Many times I take a cue for a sewing project from the cover image envelope, but this time my post’s outfit 100% takes its cue from the entertaining original descriptive text to a pattern. There is a lot of things which give this outfit unique qualities amongst both my wardrobe and my list of items I have made, though, besides following an old leaflet’s text for inspiration. “Important silhouettes destined to go places…” as the tag line says! With an outfit like this, I find myself actually loving my winter wardrobe enough to be totally okay with spring taking its good old time coming around!
Firstly, I considered few things coming into my outfit idea. What material has both structure and softness? Is it possible to find a fabric which will simplify the creation of the tricky details on the designs I have chosen? How can this be comfortable, warm, and possess a 50’s appropriate classiness all at the same time? Is there something I haven’t yet done, something new, that I can integrate into this project? Can combining two different sewing patterns dated exactly 10 years apart – years 1948 and 1958 – even work or at least be made any less risky? Happily, this my first project with scuba knit – and a lovely floral suede finish version at that – has both answered and solved many of those considerations. Making my ‘dress’ (one-piece in appearance only) into two versatile separates, a blouse and a skirt – solved the last concern. Ah, I love the unlimited creativity available through sewing.
I think I nailed interpreting “Soft with a touch of tailoring” my own way. The brushed, textured suede finish compliments the softly rounded pleats and angles to the lines of both blouse and skirt achieved through the foam-like thickness of the material. The raw, unfinished edges of the scuba knit – one of the features for which this material is so handy – brings what might otherwise be a very dressy style a par down to being unpretentious, easy-to-wear, and unique. The floral print might be a bit dark but it lends an undeniable femininity to the designs. It hints at the promise of spring in a dreary, leafless season. Having a golden yellow and black primary palette pairs perfectly with gold jewelry, yet can be fancied up or down as I please. Scuba knit is quite cozier than I expected, yet is a light warmth for a providing a wonderful winter set without the weight of a wool or tweed. You get the idea. I am loving this set, yet another very good sewing project!
To balance things out, the skirt is a true vintage pattern from my stash and the blouse is a modern reprint coming from Burda Style. Together I feel that this outfit – worn together or each on its own – has a very sneaky vintage look. It is not in your face, unmistakable old-style, and can pass as a sort of call-back modern spin. I like that! As I said above, versatility is what I like, in more ways than one, and as much as I love vintage styles, I do love the flexibility to merge it indistinguishably into today’s fashion.
FABRIC: Polyester suede finish scuba knit
PATTERNS: The skirt’s pattern is a true vintage Simplicity #2616 from October 1948. The blouse’s pattern is Burda Style #121 “Cross Neckline Retro Blouse”, a reprint from December 1958 included in their October 2018 magazine issue
NOTIONS: All I needed was plenty of thread with a strip of interfacing, a zipper and a hook-and-eye set for the skirt waist
TIME TO COMPLETE: The blouse was made first and was finished on February 27, 2019 after 8 hours. The skirt took me only about 5 hours to make and it was done on March 3, 2019.
TOTAL COST: This was bought from my local JoAnn Fabric store. It was on sale, with a coupon, so it came to about half the original price – about 3 yards cost me about $30.
There were no recognizable changes I made to each design, just slight adaptations to make this set work as separates made out of scuba. Otherwise, it was really pretty easy to sew in the way it was straightforward and quite simplified. Firstly, the fact my material has stretch gave me a reason to eliminate the need for a zipper or neck button for the ultimate cute slip-on top. Manipulating the pleats in the skirt was the trickiest part of this outfit because they were layered on top of one another at a slightly fanned out angle. Sewing in the underarm gusset panels was immensely easier than ever before in scuba, though. Also, ironing down interfacing to the underside of a plain waistband I cut for the skirt was easier than I expected. The scuba is thick enough that I wasn’t too worried about eliminating the facings to the ties and having them be one layer. I just don’t pull the ties too tightly, but I wouldn’t want to do that anyway because it would twist the blouse out of shape as well.
I lengthened the ties so I have the option of multiple ways to tie the front – getting back to the idea of versatility. There’s the twisted criss-cross thing I mostly do with the ties, or I can merely lap them over each other on my chest. In any other fabric, this design would be equally as interesting – such as a tissue-weight silk (like the Burda sample), yet a structured wool would be on the opposing end of the spectrum. A sharply tailored woolen adaptation of this blouse could very well end up looking like the bodice of this dress from the film “Motherless Brooklyn”, a 2019 American neo-noir crime drama set in 1957. The original pattern actually called for a soft jersey knit as the material, though, admitted in this Burda blog post. As it was, I made this outfit last year primarily for the blouse because I wanted to be part of the “Sew Twists and Ties” challenge. Either way, I need to have my neck covered in the cold because of my sensitive thyroid gland, and the ties on this blouse make for a much more fancy way to do so fashionably, compared to a neck scarf or a turtleneck.
The belt is adapted from the arched waistband of the Simplicity 40’s dress pattern. It’s worn on the reverse side and cut of a single layer of fabric, since scuba knit doesn’t fray! I love how scuba knit is often reversible, this one especially so. I played with that here. Because the neck tie edges are raw, a bit of the solid underside shows and highlights a feature which might otherwise be lost in a busy print. That also worked for the belt, and was a way to easily match with the rest of my outfit as well. The only places where there was a conventional hem – the sleeve ends and skirt bottom – were stitched down by hand to have the thread be invisible and accommodate the stretchiness of the fabric. Otherwise, as I learned, for both the neck ties and the belt piece, you can’t be messy with your cutting practices in a scuba knit or a jagged edge clearly shows!
My first project-from-scratch experience with scuba fabric was fun and successful. (I’ve worked with scuba to refashion RTW fashion for my paid commissions for others.) It is a great fabric, I will admit. As I recently told a friend, scuba knit goes against everything I believe in about quality, earth-conscious sewing (there is no seam edge finishing needed, besides it being non-breathable, plastic polyester) so I was initially a skeptic. Scuba knit is so forgiving to sew, you don’t have to be perfect stitching it together, but it still looks good nevertheless…so it would be perfect for a beginner to knits. As long as you use a wide zigzag stitch, you don’t need to stretch it as you sew, unlike other knits. An all scuba garment can be hot to wear in the summer though, as it is lofty and thick like foam, but these are good qualities for a winter piece.
I have sighted smartly crafted scuba knit garments carrying respected designer labels on them when browsing my local Neiman Marcus store, so this kind of fabric has surprisingly really progressed in status over the last 10 or so years! I really don’t want scuba to be something I reach for on a regular basis, but I do enjoy the fact I have come to terms with it and found some of the reasons behind its popularity. This is not my last project in scuba, believe me! I had a little bit of scuba knit on the collar and waistband of my most recent bomber jacket, after all. Let me know what your experiences with scuba knit are!