Tag Archives: 1950s

Separates: Changing a contour waistband from a side to a back opening

In my quest for the perfect vintage-style skirt for my Separates project, I found McCall’s 6438.

Although the actual sewn garment looks terrible on the model (Why is she wearing a contour waistband so high on her waist?), this pattern has the elements I wanted:

  • A contour waistband, which isn’t strictly vintage but works better on my not-so-hourglass figure.
  • A long skirt that’s full at the bottom, but smooth at the waist. (I don’t need any extra fabric there, thank you!)
  • A seam at the center back of the skirt, so I can easly change the skirt to a back closure. The better to add side pockets.

Today’s task was to redraft the pattern from a side to a center back closure and create the pockets. First up, the skirt pattern piece:

To change the skirt pattern for a back closure was just a matter of moving the circle for the zipper end. This looks a little fuzzy primarily because the pattern is under the Swedish Tracing Paper, though truth be told, some of that is operator error with my new camera!

Next was redrafting the waistband. The back waistband had the underlap extension on the side, so I used the front waistband for my base pattern.

I traced the front waistband pattern to create two back waistband pieces, one with an underlap, one without.

I had to add a seam allowance to the center back line for the left side. I added a seam allowance and 1.5 inch underlap to the right side.

Overlapped at the center back, the new back waistband pieces are the same size as the front waistband.

With that done, I moved on to creating slant pockets. I could have used a piece from an uncut pants pattern, but instead I drew it freehand with a few of the dimensions based on the nicely sized pockets from a pair of ready-to-wear pants with a contour waistband that I have. (Don’t you hate pockets that can’t actually hold anything? I at least want my phone to fit in there.) It was easiest for me to envision if I drew all the lines right on the skirt pattern and then traced those to create the separate pieces.

To draw the lines for the various pocket pieces on the skirt piece, I used a combination of freehand and my design ruler. I can use this whole pattern piece for the back skirt pieces and trim off the little slant area for the front skirt pieces.

Here are the resulting pieces:

My new slant pocket pattern pieces.

In my head, I know how all this will go together because I’ve sewn a slant pocket before. I THINK it will work just fine. (If you see a flaw in my drafting, please let me know!)

The pattern piece that won’t show on the outside, marked A above, can be done in a lining fabric. I have an idea of using a self piping for the slanted edge. The skirt will be done first as a wearable muslin (some quilting cotton), but I just checked my project bag and found lining fabric, but no zipper.

Now the question becomes: Invisible or regular …

Gemini note (because sewing isn’t everything): I am currently obsessing over the BBC production of Sherlock, gleefully egged on by my friend Kim!

Polka dot postmortem and new project preview

Now that the polka dot outfit has made its public debut (on Halloween, no less), it’s time to talk about what it was like to wear it.

It was conceived as a 1940s-era outfit. The skirt is from Simplicity 3688, a reproduction 1940s pattern, but altered for a contour waistband. The top is from Simplicity 4047 (out of print), a reproduction 1950s pattern. I have worn it out once, for our Mad Men Halloween at work.

The skirt is easy to wear. It’s probably just a smidge too big in the waist, but not so much that I gave it even one thought during the day. I’ve thought about stretching some elastic inside the waistband to make it flexible  (my waistline can vary about an inch within a single DAY, particularly when salty pizza is involved for lunch), but I’m not sure I want to mess up how tidy the whole thing is.

The top is surprisingly comfortable despite how fitted it is. I knew it was a little tight across the upper back, but this was not at all noticeable during a day spent sitting at a desk and occasionally walking to a copy machine. Even with the belt on, I was completely at ease. I guess if those fitted styles are fitted correctly, they can be worn with total comfort.

Also, I love-love-love the neckline! I plan to steal it for a dress some day.

1960s style was required for our Mad Men Halloween. I can’t do a credible job with 1960s hair, so here is a redo, a little more 1940s style.

Polka dot top and skirt, 1940s styling

Ah, this is how I intended to wear this outfit! I really like that $7 plastic rattan purse. Look closely. Can you see the polka dot trim on my shoes? No? Too bad — That was the inspiration for the whole outfit!

At a certain point on Halloween in my 1960s garb, I had to walk a few blocks through Downtown Sacramento. The only thing that made me at all self-conscious was the pair of white gloves tucked into my belt.

Now that I’ve seen it properly styled, I look forward to wearing this outfit again — but probably not until spring! I learned a LOT on this project, so this is overall a winner. Even though this “summer” outfit took me well into October to make!

Next up, a wearable muslin of Colette Patterns’ Sencha top.

Here is my mood board of the fun cotton I found.

Brown and aqua Sencha mood board

If you can’t tell, those crazy space-age shapes are aqua on a brown background. The buttons are aqua, too. I have a long brown A-line skirt I’ll wear this with.

I decided to do a wearable muslin because I don’t anticipate needing to alter this pattern all that much. According to the Colette Patterns’ site, the sizes are based on a C-cup; and actual bust measurement should be used when selecting a pattern. With tucks at the waistline, rather than darts to the bust, the construction should be unfitted enough in all the right places not to require much in the way of alterations. I’ll check the bodice for overall length — and see just where those tucks will release on me — but other than that, I may be good to go. Also, I note that the pattern does not call for interfacing in the button and buttonhole areas, which I find curious. I’ll be interfacing them anyway.

The Magic 8 Ball says “All signs point to yes” on this wearable muslin idea.

The “real” version will be in a navy silk with a gray floral design. I’m still pondering my way through the seam finishes on that one. The sleeve construction makes French seams impossible on the sides, so overcast may have to do, although I have crazy ideas about getting out my notes on couture and doing hand overcast seams. Insane, no? But maybe this silk doesn’t lend itself to that. I think pinking and stitching could be very pretty. And underlining in cotton batiste is still a possibility. Basically, the Sencha top in silk is one big silppery experiment that I am hoping results in a wearable garment. Time will tell  …

Fit and flattery

I’ve talked about the construction lessons learned during the making of the polka dot top and skirt. After two months of work, I also learned a few lessons about fit and flattery for my particular figure.

❦ Muslins are critical for me to get the proper fit on a closely fitted garment, but they are just as critical for checking proportions. I had to lengthen the bodice on the top, and that necessitated increasing the peplum length. Otherwise, it would have looked tiny. I increased the length of the peplum by 1½ inches, and another inch wouldn’t have hurt. I wouldn’t have even thought of that if I hadn’t made the muslin.

❦ Sleeves cut in one with the bodice are not my best look. My shoulders hunch forward a bit, which throws off the shoulder seam. This can be accounted for pretty easily with a set-in sleeve, but I have never found a successful way to deal with this on a sleeve that’s an extension of the bodice. No more of those, thank you.

❦ Fitted back darts really accentuate my slight case of scoliosis. That was an unpleasant surprise as I looked at the finished garment from the back. I couldn’t see it from the front, but maybe that’s just because I’m so used to seeing myself from the front. My waistline is not parallel to the floor, and my torso slants to one side a bit. I have no desire whatsoever to try to account for this with alterations. That would just be crazy, but a gathered waist might be in order. That’s a pretty easy adjustment to make to a pattern with waist darts.

❦ Big contrasting belts are not for me, but thin matching belts work. I’ve never had any waist definition and gave up belts years ago, but it turns out that if it’s the right kind of belt, I can wear it. That was a nice surprise since belts can be an important part of a vintage look.

❦ Speaking of no waist definition, I learned on the project just before this one that a straight waist, no matter how nice it looks on my dress form, doesn’t sit correctly on me. That’s why I made the polka dot skirt with a period-inappropriate-but-comfortable-for-me contour waistband. It came out a smidge big, but I plan to perfect that waistband and use it for all my pants and skirts.

❦ My tummy, on the other hand, is pretty well-defined. No need for additional bulk in that area, thank you very much. A side-zipper skirt works fine for me. And the next pair of pants I make will have a side zip as well.

The polka dot top — inside and out

The Simplicity 4047 top is finally finished! It took FOREVER, and I am SO over it. But I am excited to wear it to work for Halloween on Monday. A couple of the guys (!) picked out Mad Men for our department costume theme, so I’m all ready.

(The skirt is a Simplicity reproduction 1940s pattern, while the top is a Simplicity reproduction 1950s pattern, but I can make it all work for the early 1960s.)

I finished the last of the hand sewing last weekend. I’m really pleased with how it turned out and particularly how nice it looks on the inside because of the underlining. Plus, I made a belt. How cool is that? Let’s take a tour …

The polka dot top all done

The outfit is all done, finally! Check out that snappy matching belt. Can you tell the crochet lace at the sleeves is different from the lace on the neck? No? Perfect! 

polka dot top inside front

The inside, from the front. How tidy does that look?

polka dot top, inside back

The inside, from the back. No serger was involved. Yay!

polka dot top, catch stitching

A close up of the hem. Check out that crazy catch-stitching. It’s the first time I’ve done that. I like it.

And as a sneak peek for my Halloween ensemble, here is the jewelry I’ll wear:

Halloween jewelry

You can never go wrong with pearls. Never.

And the accessories:

the accessories

I had the shoes and gloves, but the purse is a $7 acquisition specifically for the occasion.

All I need to do is tease my hair a bit, and the outfit skews early 1960s, but I’ll go more 1940s when I wear it on a regular day.

There were tons of lessons learned on this project, but I’ll save that for another post. Also coming soon, the mood board for the next top, which is a wearable muslin. After all this, it’s time for some quick sewing gratification!

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