The “Not on My Watch” Outfit
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.