There is nothing 100% “from scratch” in the outfit that I’m posting this time, as this is (mostly) about a current refashion of a 1940s blouse I’ve already made back in 2013. Yet, I have paired it with a “new” woolen skirt that I refashioned after finding it chewed up during storage in our cedar closet. Together, this is a fresh take on two existing items in my closet which needed some care and attention…and that deserves its own post, right?! After my previous post on my Victorian skating ensemble, I thought I’d keep things simple and mix things up by showing how I keep up pieces in my wardrobe. In order to earn its keep in my closet, each item needs to be something that fits as well as something I love. I have no qualms about putting something I’ve sewn through a scissor and under the sewing machine to have that happen! I made it, I can fix it up, too. Beyond that, though, this set is the perfect colors to wear for St. Patrick’s Day – the white, orange, and green of their national flag!
I couldn’t help but title my post after the song that this outfit calls to my mind. It is an Irish folk song which supposedly rose out of the 1919 to 1921 War of Independence but got a popular revival in 1989 from the album “Home to Ireland” by Spailpin (listen to the song here). It is almost my favorite Irish song album – I have loved it since my childhood! “The Rising of the Moon” song is not to be missed and “Three Young Ladies Drinking Whiskey Before Breakfast” will get your toes tapping. I am proudly very Irish through both sides of my family as well as my husband’s side, so this is not just celebrating a holiday which is alien to me but happily honoring my heritage! Although some of my Irish ancestors may have preferred to sport orange for today, I align more with the wearing of green, so I love how this outfit unites all the colors just as the flag does. (If you know your Irish history, you’ll understand this one without looking it up!)
FABRIC: The fabric for the blouse is from a seasonal collection of soft 100% cotton quilting fabric, lined in a matching rust orange color 100% cotton broadcloth
NOTIONS: I really had everything I needed on hand – thread, zipper, and bias tape. The single button at the back neck closure is probably close to being the correct era for my vintage blouse, and comes from my special familial vintage button stash.
TIME TO COMPLETE: My blouse originally (first incarnation) took me about 10 hours to be done back in October 2013. In the fall of 2021, I spent another 5 hours to renew the blouse into its latest version.
Both pieces have recently been discovered to be too small on me, but the skirt also had damage so I had more than one incentive for altering them. Now that we are coming out of two years of isolating and staying at home, I have to get to know the full potential of my closet again. A good amount of my pieces have not been touched in a while because of the pandemic, and although my body has mostly either stayed the same or lost weight through it, the same cannot be said for my upper arms and hips. In some of the cases, letting out my 5/8 inch seam allowances is enough. In other garments I find that I will need to add in gussets, side panels, or re-work the bodice. These have now gone to my “need to alter, fit, or refashion” drawer.
I still like these items enough to want to give them TLC or perhaps a whole new spin in the future. After all, I invest myself in everything I make and probably 90% (or more) of my wardrobe is self-crafted at this point. I am happy with what I have and don’t need to start a project from scratch to use my sewing capabilities. Taking care of what I have is sustainable and responsible, I feel. I am just sad to see how my body changes add to my already large enough make-do-and-mend pile. How have the last two years affected your wardrobe? Do you find things fitting you differently or have your style tastes just changed…maybe both? Do you enjoy altering and mending or is it pure drudgery for you?
What was wrong with the blouse in the first place? You may be wondering this because the blouse has ended up looking close to the same way as when I originally made it – just short sleeved. Well, I wasn’t going for a different spin, just the same look in a bigger size. The armscye was already close fitting when I first made the blouse. Its sleeves were now uncomfortable, losing any ‘reach room’ and the hips were too snug to zip down past the waistline. Also, at this point – since my sewing skills have improved – I was quite embarrassed by my beginner’s efforts at making a buttoned cuff on long sleeves. Thus, the long sleeves were sacrificed to become side panels to add room. It was easier than digging through my containers of scraps in the unlikely hope that there would be a remnant large enough to help my need for a refashion! One sleeve was divided in half to make two panels for the bodice sides, while the other sleeve went towards the neckline (see next paragraph). The original zipper was unpicked out of the blouse and re-inserted in between the front main body and the left side panel.
Just adding in width was not enough to fully open up the sleeves for more shoulder room. I also unpicked the sleeves from the bodice and re-sewed them in at ¼ inch seam allowance (the original blouse had 5/8 inch seam allowance). That was better but my big arms were still pulling at the neckline. So I opened up the neckline, loosened up the center front gathers, cut the neck more open by ½ inch, and sewed over the edge a brand new bias band (cut from the second sleeve, as mentioned above). This time I left lots of excess length at the back closure to the neckline’s finishing bias band so I can button it in a way that is more open. This assuages my claustrophobia over tightly necked garments, and widens out the shoulders a bit. I was able to cut two more small bias strips for finishing the two sleeve’s hem ends.
The brown all-wool skirt was something I have had since my late teen years. I had forgotten about it in our cedar closet for the last decade and it was not properly stored. I believe it was carpet beetles which found it, because moths make bigger chews holes. Nevertheless, the skirt had most of its significant chews from the hipline up to the waist. Being a long ankle length to begin with, I merely cut off the top 1/3 of the skirt (keeping the side zipper, albeit short now), newly tapered in the side seams, added darts to fit, and finished the waistline with bias tape. Any tiny holes left can be patched up easily since the wool is lofty and loosely woven. This was super easy refashion.
Much better than buying raw supplies, I use garments I already have as material for my sewing ideas. This time, these two items were more of a refitting I suppose versus a total re-fashion. Both my skirt and blouse are much more versatile and wearable now more than they ever were, so this is not just about ‘saving’ them, I feel. A mid-length skirt is more all-weather, just the same as making short sleeves on my blouse. My blouse is double layered (lined in all cotton) and the wool skirt is cozy so shortening their length has turned them into something I can wear for cooler days in the spring and fall, not just for the cold of winter. This way I have the opportunity to layer them. Paired over my blouse to bring out the green is an old favorite store bought corduroy blazer back from my teen years.
To conclude, I wish a happy St. Patrick’s Day to all who celebrate! To read more on some of the ways I celebrate this holiday, as well as the fancy green-themed vintage dress I may pick to wear today, please visit this Instagram post (linked here). The fact that St. Patrick’s Day is always immediately followed by the first day of the verdant season of spring always gives me an excellent reason to be on a spell of fascination for anything green. Here’s your tip off as to what may be featured in my next blog post!