The Internet has helped me to realise that there are tons of vintage mid-century Alfred Shaheen playsuits out there. But unfortunately, it’s hard for me to find one with a print that truly speaks to me. Besides, it’s also hard to find an affordable one in my size. Aye, I expect vintage Alfred Shaheen to be expensive, but I am not sure if I am ready to spend that kind of money…yet.
And then I came across this picture of a vintage McCall’s 3919 Instant Playsuit and Skirt pattern (circa 1956). My heart spoke and I did what it said; I drafted a pattern based on this picture, and took a cheap batik tablecloth out of my fabric stash.
Alfred Shaheen was known for using unique fabric designs inspired by the Hawaiian islands. On the other hand, batik fabric is a type of fabric design that is symbolic to and very popular in the Indonesian culture. Batik designs are also seen and used in many countries in Southeast Asia. The uniform worn by the Singapore Girls of Singapore Airlines is one classic example of batik design. These 2 designs come from 2 different corners of the world, but their styles are highly similar, and they evoke the same mood to me. Two words – exotic summer.
I was really apprehensive about starting the project because it was my first time drafting a pattern myself after attending a series of Italian dressmaking classes last year. What if I failed!?!?!?!!
Fortunately, I didn’t. Well, I guess it wasn’t a very difficult pattern. I had to take the playsuit in a little bit more at the end, but that was it. The bust area fit fine, the facings match the main body, the armholes look tidy, and the centre-back button entry is right at the centre!
The other challenge was cutting the fabric pieces according to the design of the fabric. I cut it in a way such that the front has a vertical design down the centre, while the back has a different motif in each half. I had so much fun figuring this out! And everything turned out rather well. The only thing I would pick on… would be the unfortunate placement of the logo of the fabric at the crotch. But I had no choice, the fabric was only a little more than a metre and I was trying to work with the design of the fabric. Good thing it’s not too noticeable.
I guess the only difference between the original pattern and mine is that I have a regular neckline at the back instead of a lowered neckline. Looking back, the latter would have been a better idea because I can’t reach some of the buttons too easily – getting in and out of the bathroom takes a while!
Other than that, I’m super glad with how everything has turned out. This is definitely something I will keep forever. I am thinking that making clothes using batik fabric to emulate the popular vintage tiki designs might be an addictive business… xoxo G