I started with the skirt, since I can’t get to work on the jacket until I know what I’ll be wearing it over.
Like I said, I’m using this fabric, and purchased three yards of it to ensure I had plenty to work with:
I did a little measuring and determined that I could cut three panels of the fabric (44″ wide from selvedge to selvedge) for a total skirt width of 132″– nice and full so it’ll have plenty of volume. Before doing that I cut off a piece about 1/2 yard wide to make my waistband and pockets (pockets are great!) out of. For the record, I’m 5’6″ and this made for a nice skirt length with a 2 1/2″ hem.
So I’m going to start off by warning you that this is not really a recreation of the iconic Dior Bar Suit— it’s more of a tongue-in-cheek version that I’m throwing together for fun. It may have the general look, but the details are purely for my own amusement.
I really do love the whole “new look” that came out after WWI– it’s so fluffy and fun and suits my body type much better than the long, lean looks of the first half of the 20th century. So I figured I’d have a good time making this outfit, which I’m hoping will be recognizable to my costuming friends at the various events I’ve got going this year.
My inspiration for the outfit came from this fabric:
It’s from Northcott’s “Happy Hour” collection (“bar” suit, get it?) and I thought it would make a great base for the black skirt. From there the whole idea came together fairly easily.
I’m going to have a full skirt made of the Happy Hour fabric, and a plain ivory jacket up top with some kind of novelty buttons down the front. I have high hopes for the hat I’m planning– straw, like the one in the 1957 photo above– and I found a perfect purse, but I’ll save that for another post.
Let’s see how this works out!
Sorry for the delay in posting about this costume– I was waiting for a zipper to arrive, and then it turned out to be out of stock (thanks a lot, FashionFabricsClub.com, for making me wait three weeks without bothering to tell me you didn’t have my order), and I had to order it from Amazon.
Anyway, Janet’s skirt is a bit more flared than a standard A-line, but doesn’t have the fullness through the hip of a circle skirt. The panels (I think there are nine, since there’s no center front seam) are actually fitted through the hip and then flare out from just below the hipline.
To draft my pattern I took my waist measurement and my hip measurement (8″ down from the waist), and divided by nine to get the fitted top part of the skirt. From the hip point I continued drawing the lines along the same angle just for reference, extending them down to the hem (the panel was a total of 25″ long). Once I determined where the original lines would be, I extended the width of the panel by 3″ at the hem (total, so 1.5″ on each side) to get that extra flare.
As you recall from my sketch, the skirt has several layers to it– an overskirt, an underskirt, and an apron-ish panel in front. When I decided to make this outfit into a dress, I originally planned on stitching all of the layers to a single waistband to ensure that they’d all stay properly aligned. However, after getting most of the way through the process I decided that the weight of the underskirt was pulling everything down too much, so I ended up making it separate from the overdress. The whole process was a serious pain…
For the underskirt I first just cut a single rectangle about 2 yards long and ran two horizontal decorative tucks at the hem. I made them deeper than my sleeve tucks– about 1″. I’d originally planned on doing three tucks to mimic the sleeves, but I had some issues with placement and ended up with only two. I used a folded sheet of paper as a guide to keep the width consistent.
I stitched up the back seam after sewing the tucks, and used the selvedges for the top and bottom of the skirt, hemming the skirt to the correct above-the-ankle length. Happily, my mistake with the spacing of my tucks turned out all right, because turning up my hem twice made it just about the depth of the tucks, which looked intentional.
Once I had my underpinnings set I decided to make the skirt, so I could be sure that when my bodice was constructed it would fit over all of the skirt layers and still be able to close at the waist. I found a nice tutorial online for making a basic pleated skirt from a rectangular length of fabric, so I took a few pointers from that, but mostly I just winged it.
After I finished my bodice, all that was left was the skirt! Laughing Moon 114 has a very basic skirt pattern– it’s just four panels of fabric, with a pocket option that I took full advantage of, hoping to minimize the things I’d have to carry at Dickens Fair. I drafted my own pocket pattern, though, since reviews concur that the drafted pocket is too deep to get your hands all the way into, which makes it less useful. I put it on the right front seam, which was a convenient location.
One thing I did was to cut my skirt slightly wider than the pattern– it was supposed to be three 44″ panels plus one more 13″ panel for a total of about 144″ once the seam allowances were accounted for. I thought a 13″ wide back panel sounded ridiculously narrow, but rather than risk going too wide for 1840s with four 44″ panels, I split the difference and made my fourth panel only about 30″ wide. Not sure if it really made much of a difference in fullness, but it turned out fine.
Making the overskirt was a bit more complicated than I thought it would be, so I put off finishing it until really late.
It started off simple– I extended the length of the original overskirt pattern and cut the pieces a bit larger to allow for some extra fullness in back, just as I did for the underskirt. However, since there were no darts in the front like there were in the underskirt, the shaping was different– once I pulled the waist tight in back, the front pulled unattractively across my stomach, and there seemed to be too much curve at the side seams, keeping them from laying smoothly over the hips. I tweaked the shape a few times, and eventually got it to behave reasonably well.
This issue was compounded by the horror stories I’d heard about working with satin– that it showed every tiny pinhole, that it puckered if you looked at it funny, that sewing machines loved eating it for lunch, and that it was impossible to keep straight while cutting or sewing. Though I managed to avoid most of these issues by flatlining the satin with my cotton voile, I still had to be really careful with pinholes and ripping out seams. Basically, in order to avoid visibly ripped-out seam lines, every alteration I made had to make the skirt progressively smaller as I widened the seam allowance. (sigh… I guess I should’ve done a mockup after all)