“Fruit Salad…Yummy, Yummy…”

Anyone who has had or known a child growing up in the last 10 years might know “The Wiggles” song my title refers to!  I can’t help but think of that quirky tune when looking at or even wearing this fun little vintage crop top.  Only half of a yard of this bright fruit print rayon just had to be redeemed into something more than just a supporting role in a sewing project, in my opinion.  I am so happy to have made the remnant work as this 1950s sun top!  With a bright print like this portraying a yummy cocktail salad how can I not be put in good spirits by my new creation?

My headband and earrings are me-made, and my sandals I had refashioned (yes, I even work on shoes!) but otherwise my skirt is a ready-to-wear standby item.  I can’t wait to see what my new crop top looks like with some vintage style jeans or a bright circle skirt!  The busy print with all the colors help this to match up with all sorts of bottom pieces – yay!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a printed rayon challis on the outside, a bright yellow cotton inside, and poly/cotton blend broadcloth for the straps

PATTERN:  Simplicity #8130, a 2016 reprint of what had original been Simplicity #2532, year 1958

NOTIONS:  I actually had everything I needed on hand, which is amazing because I used some notions which were more complex than what the pattern called for…more about that down later!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This was made in about 8 hours (two evenings worth of sewing sessions) and finished on June 1, 2019

THE INSIDES:  Hey – this is fully lined, so the raw edges are incognito…

TOTAL COST:  I was able to pick up the rayon for about $1 but the lining was ‘more expensive’ at $2.50.  I’m not counting the scraps used for the straps and interfacing, or notions from my generous stash of supplies.  My total was about $4 – how awesome is that?

This summer has been so busy that a few hour project is all I can handle if I want a finished project.  Yet, I am all about not sacrificing quality.  Thus, I put in some extra time to make sure this little summer top is comfortable, effortless, nicely tailored, and will last me many more years of warm weather fun!

The most obvious part of construction that took some of the extra time to reach completion was the faulty amount of ease put into this design.  This needs to have a close, tight fit – both to stay up and to look right (not slouchy).  This is not a blouse or shirt.  That means there needs to be about zero to negative amount of wearing ease.   Tasha at “By Gum, By Golly” has an excellent, helpful review going over this same subject.  Looking at the finished garment measurements as compared to the size chart, it’s obvious there is a several inch ease added in for every size.  I myself went down one size to be safe, but even still, I had to bring in the top by over an inch for my first fitting.  I am pretty sure this was not how the original was and something added in when the pattern was re-released.  Vintage re-issues from the Big 4 pattern companies are sometimes really good at tweaking something that was just fine to begin with.  I’m sorry to be negative.  I should be glad for re-issues, though, because they do make vintage sewing something more mainstream, affordable, and attainable for all body sizes.  So, if you reach for this pattern for the first time, just remember this heads up to check the sizing, instead of recalling my crabbing!

Hiding under what might look like a simple little top is many seams and a secret to keeping them straight.  Boned seams further structure the body and combine with (what should be) a snug fit to share amazing tailoring that the 50s are so good at.  Many extant original 1950s evening dresses and summer bra tops have boning in them, too, so I like this true vintage touch.  Yet, I got rid of the boning directly through the bust as directed and instead opted for something a bit more naturally structured.  The side seams and center front alone have boning and there is a bra sewn into the front half in my version.  Boning is still in the back as well, as directed, but only on either side of the center because I added a back zipper.  It’s so much more convenient rather than a

A boned, true vintage piece very much like Simplicity #8130, for sale recently through Instagram

buttoning back, as the pattern directs and true vintage items have.  As I said, for me to fully enjoy this, it was going to have to be easy to wear – lingerie is sewn in already for no bra straps peeking out and no circus trick required lurking behind me either whenever I elect to put it on.  I chose a metal exposed zipper because it was what I had on hand but I do enjoy the funky, modern flair of it.  This might be vintage, but the time is today and I frequently don’t mind a little crossover between the two.

For my first time attempting to make a fully boned garment I am pretty happy. (My first trial at boning was for the back of this 50’s strapless romper I made awhile back, but that was just two little strips I added so I’m not fully counting that!)  I figured this little top was a good piece to go all out and experiment with.  It was no real biggie if I messed up or things didn’t turn out just right, between the busy print and the style itself.  Nevertheless, it wasn’t really that hard to do, just a bit tedious and time consuming, and I can’t think of how I would have done better.

The boning I used was the pre-packaged Dritz brand lightweight kind, already covered in a soft cotton blend sheath.  I had a pack of soft, jelly-like plastic caps to cover the cut ends.   I cut to the measurements provided in the instructions and pushed the caps over both the boning and its fabric cover, then stitched through all layers using the hole in the caps provided to anchor them on the ends.  Since my boning was covered, I top stitched it directly to the inside of the lining along the princess seams, but if it hadn’t been fabric coated I would have used the seam allowances to form a casing channel.

My only complaint is that the packaging of the boning had it all curled up too tightly in a roll and I had a hard time working to straighten the unwanted curving in it.  Even still it tends to want to do its own thing sometimes, working against my body.  That aside, I can’t wait to try boning again.  When I sew it, a boned garment is much more comfortable than I would have thought, especially compared to the scratchy boning in my extant vintage garments, it turned out well, and was fun to do.  I love the confidence and assurance in a great shape that a boned garment lends!

The ‘collar’ has me on the fence.  I like it but would rather have had it not have so much individual personality but stick closer to the main body.  It is cute though and makes this so fun and different.  You know I just had to make things so much harder for myself to squeeze this in on half a yard!  The grain line for the collar piece calls for it to be cut on the bias cross grain.  However, was lucky enough to make things work the way I cut the collar on an off-kilter straight grain.  I rarely go against the grain line so this was a rare deviance for me.  Perhaps this change in the cut and layout of the collar effected the way mine hangs on the finished top.  Sometimes it’s best just to make things work rather than finding perfectionism.  Coming from me this is something (I’m so hard on myself) but I really wanted that extra touch!  For an alternate idea, I can actually picture a big bias ruffle (not in the pattern, I know) coming from the neckline in a white eyelet version of this top.  Oh no, another project to add in my projects queue!  Apparently another version of this top is probably in my future.

Having the little black edging united both the contrast straps and bold back zipper together with the top as a whole – another reason I wanted the neckline collar.  I disregarded the pattern piece for the edging and used pre-made bias tape instead out of convenience.  Mitering the corners is still important whether you use the pattern for the edging or bias tape or ribbon for edging, though.  Perfect points make that overhang really appear as if it is mock-collar.

The instructions call for a lot more interfacing than I committed.  It called for the whole body to be stabilized on top of adding the boning.  To me that doesn’t sound comfy for a summer top…it sounds like sweaty, unbreathable torture to be.  I left out the interfacing through the body and added it instead in shoulder straps.  This makes more sense to me and feels better to wear.  The straps would be even better with an adjustable option like lingerie, but I really didn’t feel like something complicated and they were too wide to even work like that.  I didn’t want to make new skinny ones.  Perfect is being done, sometimes.

Well, I hope this post inspires you to think outside of the box and look at small cuts of fabric, what we consider remnants today, as having great potential.  Our grandmothers were onto something with their depression era practice of making scraps work in more ways than modern minds find imaginable.  Fabric is fabric to me, in any size cut!  It find it so funny how one little half yard turned into one complexly structured vintage top.  The many seams (10 vertically around) were my friend to help my idea along.  Between the bright print and the fun design and the thriftiness of it all, this make of mine really is a cheerful, ‘feel good’ summer piece.  Fruit salad, anyone?  I do love a healthy treat.

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A Very Mod British Summer Sun Suit

I am truly infatuated with shorts-inclusive vintage play sets this year!  After my 1940s set a few years back (see it here), and then the 50’s (posted here) and 80’s (previously posted here) sets from this 2019, I’ve now also rounded out things by whipping up a 1960s sun suit, as well!

This set is a special oddity in my sewing – its pattern is a little known “Le-Roy” brand printed by the Associated British Paper Patterns Company out of Bletchley.  (I am rather confused by an English pattern having a French name, though!)  This is only the second English pattern I have used (first one here) and certainly the only one of the brand I have in my stash…but then again I haven’t seen many of Le-Roy designs for sale either.  I picked this one up on a whim for a steal of a price years back and I’m so glad I did.  I definitely want to come back to this pattern in the future and make the tunic length overblouse, too.

Unfortunately, the rarity of the brand makes it hard to date precisely, but the trend for this type of set and the styling on the envelope is the key.  My estimate for this is that it is possibly as early as 1964 yet no later than 1968.  Why do I believe this?  The famous actress Audrey Hepburn wore a very similar two piece sun set in the British 1967 movie “Two for the Road”  We all know how fashion likes to follow what is seen on the stars and starlets of the silver screen!  Yet, my Simplicity brand calendar of vintage pattern cover images has an almost exact two piece summer outfit labelled as the year 1964 on the page for August 2019.

So my visual proof gave me a 5 year range, and I channeled it by using the print that I did.  After all, if you just had the line drawing to reference, this play set is not all too different from a two piece summer set from the 40’s or the 50’s (scroll through this Pinterest board of mine to see).  Thus, I felt I needed the material to be the visibly identifying factor (besides the close fit) to testify to its publishing date from very modern-looking 60’s era.  As luck would have it, the FDIM museum (in Los Angeles, California)recently shared through their Friday “Unboxing” videos on Instagram a designer Emilio Pucci blouse from 1967 with a geometric, two-color green print over a white background.  Seeing that reminded me so much of the leftovers to some modern designer pants I made a while back.  I just had to make what I feel is a perfectly Mod era outfit for a British style summer!  I’ve made so many dresses from the 60’s era this is such a fun kind of a change!

These two pieces were an under-one-yard, scrap-busting project that also now gives me full outfit options to some pants I made years back from the same material.  There is nothing quite like matching mix-and-match separates to make me feel like I am both ready for a trip and completely up to rocking this summer!  This is what optimizing one’s fabric stash looks like.  The ¾ yard leftovers from these Odeeh designer Burda Style pants were just enough to squeeze in these little pre-70’s short shorts and a crop top reminiscent of a vintage-style sports bra.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% cotton duck cloth for the printed portion of the set, a 100% satin finish Pima cotton for the solid contrast, and a bleached cotton muslin for the lining material to each piece

PATTERN:  a mid to late 60’s LeRoy #3195

NOTIONS:  I had to custom order the little 6 inch separating sports zipper for the crop top, but otherwise I had all the thread and interfacing I needed.  The shorts have a true vintage metal zipper, painted in a lime green, also from on hand out of the notions stash in the drawers of my 1960 Necchi sewing machine cabinet.  I figured it was probably era appropriate!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The hand-stitched zipper took an hour and a half to sew in itself, but the overall two pieces were finished on July 12, 2019 in 15 to 20 hours.

THE INSIDES:  all covered up by full lining

TOTAL COST:  Next to nothing!  As I was using scraps from another project that was made several years back this is pretty much free in my mind, excepting the $8 zipper.

This was easy in theory to make.  The tricky part was nailing the fitting.  The underbust seam had to be snug enough to stay down but not tight like a bra.  I did not want the shorts to look like any other ill-fitting RTW item I have tried and left behind.  A quick tissue fit revealed this was pretty much spot on my size, but when working with a new pattern company and aiming for a very tailored fit I always give myself some extra room in seam allowance.  Technically this should have been a bit large for me going by their size chart, so I’m assuming either the company’s designs or merely this particular one ran small.  In a few places – such as over my hips – I had to bring the seam allowance out to only ¼ inch so I am so thankful I gave myself some wiggle room when I cut.  That was not an easy thing to do.

I might have made this set on ¾ yard, but with the extra room I added when cutting, every piece ended up touching the other.  This is always a bit unnerving because there is absolutely no room for error and I have to think of everything.  I do not encourage this.  When it does work out, however, such an economical pattern and fabric layout is the source of both relief and self-amazement, not to mention the euphoric happiness great stash-busting can bestow!

Contrasting the shorts hem and top neckline with a solid was sort of a semi-stash busting effort, as well.  It all started with some satin-finish Pima fabric bought for – but no longer needed – as a lining under a sheer silk.  It has now been tentatively slated to be pleated 40’s era shorts in the future.  The edges of the cut length were sacrificed as part of an experiment before committing to a whole garment in such a color.  You see, I have never really been a fan of chartreuse, but I know it seems quite popular and a sought after color amongst vintage enthusiasts.  I do like myself in yellow and in green individually, but both combined in one shade is something that makes my skin look sickly.  However, I know never to say never!  Using a bit of chartreuse as the contrast “edging” for these two pieces was a good trial to see how if the color in small amounts is more tolerable…and I do believe it is!  Anything in a satin Pima cotton will be beautiful, though.  The true shade on the end of the bolt in the store was marked as “pistachio” but as it is darker and more yellowed than the lime green in the print, I see it as a chartreuse in person, not captured by the pictures.

The design itself was very basic.  Yet, between a good handful of darts on both the shorts and the crop top as well as fantastic real-life curves tailored into the seams I think such a simple little set ends up with a great fit I really never expected.  I like the way there was a lack of a waistband yet the shorts still hug my true waist.  The way the wide U-shaped neckline really squares up my shoulders and frames the face…and is easy to dress into with the front zipper!  Cotton duck can be rough and aggravating on the skin and the background of the print is white after all, so even though the instructions tell me to make a full lining I would have done so anyway.

I feel happy and confident in this play set in just the way I had dreamed of and only half-hoped for.  My squishy midsection makes me feel naked when I think about what I am wearing and become self-conscious.  My bigger booty and power hips and thighs have always made me self-conscious, too, in close fit bottoms, even more so in shorts.  That, combined with the fact I have never really found a pair of close fitting bifurcated bottoms – short or long – that could fit me, have made me shy away from such a thing in the mistaken belief they would not work for me.

Well, this is why I sew.  I am able to make what I want to wear and do so in a way that actually fits me and compliments me.  After a sewing a few skinny jeans that I love (posted here and here), this set was an opportunity to redeem something I never supposed I could or would wear and enjoy.  I believe fashion should be glorious fun, thoughtfully interesting, and individually personalized if anyone is going to feel truly comfortable in it.  It has to be an extension of oneself.  Achieving such a sweet spot with certain items that people are unsure about from the beginning – whether it’s someone who doesn’t like skirts or (like me) with a play set such as this – and ending up totally won over enough to feel as if you suddenly have a new type of garment that you can love your body in…that is when fashion helps you be your best self.  I am showing more skin than I am normally comfortable doing, but between my maker’s pride, the fun colors, the curious oddity of the fashion, and the joy of something new, I love myself in this Mod British summer sun suit!

A Little 1950’s Bra Top for a Pin-Up Style Summer

Going out of your own personal comfort zone can be hard without a strong incentive to precipitate making that first move ahead.  I’m not usually alright with small amounts of clothing on myself out in public, so making a vintage bra top was a bit out of my comfort zone but it sounded incredibly fun and different at the same time.  Stephanie at “The Girl with the Star Spangled Heart” blog hosted a ‘Vintage Playsuit Sew Along’ this summer, and I jumped on board to join and challenge myself to sew some “fun in the sun” pieces.

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This small 50’s bra top project is part one of playsuit set #2.  I used a brand spanking new Simplicity “Retro” re-issue (#1426) of a 1953 pattern for my bra top.  I had also planned on using another new Simplicity pattern (#1887) to make some contrasting linen shorts.  Along with my plan to make a matching tie front, belly skimming sleeveless blouse (from a vintage 1959 Simplicity 2999 pattern of mine) as a cover-up, all three pieces would together complete a playsuit.  However, like I’ve said before, sometimes life gets in the way of sewing…or is it the other way around???  The blouse pattern doesn’t have fabric assigned to it yet, while the shorts are not even started, but at least I have a sand colored linen on hand, ready to be cut.  A future post will have to feature an entire 50’s playsuit, hopefully this year or next year’s summer at the latest.

My 50’s bra top is for now the only piece of my future playsuit blogged about in this post.  It was such a fun, quick, and successful project that certainly makes for an unusual garment in my wardrobe.  Now I just need to find more places and reasons to get to wear it!

THE FACTS:  

FSimplicity1426ABRIC:  I chose a printed 100% cotton for the fabric of my 50s bra top.  It has a deep red color in the background, with golden yellow flowers outlined in dark brown.  It was on “Spot the Dot” clearance at Hancock Fabrics.  The lining for the inner cups of my bra top is an oatmeal colored cotton batiste that came from my scrap bin in the basement.

NOTIONS:  All the notions I needed were on hand already:  interfacing, thread (same color that was used for my “Christmas, 1946” dress), elastic, hook and eyes, and two vintage buttons from Hubby’s Grandmother’s stash.

1426linePATTERN:  Simplicity 1426, a retro/vintage pattern re-issued in 2014 from an original Simplicity #4333, year 1953.  I chose to make View A.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Sewing time to make up this project was 4 or 5 hours, but it actually took a bit longer because I (oopsie!) mis-cut a few of the straps.  My bra top was finished on June 24, 2014.

THE INSIDES:  So nice!  Following the pattern instructions gave me a wonderfully professional, cleanly finished project on which every seam is covered and enclosed.  I love it! 100_3269-comp,w

TOTAL COST:  The pattern calls for less than a yard, and with my floral fabric being on clearance, together with all my supplies being on hand, my total cost is about $3.00.  How reasonable is that?!

As usual, I browsed through numerous reviews and blog posts from others who have made what I was going to attempt for myself.  Many ladies noted that the cups tend to run a bit big for view A, the one I chose, necessitating in pulling the neck ties too tight around one’s neck to get a snug fit.  I wanted to avoid any such uncomfortableness, so I followed the advice of other seamstresses who have made more than one of Simplicity 1426’s bra tops, and I cut my version in a size down for the cups.  I stayed true to my chest size for the rest of the bra top (the side/back bands, the bottom strap, and the neck straps), cutting those parts out two sizes up from the cups, which is bigger than my normal (according to modern ‘Big 4’ patterns) bust size.  When marking the side bust darts for the cup panels, I also downsized further by chalking out a size smaller than the cups, which was as small as the pattern could go.  Thus, for a total round up clarification, I did a size 6 side bust darts, size 8 cups, and a 12 for the rest of the pieces.  I was surprised at how all the differently sizes pieces fit so smoothly together and did, in fact make the perfect fit for my body.  The great fit of this bra top makes me want to make another version in swimsuit material, and also try to make some lingerie and underwear for myself when I need it…because a great fit is the most comfortable thing in the world to wear!

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Interfacing was added to several pieces of my bra top upon my own intuition in order to make it more substantial.  I am very glad now for putting in the extra time and thought to interface even though the pattern does not say to do this step.  A light/medium interfacing went into the side/back panels as well as the bottom band, and I feel it really stabilizes the spots where the top might tend to wrinkle, droop, support, or otherwise hold the overall shape.  Interfacing does make the bottom band thicker than originally intended, but I just made sure to clip seams, take my time while stitching, and do a light ironing afterwards.  I almost wish I would have added seam tape to the inside of the bra top edges of the cups, but there is not too much stress on this seam compared to the parts which are interfaced, so, at this point, maybe I’m just nit-picking at my own creation (nothing new…).  What’s good enough is good enough.

dsc_0044a-compwThe back closure of my bra top is intended to be more forgiving, and more like a regular bra back than what the pattern calls for as finishing.  At the moment, I do not have access to any sewing machine with a button hole maker, so making buttonholes was out.  I know, my mind thought, “hey, here’s a reason to do hand-bound buttonholes…you have upholstery thread”.  However, an easy project is not as easy anymore if you add in a time consuming technique that you don’t really know if you’ll like in the end anyway, I told myself.  So, I got to work sewing on two small gold elastic loops in lieu of button holes.  Hubby half-emptied out his Grandmother’s button box to find these two creamy yellow/ivory buttons to match to the flowers in my printed cotton.  As an added precaution, I also stitched on two waistband hook-and-eyes to a vertical bar of elastic for a second closure.  Unhooked, and looking at the two ends (as in the left picture), my closure method kind of looks like overkill, but, it does still appear quite nice when together (see the right picture).  As long as it’s what I like and feel comfortable with, that’s all that matters.

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What I find interesting about the pattern for my bra top, Simplicity 1426 is labeled as 1950’s vintage, and is actually from 1953, but yet a simple Google search showed me a very interesting photo (at right) that reveals how this bra top styling actually began earlier than expected.  In July of 1943, Ella Raines, an American actress, posed for a picture in a playsuit with a top that looks very, very similar to the ‘view A’ which I made from Simplicity’s re-issued pattern.

I had no idea as to how we could arrange a photo shoot similar to Ella Raines’ vintageElla Raines, los angeles, Ca, july 1943 pool side picture, so most of our photo lounging around our backyard.  However, when we were out and about one evening, we took some extra photos of me for this post inside“Ronnie’s” Wehrenberg movie theater.  Ronnie’s theater is up the street from the my parent’s house where I grew up, and from 1948 to 1983 it was a drive-in movie place, remarkable for its miniature train and pony rides which would circle around the playground at Ronnie’s, entertaining the small children in attendance.  The Wehrenberg family’s theaters are very important to the local history of our town (as you can read here), with Ronnie’s theater being especially important because it was named after, and later managed by, Ronald, the grandson of the Wehrenberg founder.

It took a number of years for the closed Ronnie’s dive-in to be torn down and eventually turn into the mega complex of 20 movie screens that it is today.  I remember how, when I was quite little, my dad and I would walk up the street with my play plastic grocery cart and shovels and toy cars to play in the giant dirt pile leftover from what was the drive-in. (I guess this memory dates me a bit!)  My dad, in fact, was able to watch anything played at the drive-in from atop their house roof…that’s where he saw some of the original “Star Wars” movies.

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Anyway, putting my reminiscing aside, inside the modern Ronnie’s there is still a sort of a drive-in retro style diner as seen in the background of some of our pictures (more here).  Twenty one real 1950’s cars are halved and refitted to house a table and radio and booth seats where people can eat and watch sports games and vintage short films on the large projector-style screen.  Compare this to a similar drive-in diner at Disneyland in Florida which has only fiberglass replicas of retro cars!  Our little one loved pressing all of the dials on the aqua Chevrolet behind me in our pictures, and luckily all the front panel buttons are permanently “frozen” 🙂

My 1950’s bra top and drive-in theaters are pretty much one and the same thing more or less in my mind because they both are associated with mid-century ways to combine fun, rest, relaxation, and outdoor family time all in one.  How perfect is that?!

As usual, please check my Flickr page “Seam Racer” (click here for link) to see more photos.

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