Hot! The ‘Rodeo and Wrangle and Ramble in Style’ ensemble

Just the facts, Ma’am:

Fabric: 2.1 metres of 1940s novelty print rayon (inherited from Grandma), 1 metre of viscose knit (thrifted, $2.00)

Pattern: Butterick 8044 (skirt), 3hourspast Blank Canvas Tee (shirt)

Year: early 1940s (skirt), modern with ’40s inspiration (shirt)

Notions: Skirt zip ($1.20), thread

And the insides? Finished with overlocking in black, fuschia and aqua, bias-turned hem on the skirt.

Hours: 4 – lots of it spent taping together the Bank Canvas pattern

First worn?: Sunday to the farmers market (shirt) and Monday to lecture and for pictures (whole outfit)

Wear again?: Definitely!  Together and as separates.

Make again?: Yes!  I’m looking forward to trying more Blank Canvas hacks.

Total cost: $3.20

Today’s outfit is one of those happy moments when a Sew Weekly challenge and my own sewing wish list coincided perfectly.

The inspiration for it was this fabric:

How cute is that? How utterly, absolutely, totally darling and adorable is that? And perfect for a Western challenge!

The aqua and fuchsia and Western motifs are also very now, and I almost used the fabric for the On-Trend challenge (while I was madly trying to find the white fabric I had already set aside for the challenge). The fabric isn’t now though – it’s over 65 years old, and comes from Grandma’s stash.

I’ve been trying to decide what to do with it ever since it became mine 15 years ago. I would have loved a full dress of it, but I only had 2.1 metres, it’s only 90cm wide, and there was a lot of age damage. I considered blouses like Simplicity 1868, but that didn’t seem to do the fabric justice.

The perfect solution? Butterick 8044’s not-quite-a-circle skirt! (yes, I am so in love with that pattern, and if it weren’t for my True Love Story outfit I wouldn’t have considered the skirt for this since I’m not exactly a circle skirt fan). It was just the right amount of fabric. I managed to keep the worst of the age damage of the skirt, and still get the full width and length

Inspired by the bow on my first Butterick 8044 skirt, I cut a sombrero from a scrap of the fabric and appliqued it to the back of the skirt yoke to mark the back.

To go with the skirt, I unearthed one of the few pieces of knit fabrics in my stash – a delicious fuchsia viscose. For all that I’m perfectly comfortable sewing corsets and hand-sewn 1660s gowns, I’m pretty much a novice when it comes to knits. They are just so modern! So I used Steph at 3hourspast’s very helpful list of knit resources, and her brilliant Blank Canvas pattern to develop my own hack with 40’s details. Using this knit for a Blank Canvas shirt has been on my to-do list since the day she launched the pattern.

For ’40s inspiration for the top, I used Marian Martin 9254. I loved the neck cutout, and thought the flutter sleeves would create a nice 40s broad-shouldered aesthetic to a T-shirt.

I developed the neck cutout myself, and used Steph’s flutter sleeve hack tutorial for the sleeves. I did the most flutter possible. For now I like the über-flutter craziness, and I can always tone it down later.

The best part? The cut-out opens up to be a fold-back collar, also very 1940s! I didn’t plan that – it was just a bonus extra.

I love the skirt and blouse together, I love them apart, and I particularly love my final Western touch to the outfit: a mid-century costume brooch from Nana’s stash. It’s cheap, it’s a little worn, it’s verging on culturally inappropriate un-wearableness, but I still kinda love it, and have never found an excuse to wear it before.

The title of this post comes from Connie Dover’s ‘Where Shall I Go (A Cowboy’s Hard Times)‘. It’s a rather sad song, but this dress and the ‘in style’ is as close as I’m likely to get to rodeos and wrangling (I do like to ramble) ;-)


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. This is a perfect outfit! I love that top pattern and such a great color!

  2. There is such a variety of styles this week but hands down you win for the fabulous fabric! It really doesn’t get much better than turquoise and purple and the sombreros are a HOOT!! The shirt is amazing, I think I have the Blank Canvas Tee pattern, SO much inspiration, so little time : ) I love your little pin too, I have some like that that I wonder about the PC-ness of wearing but I’m glad you did. The whole thing is just perfect.

  3. The fabric, THAT fabric, Grandma’s taste is impeccable. I would of made a skirt out of it too, she’s lovely as is the top, great combo. You suit those flutter sleeves, I look like a quarterback in that cut- broad shoulders. Well done.

  4. Ah, I dream of finding fabric like that. No really; I have dreams about finding vintage fabric in attics and closets. Only TSW bunch will not think I am crazy for saying that. Hopefully.

    The colours are beautiful on you, and I think that the shapes (flutter sleeve, not quite a circle skirt) are really flattering.

    • Me too! Sometimes my dreams are so clear that I go looking for the fabric I ‘found’ in my stash months later. And sometimes I wake up and want to cry because the things I found in my dreams were so amazing, and they don’t exist :-(

  5. LOVE the fabric, so glad you found the perfect way to use it. I agree, the shapes suit you beautifully and I love the little cut out tied collar. Would you consider sharing more about how you did that?

  6. Wonderful Leimomi. That fabric is adorable and I totally dig that square keyhole neckline. Need a top like that!. The the sleeves are perfect. I think knits are your new forte! I think you can totally get away with that brooch in Wellington!

    • Thank you Trish! I’m not ready to claim mastery over knits just yet, but I’m definitely looking forward to tackling the rest of the knits in my stash. My only complaint is that you have to change needles and machines so much. Knit needle, double needle, knit needle, overlocker, double needle, knit needle.

      I know the brooch would be unexceptional in Wellington, and isn’t really bad (not like the horrible Mexican stereotypes that Kiwi commercials love so much), but just because other people would accept it doesn’t make it sit comfortably with me. I’m still mad at the Australian designer who used tacky chicken-feather ‘Indian’ headdresses in all her advertising and said it was OK because there were no Native Americans in Australia.

  7. Ahhh! Squee! I haven’t even read the post yet, but I was so delighted with your work I had to come squee! ;) Now I’ll go read..

  8. Love it, love it, love it.

  9. Very cute fabric and your creative use of it in the skirt and coordinating blouse are spot on! My favorite pic is you swinging in the tree. Looks like you are having so much fun.

  10. The colours in your t-shirt and the skirt are so beautiful. I love the flouncy sleeves too. And the action shot is wonderful. Joyous.