I don’t know about you, but I need to find time for myself more than ever in these crazy times. A bit of self-care or at least a few moments of relation, or maybe even a little treat for oneself, is a respite necessary to get you through all the unending, demanding, crucial work that needs to be done. A small, simple picnic – even if that means staying at home for it – can be just the remedy…especially when that includes a special adult drink! I’m bringing the gingham and the linen cloth already with what I have on.
Looking to make the most out of small cuts of fabric floating around in my stash, I settled upon this fun 1980s era summer set. Although this might look like just an interesting sun top with a basic pair of shorts, it is secretly more than that in intention. It is a set that was a learning process for something bigger down the line…a sort of a training exercise on both how to do corsets and how to make something useful from even less than one yard of fabric. I succeeded on both accounts here and ended up with a new summer outfit that I love unlike anything else currently in my closet! What better reason to treat myself to a picnic, anyway?
FABRIC: TOP – a polyester poplin in a golden yellow ‘tangerine’ gingham print from here at “Stylish Fabrics” on Etsy, with the body fully lined in cotton muslin and the peplum lined in a white polyester remnant (as I do these other peplums here and here); SHORTS – a heavy weight khaki 100% linen
PATTERNS: McCall’s #8067 (from my personal stash) from year 1982 for the top and Simplicity #1887 from year 2012 for the shorts
NOTIONS: Lots of thread, heavy interfacing, elastic, eyelet set, zip ties, seam binding and bias tape, and finally long lacing cord
TIME TO COMPLETE: The gingham corset top took me only 5 hours to make, but an hour to retrace and resize, and an extra 2 hours to set the eyelets. The shorts took me 5 hours to make from start to finish. Both were finished around June 24, 2020.
TOTAL COST: The short’s linen has been in my stash for so long I am counting it as free. The muslin scraps and the poly lining for the top were also paltry remnants floating around for too long, so they’re as good as free too. The rummage sale notions were pennies. My only real costs were some of the special notions, eyelets + washers from here ($8) and zip ties ($3), and the gingham which I bought 2 years ago for $5.50. Altogether I spent about $18 for this outfit set.
As simple as these two little pieces might look, they needed special supplies so they were a bit stressful to work with and challenging to gather. I am dangerously low on certain sizes of elastic, and interfacing, basic cotton, as well as elastic are very hard to come by today so I was counting on this project being worth using my special supplies. I also went ahead and ordered special corset specific eyelets, enameled in white (then had to wait for them to arrive, ugh) and had my husband pick up specific zip ties from the hardware store (which he needed to visit anyway). I believe the lacing cord I use for the front of my top came off of a piece of clothing from my son that no longer fits into. True vintage rayon bindings and bias tape (which my son helped me find at a rummage sale) were also used because I wanted these to be special from my point of view when I get dressed, even though they might not appear so from the outside. So there were a lot of supplies from a lot of different locations and sources which involved creative thinking, anticipating the mail, and everyone in my household helping towards the cause. Who knew sewing could be a family effort?!
Now, just like polka dots, gingham is my least favorite print. I will avoid it at all costs. So what possessed me to try this? I’m always up for trying new things in my sewing, my husband said that tangerine color would look good on me, and bold, obnoxious prints always strike me as appropriate to the 1980s, to list a few reasons why I went for such a cheap little fabric splurge. I needed a little bit extra to get free shipping on everything else I wanted to order from Stylish Fabrics at that time, anyway. The big, obvious geometry to the print gave me just what I like, too – a challenge to see how well I can do some pattern matching. I’m weird in that way…other people avoid prints that require too much effort to match, but for myself, I say “Bring it on!” Luckily, I didn’t have to try too hard because this little top pattern was pretty basic, and there wasn’t any reason to attempt match with the bias cut ruffled peplum. Yet, just look at those side seams! Yes, they are hard to find because I matched up the gingham pretty darn well, if I do say so myself. For the first time, I am liking gingham!
In the future, I really want to finish some of the historical projects I have had plans for over the course of many years past. Yet – as any costumer knows – you have to start from the inside foundations before you can create the lovely outer garments. I have ordered a circa 1840s corset kit from the Past Patterns Company so I can complete the rest of the undergarments I already have and finish my dress that I started 15 plus years ago. Thus, I figured this little summer top would be a good project to make me a bit more comfortable and acclimated to the idea of a making a corset. I took cues from cosplayers who teach via social media how to make a comfortable, non-historical corset on a budget with items easily acquired. Just like I have seen others do, I used zip ties in place of proper boning. Then, I strategically placed layers of interfacing in place of an overall heavy material. Specialty eyelets are the only notion I did not scrimp on.
I could just picture this little summer top being all wrinkled up across the body and puckering out along the laced front if I hadn’t decided to have given it lightweight corset structuring. This was my idea, to be clear, and not part of the original pattern’s instructions. Granted, I also know that a modern or even a cosplay corset is not quite the same as a historical one, and the eyelets and boning will certainly be more time consuming and precise on my 1840s one. All the same, though, this little structured summer 80’s top help me wrap my head around a certain idea. It is not at all uncomfortable to wear – rather it feels good to know it will keep its shape and look good no matter how I sweat, move, or sit. It’s funny, though, how the complexity I took towards making it is disguised under the image of an easy summer sun top!
As my body portion was fully lined in cotton, I immediately eliminated the upper edge facings. Instead, I lengthen the facing pieces to extend from the neckline down to the bust and cut them out of heavy interfacing which was ironed to the lining cotton. The sides of the top got a lightweight interfacing strip, as well as shoulder straps and the front eyelet edge. Where the eyelets were to be installed, the self-fabric facing was turned under so there are plenty of extra layers there for support without interfacing. The eyelets were a pain to install, did not go in consistently (even with using a pricey setting machine), and the back washers do occasionally pop out (but pop back in again, thankfully). I blame some of this on the channels of ‘boning’ (zip ties) which are on either side of the eyelets. Nevertheless, the front turned out so well! I was terrified I would make a mistake putting in the eyelets and completely ruin my project. That didn’t happen (almost did, at one point) so anything wearable out of this experiment is a success.
The peplum was actually the real risky detail, in my opinion, because I was super skeptical of it from the beginning. “Hey,” I thought, “I have worn several different peplums before and I don’t want this to be a belly top, so I will give it a go.” You know what? I still don’t know if I love it, but I don’t hate it. The peplum is kinda cute. It sure is different, I will give it that. Yet, too many unusual and new things in one project might be too much for me to handle. Maybe this is why my shorts pair so well with the top, the way they are pretty basic.
Sure, these shorts are a bit baggy, wrinkled, and a simple elastic waist – but, after all, they are super comfy, a delightfully soft linen, and easy to put on. They are just what I need in my wardrobe, and something I find myself wearing again and again this summer, so they are a winning project even if they don’t appear as fashionable as I had imagined they might. Even though this is not an 80’s pattern itself, it has all the marks of being one, and so I’m counting the whole set to be of the same general time frame as my top.
For the shorts, I chose the size which I normally go with for modern Simplicity patterns. Although they have a good yet loose fit, I could have went down a size for a more body conscious shape. In this design, there is a lot of booty room, which I normally need, yet this is almost too much. I definitely want to use some rayon crinkled gauze to revisit this pattern again and make some pants, so I will keep my lesson in mind for next time!
I do love the front waistband detailing and the deep, generous pockets. These are the saving features to this design. The flat front waistband keeps the bulk of the elastic waist away from the tummy (much appreciated) and the deep pockets combined with the baggy fit let me stash my phone and all sorts of items…and no one will know the better! Why is it I feel I have to sew shorts, pants, and skirts myself to actually have bottoms that have such practical and complimentary features?! Why can’t RTW items take cues from what people might really need and offer amazing items such as this? I am only glad it is so easy to whip together the handiest little items – like these shorts – that I find myself wondering how I did without before.
Even though I had only one yard of each fabric, I did not use the full yard of either. Amazingly, I only used barely over ½ yard of each, but then again, you all know how extremely efficient I am at finding an economical pattern layout! Thus, these two are true scrap busting patterns. Anything close to a yard is often considered a remnant, but a half yard is an obvious true leftover. I’m not yet sure what I will exactly do with the remnants from this outfit. It so easy to burn through my scraps to make cute and useful face masks, but I really think I ultimately want to save these fabrics to go towards something more creative and unexpected. We will see.
Hubby laid out his old great Aunt’s handmade quilt for the celebratory occasion of my first time in this set…and what could be more appropriate for a picnic?! I am connected to a whole slew of makers through both sides of my family, both women and men who were not afraid to make a living at one point in their life by being equipped with a needle and thread. I am proud and happy to carry on a part of that. Just the same, knowing when to stop and recharge is equally important when you work for yourself, especially at home. “Picnic – party of one, you’re place is ready!” Yes, please. I’ve got a sangria in hand, so I’m just fine.