Sunday, August 4, 2013

Everything Old is New Again


I really am trying to use up my stash of materials. These 3 projects sort of go together because they all had a previous life as other things. I showed you the scooter skirt already, but it's worth mentioning that I made it out of the skirt of a half finished dress Mom abandoned back in the late 60's or so.

Why didn't I just finish the dress? Because it was cut along very similar lines to the pink and white one in the picture below. As you can see, it is a terribly dumpy looking fit on me. Mom is nearly 4 inches shorter than I am, and all of it is torso. The waist line any dress made for Mom cuts me right across my 3rd rib from the bottom. So, no point in making up the dress as it was. The material is too stiff and coarse to make a good blouse, but it's just perfect for a short a-line skirt. I'm very happy with it.

But then there was still the pink and white dress. It's one of a pair, also from Mom, but made by Great Aunt Gatha. When I was little, Aunt Gatha's sewing was held to be an acme of durable clothing construction. And durable it was- although looking at it now what comes to mind is the bit by some comedian, maybe Jeff Foxworthy, where he was talking about his redneck relatives fixing something with duct tape: If one or two layers will fix it, then 40 or 50 layers will fix the hell out of it. These dresses are obsessively, if startlingly coarsely, assembled. The waistband had a piece of material tacked in as a stay, to which the bodice and skirt were affixed by machine, having first been basted in place with what looks like button hole twist. Both parts were previously gatherd by hand with the same coarse thread. All basting and gathering threads had been left in place. Each seam had been closely but unevenly overcast by hand, and the hem of the skirt as well as the facing of the bodice placket had been whip stitched in very small, closely spaced stitches of rather erratic appearance. The under arm seams hadn't even been clipped so as to allow the side seam to flex without puckering the armpit! Altogether, the construction was rather lumpy.

These two dresses were neither in wearable nor collectable condition by the time they came to me. The shoulders were dry rotted, the collars stained, and there were serious mouse bites in various places. But they were made in the 50's, which means that there is a mile of fabric in the skirt. With a little scootching and fudging, there was exactly enough to cut a hawaiian shirt for David out of it. I have a nice vintage shirt pattern that suits the material perfectly.

The third thing is this wing collar shirt I made for myself. It's the second shirt I've made out of this pair of curtains, the first being a Halloween costume I made for Cynthia. It has the distinction of being made not only out of material from goodwill, but made out of something I actually used for its original purpose for some years. Eventually I moved out of places that had windows you could put normal curtains in, and I remembered that I had actually wanted to make clothing out of them in the first place. It took me a very long time to finish this shirt because I lost interest halfway through, for no reason that I can remember, especially as I am very excited about the finished result. I always thought that tuxedo shirts were the fanciest thing imaginable, and I really wanted one.

The thing that inspired me was the idea to merge the bust darts in the front of the shirt with the seam where the pleated section is inserted. The result is a fit that is very feminine and curvy, but clean and uncluttered the way a man's shirt is. Also, I finally managed to get the proportion of sleeve width, body width, size of arm hole and length of shirt tail worked out so that it looks right and feels comfortable. I feel very luxurious wearing it.

As David said about his pink and white shirt: "Yeah, this is a really good shirt. I feel like a badass wearing it."


  1. I am glad you finally finished said blouse as it is lovely. The idea to move the bust darts to the style line looks to have worked perfectly...and your pics make me think I need a dress form. (a friend of Elleanor's from college who follows your blog even though you are an actual "stranger to me. ;) k.

    1. It's lovely to hear from you none the less! And a dress form has made a huge difference in my sewing process, mostly by speeding things up. The important thing is to fully customize the thing so it's shaped like you- I have one of those foamy ones that I used a hacksaw and some batting to shrink/pad the appropriate parts.