So . . I have been having the most fun creating 1900’s inspired outfits for the chorus of “Chitty Chitty Band Bang” starting with outdated women’s suits . . . some turn out better than others, but this first one I really like. These costumes are fairly quick to make, and best of all, they are fairly inexpensive (cost, obviously, determined by your local thrift shops), and the potential variations are endless.
I began with an old polyester blend suit.
I found a piece of striped fabric at my local thrift store that I paired up with this suit. You will also need assorted trims to embellish the outfit, and possibly a zipper for the skirt.
I began with the skirt. I slit the front of the skirt up the center to the waistband. Then I removed the stitching across the center front, leaving the waistband intact.
My plan was to add a strip of fabric in the center of the skirt, and then to lengthen it with a ruffle. As a design element, I wanted to put the stripes in the two areas in opposite directions, and since my fabric came in long strips, I needed to piece a length for the center front. I carefully matched up the striped pattern to disguise the splice. I thought some piping might add a nice accent, so I edged the front panel with that as well. Piping goes on with a zipper foot. It is attached to the right side of one piece, and then the two pieces are stitched together (and if you plan well, you can use the stitching line as your guide).
I cut strips of the striped fabric 2x the width of the skirt, added a narrow hem, and then gathered it to the bottom of the skirt. I also inserted some piping between the skirt and ruffle. I’m a little disappointed it doesn’t show up better, but it still makes me happy. I did run out of pre-made piping so had to make some with some bias tape and cord.
Once it was all together, I hemmed the bottom panel. I then replaced the waistband, pleating in the original skirt on the sides.
So . . . I was on the right track, but needed to go back and fix a couple “oops”. You can see how the front doesn’t look quite right–I needed to add some gathers in the center front panel. I also had a lot of trouble getting the skirt on and off my dress form so I decided to add a zipper in the side (which would also help avoid messing up hair and makeup later on). I am not a zipper fan (I usually pawn it off on another volunteer, but, since in this case I WAS the worker bee volunteer, I sucked it up and did it). My first go-around was a “what were you thinking” moment, but then I sucked it up, took the zipper out, lowered it where it should be and added a tab.
I also took the waistband apart and added some gathers to the center panel–which greatly improved the look and hang of the skirt. Go figure, bodies aren’t straight.
I really am in love with this skirt, so I was eager to move on to the jacket.
I began by folding the lapels to the inside and pinning them in place. Once I decided how long I wanted the jacket, I marked the jacket with a heat-sensitive pen and cut it off. After top stitching the edges I trimmed out the excess (this was maybe a bit too close to the stitching line, a little wider helps it lay better and makes it easier to tack it down for a facing).
I wanted to tie the jacket and the skirt together, and decided to add some of the striped fabric to the sleeves. I was still in a big sleeve frame of mind, so I began by slitting the jacket sleeves up the center (in line with the shoulder seam). I did not have a clear vision of my plan for the lower sleeve at this time, or I might have done this a little differently. I then opened the top of the armscye, extending down 3-4″ on each side.
I cut out rectangles of the striped fabric and flat lined them with scraps of petticoat net.
I added piping to the edges of the inserts (and found some that almost matching at the Create/Exchange in Cedar Rapids, Iowa–you should go if you are ever in the area . . .or look for one near you). After stitching the panel into the upper sleeve, I pleated it into the sleeve hole.
Now, I had a great sleeve that looked something like this . . . and needed a plan for the bottom.
You can see from the picture that I had deconstructed the cuff, and there was actually quite a bit of length. I contemplated trying to reshape this into some sort of fitted lower sleeve with pleats or tucks, but decided that was probably going to be harder than it sounded. So, I cut the lower sleeve off to use as fabric for cuffs.
I happened to see a piece of yellow eyelet when I was digging for trim, and thought it would make a nice accent to the yellow piping.
I used a pattern to make the cuffs.
The cuffs ended up having four layers: green suit fabric, petticoat net, striped fabric and yellow trim. I made the cuff by flat lining the striped fabric, and then sewing the green & striped together at the end right-sides-together and then turning them so the sleeve edge was finished. After pressing and pinning, I added the yellow fabric to the top and then stitched it into a tube. The top of the sleeve was pleated and stitched to the cuff. I did cover the exposed seams with bias tape to keep the net from scratching.
I was pretty happy with how the sleeves looked. I opted to bring the piping together to make a “V”.
It seemed like it needed a little “more,” so I added some lace.
I am not in love with the yellow cuffs, but they are OK. Overall, however, I was happy with this outfit and think it makes a versatile outfit that could be used for a variety of productions.
Cost: suit $2.50, fabric $1.50 (and I used about 1/2). Also used: piping, lace, eyelet, scrap petticoat net, zipper
The oufit probably needs a little handwork to finish–the top of the sleeves has some exposed petticoat net and may need some bias tape whipped over the top (however, this jacket would always be worn with a blouse, so it may not require it, depending on how it fits). It also needs some hand tacking of the front jacket “facing” to keep it from turning out. These are tasks that I will pass on to another volunteer.