Hot! The “I See France” Skirt & Top

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The Facts

image from Fabric: Brushed corded pique in plaid from $8.97 for 3 yards, blue wool knit ~$.25
Patterns: Butterick 4985 (for top) $1.99; Burda Style Ruffle Skirt #121  (for skirt) $5.40; Butterick 4676 (for sweater top) $.10.
Year: c. 2010, c. 1974
Notions: Vintage buttons – $.05, lace, vintage zipper
Time to complete: 8 hours
First worn: February 2011
Wear again? Yes

Total Cost: ~$17

Of all the fabrics and patterns I could have used for this week's stash busting challenge, I ended up choosing relatively recent acquisitions. The skirt, top pattern and fabric were all from 2010, while the vintage Butterick  pattern was the only old-timer, having been bought last summer. I've been in dire need of separates since the great off-the-rack clothing purge of 2010. Despite this, I only ever seem to want to make dresses. They're just so much fun. To motivate myself, I set up a mini-challenge to sew separates at least once a week in February (most likely in addition to my weekly creations).

After the 1940s-palooza that was January, I decided that not only was I going to try to sew a new style, but I would also sew something from this decade. And, for a change, I was actually to make something that had a hemline that went above my knees! I know! How shocking!

I decided to go with Burda Ruffle Skirt #121 for the skirt. Cute. Modern. Playful. And … insanely short. Like offensively short (for me). I doesn't look that short in my pictures because I ended up adding about four inches of fabric to the upper skirt piece! And I'm only 5"4! So if you think this skirt is cute and don't necessarily want your something something shared with the world, you will likely want to add a little something something at the top. Or, a another ruffle. Believe me, the original version of this skirt would have merited a much more vulgar title than  the "I See France" skirt & top.

Setting the church lady aside for a moment, the skirt is definitely cute. Will I ever wear it without tights? Not a chance. 

As with Burda patterns, you're not going to get the clearest instructions. I recommend this pattern for those who are comfortable working without patterns. Even without instructions, I was able to make this skirt in about two hours. 

While the blouse pattern, Butterick 4985, was a relative newcomer to my stash, it had already been buried in a pile of "yeah, I don't think I'm ever going to make this." To me, stash busting isn't just about using something you already have, but rather using something that you're not that crazy about using in the first place. 

I wore the blouse to the Alameda Antique Fair today and five women complimented me on the shirt. That's a record!  Of course, whenever someone would compliment me, I'd think "just don't look to closely or you'll see that the plaids don't match." That said, even with my almost-compulsive desire to not match my plaids, it was a good idea to give #4985 a chance. Next time, however, I won't use a fabric as stiff as the corded pique. It worked well for the skirt but not so much for the blouse.

4676 The blue sweater top was actually the first thing I made this week and really the inspiration to work with the blue/red plaid. This Betsey Johnson (a young designer) Butterick pattern from the 1970s was not only buried in my pattern stash, but it was stored in a "to-sell" box — only because the bust size was 31". I figured that since I'd be using a wool knit with substantial stretch, I could convince my chest to make it work. While the top is form-fitting, it is certainly wearable. In fact, I've worn it three times since I made it last week.

Yay stash busting!

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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.


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  1. I really really love it ! It is so wearable together or as separates. This is a perfect example on how to look beyond the picture on the front of a pattern, I think I need some practice in this, this is inspiration enough tho.
    Well done.
    In fact just have to say how lovely it is again!

  2. Thanks, Charlotte! Yeah, modern-day patterns don’t really sell their designs well. I’m amazed by how bad the vintage reissues are styled!

  3. Yeah that blouse is really nice! It’d also be great it a matching red solid fabric and you could wear it with the skirt if it matched up well. That or a white blouse would be nice to add for your separates collection!
    You look so adorable! I know it’s bad saying grown women are cute and adorable, but I think you look so cute AND great!

  4. Mena – you have done it again!! Great outfit – I love it …. and as usual – you have set the bar high for the rest of us!

  5. So, so cute!!! I especially love the blouse; no wonder everyone was complimenting you! :)
    ♥ Casey

  6. Oh this outfit is SO cute and versatile!

  7. That is really cute. Its really funny, but i was doing a bit of stash busting, and needed a sewing confidence boost last week so i whipped up the exact same blouse pattern from my stash with a scrap of fabric leftover from a dress. Its such a nice pattern, and it fits like a dream. Now I am inspired to make a ruffly skirt for it.

  8. It is amazing how different you look from when you first started this project – you look so confident and right out of a magazine!
    I love this outfit…separates are tough :\

  9. this is one of my favorites!! and beautiful photography, too!! i agree….right out of a magazine!

  10. Adorable! I agree with the first commenter – I would have never looked at those patterns twice because of the cover art, but what you made is so cute that it will make me think outside the pattern cover from now on!

  11. Thanks! And congrats on getting your dress done so quickly! It looks great.

  12. Yeah, I can imagine that I’m going to be making multiple versions of that shirt really soon. Hey, I don’t mind being called cute and adorable — it at least makes me not as “grown.”

  13. Thanks, Debbie! Can’t wait to see what you do. I sense you’re going to be making a lot this week.

  14. Thanks! That’s funny that you made this blouse as well — I’d love to see how it turned out.

  15. Thanks, Lisette! Yeah, losing the weight I did helped my confidence levels a lot :)

  16. Thanks, Rachel! We ended up taking about 300 pictures so one or two are bound to come out well.

  17. Thanks, Sarah! I’m convinced that I can make one of those hideous 1990s pattern works — maybe I’ll force myself to do that.

  18. I love this outfit! the colors are great and I adore the sweater as well! I’m with you on not venturing much with the above the knee wear :-) but I am determined to delve into some 60’s and 70’s outfits with the Sew Weekly challenges (maybe this summer?)

  19. I have wanted to do the same thing since Veronica’s Chanel cocktail dress – it was so beautiful and the cover art, so 1992! I expected to hear En Vouge playing during the photo shoot or something… ;o)

  20. Mena, this is lovely! I adore the outfit and give you mad props for the skirt – I’m not keen on short skirts either! You look fabulous and the sweater is darling!

  21. I am a wish-I-could-sew person, and I love reading about all of your creations — and the 2011 format is terrific! What a great job you all are doing. Anyway…I have seen every single post that you have done here, and I must say — I love love love this outfit! How wonderful that you tried something different, and you look terrific. It is super flattering, and you definitely pull it off. You are an inspiration, and I already have a craft room — maybe this will be the year that I get a sewing machine!

  22. Thanks, Debi! I think me and you are in the same comfort zone of knee-length. I’ll definitely hold you to a shorter length with a 60s/70s challenge. :)

  23. Thank you, Sarah! I’m glad you’re enjoying the new format. You already have a craft room — that’s the hard part. Just set up a small goal as a baby step and you’ll be sewing soon!

  24. Love this, especially the top! And if you had bought it in a store, the plaids would almost definitely NOT have matched.
    How many points did you get?

  25. Thanks, Elise! I think I ended up with 29 points. :)

  26. Ruffles, bows, and red shoes! What more could a girl ask for? Great job, Mena!

  27. That pic on the swing makes me smile! What a fun outfit. Really like the blouse – I’m trying to limit my pattern buying at the moment, but I’m really tempted to try it…

  28. Thanks, Megan! I’m not sure how often I’m going to wear the skirt but at least I tackled something new.

  29. Thanks, Sarah! Yeah, that’s the trifecta of cuteness. I just bought the shoes the other so I had a chance to break them in.

  30. I’m glad my swing picture was good for a smile. I think a lot of the kids in the playground wondered what I was doing in heels in the sand.
    It’s actually a pretty neat pattern and certainly not one to pass up when Joann’s is having a $1.99 sale on Butterick patterns.

  31. A gorgeous outfit. I love the idea with the knit top over the blouse. And the blouse pattern is on my “to sew” for quite a while too, it’s nice to see someone making it – a good incentive.

  32. This is adorable!! I love the combination of the top with the ruffle skirt, just like they were meant to be together. I think I actually own this Butterick 4985 top pattern, it’s buried in my pattern stash I am going to have to try making it.

  33. Oh, so lovely! Especially with the tights and shoes!

  34. The pattern arrived in the post today, and I’ve already cut it out :) Now just working out the right fabric!