Windows

A different view into a space apart from our own is essential to human existence.  We crave, we need an alternate vision, whether that view is into another living space or outside of our own quarters.  Windows keep us attuned to nature, in touch with society, and help us realize a bigger picture.  At certain times of our lives, we need to take advantage of a window in time to the schedule of our life and grab an escape, which is deeper and more lasting than a mere distraction.  “A distraction is momentary – an escape helps you heal.” (Quote from “We Look to You” in the Broadway musical “The Prom”.)  That process of reaching out – even if it’s as short as pausing to soak in a lovely picture, or as long listening to an orchestral piece, or as animated as a phone call with a friend – can be an opportunity to learn, grow, love, and find refreshment.  Such a train of thought is important in our world today, when the living quarters and life possibilities for many of us have become more limited.  Yet, it is also an important reflection for “Multicultural May”.  Take a trip with me then, into the wonderful world of India.

The Indian culture has as many grand architectural entrances as it does interesting open-back sari blouses for the ladies.  The bare-backed bodice of my tunic is my interpretation of the “chaniya choli” traditionally worn by Kutch women, a style which became prevalent throughout India beginning in the late 1940s.  My loose hipped, tapered leg trousers are in reminiscent of the kind of bottoms, called churidar pants, worn underneath an Indian tunic, the western words for what’s called a kurdi.  Together, I have merged a casual, all-occasion style (the kurdi and churidar) with a features of a garment for fancy, special occasions (choli, aka sari blouse) into one creation of individual interpretation.

My main accessories are fair-trade, handmade Indian imported goods bought from a local market.  My bracelet matches in the way it is a small window of itself.  I was so excited to find it!  It is a raw hammered brass wrist cuff.  My necklace is a combo of aqua grass beads and more brass with the excess of chain.  Finally because one’s treasured, best gold pieces are an important contribution to any Indian outfit, my hoop earrings had been a sweet Christmas gift from my husband and had to be included here!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  I used 2 yards of a printed 100% rayon challis direct from India for the tunic, and fully lined it in a buff finish polyester lining. The pants are a Telio Ponte de Roma knit in a 65% Rayon, 30% Nylon, 5% Spandex medium to heavy weight opaque material in a spruce green color.

PATTERNS:  Burda Style “Cut Out Back Dress” pattern #124 from June 2015 for the tunic, and a true vintage McCall’s #5263, year 1959, from my pattern stash

NOTIONS:  I just needed thread, two zippers, and a small bit of interfacing for both projects.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The tunic was finished in late last year (2019) in about 15 hours, and the pants were made this May of 2020 after only 8 hours.

THE INSIDES:  The tunic, as I said, is fully lined, and the pants inner edges are left raw because they don’t unravel

TOTAL COST:  The Ponte knit (from “Sew Stylish Fabrics” on Etsy) was about $25 for the one yard I needed, and the material for the tunic was about $15 (the rayon was on sale at “Fibers to Fabric” on Etsy and the lining was a discounted remnant at JoAnn).  My total is $40.

Kutch district is in the Gujarat state is the culture of India that I am most familiar with through some close family friends who are like family to us.  So it’s no wonder that I chose it as my influence once again (see this post for reference)!  I will be exploring more regions of India in my future ethnic-influenced self-made fashion…I did already touch on the central region with my “homage to the Rani” vintage dress…and Gujarat is west.  Goodness, I acknowledge there is such a richness of traditions, artisan crafts, environment, history, and special people everywhere you look, but especially India has such fabulous fashion to boot!  I greatly respect how every detail to traditional Indian clothing has a reason, symbolism, and meaning.  Yet, I also love how the India of today is not afraid to merge modern renditions of clothing with a homage to their traditional past.  Personally I like to take a 20th century vintage twist on India’s fashion, on top of all that!  That’s a lot to take in, right?!  So you see there are many ways to interpret Indian clothing with proper provenance.

This set is half vintage really.  As “The Facts” show, I used a true vintage pattern and a modern Burda Style pattern together.  Modern or not though, the tunic is strikingly similar to vintage – especially 1930s – styles.  In the depression era, many styles of fashion for women – mainly evening wear – were all about making a grand parting by sporting a “party from behind”.  I am all for that trend!  I have a whole Pinterest page here full of eye candy for the open-back trend.  It is a common feature to women’s Indian cholis (see this post or this post for some modern examples)!  Luckily, Burda keeps offering designs every so often with such a feature, too.  Now, I have sewn many open-back garments before (look under my “Modern” and my “Burda Style” pages to see them) but this one was by far the trickiest to find the right fit.  This is the main reason why I chose a 50’s pattern for the pants, because let’s face it…I find the fit of vintage patterns to generally be spot on for me, especially when it comes to pants.  Something guaranteed to be an instant success was welcome after the many issues I had with this Burda Style tunic.

I had to resize both projects due to them being in petite sizing.  Firstly, I’ll address the wonderful pants!  The “multi-sized” pattern were supposed to have three different proportions, but the ‘regular’ was missing from the envelope, the ‘tall’ was uncut, and the ‘petite’ was cut down to shorts length… ugh.  I had to retrace the pattern onto sheer medical paper and add some width for the smaller size to be my measurements, and then I was good to go.  No other adjustments were necessary and so I doubt a new pattern could offer better than this – it’s just what I had in mind!  Too bad they are mostly covered up by the rest of my outfit but no worries!  As basic as they are, I will certainly be wearing a lot of these pants with plenty of other tops, though.

Secondly, the tunic was the first time I had worked with a Burda petite pattern and I wasn’t quite sure how much to add horizontally to bring it up to regular proportions.  As I was sewing it up, I regretted adding in any extra allotment because this pattern seems to run long in the torso (very weird for a petite sizing).  I did do a tissue fit beforehand, but paper cannot quite account for the give of the bias grain, and there is a lot of that in the design of this tunic, especially when it is cut of something as slinky as rayon challis.  Thus, I had to take the garment in along the ‘kimono’ style (non-set-in, cut on sleeve) shoulder seam, which threw off the neckline, which messed with the proper bias.  Now do you see why this was a problem project?

I do like how changing the neckline forced me to be creative and add details to the tunic that I like better than the original design.  There was a lot of extra room in the chest because of the fit adjustments I made everywhere else.  I needed to bring that extra fabric in to fit by using a means that looked intentional, and not just what it was – an adjustment on the fly.  The best I could come up with was to make a soft, slightly angled pleat on each side of the neckline to shape the bust from across the upper chest.  It reminds me of a frame for the face and my necklace, as well as adding symbolical angles to the “window” theme of my outfit.  It’s so funny how a “mistake” taken with the right outlook can add so much good to the originality of what you create.

There were quite a few small tweaks I did to both pieces, as well as lessons learned.  I did not really need the zipper up the back of the back waist to the tunic – mine fit loose enough that I only wasted my time on a perfect invisible closure.  I did get rid of the back neckline button to less complicate things, then sewed down a hanging decorative tassel instead (sari top/choli reference).  How this pattern works as a dress I don’t know because the bottom hem was so confining and tight, besides being so short (I lengthened it by several inches for my version)!  I did plan on opening up the one seamline to be a thigh slit anyway so the snug hem width didn’t really matter too much anyway other than figuring out the pattern’s original design fit.  The pants originally called for a sewn-on set waistband, but I found them sitting high enough at my waist as it was.  I used the interfaced waistband piece to instead make a facing to turn inside so as to have a smooth edge for a very simple, streamlined style.

In case you noticed, I have been calling my upper garment a tunic in this post, as I feel it is a modern hybrid of a traditional cultural garment.  Kurdi are usually a bit longer in length than this, at least to the knees in my understanding, but I was short on fabric to make it any longer in length.  The tunic I made still makes the ethnic reference I intended and has the general properties of a kurdi the way I am wearing it.  A good churidar pant has its stretch coming from being cut on the bias grain, but modern Western-influenced young people often wear leggings or skinny pants as a substitute and so my bottoms are along that vein.  I do like the subtle reference to the May of 1960 split in the Bombay State along the Gujarat-speaking north by using a vintage pattern from ‘59.  I absolutely love the high waist, comfy fit, cozy body-hugging Ponte knit properties, and the slightly tapered but still full enough to be easy-to-move-in legs.

This outfit is very fun as well as quite different and very freeing.  I enjoy wearing it!  It is a unique garment combination for me to sew, too.  As out of the ordinary this set is for me to make and wear, it is a more ‘common’ Indian ethnic outfit for my wardrobe (versus dressy dresses and my fancy Sherwani coat).  I do love variety in my wardrobe, but variety is more important to help us to being open and understanding of other people and cultures.  Understanding India can be both challenging and intimidating because of its richness of history and traditions, so please never resort to easy-to-find stereotypes as a source for information.  I hope my little posts can shed some extra light on India that you never saw before.  However, don’t just stop at the month of May to focus on growing a multicultural understanding!  It should be a year ‘round effort, especially when there are so many beautiful clothes to see and appreciate!  What is your favorite “window” to a world outside of your own?

I Dream in Reverse Jacquard

My analytical brain likes to focus too much at times on some of the everyday mysteries of life.  Do I time travel when I take a 4 hour flight across two time zones in only 2 hours of my life?  Am I still dirty after cleaning myself in a shower for the towels to appear soiled so quickly?  Does a mirror really reverse an image for it to only cross up our front to back (in what seems to be a left-right reversal) but not up or down?  ‘Apparently not’ is the answer for all of these mental queries, but a scientific explanation doesn’t quite solve things for me.  So what do I do?  I play with at least one of those ideas through fabric.

In this case, I have created an elegant two-piece 1950s outfit that plays on the idea of the reverse image.  Jacquard is the perfect medium for such an idea.  It has a soft structure, is easy to sew, comfortable to wear, and not as fancy as a brocade or silk (i.e. more wearable for more occasions).  Most importantly for my idea, is the fact that either side is the ‘right’ side, more or less a reversible fabric.  Is it really a mirror image, though, when the loftiness of the nap is not the same on each side, creating shine in different places and therefore not a true reverse…in appearance only?  Ah, I think too much sometimes.  Nevertheless, I do love how this outfit turned out, with its play on maximizing the potential of my chosen fabric and making a deluxe combo that echoes everything I adore about the perfection of true vintage clothing.  The dress has dark navy, textured leaves against a blue satin background, while my bolero has satin blue leaves against a matte dark navy background.  It’s a trick of the eyes.

Speaking of the beauty I admire to past styles, that includes architecture…especially when it is as regal and extravagant as the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, California!  Hot off of our camera, and the perfect backdrop for my fancy set, are these pictures from my most recent trip to the American west!  After I had stayed in Las Vegas for several days, we came to stay at what is described as the “premier luxury hotel destination in Downtown Los Angeles”, the Biltmore hotel.  Built in 1923, this immense beaux arts-inspired hotel will be the backdrop in yet another post as well, more appropriately an early 1930s dress.  Stay tuned!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a cotton and rayon blend jacquard, with the dress bodice and jacket facing being in navy all-cotton broadcloth, and the bolero lining a basic ivory poly

PATTERN:  For the dress: Burda Style #121, a year 1957 pattern reprinted in August 2019; For the cropped jacket: Simplicity #8250, a year 1951 pattern (originally Simplicity #3775) re-issued 2016

NOTIONS:  All I needed was a whole lot of thread, some interfacing pieces, one long 22” zipper, two vintage buttons from the notions stash of the Grandparents, mesh seam stabilizer tape, and bias tape…nothing too unusual.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress was my last sewing project for 2019.  After about 25 hours put into the dress it was finished on Christmas Eve, December 24, just in time to wear to the holiday celebrations.  The cropped jacket was made in about 3 or 4 hours and finished on January 2, 2020, as my first project for the new year.

THE INSIDES:  The dress bodice is covered by the lining and the rest of the seams are bias bound.  The little jacket is fully lined so no seams are to be seen!

TOTAL COST:  The jacquard had been found at a local rummage sale for only $2 for the whole 6 yard cut.  I only used about 4 yards out of those 6!  The cotton contrast and the lining for the jacket were scraps from on hand sitting for years in my stash, so I’ll count them as free, just as the notions.  This whole outfit cost me little over $1…how’s that for amazing?!?

This set happened to be my marker for the end of one decade and the beginning of the present one.  The dress was my last 2019 sewing project and its jacket the first for 2020 (as I mentioned in “The Facts” above).  What a way to show how far I have come!  This was a challenging project to make (mostly on account of the dress’ bodice details and the jacket adjustments), and I made it with all the trademark finishing of a well-made garment so I am very proud of myself for this set.  I could not have seen myself doing so well on it, even if I did manage to sew something like this, a decade back.  Enough of my reminiscing – let’s get down to the useful information.

I found the sizing on both pieces to be slightly off.  Vintage reprints and reissues often have such problems, especially so when it comes to Burda Style.  The dress, when cut in my ‘normal’ size, had a snug fitting bodice and loose fitting hips and waistline.  I had to take the waist and below in dramatically at the side seams.  Granted, you want the bodice of this dress, by the very way it is designed with its shelf bust, to fit closely, so I am not complaining that it is a good fit.  Luckily, it just fits for me.  The short jacket had snug sleeves and shoulders according to several online reviews from others who have tried it out already.  My shoulders are athletic, so I went up a whole size larger than what I needed according to the chart (for the entire jacket, not just the sleeves), and I am so happy with my decision.  A little crop jacket is the last thing you want to turn out tight fitting, and I wanted to hold onto my extra jacquard and not have to use it to make up for a mistake.  Thank goodness for sewing blogs, right?!

For the dress, I did leave out the addition of boned panels to the lining, as the instructions suggest.  I felt that a stiff mid-section would have been overkill and becomes obvious under such a soft material.  As long as you find a snug body fit as I did, I do not think boning the middle panel is necessary at all.  Definitely do heavily interface all of the lining pieces to the bodice instead, as well as the neckline.  You will definitely thank me later.  Some things you can leave out according to your judgment in sewing, but the shaping and the details, as well as the fit of this dress, demand significant stabilizing.  The sole spot I left out interfacing was along the skirt back’s open asymmetric vent slit.

For the jacket, I went ahead and significantly changed up the pattern to revise it back to the way the original pattern portrays it.  In the reprint, the jacket fitting more like a shrug – only covering a small portion of the upper body (shoulders and upper arms, not extending past the shoulder blades or covering the bust) and thus little more than a pair of sleeves joined at the back.  Not that I don’t like shrugs, but the original pattern cover from 1951 shows the fit and fall of the short jacket to be closer to a true bolero.  That is what I felt would match with my dress the best anyway, so I lengthened the jacket by 1 ½ inches, adding that amount horizontally midway between the hem and the bust.  This was a tricky re-adjustment because the hem is extremely curvy and the back is longer than the front.  The darts needed re-positioning, as did the front neckline curve, but I kept everything basically the same.  I feel that it fits me much better than if it was a short little shrug.  After all, tailored this way, I can have the option of closing it at the center front!  I made a little oriental-style frog using elastic ‘thread’ to achieve a low-key, workable closure.

I also adjusted the dress to bring it up to par with its vintage original.  Thank goodness Burda shares the original images because something about the extremely low dip of the neckline had me doubting this reprint’s credibility.  The center of the 1957’s sweetheart neckline was much more of a horizontal curve, a higher, more decent décolletage.  The reprint has a very angular sweetheart neckline that is closer to a V-cut than anything, and doesn’t look like it supports or holds the bust in at all.  I was not a fan of the model garment in that one detail.  Thus, I raised the center dip of the neckline by 3 ½ inches (yes, you read correctly!) to bring it up to what I feel is a truer imitation of the vintage original, yet still providing a hint of cleavage, a sexy open neck, true sweetheart curving, and better support for the close fit across the bosom.  Many times not letting it all hang out is more of a tasteful appeal than leaving nothing to the imagination.

The dress’ bodice by far took up about ¾ of all the time and effort, but just look at it!  It was worth it, in my estimation.  I have such a failing for sweetheart necklines, especially one with details like this.  The instructions were good, but for something as tricky as this, worded commands are only going to get you so far.  There was a lot of experimenting with the pieces, and unpicking a few times, before I finally hit upon what seemed to be right way to accomplish to the goal.  Granted, the steps did not make sense at first, but working it through – and under stitching every edge from the inside, even for the armscye – gave me a no-thread-visible, how-did-that-happen, complete pattern awe.

For all its faults, this is a really fantastic design.  If you want to advance your sewing skills, try this.  If you want a good challenge that will give you something to be so very proud of if you can do it, try this dress.  If you want to make something that will stand out from anything you can buy, that will bring you to the level of making your sewing equal to those vintage garments you are in awe over because of their craftsmanship – try this pattern.  It gives you a dress that is amazing to wear, after all!  I feel like a princess in it!

Except for the outer hem edge to the bolero, everything else to my outfit is hand finished.  The jacquard has such a satin finish, any thread showing would be glaringly obvious.  The bodice has all of its stitching reserved for the inside so as much as I wanted the easy way to completion, I hand stitched the hemline, skirt back vent, and the long back zipper.  I love the precision that installing a hand-picked zipper offers!  Even though I did not use an invisible zipper, I am getting so used to hand stitching in the conventional exposed teeth zippers almost invisibly.  I’m not meaning to brag, but really not sorry if that’s what I’m doing.  Practice really does make perfect, folks.  There isn’t anything wrong with being proud of your own personal accomplishments.

My accessories are special in their own way, and a combo of different styles and eras.  My necklace is a “Downton Abbey” jewelry piece, in other words a copy of 1910s era style.  My gloves are a great true vintage find on my shopping in Burbank area shops of Los Angeles.  They have a “handmade in France” label and are probably 1930s.  My hair flower is a vintage silk millinery decoration, from the 1940’s, yet another good find on my visit to L.A., this time from fashion district.   The very best purchases of my travels were an immediate part of my fanciest outfit for my trip!

I think all of this must come down to the fact that my mind has never ‘grown up’ in the modern conception of the term.   I haven’t forgotten how to be curious and ask questions about the world around me, or even enjoy playing dress up just because I can or I want to.  Getting out to go on travels helps promote that amazement and interest in life, past and present, too.  It also makes sure I don’t get overly used to the daily grind and get out of my comfort zone to see and do new things.

Finally, this most recent trip was extra special because I caught up with a good friend!  That friend is the one that helped me decide which side of the jacquard to use for the dress after all, so it was appropriate to bring it on my travels spent with her.  Ah, it’s amazing the unlimited possibilities this world has to offer!  Let’s make sure to take the time to be creative and open our minds, in whatever way you need, and I’ll keep my mind open.  I’ll keep asking those deep questions and searching for their answers, continue to challenge my creative skills, and prioritize time for friends and family.

Pulling a ‘Kelly’…

Did you know I have a card game move named after me (in our family circle that is)?  In the card game UNO, when you lay down a card that is the duplicate of the one which is to be matched (the one placed there from the last player to have a turn), we call that “pulling a Kelly”.  That is the way I frequently like to play in that game, so whenever someone else does the same, we all have a name for that move.  I have more than one way to “pull a Kelly”, though…through clothing!  Every so often, I love to dress in imitation of the great fashion icon and actress Grace Kelly, due in no small part to the fact her last name matches my first.  This is my other way of “pulling a Kelly!  My first full scale handmade attempt at copying Ms. Kelly has been fully documented here in this post.  Once again, I will channel Princess Grace of Monaco on my blog, this time recalling her famous outfit from the 1954 Hitchcock movie “Rear Window”.

Admittedly, there is not a whole lot of me-made here (just my skirt), and – for its vintage appearance – the only thing truly from a past decade is my blouse and the underwear that suits it.  But this was a recent special outfit for a nicely joyous and dressy occasion, and it’s combined with pieces all of which are so very meaningful to me, so I might wax sentimental (you have been warned).  Yet, it deserves a feature.  Besides, it is nice to see an outfit which is something other than pink, red, or valentine-themed at this time of the year, isn’t it?!  Let’s dive in.

My true vintage, 1950s era, cotton velveteen blouse is the only garment I have from my late Grandmother, on my father’s side.  I have mostly jewelry, a few hats, lots of sewing notions and written mementos, but most importantly possess plenty of memories from her so this top is by no means the only thing I hold onto of hers.  Yet, it means a lot to have something to wear like this, especially since I am so invested in vintage style.  She was a very fashionable young woman in the 1950’s, as young bride and mother during that decade.  I have no doubt this was something she wore.  She probably saved it for special occasions and probably wore it with pearls – just like I did – if I know her.  She always remembered the story around each item she had…too bad I never got to ask about this fancy blouse while there was still time.

There is a label to the inside which marks it as “A Linda Original”, for which I unfortunately cannot find any information.  It is made very well, with rayon seam binding hand-stitched inside, a metal zipper in the side, and impeccable tailoring.  There is a decorative asymmetric tab which comes out from the center front, tacked down with a velvet covered button.  The wide, shoulder-skimming neckline (which is the same in the back as it is in the front) is so classic 1950s and strongly reminded me of the photoshoot session Grace Kelly had in her Edith Head dress from the movie “Rear Window”.

I am an hourglass figure with strong shoulders so this was perfect for me.  Luckily, too, the top just fits.  Even still, I needed a little help.  After all, my Grandma had bragged to me many times that when she was married she was a 19” waist!  To match the tiny hourglass figure the blouse was made for and let my shoulders be clear of any lingerie straps I chose a late 1940s true vintage, strapless, boned, corset-style bra to wear underneath.

My pearled necklace with the little diamond pendant at the center is yet another special piece to my outfit.  It actually was one of several pearls necklaces I received as a gift from my youngest Aunt (on my mother’s side) as a teenager.  Then, once the first Lord of the Rings movie came out, I always saw this necklace as a form of Arwen’s “Evenstar” (silly, me!).  It is from the well-esteemed Monet line of high-end costume jewelry, in business since the early 1920s and known for its quality.  Now that look at my jewelry drawer, almost all of the jewelry I received as gifts a teen was from the established, vintage-inspired brands such as the 1928 jewelry brand company.  My family had good taste in gifts!  This was one of my early pieces that made me look into and appreciate old-time styles.  Brands such as these made quality, vintage styles of accessories as easy to find as your local department store, and I guess my taste in dressing of today was being formed back then without even realizing it.

The skirt I am wearing to complete my outfit is yet another one of my old favorite makes – a basic four-panel, elastic waist, done-in-two-hours cotton skirt which I made 20 years ago.  Yes, you read correctly, it is really from two decades back!  All the skirts (and there were many) I made around the turn of the last century using McCall’s #8796 (from 1997) are special to me because I am still wearing and enjoying them, still finding new ways to incorporate them into outfits not tried before.  This was the first time I paired this particular skirt with something so dressy – I am ecstatic.  Being a basic printed cotton, it never struck me before that I could fancy it up the way it did here.

It is really a very tiny scale floral which blends into one muted tone that works well for many basic tees, sweaters, blouses, and – now – a fancy vintage top!  Go check out the last post about my very first two-hour skirt, made from a flowing rayon challis, and you will be surprised to see how the choice of material makes all the difference.  Compared to the other body sweeping rayon version, this one has a straighter, ballroom-style appearance although being fully lined in cling-free poly.  Even with a full, tiered, poufy slip, it has room in its hem to spare.  I do enjoy the elegance of an ankle length skirt every so often.

The occasion itself for such an outfit was to celebrate 50 years of our local Symphonic Orchestra having a special Youth branch.  It was wonderful to see the lasting memories and bonds of friendship formed through such an outreach program, and even better to celebrate it with dessert, champagne, and a fabulous performance by the members of the Youth Orchestra from all of the years of its history.  It’s always great to find an occasion to dress up and enjoy oneself, but better yet when our presence can be combined with the first reasons to show support for something good happening in the community.  I’m hoping to have more very delightful reasons to wear many of my favorite pieces – both new and old – yet to come!  Also, let me know if you play the game UNO and have yourself “pulled a Kelly” kind of move!

“Soft with a Touch of Tailoring…”

Many times I take a cue for a sewing project from the cover image envelope, but this time my post’s outfit 100% takes its cue from the entertaining original descriptive text to a pattern.  There is a lot of things which give this outfit unique qualities amongst both my wardrobe and my list of items I have made, though, besides following an old leaflet’s text for inspiration.  “Important silhouettes destined to go places…” as the tag line says!  With an outfit like this, I find myself actually loving my winter wardrobe enough to be totally okay with spring taking its good old time coming around!

Firstly, I considered few things coming into my outfit idea.  What material has both structure and softness?  Is it possible to find a fabric which will simplify the creation of the tricky details on the designs I have chosen?  How can this be comfortable, warm, and possess a 50’s appropriate classiness all at the same time?  Is there something I haven’t yet done, something new, that I can integrate into this project?  Can combining two different sewing patterns dated exactly 10 years apart – years 1948 and 1958 – even work or at least be made any less risky?  Happily, this my first project with scuba knit – and a lovely floral suede finish version at that – has both answered and solved many of those considerations.  Making my ‘dress’ (one-piece in appearance only) into two versatile separates, a blouse and a skirt – solved the last concern.  Ah, I love the unlimited creativity available through sewing.

I think I nailed interpreting “Soft with a touch of tailoring” my own way.  The brushed, textured suede finish compliments the softly rounded pleats and angles to the lines of both blouse and skirt achieved through the foam-like thickness of the material.  The raw, unfinished edges of the scuba knit – one of the features for which this material is so handy – brings what might otherwise be a very dressy style a par down to being unpretentious, easy-to-wear, and unique.  The floral print might be a bit dark but it lends an undeniable femininity to the designs.  It hints at the promise of spring in a dreary, leafless season.  Having a golden yellow and black primary palette pairs perfectly with gold jewelry, yet can be fancied up or down as I please.  Scuba knit is quite cozier than I expected, yet is a light warmth for a providing a wonderful winter set without the weight of a wool or tweed.  You get the idea.  I am loving this set, yet another very good sewing project!

To balance things out, the skirt is a true vintage pattern from my stash and the blouse is a modern reprint coming from Burda Style.  Together I feel that this outfit – worn together or each on its own – has a very sneaky vintage look.  It is not in your face, unmistakable old-style, and can pass as a sort of call-back modern spin.  I like that!  As I said above, versatility is what I like, in more ways than one, and as much as I love vintage styles, I do love the flexibility to merge it indistinguishably into today’s fashion.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Polyester suede finish scuba knit

PATTERNS:  The skirt’s pattern is a true vintage Simplicity #2616 from October 1948.  The blouse’s pattern is Burda Style #121 “Cross Neckline Retro Blouse”, a reprint from December 1958 included in their October 2018 magazine issue

NOTIONS:  All I needed was plenty of thread with a strip of interfacing, a zipper and a hook-and-eye set for the skirt waist

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The blouse was made first and was finished on February 27, 2019 after 8 hours.  The skirt took me only about 5 hours to make and it was done on March 3, 2019.

TOTAL COST:  This was bought from my local JoAnn Fabric store.  It was on sale, with a coupon, so it came to about half the original price – about 3 yards cost me about $30.

There were no recognizable changes I made to each design, just slight adaptations to make this set work as separates made out of scuba.  Otherwise, it was really pretty easy to sew in the way it was straightforward and quite simplified.  Firstly, the fact my material has stretch gave me a reason to eliminate the need for a zipper or neck button for the ultimate cute slip-on top.  Manipulating the pleats in the skirt was the trickiest part of this outfit because they were layered on top of one another at a slightly fanned out angle.  Sewing in the underarm gusset panels was immensely easier than ever before in scuba, though.  Also, ironing down interfacing to the underside of a plain waistband I cut for the skirt was easier than I expected.  The scuba is thick enough that I wasn’t too worried about eliminating the facings to the ties and having them be one layer.  I just don’t pull the ties too tightly, but I wouldn’t want to do that anyway because it would twist the blouse out of shape as well.

I lengthened the ties so I have the option of multiple ways to tie the front – getting back to the idea of versatility.  There’s the twisted criss-cross thing I mostly do with the ties, or I can merely lap them over each other on my chest.  In any other fabric, this design would be equally as interesting – such as a tissue-weight silk (like the Burda sample), yet a structured wool would be on the opposing end of the spectrum.  A sharply tailored woolen adaptation of this blouse could very well end up looking like the bodice of this dress from the film “Motherless Brooklyn”, a 2019 American neo-noir crime drama set in 1957.  The original pattern actually called for a soft jersey knit as the material, though, admitted in this Burda blog post.  As it was, I made this outfit last year primarily for the blouse because I wanted to be part of the “Sew Twists and Ties” challenge.  Either way, I need to have my neck covered in the cold because of my sensitive thyroid gland, and the ties on this blouse make for a much more fancy way to do so fashionably, compared to a neck scarf or a turtleneck.

The belt is adapted from the arched waistband of the Simplicity 40’s dress pattern.  It’s worn on the reverse side and cut of a single layer of fabric, since scuba knit doesn’t fray!  I love how scuba knit is often reversible, this one especially so.  I played with that here.  Because the neck tie edges are raw, a bit of the solid underside shows and highlights a feature which might otherwise be lost in a busy print.  That also worked for the belt, and was a way to easily match with the rest of my outfit as well.  The only places where there was a conventional hem – the sleeve ends and skirt bottom – were stitched down by hand to have the thread be invisible and accommodate the stretchiness of the fabric.  Otherwise, as I learned, for both the neck ties and the belt piece, you can’t be messy with your cutting practices in a scuba knit or a jagged edge clearly shows!

My first project-from-scratch experience with scuba fabric was fun and successful. (I’ve worked with scuba to refashion RTW fashion for my paid commissions for others.) It is a great fabric, I will admit.  As I recently told a friend, scuba knit goes against everything I believe in about quality, earth-conscious sewing (there is no seam edge finishing needed, besides it being non-breathable, plastic polyester) so I was initially a skeptic.  Scuba knit is so forgiving to sew, you don’t have to be perfect stitching it together, but it still looks good nevertheless…so it would be perfect for a beginner to knits. As long as you use a wide zigzag stitch, you don’t need to stretch it as you sew, unlike other knits. An all scuba garment can be hot to wear in the summer though, as it is lofty and thick like foam, but these are good qualities for a winter piece.

I have sighted smartly crafted scuba knit garments carrying respected designer labels on them when browsing my local Neiman Marcus store, so this kind of fabric has surprisingly really progressed in status over the last 10 or so years!  I really don’t want scuba to be something I reach for on a regular basis, but I do enjoy the fact I have come to terms with it and found some of the reasons behind its popularity. This is not my last project in scuba, believe me!  I had a little bit of scuba knit on the collar and waistband of my most recent bomber jacket, after all.  Let me know what your experiences with scuba knit are!