Hooray! I didn’t wait until the last possible moment to finish up my entry for The Refashioner’s 2016. This is a record, I think. I was fully expecting myself to leave it to the last week, (day? hour?) but I actually finished this project up last Wednesday- with a full week and a half to spare! (Let’s just overlook the fact that it took me 8 weeks to get the project done, even though it actually only took three afternoons of sewing to construct it. . . hehe.)
When I first heard about the Refashioners 2016 challenge at the beginning of August, I was intrigued, but also a bit apprehensive. I am not a denim girl. I used to wear blue jeans all the time, but in the last few years, they haven’t found much of a place in my wardrobe. Not that I hate denim, I just don’t seem drawn to it as much as I used to be. I did at one point have a pair of skinnies that I liked to pair with my fur coat as it made me feel rather hip 😉 but they have worn out now, and the only other pair are designated for painting and other messy home renovation projects (designated as such, because they are covered in paint). So, even though I loved the idea of taking part in the challenge- I had to think seriously about what I could make that I would actually want to wear after I made it- and I came up with the answer: a retro styled bustier/playsuit top. (And just in time to put it away for winter too! What ridiculous timing. . . )
So, in case you are here only to see the details, here they are first, and then I will continue after this to ramble on about how I made it, what mistakes I made (what? mistakes!?), and whether I will make it again. Oh, and show you a billion more photos too.
The Low Down:
- Butterick Patterns by Gertie 5882 bodice pattern
- Dark denim bodice made out of the bottom cutoffs of my sister’s old jeans
- Light denim pleated inset made out of the back piece of the pant legs of my brother’s ripped jeans
- Floral lining made out of a remnant from a past project
- Boning leftover from a past project
- A recycled vintage zipper from the stash
- Thread we already owned
- Cost= $0.00, since everything was from the stash!
My inspiration, and details that I wanted to include in the final project:
- A winged “collar” or any other bust detail for interest
- 1″ crisscrossed or straight straps. No halter straps as I find they give me headaches 🙁
- Ideally, I wanted to make the top out of patterned or coloured denim, or utilize two different washes of blue denim for contrast and interest
- I thought about using topstitching or preserving some of the flatfelled seams, but it ended up coming across as “biker chick” rather than “vintage girl”
- I was nervous about sewing with a stretch denim, but decided to do it so the top would be more comfortable for hot summer days (note that this pattern is designed for woven, but I was able to sew the stretch just fine. I also cut my lining on the bias, so that it would have some stretch too.)
- I wanted to try out an exposed zipper, since I was planning on a centre back zipper anyways. Now that the exposed zipper trend is now. . . you know. . . going out of style and all that. I’ve never been one for following the trends anyways 😉
- In the spirit of the challenge, I wanted it to be made out of all recycled or remnant materials
I have seen several fitted bodice tops like this before, such as this one from Deadly Dames, and I really like them, as they are an easy summer option to pair perfectly with 1950’s style skirts. My original plan was to take a tried-and-true dress pattern that I have, bone it, and then add a collar flip to the top neckline. This was a popular style of bodice in the 1950’s, as I have seen several patterns utilize a detail like that, and even my Grandma’s wedding dress from the 1950’s has a collar flip like that. The Sweetheart Sundress pattern from Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing uses this detail as well. I’ve always liked this style, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it out. Well, as you can see from the finished garment, I obviously didn’t end up sticking with that plan, and here’s why.
I started with an old faded pair of stretch jeans from my sister, (just to test things out first) cut out the pattern, sewed it up, tried it on, and then decided that it just didn’t have enough structure (as I was planning to wear this without any other underpinnings). It just felt like the bodice was the wrong shape, even with the addition of boning, and I thought that I would always feel slightly uncomfortable wearing it. I also wasn’t happy with the shape of the top neckline. After fiddling with it for a while, I decided to change plans. (Which is not unheard of during my sewing projects!)
The other option I had run across when deciding what to make for the challenge, was the bodice of Gertie’s Butterick 5882 pattern. I had not used this pattern before, but have wanted to for a while. We got it when it first came out which was. . . a few years ago, and there it was still waiting in the pattern drawer. This was the perfect project to try the pattern out on, and get all of the potential fitting issues out of the way, before I committed to making the dress out of a more expensive material. I am happy to say that we did manage to get the majority of the fitting issues out of the way, so next time should be a breeze. Also, it was an exciting pattern to make, as it was my first time using boning, sewing a shelf bust style, and sewing with a heavier denim material.
I chose to cut out the pattern at a size 16, as I thought it would be better to cut it out one size too big, as a test run, than a size too small. However, when I basted the seams up and tried it on . . . there was a lot of ease. I could’ve omitted the two back pieces and it still would have fit. So, I cut the pieces down to a size 12, which fit much better, though I did still end up taking some material out of the centre front pieces, the sides and the back to get better fit. I also sewed the front seams with a curve as pictured (below) for a nice smooth front. Also note, since this was a refashioning project and I was working with limited material, I cut the centre front piece as two separate pieces, and seamed it up the front.
Once we had gotten the majority of the bodice fitting down, the rest of the top went together pretty straightforwardly. The boning went in much easier than I was anticipating. I don’t know what I was anticipating, but I was expecting it to be hard, I guess. The kind of boning I used had a pre-sewn channel which was nice. Considering how nice of a fit, and the structure that the boning created, I am now hooked and thinking of all the other projects I can bone! I now see why so many vintage patterns use boning- it just makes a really nice structured bodice, eliminates crumpling and fits really well.
The bra pieces went together nicely, with no problems there, but are you ready for the mistake I mentioned? 🙁 I lost track of where my notches were, and accidentally trimmed the seams, so when I sewed the front pleated bra pieces on to the bodice bottom, I placed them too close to the edge, which meant that the raw edges couldn’t be completely encased in the lining seam. At this point though (it was several steps down the road when I realized the mistake and I had already graded the seams) I was not about to take it apart again and move them in. So, instead, to save the situation, I just flipped the straps down instead of twisting them like the pattern calls for. I don’t mind the look, even though it did widen out the neckline more than originally planned. I have seen these bustier tops with every kind of strap under the sun, though, so no one will even notice. Right? I also stitched the straps down all around the front, underneath the inset too, as it kept trying to flip up. I also decided to criss cross the straps across the back, so that I will not have a problem with them slipping off my shoulders.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I wanted to include an exposed zipper up the back. My criteria for a zipper was one that had brass teeth, as I think that it suits the denim better than a silver zipper would. (And I’m not much of a silver girl anyways.) I originally was going to purchase a navy, separating zipper with brass teeth, since we didn’t already have one that was the correct colour. But apparently, a navy zipper with brass teeth is an impossible thing to want. So, all options exhausted, I looked through the stash again, and found this lovely aged one that came from who knows where. Originally it had been rejected, since it is khaki not navy, but then I decided that it would work fine, and would be even better than purchasing a new zipper as it would keep in the spirit of recycling and reusing. It was too long, but I simply removed some of the teeth with pliers, reinserted the zipper stop, and cut it to size and it works perfectly. Once the zipper was sewn in- I was done! And then I had to wait a few days to take these pictures, because it decided to be fall time all of a sudden.
So, would I make this pattern again? Yes! In fact, my original plan for the refashion was to not use blue denim at all, but to use a tan and cream, polka dot pair of jeans I found at the thrift store. However, once I had had the one detour along the way, I decided to continue making the top out of the old denim scraps, instead of cutting into the other pair. That way I could work out any kinks along the way, and then when I cut into the polka dot pair, I can avoid the mistakes of the first trial run. So basically, this denim one is a wearable muslin, and the polka dot one is going to be the next project! Also, I like how this pattern goes together, and fits, so I am planning on making it at some point as a dress, as it was originally designed to be 🙂
So, in conclusion, I am really glad that I found out about the Refashioners 2016 challenge in time to take part this year. I liked the challenge of using a material I would normally not be drawn to, and finding a way around those limitations to end up with a garment that I like- and I do really like how this top turned out. It is completely different than anything I have in my wardrobe, and after looking at it for a while- maybe I am more of a denim girl than I thought I was at first!
So did any of you participate in the Refashioners 2016 Challenge? Or, even if you didn’t take part in the contest, have you ever refashioned something into something completely different? And, what are your thoughts towards denim? Is denim something you are drawn to, or like me, would it take a bit of convincing to make it a part of your wardrobe?