Friday, July 7, 2017

a personal summer collection

Earlier this week I wrote about where I am with figuring out my new career and talked about the process of designing a little 3-outfit summer collection for myself, just for fun and practice (read that here). Here's that collection! Overall I'm really happy with it: I pushed myself to go outside of my comfort zone, finished within a deadline, and I think I'll actually wear these outfits! So without further ado, more details and tons of photos of all five of the pieces I made:

Crop top & shorts

I've been thinking for awhile that I need more crop tops in my life, as well as high-waisted bottoms to go with them (I love the look of some midriff showing but don't need to go full-on belly button). I sketched out a tie-back crop top and some pretty basic shorts (see below) and stuck fairly closely to this as I drafted the patterns. I did end up hacking off the slight dropped sleeves of the top, after trying a muslin of that version on and feeling overwhelmed by the front, and I left off the front pockets of the shorts and added visible buttons.

I really love this outfit! I wore it out right after I finished sewing everything, and a boutique owner gushed over it, which was great validation :D I'm so happy with the shorts in particular - they are comfy, cool, look put-together, and they're just the right length for me. I definitely want several more pairs of these in my closet, as I really prefer shorts over skirts and dresses when it's hot out.


And some details:

The top is made from my pale green linen and fully lined using a sheer, light gray cotton (I used this same lining fabric throughout the collection). I lined the ties with interfaced self fabric and topstitched the edges to encourage them to keep their shape. I enclosed all the seams by keeping one side seam of the lining open, sewing the lining and outer fabric together fully, and flipping everything through at the end. I plan to topstitch this opening closed but forgot to do that during construction, oops! Also, it took me a few tries to figure out how to get into this top without help, but I discovered that I can tie the top knot with the shirt on my dress form, slip it on over my head, and tie the bottom myself. Hooray!

The shorts are nani IRO double gauze, and fully lined with the same gray cotton. They have a zipper fly and two buttons in the front, front release tucks (like a dart that's only half sewn), and darts and single welt pockets in the back. I made bottom cuffs which also serve to enclose the outer and lining edges at the leg openings.

I found these super cool shell buttons at a local fabric store. The pearly colors go nicely with the subtle hues of the double gauze, and I like the contrast of the black leaf shapes.

Welt pockets! I wasn't sure how these would turn out in something as finicky as double gauze, but I'm really happy with the end result!

I don't think I've ever owned a fully lined pair of shorts, let alone made some, but I wanted to give it a try since the gauze on its own is pretty see-though. I was worried about how this would work with the front fly, but it actually came together really well! The lining allowed me to hide the guts of the welt pockets in the inside, and all seams and dart bulk are fully enclosed. It definitely took more work than making unlined shorts, but it was totally worth it for the clean end result imo.

Above: inside the bottom leg opening.

Below: inside out, showing off that lining.

Cutout dress

The dress is made from the same double gauze as the shorts. This was the first design I came up with in the collection, as well as the inspiration for using double gauze, since it leads to a nice, airy dress but is heavy enough that the short skirt won't constantly billow up.

My biggest point of pride with this dress is my fitting of the bust. It took two or three muslins, but I eventually got the bodice to really cup my boobs and fit snugly underneath, so the whole thing feels really supportive and secure even without a bra on. For added support, I underlined the front bodice and waistband with muslin (sandwiched between the gauze and lining layers), and I used stay tape under the bust seams and along the back V to keep the fabric from stretching out over time.

The dress has a center back invisible zipper, and it's fully lined like the shorts. The bodice and waistband are all enclosed, and the skirt lining hangs free. I french-seamed the skirt (both outer fabric and lining) for a cleaner finish, and I used bias binding made from the double gauze to enclose the seams that couldn't easily be enclosed (that is, where the waist bands attach to each other inside and the back seams alongside the zipper).


Proud of this center front seam matching!

And some insides: lining, french seams, and bias binding.

Strappy tank & pants

This outfit took me the longest to settle on a concrete idea for. I knew I wanted linen pants but had a hard time figuring out what they should look like. I finally decided on semi-high waisted pants that are fairly fitted through the hips and thighs and wider through the knees and calves, with large patch pockets on the front. You can see my rough sketch below. Unfortunately, the pants were also the garment that ended up the farthest from my vision. The linen stretched out more than I had expected, so they are both far looser and far longer than my muslin version. (I actually hemmed an extra 2" off the bottom, and they still skim the ground when I wear the clogs I designed them for!)

The seams are all serged and topstitched down, and I don't have the patience to undo all of that in order to bring in the seams, nor do I think the linen would survive all of that without fraying a ton. So I'm going to try wearing these and see if they grow on me, and I might try washing + drying them to see if they'll shrink a bit.

My other bit of drama with the pants was around the closure. I had my heart set on a front fly, and I spent a day and a half trying to fit this in muslin. I could not get it to work! I have a very small waist relative to my low hips, and I wanted a high, fitted waist. This ratio meant that I could not get the pants over my hips without stressing the seams at the fly, even after lowering the bottom of the fly until it was right up in the crotch curve. I finally decided to try an invisible side zip instead, which doesn't have the limitations of a front opening (since it can just continue down the leg without hitting the crotch). It worked, and I'm actually really happy with the clean front of these. And after all that, the linen has enough give that I really didn't need to worry about anything being too snug, but I'm still glad I switched to the side zip.

The top was also a last minute design, but I'm really happy with it! I didn't really sketch the tank so much as trial-and-error it in muslin, with some very quick drafting of the front and back pieces. I wanted a longer tank with a low-V front and an even lower-U back (inspired in part by the scoop-back bras I've made). I originally just had the shorter over-the-shoulder straps, but they felt like they could easily slide off with the front and back so low. So I added the crossed straps, as well as some bra hardware to keep everything together and somewhat adjustable, and I'm really happy with the overall look. The orange cotton batiste is the least "me" fabric of the collection, and while I think I'll wear it occasionally, I'd like to make more in other colors (let's be real: black). I'd also like to experiment with built-in bra support in the future - not sure how well it would work, but it would be awesome if I figure it out, since the back is too low for a standard bra. That said, the front is lined and it's totally wearable with some pasties.

Bah - so much excess fabric on those pants! But hopefully the strap details distract from it enough.

This was actually my first time using top-stitching thread (much thicker than regular thread), and I'm pretty happy with the subtle detail it adds.

And for the shirt: the straps are just bias-binding cut from the fabric, double folded and top-stitched. I inserted some stay tape before the second fold to keep it from stretching out.

Neatly attached straps, plus rings and sliders from my bra-making supplies:

I fully lined the front, since the print fabric is very sheer, and I used a facing in the back (basically just a short lining) to give the top edges a clean finish. The linings were hemmed and attached to the self fabric at the top, and then I french seamed the sides, catching both the outer and lining fabric. (See this up close two photos down.) The front and back outer fabric is cut on the bias for a little more drape, and the lining/facing are cut on the straight grain to keep the top edges more stable. 

Bonus: the top looks great with the shorts! In fact, this is maybe my favorite outfit of the whole collection. Cohesiveness win!

Fabric details:
I believe the linen is Robert Kaufman Essex, but I bought the end of the bolt and don't see this dusty mint color online anymore. It was also from Modern Domestic
Sheer gray cotton lining and all notions from Mill End Store

Now that these are done, I'm not really sure what's next for these patterns, if anything. I definitely want to sew the shorts and the strappy tank up in other fabrics, as I love the shorts as a basic summer staple and the top as more of a wearable statement piece. I think the tank could make a fun dress in a flowy fabric, too. I may try sewing the pants again, taking the seams in quite a bit, to try to give them the fit I had originally envisioned. It's exciting being through the drafting and fitting steps and knowing making each pattern again will be so much faster the next time!

As for releasing these for wider consumption (as sewing patterns or finished garments), I haven't figured out whether I plan to do that yet. When I designed these, I explicitly focused more on designs I was excited about and less about practicality, and thus I unintentionally designed three outfits that aren't at all bra-friendly! I'm finally comfortable enough with my body that I'm cool with this, but I imagine this would limit the audience quite a bit. (I would have been very wary of going out in public without a bra just a year or two ago!) I also know that I would need to teach myself grading and/or create a standard block and redraft the patterns, since these were made specifically to fit my body.

So for now, this has been a fun exercise, a learning experience, and a great way to fill in the gaps in my summer wardrobe in just a couple of weeks. Living in foggy San Francisco for so many years means I have a lot of spring/fall layering pieces, but almost nothing suitable for the more extreme seasons that we have up here in the pacific northwest! I'm so happy to have real seasons again, but my closet isn't ready :)


  1. This collection is amazing! Your sewing is impeccable and the pieces feel so 'you'. It must have been really rewarding to make these designs come to life. I'm so excited to see what comes next!

  2. Gah, these pieces are just dreamy. The double-gauze shorts are pretty much the best design I've seen. ANd your fabric choice, beautiful. That opalescent, organic shifting colour scheme. Please, please release the shorts and crop top (not to mention all the others) as patterns! I'm from Australia, and I find it difficult to look put-together in the summer heat, but these would be perfect, especially as there is no need to wear a bra, an extra source of summer discomfort.

    1. Oh thank you so much!! <3 I'm still deciding whether to release sewing patterns at some point (hopefully someday!) but it's great knowing there's interest in my designs :)