I started buying vintage sewing patterns because I really like the hand-drawn models on the envelope cover. Nowadays they're mostly just meh, not much effort. I also love how there's so much to choose from with vintage patterns, and rather than buying a new pattern that's just a replicate of a former era, a vintage pattern is a make worth recreating a moment in fashion history. Also, the price point is either significantly cheaper, or roughly equal to that of a new pattern depending on how used/un-used the condition of it is.
The first vintage pattern that I decided to take on is this cutesy little summer number pictured below by McCall's, #5614 circa 1977. Adorable, right? I mean, talk about capturing a moment in time, those two young ladies look as though they're experiencing one helluva psychedelic trip...all while looking hip and coooooool.
During this trip back in time, I thought it would be a good idea, and good practice, to start making muslin samples of my sewing patterns. For those of you who are new to the sewing world, a muslin is just a quick mock up of what would one day be a final make. You can sew long stitches so they can easily be pulled apart, add darts to ensure fitting, rough basting as needed, and without lining, finished edges or things like buttons. Normally you would use muslin cotton fabric, or any fabric that is similar to what you're going to sew with. The cheaper the better since you won't end up wearing it and might make a lot of marks all over it.
I've long had to build up the patience to make a muslin because it's one more step in the sewing process before the final product and I just want instant gratification. But, I decided since the pattern is vintage and the sizing is one size smaller than my actual measurements I would sew a simple muslin of the halter top. Turns out I was smart to do that. The bust turned out to definitely be to small and the waist for it was also ridiculously tiny, but I already knew that would happen. I ended up doing about 3 runs of the halter as a muslin. I'm also 5' 3" and have a short torso so I needed to take up the bodice a couple inches. I was frustrated at times, but maintained my patience as I knew I was getting closer and closer to the right fit.
Above you can see the original fit of the halter according to the pattern. It fits my stunt double who actually has a much tinier waist than I do, less curves too. I put this on and couldn't even get the pins to close the blouse together. After two muslins I made these changes to the bodice piece:
For the skirt, I only needed to add two inches to the waistband. I later realized, that with the shortened halter the front would actually rise up and expose the midriff. I was tired of the muslin-making process, and for that satisfied with the final outcome. One thing I might change which would only take a quick 5 minutes is bringing the pocket lining a little more in as they are too deep for my hands to even reach the bottom. My money wouldn't last long in deep pockets anyway because it all gets spent on fabric or ice cream.
The fabric I chose is this sort of blue-grey cotton chambray with tiny speckles of pink and yellow by Robert Kaufman that I purchased at Bolt Fabric when I started the pattern. For the skirt, I actually can't remember who the designer is, but it was the last bit of it and I bought it at Fabric Depot this past autumn. I fell in love with it immediately because it reminded me of Mexico and the colorful textiles that I've laid my eyes on during long-ago visits. It reminded me of the beautiful brown women in my culture who I've caught glimpses of in the countryside of Oaxaca and I felt the desire to be like them by wearing this somehow, someday. Yes, also, I tend to buy fabric without knowing what I'm going to make, but knowing that I will wear it one day. The pockets are lined with some leftover fabric from another project. I find this is a great way to reuse scraps of fabric. In this case I didn't even have enough of the skirt fabric for pockets so this idea came handy. I love that the color scheme and gold arrows are perfection.
Out of all the steps for this pattern my favorite and the one that tested my patience most was the hand-stitching that is done to close the underside of the halter band, both around the waist and along the top of the bust and down the back. It felt like I was really getting into the heart and soul of 'couture stitching', or at least a taste of it. I suppose couture stitching is when most or all of the garment is hand-stitched. Um, ya, not going to happen. My eyes were straining to see the thread, and my hands were growing tired stiff. Even though the quickness and ease of a sewing machine can get you through a garment faster, there is still worth in finishing a garment with hand-stitching. For me that's practice in the craft, testing and growing my patience, and in the end it is such a clean, crisp look. For a Virgo, attention to detail is priceless. You can just barely see the slip stitch along the edges of the band.
Now that the sun is *finally* coming out in Portland I can finally wear this la moda vintage gem. Thanks for reading, friends!
xo - Fonda