Well Bonjour Tout Le Monde!
I am actually poolside in the South Of France during a very rare and very wonderful holiday to bring you my favourite annual blog series – The Refashioners! Last year I was a last minute addition and made my ‘dream jeanie dress’ out of numerous pairs of jeans and this year the lovely Portia invited me to come back and try Suits – yes, 2 (or 3) piece suits and make them into something different. I love a challenge and was overjoyed to be involved and alongside the best blogger lineup I’ve ever seen so without further ado – here is my make:
I had a plan really early on about what I wanted to make – a jumpsuit and a cape. I don’t really know why I got my heart set on it so early but I loved the idea of it looking 40s inspired and I originally wanted long tapered legs and a simple cropped ‘nurses’ cape and really wanted a loud suit to make it out of.
The hardest thing with this challenge, for me, was finding the suit! I really did look high and low – dozens of charity shops and car boot sales were scoured but I had this vision of using a waistcoat for the bodice of the jumpsuit and I did want it to be printed – if not a bright colour then at least houndstooth or checked. I did see a couple that would be suitable but they were either lacking a waistcoat or too expensive. I can’t believe the prices I saw for a second hand suit – charity shops have really changed over the last few years – I remember my brother picking up a brilliant suit for his graduation from an Oxfam for £5, now even the cheapest ones are over £20. ANYWAY I started to get desperate and a few weeks ago found myself at another car boot sale – Pimlico in London, with a steely look in my eyes determined to come home with a suit and luckily that’s exactly what I did. I saw this grey checked one and even though it didn’t have a waistcoat and wasn’t loud at all – it was £5, which I haggled down to £4 and was large enough to get what wanted from it! Phew!
As with my other refashion I went to pinterest for inspiration and I did find this amazing cape that completely caught my eye. I knew I wouldn’t have enough fabric for these sort of knife pleats but it did start me off with a vision that I could recreate in my own way.
I also had my eye on a pattern for the jumpsuit – mainly to get a nice bodice shape. The Copenhagen jumpsuit by the chic French pattern company Orageuse had the simplicity and bodice shape I wanted so I purchased that as well.
I started unpicking – I needed to see the inners and flat fabric but also how much I had to work with as I had a feeling it wasn’t very much! I took the jacket apart completely – ripping out the padding and carefully unpicking the lining so I didn’t damage the main fabric. I learnt a lot about tailoring doing this- there are so many techniques and different materials in a suit jacket – it was really interesting to see it’s construction! I also took the waistband off the trousers, left the belt loops attached to the legs and put them aside to make the cape first.
Looking at this grey suit I immediately wanted a pop of colour so I went straight to the stash and saw what I had. I luckily had a big bag full of 3 brightly coloured cottons I had used in my latest music video. I couldn’t decide between the yellow, pink and orange but orange won the day – it just went so well with the grey – now I had my accent colour I knew what I wanted to do – piping! I got the cord out and started making my piping out of strips of the orange cotton.
I wanted to use the collar, as it was, for the cape and then draw out a shape for the yoke out of the shoulder part of the jacket so I did that and cut it out to pipe the bottom.
Then I looked at what I had left and wondered how the hell I was going to make the rest of this cape – do I use the legs of the trousers and scrap the jumpsuit idea, do I try and sew together all of the left over jacket to have a long rectangle to work with… no I don’t think it would be long enough… wait a minute, THE SLEEVES! I realised that the longest pieces of this suit, without having to chop into the trousers, were in fact the sleeves that had already been unpicked from the jacket but left intact. I unpicked the centre seam and laid them out. Even sewn together they still weren’t very long but it would have to do. I set about pleating them and attached them to the cape yoke (with the piping sandwiched between and using my piping foot of course)
Originally my plan was to chop off the bottom of the sleeves to have nice short, even cape but when I tried it on I was in LOVE. the shape of the pleats over the shoulders, the buttons of the placket and the shaping of the sleeve caps on my back were just perfect. It was a complete fluke but I didn’t want to change a thing!! I hemmed the bottom, tidied up the piping and left it at that, knowing I had to find a button at some point to fill the buttonhole that was already in the jacket at exactly the right point of the yoke!
With the cape basically done I could move onto the jumpsuit. The main problem here was the fabric left was now only the bottom part of the jacket – with large holes where the welt pockets were inserted so I knew I had to be creative. I still wanted the bodice of the Orageuse pattern so I cleared the table and started piecing together the PDF printout of the bodices so I could see their sizing. Luckily they aren’t big pieces and I could get the front bodice perfectly out of the back of the jacket.
I found it interesting to use the already sewn seams as the starting fabric but decided I liked the idea of this seam running down the front so left it as it was. Now I was in a quandry about the back bodice pieces though – where was I going to find enough fabric. I thought it would be possible from the front of the jacket but there actually wasn’t… agh!! Then I had a eureka moment… the legs! They were already too long for me and I suddenly got a vision of cropped trousers instead, with orange bows around the bottom – like bloomers!! That was it – I had my full idea. I measured and cut the bottom off the trouser legs and opened them up. Luckily there is more than enough for a back bodice piece out of one leg so I had solved my problem! Yay!
I started making up the bodices, as per the instructions and realised that I would need a lining so the orange cotton came back to the rescue and I lined the bodice with that. I love the combination of the suit fabric with this orange and the fact that it tied in the cape so I made sure not roll it under when pressing it so it would appear like an orange edge to the whole bodice.
Also I used strips of the suit jacket for the straps and used my new trick of sewing yarn (or any string/ribbon would do) into the top seam to pull it through quickly and painlessly!
Then I doctored the trousers a little. I sewed up the front fly shut, took in the crotch seam by 2cm and added small pleats to the front to match the pleats on the front bodice.
Even though I had taken the waistband off the trousers I did wonder about putting it back on to attach inbetween the bodice and legs like the Copenhagen Jumpsuit pattern but I decided to baste them together to see what it looked like without. I loved it – it fit well this way.
I sewed over the seam to lock it in place, attached the lining of the bodice to the inside and attached the belt loops onto the bodice too to tie it all together.
I put in a large grey invisible zip the whole way down the bodice and a part of the side seam of the trousers so I could actually put the jumpsuit on! Then I simply made a large hem / channel at the bottom of the trousers, unpicked the outer side seam of the hem and threaded through thin strips of the orange cotton with a safety pin to tie together.
I went on an orange button hunt and couldn’t find any suitable in my stash so I popped to our local haberdashery, London Bead Company / Delicate Stitches (never understood why it has two names!) and found these awesome semi transparent ones which were not only the perfect size but also the perfect shade of orange and seeing as they don’t have a huge selection to choose from this felt like fate!
I added the buttons to the cape, back bodice and back pocket along with orange button holes on the back bodice too.
I am massively proud of this make – I definitely feel like I fluked a few things and I did use a pattern for the bodice but I am just so happy with how well and actually wearable it turned out. I will absolutely wear this – as a combo or seperates. I want to make an orange top to go with the look in winter and think the cape would look great with a simple back dress too. They are just the right side of costumey together that I love and they really make me smile!
Huge thanks to my talented husband, Stephen, for the photos – we found some great walls around the corner and I think their peeling colour and faded grandeur were perfect for my suit refashion!
But the biggest thanks of all to Portia for tirelessy bringing us sewists amazing challenges, opportunities, constantly inspiring us to think outside the box. You bring out a artistic side of me that I rarely use in sewing and that is awesome!
I hope you are all joining in – I would totally recommend giving it a shot – you learn so much just by taking apart a suit and get a chance to get those creative juices flowing! Oh and have you seen the prizes?! DO IT NOW!! 🙂
Sew much love,