Hot! The ‘Fleet’s In!’ Skirt & Shirt

The Facts

Fabric: Off-white lace for the top and mustard yellow broadcloth for the skirt.
Pattern: New Look 0152 for the top and Colette Ginger for the skirt
Year: Contemporary
Notions: Threads
Time to complete: 5 hours.
First worn: Monday to work.
Wear again?  There are many more wears in this skirt’s future! I need more convincing for the top.
Total price: $15.00 at the most between the two fabrics.

I’m a big fan of art. Who isn’t really?  There’s something out there for everyone no matter their fancy.  Well, friends, I fancy the weirder stuff.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Monet, DaVinci, Bruegel, Van Gogh, and all those other classics. But, if I had my druthers, I’d be looking at Paul Cadmus all day.  He’s kind of risqué, folks, so beware when you go a-google-ing!  He often painted in a style called ‘magic realism’, which blends magical elements with the real world.  I’m a big fan of the style since it makes no distinction between what is ‘real’ and what is ‘fantastic’ within the story or picture when it’s presented.  It keeps it’s viewers on their toes.  That’s good art in my mind.

My favorite Paul Cadmus? The beauty to the right.  It’s called Fleet’s In!, and was painted in 1934 for the Public Works of Art Project of the WPA.  It caused public outcry and ended up being removed from the exhibition it was featured at. I can hardly blame them; there’s all kinds of debauchery going on!  Drunken sailors. Drunken ladies. AND a homosexual couple!!!!  Oh man, heavy stuff for the time. For me, the appeal is almost overwhelming. I’m not sure if it’s the posture, facial expressions, or the use of color, but I cannot ignore the emotion appeal.  I can hear the raucous voices and smell the gin. It’s wonderful.

So when I set out for this challenge I wanted to make the dress of the woman on the right. The lady in the reddish orangish frock with the lacey neckline detail. But I was going to do it in the mustard yellow of the woman right behind her since I love mustard yellow and I’ve made my fair share of red garments already.

I was very excited, too, since we celebrate Casmir Pulaski Day in Illinois, I had a three-day weekend for my sewing!  Then I decided to get real ambitious and paint my condo.  The sewing was derailed. What I realized after finishing two rooms in my home, was that I was not in love with my sewing plans.  I didn’t want to just re-make the dress from the picture.  I wanted to be inspired by the picture and then create something from that inspiration.  And ultimately, I wasn’t inspired until Monday morning.  It all worked out, though.  I got to paint my lil’ heart away, caught up on a ton of Once Upon A Time, and in the end I created two items that I can say I will 100% wear again.

The skirt. The ever-famous Colette made this beauty of a pattern called Ginger. It’s delightful, providing for three waistband options, and an amazing fit. I cut it up right quick and then proceeded to get held up at the zipper stage. Three stinking tries later and it was in.  It’s not perfect, but it’ll do.

The shirt is the New Look pattern I used here. It was perfect since I needed something that was fast and something that didn’t take up too much fabric since I had used some of the lace already on that same top for some improvised sleeves.  I was nervous, but once it was all laid out I nearly came to tears because everything was working out so well. The shirt went together easier than the skirt, save for some minor fabric touchiness…it is lace after all.

It’s still incredibly cold round here and I was running out of sunlight, so pictures were relegated to the just finished sunroom.  New paint, new wood blinds, and some linen curtains have transformed this space in ways I cannot explain. I love it. It’s a perfect place to lounge with a book. Now all I need is a warm, sunny, spring day. The perfect excuse to open the windows and enjoy a book or three with a cool breeze.

In the end I will wear these pieces over and over again. Not only are they comfortable, but they now represent a very important part of being creative: the need to let things simmer. If I would have just reproduced the dress from the painting, even if it was a flawless fit, I doubt that I would have been satisfied.  But because I let my brain marinate on that painting, I ended up realizing that I needed to focus on the texture more than anything.  The elements are all there, but I let the texture inform the construction. So it’s not a literal creation, but neither is art, which I think is apt. And ultimately, fun.




Cheryl is a teacher, martial artist, crafter and sewer just trying to find balance in a busy world. Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin she's now trying to fit into and explore the vast expanse that is Chicago, Illinois.


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  1. Thanks for sharing your inspirational artist. I like how you came about making your skirt and blouse based on the colors and texture and not an actual copy of the woman’s dress. Your newly painted sun room looks fabulous! You must be so pleased!

  2. I love that your outfit came from thinking about the painting to make something you were happy with rather than just something for the challenge that you might not wear again. Mustard and lace really goes well together, in fact it reminds me of this post I saw last week!

  3. I do like a good Colette Ginger – it is lovely realised in the mustard. Your sun room looks so uncluttered and relaxing. Is that your pipe?

    • Thanks, Jen! Yes, it is, although I don’t use it. My boyfriend’s grandfather was a woodworker and carved both the pipe and the ashtray that it’s on. Very cool stuff!

  4. I agree with the other ladies – that you made something very wearable influenced by the figure and spirit in/of the painting :)

  5. I agree with everyone above – bravo for using the painting as inspiration and not making something that will be neglected in your closet. Your two pieces are lovely, and I hope you get to wear them out and about town soon!!

  6. Awesome lessons about simmering, there. They really hit home for me. Oh, and lovely outfit it’s handsome againt your newly painted walls.

  7. Great colors– outfit and walls. Hope you wear these pieces a lot and think often of the Paul Cadmus painting.

  8. Fantastic colours, fab interpretation I say, I need a room like yours to just sit and read. Love it!