1940s Summery Two Piece
Posted on Tuesday the 21st July 2020 by Pretty Handsome Everyday
For my July project I wanted to make a seasonal, summer time outfit. I found the Simplicity pattern 8654 which is a reproduction 1940s pattern and loved the casual vintage style, and mix and match options of the garments. The pattern has pleated shorts, a cropped tie front blouse and a knee length skirt with a deep waist band, presumably designed so it could be worn over the shorts. It was the shorts that really captured me. I think it can be so difficult to find a comfy, flattering pair of shorts but these promised to deliver! They are high-waisted, with 3 pleats front and back on each leg which are topstitched a few inches down before the pleat then flairs. They reminded me so much of the gorgeous pleated shorts that Rita Hayworth wears in the rehearsal scene of You’ll Never Get Rich in 1941. I decided to sew the shorts with the matching tie front blouse.
Once I had my pattern sorted I looked for a suitable fabric. I was intending to stick with cotton or maybe a broadcloth because I wanted it to have a small amount of structure so that the pleats on the shorts stood out nicely and didn’t just turn into loose folds. The fabric I found is possibly the sunniest, brightest, most summery fabric I could have chosen! It is bright yellow with green and white wiggly stripes, with red roses and some little butterflies just for good measure. The fabric is cotton, not thick, but has some stiffness to it so it presses perfectly and is ideal for holding those pleats in place.
Because of the 6 pleats on each leg of the shorts they do use up a lot of fabric so if you have a directional print fabric definitely check your layout before you cut! I decided to place the stripes of my fabric going vertically to mirror the direction of the pleats and topstitching.
I sewed the top first which was a very straight forward and quick sew with minimal fitting needed and of course no pesky zip or fastenings to faff over either. The top is self-lined so has a lovely thickness and I really like the tie front. I made the sleeves slightly shorter than the pattern suggests as it seemed to coordinate better with the top being slightly shorter. I also sewed the hem of the sleeves 2 inches up, to create the illusion of a cuff rather than a narrow hem, which is just my preference of sleeve finish.
The top has the option of adding shoulder pads for that authentic 40s look. I tried mine on before adding the shoulder pads and was happy with how it looked so I didn’t add them, although I was tempted just for the true 1940s style! Although I love the look of the blouse I think it might be more of a beach outfit/bikini cover up because you can’t wear a bra with it, but equally it’s not fitted enough to keep your modesty, the moment you put your arms in the air you’re going to give everyone a show! I did wonder whether it would look good as more of a bolero over a little top but this will require more experimenting!
The shorts required more fitting which did take some time, but I knew exactly how I wanted them to end up looking so I persevered! I would definitely recommend making a toile for the shorts first, or at least basting the front, back and waistband together before finally stitching it up. It would be very difficult to adjust as you go because the pleats and topstitching is sewn in place before the front and back are attached and therefore tricky to be sure of the finished fit. The waistband you want to be nicely fitted, but any tension over the hips means that the side pocket gapes open and ruins the neat lines so the fit does have to be quite accurate for this make.
I love the sneaky side pocket in these shorts. There’s just the one because the other side seam houses the zip. For once I used the recommended zip installation and put in a lapped zip with a lovely dark red (to match the roses) button to secure the waistband. I was relieved that the zip finishes where my hips start going in again so I don’t have to do the wiggle dance to get them up and down. If you have larger waist to hips ratio you might want to use a slightly longer zip than the 7inch zip recommended so that it ends after the shorts flair out and therefore avoiding that pinch point.
I turned the hem of the shorts up twice by a couple of cm to enclose the raw edge but kept the hem minimal as I liked the length as it was on me.
For the finishing touch I added an adorable little woven ‘Me Made’ label from Kylie And The Machine.
I wore these shorts out walking the first weekend they were finished, with white plimsolls and a vintage t shirt (sorry tie top, wasn’t quite suitable for where I was going!) and I loved them, they were so comfy and really airy for the hot weather. I love being able to dress in an easy and relaxed way but still with my vintage flair. Plus, the rainbow of colours on the fabric make them very easy to match with tops and shoes! These shorts are definitely going to get a lot of wear this summer.
Thank you for reading and happy sewing!