SEWN: Vintage 1950’s Style White Bustier (Simplicity 8130)

Well well well, it’s August now and here I am, writing about the first item I just checked off my 2019 #MakeNine list. When I first talked about my Make Nine plans for 2019, I was certain that I was NOT going to finish what I planned out to make. No, I am not a defeatist. I am just a realist who accepts the fact that life is unpredictable and things don’t always go as planned.

I had an unexpected change in living arrangements earlier this year and had to find a new apartment unit to rent. Finding a new place to stay and setting up my sewing space again meant taking some time off from sewing. But this also provided me with time to reorganise and helped me to learn to really prioritise what I need to sew.

Gwen posing on the beach in the white bustier she made. She is pairing the white bustier with a red sarong. Gwen posing on the beach in the white bustier she made. She is pairing the white bustier with a red sarong.In the last few months, I have embarked on several refashion projects like my collaboration with Swapaholic and my personal #Gwerkclothes project (check hashtag on Instagram for details). Refashioning is easier to do than sewing from scratch because I don’t need to be too precise with cutting my fabric, and was a way for me to get back into the rhythm of sewing after the break.

I also decided to prioritise making a new pjs for myself because all my other pjs are becoming so worn from repeated daily wear! My first version of the Fifi pjs, which is kind of meant to be a wearable muslin, is completed and I will be taking some time to take some proper photos of the set soon.

The facts

This vintage 1950’s style white bustier top was completed at the start of year because I desperately needed a white bustier top to add to my vintage style wardrobe. I have always struggled to find a bustier that fits me, and when I got my hands on the Simplicity 8130 pattern, I knew I was going to finally make a bustier for myself.

Honestly, I don’t know why it has taken me so long to finally get down to making my own bustier. Other than trying to find the right pattern, I think I was also daunted by the need for me to learn to insert boning. It’s silly because when I finally did it, I was surprised at how easy it is!

The fabric (and other materials)

I made this bustier using a white “linen” that I purchased during my holiday in Krabi. This is the same fabric that I used for my 1950’s pullover dress. I say that with the quotations because I had done a burn test with the fabric and found that it really is a poly-linen mix. The lining for inserting my bust paddings is another a red gingham polyblend from another project I completed (more on that in another post). I thought the idea of using a different fabric for the lining would be cute because it gives the final garment a more interesting look.

The boning I used is some discounted, flexible plastic boning I bought from Spotlight years ago. Basically, this bustier is made from some really cheap materials because it was just meant to be a wearable muslin.

adding bias tape for boning

Adding bias tape for boning

Adding gingham fabric for inserting removable bra paddings

Adding gingham fabric for inserting removable bra paddings

The fit (and some modifications)

The first time I put the bustier on, I thought I had just made the most perfect bustier top for myself. But when I started wearing it during my vacation in Koh Samui, I realised that I probably should have done a small bust adjustment to it so that the centre of the bustier lies closer to my skin. You can see the red gingham peeking out at times in the photos. I can play beach volleyball in this bustier without any fear of endangering my modesty, but the perfectionist in me keeps paying attention to that 2cm gap between my skin and the centre topmost point of the bustier. Am I crazy?

Regardless of that gaps, I still think that this bustier has a pretty good fit overall, considering that made a few omissions in this wearable muslin. I omitted the use of interfacing and the boning on the back bodice. I didn’t think that I needed something that feels stiff like a corset when I plan to have this as part of casual wear.

The other thing I changed when making my own bustier with this pattern was to add the extra gingham lining on the inside for the purpose of adding some removable bra paddings. With this additional design feature, I feel confident going braless in this bustier. My lack of assets means that I can never have that 1950’s bombshell look that I want but I always get around it with a little help from a couple of sponges.

A back view of the white bustier top

Final thoughts

Now that I have gotten over the fear of using boning in a garment, the next element that I am going to include in my next version of the S8130 bustier is shirring along a segment of the back bodice. Many of the vintage 1950’s bathing suits and playsuits have this design feature to enhance the fit of the garment. I wonder if an SBA alone will solve the issue of the 2cm gap between my skin and the centre of the garment but I think I would also like a little bit of give for a fitted garment made with a non-stretch woven fabric like this. I know from experience with my Simplicity 1426 (Hawaiian, Pineapple, Gingham versions) that sneezing (and sometimes breathing) could be painful when THERE IS NO ROOM for my ribs to expand.

Gwen smiling and showing off her handmade white bustier top on a beachAll in all, this is a pretty decent pattern for a petite gal like me. I can’t wait to get my final PERFECT bustier pattern after some additional modifications. I already have plans to use this pattern in an upcoming sewing project – a 1950’s prom style gown made with a gorgeous starburst tulle from Minerva Crafts!

Have you tried this pattern? What are some of the fit issues and what modifications did you have to do?

 

SEWN: REFASH! A collaboration with Swapaholic


A couple of months ago, Swapaholic got in touch with me with the exciting opportunity to collaborate for their “Reimagine” swap party in July 2019. They sent me a bag of second-hand clothes collected from previous swaps, and my only brief was to embark on 3 different refashion transformations. Well, what a treat!

Some of the clothes were damaged and rejected for swaps, while some of them were still in good condition but somehow not picked up in the previous swaps. Regardless of the condition, I was in love with the choice of colours and fabrics that the second-hand pieces provided. You know me – I’m always ready to turn something old into something new again!

 

REFASHION #1: 1950’s style gingham set

The pick
I decided to use this gingham blouse for one of the refashion projects because .. gingham, duh. Well ok, not just that. This blouse is a great choice for a refashion project because the design of the blouse (with the extra large ruffle along the neckline and the long sleeves in particular) and its larger size mean that I will have ample yardage to play with for creating something new.
The idea
I knew I would have enough fabric for a separate top and bottom. To make things easy for me, I decided to make a simple skirt with an elasticised waist. The embroidered flowers were a design feature I wanted to keep in the final garment, so I decided to make a simple gathered skirt with the embroidered flowers along the bottom hem of the skirt. Other than sewing the sides together, sewing an elastic casing and inserting the elastic, I didn’t have to do much to make the skirt.

 

For the top, I decided to make a tube top using shirring elastic because shirred tops seem to be so “on trend” these days. They keep popping up on my feed! Anyway, I have been meaning to try to use shirring elastic so I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to start.

 

With the remaining pieces of fabric I had, I decided to make a long strip of fabric that can be used in many different ways. In my photos, you will see me using it as: 1) a headscarf, 2) a faux top for a vintage-inspired halter look, 3) a “belt”. I’m always thinking about outfit yield when it comes to sewing! I’m sure there are more ways I can wear the scarf so keep your eyes peeled, I might end up with 10 (or even more) looks by the end of the year.
But for now, I can already think of 7 different ways I can wear this refashion project and I think that’s pretty rad.
The final garment
And these are the final looks!

Wearing: handmade necklace, refashioned shirred tube top, refashioned skirt

 

Wearing: refashioned top and scarf for faux halter look, refashioned skirt, thrifted earrings

 

Wearing: high street earrings, refashioned shirred tube top, vintage Wranglers jeans

 

Wearing: refashioned headscarf, me-made white bustier top, vintage Wrangler jeans

 

Wearing: refashioned shirred tube top, refashioned scarf as belt, refashioned skirt, second-hand basket, earrings from a clothes swap with Swapaholic

 

Wearing: refashioned shirred tube top, refashioned skirt, refashioned headscarf tied in a bow, thrifted earrings, Tahitian kukui necklace

 

Wearing: me-made white bustier top, elastic belt (that I had since I was a teen), vintage bracelet, refashioned skirt

 

REFASHION #2: The cha-cha skirt

The pick
Another type of garment that is great for a refashion project is a maxi dress or maxi skirt. Similar to a larger garment, the added length of a maxi dress or skirt can provide additional yardage for refashioning. When I saw these 2 bright dresses, I knew they were perfect for my next refashion transformation. The bright orange and dramatic fuchsia just seem to go so well together! Also, the fuchsia dress came with a lining in the same fabulous colour, which meant that I really had a lot of yardage to work with for this refashion project.

 

The idea
 When it comes to thinking about how to execute a refashion project, I often try to make the sewing as simple as possible. The idea of cutting the dresses up into long strips of rectangles, then joining them up to make ruffles just came to me immediately. Also, because the colours of these dresses are so vibrant, I wanted to use that to my advantage and create a final garment with a design that is as eye-catching as these colours. And so, I made a tiered ruffle skirt with alternating colours for each layer that is reminiscent of the style of a cha-cha skirt.

 

The final garment
And now, here are some photos of the skirt in action!

Wearing: me-made white bustier top, belt (that I had since I was a teen), vintage bracelet


 

REFASHION #3: The basic pencil skirt


The pick
This oversized grey jersey dress became a natural candidate for my next project because of its colour and its material. Jersey knits are great to work with for a refashion project because the stretch it has offers more room for error in the cutting and fitting of the final garment.

 

The idea
Again, I’m all about thinking simply when it comes to refashioning. The idea of making a semi-fitted pencil skirt with an elasticised waist came to me because I wanted a skirt with a classic silhouette and neutral colour to add to my wardrobe. To make this skirt, all I did was chop the length of the dress off, sew an elastic casing, insert the elastic casing, and taper the width of the skirt as needed with straight stitches lengthwise. This refashion project was completed in less than 30 minutes!

 

The final garment
Here’s how the pencil skirt looks in action. I am pairing it with a cut-up t-shirt that I was actually wearing at home on the day that I was sewing this. They happen to pair nicely so I figured I would just style the skirt with the top for a “street fashion” look.

And there you have it, all 3 refashion projects that I did recently in collaboration with Swapaholic. If you’re located in Singapore, love fashion and want to be more sustainable, why not consider swapping instead of shopping? Swapaholic hosts regular swap parties at various parts of Singapore and they always have a great selection of styles! The next swap will be held on 7th September at Marina Barrage. Keep your eyes peeled on my posts on Instagram because I will be sharing a code for sign-up on Monday (29th July).
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my creative thought process behind these refashion projects. Which one is your favourite?

SEWN: Blue Hawaiian Honeymoon Set

And this is it! It has taken me over 2 years but this Blue Hawaiian honeymoon set is finally completed.

Two years ago in 2017, inspired by vintage Hawaiian honeymoon sets, I made a pair of matching shirt and shorts for Steven (aka my Instagram husband and now real-life husband) and myself respectively for our engagement party back at his hometown in Houston, Texas. Right from the very start, I had always planned to make a matching set of bra top and shorts for myself using the same fabric. I managed to finish the matching bra top for myself around the end of 2018 but never had the chance to wear it out. In my head, I wanted to “save” it for our next beach holiday together.

Houston, TX (2017)

Then, after being married for more than 6 months, we finally had the time to take a vacation together. We took a mini holiday in Koh Samui and got the chance to wear our special me-made Blue Hawaiian honeymoon set together!

Koh Samui, Thailand (2019)

The facts

His shirt: McCall 6044

Can you spot the pocket on the shirt?

This is a basic shirt pattern by McCall that I recommend everyone to get if you are starting out with sewing men’s shirt. It’s very straightforward and easy to sew.

I struggled with the fit for this pattern at the start ONLY because Steven has a neck that is around size L and a torso that is around size M. So, at the end of the day, even after trying to make my own adjustments to the pattern, this shirt has a collar that he won’t be able to button up. I guess it doesn’t matter so much since no one buttons up the collar of a summer shirt anyway!

Her shorts: Self-drafted

This is a pair of high-waisted shorts that I made using a pattern I drafted myself. Many vintage shorts and trousers have a centre-back zipper entry, so I wanted that for my shorts to have a more authentic vintage look. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to run out to get regular zipper when I was finishing the shorts and ended up using an invisible zipper that I had in my stash. So, at the end of the day, I lost the true vintage aesthetics. Well, that’s ok. I still love the way centre-back zipper fits and feels!

Her top: Simplicity 1426 (View B)

I have made this pattern in View A and View C, and I can tell you that View B is the version that fits my petite frame best! Similar to my version of View C, I sewed foam pads between the main piece and the lining to give my girls a perkier look.

To prevent my arms from getting all sore while fumbling with the buttons in the back, I decided that using hooks would be an easier way to put the top on. It’s worked out pretty well!

The fabric

I bought this fabric from Chinatown in Singapore and it has the Sevenberry label on the selvedge. It also came in different colourways like orange, red, and green. I was soooooo tempted to buy more of this print in red so I could make a matching Alfred Shaheen-inspired dress for myself! Alas, I decided to be more prudent with my fabric purchases and abandoned that idea.

Oddly enough, I can’t seem to find this same fabric online, so I am sorry if you are wondering where I bought the fabric! Sevenberry seems to have a pretty decent selection of Hawaiian-print fabrics if you are interested in having a look.

Some final thoughts

I think it’s safe to say that this is not the only me-made matching set that I will be making for my husband and I! Have you made a matching set for yourself and your significant other? Are you Team Match or Team Retch when it comes to making coordinating outfits? xx

SEWN: Refashioned Summer Belle Dress (1980s look to 1950s style!)

The background

Since August 2018, I have been trying to declutter and downsize the things I own. I have a HUGE collection of vintage dresses from over the years. A big bunch of them are 1970s and 1980s clothes from my early years into vintage and from my previous trips to Hong Kong. I have been trying to sell them at a decent price on Instagram and Etsy, but I am also painfully aware of the fact that I may not be able to sell all of them in the timeframe that I have in mind.

The original vintage 1980’s yellow dress

There’s a particular yellow dress that I have a soft spot for – a 1980s dress with puffed sleeves and a beautiful circle skirt. I have always been a fan of the sleeves and the skirt, but didn’t think the bodice was too great. I made myself a promise – if it didn’t sell by the start of February 2019, I would cut it up and make myself something “new” to wear for Chinese New Year.

Alas, it didn’t sell.

The design

When I decided to cut the dress up, I had a few ideas in my head but no concrete plan for the final design. It’s hard to have a very definite plan for a refashioned project because I need to know the amount of fabric I have to work with, and I can really only tell after I have started cutting the pieces up. However, for this project, I was sure that I wanted to work the look around keeping the hemmed circle skirt and the puffed sleeves.

Originally, I thought I would do a shirred back with some shirring elastic I have, but then after cutting the bodice up and removing the lining, I realised it wouldn’t make sense to have a shirred bodice and that it would be easier to just make a basic peasant style blouse.

The bodice
Gwenstella Made Refashioned Summer Belle Dress 1980s 1950s vintage

front vs back view

With the zipper and lining removed, I sewed the back centre-seam together on the machine. Then, I cut the neckline to make a scooped neckline and trimmed the bottom hem of the bodice to straighten it.

cut skirt from bodice, removed zipper and lining from bodice

cut scoop neck and trimmed bottom hem of bodice

After that, I finished the cut edges with a small zig-zag stitch (with moderate tension) for a clean finish. Finally, I folded down along the edges of the neckline and the bottom hem to make a casing for the elastic.

finished edges with zig-zag stitches, made elastic casing

The skirt

lining is from original dress

The skirt was a pretty easy make. All I had to do was to make an elastic casing around the waist!

The final look

After completing the bodice and the skirt, there was still the little piece of fabric left from the faux cowl of the original vintage dress. I didn’t want to waste that fabric, so I decided to make some roses with them! The leaves of the roses are made with some green felt I had lying in my box of sewing supplies. I sewed some brooch pin on the leaves and then glued the leaves onto the back of the roses. I didn’t want to sew the roses directly onto the bodice because I want this blouse + skirt to have a more versatile look (i.e. not just one look).

Making the roses turned out to be such a great decision!

This blouse and skirt set has turned out to be such a great match to my “Pineapple of my Eye” set. I think I have just expanded a summer capsule wardrobe by accident. I will be mixing and matching my looks with them for the rest of the month, so keep an eye out for the outfits I will be posting on my Instagram (@gwenstellamade).

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking through the process of this refashioned project. Tell me what you think about this look in the comments section! x Gwen

SEWN: Holiday Dress 2018 (Butterick 6453)

Happy holidays everyone! I hope everyone is having a great holiday so far. The year 2018 hasn’t been the best for me, but I have learnt a lot and grown a lot personally and creatively. I can’t wait to usher in 2019! Of course, there will be a post talking about how I did with #2018MakeNine (uh, news flash, I didn’t make all of them of course) and my plans for 2019.

Before I start getting teary reflecting on 2018 and dreaming about 2019, here’s my latest make – my holiday dress for 2018! Last year, I made a self-drafted pencil skirt using a super kitschy Christmas Kitty fabric. This year, I decided to be a little bit more “proper” and picked this red poinsettia print set against a black background.

Progress: I took a photo for each night that I made progress on this dress. The first 2 photos feature an old RTW dress I cut up to make the muslin.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to make a dress for this Christmas at first, and by the time I decided that I do want to make something with this fabric, it was already almost the middle of December. So, I decided to pick a simple dress that would be easy to make.

The Butterick 6453 by Gretchen Hirsch (with McCall Pattern Company) is something that has been sitting in my stash for the longest time. I’m pretty late to the game because the original sew-along on Gertie’s blog occurred wayyyy back in March 2017. But yeah, better late than never!

This is probably the easiest thing I have made this year. I made a muslin for the bodice (*gasp*!) and only had to slice off the sides to fit my bust and my waist.

Here are the all the changes I made in this version:

  • Slices off sides of bodice to fit my bust and waist
  • Shortened the length of the bodice
  • Shortened length of skirt
  • Used invisible zipper instead of regular zipper (only because I had an invisible zipper in the right colour sitting in my sewing box and I really didn’t want to run out to get a new zipper)
  • Shortened the straps by around an inch – in hindsight, I should have followed by guts and shortened it even more. I wear the dress with the straps adjusted to the shortest length!
  • Used bias tape for the seams of the facing – I wanted to be a little fancy! Also, I had some red bias tape left from making my cheongsam and I just wanted to finish it… heh

I love how it has turned out and it’s so satisfying to see the “Gwenstella Made” label on the facing as well!

By the time you read this, it would be less than a week until 2019. If I don’t get to write anything here before then, here’s wishing you a magical start to 2019. Thank you for being part of my creative journey in 2018. I have enjoyed writing every single post and reading all the comments that you wrote. I hope you’ll continue to hang around in 2019.

To new beginnings! x G

Wearing: Secondhand faux fur cape, vintage 60’s faux snakeskin purse, me-made B6453 dress, old RTW heels, vintage earrings & necklace

SEWN/RESTYLED: Country Road Dress (2011 make)

You know the funny thing about time? Time changes people.

It’s been several years since I started sewing and I think I have changed a lot since the time I started creating with my Elna Sew Fun for the first time. My style has evolved and my skills have advanced (even if it’s just for a little bit).

Back in 2011, I shared my “vintage-inspired Country Road dress”. As I proudly wrote in my original blog post, it’s the 4th thing I had ever sewn. Ah those early years!

The original “Country Road” dress from 2011

Fast forward to 2018, many of the clothes I made during my first years of sewing have ended up being stored away in the dark corners of my wardrobe, neglected and forgotten. As I move towards trying to be more thoughtful and deliberate in the things that I make, I have also begun to think about all the things I have made and forgotten.

The original design made using New Look 6824

Obviously, I stopped wearing these items for a reason. For example, this dress that I made back in 2011 using New Look 6824 is no longer my current size, and no longer the length that I like going for these days. Also, I didn’t mention it in the original blog post, but I have always been unhappy with the way the neckline sits on my bust. The corners are kinda creased because I unknowingly clipped too much of the seam allowance away.

I had a little more than 0.25m of this green+purple gingham fabric stashed away for the longest time, and one day it dawned on me that I had to do something about this little piece of fabric and this forgotten piece of work. Moreover, I needed to sew a muslin for the bodice of my modified version of the Butterick 5209 (B5209) sewing pattern for my wedding dress. If I could: a) get a “new” casual day dress of out of this, b) revive my old dress, and c) use my fabric stash – WHY NOT.

So, here’s how I made my old dress into a new dress:

  1. Removed back centre zipper and unstitched bodice from skirt
  2. Lined bra pads with fabric from old bodice
  3. Make the sleeveless version of the B5209 with the remaining 0.25m of the original gingham fabric with the following modifications
    • sized down to my measurements
    • left the halter design open for addition of straps for a halter tie-back design
  4. Drafted the halter straps with a coordinating purple fabric and stitched them on
  5. Added the new B5209 bodice on the old New Look 6824 skirt (also resized the waist) with a side zipper and bra pads inserted – I had to make sure the bra pads were lined because the gingham cotton is kinda sheer
  6. Chopped off a portion of the bottom of the skirt and added a short width of the coordinating purple fabric to lengthen the skirt

New version of the dress: Front view

New version of the dress: Interior view

And that’s it! I thought I had more photos of the process taken but somehow I didn’t have them saved on my phone. I think everyone enjoyed the process photos in the last blog post so I will make sure I have the process photos taken for easier visualisation in the future!

I really think adding straps for a halter back-tie design is a great hack for the 1950’s style Retro Butterick 5209 pattern. You can also try adding a tapered pencil skirt or a quarter skirt like I did for this dress for several different looks!

Let me know what you think about this simple refashioned project. Also, how does everyone else cope with the handmade items that you have “grown out of” (either size-wise or style-wise)?

MADE: Knitted Beauty School Tops in Baby Pink and Powder Blue

Earlier this year, I test-knitted the Beauty School Top and matching Beauty School Turban patterns for Amy Appel (@poisongrrls). It was not my first time test knitting for Amy but these patterns turned out to be my favourite designs by her so far.

The sweater has a basic design that is full of possibilities and has an amazing fit for a 1950’s style silhouette. It’s a definite staple for any handmade vintage style loving lady.

When I did the test knitting, I chose a cotton blend yarn in baby pink because I wanted a colour that would go with my Country Garden skirt and Country Garden dress, and a fibre that would be suitable for this tropical climate. When I did a swatch of the yarn, I felt that the yarn seemed to be like lighter than the fingering weight that the pattern called for, so I ended up having to use small needles (i.e. 3.00mm instead of 3.25mm). To ensure a safer fit, I also decided to add stitches to the circumference of the sweater.

The sweater turned out to be such a dream, I wanted to make another one in a different colour. So, I decided to make one in powder blue as a birthday present for my friend!

As I am practically incapable of making the SAME thing twice within the same year, I decided to change it up and made some modifications to the pattern the second time round. Also, my tension seemed to have loosened up a little this time round so I used the required 3.25mm needles. Moral of the story: swatching is important and test-knitting is fun but stressful.

Can you spot the differences?

At a glance…

Project link on Ravelry: Baby Pink version & Powder Blue version
Pattern:
 Beauty School Top by Amy Appel (aka @poisongrrls) [link]

BABY PINK VERSION
Yarn: Hamanaka Sea Queen Shine Cotton “Lamé” in baby pink (with shiny metallic strand)

Modifications:

  • Needles: Used 3.00mm needles instead of 3.25mm to make the stitches denser
  • Chest size: Sneaked in 4 stitches in total across the chest (2 at the front and 2 at the back when casting on extra stitches to join the shoulders pieces) as I was aware that cotton could have less stretch
  • Length: Added 10 more rounds of knitting at the bottom to make the sweater longer

POWDER BLUE VERSION
Yarn: Hamanaka Sea Queen Shine Cotton in powder blue (aka no metallic strand)

Modifications:

  • Sleeves: 12 rounds of ribbing instead of 6
  • Neckband: 5 rounds ribbing with smaller needles, 5 rounds ribbing with larger needles

Obviously, I am wearing my good bra in these photos to achieve the 1950’s style silhouette. These sweaters are sure snug! For anyone who is not a fan of snug, cropped tops, I will suggested making it wider by casting on more stitches when joining the back and front together, and longer by knitting more rounds between each decrease from bust through the waist to the hem.

Do you have this pattern on your queue or have you also made one? Let me know what you think about my pastel versions of the Beauty School Top!  xx

SEWN: 1950’s style Blue Floral Cheongsam (Simplicity 8244)

If there’s one type of dress that I need more of in my wardrobe, it has to be cheongsams. Also known as qipaos, cheongsams are traditional Chinese dresses that were once the national dress of Republic of China in the 1920s.

I have a couple of cheongsams custom-made during my vacation in Shanghai many years back (like this one), but I have always wanted to make one myself. It’s always better when you make it yourself, isn’t it? When I came across the Simplicity 8244, which is a reproduction of a 1950’s vintage cheongsam pattern (Simplicity 1018), I knew it is the perfect pattern for me to begin my cheongsam-making journey.

What I love

There are so many things that I love about this pattern. The kimono sleeves offer more freedom in movement and the illusion of a fuller bust, while the double waist darts provide the illusion of a slimmer waist. More importantly, the design options offered me the chance to give the pattern a go without the pressure of failing in perfecting the mandarin collar and the placement of the frog closures!

To be honest, I really enjoyed every part of the process in making this dress. The bias tape finishing is such a nice touch and I loved the meditative act of hand sewing it on.

What I loathe

If I must say, the trickiest part of the pattern would be sewing the side vents. I struggled with understanding the instructions when reading it at first but figured it all out at the end. My experience in sewing the vent for my Christmas Kitty pencil skirt definitely helped.

Also, I made a boo-boo when cutting the back and front of the dress. I cut the fold line of both front and back pieces by accident and ended up having to mend the cut with some interface and zig-zag stitches. The thread and fabric matched up so well, it’s hard to see it from far. It’s not perfect but I am okay with it. Really, can you even see it from far?

 The fabric and other notions

This navy floral polycotton has been sitting in my stash for many years. I bought them from Spotlight while I was still living in Sydney. That means that it has been sitting in my stash for at least 5 years. FIVE LONG YEARS. I definitely did not think that I would make a cheongsam when I bought this fabric, but this fabric stood out amongst everything else I have in my stash. I knew it would look outstanding with red bias tape as a contrasting design point.

To make sure that I have the exact same red for the buttons, I made self-covered buttons using the bias tape.

The fit

While the pattern did not state the kind of fit that the final dress gives, I found the ease in the bust to be a lot more generous than the ease in the waist. Being petite and having a modest 32″ bust with my best bra, I ended up taking in an extra 1cm on each side of the side seams for the top half of the dress (i.e. bust/bodice) after sewing everything up. This is despite grading down from size 6 to size 4 in the pattern before cutting into the fabric!

And of course, as usual, I modified the length of the dress for my height. I am 5’2″ (157cm) and I can safely say that ALL Big 4 patterns require modifications in length for my height.

Zig-zag machine mend on the centre back. You can also still see my fabric chalk marking on the fabric. Oopsey!

Take a close look and spot the zig-zag mending on centre front

Absolutely love the bias tape finishing!

The side vent

The future

What do you think about the dress? I definitely have plans to make a version with the mandarin collar and frog closures. True to my history of fabric pattern obsession, I have about a yard or so of this SAME design but in white, and I am wondering if I should make a cheongsam top with it, or sell it in my efforts to destash and simplify.

xxx

At a glance…

Pattern: Simplicity 8244, view B
Fabric: Navy floral from Spotlight
Size made: Graded from size 6 to size 4
Modifications: Took in additional 1 cm on each side of upper body (i.e. upwards from waist), shortened the length

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Me Made May 2018: Round-up and reflection

Hello June! The month of May had come and gone in the blink of an eye and I hope everyone had fun taking part in Me Made May organised by Zoe from ‘So, Zo…’. I know I definitely had fun going through my handmade wardrobe and discovering other like-minded makers on Instagram!

My pledge for Me Made May this year is to spend time reflecting on my makes and to get a clearer idea of where I want to go in my handmade journey. Since I rarely wear my me-mades to work on the weekdays (because my work involves getting rice cereal, blue dye and drool on what I wear on a regular basis), I thought it would make more sense to just do a round-up and reflection at the end of the month.

So here’s a round-up of all the key pieces I wore on the weekends (and public holidays) for the month of May 2018. They don’t look like a lot because sometimes I repeat the outfit and accessorise differently, and  sometimes I stay home and just wear my me-made pyjamas (this and this).

With just one look, I think it is easy to tell that I love prints. I started the month with a couple of fruity prints, progressed to floral prints (based what people picked via an IG story poll), and then ended with classic gingham. There is a mixture of very old makes from way back in 2012 (which is the year I started sewing more seriously), and more recent makes from earlier this year in 2018.

And here’s a breakdown of all the things I love and loathe about these me-mades:

  1. 1950’s style Retro Rockabilly Cherry Dress

    Year made: 2012
    Pattern: New Look 6020 (View D)
    Thing(s) I love: I mean, just look at that sweetheart neckline!
    Thing(s) I loathe: I still think this dress is pretty cute. But the combination of fabric just seems a little too cute-sy for me now and the skirt length just isn’t what I am into right now.
    Future plans/things to note:
    It’s gonna break my heart but I will have to take this dress apart and transform it into something that I still want to wear and feel great in. I still have some of that cherry print fabric so maybe I will make a set of 1940’s inspired sun top and bottom. Also, I think I should always make sure that my 1950’s style skirts are always below the knee in the future.

  2. 1950’s style Lemon Drop Dress

    Year made: 2017
    Pattern: Vintage Reproduction Circa 1952 Vogue 2902
    Thing(s) I love: That built-in petticoat made with inspiration from Gertie’s Ultimate Dress book! Took more time to complete the dress but definitely worth the trouble.
    Thing(s) I loathe: You can’t tell in the photo because of the belt, but the bodice is about half an inch shorter than I would like it to be
    Future plans: I definitely should continue to take time to ensure that the wrong side of the dress looks as well-made as the right side of the dress… and work towards maybe making a dress with a built-in dress like Christian Dior’s! Also, I need to pay more attention to getting the right body measurements.

  3. 1950’s inspired Blue Country Garden Skirt

    Year made: 2018
    Pattern: self-drafted
    Thing(s) I love: The classic floral print!
    Thing(s) I loathe: It’s really a pretty decent piece of work! There’s nothing that I dislike about it.
    Future plans: I am kinda getting sick of making flared skirts (i.e., circle or gathered). Time to move on to exploring making pencil skirts, gored skirts etc! But I definitely need to slowly expand on my country garden collection. For example, I love how my knitted sweater (No. 4) goes so well with this skirt!

  4. 1950’s style Beauty School Top

    Year made: 2018
    Pattern: Amy Appel’s (aka Poison Grrls) Beauty School Top
    Thing(s) I love: Amy did such a great job with the pattern for the sleeves. They fit LIKE A DREAM.
    Thing(s) I loathe: Just a tad not a fan of the neck opening. It might just be me being tight with my stitches but it takes a bit of effort to get through the neck opening.
    Future plans: I already have plans to make another one in blue for my best friend!

  5. 1940’s style Retro Rosie Floral Dress (Pink version with sleeves)

    Year made: 2014
    Pattern: Vintage Reproduction Circa 1947 Butterick 5209 (View B)
    Thing(s) I love: I am absolutely in love with this dreamy shade of dusty rose pink!
    Thing(s) I loathe: I think in 2014 I was still figuring out ease and my body measurement. Or maybe I lost some weight? At this point I can’t remember. But I don’t like how this dress is kinda loose on me. Wearing cinched me-made 1950’s style clothes has made me used to having clothes extremely close to my body.
    Future plans: Part of me wants to sell this dress. It would look SO MUCH BETTER on someone else with the right measurements. Part of me wants to save it for when I gain weight in 10-20 years’ time. But for now, I have no real plans for this dress, except to wear it again when the mood calls for it.

    1940's style Retro Rose Floral Dress (Purple version without sleeves)
  6. 1940’s style Retro Rosie Floral Dress (Purple version without sleeves)

    Year made: 2014
    Pattern: Vintage Reproduction Circa 1947 Butterick 5209 (View A)
    Thing(s) I love: Definitely in love with the Monroe vibes over here! This is also the first piece that I made with bra pads sewn in by hand. I have also since learnt to plan ahead and sew the bra pads in between the main fabric and the lining (like my 1950’s gingham sun top listed as No. 9)!
    Thing(s) I loathe: The initial final product was so loose on me I had to sew some elastic along the upper edge of the back and take in an inch where the straps join behind the neck. On the other hand, this unfortunate outcome gave me the opportunity to learn to use shirring elastic!
    Future plans: So if you have been following me on my Instagram via @gwenstellamade, you will know that I have been talking about making my wedding dress. My original muslin for my wedding dress failed so now I will be hacking the pattern for this bodice to make my wedding dress. I am getting married in 2 months so it MUST and WILL be done by then!

    1950's Pullover Sunday Picnic Dress

  7. 1950’s style Sunday Picnic Dress

    Year made: 2018
    Pattern: Vintage Reproduction Circa 1952 Retro Butterick 6212
    Thing(s) I love: The stark contrast of red gingham skirt with a white bodice. Also, I like anything in gingham, really.
    Thing(s) I loathe: The questionable fit of the armhole, demonstrated in my Youtube video here
    Future plans: MAYBE (as in like, HUGE MAYBE) modify the pattern and improve the bodice/armhole situation… and just continue wearing this as a regular dress..

  8. 1970’s style Baby Blue Gingham Prairie Dress

    Year made: 2012
    Pattern: Vintage 1970’s Butterick 6124 (View A)
    Thing(s) I love: Those puffy sleeves and the dual ways of wearing the dress (i.e. shoulders on or off)
    Thing(s) I loathe: A tad too girlish for me
    Future plans: Make more peasant style tops! Perhaps consider making my own pattern by hacking into this vintage Butterick pattern or purchasing Gertie’s Rita Blouse (via Charm Patterns by Gertie). Maybe stop wearing this when I turn 40 and feel too old for this.

  9. 1950’s style Gingham Bra Top and matching skirt

    Year made: 2017
    Pattern: Top = Simplicity 1426 (View A), Bottom = self-drafted basic gathered skirt
    Thing(s) I love: Definitely the classic gingham print and this shade of green!
    Thing(s) I loathe: Naive increase in the length bottom band of the bra top to make a top without any regard for the shape of my waist
    Future plans: Continue making Simplicity 1426 but put in more thought into modifying the pattern into proper tops and perhaps even a bodice for a dress. That means darts and maybe an elasticised back!

I know it’s only June but I really feel like the year is whizzing by so quickly! I can’t wait to see what other sewing adventures I will go on for the rest of the year (and all the years after). But I know that in the short term, these are the 5 things I want to work on:

  • Make more pencil skirts
  • Use more solids to build a versatile me-made wardrobe
  • Hack previously-used and loved patterns
  • Get the right fit with commercial and self-drafted patterns
  • Write crochet patterns
  • Reflect and re-invent

What are some of the things you learnt about yourself and your own sewing through Me-Made May? I’d love to hear your thoughts about them! By the way, which one of these makes is your favourite? xx

More details of the above me-mades:
1950's style Retro Rockabilly Cherry Dress (here)
1950's style Lemon Drop Dress (here)
1950's inspired Blue Country Garden Skirt (here)
1940's style Retro Rosie Floral Dress (Pink version) (here)
1940's style Retro Rosie Floral Dress (Purple version) (here)
1950's style Sunday Picnic Dress (here)
1970's style Baby Blue Gingham Prairie Dress (here)
1950's style Gingham Bra Top and matching skirt (here)

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SEWN: Pineapple of my Eye (1950’s inspired weekend wardrobe)

Gwenstella Made Vintage Style 1950s Pineapple Holiday Wardrobe

Gwenstella Made Vintage Style 1950s Pineapple Holiday Wardrobe

Two weeks ago, I was in Sri Lanka for a short week-long vacation and finally got the chance to bust out my Gwenstella Made retro 1950’s style pineapple holiday set! Making and owning a vintage inspired weekend wardrobe has always been a dream of mine, and it’s finally happened after many months of planning and sewing. Creating weekend wardrobes is the real reason why I often buy a generous amount of yardage for a specific fabric I really like, or why I buy fabric from the same design series. Remember the Country Garden Dress and the Country Garden Skirt? I just love being able to coordinate and mix-and-match all the pieces in my wardrobe!

If you follow me on Instagram (@gwenstellamade), you will know that I have been working on this set since 2017. Yes, it took me the whole of 2017 to complete the set, but I enjoyed every part of the process.

This weekend wardrobe set is pretty basic. It consists of a full circle skirt, a pair of high-waisted shorts, and a classic bra top, and here are the details of each item:

Convertible Bra Top:

Pattern: Simplicity 1426, View C
Details:

  • with bra pads sewn into lining
  • with bias strip sewn along top of lining to conceal white lining that was peeking out from the front
  • white organic cotton lining

1 top, 2 straps, 3 different styles!

This is the second bra top I have made using Simplicity 1426. The first one was the green gingham version. This version is much trickier than the green gingham one I made. Hot tip: Don’t use a white lining. The pattern stated “lining”, but really, I think I should have just used the same fabric as the rest of the top. The white lining was peeking out from the top middle portion of the top and I had to hand-sew a self-made bias tape along the inside of the upper edge of the lining to conceal the white lining. This was what killed my motivation a little and got this entire set placed on hiatus mode initially.

Bias tape hand-sewn along the upper edge to conceal the white lining, and bra pads sewing between the main fabric and lining

Regardless, I pulled myself together and completed the top in good time. This classic mid-century design is definitely a must-have in any mid-century style fashionista’s wardrobe. The BEST thing about this top is the removable straps. I can make 3 different looks by placing the straps in different ways and removing it all together!

 

High-waisted Shorts:

Pattern: Self-drafted
Details:

  • 1 inch waist band
  • Lapped zipper on left side seam
  • Button closure, with 2 buttons for waist adjustment
  • with bright yellow pom pom trimming
  • white organic cotton lining

Of course, a pair of high-waisted shorts is another staple for a 1950’s style summer wardrobe. To make the shorts stand out and to make sewing them a little more challenging/fun, I decided to add little pom pom trimmings around the hem. Pom poms always makes anything 100 times more fun!

Full Circle Skirt:

Pattern: Self-drafted
Details:

  • 1 inch waist band
  • 26 inches in length (just grazing my knee)
  • Hook closure
  • with plastic horsehair braid sewn into the hem

Plastic horsehair braid sewn following the steps in Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book

This pineapple print fabric screams “summer!” and I thought that making a full circle skirt for a fun and flirty look was absolutely compulsory. I also wanted this holiday set to be something that could be worn comfortably at the beach, so I decided to use a horsehair braid around to hem so that the skirt will have a nice structure even when I am not wearing a petticoat underneath. I mean, it would be too hot to wear a petticoat to the beach right?

Peek-a-boo!

After making a skirt, a pair of shorts and the Simplicity 1426 top with removable straps, I still have sufficient yardage to make a simple top. But I’m thinking maybe that’s enough orange pineapple fabric for now. Ummm, I also still have another one of this same fabric but in sky blue.

Well, if you like pineapples as much as I do, stay tuned for more posts on some SWEET pineapple goodness on the blog in the next month or so!

xxx

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