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What i Made: Cora Gwendolyn

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Numero uno didn’t work out, and neither did numero dos, but let me tell you, numero tres is a stunner. Margheritas for everyone!

This project started about 6 months ago, specifically when I drove to Quakertown to interview Susan. After she talked through her life and sewing experiences, we ended our meet-up with a perquisition of a local thrift store for vintage patterns. Boy, did I stumble on a good lot that day. My difficulty when searching for vintage patterns is size; because of my petite frame, young junior or teen fit me best, but patterns available in that range without an infantile silhouette are few and far between. #petitegirlproblems #donttellmetoeatacheeseburger. That day, the heavens opened and dropped bins that were squeezed and squished to the brim with 50s, 60s and 70s patterns with the coolest shapes and styles. The kind of designs and seaming you don’t see nowadays. My favorite of the bunch was Simplicity 7456, which when it was released in 1967, sold for 65 cents! I couldn’t even buy a cheeseburger with that today. Okay, enough with the cheeseburgers. The matching top and bottom trend is not a new endeavor for me. Matchy matchy and I had a fling a little over a year and a half ago when I made a coordinating top and short set that for some reason, I never wore. Yet as I have been following Colette’s Wardrobe Architect and constructing a new closet, this silhouette is number one. Through Sarai’s discussion, I have been developing my formula – which is simple silhouette + standout, exquisite fabric – and the head to toe matching embodies this while still being my style – refined, classic and a little quirky. I also love how I can split the two pieces and pair the top with boyfriend jeans and the bottoms with any type of blouse, all while maintaining the same aesthetic.

You don’t have to tell me I’m a slow seamstress, I know!, but the reason for this project taking so long was that I believed it had the potential to become a block/sloper design that I could use again and again, so I kept at it until I got fit and fabric right. The first and second attempts were classic examples of wrong fabric choice and the need to update vintage silhouettes in order to make them modern. By shortening the bottoms 3” and eliminating the sleeves, the ensemble looks 2014 and 1960s schoolmarm. Also, sewing this look 3 times helped me know my specs better. I now know that I like a 14″ across shoulder, not 13 1/2″ or 14 1/2.” Might not seem like a lot considering it’s only 1/4″ on each side, but to a seamstress, it is.

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So, construction bits. The fabric is a cotton/polyester brocade from Mood fabrics that cost a fortune, but the unique motif made the price worth it. Plus, I’ll pay anything for polka dots! Even though there are ways to predict how a fabric will perform in stores, you really don’t know what you’re getting into until you start working with it. Fortunately, the stars aligned and this fabric was a dream to work with from start to finish. The grain was perfectly on grain (I checked!) – it only shrunk a hair during prewashing – and it cooperated beautifully with my sewing machine and iron. No hair pulling moments; not even one.

The neckline is finished by sandwiching the collar between the body and the self front facing, which was interfaced with lightweight fusible I haven’t used before from Pamela’s Patterns (which is a Palmer/Pletsch product). It works just as well as the interfacing I usually buy from Fashion Sewing Supplies. I added a slit opening at the center front neck so that I could get in and out of the top without a zipper. I used this type of opening on my Japanese dress, but cutting to the point and having less than 1/8” seam allowing is flimsy, and if I’m going to be making this again, I want something sturdier. Any suggestions? I was thinking a binding would be better?

To finish the armhole, I used a TNT technique  that is basically a Hong Kong finish but reversed. I made 1 3/8” self bias binding, applied it to the wrong side first, then flipped it to the right side, and topstitched, leaving 1/4” raw. It’s a cute detail that doesn’t look unfinished – because it’s cut on the bias, it doesn’t fray – and adds a bit of texture.

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The shorts were a breeze to sew, even for this tortoise. After staystitching and fusing, it took about 2 hours to complete. I used a new technique for the waistband that I will definitely use in the future. I like waistbands that are cut on the straight grain, but I hate how they stand away from the body and don’t curve in like a shaped one. After taking Susan Khalje’s The Couture Dress class, I researched more about her and found a video tutorial on Threads’ website where she demonstrates a couture method for building a waistband. If the waistband is to be 1”, then you make the seam allowances of the pant front and back panels 1” and cut the width of the waistband 4 times the finished width, which in this case would be 4 3/16” (3/16″ added to account for turn of the cloth). After you first sew the waistband to the pant, you don’t trim any seam allowances; you wrap the full thickness around to the wrong side and either machine or hand sew it for the final pass. It sounds like it would be too thick, but it isn’t. It not only eliminates the indentation of seam allowance (which I hate!), but bulks up the waistband so that it doesn’t stand away from the body – it fits snug at the smallest part of your waist. The only problem I had with this construction was with the tab opening; that is the only place is was too thick. To remedy this on the next one, I’ll simply have the zipper run to the top of the short (that’s the way it is in most RTW garments).

So, what about this beaded, Peter Pan collar? Just like I did with Carter Rae and grain perfection, I’ll be back with a follow up post that details everything I learned about beading, rhinestones and application. It will be a complete guide with resources to my favorite vendors, methods I used for the easiest application, when to glue rhinestones versus when to sew, how to transfer a beading design to fabric, etc. So stay tuned!

Thank you to The Loom, a local warehouse made up of lofts, artist studios, and office space for small businesses, for allowing me to use their space to photograph. They view the building as a frame and all the individual tenants as its fibers. Combined, they weave together to become part of a greater hole, just like an actual loom. Just like last time, I had fun decorating the space to my liking and I even had company – a band practicing a few doors down. Click on the post footer below to learn more about The Loom.

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42 Comments

  1. Reply

    hannah

    I love the result! It’s very inspiring. Did you also make the paper pom poms?

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      yes I did!

  2. Reply

    David

    This is so precious! Great photoshoot too!

  3. Reply

    anto

    Well, well, well. It seems like third time’s truly the charm. I love, love, love it!

  4. Reply

    Kelly

    Absolutely beautiful! When you set your mind to something it’s bound to be great!

  5. Reply

    Lessles

    Excellent post and what a stunner of an outfit Maddie. BTW you have very lovely legs, the colour is great and just check out that beading!

  6. Reply

    Crab&Bee

    Well done, Maddie! I wouldn’t have associated this silhouette with your style, but it suits you well – a nice combo of elegant and playful.

  7. Reply

    Kate McIvor

    I love this outfit, and the photography (as usual). I recently fell in love with the same waistband technique — with the help of P/P perfect waistband interfacing, which is 1-inch-wide and strong. I find I need to “go for it” tightness-wise, or it does stand out from my body. No one has ever told me to eat a cheeseburger — #tallgirlproblems #swimmershoulders

  8. Reply

    Kate McIvor

    PS I love the armhole treatment — I will definitely use it on my next sleeveless top…As soon as the temperature rises above 30 degrees here in Montana.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      It’s a super easy alternative that’s a lot easier than clean finishing. Plus, if you’re working with somewhat thick fabric, it’s less bulky than the usual binding.

  9. Reply

    Erin

    Wow! This is amazing! The beading detail is fantastic and the fit looks perfect! Nice work!

  10. Reply

    Lauren Taylor

    DAT COLLAR THO. It turned out beautiful!!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      YES. IT. DID!

  11. Reply

    Sue @ A Colourful Canvas

    Aaaahhh…I can now officially exhale! These are not your average polka dots! A lovely, lovely make and reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn!

  12. Reply

    Jess Z

    Stunning! So excited to see the finished product! Once again, well done!!!

  13. Reply

    erin goh

    It’s perfect!

  14. Reply

    Kirsty Bunfield (kbfield)

    I adore this style… On you (and I want one for me too!!) . Congratulations on all your hard work. Just like everyone says, it really paid off. And oh the beading! Looking forward to the follow up post – especially on your waistband technique.

  15. Reply

    Suzie

    Beautiful, simply beautiful.

  16. Reply

    Amanda Adams

    Oh wow, this is truly a perfect match of pattern and fabric! The addition of the crystal beading is simply smashing – what a subtle but fabulous finish!

  17. Reply

    Angela

    So wonderful!

  18. Reply

    Katy & Laney

    Matchy matchy! I love this ensemble and I can’t wait for your rhinestone post. My life needs a hit of sparkle. I’m also digging your hair. Is it a french braid with the ends tucked under? Watch out I’m going to steal your whole look. 😉

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      To be honest, I have no idea what I did with my hair. About an hour before the shoot, I found the below video on YouTube, and whipped it together in about 15 minutes. You can totally steal it from me!

      • Reply

        Katy & Laney

        Thanks! I’m always struggling to figure out what to do with this mane of mine.

  19. Reply

    devra

    i’m a little obsessed. i may have actually gasped out loud at that first pciture. i’m having a shorts phase right now, myself, and i’m blown away by the simple, elegant sophistication of this ensemble. you’re right about that 1/4″ – it takes your whole outfit up to perfection.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      1/4″ to a seamstress is a football field to an architect. A HUGE difference!

      • Reply

        devra

        that is so completely true!

  20. Reply

    Jo

    So pretty! I like your carefully considered approach- more appealing than banging out garment after garment. It’s beautiful work. Thanks for the details too! What an interesting binding technique 🙂

  21. Reply

    Thewallinna

    All the hard and careful work was so worth it! You look like a doll wearing it! Thanks for sharing Susan’s waistband technique: I’ve learnt something new today.

  22. Reply

    Amy

    I’m so glad you kept at this and made another shorts set! I love the contrast with the boots. And a cool new hair-up idea for the summer. I never know what to do with braids.

  23. Reply

    tiff

    Beautiful and so inspiring!!!! Thank you for your informative links. This post is so helpful!!! Can’t wait for the jewel info!

  24. Reply

    Petite Josette

    this is adorable, and so chic! You look gorgeous!

  25. Reply

    Caroline

    this is absolutely stunning on you! i love everything about it- the fabric, the boots, the shorts, the collar. WELL DONE!

  26. Reply

    Amy Powell

    Adding this to my “to-sew” list NOW … I’ve been dying to experiment with matching play suits!

  27. Reply

    Bec Stitches

    Oh my gosh that is gorgeous, you look great. THOSE BOOTS! Please tell me where you got them, and I’m hoping its not a vintage store 🙁

  28. Reply

    Ping Mathre

    Omg Maddie this is beautiful!! The collar! The elegant polka dots (I didn’t even know that was a thing)! The boots! Your hair!

  29. Reply

    sallieforrer

    Beautiful make, Maddie!! Love that fabric! This is such a testament to “if at first you don’t succeed, try, TRY again (and again… and again…)” I thought the first two were pretty great, but it must be SO nice to have one that you love everything about! Congrats!!

  30. Reply

    Anna

    Really, really lovely! The entire look is amazing and stunning.

  31. Reply

    Ginger

    This is so cute! What a fun look! I love this! I’ve been thinking about matching sets lots lately and this is a great take on that style.

  32. Reply

    Carolyn Norman

    This is gorgeous! And please you are not a slow slower not if you’re making a block that can be used for future sews! It took me months to develop my TNTs, It just happened before I started to blog so no one saw the process. I can’t wait to read the process posts especially the beading one! Oh and one more time, this is simply gorgeous!

  33. Reply

    Megan Nielsen

    oh Maddie! This turned out even more amazing than i imagined – i truly love this. it’s gorgeous!!

    Meanwhile, i really don’t think it’s fair to call yourself a slow sewer – i think you’re just very meticulous and careful – and i think that’s something to be proud of. Personally i love that when you make things you’ve spent a lot of time on them, pondering, perfecting and making the details just so.

    XO

  34. Reply

    Beth

    Gorgeous!!

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