Every now and then I see a pattern envelope from the seventies that looks completely awful. It looks dated (and not in a cool retro way) and best relegated to the bottom of the drawer. This is Simplicity 8924, a wardrobe pattern printed in 1970. The wardrobe includes a skirt, trousers, a blouse and a sleeveless jacket. I found this pattern lurking in a box at Like Sew Amazing. It was in fact being given away free, so let’s just say that it was a profoundly unloved pattern.
Let’s look at the artwork on the envelope:
From the left, model 1 and 4 wearing the blouse, matching vest and skirt – I think these are probably the only two ensembles that I would consider wearing, so almost cool? Model 2 wearing the trousers and Model 5 with the big scarf somehow seem a little too office-ready for my taste. Model 3 with the stripy blouse and corduroy vest and trousers just oozes the 70s, but the look seems a bit costume-like to me and dressed-like-a-crayon model 6 just doesn’t appeal, although I do like the idea of adding a belt.
However, despite my less than favourable opinion on the styling, somehow the pattern still spoke to me. I looked at that big-collared blouse and an idea was born! The blouse has a real statement collar – very on trend at the moment, I suppose. And, even though I can see that the collar is huge, in real life, as I discovered, it seems to take on an extra dimension!
I chose a geometric print which has a very retro feel to it for this project. The fabric was from Minerva and comes in a variety of colourways. Just thought I’d share a tip here. I seem to find it difficult to find fabrics again on the Minerva website, but I have discovered that each fabric has a unique code, which is printed on the swatch label, which is very handy for finding out the details again (and providing a link for the blog, you’re welcome!). I chose the blue-brown combination, which I’m sure will fit well with other items in my wardrobe, but there is also brown, red and mint. The fabric is a stretch woven viscose. Strangely, I haven’t sewn much with stretch wovens this light-weight, but it was a very easy fabric to sew and I do like the feel and texture of it.
I didn’t make many alterations to the fit from the standard size 12 pattern that I had. I made the sleeves a little shorter and although I cut the body length as directly I make the zip aperture a little shorter to fit in with my higher waist and then lopped off a bit of extra length once I had tried the blouse on.
I could tell that this is a pattern of some vintage just because of the the construction techniques used. First of all, there is a long zip that runs down the back of the garment; to be honest it makes the blouse seem reminiscent of a dress. I’m not sure if I made this again I would bother with such a long zip, it isn’t even necessary for putting the blouse on. I could probably get away with the centre-back seam sewn up until a few inches from the top, leave that open and add a little button and thread loop at the neckline. In fact, I find the contortions needed to do up the zip irritating, but I suppose I haven’t worn a back-zipped dress in years so it isn’t surprising that I would be annoyed by this.
The other “vintage” construction features include the use of an elbow dart. I mean, when was the last time you saw one of those? I have seen them on bridal wear and on leather motorcycle suits, when the sleeves are worn tight against the arm and the darts enable movement, but on a casual-ish blouse?
Being a pattern of some age, of course there was a great deal of hand-sewing involved too. I skipped some of this, for example I just machine-hemmed the blouse. I also left off the hook-and-eyes from the collar. I really have a problem with these small metal hook-and-eyes. Just a warning here, as I’m about to relate a rather revolting story! When I was a teenager I used to sew and craft on my bed at home. One day I was scratching at my ear when a large lump of wax and dried blood fell out onto my lap. After picking at it (sorry, I said this was a revolting story!) I found that at the centre of this lump that had resided in my ear-hole, goodness knows how long, a small metal hook (one half of a hook-and-eye). It may be that the hook had been from a bra, or a skirt or something, but I suspect sewing on the bed was the most likely culprit. I suppose the moral of the story is not to do craft activities on the bed! And as you can imagine I have entertained an aversion to these hook-and-eye things ever since.
The construction itself was relatively easy although it did expect me to have some knowledge. There were no instructions on how to insert the invisible zip, just “follow the manufacturer’s instructions”, but there was precision in the pattern. There were a great many useful notches and markings so everything, the collar, the neck facings, the sleeves all lined up beautiful when I inserted them. There were lots of reminders to trim seams and under-stitch too. In fact, the pattern and its instructions were superb for getting absolute precision.
Do I like this blouse? It is a hard question to answer. I’m not so happy with the long zip down the back, but I suppose I could get used to the fight with the zip that’s necessary when I put it on. I am pleased though with the sewing and I do like the statement collar; somehow it looks even bolder in real life than on the pattern envelope. Have I turned this ugly duckling of a pattern into a swan-like garment? What do you think?
I’m now thinking about how this will work with my wardrobe, and will probably need to pull out a few items to see how they look in combination.