Dyeing and Over-Dyeing…

Sometimes something simple can sound tragic when different words sound the same.  Don’t misread my post’s title.  I have now discovered the joys of colored fabric dye, that’s all.  Now, let me go back to cooking up my next re-coloring job because this is quite a lot of fun to do and very useful!  I am by no means an expert on fabric coloring, I’ll admit, but this is a short recounting of my experiences in dyeing which started with this 2020 pandemic.

Yes, I’ve had a few other posts already for “Alter It August” 2020, but here’s one more squeezed in at the last minute because I need all the excuses I can find to spruce up my wardrobe’s unloved items!  This is almost a dual project post because when talking about my new adventures in color dyeing is summed up in two examples.  I not only fully revamped an old RTW shirtdress of mine but also dyed one of my son’s extra school polo tee.  As he is doing remote learning from home, and he had a plethora of school uniform tops which still fit, we needed his wardrobe acquisitions to be a more fashionable color besides white for them to be useful for the “new normal”.  My shirtdress was something I liked enough in its details, fabric, and general design to keep on hand for the last 12 or so years, yet I never wore it on account of the very blasé color, ill fit, and lack of a little ‘something extra’ to make it special.  After I addressed the sewing part of my dress refashion, I took two completely different approaches to give a new color refresh to each item, and ended up with a shade of green in both cases.

It is important to note how both items became green because dyeing is generally an experiment even if you think you know how things should turn out.  Just because the bottle you’re using says a certain color is inside doesn’t necessarily mean that is what you will end up with.  Every little factor in the dyeing process – from the fiber content, to the way you stir, to the continuous temperature of the water – seems to affect how your item will turn out.  It is fun, but always a happy gamble, I find.  When I am up for a dye job, I have the mindset of being happy with whatever the result is.  That’s when things are pretty desperate for the item to be dyed, and I am fed up past the point of tolerance for the way the original item looks.  It’s a dye job or it’s out the door!  Luckily, these two items for both me and my son were saved and now we can color coordinate our dressing, he he!

THE FACTS: Let’s lay this post out a little differently than the norm on my blog. 

FABRIC – Instead of ‘fabric’ (as this is a refashion project), I started with a store-bought, button-front, RTW “Land’s End” brand dress my mom picked up for me on clearance about 12 or 15 years ago.  It was cute enough, and I was appreciative, but the bland and dirty grey color of the shirtdress really made me feel uncomfortable with myself and down in attitude just to wear it.  I was always at a loss as to how to accessorize it to become cuter and more ‘me’.  It was borderline in the fit, too, as it was a petite sizing.  Thus, the dress has a slightly higher waistline on me which isn’t that obvious because it is very classic and vintage inspired, I think.  The side seams do have these super handy, super generously sized pockets that I love and the way they are hidden in the full skirt is fabulous to me.  This is a pretty dress I can wear to church or wear to play in other words, and versatile outfits are both hard to find and something that I can always use more of.

The fiber content is a soft and slightly stretchy shirting.  It is a blend of 67% cotton, 28% polyester, and 5% elastane.  For some reason it seems to wrinkle up more than is reasonable because “Land’s End” normally makes very well-known iron-free shirts for both men and women.  Even a thorough ironing job doesn’t banish the creasing.  There is a slight rustling sound when I swish in this dress so I guess the fabric – although over halfway cotton – is a poly shirting at heart.  Nevertheless, if there hadn’t been so much cotton in the content, my dyeing attempt on this dress would have been much more difficult and probably less successful.  If you have something that is less than 50% cotton or any other natural fiber (in other words, a mostly man-made material), it will not want to take to recoloring using the regular RIT brand dye.  I would have needed a special synthetic dye, which has a very limited spans of colors to choose from.  I just made the regular dye work with this dress!

My son’s school polo also came from “Land’s End” as well, and was in 100% cotton.  I did not change or refashion it at all, merely changed the color.  As he is growing in height, and seeming not in weight or waist size, his extra short sleeve school shirts that he no longer needs still fit him…for now!

PATTERN and NOTIONS:  For my dress refashion, I used no pattern – made it up as I went – and all I needed in notions was lots of thread and one long 36” coat zipper (which was happily on hand).  I let what I needed to do find better fit for this dress on my current body dictate how the refashion would go.  The dress was a size 2, and in a basic sense it did fit me, but was far too snug for a button-front shirtdress…if you get my unwelcome picture.  So, I cut off the buttons, and stitched up the buttonholes, and sewed a zipper down the front to give me just a few extra inches across the front.  All that I basically needed was some wearing ease in this dress.  As the side seams were serged far too close to the stitching line, my only easy option was transforming this shirtdress into a zip front dress.  Voila!  As easy as it was to find a better fit with this dress, next it was a bit challenging to take it to the level of looking finished and appearing as anything but a refashion.

My son gave the the zipper bracelet I am wearing! It’s so perfect for me!

I did have a giant sash belt that came with the dress, luckily, so I had a little bit of something extra to work without having to cut into the dress itself.  I snipped the sash belt in half, running down the fold and seam line, so that the width was divided in two but the length was kept as it was.  I used 2/3 of the length of the two long pieces to make a little binding to cover up either side of the zipper all the way down the front of the dress.  These self-fabric bindings cleanly covered up the top-stitching to the exposed zipper and also what was left of the buttonholes. The remaining 1/3 to the sash belt was sewn into tubes, turned inside out, and slipped into the binding on either side of the zipper right at the waistline.  This creates a sort of attached waist ties that perk up the dress.  There are thread chain belt casings at the side already, and the waist seemed rather plain without anything extra, so I thought I would use up what little was leftover for the attached tie belt.  This was a zero waste refashion – not a single scrap leftover!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The actual sewing portion to refashioning my dress did not take all that long – only a few hours.  That was finished on August 20, 2020.  However it ended up taking much longer because of all the steps I needed to get my dress in this new color.

TOTAL COST: These would have been free refashions if it hadn’t been for the cost of the dyes, color remover, and setting liquid – in total about $15 for the four bottles of items I needed.

For my dress, before I did any dyeing, I began with yet another experimental job – using RIT brand color removing powder.  I decided to try and do this in my wash machine, and I did not fix the setting correctly so that my dress did not sit in the liquid as long as it should have.  I will chalk it up to a beginner’s mistake.  However, as I did not follow the proper directions, the color remover did not work correctly and it only took out enough color to turn my dress into an ugly yellow.  Weird, right?

My next step was to color my dress.  I originally intended on dyeing my dress a blue so I had a bottle of RIT in blue turquoise.  Yet, as the color remover turned my dress into a yellow, and I was dipping it in a blue, I ended up with a bright sage green.  I know it makes sense under the principles of the color spectrum, but really – who would have guessed?

I was working with a bottle of liquid dye, and this has the best chance of turning out an even color as compared to the powder (mix with water).  Even still, it turned out slightly splotchy in certain places on my dress.  Why?  Any pre-existing stain, or flaw, or mark on the fabric will be amplified when that item is color dyed.  Yeah, not something to be excited over but definitely something to remember for any dye job.

Other than a few little marks that stayed with my dress, the color turned out very even for me.  I dyed my dress in our large stainless steel sink, so there was plenty of room to have enough liquid to completely immerse the dress, as well as do some good stirring to spread the color.  Technically, our sink is not the best place for dyeing.  With the RIT dye, the temperature is supposed to be kept at 140°F or warmer, yet not boiling either, for the whole 30 to 60 minutes it ‘cooks’.  That is why the best place to dye is in a pot on the stove because you can keep an even and constant temperature.  Yet, the bigger the item – like my dress – the more room you will need and so an ‘on the stove’ option was not exactly feasible here.  We made it work alright by starting off with a stronger water-to-dye proportion for quick color retention, and then add a small pot’s worth of extra almost-boiling water along the way to keep a relative constant warmth.

This is the richer color I had before putting my dress in the fixative liquid. Also, you can see what I was covering up by sewing down the binding on either side of the zipper – the marks of the old button closings.

The final step to any dye job that is a cotton, linen, rayon, or a blend of these is to set the color with a liquid fixative.  This is another 30 minutes of the same process as what the dye job was – stirred evenly in a 140 degree bath.  I hate the fact that when I go through the dye fixative step, the color becomes a tad lighter than when my item came out of the dye.  For example, when I first over-dyed these faded, true vintage items from my Grandmother, the colors were rich and just what I wanted…but that was before the setting liquid bath.  Boo.  When dyeing a nylon, silk, or wool, to set the color you merely run the item through your wash machine with an old towel and your regular detergent, and the colors seem to stay brighter.  Oh well, as I said above, any color improvement, even if it is not the most ideal one, is enough to make the item worth keeping if I’m doing this in the first place.

There are different add-ins with each dye job depending on the fiber content of your item.  I added salt and dishwashing liquid to the dye before adding my dress.  However, for some silk I recently re-colored using a bottle of RIT Kelly green dye (for a completely different project coming soon) I added dishwashing liquid and white vinegar.  It was into the dye bath leftover from coloring this silk that I threw in my son’s school polo.  This should have been a no-no because his shirt was cotton – it should be in a dye bath with salt.  However, I was not about to waste a whole bottle’s worth of dye without trying to dip something else.  Thus, the green dye bath only gave my son’s shirt a light minty green color rather than a deep, true, Kelly green.  Also, the water was hovering around 130 degrees by this time (as a second batch).  Even still, I think my son looks good in pastels and he himself is happy with how it turned out – so that is all that matters, right?!  Now we can go be twins in green for the win.

I jokingly have a little play on the fact that I am stirring up a steaming sink or pot full of opaquely colored ‘potion’ when I do my dye jobs.  A little witchy cackle is all that’s needed (and I do believe I am good at that) as well as a recitation of “Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble” for a proper finish.  Hubby usually just shakes his head with a smile.  Yes, I enjoy how a simple color change – although a bit time consuming – can really perk up an item and is a creative way for anyone to personalize something with no sewing needed.

A few months into my dyeing exploits and I realized many colors became very hard-to-find or almost non-existent altogether, even looking through the internet shops (not counting the price-gouged items).  Apparently, I must not be the only one this year who is finding the fun and usefulness of color dyeing.  Have you done any such thing yourself?  Are you an old pro at it by now?  Do you have any great success stories or maybe sad disaster tales to share?  Maybe you have not yet tried it.  If so, I hope this post was useful.  Thanks for reading!

A Skirt-Blouse and a Dress-Skirt

The second installment for my 2020 “Alter It August” is a featuring of this crazy but coordinated and happy display of me wearing things in the wrong place.  Ugh – that just sounds like need to relearn how to dress.  No, I just like the sewing success I find when thinking a bit differently when attacking my tucked-away mending pile.

What I started off with were two vintage pieces in their own right.  I’m wearing what had been a skirt from the 1990’s as a newly refashioned blouse of the 40’s WWII style.  Then, I also salvaged what was left of a true vintage 30’s era dress into becoming a skirt which pairs nicely with my new blouse.  Yes, I’m all over the decades and every article of clothing I started with is now something else.  Yet, somehow, what I ultimately ended up with is these wonderful separates that I can wear and enjoy for years to come.  I think I can rock this sort of upside-down dressing!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a soft cotton with a hint of spandex is the fiber content of the skirt that became my blouse, while the true vintage dress that became a skirt is a lovely rayon gabardine finished off with a matching color modern cotton sateen

PATTERN:  Simplicity #4528, a year 1943 vintage original pattern from my personal stash, was used for the blouse

NOTIONS:  some interfacing scraps, thread, two true vintage buttons for the blouse, and a vintage metal zipper for the skirt.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  It only took me about an hour or less to clean up the dress and turn into a skirt.  The blouse was finished on August 1, 2020 in about 4 hours.

THE INSIDES:  The insides of my blouse are cleanly bias bound, while I kept the original (pinked) seams of the vintage dress-turned-skirt and merely finished the waist.

TOTAL COST:  FREE!

My true vintage skirt was more of a salvage than a refashion like my blouse.  I had an acquaintance had passed to me this piece that someone had given her because they knew I am a smaller size and would be capable of restoring this to a wearable state.  The bodice of a cream-colored, rayon gabardine 1930s dress had been roughly cut off midway through, the side zipper ripped out, and the amazing duo of large pockets halfway hanging on.  I can’t help but hopelessly wonder what the full dress looked like originally.  It might have been wonderful to have the chance to save more than just the skirt, but really – I shouldn’t complain!  This was a wonderful gift and an honor of a challenge.

I started off with the basic preliminary tasks – trimming the bodice down to the point where I would sew on a waistband, taking off a handful of belt carriers, re-stitching down the pockets, and setting in a side zipper.  Next I used a cotton sateen from on hand (because hey, it was something I didn’t have to buy and it matched in color) to sew on a waistband and a hook closing.  That was all it needed besides a basic cleaning and pressing.  There still are some very slight stains I need to get out but overall I am very ecstatic to have saved this piece.  I am amazed that for all this dress had went through before it came to me, there were not any obvious stains or even a hole, rip, or tear in the skirt (it is pristine).  A very good vintage find finally all fixed up deserves a great new top to pair with it, right?!

I had a plaid skirt which had hardly ever been worn, even though it has been in my wardrobe since circa 2000.  I had bought it second hand back then, so it must be from at least the 90’s, judging by both the style and how the label inside proudly claimed to be completely “Made in the USA”.  Maybe I should not call it fully vintage…just ‘dated’ for now.  Nevertheless, it became a blouse of a different ‘vintage’!  The skirt’s plaid was cute enough to me that I held onto it for this long, yet the style always screamed too “school girl” for my taste and so was rarely worn.  No doubt the fact the hem ended right above my knees added to that impression.  It has a low-riding hip yoke with a deep-pleated, flared skirt below and was fully lined.

A refashion can feel like a giant uncertainty, so it helps to use a pattern that you’ve used already and which has turned out successfully before.  It gives an extra confidence level.  I used the same pattern that gave me one of my current favorite vintage blouses – this “Australia” movie inspired creation – and merely shortened it to waist length because of the limited amount of fabric I was working with.

There was so much fabric in the pleated section below the hip yoke, all I needed to do was cut that part of the skirt off and it was like having a long 2 yard by 20 inch section to work with.  There was imperfect plaid matching in the skirt to begin with, and I did not have any extra fabric to be as choosy of a perfectionist as I like to be with geometrically printed fabric.  Yet, I do think I made the best of it!  The belt strip to the original skirt became the waist tie attached to the bottom hem of my new blouse.  This tie front feature helps the top stay down on me and is also a nice feature to perk of the pretty, but still a bit plain, ivory gabardine skirt I am wearing with it.

I was sort of aiming for a pre-WWII casual 40’s kind of look here, but I’m happy it ended up looking pretty timeless after all.  The skirt is in a feminine and comfortable bias cut so it is obviously 30’s era, but a well done cut and style like this never goes out of style.  After all, the giant, interesting pockets hold my Android phone just fine with room to spare…how modern is that!?  I personally like large blouse lapels and cannot lie, however, they do rather give the blouse away that it’s vintage.  Yet, crop tops are quite popular now, the tie waist is an unexpected detail, and the plaid is quite fun, so perhaps all this outweighs the collar for a contemporary appeal.  I paired my outfit with my Grandmother’s earrings and my comfy Hotter brand tennis shoes.

Even though “Alter It August” is drawing to a close, it’s always a great time to whip those unusable clothes into shape and make them work for you!  You have the sewing superpowers to create…now use those same gifts to take care of what you already possess on hand and make sure it is something useable that you love.  A refashion from what’s on hand is something new for nothing, with the added happy benefit of knowing you both succeeded at something challenging and helped counteract the global harm of the wasteful fast fashion industry.

I don’t know about you, but at the rate I am going out and about these days, I really don’t need a whole lot of anything new coming in the house besides food in the fridge.  That doesn’t stop me from continuing to be a ‘maker’, though, and this sporty little outfit was just the sensible, thrifty little pick-me-up project to be useful, keep me creative, and clean the house all in one.  Maybe I haven’t been out enough for me to even think of turning a skirt into a blouse, after all, though?

Altered Memories…

Back for another year, it’s now time for the “Alter It August” challenge again, as hosted by Mia at Sew North!  I love this challenge.  For this year, I am tackling my ‘no-longer-worn/no-longer-fits’ pile with gumption because of it!  This effort is so handy to eliminate useless items taking up room to transform them into things I will enjoy and wear.  So much of my time has been spent around the house thus every little bit of useful cleaning that can be achieved is a blessing…especially when I end of with an amazing new garment out of it.  It is a real treat nowadays to have such a source for my sanity-saving sewing escapades when I am not going out for supplies and many of those are already short in stock.

Each refashion I make is so exhilarating, from the crazy planning stage to the ‘what is this finally gonna look like’ finished point of having a try-on.  This one might be one of my most experimental and the one that cheers me the most every time, and it’s not just on account of the crazy fun idea of it!  You see, the best part is the way this project saved two tops that had fond memories attached to them.  Both items were worn to one of the many times I spent quality time with a long-time dear friend of mine – almost like family – who has since passed away during the heart of the lockdown.

Nostalgia is a weird thing when it is ascribed to a garment – and slightly risky under the possibility that clothing may not always fit.  So – at its core, it seems this project was fueled a crazy creativity borne of a desire to hold onto the little bit of tangible memories left that I have of people I loved and miss.  Now, I know that a physical item is never as important as the person that item signifies.  Yet, for me to have lost this special friend during this pandemic has given me no closure…as there has been no funeral or sharing of sympathy with the family…and presents given, photos, and garments worn during our times out are all I have left besides memories in my head.  So, it may not be my best altered item, but this project has the finest reason yet behind any of my refashion projects.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  two cotton knit tops, bought as RTW items about 15 years back from now

PATTERN:  none!

NOTIONS:  just lots of thread

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This refashion was completed in a couple of hours on the afternoon of April 1, 2020 (the heat of the sewing shortages and lockdowns)

THE INSIDES:  tightly zig-zagged – a home seamstress’ way to mimic commercially serged edges

TOTAL COST:  none!

I was not too surprised or disappointed these two tops no longer fit me, even with the sentimentalism over them.  The polka dotted one was a girl’s size (14 – 16).  Although I do still fit in many of my clothing from back then, unfortunately I had serged (overlocked) in the inner side seams of the top to make it fit closer as a teen.  There is no forgiveness in the knit which can completely make up for that!  The other turquoise top was an extra small petite, which was the only other size I could fit into as a teen if I didn’t want the overly casual and trendy fashions solely offered to such an age group.  I still absolutely love that neckline made of inter-woven strips of self-fabric.  My taste for garment details in RTW that would be challenging to make yourself apparently started when I was young!

First off, I decided which top would be the base to receive accents from cutting up the other top.  As the turquoise top had the amazing neckline I wanted to save, and as it was a solid color which could benefit from a splash of a different fabric, that was the main base for me to work with.  Next, I figured where the turquoise top was too small, and if there was a way to both add in extra fabric from the polka dotted top to make it larger as well as have such additions appear as aesthetically intentional.  The turquoise top was too small all over, but basically would fit in the shoulders and body if I increased the width on either side of the neckline (which was fine as-is).  The existing sleeves were ¾ length and only too small around my elbows, so shortening the length was all I needed to do so as to use them without a major reworking.

The polka dotted top was really tiny so I didn’t have much fabric to work with in the first place.  This had to be taken into account when figuring out what kind of refashion to plan for.  As it turned out, all I needed to do was cut this top into lots of skinny rectangular strips.  The “faux suspenders” were four complete around-the-body strips from off of the polka dotted top and were just what I needed to give the turquoise top enough width for it to fit my current body.  I had to really do some figuring for them – estimating how much more room I need, then dividing that out between the strips of fabric, plus adding in seam allowances, all the while knowing one mistake could mean the end of my idea because of my limited resources.  To make the “suspenders” seem more intentional than random, and also visually widen the shoulders, I added pinafore-style shoulder ruffles.  Boy, did this refashion have the toughest seams to sew, though!

Keep in mind I made this top at the very beginning in April.  It was at the end of that same month that pinafores were suddenly all the rage amongst vintage enthusiasts and Instagram influencers alike.  It was all I saw just a few weeks later on social media.  There were even a few new indie pattern releases (see the Sewaholic “Pendrell” blouse or Gertie’s design) and sewists offering pattern hacks, all of them being pinafore inspired.  Looking back, it seems maybe I was ahead of the trend.  Now the fads seem to have moved on to “Nap dresses” (okay, but really?) and “Cottage Core” aesthetic (…don’t get me started about that, ugh).  Either way, everyone seems all in for the combo of both comfy and cute, of course, with lockdown trends having the ever so slightest nod to old-timey house wear.  This top certainly embodies all of that before it was “a thing”!  I guess I had a better idea than I realized.

Little construction details really add to helping this refashion not seem completely thrown together.  I cut the shoulder ruffles doubled up, mirror image, back-to-back – meaning the outer edge of each shoulder ruffle is a fold and the good side of the fabric can be seen on the underside as well.  I also ironed in a lightweight interfacing to the inside of the ruffle pieces before gathering them and sewing them in the top.  I was working with a knit after all, and I felt droopy ruffles would not give this refashion the look it needed!

Also, to better unify the contrast fabric in with the rest of the top, I made an oversized bow to accent the neckline.  I had barely enough scraps leftover for it but at least I used up every bit I could!  The bow was really hubby’s idea, but I thought of having it be removable.  The bow is in place using an oversized safety pin.  I don’t trust it to keep its perky, structured shape going through the wash machine, even though I interfaced the bow strips before sewing and hand stitched the whole thing in place so it stays looking perfect.  By keeping it removable, I can use this bow as an accessory for any other outfit…or even in my hair!  I love versatility with what I make.

For “Alter It August” 2020, Mia at “Sew North” is taking the challenge meaning to also encompass actions and efforts in her life outside of the realm of just sewing.  Thus, picking up on a personal interpretation to that, maybe this refashion of mine – in honor of my friend that passed away – can be a little reminder to change up something else in your life and strengthen your connections with people.  In times that stress the importance of distance and separation, it is more imperative to not lose your bonds with those you know or love.  Let us actively work on not allowing connections with others to erode because of the state our world is in today.  If you’re thinking about someone, call them or write a letter.  Don’t put it off.  Let them know you miss them and have them in your thoughts, or even just simply share something that got you through your day.  Life is tough for many, right now, so if your outreach efforts echo back silence, that’s okay.  Truly caring for others is never wasted, it’s also caring for yourself, too.  It’s important to be kind and understanding.  Do not take them for granted, or put off an opportunity to stay connected.  You – and they – might not realize how much hearing from one another is just what is needed!

Agent Carter’s Color-Blocked Slacks Suit

Slacks suits of the 1940s – when the blouse and the pants both matched as a set – are such an admirable yet interesting piece of fashion history which is under the normal radar what we think of WWII clothes for ladies.  No doubt it has to do with the fact they are an extremely rare item to find extant, especially with both pieces together.  They were an avant-garde statement of women’s empowerment.  They always have great design lines and wonderful styling when they are to be found either in person or in magazine images.

A slacks suit was nice clothing, and not just for working the garden or at a factory assembling war supplies like dungarees.  They were also day wear, or for home leisure, when they were out of nicer materials with finer details, but always practical by offering great ease of movement and practicality for the busy, multi-tasking woman of wartime.  Any way they were styled or worn, though, wearing pants was still not a societal accepted norm for women.  Many young women or ladies with confidence and a sensible disregard for public opinion took to such fashions.  It totally makes sense that a character such as the indomitable Agent Peggy Carter would wear such a thing when she came to sunny Los Angeles in 1947 (Season Two)!   What a better way for me to channel a 40’s slacks suit than to take cue from Miss Carter and make my own color blocked version!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a burgundy colored apparel weight polyester challis from Uptown Fabric shop on Etsy along with an old cotton knit t-shirt

PATTERN:  an adapted version of Simplicity #4762, year 1943, for the blouse; I acquired this pattern as part of a trade of vintage goods with Emileigh, the blogger behind “Flashback Summer”

NOTIONS:  thread, some interfacing, and a set of true vintage 1940s buttons out of the inherited stash of hubby’s grandmother

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The blouse took me 30 hours to complete, including the necessary re-sizing of the pattern.  It was finished October 30, 2019.

THE INSIDES:  cleanly bias bound

TOTAL COST:  All I needed was two yards and this cost me only $14

To make things a bit easier on myself –so I thought – I bought the pants RTW from a company that remakes vintage style garments (Unique Vintage‘s “Ginger pants”).  These pants are made of the hard-to-find, soft, and wonderfully sturdy rayon gabardine so I couldn’t resist them, especially as they have a true high waist, pockets, and a good 40’s style wide leg.  I love that these pants are the next best thing to something I would sew myself.  They are a saturated, true burgundy and I thought that should not be hard to match…boy was I wrong.

It took me a year’s worth of browsing every so often, both in person at fabric stores and over the internet (which is much harder to do due to screen variations), to find a color which would match my existing pants AND be a proper blouse weight material.  So many burgundy tones either were too blue toned, too red, or too purple and then the fabric was either a quilting cotton, a silky print, or a duck cloth.  I would have preferred a natural material, but sometimes ya gotta go with the best one can procure for sewing projects.  At least this challis is high quality polyester which is surprisingly quite nice and –besides the surface shine – really not an obviously man-made in content.  Occasionally that dream material is too hard to find, especially when I was so impatient to be able to wear my completed dream project!  The two different contents of the pants and the blouse play tricks on the camera in the sun, but in person and through pictures in the shade, the two pieces really do match up.

Speaking of another challenge in color matching, I also had a really hard time also finding a material to match the rest of my set which was a true dark-toned spruce green.  I was tired of the searching so part of this outfit is also a refashion.  I chose the practical “made-do-and-mend” route and used an old printed t-shirt from on hand which no longer fit me.  It was in the right color green, only a completely different fabric – a cotton knit.  I was thinking (rather hoping) that the contrast in type of material might be passable because it is a contrast color to the rest of the set as well.  Also, I do love a sleeve that is easy to move in.  Against my better judgment, I went ahead and used the tee for this slacks suit’s blouse…and I am pretty pleasantly surprised at how well this refashion turned out.

I kept the original sleeves as-is from off of the t-shirt and transferred them directly onto the new blouse I was sewing.  I cut out the front Christmas print because I liked it (and might applique it to a new tee in the future).  The majority of the back body of the tee went towards the new blouse’s contrast shoulder panel and under collar piece, while the bottom hem was used to lengthen the sleeves a bit by adding faux cuffs.  I interfaced the shoulder panel and the under collar piece because, being a rather thin and stretchy knit, I thought the green tee material needed to act and feel stable like a woven from the rest of my set for it to ‘fit in’.  It seems my idea worked well.  I was afraid that using a knit for the shoulder panel – the spot on a blouse which has practically the most stress from movement – would be a terrible idea yet between the interfacing and lining that panel with more of the blouse fabric…my blouse is staying in its intended shape.  The sleeves were the only part from off of the tee that I kept fully stretchy.

Between the knit arms and the full, gathered lower back bodice panel, I now have a vintage blouse which lends itself to some extreme butt-kicking wrestling moves, such as Agent Carter was wont to exhibit on men who needed an awakening at the hands of a woman.  Luckily the scene in which we see Peggy first wearing this outfit (“A View in the Dark” episode) was a very active one, and all the different angles shown of her slacks suit were very helpful in seeing what details there were.  Out of the TV series’ original outfit, I kept the small pointed collar, the dark green buttons down the front, the back blouse fullness, the combination of colors, and the general placement of the contrast color.

However, as I have done for all of my other Agent Carter “copies”, I like to both personalize the clothing according to my taste and base it more heavily upon historical accuracy.  My bought trousers align with WWII-time standards with smaller pockets, no hem cuffs, a side metal zipper, and rayon gabardine – the classic fabric for a slacks suit.  I started with a 1943 pattern because when the war effort hit the home front in full force, slacks suits began a strong showing in fashion catalogs and shopping magazines.  All I needed to do was make just a few tweaks to make my outfits closer to extant originals that have caught my admiring eye.

I feel so much better about trying to copy a garment when I change up the design according to my own ideas.  Doing so is my way of respecting the original artist that was behind the garment which is my inspiration!  Yet also, I do want to stay true to that self-realization of knowing what will look best for my body shape, height, and proportions.  I want everything that Agent Carter wears, yes – but I also want to like myself in them rather than forcing something which might not be ‘right’ for me.  This is the only way for me to naturally incorporate a bit of Peggy Carter into my everyday wardrobe.  I like to wear my Peggy outfits as something other than a special occasion cosplay item, but to each her own.  This is why I opted for a belted overblouse style to my slacks suit, unlike the way Agent Carter originally wears her set.  Just like her, I dare to be different!

My main 1940s inspiration sources were both color-blocked jackets (with skirts) and extant matching slacks suits as seen through vintage selling sites.  Many of these include burgundy color.  My favorite set is a 40’s “California Sportswear” set made in Hollywood monotone set, sold by FabGabs, which is remarkably close to Agent Carter’s TV one.  Otherwise, I drew heavily from the two-tone “American Spectator” blouse sold at Boswell Vintage.  I made a separate belt and added it to my blouse, then adjusted the look to match my inspiration.  I imitated the front (below the belted waistline) pleats of the blue hound’s-tooth overblouse and the full gathered back of the burgundy “American Spectator” blouse.

The detail of the button going through the middle of the attached belt is everything to me here.  It’s a sharp detail so very much in tune with the tailored 40’s era and complimentary to my waistline, a big plus.  It keeps the general idea of Peggy’s set with – dare I say – better details and a better classic 40’s sportswear air to it.  My blouse is sans faux chest pocket flaps because they struck me as a detail which might only become a fussy distraction.  Combining my smaller frame proportions with the faux belt detail seemed like just enough of a balance although I do feel lost in any outfit that is lacking true pockets!

Matched in both fabric and color, slacks suits were frequently color-blocked – no doubt because each piece would be easy to mix and match separately with other items in a wardrobe.  Like most clothing meant to be an everyday item or at least supremely useful, they do not survive like special occasion clothing, says “The Vintage Traveler” (as in this post here).  She had been highlighting her collection of slacks suits on her Instagram (see these fantastic sets).  The more I see of slacks suits the more I agree with “The Vintage Traveler” and admire how casual did not mean sloppy in vintage style.  Yet, such dressing – women in pants, in particular – has lost its novelty over years.  What was informal for back then now appears quite refined by modern standards, but at the same time what was daring then is now often only thought of as a conservative approach to everyday wardrobe staples.

True instance on many an occasion – my hubby tells me to be casual for running errands and I reach for my vintage sportswear.  Then he says he needs to dress up to match me because I still look so nice!  This slacks suit is my sharpest version yet of 40’s pants based sportswear and has no complaints when I channel Peggy.  Luckily I ordered more burgundy challis material before Uptown Fabric sold out.  My hope is to extend my slacks suit to have a blouse and skirt matching combo at some point in the future.  I love how I can make something killer but still have it versatile and practical at the same time when I sew vintage…especially Peggy Carter…styles.  Now I have something new in my arsenal of creations, another box ticked off – a 1940s slacks suit.