It mystifies me that something as vigorous, beautiful, and pleasant smelling as the shrub rose, also known for its wild varieties the dog briar or briar rose, can also be designated as a weed. Yes, I agree a shrub rose can grow out-of-hand, it creates dense vegetation of spiny brambles, and it can be aggressively invasive. However, many flower shops and high end events desire lab curated roses for arranged displays, yet snub their nose on the humble, steadfast briar rose that was the humble ancestor to all roses back from the time of the dinosaurs. After all, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is the popular quote from Shakespeare. Did you know that most of our important crop plants are in the “Rose” family? A pretentious pedigree should not matter for a plant.
It’s cooling down now that September is here, yet in our city’s Botanical Garden there are still plenty of shrub roses blooming untamed next to some single oversized hybrid. A desire for overly curated cultivation has grown a skewed perspective. I think a plant such as a briar rose that perseveres through the ages, with healthy benefits to boot, while still having loveliness to share despite their alleged flaws is the diamond in the rough that deserves more respect – ‘weed’ or not.
The hidden beauty with a hopeful heart, Princess Aurora, of Disney’s 1959 animated film “Sleeping Beauty”, was also called Briar Rose. This was a term for the fairytale princess which comes from the German version of her story as told through the Brothers Grimm. I can deduce that this genus of plant was specifically what grew into an impenetrable barrier to enclose the sleeping princess. This is what I’m channeling today – the wild and prickly beauty of the briar rose as inspired by the Princess Aurora. Here is a delicate combo of a blouse in sheer white chiffon similar to Aurora’s forest outfit and flowing rayon trousers in a soft rosy hue…because briar roses are almost always pink, you know!
Here is a rare example of me mixing decades, I would like to think to great effect. These pants are from the 1990s, yet my old-fashioned ways I keep calling them trousers by default because they are high-waisted and wide-legged as if from the WWII era. The blouse is 1940’s, a piece from an old dirndl pattern because it has been suggested that there is a Germanic influence to Briar Rose’s forest attire (no doubt coming from the story being derived from the Brothers Grimm). The fabric I chose and the way I’ve worn it here keeps the blouse more of agelessly romantic in aura than pure vintage. I been having a lot of fun with my style recently. I find the eras that revived older fashions so very interesting, but now especially so when it comes to the 90’s, a decade peppered with the influences of the past 20th century, all of which I already sew, wear, and love. Besides, the 1940s era came up with some of the best classic pieces, particularly for separates. Put all this together and I can’t go wrong, right?
Before I go on with my post, can we all take just a moment to appreciate the skills and patience of my 9 year old to take these blog pictures of me? Let’s give him a hand for being my photographer for a day!
FABRIC: Blouse – a poly chiffon with the ‘interfacing’ of the cuffs being a sheer white stiff organza; Trousers – 100% rayon twill
PATTERN: Blouse – Simplicity #4230, year 1942, from my stash; Trousers – McCall’s NY NY “The Collection” pattern #5718, year 1991
NOTIONS NEEDED: one 7” invisible zipper for the pants and lots of hook-n-eyes together with one vintage covered button for the blouse, but otherwise lots of thread, some bias tape, with a little interfacing
TIME TO COMPLETE: The blouse was made in about 8 hours and finished on January 6, 2020. The bottoms were done on April 3, 2021 in 4 hours.
THE INSIDES: The blouse is a combo of French seams and serged (overlocked) seam allowances. The trousers’ raw edges are bias bound.
TOTAL COST: All supplies came from my local JoAnn Fabric store. Two yards for the pants and 2 yards for the blouse came to about $30 in total.
Similar to the way I successfully used a bedsheet to sew a couture dress (in my previous post here), this outfit was also started with materials not what I intended, but what struck my immediate fancy. It just goes to prove that the final look of any and every sewing project is entirely dependent on the execution of every step along the way towards the finish. It doesn’t take fancy supplies to end up with something amazing to wear, and trying something new might just end up better than you originally thought. “A rose by any other name…” comes to play here, too. If you can make the most of what you have it doesn’t really matter if it’s a bedsheet or a polyester in the end if you’re happy with what you’ve created and think it is fantastic!
I would have preferred a silk chiffon for my blouse but after getting tired of internet searching, I instead took advantage of a fine polyester option that was both convenient to find and reasonably priced. I was doubtful that a slinky rayon would be substantial enough for what was supposed to be a structured pants pattern, but I wanted to try something experimental and it was in most enchanting pink tone…I couldn’t resist. Together, this outfit ended up way better than I imagined. I love these results! Luckily, I avoided being snagged by all the thorns around me while wearing my delicate fabrics. I took the risk, as you see, to folic like a modernized, dreamy version of a princess, spend time touring a lovely rose garden for an afternoon, smelling all the flowers.
These two pieces were really a lot easier to construct than they may look. The pants pattern fit me straight out of the envelope like it were drafted just for me, a trend I find with this 90’s line of NY NY “The Collection” McCall’s patterns. There was a front piece, a back piece, and two facings, all with just the right curves for my hips, so it was pretty simple to make and match the very geometric windowpane plaid.
I took a shortcut from the French seams I started in the blouse to do the rest in serging (I rarely use overlocking) because it was a poly after all, not a silk like I wanted! It has a loose and flowing fit, but as I already used the rest of the pattern before for a dirndl vest (posted here) I knew what sizing to expect and graded accordingly. A little before-hand knowledge is not always something available when working with vintage patterns, and I definitely appreciated it here.
As the pants and blouse were easy otherwise, I spent a bit of extra time on the details. For my bottoms, I made sure to have impeccable inside edges and a center back invisible zipper. I sewed in a hook-n-eye placket to close the blouse along the side seam, just like a proper vintage garment might have. A fluid, sheer, light-as-a-feather blouse deserved something other than a harsh and rigid zipper! This type of closure was the fiddliest part of the blouse, next to the neckline, but elevates it closer to the quality I’d hoped to end up with for a silk version.
Of course the resemblance of my blouse to Princess Aurora’s “Briar Rose” peasant blouse was made all the more similar thanks to a little piece of vintage lingerie in my collection. I wore an authentic 1940s boned long-line satin foundation undergarment beneath which gave my blouse an illusion similar to the sweetheart neckline of Aurora’s black overblouse corset. I acquired this amazing garment in the first place because not only was it my size, and something I did not have, but I also felt sorry for it. The brassiere needed some TLC to bring back up to a wearable status.
All the boning channels had been torn through but otherwise it was in impeccable condition, with elastic that was still very intact. To do the mend, I merely used some old vintage twill tape from on hand and re-sewed down the channels, closing in the spiral steel boning strips once more. This repair took me only 30 minutes! It is pretty enough of a piece to be seen in it floral damask satin, but I remember it is still lingerie, so I loved being able to fulfill both aspirations by wearing the brassiere with my sheer 40’s blouse. At this point, it rather looks like a mere strapless top underneath anyways, and highlights more of the gauzy goodness to my blouse than anything else. If anyone but my husband notices anything otherwise, shame on them!
I would be remiss if I failed to also highlight the unusual choice of footwear I chose for my outfit. As I was going both romantic old-timey but also experimental, I felt it was time to enjoy my new purchase of a pair of American Duchess’ “Kensington” 18th century leather shoes in ivory with “Cavendish” 18th century brass shoe buckles. To be inspired by “Sleeping Beauty” meant I had all sorts of historical references in my mind for this outfit, and these pretty – if a bit unusual – shoes made me happy with their finery. It was all about creating an aura for this mashed-up outfit. Yet, after all, I was also being practical. There was an 18th century reenactment to attend the coming weekend, and all American Duchess shoes need time to be “broken in” before they really start forming to your foot and becoming more comfortable. A walk through the soft ground of the Botanical Garden did just the trick!
The way you see these pieces worn and accessorized in this blog post is merely one out of the many other ways I pair them with other separates from my wardrobe. You can see this post here where my sheer blouse is being worn with my scuba knit sundress like a jumper! As pretty as these pieces are on their own, they really are being enjoyed much more than I had hoped – which is a very good thing!
After all, ever since the pandemic of 2020 started, I no longer ‘save’ my nice stuff for just nice functions, otherwise much of my wardrobe would never be worn. I really do think people appreciate it when they see there was thought and enjoyment behind putting myself together – no matter the occasion. You know, after these pictures at the Botanical Garden, I wore this outfit to do some practical grocery shopping, and received the most unexpected amount of compliments. Public appreciation or not, pulling cans off the shelves with sleeves like these suddenly felt much more elegant than hum-drum. Pushing the shopping cart around in 18th century heels feels empowering instead of droll. It was fantastic! I highly recommend it.
It’s just a parody to my earlier reflection of appreciating a ‘weed’ of a rose as something to be valued in one’s personal estimation. If I can’t avoid the weeds of life – like droll errands – I will find a way to see them as palatable by also doing something I enjoy at the same time…like wearing my me-made clothes. I will not let the lack of events to attend get in the way of an outfit like this not having an opportunity to be worn!