On a day that revolves around fear and frights, I can’t help but default to America’s Sweetheart, Peggy Carter, for the self-assurance to have a heroine’s heart! She was speaking to her nemesis, a woman who almost wiped out all of New York, when Peggy uttered my title’s quote, a perfect mantra for Halloween night.
In those same first five minutes of the Second Season, you can see Agent Carter in a striking suit of the unusual combination of peach blouse and forest green skirt and jacket (see part of that here). I have interpreted this set into my own wardrobe, and as it has all the colors associated with Halloween, I’ll think of this outfit as a fashionable pumpkin!
There wasn’t a whole lot of sewing needed for me to have this set. I sewed the blouse, and it is a luxurious everyday basic piece, in a cheery color, which I needed in my wardrobe anyway. The skirt is something I’ve had in my closet for the past decade, a RTW piece which had been not seeing much wear as of late, so it was time for a simple re-fashion to perk it up. My optional suit jacket is a true vintage piece that had been given to me by a friend, and fits like it was made for me. It was that simple – my easiest Agent Carter outfit yet! Perhaps the style choices of myself and Peggy are naturally on the same page – maybe that’s why I feel the need to have every one of her outfits in my closet as well, he he. Many of her wardrobe choices have a sensible practicality combined with a panache for a touch of standout details. Perhaps there is something in your closet, too, that can translate easily into an Agent Carter outfit of your choice?!
FABRIC: The fabric for my blouse is a 100% silk crepe de chine, from “Printed Silk Fabric” on Etsy, with the front lined in a peach poly chiffon from Jo Ann’s Fabric store. The skirt’s added portions are of a cotton twill suiting, also from Jo Ann’s.
NOTIONS: I had the thread needed on hand already, as well as the abalone shell buttons I used, a snap, and a hook-and-eye.
THE INSIDES: A nice blouse deserved nice finishing, the way I figured! The inside is in French seams.
TOTAL COST: $20 for the blouse and a few more dollars for the extra fabrics from Jo Ann’s. How much more reasonable could an outfit like this get?!
The blouse pattern I used is wonderful. It sews up in a flash and has a decently good fit (with a few tweaks) and lovely details. This silk version is actually the second time I have used it, so I was confident enough about the fit and details to slightly change it up a bit. My first blouse version using this Simplicity re-issue was part of another Agent Carter themed outfit, and I will be posting that soon so you can get the full low-down on making the blouse as-is out of the envelope. For now, my second version will come first on my blog!
My tweaks to the blouse pattern of Simplicity #8243 were small. First, I took out the downward curve that the collar points have and straightened them out so it could be more like my inspiration Agent Carter blouse. Her blouse had collar points which are more wing-like, more horizontal, pointing straight out towards her shoulders rather than down to the hips as on the original pattern. In other words, my current collar is now a true “wing collar”, much like the 1950s “Agent Sousa” shirt I already made for my husband! Secondly, I made the shoulders about 5/8 inch longer. The first time I made this pattern, the sleeves ended up more on my shoulder than going over it. This time I corrected the short shoulder line. Third, I changed up the sleeves to make them more like an early or mid-1940’s style than post war, as the original pattern is from 1948. I added pleats in between the trio of darts that shape the sleeve cap, creating more fullness as well as a bit more room for me to move.
The original as-is length of the short sleeves is very long – not so that they can be ¾ length but so that you can have room to cuff the hem, as the original pattern shows. For this blouse, I cut off the excess length from the sleeve hems to have a facing-like binding strip to easily finish off the hem. I added small triangular notches at the outer center hems of the sleeves. I love how this little detail adds just enough subtle class without detracting in complexity from the straightforward simplicity of the styling. After all, there is a wide shoulder-to-bust dart that smoothly and beautifully shapes the blouse without the “traditional” gathers on so many other 40’s blouses. On this blouse, there are none of the common 40’s hem-to-waist shaping darts, as well, eliminating the conventional “blousy pouf” and making this blouse just as nice to wear untucked as tucked.
I must say, that my main gripe about the pattern is the weird placement of the buttons if you follow the pattern’s markings. The bottom button is right at the waistline (does it end up as a lump under my waistband or what?) and the top one makes the neckline restrictively high, almost to the point of chocking. If you make this pattern, you need to change to your own liking where you put the buttons and button holes. I lowered my top button placement down 1 ½ inches and raised the lowest one 1 inch, with the middle one naturally in between. Three inches down from the last third button, I sewed on a snap to keep the lower half of the blouse closed. Sewing a snap below the waistline is something I see on many 1940s original patterns and it makes total sense. A snap would not show a bulge through the belly of a skirt or trousers like a button would, and I makes the bottom half of the blouse smooth if I want to wear it untucked. I wonder why this bit of sensibility which I always see in vintage patterns is somewhat lacking when it comes to the instructed closure of this blouse.
The main body of the blouse seems to run a bit snug for me, so I cut a size bigger for the back than the front, and taper a size up for the hips. As my silk crepe de chine is a bit sheer, I doubled up on the back bodice, but as I only had two yards of 45 inch wide material, I used the supplementary fabric to line the front. The all-in-one collar and front facing combo can be a bit fussy and not want to lay down well, but between ironing and some small tacking stitches between the layers, I am able to have my collar behave well!
For my skirt, I really didn’t do anything to change the fit – I just added a few things to mostly change where it fit! The main addition was to give my skirt a true waistband. This was a skirt meant to sit on hips, with a wide waistband which ends just below the waist. My waistband was sewn ¼ inch onto the edge, so it makes no real impact to the original skirt, ends just above the invisible back zipper, and I can easily take it off if I ever want to in the future. The back of the skirt had a high kick pleat-style slit for freedom of movement. I am not used to showing this much thigh, even if the slit doesn’t open up unless I do some true Agent Carter kick-but moves! Nevertheless, I unpicked both the fashion fabric and the lining around the back opening to stitch it down like a slit. Then, I filled in the slit with a small rectangle of fabric I had left over from the waistband to make a box-pleated fill-in piece. This way the slit closes nicely on its own, but when it opens up as I need it, the fill-in piece unfolds to keep my thighs covered without restricting movement. My slit addition makes the skirt now look closer to a pattern from my stash – a McCall #6338 from 1945.
Somehow, it seems as if there is always some small ‘something’ I would like to have which is lacking when it comes to RTW off the rack clothes. Whether it’s a detail (such as “…if only the neckline was different”), or the fit (who hasn’t had “…it fits except for here!”), or even availability (why is it so hard to find nice, solid colored blouses or non-knit bottoms?), relying on off-the-rack can be so frustrating. If you don’t have the time for sewing every dream item (who really does?!), combining sewing skills with RTW can be a match made in heaven for making your clothes truly speak for you!
Although this is a sort of an after-Halloween post, and an outfit from a “fantasy” character, this is not a costume. To me, this is something I am bringing into my own persona from a screen heroine that I can closely associate myself with. That is one of the many amazing things about Agent Carter. What she wears on screen can easily be worn by anyone today, yet is still very 1940’s chic, and not in the least a costume. I really do think that is one of the major attractions of Agent Carter – she’s so very realistic yet still as capable as any superhero, and she’s oh-so-empowering. That’s not even taking into account the fact that she started a whole new interest renewal in the fashions of the 1940’s…yay! I so want to see more of her story on screen…until then I’ll keep making her wardrobe for myself!
Right now, there’s a petition out there to “Save Agent Carter”, and it’s in need of more people to sign and join in the plea for Marvel to continue Peggy Carter’s story in some form or fashion. I’ve already signed up…will you consider signing, too? Let’s let Hollywood know the world is better with the inspiration and bravery of Agent Carter. Spread #SaveAgentCarter!