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A lesson in perseverance | vintage playsuit

July 28, 2013 · 56 comments

Before I begin talking about my sewing project can I just tell you all to LOOK AT MY SHOES! For those of you who share my love for vintage and for beautifully made things you must be sure to check out the new shoe brand Agnes and Norman. They make the most beautiful vintage inspired 100% leather shoes- I literally want every last pair. And look at the pretty box they come in…! Eeeek! I am sure a few additional pairs will be appearing in future posts as I have not stopped wearing these since I bought them- and no I am not being paid to say any of this! Hehe.

Agnes and Norman Collage

Agnes and Norman Shoes

I found this vintage playsuit pattern from the 1940s (Advance Patterns 3940 for those who are interested) on Etsy a little while ago but ended up working on it during the major heat-wave we had recently. I don’t function very well in really hot weather and this heat- wave was exceptionally hot- I think it went up to 32 degrees here one day! So this sewing project ended up being a bit of a trial (and that’s me completely understating it!) Due to the fact that the bodice opens at the centre front and the shorts open at the side seam and the two are connected with a waistband that has to be open in both these locations this is not the most straightforward of things to sew up. One relies on paying good attention to the markings and instructions. Add heat, typically minimal vintage pattern instructions and (as it transpires) a completely inaccurately marked waistband panel oh and only JUST enough fabric and you have a 50/50 chance of a nervous breakdown.

I had already made a toile BUT I thought I had made a construction error as the waistband notches didn’t seem to bear any relation to any of the notches on the bodice or the shorts. I just kind of ignored this fact and, choosing to focus on the fact that the bodice and shorts fit fine I decided just to pay more attention to the waistband markings on the real one and went ahead and cut out my fashion fabric. Then life happened and the cut out panels sat in a basket for a couple of weeks and got re-visited once we were experiencing life conducted in a greenhouse.

As it turned out I hadn’t made an error on the toile at all and there was no way of getting any of the waistband markings  to line up with any of the other markings without having a great big long strip of surplus waistband dangling between ones legs and side- seams that  didn’t line up. At this point I discovered that I luckily had just enough fabric scraps left to cut out a completely new waistband and  managed to keep my cool long enough to calculate its size.

Having re- assembled the playsuit I tried it on before doing the hem or the buttons and hated it! The waist was far too big and the pleats on the shorts were stitched down so far that the entire garment appeared horribly shapeless and boxy. I was the closest I have been to abandoning a project in years. Luckily an icy cold elderflower cordial, a good session sat in-front of our fan and my love of the fabric and pattern picture gave me the impetus to continue. I set about releasing the pleats higher up so the shorts flicked out more and decided on the speedy option of machine buttonholes (almost unheard of these days with me) and left positioning and sewing on the numerous snaps to the following and fifth(!!) day of working on this project.

The next day I was still unconvinced but stitched on my snaps anyhow- hemmed it and tried it on. Bleugh. It was still too boxy and it turned out the extra length I had added to the shorts was unnecessary so once I again I nearly gave up. But I couldn’t bear to waste the fabric and decided it would at least be okay for gardening and walking the dog in once the weather had cooled down a bit so I re-hemmed it to the pattern’s original length and tried it on again. Bleugh. Then in a final attempt to redeem it I decided to sew a few rows of shirring elastic onto the back waistband and TA- DAH!

Vintage Playsuit 1

Vintage Playsuit Pattern

Shirring Elastic Playsuit

Playsuit Side On

Since then I have worn this four times already! It’s one of the comfiest things I own and despite being a little annoying having to basically completely de- robe when you need to visit the powder room the practicality of shorts instead of a skirt and the jumpable- aroundableness of it completely makes up for this fact. I still LOVE the fabric and I am so so pleased I didn’t give up on it. In fact I am also pretty glad about having to add the shirring elastic as it means the waist is really fitted but completely unrestrictive- plus I have discovered a super handy trick for nipping in the waist of poorly fitting dresses!

As for 30 degree weather and me- we still can’t see eye to eye but you can’t have it all ;)

Have you had a near- miss sewing project recently?

Thanks for reading!

{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

Cynthia July 29, 2013 at 3:11 am

This is adorable and actually looks, dare I say, contemporary!

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amelialowden July 29, 2013 at 11:16 am

Aw thanks Cynthia! :)
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Stephanie July 29, 2013 at 3:22 am

Those kinds of waist bands are so tricky! So glad that you persevered and finished this project because it’s so cute! I think I probably would have just cheated and put in a side zip and let the top buttons be more decorative than necessary.
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amelialowden July 29, 2013 at 11:17 am

This did occur to me but I had already stitched in the placket to the shorts side seam- this project just wasn’t meant to be an easy ride! hehe! :)
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Mrs K July 29, 2013 at 3:39 am

Such an adorable outfit – you wear it well.

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amelialowden July 29, 2013 at 11:17 am

Thank you! :)
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milena July 29, 2013 at 4:38 am

So cute! But it is weird that the top opens at the CF and the bottom opens at the side. Maybe it’s worth modifying so that they both open from the side or something??
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amelialowden July 29, 2013 at 11:23 am

Thank you! Yep if I hadn’t already stitched in the placket to the shorts I think I would have tried this- still, now that it works it’s fine! One of life’s little trials I guess! Hehe!
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Zoe July 29, 2013 at 6:10 am

The playsuit is adorable, I’m glad you persevered! I love floaty playsuits, they are so comfortable and prevent any Marilyn Monroe moments. Cute shoes too :)
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amelialowden July 29, 2013 at 11:24 am

I’ve never had one before but yep it is so comfy and absolutely no fear of a Marilyn moment! :)Thanks- I love these shoes! :)
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Sam July 29, 2013 at 9:24 am

Well done on persevering with this because it looks lovely on you. I’m with you on not coping well with the heat.
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amelialowden July 29, 2013 at 11:25 am

Ah thanks Sam! So happy it’s a bit cooler again! :)
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Fiona July 29, 2013 at 10:23 am

I find playsuits incredibly difficult to make flattering and not boxy and shapeless. Any I’ve tried on in shops I’ve hated and I made the Salme Patterns playsuit recently which was a complete failure, I feel like a clown in it! Maybe I need to try the shirring elastic trick!
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amelialowden July 29, 2013 at 11:39 am

Ah yep give it a go! It def helped a bit on this one anyway! I’ve only ever tried on one and it was in Topshop but the body was far too short so it was soooo uncomfy! I guess they are a bit of a tricky thing to get to fit everyone tho!
I LOVE your polka dot jersey skirt- I really need to work on some jersey projects! :)
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Laura July 29, 2013 at 10:33 am

I love it! I’m glad you persevered because it looks great, love the fabric :)

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amelialowden July 29, 2013 at 11:40 am

Ah thanks Laura! yep I love this print too and Liberty is always nice in the summer! :)
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Louise July 29, 2013 at 1:12 pm

It looks really cute, Ami and I bet it looks fabulous with your new bike and helmet :-)
The shirring elastic was a great idea and has really done the trick – I’l have to remember that.
I struggle with giving up too! I’ll just doggedly keep going trying different things. Although I do need to remind myself that when it’s late at night it’s best to go to bed and revisit with a fresh pair of eyes.
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amelialowden July 29, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Oh goodness yep- I am also really bad for battling on way too late into the night! Total recipe for disaster!
Yep it actually goes pretty well with my bike and helmet- perhaps a little too well, kind of looks intentional! Hehe :)
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Louise July 29, 2013 at 1:24 pm

You mean to say you didn’t make the playsuit to match??? Hehe!! :-D
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Gail July 29, 2013 at 5:45 pm

What perseverance! I definitely would have given up! I probably also wouldn’t have chosen the pattern in the first place, given the odd opening arrangement. But it’s really cute and looks very “you!”
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amelialowden September 3, 2013 at 9:21 am

Hehe- very wise! I think the opening would have been okay if the waistband piece wasn’t the wrong length but c’est la vie! :)
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Karen Helm July 29, 2013 at 5:56 pm

The word “playsuit” has gone the way of “housecoat” – but isn’t it so descriptive and evocative of simpler times? So glad you persevered on yours, as it is just so cute, and a perfect pairing with the fabric.
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amelialowden September 3, 2013 at 9:25 am

It really is evocative of that!- I have been tempted to make a Betty Draper style quilted housecoat the past couple of winters purely for that ‘simpler time’ charm! In fact I think it’s that charm that is largely responsible for my love of vintage altogether! :)
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Tamara Epps July 29, 2013 at 6:30 pm

As a complete sewing novice I worry that this is the reason I haven’t really dedicated any time to learning how to actually use my machine for more than straight stitching, as I am certain I don’t have the patience you obviously have. But your blog (and pinterest) are so inspiring that I think I will no doubt take a deep breath and try something more complicated soon.
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amelialowden September 3, 2013 at 9:26 am

Ah thanks Tamara- and don’t worry this project was definitely the exception and not the rule! :)
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Ginger July 29, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Ummmm, I never would’ve known you had any trouble with this because it looks AMAZING! Seriously cute! And I really wish you hadn’t posted the link to the shoes– I want them pretty desperately now, and I’ve just been called out for some recent additions to the shoe collection, oops!
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amelialowden September 3, 2013 at 9:28 am

Hehe- there always seem to be shoes I want! Eeek!
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Miss Crayola Creepy July 29, 2013 at 11:33 pm

You’re so adorable! And so is the outfit: shoes, playsuit, everything!
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amelialowden September 3, 2013 at 9:29 am

Aw thaaaanks! :)
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Aleksandra July 30, 2013 at 2:03 am

Love the fabric you used — gorgeous! And you’d never be able to tell you had any issues with this, it’s just lovely!

And the shoes…. so so pretty!
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amelialowden September 3, 2013 at 9:29 am

Thanks Aleksandra! :)
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Gemma July 30, 2013 at 5:00 pm

So reassuring to hear that even advanced seamstresses have a few issues from time to time! Gives me hope!! And is incredibly inspiring. Love the silhouette you achieved… And yes, those shoes are gorgeous! And the boutique is in Birmingham, my home town, how did I miss this??
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amelialowden September 3, 2013 at 9:31 am

Thank you!
Ah lucky you – their boutique looks so cute from the pics I’ve seen on the website! :)
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Emmie July 31, 2013 at 5:33 pm

I’m currently in the middle of a pattern hack, and was close to giving up when I realised that I had sewn up the back shoulder to the front bottom hem.
And now that I’ve gone back to it, it’s fraying like hell!! Argh!

But your’s is adorable!

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amelialowden September 3, 2013 at 9:32 am

Oh nooo- how did this turn out? I think we have all had more than a couple of those horrible ‘how on earth have I managed this!’ moments in sewing! :(
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Lucysb July 31, 2013 at 5:38 pm

I love this! Recently I lost my sewjo over the hawthorn blouse, I think it was trying to keep up with the sew along – as soon as I decided not to try and keep to the deadline I liked the blouse again and started enjoying making it!
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Ami September 3, 2013 at 9:36 am

Sewjo! Hehe- I love that!
That’s really interesting that it was the time pressure ruining your enjoyment with the project. I have occasionally just completely lost interest in a garment half way through and have not known why it happened! Bizarre! :)
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Rehanon July 31, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Wowzers! That is too cute for words :) Well done for sticking with it in the heat too. I’m afraid sewing went out the window for me as I headed straight to the beach with the first rays :)

xxx

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amelialowden September 3, 2013 at 9:38 am

Aw the beach sound like a faaaaaarr better option! :)
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Bridget August 1, 2013 at 3:09 pm

So cute! I’m not usually a fan of these sorts of garments, but this looks great on you. I’m glad you didn’t give up!

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amelialowden September 3, 2013 at 9:38 am

Thanks Bridget! :)
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Melissa August 3, 2013 at 8:25 pm

Ahhh, I love everything about this outfit! The vintage shoes are TOTALLY gorgeous! Went straight onto the site! A tad out of my price range right now (despite the sale :( ), but you have now invoked significant shoe envy.

The playsuit is wonderful too – well done for coming out with something so gorgeous after this heat-wave! I’ve barely been able to concentrate. Super talented!
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amelialowden September 3, 2013 at 9:40 am

Ah thanks Melissa! :) Yep that heat is sooo not a friend to concentration is it!
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Amy August 5, 2013 at 6:00 pm

It turned out looking so adorable! I have had a lot of mishaps but if I take a day or two away I seem to calm down and can try again :) You did great!

-Amy (www.thatssewamy.com)
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amelialowden September 3, 2013 at 9:41 am

Thanks Amy- yep taking a step away def helps with sewing mishaps doesn’t it! Usually I am too impatient and try and power through which is nearly always a silly plan! hehe
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Tania August 7, 2013 at 10:26 pm

This is soooo lovely! Well done for sticking with it!

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amelialowden September 3, 2013 at 9:42 am

Aw thanks Tania! :)
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WendyBee August 8, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Hi Ami!
You continue to delight me with your creations. You improve everything you undertake, even in the unbearable heat, your talent came shining through!
I am convinced that you have impeccable taste, and are a bit of a perfectionist as you work, seeking to match a breathtaking vision you have in your imagination. How tremendously satisfying it must be to accomplish such lovely garments.
I am in love with your pastel palette. You have inspired me to re-visit my own color choices and be more aware of the subtleties and nuances in putting together an outfit. Our coloring and figures are different (oy vay!, there’s an understatement.), but I still can see that the care you take in your choices is well worth it.
Yes, I want every shoe on the Agnes & Norman website. Every. Last. One. But they are beyond my reach. Alas. But it’s sure fun to look and to imagine.
Thank you so much for sharing your “makes”, and I’m looking forward to more.
XO WendyBee

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amelialowden September 3, 2013 at 9:43 am

Thanks so so much Wendy! What a lovely compliment! :)
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Foamofdays August 10, 2013 at 6:46 pm

I love playsuits! Yours is sooo cute! The fabric is so sweet, and I love the matching shoes.. Well done for not giving up!
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amelialowden September 3, 2013 at 9:44 am

Ah thank you! Yep I love this particular Liberty print too- such a classic :)
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Andrea August 22, 2013 at 4:08 pm

I love how this came out, and would love to know more about how you did the sheering elastic on the back. I’ve never tried this technique before, but the results are amazing. Thanks for sharing another amazing project.
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amelialowden September 3, 2013 at 9:45 am

Thanks Andrea- the shirring was super easy, I will document it for a tutorial the next time I do some, very handy technique! :)
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rekha November 26, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Great post and photos. you look cute in this outfit.

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Helen Clark December 24, 2013 at 3:27 pm

This is so gorgeous!!! You are so talented and you look stunning in it!!

I haven’t made a playsuit yet and I have always wanted one. You have inspired me to try making one for summer next year!!

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Beth May 28, 2014 at 7:57 pm

I love this! The fabric and design are delightful! Adding elastic to the waist is my favorite way to make something instantly fit.

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