Hot! The “English Holiday” Blouse and Skirt

The Facts

  • Fabric: brown and teal cotton/wool? suiting (stash) and sumptuous and a little stretchy cloudy blue synthetic (stash, pretty sure it was red tag when I bought it)
  • Pattern: Simplicity 1863 (borrowed from friend Valerie who got it free from a theatre company)
  • Year: early 1930s
  • Notions: thread (stash), elastic (stash), belting (stash), seam binding (stash)
  • First worn: for photos on DATE (real first wearing will be January 6th)
  • Wear again?: Absolutely!
  • Total price: $0

Admittedly this outfit was not exactly constructed for Christmas or New Year’s, but it was made for an upcoming special occasion, sort of a nice cap to the holiday season. In mid-December I received an invitation from one Lady Valerie, addressed to Lady Erin, to join her and several other “ladies” at the wedding of Matthew Crawley and Mary Crawley. Naturally, I accepted the invitation and set about thinking of what I might wear to this delightful affair. (To you lucky Brits, recall that we poor Americans are subjected to an agonizing wait when it comes to the continuing saga of Downton Abbey and do not, under pain of death, give us any hint of what happens in the third season in your comments. You have been warned.)

Though season 3 of Downton begins in the early 1920s, I had been meaning to make up this pattern so many times (the Academy Awards challenge as an homage to Gosford Park, another Julian Fellows creation; the TV challenge for Downton; and several times last year) and I finally felt I had the right fabric chosen and the right fancy-ish event (one I’d had all along, of course). Lady Valerie’s invitation required her guests to wear appropriate attire and hats (I’ll have to see what I can do about the hat before the event), and I certainly did not want to disgrace myself by showing up in something dowdy. And anyway, tailored skirts and feminine blouses featured heavily in the first couple seasons, so I felt it was in the right spirit. Plus, I’d borrowed this pattern from Valerie almost two years ago! How fun it would be to hand it to her while wearing it.

I have always thought of the stark beauty of January in terms of white, cream, icy blue, and grays punctuated by the bare, dark brown trees, so this ensemble really says January to me. I’m still working strictly with stash here (and I think I deserve a little applause for having kept my stash-only vow for the entirety of 2012 with absolutely no slip-ups, cheating, or backsliding) and I’m happy I’m still finding things that match. I’m pretty sure that you will find me at Jo-Ann’s, buried in fabric, laughing maniacally–maybe crying a little–as I break my fast on January 2nd (my 33rd birthday).

Tallying up the damage in 2012, I have spent less than $150 on notions and made 50 separate items this year (a few items were made with fabric paid for by someone else and then handed over to said person upon completion). That’s an average of $3 an item. I blame the incessant need for zippers. Not bad, though. Especially when you consider I would normally take less than a month to spend that on fabric alone in years past.

The fabric for the skirt is one I bought at the same time I got the teal wool for this skirt, thinking I’d make it into a jacket. But at that point I must have never made a jacket or anything with plaid, because there was certainly not enough yardage to get all the pieces one needs for a jacket and still match plaids. So, it is a skirt and I love it! I cut the front panel on the bias to add a little pizzazz.

And now I shall escape to the English countryside for more drama at the great house with its romance, tragedy, and drool-inducing costumes. Cheerio, all! And may 2013 be your best sewing year yet!


Erin Bartels

Erin is a copywriter by day, a novelist by night, and a wife, mother, dressmaker, quilter, zoo docent, painter, poet, and photographer in between. She only gets paid for the copywriting.

1 Comment

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  1. Erin, lovely blouse and skirt! You look so pretty.. I’m also a big Downton Abby fan. Those costumes are so beautiful. What a great sewing inspiration, right? It’s been a real treat to sew along with such friendly and supportive sewers like you. I’ve enjoyed your posts and appreciated your comments. I hope you have a Great New Sewing Year.:)