Hot! The “Caps for Sale” Outfit

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image from The Facts

Fabric:  Polyblend Tweed, $11; fabric remnant for vest & lining
Patterns: Simplicity 4044, Simplicity 8013
Year: c. 1940s, c. 1977
Notions: Invisible zipper, 4 black vintage buttons $3.00
Time to complete: Lost track. A while. Too long.
First worn: May 2011
Wear again? Yes, but not together.

Total Cost: ~$15

If anything positive could be said of my last week's sewing adventures, it would be that I at least have a lot of UFOs to add to my collection! Yay! No, not yay at all. In total, I started these garments:

  1. Skirt #1 (unfinished)
  2. Vest (finished)
  3. Culottes (scrapped)
  4. Skirt #2 from salvaged culottes (unfinished)
  5. Cape (unfinished, given to my daughter)
  6. Skirt #3 (scrapped)
  7. Dress (scrapped without much work)
  8. Pants
  9. Shirt (unfinished)

Wow. Writing this all down makes me feel even worse about my sewing week! There were a lot of misses this week, so many that I actually tried to figure out a way to get out of this week's challenge. It's not that I didn't like this challenge. I had, in fact, been looking forward to it for weeks. The truth is that I just had an bleh sort of week, a week in which sewing seemed more like a chore than a pleasure. Combine that with an inability to settle on just one story and it's no wonder that I ended up with 9 garments. What you see in the above list is three books: Madeline, Caps for Sale and Olivia .

Madeline had been my original choice and I was quite excited to sew something reminiscent of a French schoolgirl's uniform. Items #1 and #5 were for that book. The more and more I sewed my Madeline outfit, the less excited I felt about the story choice. Madeline wasn't a book from my childhood — it's a book I currently read to my daughter. I love Madeline but I really wasn't feeling it. The same went for Olivia (items #6 and #7).

image from I just kept on coming back to Esphyr Slobodkina's Caps for Sale, a book from my childhood. Wanting to make some separates, Caps for Sale afforded me an opportunity to make a shirt, vest and pants (I had been wanting to sew up a newly-acquired vest pattern). Because of a bad fabric choice, the shirt (#9) ultimately got the axe and I ended up wearing the blouse from this outfit.  The culottes from Simplicity #4044  ended up being  too-tight and I attempted poorly to turn them into a skirt (#2). When that didn't work, I put it aside and switched back to Madeline.

But that didn't last and I decided to do something drastic — buy some new fabric at the fabric store and force myself to make my Caps for Sale outfit work. So that's what I did. 1 3/4 yards of poly tweed and Simplicity 8013 later, I had my heavily modified pants (I didn't like the lack of waistband in this pattern and the whole thing ran really large!). 

I could go into detail about making the vest, but there really wasn't anything to it and I'm far too tired to stay up any longer tonight. The one thing I'll say is that it's a big tighter than I'd like (I had to work with a 30 bust) but, oddly, I really like it! 

All I can say is thank goodness I already had a cap. I was so not in the mood to make one.

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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. Wow Mena – what a week! I like what you finished with – it looks great, and the red shoes (who doesn’t LOVE red shoes) set it aall off perfectly.

  2. You look adorable! and Kudos for sticking it through – I’ve been having a bleh sewing week (perhaps even two?) so I know how it feels! but in your case it was worth the perseverance!

  3. Three cheers for your persistence. The vest is very smart and I love the bow. I remembered this book with great pleasure. I rather like the pants too – they flow well.

  4. That vest – actually, the whole outfit! – is very pretty! I also dig the shoes…

  5. Wow! That is a lot of false starts…a problem I fear I may face as well in this week’s challenge. Despite that, I think your vest/pants look AMAZING! The whole thing is adorable and stylish and very flattering, which makes me want to finish pants to go with my own vest I made awhile back.

  6. You look great. I remember this book but haven’t heard it for years. Well done. My sewing week so far has been a little blah. Started a gorgeous little number for hild number 3 but the waste is all wrong. Have just thrown it at the wall and will worry about it another day.
    Great challenge idea, thanks Mena.

  7. Well the final outfit looks great! I am glad you stuck to it :)

  8. judy roberson

    Mena, Bless your heart..I so admire you..I just know, after about 2 or maybe 3 failed garments..I would have ‘QUIT”.Ha..
    I know that was so hard.. I really love to sew ,as you do, but when I have them days, that I am just not in the mood..I just CAN’T!!! but you not only sewed and finished a challenge.But………… turned out a really cute one.. You are fantastic…As usual…you look cute as can be.

  9. I love this! That was one of my favorite books growing up, mostly because I liked all the colors of the caps.

  10. i loved this book! considering your drama, your pics are quite happy… and i love the outfit. i guess we’ll be having another UFO challenge ???

  11. Eeek! What a week you had! I love your outfit, though! Well done!!

  12. I love it. And you even have the monkey in the tree. This was my husband’s faorite book as a child. I’d never heard of it until he introduced it to me a few years back. I’m impressed with what you came up with to sew. Very flattering.

  13. That is soo freaken cute!!! I love that book too! Great job!

  14. Mena, you are so talented and creative! I love this outfit and the whole idea!

  15. Oh dearest Mena! I’ve been there sister! Still I love the vest and the trousers! Great staples for future ensembles and I think your outfit here is so darling. Schoolboy-ish in its way! Quite a fabulous pull-through!

  16. What a week, eh? You really pulled through as your outfit is totally fabulous. I am loving those trousers–and have been wanting to try that pattern out! Good to know that it runs large. That first picture is so visually stunning! I love the monkey in the tree too! Great job for pulling through a difficult week! I feel like the last pose is the ‘You Can Do It’ pose! :)

  17. The pictures are great and you look fabulous Mena – what a great outfit, perfect for your theme.
    Thank you also for being so honest about your tough week, it must be hard coming up with ideas and executing them so professionally every single week. Hope your next week is less difficult xx

  18. You are so creative. I love this outfit and would really like it in my closet. I love vest and used to make them I really should try some more.

  19. Lovely! Those pants are incredibly cute and you have made me want a vest – stat!

  20. Thanks, Debbie! I was so excited when I noticed the cap seller’s red shoes in the book!

  21. Thanks, Molly! There’s something to be said about *having* to finish something. I can’t let the Sew Weekly readers down. :)

  22. Thanks, Jen! I’m always in need of pants so I’m quite happy that they weren’t a massive failure.

  23. Thanks, Alessa!

  24. Thanks, Lisette! False starts can be so frustrating. I think making something I wanted to wear was my biggest challenge. I really needed pants.

  25. Thanks, Meagan! Sewing for my daughter can be so frustrating. I totally need to try my own garments on as I go along. Penelope has NO patience for that.

  26. Thanks, Rachel!

  27. Thanks, Judy! I wanted to make sure I capture my frustrating since I know you gals go through it too. Taking a break for the night and starting the next morning really made the difference.

  28. Thanks, Emily!

  29. Thanks, Oona! Oh, the UFO challenge should definitely be planned. I’ve given the gals (and you guys) a tough group of challenges for the past couple weeks!

  30. Thanks, Sarah!

  31. Thanks, Erin! We already had the monkey (it’s my daughter’s) and we had to find it that morning. I bribed Penelope with chocolate if she could find it. She didn’t (I did), but she looked really hard. She even brought me another stuffed monkey in case we didn’t find that one. :)

  32. Thanks, Cassandra!

  33. Thanks, Bethany!

  34. Thanks, Sunni! I was just not in a dress mood this week and that’s probably why I kept on gravitating back to the pants. I’m quite happy that both items will be wearable.

  35. Thanks, Debi! I like the other Simplicity reissue pattern better for the waistband alone. I don’t think the original had that notched waist, but who knows? The last pose is me shaking my fist at the monkey. :)

  36. Thanks, Charlotte! Oh, I’m honest because I don’t want anyone to think it’s easy for me and they’re some sort of sewing freak when they have bad weeks. Getting pass these hiccups only makes us stronger seamstresses.

  37. Thanks, Sue! I want vests to come back in style!

  38. Thanks, Sarah! I loved that brief period of time in the early 1990s when vests were all the rage! I remember vividly buying two from Target. :)

  39. Mena, you rocked it again! I’m amazed that you and the rest of your team can crank out an outfit (not one item) weekly and put an engaging story behind it. Creative doesn’t always happen…on time anyway. And to top that off you have to come up with a theme and make logic of it! Gigantic kudos to you! every week is so impressive and this week is right up there. To read your frustrating back story makes it all the more real. Your outfit this week is adorable and so inspirational. I will continue to say a heartfelt thank you to you, Adey, Veronica, Sarah and Debi. You ladies really are amazing and feed our excitement for sewing!

  40. Oh Mena, we all get weeks like these and I’m so glad it all worked out because I totally LOVE this outfit! It looks so fun though it’s in black and white. My fave is definitely the vest, it looks very flattering on you!
    And I must add that I love your tutorial on Grosgrain. Absolutely fab and inspiring!

  41. I love everything about this post. You look so cute and this is one of my favorite children books! I loved reading this as a child and love reading it to my children. I have to admit that what I love most about your pictures though is the little plush monkey! A softee monkey with caps has just been added to my sewing to-do list!

  42. I love that book — and the monkey in the tree with the caps is perfect! :)

  43. I love all your adventures this week! So many ups and downs like your Caps for Sale inspiration! I had totally forgotten that book, so thanks for the reminder as I used to love counting them all! (such a learning nerd!)
    It’s a really different outfit for you, but you’ve made it beautifully! Nice one!

  44. Thanks, Cathe! Yeah, they are certainly rock stars! I think that they’re even surprised by how much they’ve been able to produce. Thanks so much for your comments — I’m so happy that we can inspire you!

  45. Thanks, Adey! Kudos to you gals as well for doing this each week! Yes, make the hat! I think it would look great on you!

  46. Thanks, Paloma! Yes, the monkey made it. I smile whenever I look at the picture and see it just casually sitting there.

  47. The monkey is the best part of the picture!

  48. Thanks, Veronica! I thought about you when I was making this. I could totally see you in this outfit.

  49. You monkeys MUST give me back my caps!

  50. Love this outfit, and the hat! Despite the journey it took to get there, it came out so well. I loved working with tweed for my recent Beignet skirt and seeing your use of it here has made me want to find fabric just like yours and make a pair of my own!
    Oh, and I love the monkey in the tree, nice touch! It would’ve been funny if you tried balancing a bunch of caps on your head :)

  51. Love the inspiration.. and I want me those pants! You look very cute in this. Well done for pushing through!!

  52. Very cute Mena! My mom, a kindergarten teacher, used to dress up as this guy every year for storytelling day at her school (all the teachers came in book character costumes). I hadn’t thought about this story in years, and your post made me run to library to introduce it to Leila! She, of course, loved it.