Friday, 29 July 2011

My Sewing Pattern Hoard: Playsuits

Lately I've been thinking about how to catalogue my expanding (largely vintage) sewing pattern collection. To be honest, this is something of an impossible task because my pattern collection is generally in a constant state of being added to and whittled down, but I still think trying to do so would be a valuable endeavour. My patterns currently reside on a shelf at work, so unless I go and flick through them, I often forget what I've actually got. I try to sew (almost) exclusively with secondhand fabric and textiles, which is obviously more difficult as a starting point than if I allowed myself to wander into a fabric shop and pick whatever I wanted in whatever quantity I needed. As the fabric lengths I get hold of are finite, it's often tricky to marry up those pieces of fabric with suitable patterns, so listing my patterns here might help that process a little.

Also, reminding myself of the patterns I already have might steer me away from purchasing more when so many in my collection have yet to be tried out. I'm going to comment on each pattern, which should help me figure out what appeals to me and what the issues are with each. If anyone reading these posts has any useful comments, they will be gratefully received as they are likely to help my analysis still further.

I plan to tackle this task in catagories (though I'm going to have to sub-divide the 'dress' catagory somehow!) and today's is 'playsuits'. It's almost the beginning of August, not that we've had much in the way of a summer so far, but any remaining opportunity for making and wearing such a warm weather item is fast disappearing so I thought it'd be a good place to start. Vintagey inspired playsuits are all over the high street and internets right now, so I found these original vintage 50s playsuit images (and Dita) as a bit of scene-setting inspiration. Not that I'm necessarily looking to create a completely vintage/retro feel garment, but let's face it, if I'm going to make a playsuit, it probably will have that flavour!

For the purposes of this post (and to not confuse my tired brain) I'm defining 'playsuits' as a one piece item, the bottom of which is shorts, meant for summer. I'm not including those shorts and bra/bikini type separates, or one-piece items where the bottom part is a skirt. Perhaps those type of outfits/garments could equally lay claim to the title 'playsuit', but I've drawn my line in the sand. I guess you could also refer to them as jumpsuits but that tends to conjure more '80s type garments than I feel I'm aiming for here. (Having said that, it was Veronica Darling's incredible candy-striped '80s jumpsuit that got me even considering this whole garment genre in the first place, but I think if I'm venturing into this trend, I'd best head for a more mid-20th century vibe.)

Let's start with my most recent pattern acquisition:

I bid hard for this beauty, completely blowing all my usual self-imposed ebay bidding limits. But it's such a nutty pattern. I didn't include all the line drawings, but the panels and style lines in the bodices are unusual, bordering on bizarre. It calls itself a 5-piece holiday emsemble and although I have yet to fully investigate, I'm assuming all three bodice options could be paired with the shorts to create a playsuit.

It was the buttons and contrast collar that initially lured me in:

But on closer inspection, it was this strapless bodice alternative that really got my heart racing (it looks similar to the beautiful picture at the top of this post, don't you think?). I LOVE those crazy style lines. Might be hell on earth to fit. If I make this, I'll probably add straps like my Summer Holiday Dress's so I can wear a normal bra and comfortably omit the boning that I noticed the pattern requests for this bodice option:

HOW beautiful is the artwork on this pattern? One day I'll have a sewing room and I'll frame and display my favourite pattern illustrations and I'm pretty sure this'll be one of them. Unlike the pattern above, no-one challenged my ebay bid of this stunner and I snared it for bugger all! Seriously. Where were you all?!:

Anyways, what I don't like is the pleating at the front of the shorts, so if I deploy this one, I'll probably try and frankenstein this top with some other bottom section. However. This pattern is labelled size 14, but it wasn't until I got it in my grubby mitts that I realised it pertains to a 32" bust, which will mean some grading and hefty alteration if my body measurements are to be alligned to its!

A more modern interpretation that has done the rounds a bit in blogland:

I like the cross-over top version with the shorts, as illustrated in green. Having read mixed reviews of this on Pattern Review, I started some preliminary toiling and the initial signs are not great. It's one of those patterns that has been published in two size chunks, I went for the smaller that goes up to a size 12, as per the measurements on the back of the envelope, but maybes I should have gone for the larger pattern and started with a size 14. I can probably tweek the copy I have, but either way I really can't see how you are meant to get in and out of this without a major struggle. I'm really not sure about this pattern, any opinion?

An older, '40s one:

I was lucky enough to acquire this pattern as part of the Brighton meetup and fabric swap last month. I'm slightly allarmed by the shoulders, and in general how the proportions of the illustration bear so little resemblance to what I see in the mirror; I just haven't a clue how this would look if made. Considering the summer weather/time restrictions I'm facing, the amount of toiling required makes me think this isn't the playsuit pattern I should start with.

So, lovely readers, how should I approach this? Is there enough summer left for this to be a worthwhile endeavour? What's going to look the least silly on a curvy 31-year-old whose not afraid of a tiramisu or 3? Maybe I should use the top from a halter neck dress pattern instead? One that potentially requires less of a faff? Have you made/fitted a playsuit? Nightmare or joyous success? Help!!!!!


isidore said...

I've seen a fair number of people rocking the romper/playsuit fad lately, and I think the only thing they all had in common was confidence. You've got that in spades, so I say go for it! I'd really like to see what you make out of that fabulous ebay pattern.

Sheryll said...

Yes - I just hemmed my jumpsuit last night! It is a midi length for winter, but I noticed when I was fitting the toile that it would look really cool shorter too, so will definitely make a playsuit version for summer!
You do need an extra 1/2" or so in the rise compared to normal trousers, so you can er, move!

Marie said...

Zoe, you have a fab figure and could totally pull this look off! The top pattern would be particularly flattering in my opinion - though I've never made one myself, so sadly I have no tips to offer. Remember also that you can probably wear this in the winter with some nice thick tights!!!

Alessa said...

I love the first, b&w pattern with the gingham and the buttons. It's adorable! It might even be fun to make a separate (wrap?) skirt to wear over the playsuit and make it look like a dress... I'm sure you'd rock that look, it's not so different from the hight waisted shorts, which I love on you!

I'm in the same dilemma with my summer sewing. If the weather is going to be in any way similar to last year's, I'm looking at a week of warm, sunny days, tops. I guess that means no more (exclusive) summer dresses and sticking to fabrics and color schemes that take well to layering...

Stephanie said...

I love that first playsuit pattern you posted. So cute! I'd love to see that made up and on a real person.

I made the McCalls romper in the version you liked. It ended up a wadder for a whole other reason (attached something backwards, and when I seam ripped it the fabric got completely destroyed). However, I got far enough to play with putting it on. I put on short first, and sort of slid into the top fairly easily one arm at a time. I do have narrow shoulders though, so that may have been why I didn't find it too difficult.

Have you seen this McCall's romper? Not to add to your indecision, but I thought this one was really cute too and I'd like to make it when I find the perfect fabric.

MrsC (Maryanne) said...

Oh yes, the Woman's Day one is the one! I see it has pleats in the shorts too though, but you are well able to work them out of it, especially with a high waisted shorts pattern that fits so well :) And absolutely heed the advice about making the rise deeper - jumpsuits don't have the capacity to give at the back waist like separate bottoms do. :)

Tilia said...

For some more inspiration I can show you this 50's playsuit I blogged about last year: It's a playsuit with a detachable skirt and I want to make it for myself someday.

Fickle Sense said...

I love all of these playsuit patterns for different reasons! You snagged a few beauties. Regarding the lack of summer situation (here in Berlin summer hasn't made an appearance hoo)I always team my playsuits with stockings and a cardy. You would look great in all of these! happy sewing

MrsC (Maryanne) said...

I LOVE that McCalls one Stephanie linked to!

naughty little pony said...

Such cute patterns! Can't wait to see which you choose, they're all great.

Anonymous said...

J'adore the Woman's Day jobby with the bib (sailor, anyone?!), and you fought so hard for it, it deserves your attention! I also really like the Simplicity right below it. I've never sewn a playsuit, but acquired a vintage one at a yard sale last summer. I still haven't worn it. All that is going to change in a few weeks, while I'm at the beach. Like isidore said, all it takes is confidence. I plan on celebrating my 32 years, and curves, in playsuit style. You should, too :D

Rekha said...

Lovely and quite an inspiring blog. love the images.

Unknown said...

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I have bought most of my clothes from there. Greetings!

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