One thing that's great about being able to sew and having access to a whole heap of 'interesting' stash fabric, is that a themed occasion or fancy dress invitation usually provides the opportunity to have some fun using up whatever has been lying around. In this case, the theme of the evening was 1970's and the fabric waiting for its moment in the sunshine was... wait for it.... this!
I have to admit, my first thought was perhaps to go as Barbara, wearing overalls, wellies and with one of my more obliging hens tucked under one arm. But then I thought that Barbara would absolutely rise to the occasion if asked to dinner, and would probably come up with a fabulously Heath Robinson style outfit recycled from something that had been lying around. Perhaps the curtains?
When we moved into our current house several years ago, the previous owners' taste in decor was very 1980's rococo and it was beautifully preserved in all its decadent glory. Bedrooms were festooned with brown and cream swagged wallpaper, extravagantly moulded ceiling plaster, gold and crystal cherub light fittings, gold carpet and every window draped in meters and meters of frothy cream lace. Romantic eh?! Actually the flying cherub chandelier lights are genuinely, completely fabulous and are here to stay. I love them. However the curtains were swiftly replaced, if not enterely jettisoned altogether, having found their way into my stash in the box reserved for 'potential fancy dress or craft supplies'. I had thought they might reappear as Bride of Dracula one year, or some similar comedy use. But with the current trend for lace everywhere on the high street, and a bit of a 1970's flashback occurring along the aisles of fashion stores this year, I thought I'd sew up something similar for the party and bring the curtains back to life.
I used the 'colour block tunic' pattern that I blogged about here, to make a basic top. I used cream cotton lining fabric left over from a previous project (which now I think about it may also have been curtains!). The cream lace was layered over the cotton to make the top panel of the bodice. This time I inserted the back zip in the normal way, not as an exposed one as I did previously. Both the zip and button were oddments from my stash.
I didn't finish off the sleeve hem in the way prescribed, just turned it under and stitched around and then I attached huge cuffs made from a generously sized circular piece of lace.
These very exaggerated cuffs were fashioned out of a simple circle, cut from the lace using a dinner plate as a template. I then cut out a smaller round hole in the lace circle, slightly off-centre, and pinned it to the inside of the sleeve hem, pinning it around in pleats and folds to ease the volume of fabric into the sleeve-hole with most of the gathering at the back. Excuse the lack of photo's as I describe this bit, but I was rushing through. The idea was to have the longer length of cuff at the back so that it draped nicely down, but leaving my hands and wrists free of froth. Also the circle shape meant no seam needed. I think I pretty much achieved the look I was after, although I think the positioning could have been slightly better (with the long edge more towards my elbow rather than inner arm as here). I stitched the cuffs in place along the inside hem.
The edges of the cuffs are deliberately left un-hemmed and unfinished. Partly this is because the lace fabric doesn't fray at all anyway, and partly because this project had to be made in one afternoon before the taxi arrived to whisk both me and my party outfit away. I was determined to minimise the steps needed to get it finished, pressed and ready to rock! The finish on the sleeves where the lace is attached wasn't great though and looked awkward and obvious, as you can see above, with just a top stitched hem. So in order to finish this neatly I cut out some of the lace motifs and hand stitched them in place to cover the join. I left the scalloped edges loose, giving a slightly feathered effect on the edge going into the cuff.
So here it is, finished in under 3 hours and in the style of every good Great British Sewing Bee remake challenge, the transformation is complete!
And check out those strides! These cream leather flares complete the 1970's ensemble and were a last minute Eureka moment when I remembered them in the depths of my wardrobe. They are French Connection, butter soft leather, fully lined and with a split up the back! Yeah Baby! I got these gorgeous but completely bonkers flares from a French Connection sample sale back in the early 2000's in London. It was one of those warehouse sales where everything is piled up on tables and spilling out of boxes. There were no changing rooms and no mirrors and basically you had to grab a black bin liner and go round flinging in anything that looked vaguely wearable. The key to a successful haul was to take along a trusted friend (and make sure your underwear had plenty of coverage), then both of you could strip off in the aisles to try on your bag of clothes, while shouting 'yep' or 'nope' at each other in turn. Pretty much everything was super-cheap, and I remember we both grabbed a pair of these trousers (hers were bright pink though) but when we got to the point of paying, realised that they were a lot more expensive than we had expected. We reluctantly decided to leave them at the till and paid for the rest of our haul. Outside in the car park, we were appraising what we'd got, rummaged into the bags and there they were! The lovely man who had taken our money had seen our disappointment at being unable to afford them, obviously felt a bit sorry for us and had thrown in our leather trousers as a surprise!
So I'm not sure this outfit is entirely channelling Barbara Good. More Mark Bolan. In fact my hair has definitely got some 70's T Rex frizz going on in all this damp weather.
But it was great fun to make, even more hilarious to wear and totally free. My friend hosted a truly rocking dinner party, helped along by some absolutely fabulous friends in their brilliant outfits, gallons of fizz and truly tropical cocktails. Here's one in soft focus, which is obviously deliberate and in homage to the cinematography style of the era and absolutely nothing to do with the fact that at this point in the evening I could neither focus my eyes or my camera phone.
"Yes I like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain
I'm not much into health food, I am into champagne"
Answer to name that tune is Escape (The Pina Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes from 1979.