!  This way the style stays the same but the faux look (as well as a side zipper) was avoided.  The bodice is designed to fully wrap from side seam to side seam anyway, so the only thing I had to do was extend the skirt to further encompass the entirety of the waistline and – boom!  It is a real wrap dress.  It find this so much more satisfying and easy to get dressed in than having a mock-wrapped look and I had enough fabric to make this idea work.  I also left out the full bodice lining as the instructions direct.  Being a designer pattern, it makes sense to have a fully lined bodice for a higher-end finish, but this dress was not at that level and I wanted to keep the construction easy.  Besides, what is the use of having such a luxuriously soft and stable cotton is you don’t get to feel it directly on your skin, sans lining?!?  Part of the breezy and joyful energy to this dress is not just the print but the happiness I have from the way I simplified and streamlined this dress.

     I have said time and again how I love using the type of mathematics that sewing requires and pleating skirts is on my top 5 list.  I had a total of 4 fabric squares available for the skirt (two of each color since one panel of each color went towards the bodice and sleeves).  I figured the entire length of what I had for the skirt (20” multiplied by 4 equals about 2 ¼ yards), figured the length that the skirt would have to go (being a wrap this was trickier) and went from there.  The part of the skirt where the skirt is wrapped under is plain and not pleated to keep the skirt from being too poufy.  Then the center front has a smooth area over the tummy.  However, the rest of the skirt is knife pleated to radiate back to the box pleat I have at the center back.  The entire deal took me some 3 hours of doggedly doing the math, sewing the panels, making the measured markings, and folding and pinning the pleats to finally staystitch them down.  I am in a total zone when I do something like this and I love it!  The skirt is shorter than I originally wanted (and not what the pattern directs) but that is the 22” length of the squares and the best I could do.  I rather like the flirty and sporty little skirt after all, though now that it is finished.  I feel it is better suited to the cheerful and fun aura I wanted for the dress.  In sewing, setbacks are indeed design opportunities.

     Since I made this a working wrap, I’ll explain how I keep it closed to further help you to do same adaptation of the “Georgie Dress”.  The wrap ends of the bodice are squared off just enough to leave room for about three evenly spaced half inch buttons.  To support the outer closing, I traced out my own interfaced placket to go underneath the side that needed buttonholes and then sewed the corresponding buttons down through the side seam allowance.   Since I was not lining this dress the one layer of cotton would not have been enough to make the wrap closing work well otherwise.  In the inside closing, I sewed down two loops of ¼ inch wide elastic to comfortably catch two buttons which were (again) sewn to the side seam allowance on the opposite side.  Easy does it best!

     My background has the controversial “Honey Bears” by popular San Francisco street artist known as Fnnch.  This particular mural reminds of the Pop Art of the 1960s era, something akin to the Campbell’s Soup can art of Andy Warhol from 1962.  These bears nod to the handful of musical venues nearby, the World’s Fair of 1904, the Arts and Education Council, and the local hockey team “the Blues” (as this post here fully explains).  As I am in the Midwest, we have only one piece of his so I feel a bit alienated from the debate and dislike the rest of Fnnch’s plethora of art has garnered in the Golden Gate city.  I just seen these bears as quirky and cheerful…as long as this is all we have.  With my dress’s fabric print being a honey comb and since the body of his art work is so very similar to Warhol’s 1962 art, I am thrilled to have the best reason ever to include this special corner from our city’s downtown Art District. 

     After a post like this, is there any little step that you can make to help our little pollinators and honey producers “bee” healthier and happier in the future?  Even if it is just planting some extra flowers, buying honey from your local beekeeper, or choosing organic produce, every little action can make a difference if we all join in.  Then every day can be a time for appreciating the bees!

Peggy’s Satin Pj’s

     After all the Agent Carter related sewing I have done since the television show first debuted in 2015, you may have been led to think I would be taking a break.  I have not posted any Agent Carter sewing project in a good long while (since 2021 – see here and here) after a long run of working towards acquiring the wardrobe of the three leading ladies.  However, here’s a surprise – I am not done!  I’ve finished a handful of Agent Carter items in the last few years but just not yet posted them.  I have been tackling the outfits that are more challenging to imitate.  I have also made it a point to now reproduce Peggy’s private wardrobe items such as nightwear, slips, and home lounging clothes.  This way I don’t have to wait until I get fixed up before I can feel like I am becoming my very own version of Agent Carter…I can do that in comfort at home! 

     Today’s post is featuring my vintage style version of her fabulous satin pajamas that can be seen in a few episodes through Season Two (2016).  I went all out with this project and have my pants as a fine silk satin and my tunic a quality cotton in a special novelty print.  Together they make for a casual set that is anything but blasé.  My night time has now become a whole lot more luxurious!  Of course anything Agent Carter inspired is going to be really good, though…right?!?


FABRIC:  The tunic is made of a beautiful Lady McElroy brand 100% Cotton Lawn in a digital print called “Marabou Mosaic – Teal tone”; the pants are a silk blend (50 to 50 mix of polyester) produced by a small family manufacturer in Vietnam “May Silk” on Etsy.

PATTERNS:  a Burda “Easy” #8488 from January 2003 for the bottoms and Gertie’s “Harlow pajamas” (a free pattern downloadable here) for the tunic top

NOTIONS NEEDED:  one zipper for the side seam of the pants, two frog closures, and lots of thread

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Each piece took me about 8 hours to make (not counting pattern cutting, tracing, adjusting) for a total of 16 hours. They were both sewn in June 2022.

THE INSIDES:  cleanly finished with my mock serging/overlocking, aka multiple rows of tight zig-zag stitching

TOTAL COST:  One yard of the Lady McElroy fabric cost me $20 from Minerva Fabrics.  Two yards of the silk satin cost me $35 (including shipping). Everything else I needed was on hand already from my stash of notions, so counted as free.  My total was $55.

     Even though Agent Carter Season Two is supposed to be taking place in the year 1947, her lounging pajamas that I have attempted to imitate are actually very solidly 1920s in their styling, color scheme, and fabric choice.  Styles did not change that quickly in America post WWII and neither did rationing immediately ease up (unless you were rich or famous or just had connections).  Thus, Peggy’s satin (probably silk) Asian made pajamas were from before the 1940s…but then again, the celebrated Howard Stark (a character based off of Howard Hughes) definitely had powerful connections.  Even though something from the late 1920s would have already been almost “vintage” to wear in 1947, it makes sense that either Peggy or Howard would have saved something so special to be appreciated and enjoyed later on.  There was an unmatched air of elegance, leisure, and luxury in between the two World Wars, for all the privations and challenges that also existed at the time, and the 1920s and 30s offered indulgent fashion styles for the boudoir that we are unused to today. 

     It’s interesting that the use of both a turquoise tone and a floral bird print is something I kept finding as a precedent in my research into extant 1920s or early 1930s lounging pajamas.  It seemed as if the top was the piece out of the set that always had the print and the bottoms were almost always in a solid color.  I am wondering if these Art Deco era pajama tops were in a print for some sort of secretly simple reason – perhaps they were made from kimono fabric or hand painted panels. 

Whether my musing is true or not, crane prints have long been a popular imagery preference, especially if they are depicted in mid-flight.  The crane is a majestically tall wading bird which is a favorite subject in Asian fashion and art forms as well as one of their most emblematic creatures.  The crane is a symbol that spans both Chinese and Japanese cultures to stand for good fortune, loyalty, wisdom, and longevity (especially immortality). During the Han dynasty in China, a Daoist priest was said to be able to transform into a crane.  In Japan, the crane is a holy creature and the favorite subject of both Haiku poetry and origami (paper folding).  It seems a very good idea to wear such an auspicious symbol to bed!  A motif of a creature so elegant seems to add to the sophistication already present with a luxury pajama set.

     As there seem to be a plethora of vintage reproduction patterns today, I had many pajama styles I could have chosen from.  However, there was only one I personally wanted to try and it happened to not only be a good match but also was free of charge – Gertie’s Harlow pajamas.  It looked appealingly basic with simple lines perfect for a large print.  There were plenty of reviews made of the pattern as well so I felt like it was a safe bet.  Yet, I did not want a gathered waistband nor too loosely fitted trousers, so I chose another pattern rather than Gertie’s to make the contrast bottoms.  I felt more comfortable with what I was going to end up with using a Burda Style pattern for the pants than Gertie’s pattern.  If I was going to make some fancy pants using some luxury satin, I wanted a smooth waistline and better tailoring that might help them to be fashionable to wear outside of a home setting, as well.  The tunic top is definitely good enough to wear out of the house as well, just with a different pairing such as skinny jeans or a little skirt. 

     Both patterns had different fitting challenges that I attempted to fix at the pattern stage before cutting.  I succeeded for the silk trousers but still (sadly) needed to do further adjustments to the tunic.  Starting with the top, I saw from Gertie’s sizing chart and other people’s reviews that it ran big.  I didn’t like the wide neckline and also wanted to pinch out the center front pleat that Gertie had designed into the top.  After assembling the PDF pages, I traced out the top in my size, pinched out 3 inches in the body width, lengthened the sleeves, and folded in the excess at the neckline to narrow it out of being a boatneck.  I was frustrated that a ‘simple’ pattern was becoming so challenging, but it got worse.  I stitched together the top after way too much agonizing over the placement of the cranes only to find out it was still too big on me.  I know a loose fit is okay, and should be expected for lounge clothing.  Yet I was aiming for a tailored version of a relaxed fit – one that still shows my body shape yet is also a slip-on while still not swallowing me up in excess material.  I picked up the shoulder seam and further sewed in the side seams to no avail.  I was left with no other last ditch option other than adding in that dreaded 3 inch deep center front pleat I originally wanted to avoid. 

     Even if it was necessary, I didn’t like the pleat.  In desperation, I thus stitched the pleat down from neck to hem…cleanly, by hand, so at least it would look nice.  Either way, my lovely crane print was mucked up in the name of a flattering fit.  I could no longer add in a keyhole neck opening just as Agent Carter’s pajama top had.  I am still rather devastated by the whole disappointing ordeal.  At least the cranes are printed large enough that I believe the pleat is not all that noticeable…or perhaps this is me merely lying to myself so I can feel better.  This fabric was hard to receive in the first place – it was on backorder for 9 months – and so I had no hope of quickly finding another yard at a reasonable price.  The two decorative frogs I added at the neckline do sort of bring attention to the pleat, I suppose, and are sort of silly since they will not be working closures.  However, the dual frog notions are an important element to the overall look, adding to the Agent Carter reference I needed, and complement the otherwise subtle Asian reference.   Nevertheless, I was after perfection with this project and fell short.

     I suppose out of all the Agent Carter projects to struggle with, her pajama top is the best one to sort of mess up on.  Seriously though – the tunic did turn out fantastic in the end, don’t you think?  Skinny bias strips of the satin fabric (used to make the pants) were cut out to finish off the neck and sleeve edges in a way the instantly elevates the cotton material.  Another strip of the pants’ satin becomes at sash belt worn over the tunic that further unifies the set.  The cotton lawn is a wonderful blend of softness with structure in a lightweight material that is somehow opaque.  I love the placement of the cranes, too. My over-analyzing did pay off.  Nevertheless, I would not recommend Gertie’s Harlow pajamas if you are using a special fabric.  Give yourself room to make mistakes here because the fit seems to be fiddly and probably changes according to the material used.  This pattern would be good if you just want no-nonsense nightwear which is not going to be as specific as my intentions were.  Now that I have made the Harlow pajama top in my ideal sizing, I may return to the pattern and sew a long dress version in flannel.  Perhaps I should just try the top out in some silk satin or a new cut of the crane print so I can redeem myself.  Gertie has come out with some elegant sleeve options for the Harlow pajamas that are tempting me. 

     I set about making sure part two of the set would be an easier project, glad solely from the fact I planned on an alternate pattern for the trouser bottoms.  I noticed an issue right off the bat with this particular Burda design.  The fit seemed to run very small when comparing the sizing chart with the finished garment measurements given.  I found just one review of the pattern that confirmed what I figured.  With the second skin fit, low rise, and belled bottoms that the cover model seems to portray, these seem like pants that an early 2000 era Britney Spears would enjoy.  I know what wearing ease I was aiming for (about 3 inches) and thus went up two whole sizes to find the perfect fit.  Dramatically sizing up has the pants giving me a loose comfort that is still fitted.  They ended up with the perfect balance between both loungewear and street fashion just by finding my ideal fit.        

     The pattern cover did not turn me off after looking at the actual pattern lines, but I did need to make some small adjustments so these pants could be the rousing success that they are.  The most obvious change to the design was having the front of the pants smooth, uncomplicated, and simplified with a side zipper closure.  They were originally meant to be bib front closing, much like Navy military trousers.  I overlapped the two front pattern pieces to get rid of the middle seam that ran vertically down the legs (an extension of the bibbed waistline closure).  Then I added in two waistline darts to smoothly bring in the excess left from adapting the pattern.  Next, the hem flare was altered.  I know there were many bell bottomed pants in the 1920s and 30s (see my 1930 beach pyjamas for one example), yet that was not my ideal silhouette here.  The side seams were straightened out to be a tapered full leg that is closer to the late 1930s or early 1940s. 

     I also raised the waistline by 1 inch so the pants now ride an inch or two below my belly button.  This is lower than I have been wearing pants for many years now.  These pants are hip huggers at heart.  They stay up and in place, though, and do not need constant hiking up or give me a muffin top like my old late 1990s pants used to do to me!  They are tailored to fit much better than my late 90s store bought pants ever were.  One last note – the leg length must have been designed for a tall person.  At 5’3” height, I needed an 8 inch deep hem.  Sure, I could have just cut off the excess fabric, but I like how nicely the heavy hem weighs down the silk and helps the pants flow with my every step.  If I learned anything from making the Gertie pajama top, you’ve gotta roll with how things turn out sometimes.

     These dramatically fancy pants are a dream come true!  They are a good change of pace, fit great, are quite unique, and wonderful to wear – besides being an easy project!  I am still in awe that I now have silk satin trousers for under $40.  The fabric is unbelievable quality and seems just as good as if it was fine pure silk.  It is not overly delicate, is easy-to-sew, does not get static cling or wrinkle, is so reasonably priced, and easy to take care of (machine washable on cold).  This is not a sponsored advertisement, but a testimony of a happy customer to recommend you head over to May Silk on Etsy and buy some fabric for yourself. 

     Surprisingly enough, these pajamas have proved themselves useful and not just a splurge project.  We have had the house go through the long agonizing process of asbestos abatement.  I needed to sleep in rooms of the house other than our bedroom and be dressed in something appropriate to be seen in but also comfortable enough for some rest.  These pajamas were the ticket for redeeming those mornings and nights I was miserably tired by giving me a treat yet keeping me put together.  Also we recently had to take a trip with some family members, and we may be doing that again soon, and so these pajamas have also been the perfect thing to bring instead of my normal, often well-worn nightwear.  Silk is extremely adjustable to your personal body temperature and so these pants are never confining enough to make me hot nor are they tissue thin to leave me freezing but keep me comfortable either way.  The cotton lawn is thin enough to be nicely breathable but the slight crisp hand of the fabric keeps it from overly clinging to my body when I sleep.  This pajama set is a match made in heaven!  Even if it wasn’t Agent Carter inspired (but it is) it would still be a special wardrobe acquisition!  Even the mistakes made to the tunic top along the way cannot take away from the fact that this pajama set is utterly fabulous, if I do say so myself.

     Wait until you see the rest of what I have made for myself from the costumes of Agent Carter television series!  Any of this kind of sewing is such an exciting labor of love to create and a source of so much enjoyment to wear…somehow more than normal.  I hope seeing me imitating Peggy’s style has inspired you to see how worthwhile it is introduce a little dose of fabulousness into your life even when it is just for nighttime! 

Chanel on a Budget

     The title may be a bit confusing at first pass – no, I am not promoting buying counterfeit items or telling you how to find a deal.  This post is proudly about me making my own high-quality Chanel inspired suit jacket set…on the cheap!  I chose a pattern in my stash that was the closest to the ‘real deal’ French jacket set through a vintage 1960s designer Vogue.  I’ll admit, the envelope does not clearly say Chanel, but I doubt the mystery ‘designer’ which inspired the pattern is anything otherwise.  Every detail screams “French-style” jacket…and absolutely I love it!  However, for as much weight in the world of fashion that using the Chanel name may carry, my version is exclusively sewn using one yard or less scraps of silk, brocade, and more from on hand in my stash already.  Almost everything was acquired second-hand or as repurposed material, which makes this fantastically sustainable and affordable – yet no less fashionable – way to sew my own designer fashion.  I love a good statement piece, but the ‘making of’ story behind this handmade set makes this one a doozy! 

     For as much as I am thrilled with and proud of my own spin on a Chanel suit set, she is nevertheless my least favorite designer.  This is mostly because of her association with Nazi-Germans and collaborations with the Vichy puppet regime of WWII in order to boost her professional career.  I also detest the way she rode off of other people’s successes and feels she receives undue credit for the “little black dress”.  Ultimately, however, I just never really found her styles directly appealing to me…other than her classic “French Jacket” suit styles of the mid-century!  Gabrielle Chanel designed the “French Jacket” after returning to France in 1954 from exile in Switzerland in order to bring back her fashion house.  I like her revamped image and appreciate it as small sign of her “turning over a new leaf”.  She may have changed up what she offered but she found more popularity than ever with her classy suits and jackets.

Our son even wore his vintage 1960s suit to match with me!

     In the mood to get a head start on my “Easter best” outfit, I serendipitously picked up one of my long awaited projects – this Chanel-influenced suit – at the beginning of this year…way before the 2023 theme for the upcoming MET gala was announced!  The theme happens to be “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” and I happily find myself on point.  After Chanel’s passing in 1971, Karl Lagerfeld becoming Chief Designer helped the Chanel brand begin a new page in its history with his impressive prêt-à-porter and haute couture collections.  I know my suit’s design is from 1964 and thus not from Lagerfeld’s time as Director for Chanel, but this “French Jacket” style has become timeless and always chic no matter the time or place!  It is a luxury brand after all, but no less popular and sought after for all the imitations, knock-offs, or ‘inspired by’ pieces…such as my own!


FABRIC:  Skirt exterior is a ¾ yard remnant of an upholstery fabric “Angelic Meadow, Hydrangea color” that is 45% rayon, 31% polyester, 24% cotton in content. That fabric remnant came with a receipt dated to 2015 from “The Robert Allen Group” of South Carolina.  The skirt lining is a beige toned polyester microfiber bed sheet (previously used to line this dress, posted here). 

My jacket is primarily made with pre-quilted cotton leftover from lining this coat project (posted here).  The pure silk satin used on the collar lapels and pocket flaps is in a sandy beige color.  It is something I acquired when visiting the fabric district in Los Angeles, California. The jacket lining is a 1980s polyester jacquard.

PATTERN: Vogue Special Design #6131 from February/March 1964, vintage original pattern from my personal stash

NOTIONS NEEDED:  I used lots of thread, one skirt zipper and a hook and eye. The braided jacket trimming is cotton in content and was from my local JoAnn Fabrics store, bought about 5 years ago.  The button set is vintage, on hand from my husband’s Grandmother’s notions stash.  The vintage skirt chain is the only recent purchase and comes from this Etsy shop.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Both pieces together took me at least 40 hours to complete in January 2023

THE INSIDES:  fully finished and completely lined

TOTAL COST:  The skirt chain was my only current cost – $4! The other notions were already on hand.  The beige silk was a remnant bought for $5 at a shop in the garment District of Los Angeles, California. The rest of the fabrics were either remnants from my other projects or picked up at some local rummage sales for pittance.  My whole suit cost me under $20.

     For as complex as making a designer suit set sounds, this one was relatively easy.  It called for techniques that were not out of the ordinary, and as I was using bulky, thick fabrics for both the skirt and jacket, I needed no added interfacing!  Nevertheless, true Chanel suit coats have more inventive seaming and more specific details than my version, which has minimal design lines, a two-piece sleeve (common for suiting), and a 60s era boxy cut.  It lacks the famous Chanel “three-panel sleeve” with sleeve cuff vent and princess seaming in the body.  What was supposed to be the classic Chanel ¾ sleeves fell at full length on me and I left them that way in order to compliment my smaller proportions better.  There still is a proper placement for the unmistakable quadruple pockets!  The skirt was only two pattern pieces plus a waistband, and I further simplified that by getting rid of the back kick pleat, making it look trimmer than most Chanel skirts and further slimming the boxy suit for my 5’2” frame.  I love the resulting look!  It has been 8 years now since I have made a 1960s suit (see my last one, a 1967 reversible set, posted here)!

     However, I want to point out that this set is lacking in a true Chanel attribution, being only a “Special Design” (i.e designer inspired).  With this perspective, expecting it to be on par with a modern standard is silly, and – after all – the ultimate decision was up to me, as I am my own designer.  I was not looking for a high end or overly taxing project here, but merely set out to use what I had on hand to craft two well-made pieces with enough of a Chanel reference to make me happy.  

I have done a thorough search for a verified Chanel suit pattern and cannot find a single one, so an “inspired” version is the only option for a home seamstress, outside of drafting from off of an extant original.  If you do have a true Chanel designer item, then you probably wouldn’t bother to make your own…unless you are Susan Khalje, a distinguished educator and practitioner of couture sewing methods.  Working with Julien Cristofoli (a Paris-based draper and couture pattern maker) to create a pattern direct from “authentic sources”, she offers a pattern and accompanying workshop which together teach all the glorious details behind reproducing a true “French Jacket”!  Khalje’s “Straight Skirt” pattern is similar to my own skirt in design lines and would be a great couture upgrade option.  There are many Chanel inspired pattern options out there to choose from, though!  See this post at “Sewing Chanel Style” for the top 10 look-alike patterns!

     As 1990s Chanel was trending again in 2022, I originally considered going for a Karl Lagerfeld era “French Jacket”, which I love the look of but don’t (yet) believe I have the legs to pull it off a cropped jacket, bare midriff, and mini skirt.  If not that interpretation, then I knew I wanted to channel Chanel through the lens of the 1960s.  I associate this decade as being part of the classic era for women’s suits because of Jackie Kennedy’s style, the popularity of fashion photography, and the great couture houses which began in the 1950s and continued offering finely tailored clothing in contrary to the youth movement.  The suit was back in full force in the 1960s as about 40% of women between 16 and 64 joined the workforce with the passing of many watershed moments in equality such as the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Presidential act banning discrimination based on gender in 1967.  In 2021, I happened to pick up a vintage original 1960s suit in perfect condition for only $20 (see me wearing it here) and found that I loved the boxy shape, cropped length, and skinny skirt.  It was surprisingly fun and something I found appealing…and just like that I had a new vintage obsession.  A 1960s Chanel inspiration was the best and most deluxe version I could think of for reproducing this suit style for myself. 

     The sizing on this pattern was rather odd and deserves a mention.  As I said in the paragraph below “The Facts”, the sleeves were supposed to be “short bracelet length” but turned out long in length.  Well, the entire jacket ran extraordinarily long on me.  I had to raise everything up by almost two whole inches (except the sleeves, which I left at wrist level).  I extended the bust darts to come higher, made a deeper hem, and raised up the placement level of the pockets and button closure.  The width and armscye depth was fine on me as-is, with no added adjustments otherwise.  At right you can see the first shell of my jacket – no lining, pockets, facing, or anything – and I had to re-measure and re-mark all the blueing after this picture.

Then, the skirt ran very small and very short.  Luckily, I measured out the finished sizing at the pattern stage so I graded the pattern up to more than what the numbers said I needed.  Thank goodness I had that foresight because this skirt would have been unwearable otherwise.  The waistband is snug on me – but just fits!  The hem is a simple turn under where the pattern called for it to be 2 ½ inch deep, but that would have made it too short on me to match with the jacket.  I have not yet come across another vintage pattern with such weird proportions where two garments coming from the same pattern envelope have different fitting quirks quite opposite one another.  There is no telling how the blouse included in the pattern would have turned out at this rate (and I’m glad I didn’t decide to make it)!  Vintage Vogue patterns are usually so impressively well designed in my experience.  Perhaps this one is off due to Vogue trying too diligently following the designer’s lead.  My guess is that either the pattern’s inspiration was perhaps overbearing their normal design process or this is just a fluke release.  It’s a good thing I was able to have everything turn out okay.

     I was doubting myself of my adventurous choice to use the quilted cotton material for a Chanel suit when such a thing is normally made with a tweed or traditional suiting material.  On its own, nevertheless, this cotton batting has a soft but stable structure similar to suiting and I thought it match with the quilted, textured, plush qualities of the skirt’s tapestry fabric.  The look of quilting is not entirely foreign to the history of Chanel, though.  Back in 1929, Chanel designed a handbag that had a double chain strap which could be worn over the shoulder and not just hand held.  Then in February 1955, after she began redesigning the rest of her brand, a quilted diamond or herringbone pattern was additionally stitched on the exterior of her leather chain strap handbags and “The Chanel 2.55” accessory was born.  My beige quilted cotton, used on the main body of my jacket, merely mimics a Chanel purse!  Additionally, though, the main difference (from what I read from this source) between a couture Chanel jacket and an off-the-rack (prêt-à-porter, which came after 1978) is the way that made-to-measure items have their silk lining quilted directly to the exterior tweed fashion fabric.  Apparently I was just finding an easy way to a mock couture touch by buying pre-quilted fabric instead of quilting the lining to the suit body!  My jacket may be an unusual interpretation of Chanel but it is still very much on brand.

     To counter the quilted cotton material, I did dive into my good supplies for other parts of my jacket, especially when it came to the contrast portions (collar lapel and folded-back flap top pockets).  The silk satin was like fine butter to work with and really elevates the appearance of my jacket.  It was slightly a pain to use here because it was such a complete opposite in weight and texture from the quilted cotton.  However, I didn’t bother to hand stitch through the silk as I normally would but used my machine for practically everything but tacking in the lining and the label.  (Can I briefly freak out over how the envelope had a rare “Vogue Special Design” label hiding in between the pattern tissue!?!) 

     The braided trim went over the top of all my machine stitching and made everything look so clean and refined…it was such a ridiculously easy way to finish this simple suit it felt like cheating.  The trim was so perfectly meant for this project by the way I was literally left with only 2 inches to spare out of the 3 yard length I had on hand.  It is so Chanel inspired to have the trim looking like tiny braiding, but ultimately I was just happy it matched the beige tones of both my cotton and silk material.  Additionally, a set of buttons from the familial inherited stash of notions had four in one size and then also the next size up and so seemed further meant to be part of my project.  They are substantial buttons that add a touch of golden bling which is synonymous with Chanel, second only to an overload of pearls.   

     I suppose the most Chanel part of my skirt is the button-on skirt chain that I added to the waistband.  However, the tapestry material that I chose deserves its own spotlight – it is so fantastic.  This was a remnant I picked up from a furniture warehousing company that moved literally one block up from where I live, so I love the fact I didn’t even have to leave my neighborhood or drive anywhere to find some cool fabric.  There is such a complexity of color and detail in the weave that immediately gets lost at a normal distance away from me (i.e. outside of my personal bubble space).  I really went over the top thinking about the pattern layout for this simple skirt just so I could make sure all the seams lined up beautifully at every seam.  The oversized brocade needed to be aligned well and the lovely material deserved it.  After heaping such praise and time on skirt’s exterior, I do feel guilty that I used something as common as a microfiber bedsheet (leftover from this project) to line the skirt interior – but fabric is fabric and sometimes what is on hand is better to me than buying new.  I used the good vintage rayon hem binding at least! 

     Most Chanel suits do not have the juxtaposition of a printed skirt with a solid jacket.  However, I felt the blue tapestry material was refined, deluxe, intricately woven, and – most importantly for me – very wearable outside of pairing it with the set.  I know Chanel is known for using pink, but a soft blue has always been my favorite over pink.  As I am the one sewing these pieces, this is my personal interpretation of a Chanel suit after all!  I’ll always attest that home seamstress are designers just the same as any big shot…sewist ‘small fry’ like me may not have the press or clout, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do just as well for ourselves with what we sew together! 

     I loved wearing my Chanel inspired set for Easter…it feels so good to get back into my tradition of making suits for this holiday.  I kind of fell off from keeping this tradition over the last couple years.  My last Easter suit was sewn using a designer 1996 pattern (posted here) in 2020.  I hope to pick up where I left off with my “progressively advancing up through decades” Easter sewing by making a 2000 era suit for 2024!  Keep your eyes peeled to see if I can’t wait and end up sewing it this year.

I’m wearing my paternal Grandmother’s vintage jewelry here, and my favorite piece is the 1960s watch necklace. The pearl gold bead necklace is something I made myself as a teenager!