I’ve said before how much I love buttons, and this top makes me super happy. While I was making it, I kept thinking about a knit tank with nonfunctional back buttons that I wore until I wore it out, and how, the first time I wore it, Dizzy innocently and helpfully said, “Hey, I think you put your shirt on backwards.”
There’s no mistaking that this one’s on correctly, with the two sets of deep bust darts that make it fit nicely. The pattern pieces are from Kwik Sew 0593, a super cute pattern for attached separates where the bottom front of the crop top buttons to the front of the skirt and the back of the crop top ends higher for a lower back window. I plan to make that separates-dress as drafted, but first, I wanted to use to use the pattern to make a few light tank tops.
The changes I made for this crop top are as follows. I lowered the pattern pieces for the back of the top to match the front. I knew I didn’t want quite as high of a neckline as the pattern has, so I also trimmed the neckline down by about an inch all around. I also opted out of the lining and finished the neck and armholes with bias tape.
If you skip the lining on this pattern, note that you’ll need to add a button and buttonhole facing. I made it super simple by doing this when I cut out the pattern pieces. I just added 1¼ inches to the center back on both of the the back pieces, interfaced them, pressed the raw edge in a quarter inch, and then pressed the whole thing under an inch and stitched it down before I did anything else with the garment. Voila.
Also, importantly, the sizing is pretty far off if you want to get the fit shown on the packet or something slightly more fitted, which was what I ended up trimming down to. According to the size chart, I’m a 16, and when I sewed it up that way, it was quite baggy all over. I ended up taking in the sides, taking in the sides again, and trimming down the armholes to match.
I had originally traced the pattern pieces for the size 16 on butcher paper to make the changes I had wanted, and as I trimmed the garment, I trimmed the butcher paper pieces to match. When the top was a size I liked on me, I held the butcher paper pattern pieces up to the original pattern pieces and saw that had trimmed down to a size 10, the smallest size, which is drafted for someone with a 25-inch waist. My waist is 30 inches, and I suppose the bottom edge of the crop top is a little snug if I sit down, slouch, and poke my belly out, but otherwise, I think it’s safe to say that the pattern maker built in a lot of ease. I’m definitely going to measure the skirt pieces before I make the full outfit.
The trimming I had to do ended up working out nicely, because the side darts are a little too long for my taste, and that shortened them. I also trimmed the armholes a little more on my butcher paper pattern so that the next time I make this top, it shows some more shoulder. I kind of like the slightly boxy look of it right now, but I move around a lot, and I’d like my shoulders to be a little freer.
Finally, flower eyelet trim! I like this stuff, which is good, because I have oodles of it. It was nearly free on clearance from an Etsy shop that I was buying something else from a while back, so now I’ve got yards of it stuffed in a pocket of my sewing bag. I’ve held it up to pretty much every fabric in my stash, just to see.
Anyway, a super simple project that just took one evening and, now that I’ve edited the pattern pieces to my liking, will just take a couple hours to cut out and sew next time! I have some small pieces of different cute patterned challis that are a little too translucent for a romper or dress, so at some point, I’ll going to get some very lightweight lining and turn them into crop tops like this one, using the pattern directions to sew in the lining. I first wore this on a sunny day before the fair opened for a lot of small, fiddly outdoor jobs, and it was perfectly comfy and cool, kept the sun off the thin skin of my chest, and was much cooler (and cuter) than a knit t-shirt or tank top in the heat. I’m happy with it!
I took these pictures at the house of mirrors, our current next-door neighbor, before changing into costume for the day. It’s fireman-themed, and there’s also this lady, who looks ready to beat the heat in her crop top too…
I’ve got a little sewing to share, but first I want to spend a little time thinking about clothes in general and how I wear them. Maintaining a wardrobe involves two types of cost. The first cost, obviously, is financial, and the second cost is the attention, time, and effort you give it. I’ve always put next to nothing of either category into my wardrobe, and in this post, I’d like to think about why that’s been the case and the reasons I’d like to change that.
So far, I’ve only blogged about individual sewing projects, because it makes me feel self-conscious and frivolous to talk about fashion or style (more on that later). But at the same time, I like reading about other women’s attention to clothing, evolving senses of style, and processes building and sewing their own wardrobes. So here’s where my wardrobe’s at, at the very start of me paying any sort of real attention to it.
I have been wearing clothes all these years, and they’ve been clean, and the holes have been mended, so all check-marks there. Other than that, it’s been the ultimate in frugality and simplicity, hands-off dressing. Everything fits in one suitcase that sits above my bed in the tiny bunkhouse room I live in for my traveling job. It’s all basics: neutral jean shorts and jeans, black leggings and exercise shorts, and colorful tees that are all interchangeable with any of the pants. For summer shoes, I have a pair of Chaco sandals, and for winter, a pair of boots. Getting dressed is just grabbing any bottom and any top. I’ve got a handful of equally interchangeable long-sleeved shirts and sweaters to wear over my shirts when it’s cold, and I have a few jackets of different weights, also all neutral in color. I can get dressed with my eyes shut, and the results are always the same. It’s very practical, and it has served me fine for the way I live.
It’s also very financially cheap. Maintaining it is just replacing worn-out black leggings and exercise shorts with new ones from Wal-Mart and replacing new jeans and tops when I need them from Plato’s Closets and Goodwills across the country while we travel. Sometimes, more rarely, I’ll buy something off a department or discount store clearance rack. I’ve never had a ton of extra money and I prioritize what I do have elsewhere, and anyway, I shy away from buying really new clothes in a world where so many clothes are bought and tossed away every day.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my approach to dressing myself, and I know it comes from the way I was raised. My parents are the most practical, hardworking people I’ve ever met, and their emphasis was always on putting all of your energy into what you were doing, your work, your hobbies, your personal projects. What people looked like when they were doing their important things never came up. Thinking back to when I was growing up, I actually can’t think of a single remark either of my parents made about something someone else was wearing, and I can’t remember a single conversation we ever had about anyone’s style, including our own. They taught me to focus on substance over appearance, what people cared about rather than what they looked like, and I’m glad for that.
Nobody ever directly told me that caring about, spending time on, or talking about clothes was frivolous, but somewhere along the way, I got the idea that it was, and that it was less productive than any number of other things I could be doing, and that it was probably a privileged and wasteful thing to be spending my resources on, to boot. Didn’t I have more important things to be working on? Didn’t Einstein wear the same suit each day so he could focus on science? I’m not claiming to be any kind of Einstein, and I don’t actually believe any of those judgments I just listed, but sometimes, a judgment worms its way in.
At the same time, I did know that there are many ways to care about clothing and style that line up with things I do find important, including my values of frugal, simple, and minimalistic living, which are personal but also necessary for my lifestyle, and my desire, like many people’s, to participate less in the constant treadmill-ish modern consumption of cheaply and wastefully made goods. I was already thrifting most of my wardrobe for these reasons, but I was doing so only to maintain my basic daily uniform and without taking much personal pleasure from it.
Thrifting, restoring and reworking vintage clothes, sewing my own clothes—these were all things I could have reasonably been spending my free time enjoying. I already enjoyed these things as a viewer, anyway though I wasn’t doing them myself. While I was wearing my black leggings and oversized tees day in and day out, I’d also been reading blogs like Solanah’s (here and here), Esme and the Laneway (gone now), Chronically Vintage, and By Gum, By Golly for years. I liked watching how particular women build and maintain their wardrobes, and I enjoyed the attention that they pay—and therefore that I pay as I’m reading—to the individual outfits they like and why they like them. I liked being prompted to take a moment to appreciate details that I might have not otherwise noticed. And I like reading the smart, perceptive thoughts that come out of slowing down and focusing on this one small aspect of human life. Through several years of reading style blogs, mostly vintage fashion and sewing ones, I learned that I enjoy taking the time to look at clothes.
I also honestly enjoy the lifestyle-artist-cultivation that goes into so many blogs about clothes, the kind of stylization that people refer to as “Instagrammy” and judge as unrealistic or empty but that many of us find pleasure in. I love each macro shot of an interestingly shaped collar against a background of cherry blossoms. Give me your softened photos of the sweater you’re knitting with your morning coffee and a sprig of some widflower. I want to scroll through all eight photos of the same woman in the same vintage dress and straw hat walking, spinning, and smiling in a field somewhere. It’s true.
So now I’m blogging about clothes. It’s primarily via individual sewing projects because I enjoy the slow process and fiddly processes of creating garments and because sewing is a skill I really want to continue to develop both for myself and for our costumes at work. But improving at sewing is also rethinking my wardrobe, and blogging about sewing is also a way for me to rethink clothes.
What I’m wearing in this post is a random grab-in-the-dark outfit from that suitcase I live out of, the kind of thing I wear pretty much every day when I’m not in circus costumes. It’s totally practical and fine. I like the large square pockets on the chest and how neatly the stripes match up. I appreciate the sharp, super-close stitching on the pocket edges as I try to make my own stitching more precise. My wardrobe isn’t going to change drastically or overnight because I’m paying a little more attention to it. Rather, it will slowly become a little more thought out and bring me a little more pleasure. So I’ll be over here sewing sky blue eyelet trim on things because I think it’s pretty.
I posted back in January that I was starting my first large cross-stitch project, making a Christmas stocking from a chart in the July/August 1990 Cross Stitch and Country Crafts Magazine. I haven’t cross-stitched since I was a kid, and I never thought I really had the patience, but this is a special project. My mom made every child of my generation in her family an ornate stocking from this pattern series, and I’m making my boyfriend one, bringing him into the fold.
My mom’s goal used to be to finish each stocking before the child’s first Christmas, but he and I have already spent four Christmases together, and I’m not in a rush. This has been a filling-in-the gaps project, done in the rare moments I am sitting around, not focused on something else. I’ve mostly worked on it in the van on long jumps from town to town or late at night, when I’m mentally worn out. It requires very little active thought, and it’s calming, how slow and measured it is. It’s like watching a pie bake or flowers open.
I’m about a third of the way done with the cross-stitching, not counting the backstitching and sewing the stocking together. I’ve enjoyed stitching not neatly from side to side or top to bottom but spreading out in whichever direction I feel like when I sit down to do it. Maybe I feel like making a bag of apples tonight or maybe a roof or a flickering lamp. All the busy little items in this series of stockings make them fun little series of accomplishments to stitch, and they are also what make the finish product something you can’t just glance at and move on, but rather feel drawn to study like an I-Spy or a Where’s Waldo.
Speaking of, can you find Santa in the picture above? He’s not finished. And below, the messy back view.
We’ve been between fairs for the past week, but luckily, we’re near my boss’s family’s house, so I’ve been enjoying this early bit of summer on their back porch while they’re on vacation. It’s a pretty, quiet spot to read and cross-stitch. This means I haven’t gotten my sewing machine out (I have to pack it up at the end of every fair, because our living space becomes storage space for the tent and all the stuff in it), but that’s okay. It just makes me look forward more to my next sewing projects, which will definitely include dresses like this one.
I got this shirtdress off a clearance rack sometime last year, and it’s the best-fitted dress I’ve ever owned. I love the way the waistband sits and the way the underbust darts make the top fit and also the giant pockets. And the giant buttons. And the print. It’s an inspiration dress for me right now. It’s a similar story to this romper: now I want to make a handful just like it and wear them all summer. I’ve got one pattern that’s very similar but with a fuller skirt, so that’s coming up soon.
I almost never wore wovens before this year, because I always thought of them as uncomfortable, but now I know that I just rarely found items that fit me well. Now that I’m able to make them to my specifications, I want to wear them all the time, or at least all summer, when lightweight wovens are the most comfortable fabrics to sit loosely on my skin, let the breeze in, and dry my sweat.
In other news, I bought myself a new camera. Can you tell from the gratuitous macro shots? These were fun pictures to take to start to figure it out. Gosh. I have been using my cell phone camera for the past five years, and I’m never looking back. Look for much more prettiness on this blog in the future.
While I’m taking pretty pictures, here’s my knees, done by Melissa Ferranto at Elite Tattoo Gallery in Jacksonville, NC. It’s these carousel cats’ first summer, and I’m glad they’re getting to see the light of day!
Thank you for reading! ❤ Love, Trixie
My leafy second romper was finished the same weekend as my pineappley first one. I was on a romper roll. Seriously, I love these things.
Because I had already figured out the adjustments I needed to make to the fit of my pattern (no pattern number for this one—I just copied a ready-to-wear romper I liked), the construction of this one was a breeze. I just tried it on once near the end of the process to make sure I hadn’t done anything weird and to place the pockets.
These simple pockets with functional buttons were the first I’d ever made, and they’re just enough to slip in a few dollars or a house key, or the key to a secret garden. I admit that I was thinking of this as my Secret Garden playsuit as I was sewing it. They’re also perfectly neat and straight, though with my hand inside this one, it looks a little wonky in the picture.
The fabric is a super light challis, and I was a little worried it might not be opaque enough, but after holding it up to a bunch of different things in different lights, I decided it would probably be okay, and anyway, it was worth the risk. If it didn’t show my underwear, it would be the perfect southern-summer playsuit, weightless and perfectly breathable in 100-degree weather. I was right. As long as I make sure I’m not wearing bright purple underwear when I throw it on, I think this outfit is going to be in heavy rotation when we start heading south in late summer this year.
Other than the pockets, I only made a couple small changes to this romper from the first one, and they’re in the details. I fixed my small bias binding problem from the last one, where the binding wasn’t laying perfectly flat to my skin. I made the button placket and hemmed the bottoms to show the wrong side of the fabric, because I thought the wrong side was maybe even prettier than the right. I like how it mutes the colors and shows the weave, a textural thing that doesn’t really show up in these photos.
I do like simplicity, but I can’t wait until I’m ready to tackle pintucks and miniscule ruffles and details like that. I’ve definitely been on the lookout for patterns of simple garments with fussy details so I can learn the mechanics of how to sew them while leaving the fitting and style of the garment mostly up to someone else’s expertise. McCall’s and Butterick both have $3.50 pattern sales that end today, and I bought a few vintage-style dress patterns with neat detailing that I’ll be excited to eventually get to.
I also bought a new romper pattern I hadn’t found before, Kwik Sew 3874. It buttons down to a v-shaped waist with old-fashioned skirt-like shorts, and I might even like it better than this one. That pattern is definitely jumping to the top of the stack, but in the meantime, be ready for one more romper in this style, gingham, possibly with some cutesy piping or trim. Thanks for reading! ❤ Love, Trixie
Spring felt like it took SO long to get here this year, but finally, the fairgrounds are starting to smell right, robins keep flying into the circus tent and getting confused about how to fly back out, and I’ve been running around barefoot in the grass behind the show, enjoying the fruits of my recent labors!
Get it? Fruits?
Last year, about this time, I got my first romper. I had been eyeing them at stores for a while, but I imagined I would like an overgrown toddler or my belly would look fat or something else stupid. But then a discount store in Birmingham, Alabama had a watermelon-print one for $10 that buttoned down the front, so I got it. I’m a sucker for button-down anything.
The romper immediately became my favorite single item of clothing. I mean that first watermelon romper AND the romper more broadly, as an institution. I realized that a romper is simply a sundress that you can do cartwheels in without showing your underwear. It’s genius. It’s perfect. And when you’re sweaty from doing cartwheels (or practicing hula-hooping or trick roping or whatever your outdoor activity is), you only have one sweaty item of clothing to change. True. Love.
Since then, I’ve only found one other romper at a store that fits the length of my torso not only when I’m standing still but when also I bend over or raise my arms over my head. All the others seem to be made for women shorter than me or at least with shorter torsos. (My issue with torso length in the leotards I wear for work was the reason I started getting serious about sewing, so no surprise there). So I started collecting several romper patterns, and I even made a muslin of New Look 6493, but I didn’t like it, and none of the patterns I found were exactly what I wanted. I wanted that watermelon romper in about 30 other prints, and I wanted to wear nothing but that all summer.
It’s not a complicated piece of clothing. Four pieces make up the bottom, and three make up the top, plus two strips of interfaced fabric behind the buttons and some bias tape. It occurred to me that I could just measure the watermelon romper and make a pattern from it. I did so super carefully, drew it out on brown butcher paper, added seam allowances, and made the changes in measurements I thought I would want. The original watermelon romper is pretty loose and drapey on me, as you can really see in the above photo, but because the fabric is so light, it doesn’t really matter. However, I knew if I were in fact going to make 30 of them and wear them all summer, I would want a more precise fit.
I somehow failed to take pictures of the muslin right after I first sewed it, but it was pretty much as I expected. I used clearance quilting cotton so I could better see where the excess fabric was (50-cent-per-yard sailboats from WalMart, delightful), and that helped me see exactly where I needed to take the pattern in. The back was too wide, and there was actually more length than I needed in the girth, but only on the front, which gave me some lumps that I definitely needed to get rid of. Finally, I had a weird flat butt with bagginess right underneath it, which took me a while to figure out how to fix. I shortened the length of the front crotch, which shifted the crotch seam forward, and did a slight slash and spread of the seat. Here’s a photo of the muslin halfway through the adjusting, where it’s mostly fitted but still has the lumps I was talking about.
Since I haven’t sewn a lot of wovens and I needed to figure out how I wanted to finish the seams on this pattern, which were all just sergered on the romper I copied, I practiced on the inside of this muslin. I’m probably going to end up mentioning Lladybird a lot on this blog, because I love the way she talks about sewing, but a few months ago, I read this post by her and was inspired by the idea of everything looking as neat on the inside as on the outside. I knew it would please me every time I put a garment on to see its insides tucked away cleanly into narrow flat-felled, French, and hemmed seams, even if I was the only one who would ever care. Also, I had to figure out how to sew the channel for the elastic waist in a way I would like with minimal bulk. I ended up doing it like a large flat-felled seam below, and it slides so smoothly on my skin when I move.
Then it was time for the real thing! I’d already purchased several cuts of super-lightweight but still opaque challis and charmeuse online during a $1/$2/$3 per yard sale online, and obviously, the one that was covered in pineapple slices was the correct choice for the first child of the watermelon romper that saw me through last summer.
I’m really happy with it! Not only does it do all the things that the original watermelon romper does just right, including a long enough girth for the length of my torso and a button-down front that doesn’t gape at my bust, but now it also fits me perfectly, no matter how I move. See how neatly it hugs my butt when I raise up my arms? Happiness is in the little things.
I also enjoyed picking matching buttons from my stash and finding some bright yellow bias tape to make the inside even cuter, and I sewed the neck and shoulder openings so that the bias tape peeks out ever so slightly.
I’ve got a few tiny things to fix in the next version, like stretching that bias tape a little as I sew so it doesn’t gap anywhere, like you can see it’s doing in the picture below. The next romper, which I’ve already started, also has some different accents that I’m enjoying planning and sewing, including cute little exterior pockets. While I originally thought I’d be happy with sewing several rompers just like that watermelon one to wear all summer, I can already tell how much I’m going to enjoy modifying each one to be its own unique little playsuit. If you have any romper ideas you’d like to share with me, I’d LOVE to hear them. Thank you for reading! ❤ Love, Trixie
For our first fair this year, we got to bring back Sunshine, an incredible fire eater who once worked for the show for a seven-year run. When she comes to visit, we spend our time telling old stories and learning new things, and this time, she learned how to sew with a machine. I gave her a couple of sewing machine lessons and an overview of how patterns are used. Over the past few months, I’ve been watching all the Creativebug garment-sewing videos, which have been super helpful in building my baseline knowledge. Giving her these lessons and answering her questions was a nice test of my what I know so far. She practiced different stitches and techniques I taught her on scraps and then by finishing the seams of a romper muslin I was making.
For her first project, she wanted to make a costume to wear in the show, and she chose this phenomenal sequined velvet from Joann’s and Simplicity 8380 by Cynthia Rowley, a simple dress pattern with a two-piece yoke, neck and arm binding, and a side zipper. The fabric was the last piece they had on the bolt and a little shorter than the pattern recommended, but we managed to fit all the pattern pieces on it by eliminating the pockets. The pattern directions have you completely finish the top half of the dress first, and she flew through all of it, even the binding, which was finicky with the stretchy, curling velvet.
The only trouble she had on the top was with the front darts. We should probably have done some kind of a small bust adjustment to start, but I don’t fully understand how to do that yet, and I figured that the combination of the super stretchy material and the fact that we were making it in a smaller size for little to no ease meant that the costume would be forgiving in its fit. The fit was fine without the adjustment, but the darts came up too high and looked pointy. We couldn’t take them out and adjust, because we were working with the wedges already cut out, as the pattern directed. Luckily, I had recently watched and taken notes on this Creativebug video by Deborah Kreiling, which teaches how to adjust princess seams, so I was able to help her change the darts to princess seams, and we adjusted those seams until the bust fit well. Whew.
She was rushing to get it done before she had to leave, and the waistband ended up a little crooked, but not too noticeable. The rest of the seams look fabulous, and she sewed the zipper pretty much perfectly on her first try. Her only other difficulty was with the hem. We tried to turn it up twice for a regular hem, but the velvet kept bunching and gathering on the curve. I know there’s a way to put a gathering stitch in to hem the curved edges of shirts, but the velvet felt heavy and cumbersome for that, and if there’s another method, I haven’t learned it yet. Any tips? In the end, we just cut the skirt to a quarter inch longer than the length she wanted and turned it up once for a tiny hem that looks clean from the outside.
Sunshine only had about a week to sew this costume, and her goal was to finish it in time to wear it on the last day of the fair. She did and looked great! She wants to get a machine herself, and I’m excited to see what she makes next.
We just finished our first fair of the year, the Central Florida Fair in Orlando, which means Dizzy and I have been wearing the costumes I made us over our winter break for three weeks now. Like I said before, I was sewing like crazy to get them all finished before we went back on the road, so after the first few costumes I made, I didn’t stop to blog. Now I get to write about them knowing that they’ve been tried and tested and they’ve passed. Here I’ll show you a couple of the ones that we’ve worn onstage so far, specifically the two that were the biggest challenge for me to sew.
This gold costume makes me feel like a circus roller skater, like Dizzy should be spinning in circles on a tiny round platform, holding a rope that’s attached to my teeth while I twist at a million miles an hour as I fly in a circle through the air, my body horizontal. (You know what I’m talking about? Have you see those acts? We saw one recently in Vegas at V: The Ultimate Variety Show. I loved it.)
This gold fabric with tiny foil dots catches as much light onstage as sequins without any of the scraping against our moving body parts that real sequins do. I loved that so many of my old, purchased costumes were fully sequined, but the undersides of my arms was always red and criss-crossed with tiny, thin cuts at the end of a week of shows. The foil dots are a little rough when bent, but using a different fabric for the armhole and leg binding made the costume perfectly comfortable.
The foil dot fabric, however, was much more difficult to sew than sequins are. No matter which needles and threads I used or how perfectly I adjusted the tension on my machine, the thread would skip stitches whenever it had to go through a little foil dot, and it was even worse when it also had to go through the bathing suit lining that’s on the inside front of the costume. I sewed most of these seams twice.
When the costume was finally finished, binding and everything, I was so relieved—and then I realized I had sewed the zipper in backwards. This wasn’t the first zipper I’d done. It wasn’t the second or third. This was one of the last costumes I made, because I was saving this fabric until I knew I wouldn’t mess it up, and I just hadn’t been paying attention. I had to re-attach the zipper to this stupidly difficult fabric, and I had to do it while the rest of the costume was very much in the way. And then I went to try it on, and I had forgotten to sew zipper stops on the top of the zipper the second time I put it in, and the zipper pull came right off the top. I had to put in the zipper for a third time. I have since learned how to shorten zippers from the bottom, not the top. That’s a hazard of doing my own research and learning as I go, I guess. When I was learning how to insert a back zipper, I had landed on a video that taught me to shorten them from the top—I don’t remember what video it was—so I thought that was the way to do it.
For the binding on mine, I used some silver-flecked red fabric I had harvested from a $3 thrift-store dance costume I bought on the road last year. There wasn’t enough to use on Dizzy’s shirt, so I used a regular lightweight red athletic fabric, and side-by side, we match just fine.
I made red sleeves, side panels, and collar for him because I thought that the friction of his arms constantly moving (juggling, knife throwing) might have eventually worn off the foil dots under the arms and that the foil dots would have been uncomfortable on his neck. I like the way the red accents look together on my costume, but I especially like how balanced the red and gold are in this shirt. I also love the red buttons and the red belt and gold buckle he matched this with. He’s always gotten compliments on his style, but it feels especially nice to hear people gush about his outfits now!
Though we were in Florida for this first fair of the year, it’s still March, and we had some absolutely frigid days. The velvet costumes below were our warmest options, and we wore them a few times. Both mine and his cover exactly the same amount of skin as our other costumes, so I was surprised at how much of a difference the fabric made, especially for mine.
I prefer to have my arms and legs bare for my hula-hoop act, because the friction between my hoops and my skin gives me the most control for multiple hoop splits. I accept the fact that I’m going to be freezing sometimes and slipping in and out of a coat backstage between acts. Leaving out the cutout on this one also helped with warmth, though I don’t love the way the high neck looks in comparison with my other costumes.
I may add more of these appliqués later to try to fix how I feel about the neck. The appliqués came from a sequined scarf I bought for $6 at a flea market. Is “scarf” the right word? Imagine a length of fabric you would wrap behind your back and let fall from the crooks of your elbows in front when you might want to waltz around in an evening gown. It was completely useless as a costume piece for me, because every time I’m onstage, I’m hula hooping, hanging upside down in a straightjacket, or getting spun around on a giant wheel, and nothing would get in the way more than sequined drapery.
But it was SO sparkly, so it just sat in the bottom of my suitcase until I realized I could cut it apart and use it as applique. It’s now on another costume too, the first one I blogged about, and I have a ton of it left, so plain-looking costumes, watch out.
Sewing this velvet threw me a curve ball. I knew I needed four-way stretch fabric to make these unitards, and I knew this velvet was much stretchier from selvedge to selvedge and perhaps wasn’t stretchy at all in the other direction, but it was so stretchy selvedge to selvedge that I guess I decided it would work. Luckily, the part of me that I knew it wasn’t going to work waited to attach the top to the bottom until I had tried it on, and sure enough, it hugged my curves beautifully horizontally, but I could tell that the top and bottom weren’t going to be pulled together easily. If I did attach them, the costume was going to feel like all the old leotards I bought with standard-sized, way-too-short girths that constantly crept up my butt and that I just lived with before I decided to fix the problem and start sewing. I had sewed myself back in time.
But I fixed it. I added this super-stretchy dark silver cosplay fabric all the way around above the skirt, and luckily, that gave the whole costume all the vertical stretch it needed. It went from unmovable to perfectly comfortable. I could do backbends in it if I could do backbends. I used more of the silver for the binding to make the silver low waist look a little more on purpose. Looking at the photos, I can almost convince myself I meant for it to look like that.
I made Dizzy’s velvet shirt before I made my velvet unitard, so these two don’t quite match. If I had done them the other way around, I would have put in a silver inset like in the gold and red shirt earlier in this post or this galaxy print one. Instead, his shirt has navy sleeves and a navy collar. Oh well.
I didn’t do full velvet because, similarly to the gold foil dot fabric, I didn’t want the friction of his arms to visibly wear the velvet. The navy is a silky athletic fabric and skims over the velvet. I also thought a velvet collar would feel weird against his neck, especially if he got sweaty at all. On the coldest days at this fair, though, I wished I’d just gone ahead and done the arms in velvet at least, because the wind went right through that silky athletic fabric, and his arms were almost as cold as mine.
I don’t know if the lack of vertical stretch in the velvet would have been a problem for the arms, but it definitely could have been for the body and briefs of the shirt. Luckily for him, I made the attached briefs in that navy athletic fabric as well, and the body of the shirt has a bit of extra length, so the lack of vertical stretch in the velvet doesn’t turn his testicles into pancakes when he raises his arms. Little does he know what fate he narrowly avoided.
There we go! Two sets of costumes, a little bit of trouble and a little bit to learn from each. Both sets are still infinitely more comfortable than our old, store-bought show costumes. I’ll call it a win.