Turn-of-the-century (ish) women’s costume (1980’s upcycle): Blue Peplum Suit

Now that I bit the bullet and finished up with “High School Musical”  I will turn back to “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”.   This has been a different experience for me since I am trying to create costumes for someone elses show without direct access to the other costumes, the cast, the set, or the “vision” . . . and based on someone else’s measurements.   My next “big” job was the Bombie Samba costumes . . . but until the Director and the Choreographer provided direction, I was just messing around making some generic chorus costumes.

I had been really pleased with how the first remade green suit had turned out, and when I saw this blue suit with the awesome (I thought) eyelet peplum at my local thrift store, I snapped it up and was super excited to start my new project.  I also liked that the jacket was fitted with curved seams (here loose as it is too big for my dress form) and it had the puffy sleeves, which, while not leg-o-mutton (which had been mentioned by the Director), are still fuller than many suit jackets.


I found a printed floral bedskirt and a coordinating piece of blue fabric.

floral print bedskirt and coordinating fabric

And . . . to be perfectly honest, my project went downhill from here.  Of all the costumes I have made for this show, this is by far my least favorite.  This ended up being the sort that is OK for someone in the chorus who stands in the back . . . or is a part of a group . . or maybe is only onstage for 10 seconds.    However, I thought it was worth sharing to tell you what I did wrong.

pattern #4971 from Past Patterns

image from #4971 from Past Patterns

I had seen this pattern illustration from Past Patterns  when I was browsing for period inspiration and loved the look of the skirt.  If you haven’t browsed their website, it is worth spending a little time poking around.  I haven’t tried any of the patterns, but ordering one (or three) is definitely on my “to do” list.  The sources of the patterns vary from extant garments to copies of commerical patterns. The descriptions of the patterns themselves make good reading and they not only describe the source of the pattern but some will also give links/suggestions for appropriate fabrics and/or accessory pieces/patterns.

So back to this project–which is not nearly as cute as this dress!  I decided to try to emulate the look of the tabs on the skirt.  The emphasis here is on “try” and I would say I leaned more to the “fail” side of “try” than the “success” side on this one!

I started much as I did with the previous green outfit and split the skirt up the center front.  The waistband on this skirt was very narrow, so I decided to replace it with one made out of the coordinating fabric.  I stitched the bedskirt to the bottom of the original skirt, and then inserted the panel of coordinating fabric into the center front.

Right off the bat, I made a number of mistakes. First of all, the floral print was too light and does not show up from a distance at all.  In addition, this bedskirt was barely gathered so the skirt was disappointingly lacking.  I also picked a lightweight corduroy for the center panel, and it was too stiff for the soft linen-like fabric of the suit.  Sounds like a real winner of a costume, doesn’t it?

I made the tabs out of the panel fabric, and edged them with pink ribbon for a little definition.

side skirt tabs, ribbon detailing

I stitched them to the skirt at the side seam, and eventually I added buttons that I removed from the jacket.  I like the way the tabs look on the front, but I don’t like how they look on the side (visible in one of the pictures at the end).  The strips should have gone all the way around the skirt, OR, it should be made out of the main skirt fabric.

I wanted to make the waistband adjustable, so I cut slits in the inside of the waistband in line with the front panel.  I ran the elastic through the waistband and stitched it in place.  This keeps the front of the waistband nice and flat, and keeps the gathers to the side and back.


So that the elastic can be accessed and pulled tighter, I cut a slit in the center back of the waistband and treated it with non-fray liquid.  This is less than gorgeous, and probably would not withstand extensive use . . . but, I don’t anticipate that this costume will be used a lot.

slit for elastic

After looking at the skirt in the first picture, I removed the ruffle and doubled the amount of fabric, as seen in the second picture.  I used a pale pink lace to edge the skirt and it doesn’t really add anything.

So . . . . on to the jacket.  The jacket had some nice shoulder pads, and the sleeves were already gathered in the armsyce and had a stiffening sleeve-header.  I decided to leave the top of the sleeves as they were.

inside of sleeve head, original jacket

I wanted to tie the jacket to the skirt, so settled on decorative cuffs.  I opened the lower sleeve seam and created a pattern.  I cut the cuffs out of the contrasting fabric, and then appliqued on a decorative pattern in lace, ribbon and strips of fabric from the bedskirt.  I pinned it to the sleeve, and stitched it in place.

reshaping the neckline

Next I reshaped the front to have a V-shaped neckline.  You can see in the pins in the above picture.  The top was just not coming together, so I added some extra lace and ribbon in a Hail Mary effort ot salvage something out of the project.

ribbon added to jacket

And so . . . it was done.

I don’t like the peplum with the multi-color paneled skirt.  I do not like the light-colored ruffle, and the print is very washed out from a distance.  I don’t like the way the tabs look on the sides where they just randomly end.  I do like the decorative cuffs, but, again, the colors are just too pale, and  the blue too bright.  And, lastly, the corduroy is just too heavy.  I think the addition of a high-necked blouse and maybe a nice decorated hat will help balance it . . .and put in a group with a bunch of other cast members moving across the stage it  will be “good enough”, but, it isn’t great, that is for sure!

So . . . things don’t always work out great, but, that is a part of the learning curve!  Better luck next time!

4 thoughts on “Turn-of-the-century (ish) women’s costume (1980’s upcycle): Blue Peplum Suit

  1. I don’t think it is bad at all. What if you put a decorative button on the strap where it goes in the side seam. That is one of my Go To things to add when something just sits oddly to my eye. Could you wash the whole skirt to soften up the corduroy (unless it is already old and soft). I do think that with a blouse it is going to work out fine. I hate when I do a costume that I just don’t like. My Mermaid pink dress was like that and no matter what changes I made it never got to where I liked it. I would have chucked it but didn’t have a better design in mind.

    I have had so much trouble getting back on to make comments. I got a new hard drive and lots of things don’t recognize my accounts. Finally today I got it to post.


  2. Pingback: Turn-of-the-century (ish) costume: Gray & Red Plaid | costumecrazed

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