“How Far I’ll Go…”

     “See the line where the sky meets the sea?  It calls me. 

          What’s beyond that line?  Will I cross that line?

               If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me, one day I’ll know…”

     -lyrics from the song “How Far I’ll Go”

I might have my personal favorite princesses, but in our house, Disney’s 2016 “Moana” is an all-around favorite of all of us, especially my son.  The movie is an excellent example of Polynesian lore and culture, besides having Moana herself be an all-around exemplary, relatable 16-year-old human, even for all the legendary situations she is placed in.  I love that Moana has her family there for her throughout the film, which is unique for Disney (which tends to kill off the mom figure), and that she is searching for her own identity, not a love interest.  It has songs that are catchier than the best classic 90’s Disney tunes with amazing visuals that are an absolute treat.  It contains my husband’s favorite Disney song – “You’re Welcome” – and was my son’s first in-person movie theatre experience.  “Moana” is also the only Disney animated princess movie I cry to every single time we re-watch it again and again!  It is fitting that my last summer season sewing is something related to the princess Moana.

Of course I had to interpret this specific inspiration with a play set for my latest and greatest installment in my “Pandemic Princess” blog series!  There wasn’t a better decade for the cutest play sets than the 1940s, in my opinion.  Besides, with all the American soldiers (and their families in some instances) stationed at many of the Pacific islands during and after WWII, Polynesian culture heavily influenced the warm weather and playtime fashions for women of that decade. 

I had a head start on the 3-pieces which constitute a play set by wearing my pleated, skirt-style 40’s shorts, which I sewed years back as the base for another play set (posted here), to match with my newly made Moana novelty printed blouse.  The rich blue to the shorts reminds me of the ocean…and I enjoy being able to still be wear my older creations, after all.  Then the jumper, which is newly made and can be worn over both pieces, also matches with the blouse as it peeks out from underneath.  It creates a suddenly dressy tone to the fun time duo.  The brown linen jumper was custom dyed by me, and calls to my mind both Moana’s dark hair and the natural fibers that many ethnic Polynesian clothes are made of.

My accessories are especially coordinating this time.  I have a toy plush version of Moana’s sidekick the rooster Hei Hei to keep me company.  He might not be the best help on Moana’s boat (see this hilarious movie clip) but together with the pig Pua (shown on my blouse) complete her ‘conventional’ Princess ‘requirements’.  This Hei Hei toy was a present from my mother-in-law and can walk and “scream” by battery power.  I also have a large conch shell with me – it was acquired by hubby’s Grandmother in the 1960s or earlier.  It is a beautiful pink inside just like the ones the ocean gave Moana as a baby (see this movie clip – it’s so sweet). 

Now to the rest of my accessories, like my handmade ones! My belt is a multicolored novelty jute ‘ribbon’ which I originally made into a belt to match with this dress (post here) but works fantastically to brighten up the solid brown of the jumper.  Even my sea-inspired hair clip was me-made, too.  I started with a cheap $1 store basic hair item then glued on wooden themed charms of a sea horse, starfish, shell, and a fish that I bought from my local fabric store.  I love my self-made items which complete my outfits!  Finally my amazingly comfy shoes (the “Elinor” lace up ballerina pumps) are from the great brand Miss L Fire, which is sadly going out of business in the next week or two.  All together I felt fantastic in my outfit and also ready for whatever comes my way.  Oh ‘how far I’ll go’ for the perfect dream outfit…

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a heavyweight all-linen for the jumper and an all-cotton Disney brand Moana character print for the blouse

PATTERN:  McCall #5607, year 1944, a vintage original pattern from my stash

NOTIONS NEEDED:  lots of thread, vintage buttons from the inherited stash of both my Grandmother and my husband’s Grandmother, vintage hem tape, vintage bias binding, and some interfacing

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The jumper took me about 8 to 10 hours to make and was finished September, 25, 2021.  The blouse came afterwards, being finished on September 27, and was made in only 4 hours.

THE INSIDES:  all cleanly finished thanks to vintage bindings on hand

TOTAL COST:  1 ½ yards of the Moana cotton bought at Jo Ann Fabric store cost me about $12; the fabric for the jumper was linen I had on hand longer than I can remember so I’m counting it as free.  The dye for the linen cost $3 something dollars.  All other notions were on hand from my stash so I’m counting them as free, too.  My total cost for this outfit was about $15.

This overall project started out as an experiment.  I had this lovely bright orange, almost neon, soft and supple linen that was my ideal fabric but in a wrong tone for the jumper to match with the Moana print fabric.  I had an overall 3 ½ yard cut of the material, and only needed just over 2 yards.  Thus, I cut out the pattern pieces for the jumper and saved the rest leftover for my upcoming “Part Two” Moana-inspired outfit.  Then, those jumper pieces were partially sewn together (darts, pleats, and all secondary seams), and the front buttonholes were marked with thread, so they could be cooked in a bath of RIT brand liquid dark brown dye. 

I actually had absolutely no idea what tone I would end up with, but expected a burnt orange.  Any way the dye job would have turned out, I was ready to be happy with it as long as it remotely matched the Moana blouse fabric and became a different color.  I think that since my fabric was a natural linen (which takes well to dye), and I chose a dark brown versus just a natural brown, I ended up with this lovely rich and opaque nut color.  I wanted a jumper which would carry me beyond this particular outfit and be versatile going into fall, but overall become an all-season piece.  This jumper as it turned out is not what I expected but just what I wanted.  It was a planned surprise.  Dyeing is always so very interesting and fun, but always a gamble.

Other than the dye job, this jumper was easy to come together.  Part of the joy to it was how much like sewing through butter was the linen I was using.  Also, though, it has been too long since I’ve used a true vintage printed McCall’s pattern – they’re my favorite.  I appreciate the general predictability of how well they fit me out of the envelope and their details are understatedly fantastic.  The waistband panel – an incorporated ‘belt’ – was eliminated for my version of the jumper because I am both short-waisted and wanted to cut down on the blousiness of the style.  Otherwise, I sewed this jumper just as it is shown on the envelope, not counting grading up in size.  The deep cut armholes are great to show off the blouse underneath and keep the jumper from being confining.  The way the bust darts radiate from the sleeve openings is my favorite unexpected detail.  I went the extra mile to do only hand-stitching finishing touches so no thread is visible besides for the buttonholes.

My blouse was super easy and straightforward as shirts go.  It has menswear details, no doubt added just to keep a smooth profile for layering under the jumper.  Many 1940s blouses have some gathers or shirring somewhere, normally across the shoulders (to add bust fullness) or the back.  This blouse has the conventional separate shoulder panel across the bodice upper back, but with masculine-style pleats for reach room below that.  The front relies on a giant bust dart set into the shoulder down to shape the bust, then there’s a small below-the-waist tiny pleats to fit the hips.  Even this collar is rather on the tame side as 1940s collars go and I like it.  The shoulders are nice and smooth, too.  These features all help this blouse seem a bit more timeless than dated, more than many other 40’s blouses do.  I will definitely coming back to this top pattern to sew a dressy, solid colored version in the future. 

Even if you don’t know Moana or have not yet seen her movie, I hope you enjoyed my new play set with our beach themed photos and find yourself inspired by what I have said about our family favorite princess.  At a basic level, it is just an outfit inspired by a girl whose enthralling story revolves around what she will do out of her love for both home and family.  Whatever her culture, that is a universally admirable quality…but especially for a 16 year old heroine like Moana! 

My outfit respectfully avoids any cultural interpretation, and instead focuses on the predominant colors of the animated tale, vintage clothing for ‘fun in the sun’ by the water, and my personal fangirl manifestation.  With the blouse, the skirt, and my old favorite shorts all in one set, it has been a fun but still practical project to complete.  Out of all my other “Pandemic Princess” inspired garments, this one is perhaps my most natural or ‘organic’ interpretation.

I for one am not into logo tees or character tops unless it is for Agent Carter, Wonder Woman, or as a concert souvenir.  For Moana to be included in that category for me should tell you something big!  Please do yourself a favor and see the animated film “Moana” if you haven’t done so already…and if you have, let me know what your favorite scene was!  I have so many, it is hard to pick anything other than every minute of the movie.  I am so super hyped to have an outfit that embodies this special Polynesian princess.  Many Pacific Islands are an underrated and underrepresented part (if only a satellite affiliation) of the United States, after all!

Little Pieces of Tropical Paradise

Vintage multi-piece play suits have always intrigued me with their lovely mix-and-match factor and smart wear-ability.  Thus I had to make my own rather than just keeping up the looking and admiring!

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When I say ‘play suit’, I am not talking about the modern interpretation of the term as a sort of jumpsuit.  I mean the 1930’s to pre-1960’s outfits geared for play, sport, leisure, and/or swim time which are often comprised of several pieces layered for practicality – a more skin revealing under set complete with add-on pieces for more decency when going out, as well.  (See this blog post on the “Vintage Dancer” for more info and pictures on 1940’s play suits.)  Here, my play suit is a four piece set of a self-drafted sarong skirt, a tie-front crop top, and a pair of skirt-like shorts (skort), all true to the 1940’s, while part four is a knit ¾ sleeve shirt for a modern touch.          100_3646a-comp

These pieces were made a while back as my submission for the “Vintage Play suit Sew Along” in May 2014 sponsored by “Girl with the Star Spangled Heart”.  The skirt is what sees the most wearing, with the sports skirt/shorts and the knit shirt both coming in second.  As our land-locked mid-west of America is woefully lacking in bodies of water, the crop tie top is the least worn (not what I would wish).  Pool side lounging here I come!

The location for our photo shoot is again our town’s lovely 1930’s wonder in architecture, the Chase Park Plaza.  Our last photos taken at this location, albeit inside, were for the blog post about my emerald green 1930’s Vionnet evening gown.  This time we took advantage of their lovely pool courtyard and a slow, unpopulated lounge area to have a period background…complete with palm trees to match my fabric!

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THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  All of the 1940’s pieces (the skirt, the tied crop top, and the skirt-like shorts) are all in 100% rayon challis.  The ¾ sleeve modern top is made of 100% cotton interlock knit.  All fabrics were bought at the now defunct Hancock Fabrics.

hollywood-1479-combo-wPATTERNS:  A vintage Simplicity 3356, from the year 1940, was used for the skirted shorts; a vintage Hollywood 1479, from the year 1944, was used for the crop tie top; a year 2006 Simplicity 4076 was used for the knit shirt; and the long sarong skirt was self-drafted by me…so no pattern here!  By the way I definitely have plans to make the jumper ad blouse from Simplicity 3356, as well as the nightgown from Hollywood 1479!

simplicity-4076-knit-tops-year-2006NOTIONS:  Just the normal notions were needed and were on hand – thread, interfacing, bias tape, and buttons (which were from hubby’s Grandmother’s stash). The only thing I had to buy was a duo of zippers.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Making a play suit is a bit of a time investment, but the two tops and the skirt were easy and quick, taking only about 3 or 4 hours each.  The skirted shorts took longer, at about 20 hours.  The tie-front crop top was done on May 23 while the sarong skirt was finished on June 2, and the skort on June 12, all in the year 2014.  The ¾ sleeve knit top was made in 2006 or 2007.100_3192-comp

THE INSIDES:  Well, the older knit top was made at my parents’ house so I took advantage of their serger (overlocker) for the seams.  Otherwise the rest of the seams on the rest of the garments for the play suit set are in mostly French seams with some bias bound seams, too.

I know, I know – my tie-front crop top actually comes from a pattern for nightwear – how risqué!  It is pretty much similar to other play suit and bra top patterns from the 1940’s.  I love how it shows just enough skin while still keeping me covered (it still has puff topped sleeves, after all).  I can wear normal underwear or a swimsuit top under this easily, which is nice that it does not require anything different.  Actually, I anchor the tie front of the top to the center front of my bra…oops, too much info.  Best of all, it was super easy to whip up.  This is the main reason I took the extra time to do the tiny hem and the French seams.

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The sarong style wrap-skirt was very fun to make and I am happy that I was able to re-create what I envisioned, something not always achieved.  Sorry if I get a bit technical here but simple complexity is hard.  You see, when I think of sarong, I picture a skirt that is in 3D, meaning I see it as supposed to have flowing movement yet clinging drape.  All the reprints and reissues I see available did not fit the bill – they are all either merely side tie skirts with some sort of gathers or tucks to create drape and a simple back view but basically just plain skirts, still not the ultimate hottie level.  At first planning, I will confess, I was going to use something simple from on hand such as McCall’s 6519, from 2012, or a McCall’s 5430, from 2007, but after making the crop top I was left with only 1 ½ yards making all my chosen patterns no longer feasible, so I went for the self-draping route.  Since I do not have a mannequin I had to stand in front of our full length mirror with my pin box nearby and experiment with different tuck and dart placement and direction.  I did not cut into the fabric at all, merely stitched and manipulated one yard and a half cut (60 inches wide) into what you see.

100_3200a-compI will lay out my method of drafting the skirt as best I can so hopefully you can do the same if you’d like too!  First I chose which length would be the circumference of my waist and hemmed that edge.  Next, I found the center of that waist edge and figured that would be the back, then measured several inches out from that point to make some small (maybe ½ inch) darts for about 8 or less inches down.  Now the back of the skirt is done.  Next, I put the back up against myself and marked with pins what would be the side seam points on each side.  Then I started the experimental parts where adding a few small angled tucks to each side seam was successfully tested.  My tucks are angled opening up towards the back of the skirt – this brings in the skirt to gently shape under the booty and around and over the hips for an hourglass outline.  This step was hard to do.  I actually had to pin the waist100_3201-comp back to the top I was wearing that day so I could experiment with the darts.  After the waist sides were o.k. and top-stitched down, I worked on adding deeper tucks to the ends of the wrap.  These tucks are also sloping, between horizontal and vertical, and there are more on the end that is seen from the outside than on the end inside.  The front corners were softened to a rounded drape by merely turning in the bottom hem front points at an angle and simply taking them down.  To close the wrap inside is an elastic strap with a waistband hook (to make things semi forgiving), and on the outside a lovely olive green shell button with another loop of elastic.  Totally ready to be whipped on…or off if I need to just wear the skirted shorts underneath.

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I’ve worn my skirted shorts with my vintage blouses, and this gives me a very 30’s looking sports outfit.  I can wear them with modern tops and it looks fun and flirty, especially with some flat sandals.  Tops from other decades, with some large victory rolls or a ponytail, give a vintage-does-modern appeal.  The way I can change up the aura of the date of these skirt-like shorts is the best perk.  These shorts do have such a wide hem they are not the best for some exercising (too revealing) but are awesome for playing tennis in, I tried that out!

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As great as these vintage skorts are, I do need to try again in the future to make a better version.  The main problem with this pair is I believe the rayon challis fabric I chose.  It’s so wrinkly for something with details that you only sit on to mess up any ironing work, it doesn’t hold up well the minute I start to sweat – the fabric not tight enough.  With the rayon, I end up with darker colored spots where it’s wet from sweat (…embarrassing) and I’m beginning to get obvious holes from tension at the spots where the pleat top-stitching ends.  Rayon on top of rayon is also rather too stifling to wear for the summer.  Perhaps next try, I’ll sew these up in a cotton blend gabardine.  Reconstructing History has some 1944 play shorts  that are very similar to the one’s I made and they recommend rayon, linen, cotton (all too light and wrinkly) as well as denim.  Any other suggestions for another fabric thick enough, low on the wrinkle factor, and good for summer comfort all combined for my next play suit shorts?

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I kind of fudged my way through these vintage shorts as best I could but it was a real struggle.  What took the most time to make the skorts was due to the fact that the pattern was unprinted.  I’ve worked with unprinted patterns many times before, but with all the pleats, together with the grain line markings and such, my limits of comprehension of connecting the right dots was put to the ultimate test.  To top it off, in order to support the skorts’ pleats across the belly and cut down on any see-through issues, I had to draft my own one piece liner to go inside.  The liner was a great idea and really needed, but a second layer of rayon, on top of rayon, was not the best idea…should have used something else 100_3194-compwhich was lighter like batiste perhaps.  The instructions gave no clear designation of what to do with the space under the side button closures – I had ideas of adding in pockets, or full button closure (sailor-style), but finally settled on the easy-but-not-so-authentic option of zippers.  Looking back, I really don’t need double closures (there are buttons and zippers on each side seam), and next time I will eliminate one side to sew it closed and add in a button or hook-and-eye method like I’d thought.  Darts were even added to the inside of the waistband to give it more curve and bring it in – I believe it was drafted too straight.  I’m tired just going through its problems.  Oh well, I like what I have and now I know what to do and what to change for the next attempt at this lovely, complex design.

100_3643a-compLast but not least is my modern ¾ sleeve knit top, which was picked out of my closet during the planning stage of my playsuit as something which was finally going to have a specific outfit to match with.  I had made it such a while back and it never has seen that much wearing previously because it’s gentle dusty green never match with much but a solid skirt or denim.  Not that this is the only modern top I wear with the play suit, but it gives me a reason to highlight what I remember as my first totally successful me-made top.  It really has some body hugging shaping if you make your “correct-according-to-the-chart” size.  If you don’t want it to fit you as snugly, go up a size.  Also, I found the length to be a bad spot – too short to tuck in and not long enough for it not to ride up untucked – so making the hem longer might be a good idea.  Otherwise, this is a great top and easy to make and wear.  I’ll have to go back to the pattern and make some of the other views offered!

Gertie’s summer 2016 release of Butterick 6354 Gertie's B6354 combo picgave me quite a surprise at how similar it is to my own play suit – especially in the choice of fabric pattern and colors – as I mentioned before in this post.  These colors and this “palm leaf with flowers” seems to be rather prevalent when I was looking at play suit inspiration – see this color picture of actress Peggy Moran at “Glamourdaze”, or visit my Pinterest board for more.  I do find Gertie’s play suit as sort of a hybrid blend of pieces that make it more of something from the 50’s era, though it does seem awkwardly like it sort of should be from the 40’s.  Besides, one could make this set from patterns already released (such as Simplicity 8130 for the tops, Vintage Vogue 9189 for the shorts, out-of-print Vintage Vogue 8812, year 1940, for the bolero, and any adapted pencil skirt or real wrap skirt pattern for the mock-wrap skirt).  Sorry…I’m not meaning to criticize, I just would rather see variety than redundancy in the patterns that are released.

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As I mentioned above, play sets are a bit labor intensive, after all you have to make three or four separate garments just for a finished set!  However, it’s well worth it, especially when done with a vintage perspective for those of us who love the styles from the past.  Now I have some easy vintage garments that set my wardrobe up for some playtime, or easy dressing in style!  Plus, it doesn’t hurt to feel a little of the past’s relaxed associated with holiday or hot-weather wear, does it?!  This is much more fun than for me to wear than whatever most people wear for modern leisure/exercise time.  Yet I’ll bet it’s more comfy…and less confining! I actually just finished sewing a year 1959 play set, so get ready for an upcoming post on my interpretation of vintage sporty wear courtesy of the next decade!  Now if only summer would last a bit longer…

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Butterick’s New Early Summer 2016 Releases

Hey, doesn’t this look interestingly similar?  It’s almost surreal to see how identical my 1940’s play suit and Gertie’s new pattern (B6354) are together.

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Gertie's B6354 combo pic

I made my play suit in June of 2014, and will be blogging about it soon but if you want to see more pictures of my outfit before then, please see my Flickr page.

Also, is Gertie’s pattern a 1954 “Sabrina” movie dress?  (source and source)  How lovely!

Gertie's B6353 & Audrey from Sabrina 1954

I’m really loving the B6363 – combo of hat and dress in a relatively 40’s style.  I’ve already made a hat very similar (see post here) and absolutely love it – the style is versatile and lovely!

B6363 and my velvet 1940 hat

What do you think?  Will you be buying any of the new patterns?