1940s · Sewing

Lily and Parrots

Blue. A summer sky, light-stretched and cloud free, with gulls that dip and fall. Sydney Harbour, deep and murky, dimpled by the pull of the moon. My sister’s eyes, pale and speckled, creased at the corner as she laughs. The hung heads of bluebells, carpeting an English field. Fat round berries that pop in your mouth and weep colour on your tongue and lips. There are endless tones of blue; navy, french, indigo, powder, cerulean, baby, dark. And they are – or at least they should be – the colour of your jeans. We embrace, every now and then, coloured jeans, but they don’t last long, and our faithful blue denim jeans are pulled out and pulled on. It is one of my favourite fabrics, denim. Elegant, utilitarian, classic, conventional and cutting edge all at the same time. My love for this fabric knows no bounds, and when a toile of a garment is to be made, you can bet your fabric stash I’m cutting it out in denim first. Denim jeans, old-school style, straight legged, wide-cuffed, they are the vintage girls’ staple.

For a couple of years now, I have been tinkering with various patterns, trying to find the perfect vintage jean. I’ve ended up drafting my own, franken-patterning a couple of favourite trouser patterns. I love having a waist in jeans that isn’t down around my belly-button, and I love deep front pockets. Inspired by how great all the vintage girls look in their Freddie’s overalls, I decided to have a go at making denim overalls. And not just any overalls – Wearing History’s WWII Homefront 1940s overalls. First I made the pants without the bib front; I wanted to get a feel for the cut of the trousers – were they too high in the crotch, too low, too short? The good thing about jeans is that you should be able to get them cut out and made up in a weekend. (My practice is to sew the pants up – put the zip in, sew the leg seams, and then fit for darts. I’ve never understood why commercial patterns tell you to sew the darts first!) These trousers are pretty straightforward, and I like that the pockets are sewn on the front of the jeans. I tend to line pockets with lightweight gingham; I’ve never been a big fan of the added bulk of facings, and being an impatient woman, I want to get things made so I can wear them. There are other ways of course of avoiding facings (isn’t this the best thing about the internet, that you get to peek into other women’s wardrobes, and see how they did it). I wore the jeans for a month or so, to see how they fit, and I LOVED them. I’m a woman who likes jeans she can eat her lunch in, and these fit the bill perfectly.

And so I bought the darkest indigo denim I could find, pre-shrank it, and cut the trousers out. The bodice was going to take a little more time, given how shaped and fitted the front is. It took a couple of attempts with a FBA, and then a last minute dart at the end, which is fast becoming my signature dart. I call it the “effing FBA didn’t work” dart. I lined the bodice front, back and jeans pockets in navy gingham, and used a pair of wooden buttons instead of metal jeans buttons. I didn’t line the straps, which I now regret because they don’t sit flat. I used a jeans zip in the side, and 3 large extra-strength press-studs at the top. I kept the hems long, because I like a double rolled cuff. And while they aren’t perfect for my body shape, I LOVE them. These are my sassy-pants, cos I feel like there is no messing with a woman in her indigo Homefront overalls.



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