The One Piece That Made Two

Refashions are just my recipe for having a great time at my sewing.  A slightly ill-fitting vintage 1980s dress came out from under my sewing machine a very fresh and fun 1950’s two piece set of a crop top and simple skirt.  One vintage era went backwards in time through my sewing to suit another era…what a time warp!

I do love a good summer-time-fun combo, and more separates that work well with my existing wardrobe are most welcome.  This is no exception.  If you follow my blog you may notice or might have read that I have a weakness for turquoise (and purple) so this set matches with so much!  Besides, it is really lovely floral that is like flowers scattered in the wind, in a basic white print…something I don’t have.  This fabric is so soft and semi-transparent, too, making this a cool, fun, and breezy set that’s put-together enough for dashing around the city in summer yet made for lounging around by the water.


FABRIC:  Well, it’s more than just fabric, really, since I started with a dress that that from the 1980s, but it is a soft cotton and polyester blend knit.  A remnant of cotton knit, leftover from this project, went towards the waistband of my new skirt.

PATTERN:  Simplicity #4213, year 1953, was used for the top and I self-drafted the waistband for the skirt

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This re-fashion project only took me a handful of hours and it was finished on May 29, 2015.

TOTAL COST:  Not counting – this was a special gift! Read on…

This the original dress before re-fashioning

The 1980s can be a hard era to re-fashion, especially with this dress.  When something is frumpy from the beginning, with a lot of extra fabric, it can be tough to envision anything else working better!  This dress was so worth it to save, though.  This was something from my hubby back when we were only dating in 2009.  I remember we were out and about in downtown on a bitter cold winter day after an early morning breakfast one Saturday.  I had on so many layers to stay warm that I didn’t first try on this dress that caught my eye in a vintage resale shop, but he bought it for me anyway.  As it was, it really didn’t do anything for my figure, so I didn’t wear it, but was determined to make it into something I would enjoy.  Thus, it was kept it on my backburner of my ‘to-be-re-fashioned’ queue until the right idea struck.  Well, it took a few years to get the feel of what I wanted to do with that 80’s dress, and a few years more to post about it, but here it is, finally!  When good memories are attached to what you are wearing, it somehow seems to make the current moments so much sweeter.  This is definitely not my most interesting sewing project, but to my mind, with the background history to it that I know, it feels so very interesting to wear.

Now, at first glance this set probably appears to be a dress, and I intended it that way.  You see I really wanted to keep the dress, well, a dress, but ideas for doing that were not popping in my head.  Besides, to make a divided dress that deceptively seems like a one-piece would be just as good, maybe even better.  I made sure the top was only long enough to reach the skirt when I’m standing straight and the waistband was wide enough to look like some sort of belt or middle cummerbund.  In all, I love this!  When I reach around it feels so subtly sexy to have a crop top, and wide waistband is great to wear and doesn’t roll.

The blouse/top pattern is labelled “Simple to Make” and boy are they ever right!  It was the perfect answer for my desire to leave as much of the original seaming intact.  Keeping with the kimono sleeves, the bodice was more or less only trimmed a little.  I re-cut half of the shoulders and side seams only, marking the darts after the skirt had been detached.  I left the neckline as it was because I love a V-neck for my face but did remove the sleeve elastic.  Then the top came together before I knew it and fits like a glove.  As the fabric is a knit, I am able to slip this on over my head without a zipper or any closure, which always surprises me every time I put it on.  The waist is so tapered in and defined!

For the skirt, I adored the triple rows of shirring at the waist, so I made sure to keep them.  They do stretch, since there is elastic thread sewn into the stitching, which is good because this is a pull-on skirt with no closures, like the top.  I chose 2 ½ inch wide elastic for the waist, and drafted the casing accordingly – double the width plus two seam allowances.  Then the empty casing was stretched and stitched on, the elastic run through it, and the opening closed up.  Easy-peasy!  I left the hem alone, so that is original to the dress, and also was able to keep the original side pockets that added to the appeal this garment had on me from the beginning.

I kind of feel bad for my hubby actually because this outfit reminds me of a conundrum.  He really likes me in what I chose to make for myself, yet he used to like to buy things for me, too.  Sewing for myself has completely cured me wanting anything from a store nowadays, and it has taught both of us to look for quality…which we generally do not find in ready-to-wear.  So – he really can’t buy me clothes anymore!  I make what I need and I like it that way.  I guess my dress re-fashion merely reminds me of a sweet thing he used to do for me that my current sewing practices (which I wouldn’t change) have curtailed.  Now, he is really getting good at picking out neat fabrics for me, though!!

Have any of you also found some interesting aftereffects to sewing for yourself?  Do you (like me) also find yourself unhappy with much RTW the more you find yourself pleased with how you feel in your own handmade garments?  Do you also find fabric so very inexplicably exciting, much more than buying a new outfit in the store?  Does your significant other or friends understand that wonderful “hooked on fabric” bug?  (If so, they’re a keeper!)  Let me know because this re-fashion project has made me ponder just how far I have come along in what I wear and who it comes from over the last few years.  At least with my sewing skills, I was able to hold onto a little bit of the past and continue to wear a good memory.


The “80’s Secretary” Color Pop Dress

Usually when a modern pattern is made, one doesn’t sew it so it can look dated.  In this case, I think doing so does this pattern and my chosen fabric better justice.  Besides, it’s the perfect opportunity to make the most of a frizzy, uber-curly hair day for a total 80’s look!


I used my shoes to help the highlight color in my fabric “pop” – is it coral, or is it an orange tone or just something in between?  Whatever it is, it’s fun!  This was a project that was such a totally good surprise, one I didn’t see coming until it was finished.  You see, I was on the fence about this fabric when I bought it, hubby was plain out negative, but the fiber content won me over to buying it because it’s my favorite blend.  The blend of pima and modal in a knit is so soft and luxurious.   I was doubtful about the pattern, too, but somehow the combo of the design and the fabric, or maybe just the way I laid it out, turned out a winning dress in the end.  This is my favorite go-to winter dress…not only do I feel awesome in this but it is also so cozy warm!

THE FACTS:                                                                                             

FABRIC:  A pima cotton and a rayon modal half and half percent knit.  The lining knit is a sheer lightweight polyester leftover from this 1940 suit set meant to add warmth and prevent the fashion fabric from clinging too much.Simplicity #1716, line drawing, year 2012,combo

NOTIONS:  I had everything I needed – thread, seam tape, and elastic

PATTERN:  Simplicity #1716, year 2012

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress was finished on February 15, 2016, after about 8 hours to make.

THE INSIDES:  Neither the cotton/rayon fashion knit nor the poly lining fray, so the raw edges are left basic and, well, raw.

TOTAL COST:  This cost just under $15

Ever since sewing my first knit top with a twisted neckline detail, my 1935 blouse, I’ve been on a quest to find the right design that I am perfectly pleased with.  Then, I tried Simplicity #1613, but that turned out o.k., not fabulous like I’d hoped.  Now, this Simplicity #1716 rocks my boat and is my perfect twisted neckline detail top, even if I did go and turn it into a dress.  Third times a charm, I guess.


I am very happy with the pattern.  The design is great and turned out exactly as shown.  The clear, concise instructions made a tricky and semi-complicated detail easy to accomplish.  The neckline was just enough of a challenge to be satisfying, too.  It is so very important to be precise here, I think, for this neckline to turn out well.  All those markings are important in the end, and even though it was hard to find and sew in certain spots, by exercising patience (with some venting of non-child appropriate words) I was able to somehow gather and stitch in certain seemingly non-stitchable spots.  My double layered fabric was the limit of what this neckline design can handle, and I think thinner, non-bulky fabrics are ideal to make this easiest to sew, I think.

For the rest of the dress, I went up a size.  I’m glad I did for I think this pattern runs small and I didn’t want a body suit sort of fit.  To turn a tunic into a dress, I added about 12 inches to the bottom.  I kept that extra foot of skirt rather straight and slim, just how I wanted it.


The longest sleeves are a weird bracelet length – in between ¾ length and a full long sleeve.  I added on plenty of extra inches to end up with a long, long sleeve, much like the sleeves on this Burda dress.  My sleeves reach down to my knuckles.  This was on purpose because I like how the draping fabric bunches up around my wrist, but the sleeves are skinny so the extra fabric does look bulky.  The fabric is stretchy enough that I can still push them up to ¾ length easily.  My only complaint is that the shoulder seam is very short and doesn’t reach to where it should.  I didn’t think to check this ahead of time because the shoulder seam is a spot that I rarely have issues with for fit.  However, the generous upper sleeves and stretchy fabric makes the shoulder tops still fit and the busy print hides the ‘fault’.  Add on an extra inch or two to the length of the shoulder seam coming from the neck if you make this…just an f.y.i!


The print, to me, is like a hybrid cross between a hounds tooth and stripes.  It’s like somebody was either scatterbrained, or went psychedelic, or perhaps was just plain inspired when they designed the fabric print.  It changes design slightly every 12 inches or so in a rectangular block.  Something in the back of my head led me to line up those design changes in the print at the main body points – bust, hips, and knees.  I think this is what made this outfit work!  It was my way to make this tube-style dress body be even more complimentary!

Speaking on complimentary, I cut the semi-diagonal chest/neckline panels on the cross-grain direction to highlight this feature, otherwise it would have been lost in the print.  I think this touch makes it look like more of a wrap-and-pulled down sort of neckline.  You sort of make an open cowl neck turtle, and then the diagonal panels coming DSC_0013,p-comp,wout of the front armholes extend out and over the cowl neck, get tucked in, gathered and stitched down.  This neckline keeps my neck and chest warm without being completely covered up.

My post’s title comes from hubby’s summary of the overall “look” that strikes him with this dress.  He said it reminds him of 1980’s era business attire.  I took it to the next level and thought “secretary” in my mind.  There is the traditional winter’s black in the print after all, with enough ‘pop’ to break the ‘boring’ category and keep it on trend.  To match as our background, we chose a late Mid-Century Modern office building that is a landmark in our town (which unfortunately needs rescuing).

This dress is another one of those projects that reminds me why I sew.  I can make exactly what I want to wear as well as something that caters to my needs.  The ultimate perk is DSC_0030a-comp,wthat this dress, and most of what I make, makes me feel like the best kind of me when I wear it.  Not that I need this dress or any specific clothing to be myself, but many people who only have ready-to-wear hate the way the way they look and feel about themselves in what they have on.  It seems to affect how often they go out and what their persona is out in public.  This is why there are “makeover” programs like the newest one I’ve seen, “What Not to Wear”.  A half of an episode was all I could stand to watch…I was yelling at the television.  The people on the show just don’t get it.  There is nothing more empowering than being self-sufficient, capable, and creative enough to sew, choose, and make what you or others wear.  It’s like artwork you can put on, and have others see the real you!  Sewing rocks!

“Retro Forward” Burda Style: Honeycomb Duck Odeeh Pants

“Oh Honeybee, honeybee, you’re so sweet, always making something good to eat.”  As a little girl with a quick mind, I grew up memorizing classic rhymes and diddles…and this one is still stuck in my head.  The honey bee nursery rhyme couldn’t be more appropriate than now with these Burda Style flashback styled pants made from cotton ducking fabric, printed in a geometrically boxed design reminding me of a honey comb.


This is my first foray into the Burda Style “Designer patterns”, found as a special bonus in their monthly magazine issues.  As far as I know these patterns (including the one for these pants) are only in the magazines – I have not yet found them on the online Burda Style store.  If you’d like to see and read a bit more about the designers behind the Odeeh line visit their page here.

THE FACTS: Paris Fashion Week - Präsentation von Odeeh SS 2013       

FABRIC:  100% cotton duck for the pants with a remnant from my stash of 100% cotton knit for the waistband

NOTIONS:  I only used the thread and bias tapes from on hand.

PATTERN:  Burda Style pattern #127, from the 05/2015 magazine

THE INSIDES:  All raw edges are individually encased in thin bias bindings.

100_5488-compTIME TO COMPLETE:  One day’s worth of only 5 hours on June 25, 2015. 

TOTAL COST:  The fabric was bought on deep discount at Hancock Fabrics for only $3.00 a yard and knit was on hand (free), so my total was only $7.50 (with ½ yard still left over).

As much as I love vintage and my 1940’s pants, I had a hankering for more pants but one’s that were modern, yet fun, and comfy.  These pants aren’t probably the most complimentary being more like modern harem or parachute pants, I’ll admit, but they do fit the trio of ‘needs’ mentioned in the previous sentence.  Hey, I figure there’s a certain “self-assurance” that can fill in and make any outfit look like a million on oneself…that’s what I was feelin’ here.


I noticed on the model that the fit of the Odeeh pants looked generous, but I got out the pattern pieces I used for my 1940’s jeans to refer to and check against to estimate the fit.  Yes – the Odeeh pants do have a generous behind and overly large hips with wide legs.  I made the pants as-is with no “big-bootie-adjustment” or such, and only graded in between sizes.  After they were finished, I ended up taking in an extra 5/8 inch (or slightly more) on each side from the hips down so I really could have made all one size.

Oh how I do love some nice roomy pockets!  The pocket placement and the front pleats near them remind me very much of both menswear as well as another pattern, Simplicity 1887, year 2012, no offense meant to the designer.


After the fact of being done and worn several times, I happened to notice a small ‘mistake’ I’d made to the pants.  One of the front pleats is directed the wrong way.  Not that this is any big deal in the least, it’s actually rather funny and makes me shake my head at myself.  No one will notice, but I know.  It helps me realize I should let go of my self-imposed aim for ‘perfection’ in my sewing and just enjoy a garment done to the best of my ability.

The easy-on waistband makes these pants so nice!  It’s is nice to forgo a zipper every so often, even though inserting them is one of my favorite things to do (figure that out).  The wide elastic is great and doesn’t roll like smaller widths of elastic.  Plus, it stretches on but doesn’t get bulky and gathered when worn like regular casing waists.  The white cotton knit is part of the seeming never ending leftovers from my 1947 Doris Day blouse.  Some fabrics keep going and going like a handy “Ever Ready Energizer Bunny”.  Leftovers of the honeycomb ducking fabric from my pants are going to be for another project, an English late 60’s summer play set.

I do not think a longer top works well on me with the pants’ style anyway, so I feel a short crop top, tie top, or a tucked in top are my best pairing options.  My favorite modern yet throwback way to style it is wear a cropped tank, wedge sandals and a ponytail – easy!  However, as you see in this post, I wore my pants with a favorite RTW (not ‘me-made’) blouse which was tied off in front.

parachute pants adMy pants and the way I styled them makes me think of the styles from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  Think of Keds –an all-American classic shoe – and “Hammer” pants and crazy hair and dressing with a bold flair that may or may not include neon.  Though not as extreme and classy as a pair of Jim Cavaricci bottoms, these pants do have a certain emphasis on flaring at the hips with a higher waist, a pleated front, gentle taper down from the knee, and bootie exaggeration.  My turned up pants hems not only show off my seams but also how I left the zippers open on my sneakers with the tongue out just like the trend pioneered by Run DMC, Adidas Superstars.  I was trying to channel the styles from one of my favorite shows, “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” but I feel like this outfit might fit in on “A Different World” as well.  Gosh, it’s weird to have the ‘80s technically be ‘vintage’ now that it’s over 25 years ago.100_5462-comp

Besides trying a new style, anything that remotely has to do with bees and honey are of interest to me and my hubby, who grew up with his parents raising the little flower pollinators.  It’s funny how our minds connect certain things together in unique ways…such as me associating a childhood nursery rhyme, an certain shape, a sewing project, a city mural, and a the 1980’s all with the same one item…a handmade pair of pants!  All I can say is that it’s awesome to be able to make one’s own clothes.

A Poncho Top – Simplicity of Shape

As this sewing project was so basic, I’ll let the book from which it came speak for itself.  My top is a straightforward design from the 1980 book “Creative Dressing” by Kaori O’Conner.


“The simplest of all sewn garments is the poncho – a Spanish word for a garment found all over the world, in all periods of history.  It consist of skin or cloth with a hole in the center for the head, fastened at each side.  And it is the second oldest design in the world – the oldest being the model without side fastenings, in which early man first sallied forth from his cave.  It’s a shape that’s a million years old – and a shape that doesn’t last that long unless it’s that good.  Frederick Stillman’s poncho top shows why this shape has lasted so long so well”

Modern poncho tops are often mislabeled and are really more like caftans of capelet tops.  Nevertheless, poncho tops are so basic but their prices are all across the board it amazing.  Here at Nordstrom is a pricey version of a capelet sweater labeled as a “poncho”, while here is a mid-grade, striped, lovely true poncho top, while here’s a cheaper version yet.  You don’t specifically hear the term “poncho top” anymore but there out there and just as wonderful and versatile on any female body as ever.


I have not been able to find the least amount of info on Frederick Stillman, the designer of pattern for this poncho top.  Now, this book, “Creative Dressing”, features many different designers of the time from all over the world in all aspects of the fashion industry, some of whom are more well-known (Victor Herbert), and others are not, while some are from the movie/theatre department (Les Lansdown), and others are in the fabric business (Susan Collier, design consultant for Liberty of London and Yves Saint Laurent).  This book is a must have for anyone, especially anyone interested in ingenious, cultural, and sometimes unusual designs for both sewing and knitting.  It focuses on making garments with beauty, proper intention, quality, and timeless designs which do not go out of style.  For more about this book, see the blog “DIYCouture” where Rosie writes an observant and thorough review of “Creative Dressing”.  For my first made project from this book see my post on the ‘bias tube’ dress. 100_5980a-comp

The pattern for my top is a very small size in the book, as all the sewing projects are drawn out on shrunken blue-lined graphs with the scale for enlarging in the corner (most patterns are 1 square = 2 inches).  It merely takes some good but basic mathematical skills (or a calculator for others) to figure out the full size proportions, which I then transfer to either regular-weight paper or thin, sheer medical paper for my usable pattern to lay on the fabric.

DSC_0185a-compThe poncho top is basically one long rectangle, with a keyhole type of cut for the head and neckline, and a simple facing piece…all from one yard of fabric.  “Although it’s economical, the top can look elegant and expensive” (from the book) or casual and fun…or whatever you want!  “There are no darts or closures to interfere with the pattern or texture” (from the book) – nothing but straight lines and room for individuality but that doesn’t mean you can’t add in any.  I was considering adding waist darts or a frog-style closure to the neckline with mine, but I wanted it to give it a fair chance ‘as-is’, and I’m glad I did.  I’m still getting used to the fact that garments don’t have to be fitted to be great.  “You can make it up in combinations of fabrics – the body in a plain fabric and the facings in a print or the other way around. And if you make it up in a plain fabric only, you’ll find it lends itself to many sorts of accessories” (from the book).DSC_0299a-comp

My top is made from a cotton wax print batik which was given to me by my Grandmother.  It is quite soft and in a fun tribal-style print – nice and cool and comfy but kind of rugged in a muted boldness.  I even made a basic necklace out of rope and a stone doughnut (jasper to be exact) to match with the feel of the cotton print.

Ana Jarvis solo full shotInspiration for the poncho top came from a couple of random sources.  Firstly, I was inspired by (again) the Marvel TV show “Agent Carter” and specifically the character Anna Jarvis.  Anna wears many ethnic styles and prints, as they were quite popular in the 1940’s and late 1930’s.  Also, I know how the decade of the 1980’s can imitate the 1940’s so…voila!  Mix it all together and I am like a 1980’s knock-off of a 40’s style Anna Jarvis, hair-do and all!  Summer, I’m ready!

Not that you really need my traditional “Facts” list now, but just because…



FABRIC:  100% cotton

NOTIONS:  nothing but thread

PATTERN:  “Poncho top”, from the book “Creative Dressing: The Unique Collection of Top Designer Looks That You Can Make Yourself” by Kaori O’Conner, copyright 1980 (my copy is a second edition from 1981). I bought my copy of this book several years ago from a used book fair for $2.00.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This top only took me two hours to measure out the pattern and make.  It was finished on August 20, 2015.

THE INSIDES:  flat-felled seams on the sides

TOTAL COST:  zero being a gift from my Grandma

poncho top with skirt and Bali trousers-comp

The book has an easy pull-on skirt pattern and a design for traditional wrap-on Balinese trousers to pair with the poncho top as a full outfit.  I like the idea of wrap on pants…look for some Bali-style wrap palazzo pants in the future on my blog!