Hot! The ‘Penciling it in’ skirt

Warning: This post is being written by a grumpy little Dreamstress.  I spent over an hour writing a carefully constructed post, saving it multiple times, and then the blog ate it.  Whomp.  All gone in a second, with all my attempts to retrieve it failing.  So what you are getting now are the efforts of a tired, in-a-rush, very unhappy, attempting-to-remember-what-I-wrote me.  Sorry :-(

On the bright side, at least making my skirt was a song, and I love it!

Right, for starters, how about some songs?  A it’s a ’30s skirt, it needs one of my favourite swing songs, Lavender Coffin.  Great to dance to, and a good conversation starter – we have an ongoing discussion of ways to make a lavender eco-coffin.  I’m advocating dye made from blueberries or java plums.  It’s not like it needs to last!

I’ve also been doing a lot of sewing to Julietta Venegas lately.  It gives me a chance to practice my rapidly fading Spanish.  If only I’d known I’d be spending my adult life in New Zealand I could have spared myself years of torture in language classes!  I particularly like Limon y Sal and its cute silent movie aesthetic.

Right!  The sewing!

Just the facts, Ma’am:

Fabric: 1.5 metres of thrifted stretch cotton blend $3

Pattern: Butterick 5654

Year: 1934

Notions: 1 metre lace trim, hooks and loops, thread (inherited from Nana), invisible zip (thrifted, 30 cents)

Hours: 3

Make again?  Yes, or at least close variants.  Its a lovely, versatile pattern

First worn: Thursday for classes, lunch with a friend, and a photoshoot

Wear again? Yes!  This is a perfect fit for my wardrobe

Total cost: $3.30

I’ve tried throughout the year to keep my Sew Weekly sewing purposeful and useful – with each garment crossing something off my sewing list and filling a need in my closet.  Six months in there was just one big gap that I hadn’t managed to find an excuse to sew: I desperately needed a black pencil skirt.  I have them in almost every other basic colour!

I knew just what style of skirt I wanted: very high waisted, well below the knee, and with pleat details.  Enter my beloved ’30s nautical pattern, Butterick 5654.  Just the thing!

Butterick 5654 is actually a dress, and has no waist shaping, so I had to figure out my own darts, and draft a waistband.  I also had to reduce the pattern to compensate for the stretch fabric.  I’m particularly pleased with the waistband.  Thanks to my blouse it isn’t showing up in the photos, but the waistband has a lovely shaped curved, and it makes me very happy.

My photoshoot, and thus this post, were delayed all week because my camera is in the shop :-(.  To get it done I had to ask a friend to take pictures on her camera.   We went to the Embassy Theatre, a restored ’30s theatre with a lovely bohemian Art Deco look, and a bit of international fame as it hosted the Return of the King premier.  It fits perfectly with my ’30s skirt meets modern top outfit.  It’s quite a dramatic setting though, so my friend pretended to be a fashion photographer and I did my best to do my most pouty, vacant, fashion model look.

I don’t think I’m cut out to be a fashion model!  I’d do my best to look expressionless, but a little smile would slip out:

And then a full on giggle:

Yep!  I’d rather sew than pose!


Leimomi Oakes - The Dreamstress

Leimomi Oakes learned to sew as a child in Hawaii, and hasn't spent a day without doing it in the-more-years-than-she-would-like-to-admit-to since. When she was 18 she was nicknamed 'The Dreamstress' and bought the domain name, and now she's stuck with it. After getting degrees in Art History, Costume Design and International Relations she worked in a number of fabulous museums before going freelance as a textile and fashion historian and historical seamstress. She lives in Wellington New Zealand with a lovely husband and a world-famous cat.


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  1. Oh, I love it so much. And I love the top too. Did you make that as well?

    • Thank you! No, the top isn’t one of mine – it’s by Gap, and I bought it huge part because of the fabric (am I the only person who judges commercial clothes based on what they are made out of?). The blouse fabric is a cotton-viscose blend, and the ruffle is a viscose chiffon. They are both such hard-to-find fabrics, and really lovely. I’m really looking forward to seeing more viscose fabric become available.

  2. I love the whole outfit too! It really sounds like you miss Hawaii…a lot.

  3. What a cute outfit!

    I forgot how much I love dancing to Lavender Coffin! I don’t think I’ve actually danced to it in… well I think Frankie Manning was still alive. That needs to change.

  4. Hey, grumpy little dreamstress! Your skirt is beautiful. Love the photos and the blouse as well. :)

  5. It’s great: period without being obvious. And of course the setting adds wonderfully to your photos, giggles or not! (I always try a serious face and end up looking crazy or sniggering)

  6. The skirt is wonderful, I love the dress pattern as well : ) I totally get the whole “I’m not a model” thing. Every week I think it’ll be a little easier and every week I too end up giggling. You channeled that fashion model thing really well. I’d rather be sewing as well. Maybe we should do a bumper sticker.

    • Thank you. I love the dress pattern as well – I’ve made the top up with a shorts bottom as a playsuit. Now I’m just looking for an excuse to make a 1930s sailor dress so I can do the whole pattern!

      I love the idea of a ‘I’d rather be sewing’ bumper sticker! I’m actually on the hunt for a new car, and Mr D informs me that the type of car I want (little, gas efficient with a tiny engine) is called a ‘sewing machine’. He thinks this is derogatory but I know it’s a good thing!

  7. The perfect Leimomi Oakes skirt methinks, and what a great background to your photos.
    A very practical addition to your wardrobe.

  8. You know…I have a few black skirts but not a simple black one. Well, OK, I do have one, but it has a sheen and an exposed zipper. I think I’m adding plain black pencil skirt to my list.

    I love your skirt and I think you make a beautiful model!

  9. Very sweet black skirt. I really like how you paired it with that delicate top too. Classy photoshoot even with the smiles!