The Chicago top

The Chicago Top

The Facts:

  • Fabric: around 1m of graduated colour blue chiffon (gift from the super-lovely Meg, and around 1m of purple lining, approx $2 on sale from Arthur Toye
  • Pattern: Academy 3822
  • Year: 1950’s
  • Notions: 23cm invisible zip (around $3 on sale from Arthur Toye) and a hook and eye
  • Time to complete: 3 hours
  • First worn: to lunch with Steve’s parents
  • Wear again? definitely!
  • Total cost: around $5

The Theme
This week’s Sew Weekly theme was ‘VIP’ – VIP in this case standing for ‘Very Important Piece’. In the words of the lovely Mena:

“This week is a stashbusting challenge, more specifically a challenge in which we finally take the scissors to those fabric VIPs in our stashes. You know, the fabric you don’t dare use because it’s perfect in so many ways. Well, hold your breath and start sewing!”

The Story
My first feeling when I saw this week’s theme was excitement, with fear following close on it’s heels. I’ve got quite a few lovely pieces of fabric in my stash, that have been with me for years in some cases. Why haven’t I used them? Mainly because they’re kinda scary – either expensive or delicate or shiny or in a couple of cases all three. Which means I’m unsure what to make them into that would actually be day-to-day wearable (not much point in me making a cocktail dress as it would just hang unworn in my wardrobe for years!). And I’m also scared of sewing them up in case I accidently destroy them. (And in the case of the sequin-covered silk chiffon I have there, I’m also a bit scared that it may destroy my machine!) Scary, scary fabrics. Admittedly, very pretty fabrics, but still, they is frightening! I’m not sure what possessed me to buy most of them – moments of weakness as their prettiness I guess. *gulp*

Needless to say, I had a few to choose from for this week’s theme! But the first one that came to mind was a length of lovely varigated blue chiffon which Meg sent me all the way from Chicago for the world-travelling lace and notions swap. When I pulled it out of it’s package, I ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the prettiness. And then I had a mini panic – what do I make with it that’s wearable?!? How on earth do I sew it?!?! Eek!!! So it’s been sitting there, looking pretty but scary ever since.

Clearly, this week was the time to take up the chiffon gauntlet!

I even knew what pattern I was going to make it up in – a lovely vintage Academy one from (I assume) the 1950’s. (Sadly, there’s no date on it, but it looks like that era. Anyone who’s better at dating patterns than I am got any insights to offer as to when it’s from?)

The Pattern

I got this pattern a couple of months ago, off TradeMe (a New Zealand online auction site). It’s from Academy Patterns, who were a New Zealand company. From the patterns of theirs that I’ve encountered, I’m guessing they were in operation from the 1940’s to the 1960’s. But I haven’t been able to track down any information about them yet. (One day, I’ll uncover the mystery that is Academy Patterns!)

My original thought was to make the longer-sleeved version of the top, but since I didn’t have quite enough fabric, I ended up going with the short-sleeved version. Which I think was the right choice for this fabric anyway, so that was a happy choice. 🙂

Since sheer tops aren’t really my thing (modesty combined with cold, and all that), I did away with the facings and instead cut the bodice out in lining as well and lined the entire thing. Which was quite easy to do – I did the neckline first, understitched it, then did each sleeve and understitched them. I basted the left-hand side together so that the fabrics were combined for when I inserted the zipper (I was a bit worried about inserting it just to the chiffon due to the delicate nature of the fabric, so I played it safe and treated both layers of fabric like one layer). I basted the layers together at the base and simply did a folded-under hem there. If I did it again like this, I’d use the same stitch-together then understitch method on the base as I used on the neck and sleeves, by leaving the zipper until last and turning the top through the side opening before I basted the two sections of left side-seam together. It’d give it a nice, crisp finish that way, I reckon.

The pattern called for a ‘slide fastener’ to be inserted down the left-hand side from just below the armpit. I have no idea what they meant by a ‘slide fastener’ – going by the (small and sparse) line drawings, it’s something metal and long. Anyone got any ideas? Since I didn’t have one, I used a 23cm invisible zip, which works quite well. It wasn’t quite long enough for the top, so I added a hook and eye at the base to bring the last 3cm together at the bottom.

This was a very easy pattern to make up – I took it VERY carefully and slowly, due to my fear of accidently damaging the fabric (coz really, I doubt that it would go well if I had to unpick chiffon!), and made up the lining as I went, and it still took only 3 hours from unfolding the fabric to finishing. I think if I was using an easy-to-sew fabric, I could whip another one of these pretties up in around 1.5 hours. In fact, I’m gonna give that a try some day soon, as it turns out I really really like this pattern! 🙂

The Verdict

I like this top! (And I especially like this pattern!) The tuck-darts in both front and back bodice are flattering and meant I didn’t have to do a small bust adjustment, which was nice. I like the shape – it’s designed to be tucked into natural-waist-height skirts, and since I intend to make several more of those style skirts, it’s a good asset to have in my wardrobe. I especially like the colours of the fabric – from the bright teal blue on the shoulders down to the dark almost-black navy at the base, it’s pretty and reminds me of the sea and summer skies, which can only be a good thing. And with the lining, it’s going to be easy to wear.

There are two things I’d change if I made this pattern up again – it flares out a bit more than it needs to below the waist, so I’d take it in by about 1.5cm on either side. And the neckline is surprisingly wide, so I’d bring it in a bit in the centre there. Aside from that though, the fit is pretty good! The tuck-darts give it a bit of a blouse-y type feel, which is kinda nice.

It’s still a bit cold to wear this around Wellington at the moment, but when summer kicks in I can see it getting a fair bit of use. And if I lengthened the pattern by about 6cm I could wear it with jeans as well. (Heck, I figure I could even add a skirt to the pattern and easily make this into a dress!)

I also really like the fact that this fabric came all the way from Chicago – from one windy city to another. It reminds me of the awesome Sew Weekly community and the fantastic girls I’ve met through that. You all know who you are, and you all rock! 😀

(Please ‘scuse the shoulder in this pic – I didn’t realise that when I took my coat off it pulled the shoulder seam back and down until after we’d finished taking photos of the back! It doesn’t really sit like that, I promise.)

The Photos
Steve and I went for lunch today at his parent’s place, and on the way back we stopped off briefly at the top of the botanical gardens to get some photos. The photos above were taken near the Carter Observatory. We got some near the look-out at the top of the cable car as well, but I felt a bit silly taking off my coat, cardigan and scarf in the cold with other people around, so we wandered down one of the paths a bit to the location above before I shed multiple layers for the photos. (In case you’re wondering, my hands look a little odd in the photos coz I’m still wearing my gloves.)

We did get some photos from the cable car lookout though. It’s such a lovely view from there, I can never get sick of it! Looking out over the CBD, with Victoria University down and to the right, and the harbour and Oriental Bay and Mount Victoria lookout straight ahead. You can even see some snow on the hills on the other side of the harbour – we had more snow in Wellington this past week than we’ve had since around 1936! Sadly it had all melted away again by the time my top was made, so no snow outfit photos (yet).

There are the cable car tracks on the right. Victoria University is to the right of the park, and the CBD is straight ahead. Oriental Bay is just past the CBD, with Mount Victoria the hill to the right that the houses are climbing up.

A closer view of Oriental Bay and Mount Victoria. And snow on the hills on the other side of the harbour!

8 responses to “The Chicago top

  1. Pingback: Academy 3822 from the 1950′s «

  2. Hello! I found your blog via We Sew Vintage.

    I love that outfit! So beautiful! But what I really want to know is …. did you knit those socks? They look fantastic!

    • Thanks! 🙂

      Sadly, no – they’re just from a chain store. Learning how to knit socks is quite high on my crafts-I’d-love-to-do list, though! My mother knits fantastic ones – lots of stripes and colours. I’m rather jealous of her knitting skills!

  3. KAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I am so glad I sent you that fabric because your new top looks AMAZING. Seriously stunning. I love the neckline and shape – it lets the fabric shine!! Ooooooo…love love love. I am SO glad you used it and are happy with the result!!! Yay!!

    Hugs from Chicago 🙂

    • Thanks lady! I’m glad it finally told me what it wanted to be. 🙂 And thanks again for sending it my way! I have a feeling that every time I wear it I’ll be super-inspired to sew, since it’ll remind me of all you awesome sewing ladies. *hugs back from Wellington*


  4. A “slide fastener” is,
    A Zipper.
    They used to be called a slide fastener, my grandmother still some times calls a zipper a slide-fastener. As she would say, what ever you call them I call them a pain to put in. I never seen her ever use one in any thing she would sew, a button or snaps or hooks do the job if elastic wont.
    The shirt looks fantatic and the neck line looks realy good on you.

    • Oh, brilliant! Thank you! I couldn’t for the life of me imagine what it was – I was picturing something kind of like one of those trouser slide fasteners, only a lot longer, haha!

  5. Pingback: Wednesday Wardrobe Challenge – pink! | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

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