Sewing a Romper from a 1940s Pattern

There are 2 sewing facts that I find hard to reconcile:

  1. Most patterns don’t fit most people perfectly right out of the packet. Because of this it is recommended to make a toile or test version of the final garment.
  2. While I don’t mind making a test garment, I hate “wasting” good fabric (and the time required to sew it up) on a garment that is never going to see the light of day.

What this means for me in practice is that I often will make a test garment out of fabric that I don’t mind losing if it turns out awful, but that is nice enough that I would wear it if the garment turns out well. This is a fine line to tread, but I seem to enjoy making things more difficult for myself than they need to be.

Removing the embroidery from certain areas of my textured fabric

On the latest episode of “How Can I Make Myself Crazy?” I decided to make a toile of the Wearing History Homefront Overalls. I had bought 1 1/2 yards of a textured stretch denim and 1/2 yard of the most beautiful batik from JoAnn’s last year for this garment. I traced my pattern pieces, grading between sizes to fit my body (I am pear-shaped, and I had read multiple reviews that said this pattern runs slim in the hips). Instead of facing the top edges I chose to fully line the bodice and straps. I also decided to remove the embroidered stitches in the straps and waistband to really make the texture pop in the rest of the garment. With these details sorted I cut out my fabric and set about removing the embroidery stitches. I sewed together the shorts with basting stitches and did a fitting. I used the bodice lining for my fitting, since I was rather short on fabric and would not be able to cut a second bodice if my first attempt turned out too small.

With both the bodice and the shorts fitted to me, I set about attaching all the pieces together. I didn’t follow the instructions, since I’ve made several pairs of shorts and pants before, and since I was making several major changes to the pattern (fully lining the bodice and waistband, etc.).

I finished my seams along the way: all the raw edges are enclosed in lace tape or in some sort of lining. When attaching the straps and the side placket I did my best to follow the lines of the embroidery to make the attachment stitches almost invisible. I love a clean finish in a garment!

I ran out of matching thread just as I finished the construction, but before I sewed the buttonholes. After a bit of hemming and hawing I decided to sew the buttonholes in cream thread. They don’t match perfectly, but they don’t stand out as an eyesore, either.

Things I love about this garment:

  • I LOVE the buttons! I had just enough of these beautiful rose buttons in my stash for the straps and side opening.
  • The fabric is really fun.
  • Taking the time to fully line the pockets, bodice, straps, waistband, and placket makes the inside of the garment very pretty and makes me feel that the garment is really sturdy.

Things I don’t love about this garment:

  • Despite taking the time to fit the bodice I somehow got it too small. I can squeeze into it, but it’s not as comfortable as it could be. This is entirely my own fault, not the fault of the pattern.
  • It’s hard to balance needing to shorten the back to better fit my swayback and having enough room to sit down in these. I didn’t make any swayback adjustments, and I’m glad I didn’t – I might not have had enough room to sit down comfortably.
  • The button placket makes it hard to get in and out of this (and I have to undo all the buttons every time I go to the bathroom). If I were to make another romper or pair of overalls again from this pattern I would choose a zipper rather than buttons.
  • I like using the selvedge edges of my fabric, but the selvedge edge is visible on the side placket, which isn’t the cleanest look. The visibility of this edge is also partly due to fit issues.
  • The shorts are too short. I cut the legs to the line indicated in the pattern. They’re not excessively short, I just prefer my shorts a little bit longer. I have a tan line a few inches lower on my leg where my other pairs of shorts end.
  • The legs are extremely wide. The pattern is made to be this way, I’m just not used to such a wide leg, and since my fabric is stiff rather than drapey the legs stand out from my body. Again, this is not a fault of the pattern, just an area where I need to adjust my expectations.

I intended these to be a toile of the trousers you can make from this pattern, but I’m not sure I met my goal. I determined that the trousers fit, and I made adjustments to the front and back darts, but I wish I had taken the time to truly fit them to myself instead of rushing to the finish line on this garment. Patience is a virtue, but I only possess it in limited quantities.

Do you take the time to sew a toile or muslin? How do you solve the problem of good fit vs. wasted fabric?

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Dramatic Lyric

I am a musician and a life-long crafter. I love to read and write, and my favourite book is Jane Eyre.

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