“Catch Me I’m Falling”…For the 80’s!

All I know is that I realized my Easter tradition of going up through the decades of the 20th century was going to be more challenging after reaching the 1980s this year’s holiday.  It all started with a 1920’s dress back in Easter of 2013.  Now, my “vintage sewing” has a white elephant in the room.  I never thought I could love the 80’s as much as I do this suit!  Nevertheless, this is a designer pattern, to add to the appeal…a year 1985 Givenchy skirt suit set to be exact.  Help me – I have fallen for a ‘new’ outdated era.  Dare I call it ‘vintage’ when I was born in that decade?

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  2 ½ yards of faux suede was used for the main body (exterior) of the jacket, with a cotton broadcloth (also 2 ½ yards) for the interlining and a cotton lightweight canvas weight (one yard) for interfacing; the skirt only needed on yard and was cut from a silk satin vintage Indian sari.  A dusty grey under toned purple silk Habotai was the lining for both the jacket and the skirt, as well as being used for the top…3 ½ yards was enough for everything.

PATTERN:  a “Vogue Paris Original” Givenchy designer pattern, #1665.  It is dated 1986 by Vogue on the envelope and 1985 by Givenchy (as pointed out by Jessika Ahlström on Instagram).  The top was made using Simplicity #1690, a Leanne Marshal pattern from year 2013 (used once before to make this lace crop top)

NOTIONS:  The etched gold buttons were 80’s or 90’s from my husband’s Grandmother’s stash that I’ve inherited, while the zipper was luckily on hand in my stash.  I luckily had 3 spools of the thread color I needed on hand as well.  The only thing I really had to buy for this suit set was the front jacket closures – 1 inch brass hook and eyes.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Not even counting the at least 15 hours it took me to tailor some of the pattern pieces (which meant re-tracing them out onto new paper) and the cut them out of all the layers and separate fabrics needed…the actual construction of the skirt took about 12 hours, the top 6 hours, and the jacket just over 30 hours.  All together that’s a total of about 65 hours!  Everything was finished just two days before Easter, April 18, 2019.

TOTAL COST:  The faux suede has been in my stash forever, and the sari was a birthday present a few years back so I’m counting both as free and also a stash busting win at this point.  Except for the jacket hook closures ($3), even the notions were on hand so I’m counting them as a non-cost.  The silk was an awesome find on Etsy from someone clearing out their stash…it was only $15. Perhaps I can also count my vintage 80’s shoes, specifically bought to go with this outfit, at $30.  So my suit was just under $50…a far cry from any ballpark cost for a Givenchy suit much less one this quality.  I’m so happy!

Now, I had some good preliminary practice with my Agent Carter “One Shot” 1946 suit to have so much more confidence and relaxation going into making this suit.  I knew what to expect and how to figure it.  Except this time, I went a bar above – this is a designer style, almost exclusively in silk, and a full three piece set.  Granted, I was in so much more of a time crunch with this suit not getting to it until the beginning of April, but even still – with all the no-stops care and attention to detail that I did, it was finished in only two weeks.  I think I can pat myself in pride on the back for this set both in time and quality, if only my achy hands and shoulders weren’t crying out something different afterwards!

As for the last suit, here I made the skirt – and the top – first.  For being just a one yard, minimal pattern piece patterns, both skirt and top took me so much longer than imaginable.  This is due to the fact that in order to match with the couture quality that a Givenchy set deserves, and to give justice to the deluxe materials I was working with, most everything here was sewn by hand.  Yes, you read right.  The side seams to the top were machine sewn French finished, and the skirt had machine sewn side seams with the raw edges encased in between the lining.  Everything else, though, was sewn as invisibly as possible by hand.  The skirt’s hem is “floating”, attached only to the lining, and the bias binding of the top was rolled and stitched “in the ditch”.  I guess I’m just crazy, too dedicated, or overly meticulous, but even if I’m the only one that sees the details, I’m happy as a lark.  I’m learning and growing through this, I know, and I love the source of pride and accomplishment something like suit making offers.  Couture tailoring of suits is a whole separate world with new terms and skills called for completely out of the norm for general home sewing or dressmaking.

I did make a few slight changes along the way to both the top and the skirt.  First of all, I cut the top on the bias grain rather than the straight grain (parallel to the selvedge) as directed.  This fits the otherwise boxy and oversized shape to my body better besides making the top easier to put on and much more luxurious to wear.  I actually went down from what should have been my proper size, too.  The skirt did not originally call for a little ease-of-movement slit at the knee.  As this is a tapered skirt – gathered at the waist and tapering down to almost a wiggle skirt from the hips downward – I feel much more comfortable and less confined with this little extra detail.  It also keeps the skirt appealing and feminine to a style that could easily look frumpy, in my opinion.  A little “oh la la” never hurt anything.

The original pattern didn’t call for the contrast placket that is under the buttons on my left side, either.  I added this feature to break up the busyness of the print, make the purely decorative buttons appear more purposeful, lengthen the visual line of the skirt’s silhouette, and to incorporate it into the jacket for an overall harmonious suit.  I actually used the underside of the faux suede for the added left side skirt placket.  The underside has a nicely low-key shiny satin finish in a slightly deeper, more dusty color green (than the creamier pastel of the suede side) that I love paired with the muted, varied tones of the skirt sari satin.  The only other place in my suit set where I used this satin underside is on the facings along the inside neckline and front to the jacket.

I don’t understand how a sari is worn, but it would help me understand why there was a cotton hem protecting panel running along half of the one long edge’s underside.  You see, a sari is a long 4 yard rectangle.  This satin sari had a big, square, artistic, highly detailed panel at one of the long ends and a matching border that ran along the rest of the edges, about 5 inches wide.  So far all the saris I have seen generally follow this pattern of design layout, and it’s so beautiful and interesting, but I would love to find the reason why.

The added-on cotton protecting panel ran from the square artistic end to half way down, and was obviously there to save that edge from wear and tear looking at the fading and color distortion around it, so I assume that area was above the back of the feet.  I actually used the fabric from this little add-on panel as the facing underside of the skirt’s waistband.  Otherwise, the rest of the portions I used for the skirt came from both ends of my sari – the front skirt was half of the wide, detailed square end, while the back skirt is from the other plain end.  The front therefore has most of the dusty purple undertones, matching with the color of the Habotai for the top and lining, while the back has the turquoise, lime green, and rich teal.  If it wasn’t for the rich complexity of color in this luxurious sari, I would have never thought of pairing purple and green as I did!  Luckily, I have plenty of sari left (3 yards!) to use to make something else in the future.

Inside out view of “the guts”…

Now the jacket was a bit less intense than the Agent Carter one because the faux suede was not lofty enough to pad stitch.  It was much too buttery of a material (so dreamy of a hand!) anyway and most of the seaming needed smooth flowing lines…not an allover firm body pad stitching lends.  However, my hand stitching game needed to be really strong because the suede also would make any thread ugly obvious.  Luckily, the interlining and interfacing gave me something to catch with my hand stitching so no thread is visible yet all the layers become joined together.  Thus, the credit of success for my jacket goes to precise hand stitching, seam allowance trimming, proper interfacing/interlining weight fabric, and meticulous ironing at every…single…step.  When I know (and see) that all of this makes such a day and night difference in ending with a professionally tailored jacket, it is not as much of a bother as it could be, no matter how exhausting those steps can be to execute.

I must say the pattern instructions were so very excellent at leading me through the whole process but my preliminary familiarity was necessary still.  Vogue designer patterns can be intimidating, but they are not impossible.  Their instructions obviously step up to meet your needs but seem to assume experience on your part, too.  Every piece of interfacing had its own pattern piece!  I mean, this isn’t something you see too often for home sewing!  I would expect no less, though, because why else would a designer pattern be special?  Luckily, my particular copy of Vogue #1662 came with a clothing label…hard to come by nowadays and a rare find.  I have two other labels with other patterns but this set really deserved it.  I splurged.  It made my home couture creation feel so verified!

What I have noticed with designer clothes (or in my case, home patterns for designer clothes) is the quality details that are low-key.  For example, this jacket has no side seams.  The front panels on either side of the center are stiffed and full of body.  Then there is a princess seam that joins the side panel to the front.  Those panels that attach to the front wrap around to the back to join a center back panel that is only interfaced across the shoulders.  Last year’s Sybil Connolly suit from 1976 had something similar, as well.  This time is freaking ingenious for such a fitted suit jacket.  It blows my mind.  Sorry, though, my seams are so smooth and flat (as they should be…) that the camera couldn’t really show it.  What really amazed me was the curving that was achieved in the seam side panel.  Polyester faux suede – even though this is the nicest version I have ever felt – is so hard to sew smoothly.  It’s a tightly woven material with almost zero give even on the cross-grain.  Preventing puckering of the seams which had extra ease (a.k.a. the princess seams and sleeve caps) was so very tricky.

There is hardly anything I changed to the suit jacket.  I kept it how it was.  The most visible exception is at the center front closing.  The pattern called for a strip of the suit fabric to be made, four large snaps sewn on it, and then sewing it along the left side facing so the right side of the jacket would close over the extension added to the left.  I didn’t like the idea of being tied down to always having the jacket closed if it was on me, something that the added front snap extension would do.  The oversized hook and eyes did the same trick just as nicely and I have the versatility of showing off my top with an open front jacket.  The front panels are so sturdy, I do believe the snap extension piece would have been overkill.

Other than that, I changed up the layering of the interlining.  Each layer was sewn separately, ironed out and layered on top of each other, and slightly pad-stitched over the main seams before being covered up by the lining.  The pattern called for each individual piece to be layered then sewn together which would only make for bulky seams that no amount of allowance clipping or ironing could fix.  No pattern instruction can be better than knowledge gained through previous familiarity of what does and doesn’t work for a technique.  It may be a designer pattern, but since it is in my hands, I am ultimately the final designer.  I can be the one to made what I deem are the best decisions for the appearance and material I have chosen, but for the designer patterns I have sewn so far I generally stay close to the original idea just to respect the designer.  Many times along the process of going from the designer’s idea to a final product the original design is tweaked, changed, and sometimes downgraded to adapt to how it is going to be made or offered, and I wonder if the instructions showing the interlining layered over each piece is something Vogue thought was more suited to a home market.

This was my first experience with suit jacket cuffs and I am fascinated.  It was smartly engineered to turn out fantastic.  What really helped was ironing down an interfacing piece that ran along the line where the cuff is turned under, giving a crisp folded edge.  It was ironed down after doing one of the long seams to the two-part sleeves.  There is a mitered corner to the cuff flap that folds over (the outside flap, not the one facing my wrist) so there is a wonderful clean finished point.  I love doing mitered points and wish more patterns included this detail.  The cuff buttons match with the three down the left side of my skirt and are merely decoratively sewn down to connect and close the cuff flaps, in other words non-working buttons.  Something new and different has been conquered.

This completely feels like the best version of me – between the custom fit, the colors and fabrics that are all of my choosing, and the labor of love spent to have a finished suit, I am comfortable in the 1980s like I never imagined.  After all, though, much of the 80’s, and especially in regards to this suit, has everything I love about the 1940s just in a different form.  The strong shoulders in particular are the most obvious common point, and even I’ll admit that sometimes the padding in the era was a little too extreme.  A nipped-in waist and slight peplum here save the shoulders from being overkill, as does the skinny, short, restrained skirt.  I think Yves Saint Laurent, Thierry Mugler, and Emanuel Ungaro designs of the 80’s all remind me of everything I like about this Givenchy design but you can see more of my favorite 1980s inspiration here at my special Pinterest board!  These shoulder heavy, hip emphasizing, leg baring styles are the friend of any hourglass shaped woman like me in particular.

Nevertheless, I think what I find so appealing about the 80’s was the attitude of the fashion, the boldness of combining experimental colors, and wide array of styles.  The confidence I see in the fashion advertisements is so refreshing, compared to the sickly, no-personality, smoldering faces of many models on the runways today.  The bright and fun colors, even on the ugly 80’s sweatsuits, are cheering enough to make you smile and laugh!  Much of what I see in designer fashion shows do not make me expressly feel happy like the 80’s can.  The stereotypical 80’s fashion is what turns most everybody off, but the more I did into the era, the more I see such a variety of styles – mermaid skirts, pencil skirts, pleated pants, tapered leg trousers, Grecian-like wrap blouses and dresses, and all sorts of past historical references such as military jackets, Victorian coats, and 20’s style French heeled shoes.  If I do say so myself, the 80’s had the best music, too!  (My post’s title is named for a popular tune by Pretty Poison, year 1988.)

Well, I hope I have not shocked you completely by entertaining the idea of the 80’s being appealing and even being vintage.  I am optimistic that I have inspired you to take another look at an era of past fashion that seems to be the easiest to criticize and dismiss.  As always, thank you for reading!

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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.

THE FACTS:

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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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…

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THE FACTS:

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

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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!