The “Not on My Watch” Outfit

Watch-mena

The Facts

8848 Fabric: Floral rayon from Etsy – ~$14 (including s&h), white cotton – $.25
Pattern: McCall 6511 (for dress), Butterick 8848 (for top) – ~$.50
Year: c. 1947
Notions: Vintage buttons – $.25, embroidery floss – $2
Time to complete: 17 hours
First worn: January 2011
Wear again? Surprisingly, yes.

Total Cost: ~$17

Here is a lesson for you. If you ever want to guarantee with a capital "G" that you will force yourself to finish a sewing project, spend two days hand embroidering an aspect of the garment. More importantly, don't be silly and actually wait until you've sewn the garment to do the embroidery. Instead, embroider onto a piece of fabric that is simply in its pattern piece form. That's what I did and that's probably the only reason I finished this outfit. 

Let's step back a bit. 

Trudyhall First, the inspiration for this week's creation is a Trudy Hall suit from the 1940s that I found on Etsy a while back (it's actually on sale for $117.30 right now so go snatch it up!). This, I believe, is the quintessential "smart" suit. It seemed fairly simple to recreate: a peplum shirt/jacket and skirt with a little embroidery.

Sure.

So, even with all my 1930s and 1940s patterns, I didn't have a peplum top close enough to resemble the Trudy Hall one. Okay, not a problem, I think. I decided to use the bodice/waist piece from Butterick 8848  to construct the top (coincidentally, when writing this post, I discovered that this person did something similar ). 

Here are the modifications I ended up making:

  • I cut an inset belt to a couple inches bigger than the size of my waist to connect the top to the peplum
  • I  cut the peplum piece as a long rectangle about 1 1/2 the width  of the belt.
  • I Added  length to the facing piece to match the size of the original bodice, the new belt and the new peplum.

In theory all of this should have worked. But it didn't. Actually, it fundamentally worked. It's just that it looked like a complete sack. This is when all of you who actually make muslins can say "you should have made a muslin first!" And I wholeheartedly agree with you. Lesson learned.

Here's a picture of the "before" top. My sleeves are rolled on the inside in an effort to see if that would make it look any better. Not really.

Sack-top

Because the fabric was so cheap (less than a quarter), I should have just started over again. Or, I should have moved onto another inspiration. I should have given up while I was ahead.

If it wasn't for the embroidery I would have done just that. But since the embroidery had taken about seven hours, I was not going to let this outfit die on my watch.

For those curious about how I did the embroidery: I cut out an embroidery-worthy portion of my skirt fabric and ironed it onto some fusible interfacing. Then, after pinning the fabric to the right side of the bodice piece, I embroidered using a standard hoop and stabilizer.

Embroidery

So then, with a top that looked absolutely hideous on me, I thought "maybe the top will look better once I've finished the skirt." Sure.

Instead of making a skirt, I made a dress — the old work horse of McCall 6511 (see here and here). I figured that if I couldn't save the top, I'd at least have an entire dress for this week's creation. The dress itself took less than 3 hours from start to hem. 

And then I tried it on again and it all still looked horrible. I asked my husband his take on the outfit and he echoed my own opinion. It just wasn't flattering and more importantly, I hated wearing it.

And that's when I gave up. This was Saturday.

On Saturday night, I started looking for a new inspiration to copy. While I found some contenders, I was so beaten down my sad little suit that I couldn't find any motivation to sew. I went to bed.

On Sunday morning, I decided to take drastic measures with my top and force myself to make it work. I chopped off the inset belt and peplum, took in the side seams, chopped two inches off the sleves, shortened the peplum, reduced the gathers and sewed it all back together. Miraculously, it did the trick! While there are still construction flaws that bug me, it was wearable and I was happy enough with the final outcome to make it my weekly creation.

image from farm6.static.flickr.com

 

image from farm6.static.flickr.com

image from farm6.static.flickr.com

Author

Mena Trott

Mena Trott started The Sew Weekly to document her attempt to sew all of her own clothes in 2010. Since then, she's made over 125 outfits and has way more clothes than she needs.

34 Comments

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  1. Oh this is what I just love about you and the other four ladies. If something doesn’t work correctly you may be down for a minute but you all end up picking it apart and fixing the problem. It is amazing. The dress and embroidered top are beautiful. Had you not told us about your journey to complete it I am sure we all would have thought it was just perfect sewing again. I think that it would have been a great loss not to know how things really went for you. I feel less and less afraid to try and less afraid about the the things I tried sewing lately that just didn’t turn out correct. Thank you so much for being honest. BTW the outfit is just darling.

  2. oh wow Mena! This is fantastic! I’m so glad you were able to fix the top–the embroidery is STUNNING. I love how it matches the skirt! GREAT job on this beautiful outfit.

  3. Replicating the skirt’s fabric design in the top’s hand embroidery is such a great idea! Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. I do like that dress – and the embroidery to tie the jacket in is inspired.
    Cheers.

  5. I’m in awe with the embroidery! It’s genius how you replicated the skirt’s print. And Yay! the outfit looks fab!

  6. That is just the BEST story, and it’s honestly turned out amazing! I love it! Thanks for showing the before photo too, as in before you fixed it! SO interesting!

  7. Nice save! The dress is fabulous. And I love the embroidery! Tell me, did you at some point consider using some light shoulder pads? That may have taken care of the extra length in the body as well as given that signature 40′s look.

  8. margueritedesigns

    I’m amazed that you managed to do the embroidery AND the dressmaking in a week! The embroidery is beautiful.

  9. I love this dress! I’ve been drooling over that etsy suit for awhile and how lovely to see that you created your own!

  10. That is adorable, and the embroidery is fantastic. I absolutely love how the entire outfit came out!

  11. Beautiful Mena!! Nice work on the embroidery and I am so buying that top pattern – it’s so flattering!

  12. I loved reading about your sewing adventure and seeing the beautiful end result. You’re sewing always inspires me. Thank you!

  13. Fab embroidery! I thought it was an applique at first. And what a great “save” of a garment that wasn’t working out!

  14. A great idea! The suit looks great, is wonderful not to give up when they find a difficulty in the way and keep going until you are completely satisfied, a good lesson!

  15. Bravo! I love how you persevered through the problems with the jacket to make it work–the final outfit is so adorable! I love the fabric and the way the white jacket stands out crisply against the print. The embroidery is lovely too… now it has me scheming about a new embroidery project! lol.
    ♥ Casey

  16. I absolutely love the dress. The print is gorgeous and made for the swing skirt.

  17. Thanks! Yeah, I was going to use shoulder pads for the dress in hopes that it would lift the top as well. I ended up just forgetting to do that. :) But yes, that would have made it a little bit better — not much, since it was such a train wreck before. I do love making shoulder pads though!

  18. Thanks, Sue! It’s good to be on a deadline because you can’t just put something aside and think you’re going to go back to it later. I find that whenever I put something to the side, I never go back — I need to be in that state of mind.

  19. Thanks, Debi! I thought of you when making the jacket. That embroidery landscape you made was breathtaking!

  20. Thanks! Yeah, you notice how it’s cropped. I looked so defeated and exhausted. :)

  21. Thanks! The embroidery was actually more fun than I thought it would be. When I first started thinking about doing the embroidery, I only thought I’d highlight certain areas. But then I just got addicted to filling the whole thing up.

  22. You should buy it! Someone has to buy it!

  23. Thanks! This is the second time I’ve used a bodice from a late 1930s dress for a top. It’s interesting that of all the shirt patterns I have, I go back to these.

  24. Thanks, Amy! It was quite an adventure and I wanted to make sure I included the ups and downs to show that sewing is a real pain sometimes but you got to keep on going!

  25. Thanks! It was originally going to be just an applique, but then I got hooked on embroidering the whole thing.

  26. Thanks Rosy! I really think that I’m going to try doing this more for my sewing project — it was easier than I thought.

  27. Thanks, Casey! I believe I was working on this when you posted your little Scottie sweater tutorial — our 40s loving minds think alike!

  28. Thanks, Gail! Even though the fabric doesn’t look quite like the original suit, I couldn’t pass it up. It’s just so lovely. And I’m not even a purples fan.

  29. Thanks! I think I’m definitely going to try this again. Another idea would be to do a coordinating bag with fabric from an outfit.

  30. Thanks, Adey! I’m glad that I kept going. When I posted that message in our forum, I felt so defeated. Your dress, by the way, turned out amazing. I have that pattern, so I may break it out again.

  31. Thanks, Tasha! I just saw your post on knitting and fitting vintage sweaters. Oh, I wish I could knit! I’m hopeless.

  32. I love the dress! And I admire your stick-with-it-ness for getting the whole project done and making it wearable. Sometimes even with a muslin you might get the fit right but still not like the way it looks on you, ask me how I know. ;)

  33. Good on you for sticking with it, it turned out really lovely! I really like the fabric you used for the dress!