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! 

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