“Under the Sea”

Let’s ‘dive’ back into the 1980s decade with yet another installment to my ongoing “Pandemic Princess” series!  My title gives away the royal fairy “tale” subject ahead of time here.  This is inspired by Ariel, from Disney’s original “The Little Mermaid”, with an outfit dated to the year of the animated movie came out – 1989.  My Pandemic Princess series was something I worked on throughout last year (2020) during the pandemic, and this outfit was one planned out at the end of the year for a wintertime visit to the new downtown Aquarium.  Thus, this becomes a conservative, bifurcated version of Ariel’s mermaid look with a purple blouse and greenish trousers made for an 80’s interpretation.  This is my only Disney Princess inspired outfit, too, which will not be a dress.

I wove so much symbolism, high quality, and love into all the details of what I’m wearing…Ariel was my first big deal, mega favorite Disney Princess, after all!  Proof in point – my parents were somehow able to get me (as in bring it home to keep) the oversized window display which was at our local Disney store for the release of the movie.  I remember dressing in a little purple bikini top and a sparkly mermaid tail to stand inside the 3-D display after they had set it up for me in the living room.  I was part of Ariel’s world that day!  So, please don’t mind if a grown up me obsesses over every little aspect to crafting her very ocean princess outfit, he he. 

Be prepared for a “part two” follow-up to this post, also dating to 1989 and with more matching pieces to make this outfit a complete set.  As big a fan as I am, one Disney’s “Little Mermaid” inspired outfit is not enough!  I might also do a third Ariel inspired garment – a dress – in the future, but I know I need to curb myself in at the moment.  For now, I felt it was important to channel the underwater princess as a woman with legs because, after all, her main longing was to walk, run, and dance on land!  I also enjoy the juxtaposition between her wearing only seashells as her top becoming a very fun but conservative long sleeve blouse in my hands.  All the blouse buttons are carved abalone shells instead!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Pants – a 100% wool twill, marked on the selvedge “Alta Moda – Enrico Coveri”; Blouse – a soft but tightly woven cotton blend broadcloth

PATTERN:  McCall’s “NY NY The Collection” #4537 pattern, year 1989, from my personal stash

NOTIONS NEEDED:  Lots of thread, interfacing, several hook-n-eyes, vintage rayon tape for hems, and vintage buttons from the collection of my husband’s Grandmother

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Both pieces received much hand stitching, but the pants more than the blouse.  Even still, the blouse took me 30 hours and the pants about 40 hours (not counting the pattern re-tracing I needed to do on paper to re-grade the sizing).  Both pieces were finished by January 15, 2021.

This is a tank with both the “Leafy Sea Dragon” and the “Weedy Sea Dragon”

THE INSIDES:  Most seams are covered by vintage rayon seam tapes, but the long pants seams are zig-zagged over along the raw edges.

TOTAL COST:  This set cost me next to nothing – just a few dollars – as I bought everything except the notions (which were on hand already) at a garage rummage sale. 

This set might have been practically free but don’t be deceived – it is not lacking in quality.  The blouse fabric is very nice cotton, to be sure, but it just so happened to be the same purple as Ariel’s brassiere shells. What seemed like the perfect find was not even 2 yards in length (at 45” width) so I was able to just barely make this blouse work out with its long sleeves and peplum.  Even still, my blouse’s cotton is a pretty basic score compared to the amazing find that was the fine woolen used for my pants.  It is a very greenish turquoise perfect to complement the purple, but also a mermaid appropriate tone. It was a soft, supple, and fabulously textured cozy wool.  Yes, there were 6 yards of the material in total. 

However, those 6 yards were perhaps the most moth chewed piece of fabric I have ever seen…quite a freaky mess!  There was barely a solid swath which didn’t have a hole in it from which to cut my pants.  With that fabulous selvedge marking, though, there was no way I was going to pass up the chance to try and salvage what I could from off of it.  Whenever you see a stitched on ‘label’ on the selvedge of material, that’s a clear giveaway that it’s something high-end, especially when it says “Alta Moda”!

Many people may not recognize designer material, so I’ll decipher why the selvedge marking here is so important.  “Alta Moda” is an Italian noun for the world of Italian high fashion, Italian fashion designers collectively, and Italian couture.  It is their equivalent to “haute couture” in French.  “Traditionally, Alta Moda or Haute Couture is the creation of unique tailor-made garments made mainly by hand using high quality fabrics, decorations, applications and embroideries with extreme attention to details” says The Accedemia Costume & Moda in Rome.  Dolce & Gabbana is most often associated with the term “Alta Moda” nowadays, but as a designation for the industry, the words mark the difference between Milan and Rome – the former is more known for everday wearable clothes (pret-a-porter) where the latter is known for extravagant high fashion (says “Dave’s Travel Corner”).  This is significant because there is the name of Florence based fashion designer Enrico Coveri behind the “Alta Moda” designation.  

Enrico Coveri 1988

Enrico Coveri was born in 1952 and studied at the Accadema delle Belle Arti in Florence.  In 1973, he began working as freelance designer, creating knitwear and sportswear lines, while making his mark by being one of the first designers to use soft pastel shades.  He moved to Paris in 1978 to work at the “Espace Cardin”, the vast design institute set up by Pierre Cardin, and the year after he debuted with his first women’s collection in Paris. Shortly after that, he returned to Italy to establish his own company in 1979.  “You Young” is the name of one of the several seasonal Enrico Coveri collections. It is also perhaps the best description for his bold, unpretentious, and fun-loving fashion: strong, vibrant colors and striking, witty designs that have always been clear and intelligible, with zany prints and knits often incorporating Pop Art designs and cartoon characters. Although he excelled at casual clothing, even his eveningwear exuded a young, sporty, wearable feel. Coveri enjoyed shocking and going out on a limb with design. 

It is noted that in Coveri’s styling, attention was always given to the particularity of the materials and fabrics.  His favorite fabrics included stretch satin, superfine linen, silk, cotton poplin, and sequin-covered knits.  Journalist Hebe Dorsey to dub Coveri the “Italian Kenzo” in the Herald Tribune.  Coveri died in 1990, at the young age of 38.  (This and the above paragraph’s information is from The Fashion Model Directory, Made-In-Italy.com, and Encyclopedia.com.)  Please hop on over to my Pinterest page (here) for his work and check out how full of life Coveri’s designs were in his too-short career.

This line of NY NY “The Collection” McCall’s patterns are supposed to be designer drafted, after all, so using a fabric most probably leftover from Coveri’s work and then channeling his style to interpret my version seems so appropriate.  Now, I’m not intimating this was his pattern, but after reading up on his life, it suits his exuberance and love for details.  It also means this wool is from before 1990…bingo.  I couldn’t have chosen a better designer to incorporate into my Disney “Little Mermaid” outfit!  How this vintage Italian Coveri fabric got here in the Midwest of America and why it became so moth chewed is another mystery I won’t even entertain unravelling.  I feel he would appreciate the animated character influence here, as well as welcome the color tonality, but I would hope Coveri would especially like the unexpected details to the blouse and the pants of my chosen pattern.

The most obvious special detail is the front waist of the pants which have a strong mermaid-reminiscent shaping.  With the dipped center and the flared, pointed sides, it calls to my mind the common way to portray the joining of the human body to the fish tail at the waist of a mermaid or merman.  It’s not just all design lines with no utilitarian purpose, however – these pants are a unique “fall front” opening!  This is scarce on so many counts.  Not only is this style of pants closing something relegated to menswear, but besides maritime military uniforms having a buttoned fall front closing, it is primarily a historical fashion point.  The “fall front” means there is a panel (sort of like a bib) which is flapped up (after stepping into the legs of the pants) and either hooked, tied, or buttoned down to cover both an inner waistband underneath and the exposed lower groin. 

This style of pants is most widely seen today on the handsome gentleman and their roguish compatriots of popular Jane Austen novels and early 1800 era stories in television and screen adaptations.  The end of the Regency and Napoleonic eras were the last of the fall front’s common usage in trousers, excepting certain military uniforms (as I mentioned) or ladies Victorian “split” skirts for riding. Brann mac Finnchad has an excellent terminology post here on his blog “Matsukaze Workshops” as he explores drafting and sewing his own regency fall-front trousers.  Modern pants are a basic form of the “French fly” closure style, also called “split-fall”, and this has been dominant on men’s trousers and denims for about 170 years now.  It wasn’t until the 1930s that the “French fly” was utilizing zippers, as we use today, rather than only buttons.  

I have not yet seen a decorative fall front pants, much less in modern times, and especially for ladies.  These are THE coolest pants I now have.  They are not trying to be historical, yet are a fresh take on a style long dead…not dated at all for coming out of the 1980s!  Most importantly, though – the fall front incorporates deep pockets that reach down to my thighs.  This is modern ingenuity combined with practicality for you.  Even still, style aside, I love the way they are very comfy and easy to move in, besides being quite complimentary to my hourglass figure!  Now I just need to make sure troublesome fabric pests do not find my pants…

My fall front trousers utilizes one snap set and a few hook-n-eyes.  A 1 inch heavy-duty snap closes the inner waistband, as Brann calls the “binder”, and large hook-n-eyes to close the sides of the fall front flap.  The original instructions called for me to use buttons and work buttonholes at all these closure spots, yet I wanted the smooth front appearance of invisible-from-the-outside closures.  The amazing seam lines of these pants needed to take center stage without big buttons to distract!  After all, I did not trust two buttons to alone hold the weight and the pull of the fall front.  I want these amazing pants to last me many years.  Not having set button holes will hopefully aid that by giving the versatility of being able to adjust the spacing of a hook or snap.  Depending on how the fabric loosens or what my body is dealing with at the moment, “fit” is something fluid and not static and I sew all my clothes with some option of tailoring at a future date.

Once I graded up the paper pattern according to the given size chart, these pants turned out close fitting yet exactly my size, luckily, so I could focus on perfecting every feature as it was out of the envelope with no alteration.  The pants’ legs are tapered slimmer at the leg hems, the waist is high above the natural line, and the hips are roomy across…all in a nicely subtle 80’s way.  They are dart fitted across the back, unlike Regency trousers which were laced to fit.  The inner waist facings were in many different pieces across the back to accommodate the curving fit.  I kept the pants unlined so they would be more lightweight and therefore versatile for a mild spring or fall season.  The wool is so fine it is not really itchy.  I did finish the hem in a bright, cheerful lime green vintage rayon hem tape.  Only I really see or know it is there, but sometimes it’s those hidden fine details that make all the difference, right?!

Now compared to the pants, the blouse takes second sitting, yet it is still packed with unusual, special details, too.  It is more of a 1980’s classic, though.  As the envelope summary stated, the blouse was designed to be very over-sized, except for the close-fitting hips and wrists.  Combining these features with the dropped shoulder line and lowered armscye, as well as knowing my tiny wrists, I presumed correctly that the only place where I needed to size up was from the waist down.  The size of my pattern was two sizes too small for me according to the envelope chart and yet the main body finished up fitting well yet with a comfy amount of room to spare – just the way I figured it.  Sizing up was challenging as it is a darted one-piece in the front and a separate peplum with defined waist seam only in the back.  I merely slashed and spread the front blouse panel open to the necessary increment starting from the hem.  Then, I came back to retrace in the original pleats again.  When a pattern says “generous fit”, believe it only so far and measure at the pattern stage (as I did here) to see just what is going on ahead of time for a perfect fit in the end!

The pattern calls the back bottom portion a peplum, but I see it as a clever way to keep a poufy blouse tucked in and looking neat.  This blouse is onto something smart – don’t you hate it when you tuck a blouse into pants or a skirt which fits snug over the hips and the top just gets all bunched up and obvious under your bottoms?!  I am glad for the longer, lower hip length of the hem because it not only stays tucked in nicely but also looks great worn untucked, on its own.  80’s oversized blouses can overwhelm a smaller frame like my own, so the slim fit for the waist and hips makes this style work for me, I think.

An unusual part to the blouse is for sure the sleeves, the way they are so deep set and super gathered at the center top ‘shoulder’ seam.  I have not done a tapered sleeve like this before either, nor does one often encounter a smooth transition (no tucks, pleats or gathers) into the fitted, rounded cuff.  I love it!  Even still, one little detail of two carrier tabs at both the back collar and front button placket makes all the difference here.  It keeps a contrast scarf in place (the way I am wearing it), but the pattern calls for an ascot to be made (included in the envelope, too) and worn in a way similar to a man’s necktie.  No wonder the pants had such a masculine influence!  The whole ensemble owes its design to guy’s clothes, even if the details are inherently feminine.  The collar otherwise is pretty much the same as the cuffs, with curved ends, yet was sewn down with a man’s shirt-style collar stand. 

I felt that true shell buttons were the only thing appropriate here to keep “The Little Mermaid” reference strong but subtle.  Abalone shell buttons, if the underside is unglazed and raw, can fall apart easily.  However, I was able to find ones stable and uncracked for my blouse in the amount I needed (a total of 11) out of a good number more (about 18) in the vintage notions stash of hubby’s Grandmother.  Shells are intertwined with every mermaid legend it seems, but I figured abalone shells would be Ariel’s preference the way they have an iridescent shine in her classic colors of turquoise, purple, and pink.

The way Enrico Coveri was obsessed with matching, curated accessories, I followed suit with this outfit.  Where do I start?  My shoes are perhaps my favorite compliment to my outfit, but then again I do greatly enjoy matchy-matchy footwear!  My facemask reminds me of the interesting and slightly alien texture of coral and was made by me of the lovely shiny turquoise rosette fabric leftover from this vintage inspired Whitney Frost dress copy (posted here).  My purse might be the most obvious accessory – it is a “Unique Vintage” brand cosmetic case that I added pearl straps to so I can use it as a purse.  My bracelet is really a necklace, but it is long enough to wear around my wrist when wrapped three times.  It has a sterling silver mermaid swimming across it!

My earrings are genuine shell carved in the shape of a starfish. I have had these earrings since I first got my ears pierced as a little girl. I know there is a story to where they came from which I cannot remember yet, so but nevertheless I hold them as special for the reasons I already mentioned!  I could have flaunted off so many of my old original charms, pins, or pendants which I have from when I was little and the movie first came out…but it looked too gaudy.  I wanted to go all out with this princess out, just to let you know, but I kept it tame…I really don’t want to cause any more attention (at times) than my vintage way of dressing already does!  

So, regarding our shooting location, if you ever find yourself in St. Louis, Missouri I do recommend a visit to the Union Station Aquarium.  This is something worth seeing (from a land locked Mid-Westerner’s point of view) plus it makes for the best pictures!  I couldn’t have asked for a better outfit to wear, though…the anticipation of the visit helped spur me to finish sewing it.  My Ariel inspired set totally put in the frame of mind to appreciate the underwater realm in an immersive state of mind…which was easy to do as some of the expansive tanks wrapped around and over between rooms!  Although I will not say “it’s better down where it’s wetter” as Sebastian sings, watching the fish and their counterparts do their ‘thing’ (“just keep swimming”, right?) was incredibly relaxing for us, compared to our working hours up on land.  At least it was fun to pretend to be a grounded mermaid princess for a day! 

A Skirt-Blouse and a Dress-Skirt

The second installment for my 2020 “Alter It August” is a featuring of this crazy but coordinated and happy display of me wearing things in the wrong place.  Ugh – that just sounds like need to relearn how to dress.  No, I just like the sewing success I find when thinking a bit differently when attacking my tucked-away mending pile.

What I started off with were two vintage pieces in their own right.  I’m wearing what had been a skirt from the 1990’s as a newly refashioned blouse of the 40’s WWII style.  Then, I also salvaged what was left of a true vintage 30’s era dress into becoming a skirt which pairs nicely with my new blouse.  Yes, I’m all over the decades and every article of clothing I started with is now something else.  Yet, somehow, what I ultimately ended up with is these wonderful separates that I can wear and enjoy for years to come.  I think I can rock this sort of upside-down dressing!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a soft cotton with a hint of spandex is the fiber content of the skirt that became my blouse, while the true vintage dress that became a skirt is a lovely rayon gabardine finished off with a matching color modern cotton sateen

PATTERN:  Simplicity #4528, a year 1943 vintage original pattern from my personal stash, was used for the blouse

NOTIONS:  some interfacing scraps, thread, two true vintage buttons for the blouse, and a vintage metal zipper for the skirt.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  It only took me about an hour or less to clean up the dress and turn into a skirt.  The blouse was finished on August 1, 2020 in about 4 hours.

THE INSIDES:  The insides of my blouse are cleanly bias bound, while I kept the original (pinked) seams of the vintage dress-turned-skirt and merely finished the waist.

TOTAL COST:  FREE!

My true vintage skirt was more of a salvage than a refashion like my blouse.  I had an acquaintance had passed to me this piece that someone had given her because they knew I am a smaller size and would be capable of restoring this to a wearable state.  The bodice of a cream-colored, rayon gabardine 1930s dress had been roughly cut off midway through, the side zipper ripped out, and the amazing duo of large pockets halfway hanging on.  I can’t help but hopelessly wonder what the full dress looked like originally.  It might have been wonderful to have the chance to save more than just the skirt, but really – I shouldn’t complain!  This was a wonderful gift and an honor of a challenge.

I started off with the basic preliminary tasks – trimming the bodice down to the point where I would sew on a waistband, taking off a handful of belt carriers, re-stitching down the pockets, and setting in a side zipper.  Next I used a cotton sateen from on hand (because hey, it was something I didn’t have to buy and it matched in color) to sew on a waistband and a hook closing.  That was all it needed besides a basic cleaning and pressing.  There still are some very slight stains I need to get out but overall I am very ecstatic to have saved this piece.  I am amazed that for all this dress had went through before it came to me, there were not any obvious stains or even a hole, rip, or tear in the skirt (it is pristine).  A very good vintage find finally all fixed up deserves a great new top to pair with it, right?!

I had a plaid skirt which had hardly ever been worn, even though it has been in my wardrobe since circa 2000.  I had bought it second hand back then, so it must be from at least the 90’s, judging by both the style and how the label inside proudly claimed to be completely “Made in the USA”.  Maybe I should not call it fully vintage…just ‘dated’ for now.  Nevertheless, it became a blouse of a different ‘vintage’!  The skirt’s plaid was cute enough to me that I held onto it for this long, yet the style always screamed too “school girl” for my taste and so was rarely worn.  No doubt the fact the hem ended right above my knees added to that impression.  It has a low-riding hip yoke with a deep-pleated, flared skirt below and was fully lined.

A refashion can feel like a giant uncertainty, so it helps to use a pattern that you’ve used already and which has turned out successfully before.  It gives an extra confidence level.  I used the same pattern that gave me one of my current favorite vintage blouses – this “Australia” movie inspired creation – and merely shortened it to waist length because of the limited amount of fabric I was working with.

There was so much fabric in the pleated section below the hip yoke, all I needed to do was cut that part of the skirt off and it was like having a long 2 yard by 20 inch section to work with.  There was imperfect plaid matching in the skirt to begin with, and I did not have any extra fabric to be as choosy of a perfectionist as I like to be with geometrically printed fabric.  Yet, I do think I made the best of it!  The belt strip to the original skirt became the waist tie attached to the bottom hem of my new blouse.  This tie front feature helps the top stay down on me and is also a nice feature to perk of the pretty, but still a bit plain, ivory gabardine skirt I am wearing with it.

I was sort of aiming for a pre-WWII casual 40’s kind of look here, but I’m happy it ended up looking pretty timeless after all.  The skirt is in a feminine and comfortable bias cut so it is obviously 30’s era, but a well done cut and style like this never goes out of style.  After all, the giant, interesting pockets hold my Android phone just fine with room to spare…how modern is that!?  I personally like large blouse lapels and cannot lie, however, they do rather give the blouse away that it’s vintage.  Yet, crop tops are quite popular now, the tie waist is an unexpected detail, and the plaid is quite fun, so perhaps all this outweighs the collar for a contemporary appeal.  I paired my outfit with my Grandmother’s earrings and my comfy Hotter brand tennis shoes.

Even though “Alter It August” is drawing to a close, it’s always a great time to whip those unusable clothes into shape and make them work for you!  You have the sewing superpowers to create…now use those same gifts to take care of what you already possess on hand and make sure it is something useable that you love.  A refashion from what’s on hand is something new for nothing, with the added happy benefit of knowing you both succeeded at something challenging and helped counteract the global harm of the wasteful fast fashion industry.

I don’t know about you, but at the rate I am going out and about these days, I really don’t need a whole lot of anything new coming in the house besides food in the fridge.  That doesn’t stop me from continuing to be a ‘maker’, though, and this sporty little outfit was just the sensible, thrifty little pick-me-up project to be useful, keep me creative, and clean the house all in one.  Maybe I haven’t been out enough for me to even think of turning a skirt into a blouse, after all, though?

Picnic – Party of One

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?

THE FACTS:

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.

THE INSIDES:  The top is fully lined, so there are no raw edges to be seen.  The shorts have all vintage bias tape with bright peach rayon seam tape for the hem.

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.

Cabriolet Climate

Where we live, the temperature outside is now set to bake, the spring flowers are a seemingly distant memory, and the kids have been out of school for far too long.  It’s definitely time to cool off by some water, grab the bug spray, and sport those fun summer fashions, in colorful floral prints.  Finally, I can look forward to dressing for those opportunities to take our newest car acquisition, a fold-top convertible, out for a spin!  Drive-in movies and drive-up dining is a par above now.

I do believe this post’s Burda Style make – fresh off the sewing machine – is the perfect thing I recently chose to put on for one of those occasions.  In these times of social distancing and limited availabilities of the traditional summer entertainments, our new convertible is our current favorite Covid-precautionary way to get out, mingle, and enjoy the weather…as well as a very good reason for me to use fashion to slay for the day!

This is another one of those wonderfully easy-to-sew, wrap on, no closures needed, minimal fabric usage projects which I have been sewing lately.  Happily, I made this work using a one yard remnant, yay!  It has colors that pop like fireworks on the 4th of July.  What more could I ask for?!

I only made the top you see here, and the vintage-inspired, high-waisted skinny jeans are RTW reproductions from Hell Bunny brand (‘Charlie’ capris that are full length on my petite frame).  I can’t recommend this brand enough for quality denim bottoms which are the best of both modern materials and vintage fit with great details (not sponsored, just an ecstatic customer, by the way).  My shoes are from yet another one of my favorite ‘modern with a vintage influence’ brands – Charlie Stone.  My bright red lips are not going to get smeared around anytime soon, even with wearing a mask or a breezy car ride, as I used Maybelline’s SuperStay 24 hour color (in Optic Ruby).  See?  I am so totally equipped for convertible riding!

THE FACTS:                                                                                                                     

FABRIC:  a cotton-polyester blend print remnant, semi-lined in a plain white poly remnant

PATTERN:  Burda Style #132 pattern, “Waistcoat” when released in 2012, “Wrap Tank” in 2014

NOTIONS:  lots of thread and several yards of (true vintage cotton) bias tape

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Even with all the fitting fuss I had to do, still from start to finish this was a 7 hour project, and finished on June 9, 2020.

THE INSIDES:  Part of the inside edges are covered because of the partial lining, the side seams are bias bound, and the complex front seams are raw as there is enough polyester in the fabric to keep it from unravelling.

TOTAL COST:  The tropical fabric was bought at a rummage sale, where everything I bought was $1 a pound.  As this fabric was a super lightweight poly blend, it cost nearly nothing on its own.  The little bit of lining I used was from my scrap stash…so this is in total as good as free.

This is an old pattern by Burda Style’s standards on their website now.  It is originally back from 2012, and this wrap top pattern was one of the very first that I bought from Burda (along with this dress pattern) when I first started up my blog.  Yes, it has taken 8 long years on my sewing queue’s backburner before I got around to actually finding the right fabric for it, and then finally making it!  I am getting around to completing so very many of these long planned projects ever since quarantine hit.  At least my sewing mojo has not taken a hit through all of this mess!  As I say every time I finish one of these projects, it feels so satisfying to finish such long planned ideas, also making them incredibly fun to wear!

Truth be told, this was a bit of a frustration to make, as I had difficulties getting it to fit me right.  I chose my normal size with Burda patterns, and sewing it together with no changes gave me a garment which was quite loose above the waist and perfect below that.  I had to sew slightly wider seam allowances in all the seams around my upper torso to evenly spread out to amount needed to take in.  This process involved lots of try-ons and a little stitch here, a little unpicking there.  All in all, I realized there isn’t a truly ‘perfect’ fit here since the fit of this top is fluid being a wrap-on.  The way it hangs changes with how I move.  Thus, the general fit I was aiming for was to eliminate any slop room for the wrap to have an opportunity to fall off my shoulders and gape.  This was supposed to have been a simple project, but hey – it was worth it.  I want every project I make to look its best…so I can look my best!

I stripped down the construction and instructions so make this as effortless and summer-appropriate as it looks.  The design calls for full body lining and material such as twill or suiting.  These would make it more like a menswear inspired structured vest – not the perfect material in my mind for something relaxed and casual, much less for something for hot temperatures.  I only lined the center back panel to help the top lay flat against my back, use up a lining scrap, and cut down on the amount of visible raw edges.  The dual back slit vents were ditched in lieu of basic straight seaming.  Nothing was interfaced except for the faux pocket flap.  I eliminated all facings along the edges and opted for a tiny ¼ inch bias tape hem which was then turned under.  The amount of extra time I spent to adjust the fit was balanced out by the easy finishing techniques. Otherwise, everything else to the design lines and length proportions was kept as-is.

The pattern called for just over two yards of material originally, but if anyone knows me, you now I like to have my piece layouts be as efficient as is humanly possible.  I also love to use up smaller scraps of material in the most inventive ways!  So – yes – I somehow made this top work out of one yard.  I slightly slanted the grainline of the front panels, but as the fabric weave was so tight I figured (correctly) that it would not make that big of a difference.  I completely ignored the grainline to the pockets as well, since they are interfaced anyway.  This is something I rarely do but hey, I was determined.  I really felt this was the right fabric to pattern pairing and was going to make this work out in some form or fashion.

I must say I am so much more impressed with my new wrap top than I ever expected!  I am sure the convertible drive while wearing it added to my preliminary love for my new project.  Yet, the more I wear it, I still fall head over heels for it and want to say it’s my favorite.  (All my projects are really my ‘favorite’, I never can decide when it comes down to it!)  The interesting engineering, simple individuality of it is fantastic.  It is a remote relative to these previous wrap projects (the 3 armhole 60’s dress and this halter 70’s dress) but only tweaked and worn backwards to great effect – a smarter blouse version, in other words.  The front faux pockets and tricky seaming there added a touch of tailoring that confuses me but seems to balance out the longer length.  It all works out so well together.

Oh, how I do love to go all out and wear my vintage hats and vintage scarves to keep my hairstyles in place when convertible driving for a practicality and to make a chic presentation!  Ultimately, however, I do love the irony of this outfit – it is a German pattern design worn in a car from a German car company.  For modern patterns, Burda Style is my preferred choice for reasons such as this top.  German engineering always has been quite commendable.  For being a modern car (I like 90’s and earlier sleek and fast sports cars normally), this convertible VW EOS is pretty darn cool, besides being a bargain of a deal, as well.  The electrics of the fold-away hard top – hence why it is technically a cabriolet – are amazing (watch someone else’s video of the process here, if you’re interested, jump to time 2:25).  It’s too bad summer weather here is such a short time out of the year!