I’m new to Mad Men.
After seeing all the posts for last years Mad Men Challenge and following Amy from the Little Tailoress’s beautiful creations, I knew I had to witness the show for myself. Many months later the first disc eventually turned up from a well-known DVD & instant viewing subscription service.
I love it!! The same can’t be said for my husband. OK, so the story is quite pedestrian. Despite my husband making me sit through some seriously dull films, he doesn’t seem to have the staying power for the world of ad men and 1950’s America. He claims that he doesn’t see the point!!
When I saw Julia announce this years Mad Men challenge I started scouting around for inspiration. (At this point, I need to mention that I have somewhat loosely interpreted the challenge – largely due to my own inability to read the small print – in that it was to make a dress!! I …. ahem haven’t)
The 1950’s housewife that is Betty Draper seems to spend a fair amount of time in flouncy tea dresses. Whilst this may have worked in a bygone age, I don’t find it a particularly practical style for my way of life, gorgeous though they are.
Instead I took my ideas from Betty’s ‘vacation’ outfit, of a fitted, bateau neck top and Bermuda shorts. This is from Season 1, Episode 10 where Betty’s father Gene and his new lady friend Gloria arrive so the whole family (except Don) can go vacation on the Jersey Shore. I love the simplicity of the outfit and thought that it would really work in my wardrobe.
It took me a while to find the right patterns. I scoured the vintage pattern stores by couldn’t find quite the right thing and then stumbled across Colette Patterns and the Sencha top. It had the key elements I was looking for: a woven top, back button fastening and fitted at the waist.
I decided that Bermuda shorts weren’t going to quite work in my wardrobe (or with my legs!) so instead I looked for some cropped trousers. As luck, I already had a Burda magazine with a 1950’s inspired vintage section which had some pleat fronted cropped trousers.
Next was where the fun really started!
I made muslins for both. I took 2 1/2 inches out of the Sencha top without really thinking much about it and realised once I had it sewn together that clearly my flat pattern alteration method had needed a little more thought.
If you only want to take inches out at the bust and leave the waist and hips the same, then clearly taking a whopping inch out of both centre and front and back isn’t going to work as you’ve just taken the same amount off your waist AND hips!
Note to self: think it through first.
I managed to get a workable muslin and altered my flat pattern, flaring out to the waist and hips. I also altered the neckline to give it more of a bateau shape.
After a fair amount of deliberation, I decided to use a purple crossweave cotton that I had in my stash.
You’ll notice that Betty’s top has some kind of design across the front. Despite enlarging and a good deal of squinting I was very undecided as to whether they were seahorses or dragons!! Any guesses anyone?
Ultimately I went for a Spring oriental theme and chose a cherry blossom design from Aimee Ray’s Doodle Stitching opting for a ‘corsage’ approach rather than a repeating pattern across the front – it was a tough call though!! From previous experience, I knew that with this kind of hand embellishment you only get one change at placement so I pinned the sized design onto the top to decide exactly where I wanted it. I then used dressmakers carbon paper to transfer the design before stitching.
The alterations still need a few tweeks. The neck refuses to sit flat and I feel that the back needs a touch more room. Overall though I’m more than happy with it!
I altered the trousers too. Again I made a muslin with the pleat front – hated them so switched them to darts and thought I had taken out the extra fullness and had the front and backs pretty much sorted. I knew I should have done another muslin!!
My changes were way out. I ended up with a very baggy crotch. Fetching, I know!! I owe a huge thank you to Melissa from Fehr Trade for her picture from her fitting book and I managed to eek out enough in the seam allowance to get a passable front. In the end, I did what I should have done to start with; took a whole range of measurements, added in a small amount of ease and then adjusted my finished trousers to match. Again, next time around, I think I’ll have a pretty rocking pair of pants!!
I have learnt a vast amount about fitting from these two garments and it is abundently clear that a good book would help a lot. I have Vogue Sewing but something more specialised would help to fill the gaps. What are your favourite fitting resources?
Right – Betty Draper, vacation time it is!!!