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.
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.
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.