Tennis Top

In the quest for more sportswear that is also part of my handmade wardrobe, I have branched out to make something perfect for playing one of my favorite games – tennis!  This top had been part of a previous project back from 2016, only to be left unfinished when my ideas changed.  However, I detest sewing items lurking on the backburner and am a stickler for needing the projects I start to be fully finished.  At last I have conquered this little odd dress bodice to make it a top that does the job of a sports bra but with a fashionable, fun, me-made flair! 

This is a totally different side of me that is uniquely lacking in my normal glamour to show here on my blog.  Thus I am a bit unsure about sharing it yet too happy with what I’ve made to hold it back.  I felt it tied in nicely with my previous post of 1940s sporty, bibbed “short-alls” so I am sharing this now versus waiting until it is officially summer.  This is not a vintage piece, coming from a Burda Style pattern from 2016, but it does incorporate one of my favorite things – color blocking.  All of my favorite tones are here present – rich purple, bright pink, and a royal blue – all in a way that calls to mind a lovely stained glass window.  The black piping becomes likened to the “cames” of grooved lead which hold together the panels of color in a glass window.  I love the irony of recalling delicate stained glass for an item used for an activity that is quite the opposite – slamming of balls and full body movements.  Tennis is not listed as a high impact sport but it is the way I play it!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a shirting basics stretch cotton sateen

PATTERN:  Burda Style’s ‘A-Line Cocktail Dress’ #122, from 03/2016 (see the German Burda Style page for actual pictures of the pattern, though)

NOTIONS NEEDED:  I had to buy an extra pack of piping to finish this, as well as the back separating zipper, but other than that all I needed was lots of thread, which I always have on hand

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The original piped bodice took me about 5 hours back in 2016, but then for the recent fitting and finishing I spent another 4 hours

THE INSIDES:  left raw…the stretch in the cotton keeps the fraying of the fabric in check

TOTAL COST:  I no longer remember because the fabrics had been on hand from before 2016!

The sizing definitely ran small and quite wonky for the original Burda dress pattern that my top came from.  See a full recap on this post here. Such a sizing discrepancy luckily didn’t extend to the skirt portion of the dress, but the top half was another story.  Neither did I have any more fabric to recut anything.  All the vertical seams together with the fact I added in piping to them set up any fitting adjustments to be a major headache.  I definitely had to come back to adjust such an unfinished object when I was fully ready and equipped with a definite purpose and incentive to complete this.

It was a sewing project I truly wrestled with to just barely make it fit enough to be salvageable.  Letting out the 5/8 inch seams to 3/8 inch in some places was barely just enough to have this squeeze on my body as well as get the piping back in again.  The piping makes the color gradient panels pop with the definition but definitely restrains the stretch of the fabric in between.  It restricts the curvy seams significantly yet I loved the overall effect too much to give up on the idea.  Now that it is done, I feel that the piping makes sure the fabric doesn’t over-extend its elasticity and also helps this have such a snug fit, which I normally wouldn’t like but found a purpose for this time.   

I took advantage of the fact this top has wonderful stretch and is skin tight to wear this as my sports bra.  I have only worn loose tee shirts for tennis before and have never been happy with how I move and feel sloppily clammy while wearing them.  This top is like a second skin, and keeps my assets securely in place.  The top itself stays in place on my body, is fuss-free, and does not get in the way of my movement at all like my loose tee shirts were doing.  Plus, the sateen doesn’t show sweat, keeps me cool while wicking any moisture away, and still looks nice.  I never knew what to do with it before now since I formerly saw it only as a failure left behind from an unfinished project.  Now that this top is not only finished but also useful with a purpose, I am so taken by it.  I have something I always needed but never knew I wanted…and I made it myself, which is even better! 

In lieu of the side seam zipper I originally planned for when this top was to be part of a dress, I changed to a center back separating sports zipper.  A sports zipper is more heavy duty, with chunkier teeth, and the fact it opened up at both ends makes this top very easy to put on.  I left the zipper exposed to not only save every little bit of room I could spare but also because it visually gives a black line in the seam similar to the piping in all the other seams.  The black back zipper gave me the ideal combo of functionality and aesthetics in one easy step.

Not that I would highly recommend this pattern, but this is the perfect stash busting project.  The pattern pieces for this top could probably even fit on some cotton “fat quarters”.  When I was originally making this, I happened upon three colors of the same fabric in my stash, all in a stretch cotton shirting, in colors which complimented each other.  They just had to be made into a garment together! 

The pink is a whole 2-something bolt, still in my stash meant for a future project, while the other two colors were under ¼ yard scraps.  I just gleaned a small amount off of the total cut of pink, not enough to dent my greater plans for it.  With some recent re-organizing of my fabric bins I happened to come across this pink fabric again, and so I took the opportunity to shave off a tad more to cut bias strips to finish the armhole openings.  At the same time, I also happened to find some scraps of black stretch cotton sateen on hand, leftover from a store bought dress I had re-fashioned years back.  I then used this to finish off the neck and bottom hem edges.  I was left with the feeling my top was very barely cobbled together but also amazed that such little amounts were all I needed.  The stash busting redemption of this top has left me further satisfied with it even though the fit of the design is much lacking.

You see on my blog what kind of styles I stitch together for everything else in my life.  Now that I’ve finished making this tennis top you see what I wear for sporting exercise fun!  Have you made some athletic wear pieces for yourself?  What is your favorite sport?

A 1958 Happy Ending Horror in Knit

As pretty as this dress might seem at sight, this beast was a nightmare to make.  Luckily there is at least a happy conclusion!  I do love wearing this – it totally feels like the best of a classic dress (in a vintage design no less) which is comfortable, feminine, handy (with the pockets), and oh-so flattering!  This is a faux asymmetric wrap dress reissue, first released by Burda Style in January 1958, very applicable and wearable for today.

I did have a different plan for how I intended this dress to turn out for this project but I felt it was best to listen to the fabric and leave what’s well enough alone!  I’ll admit that a good part of the problems I encountered here were because of my choice of fabric.  I hate the fickleness and frustrating delicacy of an all-cotton knit!  But that can’t take all the blame.  You see, I find Burda Style’s vintage designs to be quite problematic and almost always an exhausting near disaster that requires much fine tuning and the outlook of possible tragedy acceptance to turn into a success.  It’s not so much the fault of the garment design lines…I find the problem is mostly with the patterns’ ill assembly and poor sizing.  This is why I stupidly keep using Burda’s vintage designs – because in the end they do turn out a wonderful vintage garment with a modern, timeless feel!

A 1950s Dior-style flower, made by me as well from fabric leftovers of the lining, was sewn onto a clip and became both my matching accessory and color contrast.  My prized vintage style leather Miz Mooz heels tie in the retro feel and provide a neutral tan.  However, the blooming rhododendron bushes (behind me) at our towns botanical gardens sure made me realize that blue is more of a neutral color than I thought.  It pairs well with all the colors of spring!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  dusty blue 100% cotton knit for the outside, and polyester interlock to line the inside

PATTERN:  Burda Style #122, “Retro Style Dress” a 1958 design from January 2018

NOTIONS:  All I needed was thread and a zipper, both of which were on hand

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress took me about 30 hours, which is twice the time it takes me for a “normal” dress.  It was finished on April 20, 2018

THE INSIDES:  All raw edges are completely covered by the second skin interlock lining inside!

TOTAL COST:  Taking into account that the fabrics for my dress have been in my stockpile for maybe up to 15 years now, I’m counting this project as a free, no-cost, stash-busting success!

Now, as for any Burda Style pattern, printing and/or tracing is necessary to have a usable pattern to lay on your desired fabric.  My pattern was came from the monthly magazine issue, using a roll of sheer medical paper to trace the pieces out from the insert sheet, but if you buy from the online store, you download, print, and assemble the PDF file you receive first.  It’s at this preliminary step that I pick out my chosen size and add in your choice of seam allowance width (I normally add in 5/8 inch allowance), but others do this directly on the fabric as they are cutting out.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide attached helps immensely for adding on the seam allowance easily.  Sorry to repeat something you might already know, but this is just an “FYI” for those that don’t.  Now, prepare yourself for unbridled criticism in the form of a sewist’s horror story.

When I was making this dress, there were so many inconsistencies with the balance marks not fitting quite right and little areas everywhere that needed stretching in the ease just to have everything match up.  I do not necessarily think this was due to faults from my tracing out of the pattern either – I am usually so very precise about being ‘perfect’ at the preliminary stages to a project.  These pattern irregularities make me definitively say that this needs to be made with a knit.  I’m not talking about one with a high spandex content or one that is super drapey.  The model garment is I believe made using a wool jersey.  I can see a quality scuba knit even working out well here.  Either way, I would recommend choosing something with a nice body and a stable give to its stretch for this dress to be a success.  A knit will be more forgiving to the inadequacies of the pattern’s assembly, yet it also needs to be a material that will help this lovely dress keep it wonderful 50’s design.

However, the most glaring and sad shortcoming of the pattern was the way the waist length of the un-pleated asymmetric bodice front was several inches too short to connect to the skirt or even match with the bodice back.  I am mystified at what happened here and want to blame the pattern but at the same time I cannot positively rule out that it was an error on my part.  Either way, I was stuck to adding on a panel swatch to lengthen the waist.  There was no more fabric leftover for another bodice piece to be cut, so an awkward add-on was my only bet to save this dress project.  I do not think it is really that noticeable, although I have called it to your attention now!  It kind of looks like a mock belt to me, anyway, and half of that bodice is tucked under the overlapping one after all.  All I can say is watch out for that spot on this pattern if you try it for yourself.

The mock wrap to the bodice is further unconventional in the way that the left is over the right for my dress.  This is the tricky part about asymmetric fashions there is a very precise right side up to the pattern pieces.  In order for them to specifically be for the left or for the right side they have to be cut with a foresight that justifies the puzzle that asymmetric fashions are.  I traced out the patterns as they were on the insert sheet and assumed they were giving them to me with all the right sides up…not so!  The bodice fronts actually are traced out wrong side up.  Do not put too much faith in a pattern but always think things through for yourself.  That said, I myself am not perfect, and have been struggling with some ill heath lately, so I was not at the top of my game going into this.  Only when I was too far along assembling this dress did I realize how my asymmetric front was oppositely convoluted.  At that point, I felt it was more important to have the pleated half as the top layer of the mock wrap bodice.  I reconciled myself with the fact that this would be a uniquely individual garment, and as long as it turned out I would be happy with the right and left side traditional closing being off.

As if these last problems weren’t enough, I had a mishap with the fabric and was forced to turn my dress into short elbow length sleeves.  I originally intended on the full quarter length as shown, but there was an inkling in the back of my mind that I might not like them.  As traced from the pattern, the sleeves were actually quite longer than quarter length – more of a bracelet length, reaching just a few inches above my wrist.  I felt that such sleeves might overwhelm the dress and make it seem more like a winter garment (it was released in January 1958). However I wanted a transitional cool weather spring dress.  Well, the dress made up my mind for me.

You see, I do not get along with all cotton content knit.  Sure I have several success stories with it in the past (here and here for only two examples).  Yet every single time I use it, I hate it.  I think this blue knit is about the last of its kind in my stash (there’s one more), and when it’s finally gone I should celebrate.  I use the right needles that I should be using (ball tip, for jersey knits), and in the past I have tried every other kind of needle just as a test, and I still get the same sad results.  This fabric for me is a no-mistakes allowed fabric because wherever there is a stitch made, there will be a hole leftover if that stitching is taken out.  It says together decently enough when stitched as long as those stitches are left alone, but even too much stress on a seam and things will get ugly because cotton knit gets runs in it just like pantyhose!  Has anyone else run into these problems with all cotton knit?  Surely I am not unique with this.

Anyway, I had particularly bad hole, leftover from an unpicking attempt, start unravelling the fabric in one of the sleeves a few inches down from where the underarm gussets end.  Well, I had to laugh.  I had been struggling with this dress enough, and still had the entire lining to sew at this point.  I wasn’t sold on the full length sleeves in the first place.  The best fix was to go with my gut and make them short sleeves, like I thought!  I love the length of this sleeve and must say I think it does wonders for the overall shape of the dress.  The sloping shoulders and the gussets are a tad confining, anyway, so the short sleeves make this dress much easier to move your arms in, too!

I did not really make any major or unnecessary changes to the design, except those done to save the dress from ruin.  After all the troubles I had come across, I kept the skirt simple and opted for no back walking vent.  Such a feature would not really work with a knit fabric anyway.  Having a one piece skinny tapered skirt really amps up the curvy silhouette to this dress, after all!  I am not one for popular, stereotypical pin-up styles, but the no-slit skirt is I feel as small nod to those fashions.  I have no trouble walking in it without the leg vent, as the knit is a bit forgiving anyway.  There is a very wide 4 ½ inch hem at the skirt bottom to make as long as you see it on my 5 foot 3 inch frame.

The front skirt details were the most successful and relatively easy part of the whole dress.  Granted the pockets did not fit together very well when I lined up the skirt over the side hip panel.  Big surprise!  But the mismatching pockets actually helped the hip section of the dress to pouf out properly, which in turn disguises how roomy those pockets actually are.  I have already made a dress from the previous decade (one of my Agent Carter 40’s fashions) which had a very similar side front hip pocket style so this must have been a popular feature in the middle 20th century.  I not surprised.  Since when can you have a dressy dress that actually has very useful pockets that are part of the smart design lines?!  Just remember, with this kind of skirt you cannot have a tight fit because not only would that pull open the pockets, but it would ruin the important element of that design feature.  The skirt front is meant to complement the waist by exaggerating the hips (as the 1950s were wont to do) in conjunction with softening the shoulder line by using kimono sleeves and underarm gussets.

One last note that is neither bad nor good – the waist to this dress is quite high.  I didn’t see it on the model until after I realized it on myself.  The high waist on my body is about 2 inches below from the dress’ waist seam, and it looks to be about the same for the model dress from Burda Style, too.  This is kind of odd, and I don’t think that lowering the waistline no more than a few inches would hurt the overall design.  In same breath, I also would like to say that much as I’m not crazy about the higher waist seam, I actually think it does this dress good.  Many 1950s dresses or tops with kimono sleeves have them so deeply cut that they are supposed to taper right into the bodice at a high waist (such as on this dress of mine), thereby shortening and widening the top half of the female body (image wise, granted) and overemphasizing the hips by not just padding, pleats or what not, but also by starting at a high hipline. Even though the 1950s were heavy on the body mage crafting, especially when it came to employing torturous undergarments to achieve that idealized shaping, the general silhouette can still work well today on many body types.  Accepting and embracing our womanly curves and shaping with fashions that delicately, thoughtfully compliment them (such as this dress) is empowerment at its best.  It is the 1950s finding its modern freedom of re-interpretation.

When I was planning out what fabrics to use for this dress I had these grand plans to add cut-out floral designs to the bodice and skirt hem of the dress.  These designs would have been in the style of the amazing Alabama Chanin – see what I mean here.  This is the primary reason why I used my lovely peach remnant of interlock as the lining.  I expected the peach lining to show through when I would cut away the dusty blue top layer.  I do enjoy how the little bit of peach peeks out from the seam edges along the pocket tops and bodice wrap neckline!  It’s like a sneaky peek hint of the time I spent to make the inside just as pretty as the out, besides being a fun and unexpected color combo.

After the dress was done, I sort of like the chic simplicity of the design as it is.  Is has a refreshing appeal that can be made a bit more casual or dressed up with the right accessories, and a clear asymmetric design that would be detracted from with any other added business going on.  Besides – the way the fabric frays and comes apart I was definitely not doing any unnecessary cutting!  My dress was done, it was lovely, it fit me and I saved it from way too many near disasters.  Most importantly my sewing sanity was still intact.  I’m smart enough to know when to stop with the ideas…most of the time!

I do hope I haven’t scared you off from trying this pattern for yourself.  Rather, I would hope this post might be regarded as equipping you to succeed if you try the pattern.  The 1950’s are indeed at decade of lovely fashions, and I think this dress is a really easy way to wear a truly vintage look without appearing to be in a retro style.  It’s like vintage blending in with the modern world, and this is the styles I love to find.  Our fashion of today is often lost and misdirected in the whirl of four seasons a year of new fads, new ideas, and attempts at creativity.  Sometimes we just have to slow down, look around back to where we came from and let those smart fashions been seen right in front of us, where they have been all along…in the past classic styles which have never gone out of season, never needed updating.

“Iris Garden” Burda Style Dress

Like a garden that emerges from its winter slumber to become a lovely surprise, this dress also took a different direction from what I originally planned but turned out nice in the end.  I feel like I’m wearing the season of spring with my dress…if that is remotely possible.

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I originally hoped to make a new Burda pattern into an art dress, one that would remind someone of a stained glass window.  However, to make the garment aesthetically uniform and complementary for my taste I had to combine two patterns to give the dress a new bodice and finish it as you see it. I am still a bit disappointed to not be able to make an idea that I had in my mind, but I’ll still try to scratch that itch.

As for this dress…well, all’s well that ends well, I suppose.  My hubby calls the dress ‘cute’ or ‘sweet’, and it is so comfy with my favorite colors I will admit.  Also, iris flowers are in my “favorites” list of botanicals since they are akin to the fleur-did-lis and King St. Louis IX, patron of our town.  I personally find it just mediocre and rather un-exciting as compared to other projects, nor does it come at all close to the avant-garde design I had planned.  However, I do love a dress that appears quite nice but actually feels on myself like a lazy day Saturday garment…this is that kind of dress.  Can’t beat that!

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I do have a really interesting bodice left over to work with and I could use your help and input as to what to do with it (you’ll see it further down and I’ll still give it a full review).  Please let me know what you think!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The trio of solid colors in the original but unused bodice are all cotton sateen.  The bottom skirt half is a quilter’s cotton, “Deco Delight” “Iris garden” designed by “Fabric Freedom” in London, England.  The current dress bodice is a cotton knit with a slight pebbled silver sheen printed on the good side (leftover from my camouflage knit dress).  The facing for the neckline of the current bodice is from a scrap piece of polyester crepe back satin in light pink, also.

A-Line Cocktail Dress 03-2016 #122NOTIONS:  I had the seam tape, piping, lining, a 9 inch zipper, and thread needed on hand already.  I just had to go out to buy an extra pack of piping.

PATTERNS:  Burda Style’s ‘A-Line Cocktail Dress’ #122, from 03/2016, found online or in the monthly magazine, and Burda Style #7301, a paper tactile pattern (not online)Burda Style 7301, vintage style dress with arched neckline

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The original piped bodice took me about 5 hours, while the skirt took maybe 2 hours, and the new knit bodice took me about an hour and a half.

THE INSIDES:  I kept things simple for the inside and its finishing.  Everything is double stitched but left with raw edges.

TOTAL COST:  The “Deco Delight” fabric was a special order off of the internet and 2 ½ yards cost me about $30 (yikes!).  As my chosen Tiffany print fabric is from England, I had a hard time finding an American seller…this is reason for the higher price.  The pink knit was from my scrap bin, and the sateen fabrics were all on hand already, bought to be made into other projects, so I just cut small bits from those bolts for my Tiffany Art dress.  Thus they cost pittance in the scheme of things.  So I guess my dress cost me about $35.00.

As for any Burda Style pattern from online or out of a magazine, printing and/or tracing is necessary to have a usable pattern to lay on your desired fabric.  My “Cocktail Dress” #122 pattern was traced out from the insert sheet of the magazine issue using a roll of medical paper but you can also buy it, download it, and print it out from Burda Style’s online store.  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size and add in your choice of seam allowance width.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped.  Sorry to repeat something you might already know, but this is just an “FYI” for those that don’t know.  Now, none of this is needed with a paper tactile pattern (which is sold through Simplicity, I believe) – all seam allowances are included and it’s a regular conventional pattern (to me in America) except for the European sizing.

This dress’ original pattern has good points to its style but the fitting definitely has fair share of problems, too.  Firstly, I found the bodice design just lovely but so sadly lacking in the proper curving in the right places.  The outward curve isn’t nearly properly generous DSC_0337a-compenough for the bust, while (without adjustments) there is an awkward pucker on the upper chest.  It’s like the bust went into the wrong place – even I know it’s not parallel with the chest just below the collarbone.  As you can see in my picture, starting at 4 ½ inches down, I had to unpick to straighten out the curve ¼ inch in to eliminate the pucker.  Also, I had to add in darts to the top back bodice (close to the neck) and the side bust (by the front underarm).  The back neck darts are about ½ inch by 4 inches long while the bust darts are about 5/8 inch by 3 inches in.  These darts do make it a bit more of a snug fit, and it’s already a tad snug for I think the bodice runs small, but a least it’s a tailored fit now.  For the good points, the skirt is quick and straightforward.  Although the bodice isn’t hard to sew besides the bothersome fitting, the skirt portion is easy and fits well with the sizing DSC_0433-compright on.  I made the skirts’ front box pleat fold a bit crisper by finishing off the bottom hem before adding in the insert, and hemming the pleat insert separately before sewing it into the rest of the skirt.  There’s no continuous horizontal seam to interfere with the vertical seams of the box pleat the way I did it, but it doesn’t have to be done this way.

I am tickled by the way the skirt holds a surprise in its design with the center front box pleat.  When I’m just standing you’d never guess the box pleat would be there, the skirt appears to be knife pleated with a bell-flared silhouette.  Then, all of a sudden if I move or kick up high – surprise, there’s more fabric to come out of it’s hiding like the magic skirt that never stops expanding.

One Burda pattern went towards fixing another Burda pattern!  The “Cocktail Dress” is an odd mix, I should have seen this misfit coming but the lovely solid color of the model dress deceived me.  The bodice is overly modern and dramatic (especially the way I made it) and the skirt is more classic with enough going on too, but in a separate more feminine theme especially with my floral printed cotton. The replacement bodice from the Burda paper pattern was so super easy with sizing right on and lovely details.

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I personally think this bodice is the correct pairing for the skirt and does wonders to the silhouette.  I went back to what I know about creating a visual deception of wide shoulders of the 1940’s and 1950’s to balance out a pleated or full skirt.  Thus I knew I needed a pattern with a wide neck, preferably simple, to complement the skirt and slim the waist…thus I went for a kimono sleeve bodice with a sweet neckline arch that reminds me of the femininity of the overall dress.  The only adaptation I did to accommodating adding this bodice to my existing skirt was to extend the bottom by and inch so the dress’ horizontal center would fall at a high waist rather than an empire height.  Now, I have a dress which visually takes off pounds from my figure – yay!DSC_0455-comp

Besides switching bodices, the zipper closure was moved to the side underarm, rather than having it down the center back.  This side zipper placement didn’t mar my plan of adding in piping to the bodice seams, but as that bodice wasn’t used it made for a nice clean garment design keeping the zipper on the side.  I also didn’t line the bodice – either of them.  I did not want to restrict what stretch I had in the sateen of the piped bodice – and besides, I do not know exactly what to do with it yet anyway.  The pink knit bodice needed to be lightweight and thin so as to give let the bottom skirt half give it the right pull from below to hang right and stay in place on my shoulders.

Now what do I do with the piped tri-colored bodice?  As you see it, the edges are currently unfinished and there is no proper closure.  I really do like it, I spent enough time to make it and finally got it to fit me just right I want to do something interesting with it.  The bodice almost reminds me of a swim top or cropped sports tank the way it is like a second skin and has the streamlined contouring design.

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Do I just keep it has a separate crop top to pair with whatever for the bottoms?  Should I add in a short separating side zip or just have hook and eyes?  What bottoms will go with this – a high-waisted skinny pencil skirt (like Butterick 6326) or shorts or what else?  Do I turn the top into the bodice for a dress (and what kind of dress) or maybe a jumpsuit?  I know I’ll figure these queries out but I can’t put a finger on the right idea yet, so I’d be grateful if you can help me by sharing your ideas and thoughts.