It’s not every day I go full on casual with what I am wearing, but doing so in vintage style is my preferred interpretation for having fun exercising in the great outdoors. Spring marks the beginning of baseball season in the United States, and so what better way to test out my newest sewing make than during practice pitching and catching with my family in the local park’s field! I now have the most chic but playful, bold yet practical pair of shorts I could ever imagine for summertime fun!
They are pleated, bibbed, suspender style “short-alls” from the mid-1940s in the most luxurious cotton I could find locally. This kind of casual dressing was the preferred choice of teenagers in WWII times, but I am more than happy to rock it as an adult on the 21st century. Here’s to having sporting fun in just as much style as when I have a fancy affair…because handmade fashion is for me something I can wear at any and all occasion at this point!
FABRIC: Chartreuse lime colored Supima cotton in a sateen finish (same as what I used as the contrast facing on this 1960s sun set)
PATTERN: Simplicity #1322, year 1944 (reprinted again under the same number in the year 1946) from my personal pattern stash
NOTIONS NEEDED: everything I used came from the accumulated stash I have on hand – thread, buttons, interfacing scraps, rayon hem tape, and a 6 inch zipper
TIME TO COMPLETE: this was made in about 12 hours and finished in August 2020
THE INSIDES: cleanly bias bound for all the seams with vintage rayon tape finishing the hem
TOTAL COST: 1 ½ yards cost me $16 with a coupon
As mentioned when I first used small scraps of this fabric on my 60’s sun set (posted here), I have never really been a fan of chartreuse. Nevertheless, I know it seems quite popular and a sought after color amongst vintage enthusiasts, so I have been wanting to cautiously try this color out for myself for far too long. The fabric’s shade listed on the end of the bolt in the store was marked as “pistachio” but as it is darker and more yellow in undertone, I see it as a true chartreuse in person. Considering my skin tone, I do not believe I’d like myself in chartreuse if worn alone as a solo tone.
Nevertheless, made up in a separate piece as I have done here, whatever top is chosen to pair with the shorts is my chance to play with finding complimentary colors that I do prefer. The suspenders holding up my bib extension integrate the chartreuse into my entire outfit and keep it from being distinct blocks of color separated at the waistline. The only reason I went with a dusty blue tee here was because I had a baseball cap to match, but it was a hard choice. I love the look of my shorts with tops on hand in all sorts of colors, and even with my printed, tight 90’s era tees (still in my wardrobe from when I was much younger) for a modern feel.
I was so happy to find a Sears department store advertisement from Kansas City, Missouri of the same year as my pattern (year 1944) for some “short-alls” exactly like my own. In this old ad, they were offered in a cotton twill and listed as “bib style buttoned panel, pleats front…a Hollywood favorite!” Unlike my last pair of 1940s era shorts (which look like a mini skirt), these are a bit more structured and obviously shorts with their shallow pleats, higher rise, and slimmer circumference of hems, making them perfect for very active activities like baseball, tennis, or volleyball. Under the same circumstances, my blue 40’s dupe-skirt shorts have me afraid of flashing someone with a peek of my undies and leave the fabric looking stained or limp when it gets wet. These chartreuse suspender shorts do none of that. Don’t get me wrong, though – each pair is appropriate for different occasions, obviously. I equally wear and love both of my 40’s shorts, but the chartreuse pair avoids all the pitfalls I discovered with my blue pair. Here, the suspenders and front bib even keep my top tucked in place!
I thought ahead to choose something equally soft as the rayon of my blue 40’s shorts but more stable and sweat resistant – all of which qualities I found in the Supima cotton sateen. The beautiful, slight shine to the fabric dresses them up, but they are still just a very easy-care cotton, besides being lightweight and cool to wear, too. My next choice after the Supima sateen was a light to mid-weight denim, and I do currently have some such material set aside (from my Grandmother’s fabric stash) for a future project of another early 1940s play set. I successfully tried a rayon and silk blend twill for my personal version of the 1940’s “Harp” shorts offered by Tori at “Potion 23”, a local designer for whom I was the pattern drafter and sample maker. My 80s shorts were a (border print) cotton shirting and for the 50s I did a short romper in pique as well as shorts in heavy hopsack linen. I now have a good arsenal of knowledge when it comes to what works best for different kinds of shorts. Fabric choice has so much to do with the success of every sewing project but I find this fact especially true for shorts. Such a simple little garment of summer has given me so much bother trying to perfect!
The only reason these shorts ended up being closer to fitting like modern clothes in the first place was really due to a re-drafting ‘mistake’. I only realized after assembling my shorts enough for my first try-on that the pattern was sized for teenagers. This explains why the crouch depth sits so much higher than what I expected of a true 1940s pattern. WWII era trousers for women had roomy bottoms for a fit that did not reveal a body form shape as do pants of today. Using a true 1940s pattern is the only reason such a ‘mistake’ worked out okay after all. As a teenager’s design, the distance between the hip line and waist line is really 2 inches too short for me. My hips are about 7 inches down from my waist and not 5 inches, as given.
I should have at least suspected that this was a junior’s design since the high school teenage crowd of the 1940s were the ones most commonly rocking the sporty, fun-in-the-sun clothes of WWII times. The envelope back said this was either for women or junior misses and recommended Simplicity #1315 (reissued in 1946 as #2062) to complete it as a “mother-and-daughter set” of matching designs. At least I was thinking ahead enough at the pattern stage so as to grade in some extra space at the seams of the centers and sides to bring it up to my waist and hip circumference. I had to add in a total of 4 inches because a size 12 from back then is for a small 24 inch waistline, which is a modern size 0…definitely not me.
I am no less happy with my finished item even with the little unexpected – but no less welcome – hiccup in its making. Now I have a decision waiting for me the next time I pick up this pattern (and I definitely will be coming back to it). Do I keep the modern fit of reduced wearing ease (aka, current juniors’ sizing) or draft in the proportions of an adult size for a proper 1940s appearance? Either way, I may just wear the heck out of these shorts and sew another copy in the exact same color and material. I may just pick another one of the other styles given as an option in the pattern to try. Nevertheless, I like these bibbed suspender shorts too much to not just end up making them again in some manner. I kind of want to revisit this same design anyway so as to redeem the crazy and confusing way of closures that I opted for in my version.
The pattern for these shorts calls for workable buttoning front bib. I did not do that on mine. To get a snug fit on a pair of shorts meant for athletic activity does not seem compatible with a handful of buttons. The Supima cotton is a fairly thin, loose weave that snags, ravels, and puckers easily. Even if properly interfaced, I did not want to compromise the material with buttonholes. Also, I could envision the front buttons being a hazard and getting caught during activity and ripped off…this worst-case scenario would not end well.
To end up with a stable, secure closure that keeps the look of the bib front simple, I went for the tried-and-true, good, old reliable vintage metal zipper closing, albeit hidden under the front flap. Over the tummy and under the bib, a short zipper connects the center front seam to an extension piece I added to left side of the shorts’ main body (since the pleat is only stitched part of the way). Then, I have an inner button and elastic loop to fully connect the waistband, as well. The entire right side of the shorts’ pleat and bib front is stitched down in place and all of the closures are accessed from the left side only. This was all my own idea and it works pretty darn well. I do not know whether or not this method of closing is something which would have been used back then or not, but it just made sense from an engineering outlook. Yes, sewing is engineering sometimes. I do happen to be married to an engineer so I suppose he rubs off on me.
At least I have the suspenders with real working buttonholes! There would be no easy way in or out of these shorts otherwise, from a practical perspective, though. The straps are stitched down to the front bib, but come detached at the back waistline where there are the cutest imaginable flower buttons in a bright lime green. The crossing point of the suspenders across the back of my shoulders is lightly tacked together so that no matter how I move, the X shape stays in perfect position. It’s not that I really need suspenders to actually hold up my shorts. This is why I have them as laying somewhat loosely over my shoulders. Yet, I just love how there is just as much interest to the design of these shorts as seen from behind with the suspenders and the cute buttons.
I enjoy the fact that I have such me-made vintage pieces to help me look forward to getting my exercise now that warmer weather is here. I never was a big fan of shorts until I discovered how cute and appealing the vintage-style kind could be. No matter how simple, any garment can be elevated by good design and tailoring. I certainly put this particular shorts model to the test run right away for the sake of my post’s pictures, too! I hope you enjoyed the change of pace by having photos of me in the action shots. Don’t you think I am able to pull off chartreuse after all?