Windows

A different view into a space apart from our own is essential to human existence.  We crave, we need an alternate vision, whether that view is into another living space or outside of our own quarters.  Windows keep us attuned to nature, in touch with society, and help us realize a bigger picture.  At certain times of our lives, we need to take advantage of a window in time to the schedule of our life and grab an escape, which is deeper and more lasting than a mere distraction.  “A distraction is momentary – an escape helps you heal.” (Quote from “We Look to You” in the Broadway musical “The Prom”.)  That process of reaching out – even if it’s as short as pausing to soak in a lovely picture, or as long listening to an orchestral piece, or as animated as a phone call with a friend – can be an opportunity to learn, grow, love, and find refreshment.  Such a train of thought is important in our world today, when the living quarters and life possibilities for many of us have become more limited.  Yet, it is also an important reflection for “Multicultural May”.  Take a trip with me then, into the wonderful world of India.

The Indian culture has as many grand architectural entrances as it does interesting open-back sari blouses for the ladies.  The bare-backed bodice of my tunic is my interpretation of the “chaniya choli” traditionally worn by Kutch women, a style which became prevalent throughout India beginning in the late 1940s.  My loose hipped, tapered leg trousers are in reminiscent of the kind of bottoms, called churidar pants, worn underneath an Indian tunic, the western words for what’s called a kurdi.  Together, I have merged a casual, all-occasion style (the kurdi and churidar) with a features of a garment for fancy, special occasions (choli, aka sari blouse) into one creation of individual interpretation.

My main accessories are fair-trade, handmade Indian imported goods bought from a local market.  My bracelet matches in the way it is a small window of itself.  I was so excited to find it!  It is a raw hammered brass wrist cuff.  My necklace is a combo of aqua grass beads and more brass with the excess of chain.  Finally because one’s treasured, best gold pieces are an important contribution to any Indian outfit, my hoop earrings had been a sweet Christmas gift from my husband and had to be included here!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  I used 2 yards of a printed 100% rayon challis direct from India for the tunic, and fully lined it in a buff finish polyester lining. The pants are a Telio Ponte de Roma knit in a 65% Rayon, 30% Nylon, 5% Spandex medium to heavy weight opaque material in a spruce green color.

PATTERNS:  Burda Style “Cut Out Back Dress” pattern #124 from June 2015 for the tunic, and a true vintage McCall’s #5263, year 1959, from my pattern stash

NOTIONS:  I just needed thread, two zippers, and a small bit of interfacing for both projects.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The tunic was finished in late last year (2019) in about 15 hours, and the pants were made this May of 2020 after only 8 hours.

THE INSIDES:  The tunic, as I said, is fully lined, and the pants inner edges are left raw because they don’t unravel

TOTAL COST:  The Ponte knit (from “Sew Stylish Fabrics” on Etsy) was about $25 for the one yard I needed, and the material for the tunic was about $15 (the rayon was on sale at “Fibers to Fabric” on Etsy and the lining was a discounted remnant at JoAnn).  My total is $40.

Kutch district is in the Gujarat state is the culture of India that I am most familiar with through some close family friends who are like family to us.  So it’s no wonder that I chose it as my influence once again (see this post for reference)!  I will be exploring more regions of India in my future ethnic-influenced self-made fashion…I did already touch on the central region with my “homage to the Rani” vintage dress…and Gujarat is west.  Goodness, I acknowledge there is such a richness of traditions, artisan crafts, environment, history, and special people everywhere you look, but especially India has such fabulous fashion to boot!  I greatly respect how every detail to traditional Indian clothing has a reason, symbolism, and meaning.  Yet, I also love how the India of today is not afraid to merge modern renditions of clothing with a homage to their traditional past.  Personally I like to take a 20th century vintage twist on India’s fashion, on top of all that!  That’s a lot to take in, right?!  So you see there are many ways to interpret Indian clothing with proper provenance.

This set is half vintage really.  As “The Facts” show, I used a true vintage pattern and a modern Burda Style pattern together.  Modern or not though, the tunic is strikingly similar to vintage – especially 1930s – styles.  In the depression era, many styles of fashion for women – mainly evening wear – were all about making a grand parting by sporting a “party from behind”.  I am all for that trend!  I have a whole Pinterest page here full of eye candy for the open-back trend.  It is a common feature to women’s Indian cholis (see this post or this post for some modern examples)!  Luckily, Burda keeps offering designs every so often with such a feature, too.  Now, I have sewn many open-back garments before (look under my “Modern” and my “Burda Style” pages to see them) but this one was by far the trickiest to find the right fit.  This is the main reason why I chose a 50’s pattern for the pants, because let’s face it…I find the fit of vintage patterns to generally be spot on for me, especially when it comes to pants.  Something guaranteed to be an instant success was welcome after the many issues I had with this Burda Style tunic.

I had to resize both projects due to them being in petite sizing.  Firstly, I’ll address the wonderful pants!  The “multi-sized” pattern were supposed to have three different proportions, but the ‘regular’ was missing from the envelope, the ‘tall’ was uncut, and the ‘petite’ was cut down to shorts length… ugh.  I had to retrace the pattern onto sheer medical paper and add some width for the smaller size to be my measurements, and then I was good to go.  No other adjustments were necessary and so I doubt a new pattern could offer better than this – it’s just what I had in mind!  Too bad they are mostly covered up by the rest of my outfit but no worries!  As basic as they are, I will certainly be wearing a lot of these pants with plenty of other tops, though.

Secondly, the tunic was the first time I had worked with a Burda petite pattern and I wasn’t quite sure how much to add horizontally to bring it up to regular proportions.  As I was sewing it up, I regretted adding in any extra allotment because this pattern seems to run long in the torso (very weird for a petite sizing).  I did do a tissue fit beforehand, but paper cannot quite account for the give of the bias grain, and there is a lot of that in the design of this tunic, especially when it is cut of something as slinky as rayon challis.  Thus, I had to take the garment in along the ‘kimono’ style (non-set-in, cut on sleeve) shoulder seam, which threw off the neckline, which messed with the proper bias.  Now do you see why this was a problem project?

I do like how changing the neckline forced me to be creative and add details to the tunic that I like better than the original design.  There was a lot of extra room in the chest because of the fit adjustments I made everywhere else.  I needed to bring that extra fabric in to fit by using a means that looked intentional, and not just what it was – an adjustment on the fly.  The best I could come up with was to make a soft, slightly angled pleat on each side of the neckline to shape the bust from across the upper chest.  It reminds me of a frame for the face and my necklace, as well as adding symbolical angles to the “window” theme of my outfit.  It’s so funny how a “mistake” taken with the right outlook can add so much good to the originality of what you create.

There were quite a few small tweaks I did to both pieces, as well as lessons learned.  I did not really need the zipper up the back of the back waist to the tunic – mine fit loose enough that I only wasted my time on a perfect invisible closure.  I did get rid of the back neckline button to less complicate things, then sewed down a hanging decorative tassel instead (sari top/choli reference).  How this pattern works as a dress I don’t know because the bottom hem was so confining and tight, besides being so short (I lengthened it by several inches for my version)!  I did plan on opening up the one seamline to be a thigh slit anyway so the snug hem width didn’t really matter too much anyway other than figuring out the pattern’s original design fit.  The pants originally called for a sewn-on set waistband, but I found them sitting high enough at my waist as it was.  I used the interfaced waistband piece to instead make a facing to turn inside so as to have a smooth edge for a very simple, streamlined style.

In case you noticed, I have been calling my upper garment a tunic in this post, as I feel it is a modern hybrid of a traditional cultural garment.  Kurdi are usually a bit longer in length than this, at least to the knees in my understanding, but I was short on fabric to make it any longer in length.  The tunic I made still makes the ethnic reference I intended and has the general properties of a kurdi the way I am wearing it.  A good churidar pant has its stretch coming from being cut on the bias grain, but modern Western-influenced young people often wear leggings or skinny pants as a substitute and so my bottoms are along that vein.  I do like the subtle reference to the May of 1960 split in the Bombay State along the Gujarat-speaking north by using a vintage pattern from ‘59.  I absolutely love the high waist, comfy fit, cozy body-hugging Ponte knit properties, and the slightly tapered but still full enough to be easy-to-move-in legs.

This outfit is very fun as well as quite different and very freeing.  I enjoy wearing it!  It is a unique garment combination for me to sew, too.  As out of the ordinary this set is for me to make and wear, it is a more ‘common’ Indian ethnic outfit for my wardrobe (versus dressy dresses and my fancy Sherwani coat).  I do love variety in my wardrobe, but variety is more important to help us to being open and understanding of other people and cultures.  Understanding India can be both challenging and intimidating because of its richness of history and traditions, so please never resort to easy-to-find stereotypes as a source for information.  I hope my little posts can shed some extra light on India that you never saw before.  However, don’t just stop at the month of May to focus on growing a multicultural understanding!  It should be a year ‘round effort, especially when there are so many beautiful clothes to see and appreciate!  What is your favorite “window” to a world outside of your own?

Burda’s Dupe Wrap Skirt and Tie-On Blouse

Okay, okay, I fully realize I have an addiction to anything remotely purple, but I’m definitely not going to do anything about it.  I’m just going to keep on wearing what makes me happy!  Yet, I am at least trying to find new shades of that color to love, such as the fuchsia and burgundy colors in my last two posts.  This modern Burda Style outfit which I made a few years back definitely falls in that category, and the fact that they are very useful yet elegant separate pieces makes them perfect for many seasons and occasions.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  2 ½ yards of a crinkled polyester print for the blouse and just under 2 yards of a crepe back satin poly for skirt

PATTERN:  Both patterns are from Burda Style are also both from their December 2015 edition.  The blouse is #124 and the skirt is #115

NOTIONS:  All I needed was lots of thread and one zipper!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  Both garments were finished in November 2017 – 5 hours was spent to make the skirt and 8 hours went towards the blouse.

THE INSIDES:  My blouse is entirely French seamed inside while my skirt has bias bound side seam edges.

TOTAL COST:  As these were clearance fabrics, bought so many years back at the now defunct Hancock Fabrics, this whole outfit probably cost me less than $20…but honestly I don’t remember anymore!

Even though my entire outfit’s fiber content is polyester, I find both pieces are more comfortable to wear than your ‘normal’ man-made material.  The blouse’s fabric has a wonderful crushed texture to it that makes ironing non-issue and keeps it from feeling uncomfortably clingy to the skin.  It floats weightlessly around my body for a very sexy slinkiness.  Even though I had several yards of fabric, and the sleeves alone took up almost a yard, I still have some significant blouse material leftover that will just have to wait for a future project to finish it off.

The skirt’s fabric is soft, flowing, and very good quality.  It has a darker, more raisin or rich wine color, with a satin side and a lighter, more purple toned, buff crepe side.  I used the satin side facing out on the lower body of the skirt, while the buffed crepe side went towards the hip panel and the waistband.  This is the fourth time I am using this fabric – the first time was to make the ‘pocket’ flaps and the belt for my 1955 Redingote jacket (post here), the second time was for this 1950s dress slip, and the third time was as the contrast for this early 1930s dress.  I truly squeezed out every inch of potential my small 3 something yard cut of fabric!

The patterns pieces and the construction for these two separate pieces was so much simpler than it might appear.  I highly recommend them.  Both have a generous fit and came together in no time, with little need for extra shaping.  For the blouse, that is understandable because it is not supposed to be fitted.  For the skirt, the loose fit is because it is meant to sit below the waist and sit around the hips.  The fact the front mock wrap look to the skirt is really only a deep pleat not only makes for full leg coverage but also easy sewing.  I could have technically gone down a size for both the blouse and skirt instead of choosing my ‘normal’ size and still have room probably.  I’m just happy with to have them and be wearing them.  For these designs, a well-tailored fit is not as important or glaringly obvious.

My only variance from the original design of either piece was to add ties to each end of the blouse and adapt the sleeve hem for a bias band cuff.  The sleeves were way too fussy and so very long the way Burda designed them, so I cut off the excess fabric and gathered the hem ends into self-drafted wide bias bands.  A mere side button closing wasn’t going to do the trick, neither was just wrapping it under a waistband, I thought. So the ties I added help add to the versatility of this blouse because now I can tie it more than one way!  The front can be crossed like an X, or one side over the other like a regular wrap top.  Many looks out of one top is further achieved by switching up what I wear underneath – especially when that is my 1950s slip made out of the same material as my skirt!

If I had been using a solid color material for the blouse, I might have chosen to asymmetrically button the wrap front much like this vintage 1940s pattern below, Butterick #3964.  Truth be told though, I think this Burda top is a call back to the 1970s era (look at Butterick 6887 pattern as an example) with its full sleeves, loose style, and the crazy blocked print fabric I used.  I can just picture a Disco dancer wearing this with some bell bottoms!  The blouse is fabulous to move around in, with full freedom of movement and a dramatic swish with every sway of my arms.

The skirt still remains controlled in shape for every movement, and is a great restrained contrast to the top.  It strikes me as quite classy, especially in such a rich color.  I love the fact that I don’t have to worry about flashing too much leg with the faux wrap appearance.  (Of course, Burda shows you how to make the skirt have a full slit if you want.)  Even though the horizontal hip panel doesn’t visually minimize that widest section of my body, I do think that the restrained skirt and the blouse wrapping around the waist evens proportions out.

The skirt also looks best with snug body fitting sweater tops in the winter or light colored, simple tops in the summer, to again both even out the wide waistband and dark tone.  Its pattern recommendations call for materials with a heavier weight (woolens or even a sequined knit) than a silky polyester as I chose, and I found through trial that it’s a good idea, after all – it would keep the skirt in place on the hips just from the weight, for one thing.  The longer, ankle length version has a silhouette even more tapered down to a skinny hem and is so pretty for an evening style.  It makes me want to revisit this pattern in the future.

This staying-at-home business is turning my mind to try all sorts of fashion ideas.  You, know, I’m always on the fence about whether or not I prefer a loose, flowing, romantic fashion or a well-tailored, precisely fitted outfit.  Through this quarantine, I’ve been going from a new fascination with the 1920s era to my good-old-standby favorite decade the 1940s, from a bold and clingy t-shirt dress (previous post) to this vintage-inspired yet modern combo of easy separates.  Sewing is one of the many facets of life right now keeping me sane, just as blogging does, and in between it all I am trying new things yet still endeavoring to not forget myself in all this craziness.  My sewing, just the same as anybody else’s, is uniquely individual and it’s my visual manifestation of what’s knocking around in my head!  What’s getting you by these last few months? Do you notice your style preferences changing at all?