“See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me.
What’s beyond that line? Will I cross that line?
If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me, one day I’ll know…”
-lyrics from the song “How Far I’ll Go”
I might have my personal favorite princesses, but in our house, Disney’s 2016 “Moana” is an all-around favorite of all of us, especially my son. The movie is an excellent example of Polynesian lore and culture, besides having Moana herself be an all-around exemplary, relatable 16-year-old human, even for all the legendary situations she is placed in. I love that Moana has her family there for her throughout the film, which is unique for Disney (which tends to kill off the mom figure), and that she is searching for her own identity, not a love interest. It has songs that are catchier than the best classic 90’s Disney tunes with amazing visuals that are an absolute treat. It contains my husband’s favorite Disney song – “You’re Welcome” – and was my son’s first in-person movie theatre experience. “Moana” is also the only Disney animated princess movie I cry to every single time we re-watch it again and again! It is fitting that my last summer season sewing is something related to the princess Moana.
Of course I had to interpret this specific inspiration with a play set for my latest and greatest installment in my “Pandemic Princess” blog series! There wasn’t a better decade for the cutest play sets than the 1940s, in my opinion. Besides, with all the American soldiers (and their families in some instances) stationed at many of the Pacific islands during and after WWII, Polynesian culture heavily influenced the warm weather and playtime fashions for women of that decade.
I had a head start on the 3-pieces which constitute a play set by wearing my pleated, skirt-style 40’s shorts, which I sewed years back as the base for another play set (posted here), to match with my newly made Moana novelty printed blouse. The rich blue to the shorts reminds me of the ocean…and I enjoy being able to still be wear my older creations, after all. Then the jumper, which is newly made and can be worn over both pieces, also matches with the blouse as it peeks out from underneath. It creates a suddenly dressy tone to the fun time duo. The brown linen jumper was custom dyed by me, and calls to my mind both Moana’s dark hair and the natural fibers that many ethnic Polynesian clothes are made of.
My accessories are especially coordinating this time. I have a toy plush version of Moana’s sidekick the rooster Hei Hei to keep me company. He might not be the best help on Moana’s boat (see this hilarious movie clip) but together with the pig Pua (shown on my blouse) complete her ‘conventional’ Princess ‘requirements’. This Hei Hei toy was a present from my mother-in-law and can walk and “scream” by battery power. I also have a large conch shell with me – it was acquired by hubby’s Grandmother in the 1960s or earlier. It is a beautiful pink inside just like the ones the ocean gave Moana as a baby (see this movie clip – it’s so sweet).
Now to the rest of my accessories, like my handmade ones! My belt is a multicolored novelty jute ‘ribbon’ which I originally made into a belt to match with this dress (post here) but works fantastically to brighten up the solid brown of the jumper. Even my sea-inspired hair clip was me-made, too. I started with a cheap $1 store basic hair item then glued on wooden themed charms of a sea horse, starfish, shell, and a fish that I bought from my local fabric store. I love my self-made items which complete my outfits! Finally my amazingly comfy shoes (the “Elinor” lace up ballerina pumps) are from the great brand Miss L Fire, which is sadly going out of business in the next week or two. All together I felt fantastic in my outfit and also ready for whatever comes my way. Oh ‘how far I’ll go’ for the perfect dream outfit…
FABRIC: a heavyweight all-linen for the jumper and an all-cotton Disney brand Moana character print for the blouse
PATTERN: McCall #5607, year 1944, a vintage original pattern from my stash
NOTIONS NEEDED: lots of thread, vintage buttons from the inherited stash of both my Grandmother and my husband’s Grandmother, vintage hem tape, vintage bias binding, and some interfacing
TIME TO COMPLETE: The jumper took me about 8 to 10 hours to make and was finished September, 25, 2021. The blouse came afterwards, being finished on September 27, and was made in only 4 hours.
THE INSIDES: all cleanly finished thanks to vintage bindings on hand
TOTAL COST: 1 ½ yards of the Moana cotton bought at Jo Ann Fabric store cost me about $12; the fabric for the jumper was linen I had on hand longer than I can remember so I’m counting it as free. The dye for the linen cost $3 something dollars. All other notions were on hand from my stash so I’m counting them as free, too. My total cost for this outfit was about $15.
This overall project started out as an experiment. I had this lovely bright orange, almost neon, soft and supple linen that was my ideal fabric but in a wrong tone for the jumper to match with the Moana print fabric. I had an overall 3 ½ yard cut of the material, and only needed just over 2 yards. Thus, I cut out the pattern pieces for the jumper and saved the rest leftover for my upcoming “Part Two” Moana-inspired outfit. Then, those jumper pieces were partially sewn together (darts, pleats, and all secondary seams), and the front buttonholes were marked with thread, so they could be cooked in a bath of RIT brand liquid dark brown dye.
I actually had absolutely no idea what tone I would end up with, but expected a burnt orange. Any way the dye job would have turned out, I was ready to be happy with it as long as it remotely matched the Moana blouse fabric and became a different color. I think that since my fabric was a natural linen (which takes well to dye), and I chose a dark brown versus just a natural brown, I ended up with this lovely rich and opaque nut color. I wanted a jumper which would carry me beyond this particular outfit and be versatile going into fall, but overall become an all-season piece. This jumper as it turned out is not what I expected but just what I wanted. It was a planned surprise. Dyeing is always so very interesting and fun, but always a gamble.
Other than the dye job, this jumper was easy to come together. Part of the joy to it was how much like sewing through butter was the linen I was using. Also, though, it has been too long since I’ve used a true vintage printed McCall’s pattern – they’re my favorite. I appreciate the general predictability of how well they fit me out of the envelope and their details are understatedly fantastic. The waistband panel – an incorporated ‘belt’ – was eliminated for my version of the jumper because I am both short-waisted and wanted to cut down on the blousiness of the style. Otherwise, I sewed this jumper just as it is shown on the envelope, not counting grading up in size. The deep cut armholes are great to show off the blouse underneath and keep the jumper from being confining. The way the bust darts radiate from the sleeve openings is my favorite unexpected detail. I went the extra mile to do only hand-stitching finishing touches so no thread is visible besides for the buttonholes.
My blouse was super easy and straightforward as shirts go. It has menswear details, no doubt added just to keep a smooth profile for layering under the jumper. Many 1940s blouses have some gathers or shirring somewhere, normally across the shoulders (to add bust fullness) or the back. This blouse has the conventional separate shoulder panel across the bodice upper back, but with masculine-style pleats for reach room below that. The front relies on a giant bust dart set into the shoulder down to shape the bust, then there’s a small below-the-waist tiny pleats to fit the hips. Even this collar is rather on the tame side as 1940s collars go and I like it. The shoulders are nice and smooth, too. These features all help this blouse seem a bit more timeless than dated, more than many other 40’s blouses do. I will definitely coming back to this top pattern to sew a dressy, solid colored version in the future.
Even if you don’t know Moana or have not yet seen her movie, I hope you enjoyed my new play set with our beach themed photos and find yourself inspired by what I have said about our family favorite princess. At a basic level, it is just an outfit inspired by a girl whose enthralling story revolves around what she will do out of her love for both home and family. Whatever her culture, that is a universally admirable quality…but especially for a 16 year old heroine like Moana!
My outfit respectfully avoids any cultural interpretation, and instead focuses on the predominant colors of the animated tale, vintage clothing for ‘fun in the sun’ by the water, and my personal fangirl manifestation. With the blouse, the skirt, and my old favorite shorts all in one set, it has been a fun but still practical project to complete. Out of all my other “Pandemic Princess” inspired garments, this one is perhaps my most natural or ‘organic’ interpretation.
I for one am not into logo tees or character tops unless it is for Agent Carter, Wonder Woman, or as a concert souvenir. For Moana to be included in that category for me should tell you something big! Please do yourself a favor and see the animated film “Moana” if you haven’t done so already…and if you have, let me know what your favorite scene was! I have so many, it is hard to pick anything other than every minute of the movie. I am so super hyped to have an outfit that embodies this special Polynesian princess. Many Pacific Islands are an underrated and underrepresented part (if only a satellite affiliation) of the United States, after all!