Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rosie the Riveter, by way of Colette Patterns

Not a new costume idea, but it combined three great advantages for me:
1. (Most important) I've been longing to make overalls!
2. World War II era
3. Comfortable and swing danceable

I sure did agonize over what pattern to use. The candidates included Folkwear's Rosie the Riveter

and Decades of Style's 1930's Sweetheart Overall.

Of course there are many vintage patterns, but nothing that I found was just right (though I may keep looking for a coverall pattern).

Even though the straight waist of the Folkwear pattern would be more historically correct for the 1940s, I couldn't stop thinking that a pointed, 1930's style waist would be more flattering to me. So in that sense I was leaning toward the Decades of Style pattern, but I worried about fitting it, and about wrestling with those crossed straps during visits to the loo.

So, taking a deep breath, I decided to use the Colette Parfait, which I have made and carefully fitted in its "real" form as a dress (no photos of that one, unfortunately, but it came out great).

Conceptually, adding wide pants to the bodice wasn't a difficult matter, but I knew that it would take a little thinking. My steps were:
  1. Instead of cutting the back bodice pieces on the fold,  cut as left and right sides and add a seam allowance to prepare for a center back zipper.
  2. Using New Look 6100, which I had previously made as shorts, combine the leg sections with the waist yoke sections and extend to full length
  3. Make a muslin!
  4. Tinker with the back darts to make them align vertically (this was only modestly successful; another muslin would have allowed me to make the dart angles perfect, but they were good enough for what is probably mostly a costume).

I knew from the book Pants for Real People that it would be better to make the crotch depth too short than too long (as it can be lengthened by stitching the crotch deeper, but not easily shortened), but even so I decided I needed to add another 1/2" to the crotch depth. In sewing, I further deepened the crotch by a full inch. That worked out very well; the crotch is neither baggy nor (ouch!) too short.

The order of sewing things together is much the same as it would be for the dress, except for the differences in constructing a side invisible zipper versus a centered back zipper. By the way, I did originally use an invisible zipper at the back (so that's definitely an option), but I decided to go for greater period authenticity as well as strength. 

I was so thrilled to find what I consider the perfect fabric for this project at Waechter's Fine Fabrics, a local fabric store which also happens to do a booming internet trade. It's a substantial rayon gabardine, with a perfect drape for the wide legs of these pants. I'm not finding the brown color on their website, but the pretty bright blue shows you what it's all about. This fabric seems like something you might actually have found in the forties, though perhaps not for factory togs!

I had a piece of red quilting cotton with white polka dots that would have been fine for the head scarf, but I have two problems with using that type of cotton for a scarf. The reverse side is very definitely white and not nice looking, and it's bulky to tie. Wonder of wonders, I also had a silk dress from Ann Taylor via Goodwill in a lovely red with white dots. Since I hadn't gotten started on trying to alter it to fit me better in the year since I bought it, and since I had never worn it, I decided that cutting it up for a scarf wasn't too much of a sacrifice. 

The whole outfit, including the white blouse, was made by me, which is rather in the spirit of the era, if I do say so!


  1. Fabulous! The best I've seen this year :-).

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, shams; it's not as whimsical as your great glasses and "face" pocket, though!

  3. Oh that couldn't be cuter if it had bunnies attached?! I love it!

  4. Very cute! So clever to morph a well-fitted dress with pants for a custom pattern.

  5. Very period appropriate in an all-handmade outfit! Nice :)

  6. On your recommendation I bought the Collette pattern and made a similar outfit using very wide trousers from an old 1980's pattern. I love the way you have done the bodice here. I think the pattern asks you to compress all the gather under each cup of the bust, but I much prefer yours where there is a nice sunburst effect all the way across the top of the midriff panel. I was using slightly bulky fabric and it was a struggle to get it all gathered into the two tiny bits between the dots indicated on the pattern. I plan to make it again in a bright grass green linen for the summer. Is the New Look 6100 a trouser pattern? I had it down as shorts and love the way the trousers of your dungarees have turned out.

    1. Thanks, Froglady! Yes, the New Look 6100 is shorts but I just really liked the fit of them, so I thought I'd try to extend them to full-length.

      Grass green linen sounds great! I've outgrown these dang dungarees, but I'm on a diet that's going well, so I hope to be back in them again.

    2. Oh you must! They're terrific and you look fabulous in them. I love the brown - it looks kind of linen-like in the pics although I see it's not from your description. I love how intrepid you are in tackling anything with patterns you already have (although even I have combined the top half of a 1940s frock with my 1970s loon pants to make a jumsuit and it has consistently come out fine...well, maybe just I think so!) Did you just kind of sketch down the line of the shorts until they were full length trousers? They really turned out marvellously.