Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Project Sewn: "That Touch of Doris"

Good morning, kittens! Are you feeling bright and bushy-tailed? I am, because PROJECT SEWN BEGINS TODAY! Woohoo!!

Ahem. Sorry for the abundance of exclamation points and caps lock, it's just that I've been musing on, then sewing, this outfit for a solid month. It has taken over my brain, causing me to have hour-long conversations with my beloved about the artistic importance of button colors. Though, honestly, that conversation was nothing compared to the great Grace Kelly v. Doris Day debate that raged across our dinner table for a week. 

You see, the first challenge theme for Project Sewn was "Leading Ladies," in which we were meant to channel an iconic Hollywood starlet. As the girl who grew up on AMC, instead of the Disney Channel, this challenge was totally in my wheelhouse. I love classic movies, but what's more, I love classic movie fashion. After much deliberation on whom exactly to chose, I went with one of my personal icons, the great Doris Day

During her film career, Doris Day was the ultimate girl next door: blonde and bubbly, with the voice of an angel. Personally, I have always known her as the woman of a thousand suits. In almost every one of her movies, Doris wore some delightfully matchy-matchy, perfectly tailored ensemble. They came in pink and they came in green. They were always, always, worn with a semi-hilarious hat and an ultra-feminine blouse. 

There was no question about it. For Project Sewn, I would be making a vintage-inspired skirt suit. 

Cue the endless hand-sewing! 

First up, let's talk about this fabric. By a stroke of luck and maternal generosity, I was already in possession of four yards of Linton Tweed. That's right, the people who make the fabric for Chanel

Did your mind just explode? Mine certainly did. My mother ordered this gorgeous red-orange tweed last fall, with the thought of making it into a skirt for herself, before giving it to me in a moment of Christmas-induced weakness. (Thanks again, Mom!) So, not only was I making a retro suit, I was making a retro Chanel suit. This had to be done with reverence and--Oh, heavenly bound buttonholes!--real tailoring techniques. 

After that little fabric miracle, a pattern was chosen. Or, rather, patterns. The jacket is from an original 1964 suit pattern, while the blouse and skirt are both self-drafted pieces. Sewing up this jacket was such a fun, surprising adventure. Though I own quite a few vintage patterns, I've only sewed up a few simple dresses from them, for fear of their notoriously tricky sizing. This jacket pattern, however, fit me perfectly out of the envelope. I'm not sure that's ever actually happened to me with a woven garment, y'all. When I tried on the muslin, I actually had to have Sam exam it carefully, just in case I was seeing things. 

Nope. Not a single change was needed. Amazing!

The really amazing parts of this jacket are all hidden, of course. Y'all, so much work went into the guts of this piece. The whole jacket was first completely underlined, by hand, in white cotton batiste, to lend a bit of support to the tweed and allow me to freely mark the pieces. Then, I inserted flannel sleeve heads, sew-in interfacing, and made bound buttonholes.

OH YES, I BOUND BUTTON HOLES. Would you like to see them? 

BOOM! Y'all, I can't even humble brag about this, because actual adult bragging must be done. I made bound buttonholes and they are completely straight. Holy Ramona and Beezus! In my mind, bound buttonholes have always been the top of the sewing technique pyramid, something to be spoken of in awed, hushed tones. In reality, they aren't remotely that hard. Still, I am proud. Very, very proud. Sam and I may have had multiple celebratory Ramos Gin Fizzes, after their completion. 

Incidentally, my vintage pattern notes treated them like they were no big deal. Actual length of instructions: "Make bound buttonholes." That's it. Vintage sewists were magnificent, courageous creatures. I needed more hand-holding, referring instead to Colette Patterns' excellent tutorial

The next step was attaching the collar, which was a cinch, followed by all the fun finishing flourishes. (Read: the aforementioned endless hand-sewing, while watching Jane Austen adaptations.) The lining, a white-and-black striped cotton voile was catch-stitched in first, then covered with facings, which were then bound in handmade striped bias strips. I am such a sucker for an eye-catching lining and stripes are one of my favorites. There's something so Edwardian menswear about them! Finally, the buttons were decided upon. Originally, I had planned to add covered buttons in the same tweed, but opted at the last minute for these covered black buttons instead. They add just the right touch of contrast, don't you think?

As for the rest of the outfit, both pieces are fairly straight forward. The skirt is a simple pencil skirt, based on my handy-dandy skirt sloper, with a waist facing in lieu of a band. There are four darts in both the front and the back, for a bit of nipping in at the waist. It's underlined in white cotton, lined in the same striped voile as the jacket, then finished off in the back with a lapped zipper. Easy peasy!

The blouse is actually the brainchild of my dear Sam. I had originally planned a simple white bow-neck blouse, for a more understated look, but he convinced me to add a bit more contrast with this polka dotted cotton voile. He was, of course, perfectly right. I can't even believe I'd planned any other blouse! This one is perfect for the suit, with its jaunty coordinated white bow. I love it. Incidentally, this top is just a twist on your standard two-dart bodice pattern. The bust darts have been rotated to the waist, where twin underbust pleats were formed instead. Such an alteration prevents the billows that often happen, when tucking in a blouse. Brilliant, right? The only other major addition were the small kimono sleeves I added on a whim. Doris would've approved of covered shoulders, methinks. (Or, on screen Doris, anyhow. Off screen Doris was reportedly more adventurous and tough than her persona suggested!)

So, there you go! My first outfit for Project Sewn! This suit also fits my personal rules for the challenge of only sewing "dream" projects. I've always wanted to try my hand at fancy tailoring techniques and a candy-colored suit in Chanel tweed will get plenty of wear. It's ideal for the hoity-toity writing conference I attend every summer! I can hardly wait to show it off. For now, I'm going to stare appreciatively at its bound buttonholes and lovely lining. Doing things the fancy way is such fun. I think Miss Doris would be proud, don't you?

Now, I suggest you head on over to Project Sewn, where you can see the other amazing entries by my fellow contestants. Choose which is your favorite, then vote her through to the next round! I can't even tell you how great the entries are for this challenge, y'all. Get ready to be bowled over! 

Fun fact: this suitcase was actually my Grandma Beverly's, when she was a young woman. It even has the multiple Stanford stickers she applied, when going away to college! A huge thank you to my Aunt Grace for passing it down to me, earlier this month. It has taken up a place of honor in my sewing room. 

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