Category Archives: outfits

Alma Blouse

Well, I’m back! What with school and all, I’ve hardly had time to sew, and it doesn’t help that both of my sewing machines are broken! I did make a Secret Santa present using the sewing machines in the costume shop, but other than that I haven’t been able to sew since I don’t know when. Now we’re in the middle of winter break, though, and I’ve been out in the country using my mom’s fancy Juki to make her an Alma blouse!

Alma and car

When Mother first bought this lawn, she described a fitted, vaguely medieval, possibly button-back blouse with 3/4-length sleeves. We decided that the Alma blouse had the right fit, and the sleeves were easily modified. It is also such a nice, versatile, modifiable pattern, and falls within both of our sizing ranges. I can’t wait to sew myself a version in white geometric-patterned cotton with a forest green yoke, or a little floaty summer blouse in lawn or voile with cap sleeves…

I cut a size 16, going by Mother’s upper bust measurement, and did a full bust adjustment. At first I added a total of three inches to the bust, but after the first muslin, I had to reduce the bust by an inch (interestingly, this happened with the last FBA I did as well–I’m really not sure why). I also did a forward shoulder adjustment of probably 1 1/4″.

Alma and car

I had a lot of trouble fitting the sleeves, and as you can see, they’re still not quite right. I narrowed the shoulders by about 5/8″, and put that fabric into the sleeve cap instead. I also did a full arm adjustment, and cut the sleeves on the bias. They fit a lot better in the lawn than they did in the poly-cotton sheet I was using for the muslin, and Mother can move her arms pretty freely, but I’m still not entirely satisfied. Sleeves are hard!

sleeve detail

In addition to changing the sleeve length, I gave the sleeves a little notch that matched the neckline. I trimmed both sleeves and the neckline with some homemade burgundy bias tape.

blouse and earring

Alma neckline

I attempted to do a swayback adjustment because of the wrinkles in back. I don’t think I did it right, but there are fewer wrinkles than there were…

Alma back

Alma zip

I used a regular zipper instead of an invisible one, for no particular reason. It is still pretty discreet. The belt shown here is the leftover burgundy bias tape.

Alma and car

I also made the skirt that Mother is wearing, which was last year’s Christmas present. It is something like a quarter circle, made out of something woven but stretchy from Fabric Depot. It matches the blouse perfectly!

I’m going home tomorrow with a borrowed sewing machine, to sew like mad until I leave for Ireland in a week! I’m hoping to make a shirtdress, two circle skirts, and to finish the Macaron I was sewing when my machine broke. And if I can accomplish all that, there’s a million other things I’d like to sew…but I’m trying to keep my to-do list short!

Apple Violet Blouse

This is what I wore today:

violet

It was sewn entirely by me! Excepting shoes (brown oxfords, not shown) and tights, which don’t count. The skirt you’ve seen before–it’s my green corduroy one I made last summer, though it has been taken in since. But the blouse is new!

It is a Colette Violet, made up in the cutest fabric you ever did see. It has been sitting in the closet awaiting buttons for at least two weeks, and I finally got around to them last night at a sewing party.

buttons

You can’t tell from this photo, but I couldn’t find enough matching orange buttons, so they are slightly different. It’s barely noticeable, though, and if anyone did notice, I think the print can pass it off as “whimsy.” There are also nine buttons, instead of the six or seven that the pattern called for, and I regretted it long before I had finished hand-sewing each buttonhole. When I had pinned it together, it pulled at the bust, and my nine buttons were meant to prevent gaping, but in fact there is room and to spare in the finished product. I later learned that I can pull it over my head, and the buttonholes are utterly unnecessary.

violet collar detail

Collar detail. I love the collar, and there’s enough of this fabric left over for a few details on some sweet cream-colored dress.

I made no alteration to this pattern, just traced it off in a size 0 and made it up, with only the minimum possible tissue fitting (that is, “is this going to fit over my bust? yeah, looks like it, let’s go”). I thought about making a muslin, but for such a simple pattern I didn’t really think that it could fit me that terribly. I don’t exactly regret making a muslin, but there are definitely some alterations I will make for next time; this version is a bit too voluminous in places.

violet back

The back.

violet untucked

And untucked. It really looks best tucked in, it is just a little too big and a little too boxy to be really flattering, though it might be cute with jeans or a straight skirt.

In my next version, I will probably take out about an inch of length in the high bust, and maybe a quarter to half an inch in the shoulders. I might also take out an inch of length along the lengthen/shorten line, because looking at other people’s Violets, they do seem to be a bit shorter than mine, and I will probably end up hemming mine a little more–I am, after all, quite petite. I am also considering taking the next one in at the side seams. A lot of this depends on how I feel as I wear this one, but I already have plans for another in white lawn with purple accents–it’s a very cute and easy pattern, and it seems a shame to let a small sizing problem get in the way. Of course, if I keep making Violets I’ll have to keep making high-waisted skirts! I really only have a couple skirts that I feel I can wear blouses with, especially blouses this blousy.

Overall, though, I’d call it a success! The cut and colors are very summery and light, but the print is a bit more autumnal, so it’ll be relevant all year round!

Floral Drop Sundress

The moment I saw the Joel Dewberry Floral Drop pattern (used in three different colorways in this quilt!) I knew that I wanted a dress out of it! Never mind that it’s quilting cotton, it HAD to be a dress for swing dances and ceilis–even in January, you can only wear sundresses because it gets unbearably hot, and the best sundresses are twirly ones, because what is dancing without lots of spins? Less fun, that’s what. Luckily, the fabric store in Astoria had the red colorway on sale, so I bought a couple of yards it to make my dream dress.

dress and sweater

And it is such a dream dress! Let me tell you, I want five of these dresses, in a variety of beautiful prints, to wear in all seasons to all dances and classes and parks and dates. It is so comfy and pretty, and the fact that it’s quilting cotton matters not a bit–it actually makes it better, because it gives the skirt some stiffness without needing a crinoline. It’s a fantastic sundress, and if it’s chilly, I can just wear a sweater and tights!

I’m actually wearing white tights in these pictures, but you can barely tell because my skin is pretty much the exact same color. It’s nice to feel sunshine again! (Though Sierra had me face the sun for better lighting, and I haven’t mastered the ability to stare at a brilliantly glowing object with a straight face.)

floral drop dress

I knew I wanted a sweetheart neckline (I have admired them for ages, but never had a dress with one until my Macaron), so I used the bodice from the Macaron pattern, sans yoke. I had to take it in at the sides, and make it higher front and back to cover my entire bra. It took ages to alter it just right, and foolishly, I didn’t trace my finished product out on pattern paper, so for the next dress, I’ll have to figure it out all over again. Oh well.

I wanted a full skirt, because it’s a dancing dress, and I used a circle for maximum twirliness. I didn’t originally buy enough fabric to finish the circle, so the project was put on hold for a couple of months until I had enough. It twirls excellently!

floral drop dress back

The back. My straps are quite wide–perhaps a little wider than they need to be, but I wanted to be sure they would be stable and cover my bra straps.

floral drop dress

From the side. I put this zipper in and ripped it out twice before realizing that I’d been doing it right the whole time. After that, I didn’t have the heart to take it out again and try to make it properly invisible. I don’t think I’ve ever done a zipper well–I’ve done two in the last week or so and neither of them came out very well, though I’m probably the only person who will ever notice. Maybe in the future I’ll just handpick them all.

I also hemmed this dress twice. I cut it out sloppily, thinking that I would take off length once I’d tried it on, but I liked the length so I didn’t trim it down at all, I just hemmed it. I didn’t notice anything wrong, and wore it around one day, and then dancing a few days later (I got a very nice compliment from someone, who was very impressed when I told her I had made it and wanted to know if I’d used a vintage pattern!), but when it was hanging in my closet afterwards, I noticed that it was not even at all… so I had to rip it out, trim off about an inch from places in the front, and do it over. It’s just a machine hem, luckily. In the end, I decided I like this length much better, it feels like a much more reasonable amount of fabric for some reason.

floral drop dress

It’s been such a gorgeous weekend, I’m so happy it’s sunny. I went for a two-hour walk/run in the state park near campus, and have played a ton of frisbee in the sun. I have been making a Colette Violet blouse in a charming print, but my sewing room was taken away and I no longer have a place to set up my machine, so I’ve started sewing it by hand–just the darts, so far. I don’t want it to be half hand-sewn and half machine-sewn, so I’m hesitant to go too far, because then I’ll have to finish the whole thing by hand! Ah well, anything to teach me patience…

Waiting for nice weather…

I now have two dresses to blog about, one handmade and one altered, but it has been too cold and rainy for nice outdoors pictures these last few days, so I haven’t been able to blog them yet. I was optimistic this morning, but by the time I was done with lunch, it was raining again. I also have a growing list of things-to-sew, but most of them require fitting, and it’s tricky to do by yourself in a mirror. I really wish I had a dress form, but they’re so expensive! It is incredibly useful to have a sewing room, though, where this is room for fabric chaos and two sewing machines set up at all times. I’m afraid my empty room next door is going to get taken away from me in the upcoming health-and-safety inspections.

To make up for not having pictures of new things, here are some pictures of a pre-existing dress, taken on Halloween in a mass costume-photoshoot with my friends (it’s not a costume, but I wear it every Halloween anyway). I’m pretty sure it’s from the 19-teens or maybe the early 20s, judging by the general shape and length, but it seems odd that it would have survived so well. I wear it once or twice a year and though it has always had some tiny pin-holes, it hasn’t ripped or begun to fall apart yet.

IMGP0376

Standing pointlessly by an obelisk-thing. It felt right at the time.

IMGP0434

Being very careful not to fall in the reflecting pool in my vintage silk. Don’t mind the black and white, we were being artsy.

I really love this dress. The sleeves are actually attached to an under-bodice, which closes in the center front with snaps, and then the rest of the dress snaps up the side. It has a lace collar that snaps, too, but whenever I wear it, it comes unsnapped and looks silly. It can’t have been very practical in its day. The fabric actually used to have geometric shapes on it in dark blue, I think, and sometimes in the right light I can just see the ghost of the pattern. It doesn’t photograph at all, and half the time I can’t even see it.

Yesterday was cold and rainy and quite unpleasant, and I was in such a bored, unsatisfied mood that I decided I was good for nothing but television and mundane hand-sewing, and consequently I managed to bind an entire side of this quilt. So pretty soon there will be pictures of that, too! If the weather ever gets dry again…

a sunny day and a colorful dress

Although I was initially overjoyed to be reunited with my extensive wardrobe after winter break, I have quickly fallen back into the habit of wearing a few key items over and over again, and letting the others stagnate. This is partly due to laziness, partly due to weather, partly due to “saving” dresses for the right occasion (which is completely imaginary and does not exist in my life). In short, there are many reasons, and none of them are very good. But Saturday dawned sunny and warm and positively springy, and I had no obligations more taxing than a stroll around campus and some physics homework, the perfect opportunity for a new dress.

floral dress

It’s not actually new, but it has languished in my closet for what–six months? a year? and this is the first time I have worn it. It was given to me by my friend Jessica, the source of most of my vintage clothes. I think it’s from the 70s, but what do I know? It’s polyester, simultaneously both slightly fuzzy and slightly shiny, and quite warm, which is a plus since it’s not really spring yet however balmy it feels.

My roommate Sierra (who took these pictures) lent me a big pale-green flower pendant. It’s mother-of-pearl-y and amazing and goes very well with the dress’s crazy oversized pattern.

I wore it with white tights and my poor beat-up black mary-janes. I love these shoes to death but I’ve had them for nearly three years and they have been sorely abused in that time. The Lewis & Clark cobblestones do no favors for shoes, and nor does the rain…

floral dress

These photos are taken partly just to capture the beautiful Imbolc light quality before it completely disappears behind three more months of rain. Also, I live on the loveliest campus I ever have seen, which is the closest I come to having school pride or whatever.

Some Thoughts on Costumes

Today I took a pair of scissors to an old t-shirt with the idea of turning it into a dirndl-y sort of bodice with ribbons up the front. I cut off the hem, the sleeves, and cut out a square neckline, then looked at it and thought “This won’t look the way I want it to and will probably fall apart–why not just wait until I make a quality one?” And then I didn’t go any farther. I think this is the beginning of a victory over shoddy and unsatisfying costume pieces. Hurrah!

Here are some pictures of a costume that has inspired me since I was six years old: Trina Schart Hyman’s illustrations of Snow White.

Snow White

I think I might try to replicate it. It looks like a fairly simple dress, with maybe a crimson shift underneath. Aprons are easy, the belt might be harder . . . I did try to make the belt when I was younger but the leather was too soft and scrunched up around my waist.

The evil queen has a pretty awesome dress too, which I can maybe aspire to sewing when I have a better grasp of princess seams. I can only imagine sewing it in a knit fabric, and that feels like cheating. It should probably be velvet or satin-y, to be honest.

Oh, to be reunited with my sewing machine! In the meantime, I suppose I can scour the internet for suitable patterns for the Snow White dress (or I could just wing it like I usually do). Any pattern suggestions?

dresses!

Well, I finally found a way to take pictures of myself, and so I can post pictures of the dresses that I have been making this summer. The pictures are not very good, unfortunately, because I lack anything resembling a tripod and have been hanging my camera on a safety pin jammed into my windowsill and taking “interval shots.” If I ever want to photograph anything below my knees, I will face problems, but for right now, this is sufficient.

First, my circus-y t-shirt dress:

t-shirt dress

One of the joys of doing cool things in high school is that you end up with a plethora of t-shirts that you never wear. Looking for a way to utilize or dispose of some of them, I hit upon the idea of making a dress out of them! I made this before my sewing machine was functional, so I had to sew the entire thing by hand. The skirt is made of three National Ocean Sciences Bowl t-shirts and one random purple t-shirt from who-knows where, and the bodice is my t-shirt from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Summer Seminar. I made mismatched sleeves and decorative but-not-particularly-sturdy pocket, and even a sewn-in sash to help support the weight of the skirt.

t-shirt dress

t-shirt dress

The purple sleeve is unfortunately folded oddly in these pictures, but I had taken so many of them by the time I realized that I decided I didn’t care.

And then there’s this dress…

flowery dress

I started making this dress three years ago, sewed it all up exactly according to the instructions, basted in the zipper . . . and then tried it on and realized it didn’t fit very well. I was terribly upset and lost all interest in finishing it, but the other day I finally sewed in the zipper, shortened the hem, added snaps to the cuff, and put ties on the back, all in time to wear to a solstice party!

flowery dress

It still doesn’t fit perfectly; there’s too much extra fabric under the arms, and the quilting cotton is really stiff. Nor will it stand up to much washing, since I didn’t zigzag the seams or anything. But, after all these years of disappointment, I am really very pleased with it.

Just for good measure, here’s a picture of me wearing clothes today and wondering if the camera is ever going to hurry and up and take the picture:

an outfit