A 90s nostalgia moment - The Evie Skirt

Oh the 90s.

Back with a vengeance and causing me so many confused feelings.

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I was born right at the end of 1974 (I know I’m bloody ancient) so technically I’m an 80s kid, but my later teens and coming of age was in the 90s and that is most certainly the decade that had the most impact on who I have become as a person. I am a true member of Generation X. Angst, naval gazing, fiercely independent and authority shy and that feeling of ‘not being seen’ and all. Or maybe the latter is just a universal teen thing.

I left school in 93, graduated from uni in 97 and in those years developed a deep and unrelenting love of fashion. Well, I say fashion, but it was more anti-fashion. I definitely became very aware at around age 14 that a huge part of my self expression could be through my clothes. For a relatively shy, anxious and introverted person, I was pretty bold in my clothing choices and found this the easiest way to express who I was to the rest of the world. I suppose I still do.

I’d dig up pics, but thankfully they’re all in a loft in Hertfordshire.

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I spent a lot of time in thrift stores and army surplus stores. I wore DMs and combat boots, lived in cargo pants or floor length skirts (intermixed occasionally with mini mini skirts) and tiny tees and permanently had my lower belly on display.

And I’m glad about that as it was a bloody fantastic lower belly. The glory of hindsight.

I’m also glad that I didn’t embrace tie-dye or those tiny mirrors on clothing.

My style was definitely influenced by my musical taste but that was very contradictory. I listened to New Model Army and the Levellers (erm) but also the Pixies and Nirvana and Blur and everything that came out of 90s Manchester and to this day remain a massive Stone Roses fan. I also spent a huge amount of time at University at a variety of dubious dance clubs - (Jungle anyone?) - it was all very disjointed.

Anyway the baring of the lower belly transcended everything and was generally achieved via crop tops and very low slung trousers and skirts. Always accompanied by the DMs.

I’m sure I’ve talked about this before, so excuse me if I’m repeating myself and / or boring you.

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So the revival of some of the major aspects of 90s fashion makes me feel totally discombobulated.

For a start, how can I be so old that my defining fashion era has come around again?

Then there’s the fact that these things aren’t anti-fashion any more, they’re mainstream fashion and that annoys me - there is definitely some judgmental, old person, you don’t know what you’re wearing vibes going on there. Which I’m not that sorry about. Sorry.

And then of course there’s all the memories that it brings back and the regrets and the what ifs and the nostalgia and the bizarre realisation that I won’t live that part of my life again. I know that sounds obvious but I find it tricky to get my head around the fact that those parts of my life are over and my memories of them will only continue to fade. So yeah, that’s sad.

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Anyway after that judgey, meandering, rumination, let’s get down to the resurgence of a specific item of 90s clothing - the bias cut skirt or dress. As a hippy person (and I mean physical attributes not flower wearing), I tended to steer well clear of these, even though they would often have fallen into my wear-the-longest-skirt-possible tendencies, because they were always so badly made and inappropriate for my long proportions, that they just bunched around my hips and made me even more self-conscious about them than I already was.

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Yet when Tessuti released the Evie skirt pattern last year, accompanied by images of the Tessuti girls and their amazing midriffs courtesy of the low slung skirt and crop top situation, my nostalgia got the better of me and I decided to jump on that Evie train. I felt comfort in the fact that Tessuti’s patterns are always beautifully drafted, I could elongate and grade out where necessary and the skirt, whilst on the bias, is not dead straight; it slightly flares out from the hip down which gives a hippy girl a fighting chance.

I was looking to emulate their version exactly in the sunshine yellow satin, but then found this leopard print rayon voile on Blackbird Fabrics website and well … it is so so soft, so opaque and so drapey. And leopard print. Gorgeous stuff.

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It was a cinch to make. I’m usually pretty good about using the stay paper stuff that Tessuti always recommend for keeping armholes and in this case waistlines from stretching out, but I couldn’t find any. And this is despite the fact that lovely Colette gave me a heap when I was in Sydney last year. So I just stay-stitched instead and that was a mistake as the waist did stretch a bit and as such it is veeeerrry low on my hips. And two kids and twenty years later my midriff is not what it was. Sob.

It’s such a simple pattern and the nature of bias means that it does cling to the curves so there’s little to alter in terms of adjusting darts etc - cos there are none, dummy. *Eye roll at myself*

I added two inches to the length and graded from a 12 at the waist to a 14 over the hips and down to the hem. And it’s pretty good!

I actually meant to make this for the #sewfrosting challenge last November, but in typical me fashion finished it mid-December. I did wear it glammed up to a Christmas party but I think I prefer it worn like this with sneakers and a sweater. A move away from 90s styling. And that is OK.

I’m pretty sure I don’t need more bias skirts, but it is a lovely pattern, and I feel fab wearing it, so I’d highly recommend - just use the stay stuff that Tessuti instruct - it will make a difference.

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Oh, and just because this is a very self-indulgent soliloquy to all that is the 90s I thought I’d share this thing posted by a friend on Facebook the other day (yeah still haven’t bitten the deleting account bullet). It listed the dates that define the boundaries of each generation of the last 100 years. It was a screen grab from a TV news item:

The Silent Generation: 1928 - 1945

Baby Boomers: 1946 - 1964

Millennials: 1987 - 1996

Post-Millennials: 1997 - present.

Umm - something missing right?

It was accompanied by the caption “This is the most Gen X thing that’s ever happened”.

Isn’t it just.

See you soon x

I made a hat. And went on a march. And before that I made a skirt.

I haven't really been sure how to write this post. I absolutely want to tell all the lovely people who relate when I say sewing keeps me sane, and come here to read about fabric and stitching about the sumptuous velvet skirt I made (see details below). But, also, given that the majority of lovely people who do come here are women, I have to mention the stunningly powerful thing women all around the world did last weekend. The Women's March.

I knit a Pussy Hat and I got on caravan of buses and I went to DC. To show that I am not prepared to accept the archaic, bigoted and dangerous policies of the new administration. To show solidarity. To stand with the millions of other women, and men, who feel that basic human rights and equality are at stake.

I have always seen myself as a well-informed, liberal person who is not afraid to stand up to defend myself when required. But mostly, as a white middle-class woman, there aren't so many times that is required. I protest vehemently on Facebook (to other mostly white, middle-class people), I've marched a couple of times for things that matter to me and I always exercise my right to vote, but I've never actually "needed" to be politically active. 

And then I went to DC and I realised that whether I need things or not, is not the point. I am a woman, so I should help defend the rights of all women. I am an immigrant, a privileged, white immigrant, so I should be helping defend the rights of all immigrants, especially those who don't have the "benefit" of my skin colour or background. I have never had an abortion but I know many women who have and I should defend their right to do with their body what they choose with the same ferocity I defend my own right to choose what happens to my body. I have children who I was lucky enough to carry and give birth to in a country where pre-natal care is free, non-judgmental and available to all (that being the UK not the US). So I should speak up so that others have that right no matter where they live or who they are. 

Somebody enabled me to have all of those things. They didn't just happen. People, women, protested, sacrificed and were well aware that the changes they achieved might not happen in their lifetime; but they did it because it was right. 

For the first time in my life I understand that it's not enough to just nod and agree and talk. If I believe in true equality for everyone; believe in the fact that a human being can not be illegal; believe in keeping others' minds and hands off my and my daughter's bodies, then I have to DO something.

And so I'll be doing. And when I'm not I'll be sewing. (Because I'm a woman and we can do and be anything and everything.)

Here's the pretty skirt (details at the bottom):

The Sewing Stuff:

  • Top is a modified Named Clothing Inari Tee - I used the V neckline from Papercut Patterns Sway dress as the template for the neck. I made a facing to correspond to that and omitted the sleeve cuffs.
  • The sandy black silk charmeuse is from Mood Fabrics.
  • The absolutely beautiful fluid, shiny, mushroom grey silk velvet for the skirt is from Chic Fabrics, which I believe is sadly closing. It was only $15 / yard.
  • The pattern is adapted from a 1970s shirt dress pattern (Vogue French Boutique 1860 from the Renata line) that was my mums and I also used for the skirt of this dress.
  • I added a 1 inch elastic waistband, stretching and serging the elastic to the waistband and skirt fabric, before folding the waistband in on itself to create even gathers.
  • The pockets are lined with dark grey cotton voile.
  • I finger pressed all the seams and steamed them with the iron and catch stitched the hem.

I hope my political enlightenment wasn't too much for a sewing blog and to see you soon. xx

 

Waistband Woes or Are A-Line Skirts Frumpy?

I think the last time I wore an A-line skirt I was 11.  It was my school uniform and even then I hated the shape of it.  Which is evidenced by my wearing anything but in the years that followed.  My loose attempts to stick to my uniform manifested themselves in floor length full skirts that I tripped over constantly, delighting in the fraying holey hem, or skirts so short that I was reprimanded by my form tutor - to which my response was to claim discrimination because I was tall and other, less vertiginous, girls wearing even shorter skirts were still swanning around in them.  (This is absolutely the only area in which I was vaguely rebellious - I was a total swot.)

Spot the small child's feet ...

I hate to say it but I always find A-line skirts pretty frumpy. I'm not sure why, but to me they are boring, too 'safe' and unflattering.  This is of course incredibly judgmental and harsh and says more about my obsession with remaining current and vaguely on it and not falling into a frump-well than it does the real place of an A-line skirt in the world. But I can't shake those feelings and so have steered away from this particular shape of skirt, like my life as a wannabe trend-setter would be over if I allowed myself to wear one ...

So what on earth possessed me to make an A-Line skirt?  Well clearly I'm not 11 or 16 anymore and need more skirt options that don’t rely on extreme hemlines; I've seen A-line midi denim skirts everywhere in the last few months and like some kind of torture can't stop thinking about them; I stole a vintage pattern, Vogue 8325, from my mum in the summer and loved the idea of a denim version of view D with pockets and lots of contrast topstitching. I found the most gorgeous medium weight denim in Mood with just a little bit of stretch making it perfect for this project, so when all these sewing stars decide to align there really isn't much choice but to go with it.  (If I can get over my A-line issues, I am definitely going to make a windowpane version à l'illustration next summer.)

This was my first time sewing with a vintage pattern and it was great; I really liked that all the seam allowances are marked on the pattern pieces.  Although as with many vintage patterns it was a one size pattern (28 waist), which is a lot smaller than post-babies me. Taking advice from previous comments, I measured the pattern pieces to work out the size differential and then added to the centre front and centre back.  I also made the pockets slightly wider so that they would have the proportions as intended by the design.  And that was pretty much it in terms of pattern adjustments - oh aside from adding length - which is a given.

In terms of construction, I serged my seams, used scraps of lawn leftover from this dress to line the pockets and the waistband and opted for an exposed metal zip instead of an invisible or lapped one (because, denim) and went all out with the topstitching. I used beige topstitching thread which contrasts beautifully with the denim, but I'm not really one to unpick unless it's a deal-breaker so some less than arrow-straight stitching is pretty visible. 

And that makes my wonky waistband even more obvious.  So obvious, that my (darling) husband, who leads the pack when it comes to being oblivious to, well, everything, noticed that something wasn't right.

I use a pin as a marker to ensure the waistband seam matches up on each side of the zip and have received some other very useful tips for doubly ensuring it does so, but in this instance the zip insertion isn't actually the issue, it's the darn waistband.  If you look at the picture below - you can see that one side is significantly narrower than the other.  

I have been sewing for a while now and have mastered, or at least achieved with results I'm happy with, some pretty complicated patterns and techniques and am getting my pattern alteration game on point. But for the life of me I still haven't managed to sew a satisfactorily even waistband that doesn't have bulk around the zip, or crappily turned corners, or visible-from-the-outside facing, or clipped seam allowance that won't stay inside the facing so I have raw edges sticking out, or, and this is the thing that happens the most, two ends which are significantly different sizes because I can't seem to ensure the width of the waistband stays uniform for its entire length.

This happens to me ALL the time: on my culottes, on my Gingers, on these trousers and it drives me bananas. 

What am I doing wrong?  Is it poor cutting out, poor attention to seam allowance, or does it have to do with the alterations I generally have to make affecting how well the different front and back pieces of my garments meet up - i.e. seam lengths will differ from front to back piece. That then makes lining the waistband up with the top of the garment a little challenging.  Other than measuring the depth of the waistband all the way around and drawing on the stitching line, I'm not sure of a solution.

I have absolutely no desire to take the waistband and zip off and start again with this, so my wonky waistband, made even more visible by my wonky topstitching will be staying.

I want to love this skirt.  I love the denim and the colour of the topstitching the giant pockets and the length and the exposed zip.  But I hate it when my poor sewing skills are so obvious (but clearly I don’t hate it enough to redo it - or maybe that’s the point - I’m too ambivalent to redo it) and I’m struggling to get past what I see as the frump factor which will likely only increase as the weather gets colder and I’ll need to wear this with tights and boots.

The final test is to see how often I pull this out of the closet in the next few months. 

Do you like an A-line?  Are there silhouettes that make you shudder? And are you an unpick-till-it’s-perfect, or a sod-it-that-will-do stitcher?

Funny, I always thought I was a perfectionist …

See you soon (for extensive Minoru Jacket musings) x

 

Copycat: Dressing for ice cream. But not maths.

So, I think approximately 15 years ago, I wrote this post about my next planned copycat, which I duly made and loved and haven't worn or photographed or written about.   Finally, I've got my behind in gear and here she is, in all her chintzy, florally, acid green glory.

I hate admitting this as I like to think I'm smart and can do anything, but I am singularly rubbish with numbers.  I struggle with times tables and it takes me a phenomenally long time to work out any mathematical conundrum. I vividly remember the ridiculous length of time it took me to master simultaneous equations at school and how immensely frustrating I found the whole thing (I did however get 98% for something or other related to my maths GCSE which just goes to show what being a hard-working geek can get you). 

The point of me telling you this is that I had to use my incredibly non-math(s) oriented brain to work out the pleating on my skirt.  It took me longer to do that than it did to make the skirt. And the sweater. Combined.

My fabric was 45 inches wide and I only had about two yards of it.  I intended to use the entire length of the fabric so the skirt would be mid-calf - which seems to be a theme round here at the moment - and a width each for the front and the back.  This totally dictated the size and number of pleats (rather than the other way around). 

As you can see from the above photo, my workings - even with guidance from how to do this on various websites - went on and on and on.  I had to play around with the width of the pleat - I originally wanted 2 inch pleats - and the number so that I could get a skirt that fitted around my waist.  The maths went on. 

And on. 

And on. 

And then I got fed up with myself and left it alone for a few days.  And then I had to start all over again as I couldn't remember where I'd got to.  Finally, I found my formula (shown in the celebratory box at the bottom of the page).

I could only fit seven one and a half inch pleats in each width of fabric and this left quite a bit of non-pleated fabric on each width.  Fortunately, this actually worked to my advantage as I used the non-pleated bits either side of the side seams.  This creates less bulk on my hips, which as a pear-shaped lady, is always a winner.  I also stitched down the first inch and a half of the pleats, again to create a smoother top of the skirt and reduce bulk.

After the fifteen maths years, the skirt was so quick to put together.  I finished the seams with my serger, didn't bother to line as the fabric (from The Fabric Store in LA) is lovely and soft and very opaque and pretty heavy.  The waistband is a simply inch and a half rectangle, which I interfaced and then stabilised with some petersham ribbon as a waist stay that I left peaking out from beneath the waistband as it's so pretty.  I usually finish waistbands by slipstitching the facing closed, but I thought some wonky topstitching would finish the band nicely so I used that method instead. 

An invisible zipper on the side and a sweet domed clear plastic button - one of the many I have bought in the search for the perfect buttons for this dress - which I still haven't found incidentally - created the fastening.  Given the fabric is so thick, I decided to hem with tape.  I've never hemmed like this before so I went to town with a fancy scalloped machine stitch to attach the tape to the raw edge and then an invisible catch stitch.

And there she is the inspriation and my replica.  Pleated, chintzy, floral joy, just waiting for a green sweater, ridiculous necklace and an ice cream.

Except I was too lazy/ overdressed to walk the half block to the ice cream place to get a proper ice cream so hideous popsicle from the freezer will do instead.  And I'd taken my sweater off for this photo, but you get the idea ....

I mentioned when planning that just at the time I was thinking how I could recreate this vision of loveliness the April issue of Seamwork came out and my wishes were answered in the form of Astoria. Then whilst in Mood I found this bright bright bright textured green ponte, which I'm still not sure about. But I've found the top works OK with this skirt but actually looks great with a lovely pair of wide legged ankle swingers I own.  

And if I don't look down too much my eyes don't hurt, so that helps. 

I like this pattern and it was super fast to make. I'll probably make it again in a more wearable colour, but again I had ease issues as it would look much better if I went down a size or even two.

Incidentally, my green silk eucalpyt goes perfectly with this skirt.  Who would have thought I'd make two items of clothing that actually go with each other!

I love love love this skirt, but I think I might have mentioned before that my life doesn't really warrant an army of fancy pleated skirts and aside from that it's been 30 degrees and 80+% humidity recently which equates to far too warm to wear such deliciousness, even if accompanied by ice cream.  I'm holding out for September when I get back from my travels and booking in lots of grown up evenings out so I can wear the heck out of it.

See you soon x