Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Betsey Johnson 4089 Swishy Skirt

 This skirt has been on my 'to do' list forever.  A 1970s vintage wrap around maxi skirt with extra details designed by Betsey Johnson, Butterick 4089.  Once I saw Roo's version here, I was totally smitten.
Betsey Johnson has had her ups and downs over the years, including bankruptcy but she is still designing. Her heyday was definitely the 1970s.  You can read more about her and other Butterick designers from 60s and 70s at Fuzzy Lizzies .  There don't seem to be so many designer partnerships with bigger pattern companies, especially up and coming designers although I do enjoy Cynthia Rowley's patterns for Simplicity and I guess these days, indie pattern designers represent the new direction of clothing patterns.  The joy of these vintage patterns is the details are so well executed and the finished garment looks exactly like the drawing (although my leg length has some way to go to match the model).  Such vintage patterns are much sort after- I think I paid £10 including postage for this one which is pretty good and it was uncut, but more popular styles go for £20 upwards. 
I needed to size up my pattern- the waist was 25 1/2" and I am 27" so I added 1"on the centre front and centre of the back pieces.  You can read more about resizing vintage patterns here and more here- it is more straightforward than you may think.  Something to bear in mind with any pattern is that traditionally all patterns start off size 12 (USA 8, EU40).  See conversion for different countries' sizing here.  Pattern sizing is not like shop ready to wear clothing which is often vanity sized- you know the sort of thing- a size 12 in Fat Face is not equal to size 12 in Topshop, and indie sewing pattern designers tend to have their own individual sizing which often refelcts the pattern designers body shape.  Colette patterns have a bust cup size C, Sewaholic patterns tend to have a smaller bust and larger hip in the same size.  All patterns start off at a size 12 and this is a small 12 in the way we would think of it.  The subsequent sizes are drafted off this standard upwards and downwards.  It does mean that the sizes that are more than two jumps up or down from a 12 risk losing something in translation and the pattern companies should make extra tweaks to make sure all the details still work and fit is maintained. 
I digress, this was a dream to make.  I used chambray from Merchant and Mills which has a lovely handle and the drape essential in such a style.  The wrap round involved two mirror image whole back sections so there is no danger of flashing and the double layer adds warmth. It does take a lot of fabric because you are effectively doubling up for the back piece- I needed almost 3 metres.  
I do love a long skirt.  I hate tights/pantyhose and I don't get on brilliantly with leggings plus I love the romance and freedom of a long swishy striding skirt.  I opted for a length inbetween the shorter and longer styles on the pattern pieces.  The shaped high waist at the front is interfaced as are the ties that are round the waist- but the parts that finish as a bow are not interfaced so the bow is soft and flops nicely at the front.   The pockets are functional although as they are stitched to the front you wouldn't want to over fill them and look like you are wearing saddle bags. All these little details add up to a garment to be very happy with. 
I followed the top stitching as directed in the pattern and used Sulky Cotton 30 which is cotton, has a silky finish and is thicker than the standard dressmaking Sew-All gutermann.  There is a lot of top stitching, I used a full bobbin and the acufeed foot which I always use for large areas of top stitching as it makes the fabric feed through so evenly.
For the buttonhole which allows the ties to wrap around without bulk I wanted to try a simple bound method as I thought a standard buttonhole would fray and gape too much.  You can find the method here although I used the trusty Reader's Digest  Complete Guide to Sewing
It went pretty well.  I did have a slight freak out moment as the buttonhole is made on one part of the waistband- once I joined it to the facing which sits on the inside I realised the buttonhole was closed at the back.  This is normal, you have to finish the facing separately.  Its been so long since I've done a bound buttonhole I had completely forgotten.  Panic over.

 I always use Fray Stoppa/Fray check on buttonholes- just a little painted on the area that will be cut. allowed to dry and then cut through.  The Clover double fork pins are also a boon for dress making in areas that you don't want to shift, not even a tiny bit.  Penny put me on to these and I am forever grateful.  I bought mine from ebay, pricey but worth it.
This is another Betsey Johnson pattern in my stash, I am thinking about a shirt although the pattern pieces look pretty tiny and there is a little work to do to get them up to size so that I could at least move my arms!  And when I want to really be inspired by a little vintage, I go back and visit Gold Country Girls blog and there three part section on Betsey Johnson for Butterick- one, two, three.  
I think I need to wipe a little drool from my chin, those styles slay me every time.  Feel free to share your thoughts on sizing and vintage styles, or tell me your favourites, I'd love to find something new to love.
sib blog

18 comments:

  1. Wouldn't it be great if she made patterns again? I use to wear nothing but BJ when I was in high school... in the 70's.

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  2. I love this style! I have only sewn peasant skirts for myself. I'd love to try this. Your stitching looks great!

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  3. Such a perfect skirt for you Kerry and so beautiful too - you look like a literary heroine ready to go for a yomp over the moors! Sx

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  4. Your new skirt looks great on you -- and ask you were describing how it wraps around and doubles up... I think I actually had one just like this (in a child's size!) back in the late '70s or early '80s. My mom might even have sewn it for me. :-)

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  5. A perfect autumn skirt with you boots. I have tried vintage patterns but always find the whole re sizing thing too tricky. Jo x

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  6. Just my style of skirt - looks fabulous

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  7. beautiful skirt! I am more than a little in awe of your dressmaking skills!

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  8. Love it! Reminds me....I must look through my mum's pattern box next time I'm over there!!

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  9. it looks great!
    i had no idea she designed patterns for butterick...

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  10. it looks great!
    i had no idea she designed patterns for butterick...

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  11. looks wonderful on you, I had the same skirt in high school and loved all her patterns so many pieces... and wonderful memories of the fun clothes everyone wore back then. I can even picture the girl who made the 2nd pattern fro 4-H dress review.

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  12. Looks great on you! I fear I'd need about 5m of fabric though lol

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  13. Kerry, you know so much about vintage patterns and dress making! Loved reading about it!
    The skirt looks so lovely on you!

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  14. I love what topstitching does for a garment. Fantastic of you for going the extra 83 meters.
    Double prong pins - I will be on the lookout for these.

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  15. That is the best button hole and topstitching I have ever seen!
    I am so tempted to make a winter version out of a lightweight wool :)
    I have a little collection of Betsey J patterns, including a coat which was half-sewn and then abandoned on a shelf - tsk! Thank you for the reminder that it needs some attention.

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