There is nothing quite as refreshing as a change of scenery. I love the fact that the holidays change up the atmosphere as well as the sights around town, and yet a full out location modification, if only for a day here and there, is the real elixir. We’ve been taking advantage of the acres of land (a road trip away) which my husband’s family still owns. It is the remnants of what was once a much larger farm, already old when the third generation back bought it. The promise of no one around but us and plenty of personal space with a variety of exciting nature to hear, see, and absorb was wonderful.
Of course, I couldn’t help but try out wearing my newest vintage dress creation for one of this season’s trips out to the farmland. Not that I did the actual property hiking or upkeep work in this (I save that for boots, a worn-in shirt, and denim overalls). Nevertheless, this dress interpreted the colors and feel of the farm to me – rustic, beautiful, fun, and freeing! The old family property is our new safe place to be ourselves, reset, and find renewed refreshment. Similarly, this new dress is a cozy, cheerful, and easy on the eyes. This is already a cold weather favorite piece to wear!
PATTERN: Simplicity 5850, year 1973, from my pattern stash
NOTIONS: All I needed was matching thread and a 22” long back zipper
TIME TO COMPLETE: The dress took me only 5 hours to go from start to finish. It was completed on October 22, 2020.
TOTAL COST: about $25
The background color is very interestingly unique and hard to capture accurately. It is not really a yellow, but neither is it an orange. Minerva’s listing seems to call it a gold, but it more coppery than that. The closest I can swatch it through the Pantone colors is “Autumn Maple” #17-1145. The dress’ color reminds me of a heavily spiced pumpkin pie, or baked sweet potatoes – yum!
For being a 70’s dress, I see this a step above the stereotype of the era. It is has an elegance of silhouette inspired by the 30s and simple lines that could be from any of the past several decades. The angled empire waistline is so lovely! There are your run-of-the-mill tapered sleeves…no bell sleeves, and no puff sleeves. The back has a long 22 inch zipper making this super simple to get on for an instant put-together look. The skirt has a lovely swish to it between the bit of bias cut and stretch of the knit. As easy to sew as it was, I don’t know why it wasn’t one of those minimal piece designs called “Jiffy” patterns. After all, I was able to pull off cutting out this dress on only 2 yards of material (60 inch width). If a dress like this comes together as quickly as this did in one evening, then I am a very happy girl indeed!
The ‘turtleneck’ is not as overpowering as or even similar to a 90’s turtleneck – the back envelope summary technically labels it as a stand-up collar. This high neck can be found as an added option on many dress patterns from the late 60’s to the mid-70’s. It really is the perfect balance that keeps my neck warm but not suffocated. The instructions did not call for interfacing or even facing to any part of the dress, and as I was working with a knit I was happy to oblige. Unfortunately though, the pattern wanted only one layer for the stand-up collar with a simple hem along the top edge. What?! I went ahead and cut out two layers of material to face each other for a clean finish and stronger collar piece. This slight change of mine made for a much nicer neckline.
What is this trademarked “Look Slimmer” label to this pattern, I wonder? I understand it’s self-explanatory yet I am curious why Simplicity began this line in the first place and what body type was their intended audience. If anything, such a selling point sure helped me feel more confident about using a large print floral for a longer length dress. Surely a design that slims the body must be able to pull off an oversized print, right? Longer length, long sleeved, warmer winter dresses always make me sense that I may lose a complimentary body conscious appearance in the effort to stay warm in the cold. I sometimes felt as bulky as the “Stay-Puft” man (from the original ’84 Ghostbusters movie) in the winter clothes I had growing up. Yet, this dress manages to hide the layers I am wearing underneath here…amazing!
Paging through the rest of my 70’s pattern stash, I now realized I do have a few more of these “Look Slimmer” designs. They do all rather seem way too similar to each other so I can’t imagine a gal back when these came out buying too many patterns from this line unless she was okay with not a lot of variety. Nevertheless, that is a great promise to include on a pattern cover and I do believe it holds rather true even in a print such as the one I chose, even with a few extra clothes layered underneath. When you are out in the middle of almost nowhere away from home, letting yourself grow cold is unwise and not fun at all. If I can look good taking care of such practicality, even when no one but family sees me, all the better.
I hope my fellow Americans had a happy, healthy, and hearty Thanksgiving holiday celebration. Who is already begun getting ready for the next holiday? We did chop down a cedar tree at the farm land, mostly to refurbish our coat closet for protection against clothes moths. Yet, we also posted up in our living room the small little top portion of the tree leftover. As we never have a tree up before Thanksgiving, we did not decorate it, but still…I guess, unofficially, Christmas has already started early here, too.
I would really enjoy the season of fall much better if it wasn’t for Daylight Savings Time. It has been observed in my country for just over a hundred years by now but I don’t care. I detest the way just one little tweak to the timing of my day throws everyone in the family off for a while. What about you? By the time we are all free from our commitments for the day, we are left in early evening darkness. So often in years before, we get stuck inside too early going stir crazy so it’s going to be real special here this year with the current limitations. Time is a precious resource and I hate to waste it, especially not from being needlessly restless. So – how about joining me in placating the misfortune of the autumn time change with some nice reminiscing to instead fall back in time? Let’s check out some fall garments I sewed years past to keep me happy, warm, and looking good during such a transitional season.
Just a forewarning – these are not the most spectacular things to share here on my blog, and being my older projects not up my current par of perfection. Yet, it’s the basic stuff like this that becomes a tried and true dependable piece which has lasted me so many years. Honestly, I feel like giving these garments a longevity award and not just a post! The fact I am still able to wear and enjoy these garments for up to 16 years now has me realize that I am one of a small percentage of folks who could or would even do such a thing, so I hope I don’t seem out of touch here. Blame it on my willingness to adjust, tailor, mend, and generally take care of these pieces over the years to keep them as something I even want to still enjoy. This tendency is not a bad habit, though. Being happy with what you have, being confident enough to be yourself, and being economical to mend and keep up what you already possess before buying new are all great to practice no matter the season or place, no matter your wealth of lack of it.
FABRIC: The plaid skirt is a printed quilter’s cotton, lined in a cling-free poly in a beige color. The top paired with the skirt is made of a polyester stretch suede, in a deep burgundy-cranberry. The tweed flared skirt is a lofty, heavyweight acrylic blend, lined in a dark brown cling-free poly. The long half-circle skirt is a polyester micro suede with a ‘burnout’ floral print, lined in a cling-free poly in a tan color.
PATTERNS: Butterick #3654, year 2002, bias flounce hem skirt, paired with a top using McCall’s #3655, year 2002. Simplicity 4881, from 2003, a “tulip” hem skirt. Simplicity #4543, from 2005, for a pull-on half circle skirt with the tummy panel.
NOTIONS: Pretty simple – thread, a 7 inch zipper, and ½ inch elastic
TIME TO COMPLETE: Each one of these skirts was a 2 hour project – easy peasy! The stretch suede top took about 3 hours just because I had problems with the fitting and details, as I remember. The top and skirt set was sewn circa 2004, while both the tweed skirt and the suede floral circle skirt were made circa 2006.
Where do I start? I suppose I’ll begin with the full set I made – the suede top and the cotton plaid skirt. This set is from a time when I survived off of versatile separates. It was such a challenge to find either a top which fit me yet also matched a skirt I had made, or a skirt which suited my taste yet also looked good with a top or blouse I already had. Back then I was just starting to branch out into more experimental sewing (such as hats) as well as beginning to try creating garments that needed me to figure out better tailoring and patterning skills (such as dresses and jackets). The project choice for this outfit was therefore both benign and experimental for me. The skirt was a safe bet. I was most comfortable sewing them by then and it was simple enough that I chose to make it again in velvet for a Christmas party (posted here). Stretch suede is a novel material to pick for a top, and I used a pattern designed for much stretchier knits so I needed courage and forethought. I was pushing boundaries and figuring things out first hand…and I succeeded.
I wisely went up a whole size and then some as the suede did not have the stretch rate the pattern recommended. The slight stretchiness to the suede means I have no closures and this is a pullover top. Yet, the material was dense enough that I was confused what stitch to use and I chose a stable straight stitch, finishing off the inner raw edges with my mom’s serger (overlocking machine). The smooth satin underside to the suede is what I feel against my skin on the inside and it is fabulous!
I originally made the sleeves extra-long so I could have room to choose some novelty hemming or whatever interesting detail struck my fancy, as I thought. Turned out, I shirred up the inner wrist area for a bit of a different look while still keeping the hem up and giving me plenty of extra reach room. A small strip of hem facing keeps those gathers in place. The sleeve cap did not stretch into the armscye like a normal knit, yet I did not like the appearance of a gathered sleeve cap. Thus I made small pleats to take in the excess. This is not the proper way to do such a fix, but it worked and it nicely squared off the sleeve tops for a defined shoulder line.
I originally cut the neckline really close to the throat at first because – like the sleeves – I wanted to experiment. Turned out, I created a wide, squared off neckline, and finished it by sewing down and turning inside a strip of tiny bias tape. It was not your run-of-the-mill tee but still simple enough to pair with many different me-made skirts…in other words, just what I wanted!
The skirt is basically everything the same as the velvet version I posted here. It has a pull-on elastic waist for ¾ of the waistband, with the front over the tummy being a smooth panel. There is full lining which ends just above the hem ruffle. The skirt was lengthened through the body because I thought the bias ruffle would look weird at any other length other than knee length or ankle length – and ankle length would be more elegant, warmer on my legs, and not so sporty. This is a comfy but not dumpy skirt that has such a subtle plaid. The orange and burgundy print reminded me of rows of stitching up close!
The body of the skirt was cut on the bias for a cross-wise plaid but it also gives a better body complimentary fit. I have a booty in this! Also, too, a straight and long skirt like this always made me think that I appeared taller – and this was important to a girl who was always the shortest in her class and too often taken for granted growing up. Now I have high heels which fill in for those silly feelings, he he.
Nevertheless, I still appreciate this skirt, although the elastic waist limits how I can wear this according to my preferences of today and what tops I now have that go with it. This is why I sewed a top for it back then, one that did not need to be tucked in. The top has such a rich texture and color and it was completely personalized according to my own inventions! The skirt’s bottom flounce floofs up when I walk in a way that tickles the little girl inside me which still appreciates ruffles and such frills. Together, these two items are like the best of the colors on trees’ fading leaves in fall.
Next, I’ll talk about the tweed skirt. Out of all the things I had made before I started blogging, this particular skirt is by far my favorite item. It is probably also my most frequently worn self-made skirt, even over my vintage skirts. It is something that I reach for again and again even today. The variety of colors in the tweed pair with so much in way of tops, blouses, and suit blazers while the lovely silhouette is the only one of its kind in my wardrobe. To my knowledge this shape of a skirt is called a “tulip hem” because it looks like an upside down opening flower bud. It is slimming yet also easy to move in.
The original way I had this skirt go on was with a simple elastic waist, much like the skirt above. This tweed is rather heavy weight, especially with almost 3 yards of fabric needed for it, and I remember the elastic waist was always slinking down on me when I would wear it. Several years ago now, I completely reworked that waist to turn this into a smooth fitting, side zipper closure skirt. It is much more of a professional skirt his way, and better for tucking tops in, as well as stable on my body. No more drooping skirt!
Otherwise, I kept everything the way I had made it originally from before I reworked the waist. This is fully lined, but even still, tweed ravels like crazy as does poly lining. Thus, all seams had been cleanly serged (overlocked) and top stitched down. I kept the pattern’s intended proportions and length of view D, where the flare begins above the knee in the lower part of the upper thigh. I did not do any adjustments and made an exact copy of the pattern.
My fabric is heavy so the skirt has a slightly different fall at the panels than what is seen on the model images on the cover (their skirts are a crepe or lightweight silky print). I personally like the structure of my version to this pattern better. It reminds me more of a suiting skirt rather than one with a romantic flair. This is what has lent it to be such a go-to piece. It is feminine yet serious, fancy yet not pretentious, versatile but not overly simple. I definitely recommend you to find this pattern and try it for yourself. Early 2000 era patterns are super cheap right now!
Finally, the last item in this post is another suede creation – a pull-on half circle skirt. It has a smooth tummy panel which extends down to the hipline, where the circle portion joins in along a straight, un-gathered seam. I lined the skirt from the hipline seam down, and finished the suede in a skinny 1/8 inch hem. This was such a tricky, frustrating material to work with! The weave was so tight, even with a sharp point needle my sewing machine didn’t want to poke stitches through. The suede stuck to itself at every turn yet was as soft as butter so I couldn’t always be sure I wasn’t sewing over a wrinkle. Luckily there were very few seams to the design.
This was total whim project from what I vaguely remember. I saw this fabric in the store, it tickled my fancy and I immediately knew what I wanted to sew with it. I whipped it together pretty much as soon as it was bought home, even before washing it (I always wash my fabrics before sewing with them). No matter how much I do like the final skirt that might not have been the best idea. The suede sticks like Velcro to most any top I wear with it and I made my easy-but-ubiquitous elastic waist – again. Sigh. Thus, I feel restricted to only sweater tops or blazers over this skirt. The basic colors in the skirt lend it to only match with similar browns or ivory tones – not very versatile. Oh well. I do love how swishy and romantic it is – so perfect for twirling! It is a subtle kind of floral, too. Also, it is in the on-trend copper tone which is one of the “it” colors of this year and midi length dresses and skirts are coming back. See? I am now on trend wearing something I made for myself 14 years ago. Weird, right?!
As much as these items are something I probably would not make today, I can’t help but give my younger self some credit for my sewing choices. I think the fact I could make items which I can enjoy for such an extended period of my life must have laid the ground work for how and what I sew today. Granted, these are ‘modern’ pieces from before a time when vintage fashion was something I wanted to be in for more than just for going “in costume” to living history events. In a time when day-to-day reality feels weird and living in 2020 is like an apocalyptic movie, I find some comfort in connecting with my past by wearing my older creations. Not forgetting where you came from can help you move ahead in the present, even if the channel for that happens to be through clothing. Sometimes you have to fall back to move forward.
There’s been a lot of overly basic sewing going through my machine over the past months – and I’m talking about more than just masks. The couple that wears handmade clothing stays together…did I get that right?! Thus, I might as well spice that necessary stuff up a bit to make my practical sewing more interesting.
Not content with once around, the leftovers of one recent refashion plus some lace remnants were enough to eke out a special little sewing for my intimate wearing! Then, some one yard novelty fabric remnants went towards making some quirky new boxers for my hubby. Sorry if this is quite “too much personal information” to share, but I am proud of all the sewing I do and this stuff would never be seen otherwise if I didn’t post about it! (That might be a good thing…anyway.) I do think these look nice enough to share, especially my pretty bra, and yes – they are brand spanking new at this point. It’s so hard to show how wonderful these items are without modeling them, but we’ll spare you that! You’ll just have to believe our words and settle for my beginner’s ability to pull off an interesting flat-lay. I paired the items with something that recalls the era of the pattern date. You can see a peek of my silk true vintage 1930s pink bias slip as the backdrop for my bra, while hubby’s favorite vintage 60’s skinny tie and his monthly magazine subscription are the accessories paired for his boxers.
I think it is important to post about making underwear and lingerie so as to show others that it is much easier to make your own basic necessities than you might think. These items are 100% more comfortable on us and much better fitting than any store-bought RTW items. No wonder – they were tailored along the way to fit each of us, besides being incredibly personalized with the materials chosen, turning into an everyday treat to wear. Also, everyone can see how pricey it is to buy quality, name-brand underwear and lingerie. With remnants and under a yard of material, you can sew yourself something better than RTW at a very low or even free (if using scraps on hand) cost. It’s a win all around. Especially when these are such easy-to-make patterns, and vintage designs to boot!
FABRIC: except for the little bit of lace on my bra, every item shared here is in comfy cotton – each one is just a different variety and weight of cotton (I’ll explain in further down in the rest of the post)
NOTIONS NEEDED: Luckily, I had the specialty bra making supplies already as part of a $1 grab bag of notions I bought a while back at a rummage sale. Besides that, everything else I needed was basic – thread and elastic.
TIME TO COMPLETE: The brassiere was made –from start to finish – in 3 hours and was made in the afternoon of July 27, 2020. His boxers were made here and there over the past few months and only took 1 ½ hours each to make.
THE INSIDES: The insides of the bra are cleanly hidden, encased between the layers, while hubby’s boxers are zig-zag stitched finished along the edge.
TOTAL COST: Each boxer cost about $2 to $4 (what a deal) while the bra materials are as good as free, being mostly leftovers from something 15 plus years ago.
So – where to start? At first, the motivation for such sewing was both pure necessity as well as an inability to shop for such things in person (as we prefer). But you know, what? Somewhere along the line such basic sewing became more enjoyable. We normally make sure to save my time and buy such items, yet the amount of 1 yard or less cuts that I have on hand are so plentiful and the perfect resource. Besides, they both were quick projects that required barely an hour and so were practically perfect for the small segments of time I have for sewing recently! It is nice to have a fast turnout item in between more complex projects, like the over the top dresses that my pandemic brain has been needing as of late (more on that soon). It’s wonderful to have a completely handmade wardrobe inside as well as out, and it is also really special to be able to share that feeling. I suppose doing such would be weird to share with anyone else but a partner, anyway!
I will start off with my selfish sewing. The 90’s plaid skirt I refashioned to become this 1940s blouse had a basic cotton lining underskirt to it which was left behind. It was a very small amount, about a half yard wide by about 25 inches long, but in simple A-line shape with only the two side seams so it was as good as a folded fabric remnant. While it was out and not stashed away yet, why leave that good fabric neglected without a productive idea to match with it? That would not be me! So I reached for something that would need very little fabric, be different to make, and be something I could use at a practical level. The basic ivory color and semi-sheer thickness dictated using the leftover lining cotton for some garment that was not to be seen.
This vintage year 1937 lingerie set has been a pattern I have been itching to try ever since I picked it up when it came out and so it was the natural choice. Even though I was only able to use the skirt lining for a half set – just the bra (and the leftover fabric went towards two face masks) – this refashion was an immense success that makes me excited to pick up the pattern again and make a full set in a fashion fabric. This is a very lovely surprise project, and a totally wearable muslin test.
As the lining cotton was a plain ivory and almost sheer (even with two layers), I realized mere dyeing to change the color would not add both a special touch and a bit of decency to this bra the same way layering it with some leftover lace did. As the pattern is not complex and has very few seams I chose a posh French lace from on hand to layer over the outside. Wow, does that lace addition really elevate this bra!
Yet, without realizing ahead of time, I found out it is a good thing that the lace was so delicate and the cotton was so soft and thin because it was quite hard to gather the middle seam of the bra down to the length the pattern intended. As it was, I could not gather any tighter and that spot is still ½ inch longer than supposed to be. If I had used a fabric any thicker this detail would have been even more difficult. It is important to get this section as closely gathered as possible because it provides the bulk of the bra’s shaping, beside the small underbust darts. The lesson learned (without having to recover from a failure) is to keep to lightweight, thin, and drapey for at least the brasserie half of this vintage reprint design.
Other than the challenge presented from the fabrics I was using, this pattern was a breeze to sew. I found the size spot on and the instructions good. The shaping of the bra is well done and the support is gives is just enough to do its job while still being comfortable to the point of feeling heavenly. Of course you can see I upgraded to modern bra notions when it came to the notions used just so that this can be a vintage merge to get the best of both worlds. There are times where I like to go all out vintage so I can both learn a new, different way of doings and also come from a historical perspective to try to understand how things used to be. I did that already, however, for this earlier 1930’s lingerie set (posted here). That aqua bra was finished the way the old vintage instructions dictated – with twill tape straps and such in the non-adjustable manner – and it needs constant tweaking to be brought back up fitting me as perfectly today as it did when I made it. This time, I was determined today’s pretty little project was going to be more enjoyed than the last vintage lingerie, and what better way to do that than make it fully adjustable for my body and a touch more up-to-date?!
Next comes my unselfish sewing project! This trio of boxers were very much mindless sewing I really didn’t have to think about how to construct. They were pretty much the same as the 1940s pajama pants I had made him (posted here). To save on interfacing for the front fly, I merely tripled up on fabric layers. Interfacing and elastic still seems hard to come by, but luckily I had a pretty good stash of 1 inch wide elastic from my deceased Grandmother. Thus, with the exception of the first pair of boxers I made for him – the animal print ones – which were two channels of ½ inch elastic, all the rest were a single piece of wide stretch waistband. The instructions said to make two channels, but he seemed to find the dual channels of elastic would twist and line up wrongly as they get worn, so a single wide elastic waistband is always less fussy…and who wants fussy underwear?!
I gave myself a bit of a break when laying out the pattern for these boxers. I laid the lower bottom edge out along the selvedge to save myself a bit of extra time to do hemming. Also. I cut them opposite the grainline to save on fabric and better align with the directional prints on two of the boxers. All of the pairs are cotton wovens that are not shifty and so going a bit against the rules of sewing and fabric isn’t a big deal, especially when you’re talking about mere underwear. I normally never do such a thing so I was really in a special mood for such a disobedience to happen in my sewing projects.
Each pair is a different weight and kind of cotton. As I said, I was not only using what was on hand but was experimenting to see what he would prefer. The animal print ones as a tissue weight voile, the Captain America print is a medium weight quilting cotton, while the red print is something you might recognize, leftover Indian block print from making my sari ensemble choli blouse (posted here). The Indian cotton was actually my part of a deal he made with me. He encouraged me to not be feeling bad for placing a big fabric order from “Fibers to Fabric” on Etsy (yes, I honestly sometimes feel guilt for adding to my already generous sized stash of sewing supplies) as long as he gets a little something made for himself out of it. I said I would use one of the fabrics to make him boxers, because I know how luxurious Indian cotton is, and underwear is the best way to appreciate good material. It seems this is his favorite pair on account of the fabric – it is almost like a silk in the way it is very breathable, cooling, and weightless.
The voile is lightweight, yes – but not as silky the Indian cotton. I know, he put up with me sewing him the animal pair, but I couldn’t help but think of Tarzan when I saw this one yard remnant. Those were my crazy choice and my hubby has humored me. The quilting cotton is a thick and tightly woven, as I’m sure many of you know (us vintage enthusiast always get tempted by its pretty prints for day dresses!), that has way too much sizing in it so it’s not the best choice for underwear. Many washes will fix that eventually and break it in…and by then it might be looking almost worn out. Ah, yes, I have a love-hate relationship with printed quilting cotton. Yet, the Captain America print is so darn fun it has to be the winning boxer pair, though! It is a print that is practically made for our family interests. I actually ordered enough of this official Marvel brand fabric to make several face masks for each of us, with a yard still leftover to sew some pajama pants in the future for our little guy out of it as well.
The frequent wearing of loungewear along with finding ways to be self-dependent both are having a strong moment this year. As we are all staying at home and outdoors more frequently, whether for work, play, or eating. Crafting your own ‘unmentionables’ for your own personal comfort and enjoyment might just become as much of a thing as the “Nap dress” or food canning. I love to be on trend using old trends. Drive-in movie entertainment is coming back, so hey – anything is possible!
Handmade lingerie is really not as impossible a task as it might seem at first, and it is a fantastic way to use up small fabric scraps and bust that stash you’ve been holding onto, as well as be as sensible, sustainable, and thrifty as possible. Besides, the holidays are coming and a handmade intimate garment would be an easy and cute little gift – just saying! The world will never know how handmade your outfit really is when you make your own underwear…it’s merely a little undercover secret about your modern day superpower.
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!
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?