Strapless Palazzo Jumpsuit
Posted on Wednesday the 31st May 2017 by Michelle Sews
Hope you’ve had a lovely May! I’m back with another project for the #MCBN and this one, I must say, is one of my favourite makes ever. And it wasn’t even for me!
In 18 months of sewing, I’ve only made a handful of items for other people - mainly because I am always terrified that it won’t turn out well, or won’t fit. When I sew for myself, I’m very naughty and try the item on at almost every major stage, tweaking the fit as I go along. So, short of doing lots of toile fittings, I worry that just sewing someone else's size from a pattern could end up being a disaster.
Anyway, my sister recently sent me a picture of a strapless palazzo-pant jumpsuit and asked whether I could make something similar. I said I probably could, but promptly forgot about it.. until, when I was browsing Minerva Craft’s massive range of Sewing Patterns for project inspiration, I came across this McCalls Sewing Pattern (no 6838). Strapless bodice, check. Sweetheart neckline, check. Lined, underlined, and boned bodice?! Yes! This could work. I cut my sister’s straight size and did a tissue fitting next time I saw her - she lives a few hours away from me, so that was the only fitting opportunity I’d have before she was due to be in London this month. From the tissue fitting it looked to me like the waist might be a touch on the tight side, which I thought was probably a good thing for this project anyway, but that the bodice would be ok. In hindsight, the fact that you tissue fit with only half a bodice might have prevented me from seeing the fitting issue that cropped up later. With more time, and less distance, I’d have done a proper toile of the bodice.
I then had to think about the bottom half. Initially I’d planned to use By Hand London’s Holly trousers, and add some pleats for additional volume. But after a consultation with my sister, I knew she wanted looooads of volume in those trousers. Then, I happened to see on Instagram a flurry of posts of Helen’s Closet’s Winslow Culottes. I liked the look of the long version and knew that they had the volume she wanted. There are loads of great culotte / palazzo pant patterns out there that I think would look great with a strapless bodice hack like this one. It’s just a question of finding the volume and features that you want, and swapping it in. In my research I also came across Named Mimosa Culottes and Megan Nielsen’s Tania Culottes which I thought could work with minimal alterations to move the zip and lengthen to full length.
Pattern sorted, next step was to select the fabric. My ‘brief’ was to make it either in a citrine yellow or a hot pink. I went looking for a crepe, and I found this fuchsia Crepe Fabric which sounded perfect for the job, although not technically a hot pink. I wanted to be sure it would be weighty enough for the boning not to show in the bodice, and for the trousers to have enough body. I really appreciate the amount of detail in Minerva’s descriptions of the fabrics - it takes a lot of the guesswork out of online ordering! The crepe has a beautiful handle, presses well and seems to resist creasing. It’s also fairly forgiving if you have to rip stitches out! I can imagine making gorgeous dresses from it and there’s a huge range of colours. I will definitely be ordering some more for my stash soon.
I also ordered a bit of Rigilene Boning - there was quite a range of boning option available, but I was sold on the phrase “easy to sew” as I’ve never used boning before and was a bit nervous about doing channels, cutting steel boning etc! Baby steps :) .. Lastly, I picked up some matching pink lining and thread.
Constructing the bodice was straightforward and quick. I underlined the main fabric pieces with the lining before sewing the side and princess seams. If this was a fancier dress, I believe you could go for more plush underlinings in either flannel-type or calico for more body.
The lining was constructed in the same way as the bodice, and then I sewed the rigilene boning directly to the front princess seams and along the side seam. The side seams were ok, but I found the curve of the front princess seam tricky in terms of trying to make sure the lining wasn’t bunched up underneath the boning and that it wasn’t twisting as it was stitched down. I made sure to have the boning end well clear of the top and waist seams, and I made a little fabric ‘cap’ for the strips to protect the fabric (and the wearer!) from the raw ends of the boning. As you can see in the picture below, I literally just folded a tiny strip of fabric, doubled up, over the end, and caught it in the stitching while sewing it down. You can actually buy boning caps, but I’m not sure whether they are intended for rigilene boning or the other types, and by the time I realised I would need caps, I was too impatient to investigate and order them :)
Once the bodice was done, I moved on to the trousers. They were so quick and easy to construct that I only realised later that I hadn’t taken a single photo along the way! Sorry. But seriously, I went from printing the PDF to attaching it to the bodice in one night - literally in the space of a few hours. Trousers generally are quick to construct, I suppose - it’s the fitting that tends to make them tricky! Because of the volume of the trousers, it’s really only the waist fitting that you need to worry about, and that can always be adjusted if need be by deepening or releasing the pleat, if all else fails. Luckily the waistline looked fine against my sister’s measurements. I didn’t even have to move the pleats to align with the bodice princess seams, they were in exactly the right place. Bonus! Also - in seam pockets, double bonus!
At this point I was feeling paranoid about the fitting so I made a couple of narrow straps as a fallback to help hold the bodice up, by basically making bias tape and stitching down the edge. I didn’t know how long they’d need to be so I decided to leave them pinned on, and leave the jumpsuit unhemmed, until my sister was able to try it on.
When she did try it on, I was pleased to find that the fit was fine almost everywhere! But it did need adjustment at the top of the princess curve, above the bust point. I pinned out the excess fabric, marked up the inside with chalk, and - with some seam ripping, some stress, and some restitching - managed to take the top seam and boning apart just enough to stitch out the new seam line and then close everything out again.
My sister wanted to wear it out straight away - she was in London to go to the theatre with her fiancé - so I had to take the ‘quick and dirty’ option for hemming. I used my overlocker around the hem, turning it up once and then stitching that down by machine. We decided to hem it for heel length, even though she’d be wearing flats today. I didn’t have time to hand stitch the bodice lining down all around the waist seam, so I tacked it down at all the seam intersections, basted by hand, and told her in no uncertain terms to leave the jumpsuit with me the following day for me to tidy up the insides. It’s a matter of principle :)
It was really gratifying to see how much she loved the jumpsuit. She said it was exactly what she’d hoped, and she was later stopped by a stranger who wanted to tell her how much she loved her outfit. That really made my day. Also my sister and her fiancé always take the most amazing pictures, so below are some great shots of her, out and about, on the day. Soooo much better than my usual poorly lit, phone timer selfie shots, eh!
That’s about it for this post, I hope you’ve enjoyed it and maybe feel inspired to try a palazzo jumpsuit of your own! I’m off to cut out a pair of Winslow culottes for myself now!
A huge thank you to Minerva Crafts for the supplies for this project, it was a most enjoyable make.