It's August, guys! I'm starting to get excited. The daffodils are budding, my plants all show signs of new growth - spring is upon us, fellow Southern Hemisphere friends! The fact that it's taken me this long to work on my Vintage Pledge for this year is a bit unfortunate, but I'm here now and man, why did I wait so long?
Back when Marie kicked off this year's Vintage Pledge, I asked if it would be alright to sew from a vintage drafting book rather than from a pattern - she said yes, but since I had neither a vintage pattern nor vintage instructions to follow for the actual sewing, I tried to work in as many other vintage aspects as I could. I stayed true to the original shape of the culottes, I used vintage fabric, and I tried to use as many vintage techniques as I could think of. Not to mention I sewed everything up either by hand or on my vintage Elna Supermatic! That counts, right? All I need is a frilly apron and a pot roast on the stove, and we're back in 1956.
To draft, the culottes are simple. We're instructed to start with the skirt block, add 1" to the measured crotch depth, and then draft out the front and back crotch curve. Following that, you slash the pattern and add 4" to each piece for the pleats. Add back darts and seam allowances and we're off to the races.
I drafted as instructed, decided I wanted a pleat with a little more swing, and made them twice as deep. What an improvement to the swing factor! I also removed the added 1" from the crotch depth because things were hanging a bit too low for my liking. I can't remember now if I used my 'crotch depth' measurement or my 'crotch curve' measurement - but the latter might explain why it was so low to begin with. There were no fit issues to attend to, which was a pleasant change from my uphill-armhole battles of late.
The illustration shows some type of side fastening with a buttoned waistband. This makes the most sense because of the centered front and back pleats but I knew I wanted pockets so there was a bit of planning involved to work my zipper in as well.
I decided not to pleat my lining to cut down on bulk (without the lining, the front has five layers of fabric including the pockets!) - even without the pleats, the legs are still quite wide so it's not constricting. Plus, there's a small lycra content in my lining fabric which helps.
The book suggests a straight-cut rectangular waistband which never works for me, so I jumped straight to an old standard curved waistband I drafted ages ago that I use on all my high-waisted skirts.
I used the selvedge of the fabric as a side seam finish which I love - the leg is straight cut from the hip down, so I just cut my pattern pieces from the edges of the fabric, and left the selvedge intact. In the vein of vintage sewing, I've made and left those side seam allowances quite wide so that if any future seamstress wishes to go back in and add an extra inch or two, there's room.
The fabrics are both positively delicious. The main fabric is a perfectly pinstriped wool/cashmere suiting from Draper's Fabrics which is actually vintage. Its selvedge says "B.P England Collection, Super 170s Wool and Cashmere". I can tell it would be perfect for a tailored suit jacket - this was one of those fabric that did exactly what I asked it to do, even before I asked. Soft and supple, pressed beautifully, doesn't wrinkle when you sit on it, held its pleat creases: Amazing. For the lining, I chose a deep purple sandwashed silk stretch crepe de chine from The Fabric Store - not the most period appropriate (and it has not, in fact, escaped me that lining this project was completely unnecessary) but trust me - wrap yourself up in a piece of crepe de chine and you'll never want to line your projects with anything else. Plus, I snagged it at the sale for 50% off.
I took my sweet, sweet time with construction and went with the painstaking seam finishes wherever I could add them -hand sewn blind hems, french seamed pockets, and silk bias bound waistband. Even with all the added effort (and the fact that my first pockets were pitifully small, and I had to remove them and make new ones. Big pants need big pockets!) it only took one afternoon to draft and muslin, and two evenings to cut and sew.
According to Ye Olde Wikipedia, culottes are "any garment which hangs like a skirt, but is actually pants" - This definition makes me giggle and think of rebellious 19th century ladies riding bicycles and horses while men watched, scandalized, from the sidelines - but I digress.
In my research I've found a lot of versions of culottes. This version, with the centered front and back pleats, appears almost exclusively in vintage patterns and illustrations from the 50's and early 60's with very few modern interpretations (even my version is hardly modern). The pleats do truly hide the pants-factor. Modern versions are often just wide legged pants - disguised with varying degrees of success. (individual leg skirts??). The Named Mimosa Culottes are a good example of this- there's a pretty obvious leg split there, but the swishy skirt-y factor is definitely present.
Somewhere in the middle, we have a version which has the pleats, but they're offset over each leg rather than meeting in the middle. A perfect example of this is the Winslow Culottes by Helen's Closet. The inverted box pleat distributes extra fabric around the pant legs, while still effectively disguising the pants factor. Helen's pattern looks a lot less borderline-kilt than mine, and it's a nice mesh of the modern silhouette with vintage vibes, if you like the style but you're not looking to go quite so full-on 'land girl' as I have.
I really admire people who have very clear, specific styles that they like to dress in (a few that come to mind are Roisin's incredibly vast array of delightfully bright dresses, and Victoria's dedication to all things African Wax Print ). Ideally, I think generally know what my style would be, but my desire to have that thing going on doesn't seem strong enough to pull me from my own rather boring daily uniform- a pair of jeans, a plain t shirt in one of five colors, and one of three cardigans. I'm hoping these culottes (and a concerted effort to introduce more slightly-unusual garments to my wardrobe) will entice sleepy, pre-coffee me to be a bit more experimental with my clothing choices. Time will tell, but I'm hoping it will be fairly easy to work this vintage style into my modern wardrobe.
You can read the original pledge post here, but this is my actual pledge for 2017:
- To draft and sew the Culottes from M. Rohr's drafting book (Bam! Done!)
- To draft and sew the off-shoulder strappy sundress from M. Rohr's drafting book
- To try my very hardest to lay hands on a vintage pattern of some description and sew that too
- To begin the process of drafting the princess-seamed coat from M. Rohr's book.
As far as my other Vintage Pledge bullet points are concerned - I'm making progress! I've found a delightfully perfect robe pattern from the 50's on Etsy that I am so looking forward to finding equally perfect fabric for, and my plans for the strappy sundress have evolved significantly since we last spoke - but the end goal is still a bit of a surprise! I've also been eyeballing the coat regularly, but I need to get a few books on tailoring and coat construction before I start that project.
Next week, I've got the beginnings of a new project to share with you, and I don't think it's possible to be any more excited!