Formal Outfit, Part 1

Do not do as I do

So, I’ve known for a while that two friends of mine are planning to get married. The dates were shifted many times – first due to some health scares, then COVID, then something else… anyway, the date was set for June 2022 early last year, and the invitation arrived about two days ago (which is the signal that we’re 3 months out).

So, because I have a terrible memory for how difficult things can be, I decided I’d try to make a completely self-made outfit for the event. A button-down shirt, slacks, and a vest.

Did I mention that I’ve had zero success making button-down shirts? Did I mention that I once cried my eyes out in frustration over the very pattern I plan to use? Did I mention that I’ve never made a vest before and that my only success with woven pants so far has been for someone who didn’t require any refits anyway?

Did I mention that I’ve never made any clothing to fit over my chest binder before as well?

The decision to make it to fit over my binder was easy enough – the patterns I have are men’s patterns. While it’s absolutely possible to reshape men’s patterns to fit a less masculine figure, it’s difficult and time-consuming, and sometimes requires going back to a body block and re-creating it. I don’t have time for that – it’s quicker to shrink a pattern that’s too big overall.

And it’s especially a question of time since it all needs to be toiled first.

The patterns I plan to use so far are:

Shirt: A combination of the Thread Theory Fairfield shirt, and the Buckaroo Bobbins Buckaroo shirt. The Buckaroo Bobbins shirt’s instructions are… extremely lacking, and several of the features are very dated and considered signs of poor fit these days. But, I like the half-placket idea, so I’m going to steal that from the Buckaroo shirt, and transplant it over to the Fairfield along with the band collar. (I’m not confident in making a proper shirt collar, plus I don’t know how to make it look good on me.)

Vest: The Buckaroo Bobbins Tombstone vest. As much as it’s going to be a pain to get the buckles and the hair canvas in time, it’s the only one I have right now.

Pants: This is the hard part. The pattern I have at least some experience with is the Buckaroo Bobbins Britches. Their smallest size is far too big, and the crotch curve shaping is completely off. Adapting it to a gusseted crotch from some pants I already have is going to be very difficult too. The other option is the Thread Theory Lazo Trousers, which I have never made before, but Thread Theory has a whole sew-along on their website along with tips and hacks. And while I’ve only consistently made 3 of their patterns, I’ve never had much trouble with Thread Theory, so…

And have I fabrics for this? Maybe. I haven’t actually checked, so again, this could be a disaster.

I’d ideally like to do the shirt in some silk noil I bought over a year ago for a blouse pattern that I got so frustrated with that I almost threw it out. I’ve given up on ever getting that thing to fit me nicely, but the noil will be nice to use for a shirt. I have some matching plain-weave tussah silk I want to use for the collar and cuffs. If I don’t have enough from that, the silk-linen blend I bought to make a refitted Cashmerette Harrison shirt with years ago should surely have enough in it.

The pants are probably going to be plain black linen. I have plenty, and it’s a classic that I can re-wear for years.

The vest? …I genuinely don’t know. I missed my chance to pick up some gorgeous shot linen from Tessuti last year (the colour I want sold out fast) and I haven’t seen much that catches my eye at any of my usual places at the moment. It might end up being in black linen again.

It goes without saying though that this is a terrible idea and you shouldn’t sew an outfit for an event only 3 months away. But I don’t follow my own advice.

Well, it’s been a while…

Unfortunately, that day job got in the way of that posting schedule. (Said day job is now… no longer a problem. Let’s leave it at that.)

I haven’t branched out very much in patterns – in fact, I’ve barely set foot in my sewing room for a while now. But I’m definitely going to return there.

My next post, if all goes to plan, will be about storage – and squaring project and craft storage with your own needs and idiosyncracies, as well as how to square it with living in a house that you can’t modify.

But, I also have an upcoming event to plan and hopefully create an outfit for – and I want to talk about how to handle a pattern that isn’t available in your size range (or only fits in one spot), as well as how to handle patterns where a specific area just does not fit you properly but you have a garment that does fit that area.

So that’s two planned posts. Onward and upward.

Monthly Makes – Nov-Dec 2021

Forget Christmas, or winter – summer is coming. For how hot Australia gets, I’m always disappointed by what’s on offer in clothing retailers for this season – it’s a big part of why I gave up on them and started making my own. (That and the lack of sun-smart styles – the refrain in so many skin cancer awareness ads from my teen years is that Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer diagnoses in the world, and while I have no idea if that’s true or not I certainly don’t want to find out.)

I’ve felt especially vindicated too in finding out that the Cancer Council’s own advice is that while avoiding the sun is best, opaque clothing is better than sunscreen for safety. While I don’t have especially sensitive skin, I’ve struggled to find sunscreens that play nicely with it – if they’re not greasy, they sting my eyes or cause itching when I sweat, or they leave white marks on everything and make me look like a bad zombie cosplayer.

But, the struggle to keep sewing with a day job is very real.

Thread Theory Eastwood pants/shorts

This is an old staple pattern – I’ve made three pairs before this one, in a few different fabrics. One thing I will note is that if you’re going to use a twill for this pattern, sew your seams at 1cm but don’t change the pattern allowance (effectively, adding an extra 0.5cm of ease all over) – the pattern ease doesn’t seem to be quite enough for twills, especially in the crotch and inner thigh.

I made this pair in The Fabric Store’s heavyweight black linen, and I have enough left over (thanks to a slight miscalculation) that I’m going to try a pair of shorts in it next by reducing the inseam to 30cm. (The shorts I’m basing the measurement on are actually a 28cm inseam, but I like a nice round number.) Unfortunately, I neglected to buy any form of drawstring, so they’re not wearable quite yet.

Sew Liberated Lichen coat

I’ve made… Five of these so far? Not counting toiles? This will be my third sleeveless and second hooded Lichen coats, in linen. My previous hooded Lichen was reasonable, but I tried to make the front square and ran into a struggle with fasteners.

The sleeveless one also features some hacks I added, old and new – back slots for the belt, an extra-wide belt, and extra wide gores fit a swishy hem.

This grey hooded version, on the other hand, is intended to pull double duty as a summer dressing gown. Instead of squaring off the front neckline, I’ve blended it in as much as possible after trimming away the collar.

Cashmerette Harrison shirt

You might be wondering why I’d ever bother with plus size patterns. Truth is? I have curves and they’re a pain to fit around, even if they’re quite small.

This is really more of an ‘inspired by’ than a direct creation – I really only need the level of curvature accounted for in the original in one area, the rest can safely shrink down to almost nothing. Hence the toile – determining whether I keep the six-panel front (using a double princess seam to prevent gaping) or meld some panels (probably the side-most, since I just don’t like armhole princess seams). I could try to create a pattern like this using my body block, and I did try to last year – and then immediately got lost trying to work out the collar.

Monthly Makes: Oct-Nov 2021

This is a better format than pattern reviews, I think. I don’t always use the patterns I buy as they are – more often than not, they get modified heavily, even as I go. And I use a lot of self drafted patterns too, which of course are hard to review objectively.

Anyway. On with the post.

Sew Liberated – Stasia tank/tee test run

This started out of the slow death of my stash of admittedly ancient Supré camisoles – I think they might be pushing 8 years now? They’re the kind with the narrow, adjustable straps – which are now unraveling. Three have straps that are no longer attached on one side or the other (and are now cleaning cloths) and the remaining three are only barely hanging in there. And in the intervening years, it turns out that Supré now has very, very few locations near my usual haunts, plus they don’t seem to be doing plain camisoles anymore.

This is a versatile pattern set, though like a lot of Sew Liberated patterns it does run large. I made the tank in size 2, which is two sizes smaller than what my measurements indicate – I wanted a close-fitting tank to go under clothes, but I’d normally only go down one size for that.

A 0.6mm seam allowance can also be a bit awkward give that I’ve yet to see success with only using my overlocker to construct a garment. Instead, I overlocked seams first, then finished with triple straight stitch along the lower edge – it still wasn’t easy though. I think I much prefer sewing first and then overlocking (at least, until I can get hold of a better overlocker).

The hem wasn’t really long enough either – it was very difficult to keep the tank tucked in even before I hemmed it, and if it was hemmed as per instructions I wouldn’t be able to hem it at all. I compensated in the second round by adding 5cm to the bottom hem – with a 2cm turnback, that makes an extra 3cm of length which is enough to tuck in.

On the plus side, the armholes sit nice and high – it wouldn’t take much of an increase in the width of the armhole bands to cover almost all of my underarm and so keep my clothes safe from sweat and deodorant stains. Bands are much more efficient than cap sleeves as well, and easier to fit – but it could be a bit of a challenge to make the bands wide enough at the bottom to cover the underarm, yet not so wide as to show through necklines at the top.

The second tank turned out well enough, so I then made a long-sleeved (well, 3/4 sleeve on the pattern, but long for me) hoodie in cotton loopback. I had an existing hood block that I used.

This was more challenging – I had to work out how to layer the hood and the neckline band in order to get a clean finish to the exposed neckline. I’ll also note that the sleeves are kinda tight in the biceps – but the cotton loopback is pretty forgiving.

My next test run is using silk jersey in a double-layer (it’s white, so it’s going to have to be double layered) to make a properly reversible cap-sleeve t-shirt. We’ll see how I fare.

Buckaroo Bobbins – Western Heritage Shirts (Buckaroo and Light Horseman style)

These are vintage-style patterns – they’re not direct re-prints of actual period patterns as far as I can find, but rather based on the creator’s own research and experience. It’s the first button-down shirt I’ve tried as well, though not the first half-placket shirt (that’s a story for another time). I bought a few Buckaroo Bobbins patterns after quite a while playing Red Dead Redemption 2 – so many of the clothes looked interesting, especially in Red Dead Online, but finding sewing patterns anywhere near those styles and that I could actually buy proved remarkably difficult.

I opted for the modern style front without the pleat – I know how to get it lying smoothly from my last run, even if that method involves a lot of pins, a lot of swearing and a lot of very slow stitching. (It didn’t work out on the toile… probably didn’t use enough pins.) This pattern uses two seperate placket pieces – a long and a short, with the short placket to the inside and the long placket to the outside. This is a bit different to the Henley shirt pattern I first learned this method on, but easier to sew than that one I think. (The topstitching is very messy though. One of these days I’ll get my machine to do it nicely…)

The front shoulder and the back also gets gathered into the yoke, which is… not a look I like. I have a bit of a complex about gathering – partly born out of struggling to do it neatly, partly because it just always looks messy to me (which might be related to the first part, honestly). I’m not even sure if it’s necessarily a historical feature, but I haven’t found anything to contradict it – or to explain the rationale behind it. (I assume it’s to do with fitting, but that still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.)

My model requested the Light Horseman version, which adds an extra ‘bib’ piece to the front (with 13 buttons!). It took me almost an hour of staring at the instructions to realize that the bib is attached solely with the buttons – I thought I was missing a page. That’s how you know you’re too tired and need to leave the rest of it for another day.

The collar was a special hell all of its own. I’ve ended up printing almost 30 pages of extra instructions just on shirt collars, because the toile’s collar turned out so poorly based on the instructions with the pattern. Collar pieces need an instruction page all of their own – it’s not as simple as this pattern made it sound.

And then came the fitting. Yikes.

The pattern needs a ton of alteration. I had already planned to take the excess out of the front shoulder and convert the back to using double knife pleats, but it turned out that despite carefully measuring my model’s neck, the neckline and collar were far too small to ever button. The shoulder is far too wide, resulting in the sleeve seam sitting almost at the bicep. The fit across their front isn’t terrible (it could be better, but it’s no worse than their other store-bought shirts) but there’s an almost ridiculous amount of extra fabric across their back – and yes, my model has a bit of swayback but this was really ridiculous. And somehow, the sleeves were simultaneously too tight in the bicep, but too loose in the forearm.

At this point, I’m debating if I actually try to fix this pattern, or if I turn to a more modern shirt pattern and then add the vintage features (half-length placket, front bib, etc) back in.

I’ll admit, the problems with the pattern combined with my struggle with the collar have burned me out a bit on wovens for a while. But with summer coming, I have pants to make, so… maybe I’ll get my mojo back that way.


This is the new home of my blog, and other related content.

Unfortunately, I haven’t worked out how to transfer anything from my old site, and while I did keep a backup, it’s not going to be easy to move over. And frankly, a 2 year hiatus is as good a reason as any to start over with a clean slate.

So, at the moment, my plan is a monthly-ish roundup of what I’m making, and a monthly-ish post about something general and related. They won’t be on the same days, and it’s a loose schedule because working full time necessitates this. And I’ll probably add photos in later updates, because taking photos is very time-consuming.

On with the blog!