Putting a Vintage Wiggle into a “New Look”

New Look 6045 cover photo     I have owned the New Look #6045 pattern since it came out three years ago, and I have always adored it, waiting for the right circumstances and fabric to come along.  This past year’s Fall season provided me with the time and opportunity to finally whip up my fun and versatile version of the pattern.

We chose a modern outdoor sculpture in front of The Marianist Art Gallery as the photo shoot location.  I enjoy seeing how the modern art brings out the fashion forward vintage appeal which I intended to combine in my draped neck dress.

My dress has already seen much wear, and that is always a good sign!  The luxurious feel of the fabrics used, the ease of care, and the perfect weight of my dress make this my go to frock when I want to look nice and get dressed up easily during the transition weather of Spring and Fall.  I’ll add a nice sweater if it’s chilly out and I’m ready to go!  Another big bonus with this dress is all the color matching opportunities…they provide endless possibilities.  Every time I wear my dress, I seem to find some more items (shoes, tights, jewelry, sweaters) to co-ordinate together with my dress.  Please notice the necklace I’m wearing…I made it myself of sterling silver findings and Garnet gemstone chips.

100_2078aTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  My dress’ fabric is a super-soft brushed 100% polyester, which has the look and feel of being a rayon challis (that tricky imitation poly!).  I or my hubby found it in the “Spot the Dot” super clearance section of Hancock Fabrics store.  It has a beautiful blend of colors: a mustard golden yellow, peacock turquoise, burgundy red, light aqua, dark brown, and a grey taupe.  For the lining, I chose a fine 100% Bemberg rayon, in a dark dusty blue color.  The Bemberg rayon was something I happened to find when searching for a matching lining at Hancock, too.

6045line drawingPATTERN:  New Look #6045, year 2011, View B dress except with the longer elbow length sleeves of View A

NOTIONS:  I needed the normal notion, a long 20-something inch zipper for the center back, but this time I also bought matching thread and a washer from the hardware store (I’ll explain later in my post).  I had just enough bias tape on hand, as well.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress was finished on October 8, 2013, after 10 to 12 hours of work (enjoyment) time.

THE INSIDES:  Every seam, except the armhole/shoulder seams, are covered in either matching bias tape or nice seams.  The armhole/shoulder seam was left raw with only zig zag stitching along the edges, to keep this area pliable and willing to give a little…making it more comfy.  I did this same thing to the shoulder /armhole seams of my 1940’s Bow-Neck Satin Dance dress (link here); raw edges, stabilized with some stitching, make for a more comfy seam when I can’t do French seams.

TOTAL COST:  I really don’t remember any more;  I do think the total was under $15.

    For this pattern, aside from adding length to the hem, I actually did everything as is without any personal touches or changes to the design. Quite unusual for me, but I figured, why mess with a good thing?  That was reason number one for making no personal changes.Besides, reason number two was a pretty strong reason as well.  My sewing machine, a wonderful Singer older than me, went into “intensive care surgery” at the repair shop right after I started putting my New Look dress together.  I really wanted to finish my dress project and not be stuck with no sewing to do (a seamstress’ nightmare!) so used my backup sewing machine.  I wasn’t sure of what it was capable of and it seems rather picky, needing a more delicate treatment than what my Singer receives.  Thus, having a nice straightforward pattern was perfect for my needs at that time.  I made lemonade out of lemons, though, by focusing on what things my backup machine could do differently from my normal machine.  I always try to use every sewing project as an opportunity to try and learn something new.

100_2086     The draped neck is no doubt the highlight of this dress – it was my favorite part to sew as well.  The upper front bodice pattern has the drape as being one piece with the neckline, so it made for an interesting shaped piece.  Looking at many dresses from the 1930’s, when the draped neck styles were a big thing, it seems like the drape has always been the same design: an extension of the neckline so it is a sort of self-facing by falling inside.   Some other patterns have a very big drape with an inner cowl facing sewn on as a separate piece.  With further research I discovered that there are several different shapes that can create a draped neckline, and there are even a few Threads magazine articles (such as in the January 2014 issue, page 22) which shows you how to transform any pattern into a draped neck design.  The pattern of this New Look 6045 dress is designed to involve pleats at the sides (where the shoulder seams are – see picture above) to manipulate the fabric at the neck.  This way it does not solely rely on the “true” drape of one solid piece of fabric or a certain bias of the fabric.  No matter how the draped look is achieved, regardless, that name still applies.  I hope to create more draped neck fashions now that I know how much I enjoyed sewing and wearing such a style.

100_2154     There was a trick of the trade, so to speak, which helped immensely to create a wonderfully successful draped neckline – an inner weight!  (See the picture at right of my dress turned inside out.)  I first saw this method used on a 1930’s evening gown which was highlighted on the back cover as the “Up Close” feature of the March 2013, issue #165, Threads magazine.  Page 28 and 29 inside show the details of the dress, highlighting the different bias cuts of the dress and showing pictures of a small weight, covered in matching fabric, to keep to cowl drape hanging well and in place.  Have you seen Vogue 1374?  It is a 1930’s style gown, designed by Badgley Mischka, with a giant draped cowl on the back of the dress.  Anyway, this pattern calls for a nickel (yes, money) to be sewn into a tiny tab at the inner center on the back drape, so it gets gently weighted 100_2156down in place.  For my dress, I went to the hardware store an picked out a washer, cut out a circle of the flowered fabric twice the size of the washer, did a running stitch around it, then pulled it in to gather it around the washer.  I tucked the raw edges in and stitched the center closed through the center of the washer.  However, as the washer would no doubt rust if it went through the wash with my dress, I merely used a safety pin to keep the washer in place at the center inside of my draped neck.  (see the left picture)  I am so very happy with this technique!  Every time I see a draped neck item in a store, I always check and say, “I thought so!  No drape weight.  People don’t know what they’re missing.”

The fit of the sizes given for the dress seem to me to be pretty much right on.  You wouldn’t want this dress to be too baggy or roomy at all, anyway, because then the neckline wouldn’t look like a drape as much and the overall effect of the style would not be achieved.  The model on the cover of the envelope has her dress with a little more ease than the way my version fits, and I intended on making mine with a bit more extra room.  I’m o.k. with how mine fits…it makes it more appealing to my husband…but I can’t eat a very large filling meal when I’m wearing this wiggle-style dress.

100_2087     The sleeves are the one thing that I knew for sure would fit me exactly since I already used them (in a shortened length) on a creation I made a while back, my Green Plaid Cotton Dress.  New Look 6045 is one of the rare patterns which doesn’t have restricted reach room or skimpy sizing when it comes to making a sleeve which is actually easy to move in while wearing.  The sleeve pattern is actually very nicely roomy and well shaped (I think), especially for someone like me that has thicker upper arms.  Has anyone noticed any other additional New Look patterns having roomier sleeves than what “The Big 4” patterns seem to offer? 100_2159

Ah yes, I saved the best for almost last!  This dress has on it my first, and so far my only, blind hem.  Since I was using my backup machine, it only meant reading the manual and adjusting the dials for me to have access to doing a blind hem.  Now that I am sewing on my standby Singer, I get…’lazy’, as I call it…and never feel like dragging out my backup machine and setting it up just for that reason even though I have thought of adding a blind hem to more garments than this one dress.  As beautiful as the blind hem turned out at the bottom of my New Look wiggle dress I should get the gumption to do this sewing method again.  With this dress, I figured it would be easy (and it was) to try out the blind hem mostly because the bottom hem is not full, thus the length of what I sewed was not over-much.  The majority of the work was the measuring and pinning of the hem differently than the normal ways to which I’ve become accustomed.  Whoever thought of this type of stitch and hem was a genius – or maybe just an engineer.  Either way, I found it so cool how the stitches just disappear discreetly into the fabric when the hem gets pulled into place.  I love to add special touches to everything I make.

100_2089a     Just a few more details on the dress deserve mentioning.  The back zip was done in a different, more conventional, industry-type of style.  I usually install my zippers in my very own distinct personal style, which is more tight, sturdy, and invisible.  Again, however, as I am sewing with a different machine, I went ahead and used the zipper foot that was available and made the zipper with a large, more open fold just like you see in store bought clothes.  I like the finished look of the zipper placket, and it certainly is different among my creations, but I don’t expect to do a zipper like this again. (I might, but I’m just sayin’…)  The bottom hem of the sleeves also have some special, but tiny, detail – a tiny notch at the inside seam point.  I don’t see a strong utilitarian need for this tiny vent, and i was slightly miffed at the extra time and trouble it took to finish.  Doing those notches did indeed teach me an excellent method for clean finished cuff ends with a slit; I used my knowledge learned to do the sleeve ends of my 1946 Red Wool Suit Dress in a better way.  Finally, notice the kick pleat slit at the back.  If the pattern hadn’t had this type of slit in the design I probably would’ve added it myself because kick pleat slits are so much more decent while providing no less ease of movement.  This dress is hot enough (he, he), I don’t need it to have a racy view all the way up my thighs.

My strong suspicion that the New Look pattern had a definite vintage flair was finally verified just a week after I completed my dress.  I was so surprised to see an almost exactly designed dress worn on a young girl friend of the handsome Ronnie Burns during a Burns and Allen T.V. show.  It can be seen on “The June Wedding” episode, aired on June 16, 1958.  Again, as always, the Burns and Allen T.V. Show has given me Jane & Roger cropsome inspiring fashion ideas and style validations for the decade of the 50’s.  It says something about the dress design for it to be good enough to be worn on screen to one of the top rated T.V. shows of the 50’s, and worn by a pretty and “modern” University of California young woman.

Interestingly enough, after some further Google image browsing for 50’s/60’s draped neck dresses, I noticed yet another similar outfit worn by the character of Jane in the T.V. series Mad Men.  I love how her dress (see picture below) has a similar groovy, swirling type of modern floral as the fabric’s pattern.  Her dress, though, has a draped cowl neck going on in the front and the back – so cool!

Butterick 8307 50s draped cowl back cocktail dress          Just prior to this post I found a pattern for sale that also reminded me of my dress, as well as the two other dresses referred to in Mad Men and The Burns and Allen T.V. show.  The pattern I saw (the  picture at right) is a vintage 1957 Butterick 8307 with a wiggle cocktail shape and a draped cowl neck along the back.  (See this pattern’s wiki page here)  There are so many more versions of this style of neckline than I had realized before!

I wonder how original the dress can be for 2011, as is supposed to be a “Project Runway” creation.  Hmmm.  Whether or not the design idea was borrowed from sources such as what I’ve pointed out, I love the finished result.  I see it as an overlooked vintage style dress that makes me feel so fashionable and good looking, if I must say so myself!

Find more hidden vintage-inspired details in modern fashion for yourself and help bring back those classic styles with your own sewing!

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Believe It Or Not…It’s My Favorite Re-Makes

Since last year when I began sewing more often (every week), re-making a pattern is a rarity. I like to use a pattern piece here or an idea there, incorporating a little of every other pattern into most of my projects. When I have a nice, full file cabinet of patterns yet to make, there has to be a real winner among them to deserve a reason for a repeat. I like variety in my clothing, and thus my favorite pattern remakes gladly look totally different.
It actually feels quite nice to depart from vintage and explore my own modern, updated style! Both ideas surprisingly came from looking at a lot of 20’s to 30’s patterns and fashion posters after missing out on the Sew Weekly Gatsby Challenge in early September.

Here, I made a casual ‘Saturday’ t-shirt knit dress.  It was made by magically combining two patterns together – a top pattern and a skirt pattern to turn into a dress.

100_0722In this second picture, I made a fancy black sequin top, re-fashioned from an over-sized and sloppy knit t-shirt.

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THE FACTS:
FABRIC: for the dress- a thin, loose, and somewhat unsubstantial, but very soft, cotton knit and a soft beige stretch lace for back and pocket – both from stash so basically free; for the sequin top- a Michael’s craft T-shirt, found in my stash, but bought about 5 years ago for $2.50, and 1 yard of sequin netting fabric, bought recently for $9 something; the chain necklace and bracelet- put together by me and bought at JoAnn’s for $6.30
NOTIONS: I had proper needles, seam tape, and thread already; just bought some black bias tape for $2 or less
PATTERNS: McCall’s 6623, year 1979, for the top, made twice now, as you can see in this post.  New Look 6470, year 2005, for the skirt (used three times now), to make two skirts back 10 to 7 years ago, and then for the franken-patterned dress in this post.

100_0672TIME TO COMPLETE: for the dress- about 5 hours, finished on Oct. 5, 2012; for the top- about 5 or 6 hours, finished on Dec. 20, 2012
THE INSIDES: for the dress- just o.k., the seams are just zig zagged together nicely, as the knit fabric did not want to be ‘restrained’ too much into a nice seam; for the sequin top- I am so proud of this part! I sewed hem tape into the shoulder seams, sewed bias tape around all the other seams, and hand sewed a line of bias tape along the inside of the neckline, my extra work is SO worth it…because there is no itchiness!

FIRST WORN: for the dress- worn on a Saturday outing to some antique malls to look for home stuff and old patterns; for the sequin top- over my Aunt and Uncle’s house for a Christmas get together. This is my new go-to fancy top for the holiday season.

100_0886For both creations I did the same pattern combo. The New Look skirt pattern was used as a ‘benchmark’ for the perfect hip fit, since I’ve made it before. The skirt pattern was layered over my top pattern at 1 inch below the waist, as the skirt hugs the hips a bit. The cutting instructions were improvised by me in order to match with the layout of the top. The skirt piece is supposed to be cut on the bias. However, I simply folded the full skirt pattern in half to cut on the fold, coming out with a one piece dress or a great measurement for my top. I usually don’t throw cutting and grain line instructions out the window but it was a happy experiment. Then I just did free hand grading in between…I know where I need my clothes to be forgiving 🙂 You can see a little of what I did in the picture below.

100_0673My T-shirt dress is remotely like Gatsby style day dresses that had a long bias ruffle slanted up one side of the hem. In early fall I actually had too many nice dresses, and I needed a casual dress that would stretch my sewing wings a bit further. When I finished my dress, I knew it wasn’t my coolest project, but I felt like I could really sew anything if I tried.

100_0723At right is my very fun back detail. This super soft stretch lace solves any drooping of the shoulders on account of such an open back, and (I think) lends a special touch to what might otherwise be drab. I certainly find myself not wanting to cover the back up with a sweater! Besides, I needed a way to make a dent in a large cut of this stretch lace. I really don’t remember why I bought so much, but I am sure I’ll use it in some future projects again.
Unfortunately I don’t have a picture to post of the skirts I made years ago from the New Look 6470 which was used to make this dress. The one skirt I made then must have turned out alright since I remember a clothing store worker complimenting me, even though, (STUPID ME) I used a woven navy/white tweed for a stretch pattern. Oh well. I think I buried it amongst stuff somewhere in my parents’ basement back then when I realized I wasn’t happy with my sewing skills. I will keep looking for both skirts or a picture at least…

My black sequi20s-Chanel-sequin-dressn top was an idea spawned from admiring a Target sequin tank, and telling myself, “Hey… you can make your own better!” Soon after, I found an over-sized T-shirt while going through my old stuff. Then, I was crazy enough to buy bags of sequins and plan on (yeah right) sewing them on by hand, in a decorative Art Deco design. Wow…I am ambitious sometimes.  At left is one of the ideas I was working from: a Chanel beauty of a 20’s dress.

My plans drastically changed for the easier when I found a sequin-covered ‘fabric’ netting on a trip to the fabric store. I suppose it came in for the holiday/New Year’s sewing. I pulled it off the rack and couldn’t wait to get it cut and take it home. The fabric store employee might have had something there, when she hesitated to cut it, because cutting and sewing this sequin ‘fabric’ was so much more of a mess than any fur I have worked with in the past. The sequins would pop and jump at every cut I made, even hitting me in the face. Those sequins were sticking to my skin and left a messy trail everywhere I would work with my top.  I found myself growing and murmuring complaints and breathing heavily while sewing or working with the sequin fabric.  I know some sewing bloggers get driven into a very especially “unwelcoming” mood when working with sequined fabric, and now I can commiserate with them.  However, I am not discouraged from sewing with sequins again!

100_0834a100_0833I will write this re-fashion story short and sweet. I cut all original seams off, keeping the sleeve hems. Then I re-cut the pattern top exactly as I did for my dress, and cut another front piece from the sequin fabric. The sequin front piece was pinned onto the T-shirt front, then I re-sewed the whole top back together, stabilizing seams.

Next I used chalk to draw my own plans onto the back of the dress. I took advantage of the wide netting edge along the selvedge to fill in a large  open back, similar to the lace in my knit dress above.

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Voila! I like how it is, as it is, so I plan on using the sequin bags for another Art Deco type dress.

I kept switching between needles the whole time I was piecing this together, using the sharp where ever I was sewing through sequins and using a knit ball point where I was only sewing on the T-shirt knit. I hope this was right, but I don’t see how I could have done it otherwise.

Just a little FYI : I did a ‘sort of’ funny mistake when I finished sewing this top. When I was done, I was so excited to try it on and I completely forgot there was one last pin on the inside armpit seam. OUCH! I had one long, swollen scratch that luckily didn’t bleed much. My husband actually thought it was rather funny that my scratch was in the shape of the letter Z…the Mark of Zorro, maybe?!  It makes me want to get out my old black and white Zorro movie…the 1940 Tyrone Power movie is my favorite!
Here is an outtake of me enjoying feeling like a rock star!

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If I don’t post before the end of the year, Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to another great year of sewing ahead. Cheers!

The “Lake Girl” Wanna-be 40’s Satin blouse

I suppose I am stretching the rules a bit at first glance with my submission for the “Wardrobe Staple: Shirt Challenge”. However, my husband made the point that while shirts are not blouses, perhaps all blouses are shirts. Despite this confusion, at least this IS my new dressy ‘wardrobe staple’ and I am VERY proud of how my blouse turned out. I love to wear this!!!

100_0747THE FACTS:
FABRIC: ivory crepe-back satin ($6.75)
PATTERN: Simplicity 3688, a 1941 re-issue (99 cents) for the blouse; New Look 6000 for cuffs

100_0694NOTIONS: ivory pearl buttons ($1.75), metrosheen thread (around $2), tidbit of cording (20 cents); already had interfacing and sharps needles
FIRST WORN: to a concert with my husband; I finished the blouse on Oct. 19, 2012, sewing the loop closure and the buttons just 45 minutes before leaving time…close call.
TIME TO COMPLETE: I took my time, as this was my first time sewing with satin-so this was an experiment in preparation for another project with satin. The cuffs took longer to make…so…at least 8 hours to finish, maybe 10

I had been wanting to make this pattern for quite a while, but never found the right fabric looking on my own. On one visit to the fabric store, I showed off my S36688 pattern, asking for recommendations in a wear-with-all ivory color. Michelle, the employee, showed me this soft and silky satin with the mind-blowing suggestion to switch the sides of the fabric. I had no idea this fabric could have no “right side”- apparently it was all a matter of taste. Michelle’s suggestion really made this blouse such a winner! I had already planned on adding cuffs from my New Look pattern, so I made the cuffs and the top bodice panel in the crepe back. This crepe/satin side switching seems to highlight the neat design of the blouse and break up what could have been too much shine.

100_0750The pattern was made as is (besides the cuffs), and it was both a breeze and a delight to sew together. I was doubtful at first, thinking it would be big on me when I saw the generous ease, but it fits nicely and comfortably, with the cute waistline darts to bring it in.
I love the pleats/tucks at the top of the shoulders on the sleeves. I’m thinking those darts are meant to be filled in with shoulder pads.  I might add them at some point, but I don’t want an 80’s look mixed in with the 40’s.

The cuffs fit onto the sleeves like they were made for this pattern. Also, the whole interfacing and straight points on the cuffs turned out very well for me. I even cut out a second bias neckband, cut it in half lengthwise, hemmed the pieces, then sewed the strips over each cuff/sleeve seam inside for a smooth, professional look. A button is sewn on each side to simulate fake ‘cufflinks’!
After I made this blouse I was disappointed to see not many raving reviews among Sew Weekly. Meg the Grand was pleased with her version of this blouse, while Debi Fry and Liz seemed o.k. with it but less than pleased with the envelope picture. Oh well, the blouse does refuse to stay tucked in when I move, just like Liz had said. As for myself, the pattern envelope screamed “Veronica Lake”- and that in itself was reason enough for my interest.

100_0748Simplicity 3688 reminded me of Veronica Lake’s train traveling outfit in the black and white 1942 movie “This Gun for Hire” (the first major film together for actor Alan Ladd and Ms. Lake). This pattern’s ensemble isn’t exactly her outfit, just similar (in my opinion) style-wise, so don’t tell me I’m wrong if you watch the movie. Besides the movie and pattern sharing the same original release date of 1941, the envelope model also has a good Veronica Lake ‘peekaboo’ hairstyle going on there. I’ve attempted to imitate the peekaboo lately, but, if I try harder, I will do Ms. Lake’s hairstyle yet.

Hollywood tidbit: It’s amazing how her fame was so short lived (1940-1949) and revolved around her hairstyle. She couldn’t dance or sing- but her appeal alone got her far. Her long, blond ‘peekaboo’ hairstyle was so widely imitated that she was asked to cut her hair for the duration of WWII since such a hairstyle was seen as hazardous to females working around machinery. She boldly made a public service video to address the safety subject with her hair pinned up.veronica lake in war helmetveronica lake with hair in gear pole

She may have been the most famous actress during the war. She vied with Dorothy Lamour for some influential roles. She herself said that if she hadn’t been such a rebel she might have gone far, but she didn’t want to be a Hollywood puppet, and held onto her freedom without regret. It’s a shame she’s been labeled so maliciously now by history.
Speaking of short, the main reason why Veronica Lake was paired so often with Alan Ladd is because he was about 5’5″ and she was 4’11”!  At left is a publicity shot of Ladd and Lake from “This Gun for Hire”.

VeronicaLake-picSo, anyway…back to my sewing. I have a full shot picture – and a humorous shot of the back of the blouse.

My husband didn’t tell me till AFTER I posed that my skirt label was showing. Very funny…but it happens, so it’s kinda cute. While trying to be fashionable, I go tell the world my size – just lovely!  Visit my Flickr page Seam Racer for more pictures.

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Plaid challenge: something old and something new

PLAID  CHALLENGE

This creation was made for the week of the plaid challenge.  It was finished September 3, 2012.  It is a vintage-inspired, yet modern pattern, made out of  just a few yards of cotton.

My dad picked this fabric out for me to buy years ago and, at that time, I hated the print-absolutely did not know what to do with a plaid!  Well, a year ago, my parents dug it out from its hiding spot in their house and ever since I saw it again I have rather liked it and wanted to tackle a sewing fear of mine by finally doing something productive with this fabric.

I only had a few patterns that required so little fabric but this one, Simplicity 2570, was chosen because of its minimal pieces and “pencil dress” shape.  I even placed the lining under the fabric so I could save time and cut both out at once!  You see my simplistic pattern weights before I pin…washers and vhs movies…

     I did not like the cap sleeves on the dress, so I used the sleeves from NewLook  6045 and shortened them, saving the few scraps that remained to cut some cuffs too.  I also lengthened the dress so I could sew some decorative tucks/pleats along the hem for interest.  Okay, okay,  so I took the easy way and basted the lining to each piece before sewing, but I wanted to make this week’s challenge.

     The most time consuming part of this pattern, for me, were the pleats in the center front of the dress (hated the extra basting and bulk at neckline)  and the back slit at the back bottom of the skirt (which took a lot of forethought).  Even the sleeves fit into the bodice beautifully.  I sewed them in with a 3/8 seam to accommodate  my bigger upper arms.  The sleeve cuffs were completely out of my head and made up as I went along.

     This is one of my most comfortable dresses and makes me feel dressed up in a plaid that I not only succeeded in matching but also conquered!  My only complaint is how the cotton wrinkles so easily.  Oh well!  Check out my fine details here:

I finally found a way to like something I originally did not like, and along the way also made something useful out of some old fabric begging to be transformed. What a Cinderella story! 

THE FACTS:

FABRIC: 100% cotton olive plaid shirting and oatmeal colored cotton for lining, both from stash

 NOTIONS:  bought a 7in. zipper, the rest (interfacing and thread) I had already

 PATTERNS: Simplicity 2570 view C (yr. 2009) in picture at right, plus NewLook 6045 view A (yr.2011) for sleeves

 FIRST WORN: shopping and to a park for pictures then out to eat with family.  Will be wearing this plenty!

 TIME TO COMPLETE: about 6 hours