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Tag Archives: peplum

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying

Pretentious post title? Check.


I didn’t want to bring Robert Herrick into it, but considering the dress and the date, I couldn’t resist. Herrick’s “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” undeniably has some creepy overtones. Yet the poem calls for a more deliberate enjoyment of fleeting moments, a perspective which is very relevant in this last week of August. Blooms, summers and lives all end. I’m beginning another busy semester of teaching, research and writing, and while that is exciting, I will miss mellow summer days.


Summer flowers may have an expiration date; the flowers on this dress do not. I adore the bold red flowers on this fabric, perhaps in part because I rarely go this bold with my clothing. The dress is made from stretch cotton from G Street Fabrics. The fabric is relatively heavy and not very drapey, so the finished result is more structural, especially in the bodice. I used Simplicity 1460 for the pattern (which I have made previously here). I used a lightweight, solid shirting for the blouse last time, and the pattern works well with both. Design features like the double darts are more subtle with the crazy flowers in this version.

I am super impressed with the versatility of Simplicity 1460. This dress has the same sleeve and neckline options as I used before but turned out as a very different garment. There are still other sleeve and neckline variations to the pattern which I might experiment with at some point.


The blouse pattern was very simple to convert into a dress pattern: I just extended the length of the peplum to 24 inches. The resulting skirt is pleasantly full without being heavy or overwhelming. Who wants to haul around a huge skirt that gets in the way? Not Me. My preference for skirts is based primarily on the fact that they are not trousers, so comfort and ease of movement are rather important to me. This dress would look cute in a shorter length as well, but the large scale fabric pattern demands a knee-length skirt (the flowers look huge and ridiculous with a shorter length).


After a few wears, it became apparent that I should have shortened the waist by an inch as it currently hits enough below my natural waist to be annoying. Since tearing the whole thing apart to fix this currently holds zero interest for me, the dress will be staying as is for the time being. Wearing a belt does help, and it makes for cheerful, comfy, and office appropriate summer wear. I have more completed summer projects to blog, but I’m starting to get the itch for cozy fall clothing. Cool weather can’t come soon enough!


Buttonholes and Polka dots: Simplicity 1590

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Waaaaay back in September of last year (2013) I was preparing for some major exams and frantically sewing as a distraction. The project in question was Simplicity 1590, a vintage reprint pattern for a blouse. The blouse was mostly finished in September, only making the buttonholes and sewing on the buttons remained, but this is where the project stalled. The exams loomed ever nearer, and I still hadn’t figured out how to work the buttonhole function on my sewing machine.


I have mentioned my struggles with the buttonhole function on this sewing machine before in passing, but I sheepishly omitted that there was a  project languishing for six months because I couldn’t figure out how to work the darn thing. I had something of a breakthrough while making the buttonholes on the red plaid coat (i.e., there were actual buttonholes), but i have since refined the process. While the buttonholes on the jacket are serviceable, I wasn’t satisfied with the quality or the reliability of the result.

simplicity 1590

yes, languishing, just like that

In case you were wondering, I did consult the manual, and tried every possible interpretation of directions which I am quite certain were poorly translated into English. Despairing, I made some bold and rebellious decisions. I would ignore the manual, and I would not use the buttonhole attachment. GASP! What blasphemy do I dare speak? Ignoring the directions AND not using the designated tools? Well as reckless as this may seem, using the standard presser foot seems to have done the trick – I can now reliably coax a nice buttonhole from my sewing machine.

Once buttonholes were attainable, this project wrapped up quickly. It has been sometime since I initially sewed the blouse, but I don’t remember any major issues in  making it up – the directions and construction are pretty straightforward. I do remember being rather hesitant about the peplum initially – it is rather… voluminous? I haven’t quite worked out how I want to wear the blouse. It does seem that the six months hanging unfinished in my closet actually benefited the final result. The drape of the peplum is smoother now that the fibers have had a chance to hang out and settle.

The blouse is made out of a lovely navy and white polka dot voile. I would suggest only using fabrics with significant drape for this pattern; I think the blouse is wearable only because it is a voile. As for the design? I love the smooth swoop of the neckline and the non-sleeve sleeves, but I am still not a huge fan of the voluminous peplum. I would duplicate the neckline and sleeves in another project, but not the rest of the blouse. That would take some major alterations, so it doesn’t seem likely right now.

DSCN4740What’s ahead? I’m knitting away at a baby sweater at the moment, and I recently finished two more versions of Simplicity 1460. After that? who knows. I’m getting in my sewing while I have time.


Simplicity 1460

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Simplicity 1460 is one of Simplicity’s reprints of patterns from previous decades. This blouse and tunic pattern from the 1950s has been updated so the pattern pieces and markings are familiar to modern sewers, but it is unclear whether or not adjustments have been made to reflect the difference in sizing systems. My only quibble with the pattern is a sizing one: the waist measurement listed on the pattern is larger than the actual waist measurement of the pattern pieces. It is not a huge difference, but if you choose your size based on Simplicity’s typically generous ease, you will be frustrated. I just sewed my waist seams with narrower seam allowances, and it all worked out.

Simplicity 1460 1



The design of this pattern, like most of these reprints, includes many delightful details that rarely show up in contemporary patterns. While there are options for multiple necklines, I used the scalloped neckline. The graduated scallops look unusual and tricky but really are not any more difficult than any other neckline facing. I would recommend tracing your stitchline for the neckline on the back of your facing to make things go smoother. The resulting scalloped edge is so pretty, and it even continues onto the back of the blouse! The scallop at the back of the neck is such a simple little detail, but it makes the design way more exciting.

My other suggestion regarding the scallops is that you trim the seam allowance close to the stitching rather than notching the seam allowance the way the directions suggest. Trimming rather than notching makes a HUGE difference in the smoothness of your results. I learned this only recently thanks to the detailed explanation offered on this post. The difference between a notched and a trimmed curve is immediately noticeable, and you will be wondering why you ever notched your seam allowances at all.

I love a scallop edge on pretty much anything, but the other design features of the pattern add to the charm. The pair of parallel darts look rather nifty. The peplum is not voluminous, so it is very subtle, comfortable and wearable. The not-sleeves are great because they give the look of a cap sleeve without the fuss of actually attaching a cap sleeve. I was somewhat apprehensive about this feature because my shoulders sometimes do odd things with cap sleeves, but these fit fine without adjustment. The only other change I made was making the buttonholes vertical rather than horizontal.


This blouse was made with another mystery fabric from the G Street Fabrics clearance area. It is a rather soft and lightweight baby blue shirting. As ever, the specific content is unknown, but it is substantially cotton. Now that I have made one of these blouses, I have a number of other versions in mind. There is already a nearly finished blouse in green, and I cut out a flowered dress using the same bodice but greatly extending the peplum to a skirt length. Once you have worked through the more unusual features of this pattern once, it actually sews up very quickly.

Bridesmaid Dress, Deconstructed

This past October I had the honor of being a bridesmaid in my dear friend Megan’s wedding. It was a lovely, lovely day. The bride and groom were married in a sweet ceremony, the weather cooperated…

and I found wearing the floor-length, strapless chiffon gown to be much more comfortable than anticipated. Huzzah!



However, I don’t find much call for floor-length, strapless chiffon gowns in my daily life. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have much call for a strapless, knee-length dress either, at least not in comparison with a swishy skirt. I like my clothes to be both pretty AND useful. Fortunately, the shade of green is charming and the bodice fits perfectly. I can work with this.

The first thing I did was toss the whole thing in the washing machine on a gentle cycle. This was a calculated risk. While the care tag indicates dry clean only, the fiber content is a polyester/cotton blend which, in theory, should be perfectly washable. Moreover, I have no desire to be putting the time and effort into modifying or making something that needs to be dry cleaned regularly. I have no problem hand washing things, but dry cleaning just isn’t going to happen. Happily, the dress survived the wash, and all the mysterious stains acquired while wearing it all day indoors and outdoors, around food, in the grass, and on playground equipment washed away. Mind you, I had some terrified moments while the chiffon layer was drying until I realised the weird splotches were just the water evaporating unevenly.

My initial scheme was to cut off the dress at the hip, hem the top half to make a corset-top sort of thing and make a ruffley skirt from the rest of the dress. Strapless isn’t really my thing, but it seemed a waste not to take advantage of the excellent and comfortable fit that I had through the torso. Peplums are apparently big right now, so if there would ever be a time for such a top, this would be it. For the skirt I was envisioning something knee length and swishy, with lots of gathers. Something a bit like this:chiffon skirt1The plan was to use the lining of the dress for the under layer and the backing of the waist – the structure of the skirt, really – and the chiffon would get gathered and sewn to the underlayer. Of course, this plan did not survive contact with reality.

The first thing I did was separate the top part of the dress from the rest of the fabric that would be used to make the skirt. I painstakingly measured down six inches from the waist, keeping this length as even as possible all the way around. I had decided somewhat arbitrarily that this was the correct length for the top.


While cutting the dress apart, I got to see some interesting dress construction options. You can see the very bottom of the bodice boning in the picture below as well as the lower lining layer. There were TWO underlayers to this dress, which seemed odd at first, but made more sense once I saw how the bodice attached to the skirt part. The lower layer is attached much more roughly and really is a lining, while the upper layer is a finished skirt and the chiffon layer is a second, highly gathered, finished skirt.


The dress zipper was longer than the top section I cut off, which made things a bit awkward, but zippers are easily shortened when necessary. Once I had cut everything off as evenly as possible, I popped it on to check if my crazy scheme had worked. There’s no sense in hemming three layers of fabric if it doesn’t work.


I suppose that it did, for certain values of “working.” It still fit comfortably.

DSCN3505And it did not look completely ridiculous with a cardigan…

But no. Just no.

It’s so ruffle-y and odd looking and it looks like I cut off the top of a bridesmaid dress. While this is precisely what happened, the goal was to get something that did not look like the cut-off top of a bridesmaid dress. I think the real problem here is that the layers of ruffles and pouffiness work in the dress because they are held down by the weight of the additional fabric. Without all that length, the proportions are off and there is nothing pulling the layers down.

Also, I may be coming to grips with the fact that I do not like ruffles. Ruffles are perfectly fine on other people, but they are not for me. Looking at the pictures now, I can objectives say it’s not terrible, but I know I would never wear it as is. Perhaps I will play around with it again someday.

In short, the first attempt at reworking the bridesmaid dress for day wear was a failure. But this is not cause for discouragement! Just look at all this fabric:


I can get into all sorts of trouble with that.

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