Friday, August 31, 2012

Vintage-inspired school uniform

Despite the bad weather this summer, we have managed to have a busy few months, which accounts more for the radio silence here, rather than the lack of sewing. We had a relatives wedding where the children were not invited, so they got to stay on the farm where I grew up. They milked cows, fed calves, got stuck in mud and stayed up late with cousins. They have been talking about it since!

I have been sewing, and made a chiffon dress for myself to wear to the wedding - just need some full length pictures before I post about it. I hadn't intended sewing any school clothes, but I had started this dress and blouse last year, and decided to finish them.

This dress has been in my head for about 2 years or more. In old family photos from the 1940's and 1950's, I noticed the school uniforms had a small square yoke, with a pleated dress and belt, so this is what I sewed.

Though there are vintage patterns available in this style some of which I have pinned, I couldn't find one in the right size.
What I found, after some searching, was a European sewing magazine for teenagers called Trndz from 2008. The pattern had to be sized down, and I omitted the waistband and the sleeves. All the pleat edges are edge stitched, both inside and outside, to ensure they hold their shape. Also the pattern instructions are not in English - it needed some thinking and planning to decide the sewing order!
 

Like the Oliver+S uniform dress I sewed last year, this dress also has a fun lining for my animal-loving daughter. The square yoke is lined with a Robert Kaufman cotton with pink frogs and the pockets are sewn with the same fabric. There's some Liberty bias binding on the armholes.

 



But my favourite part is the belt. The belt came together almost by accident, as I was hoping to avoid the time-consuming interfacing bit. I had already tried making a belt from 'D-rings' and janemeans ribbon, and this belt has a similar look.

It struck me that the belt could be strengthened from the outside rather than the inside. I sewed this sweet cat ribbon from janemeans on the underside of the belt which works perfectly instead of interfacing and it also adds another fun element to the uniform. My daughter was very surprised when she saw the finished belt, and was amazed that she would be able to wear the cats as part of her uniform.

The green ribbon hem picks up the green of the lining fabric and is a wired ribbon from janemeans (I removed the wire!). Ribbon is a good choice for this hem which is straight, a curved hem edge would need bias binding.

This picture is windswept and my daughter decided to practice a few poses after her first day back at school, but it shows how effective the edge stitching is in holding the shape of the pleats.




If I was making the dress again, I would cut the yoke smaller, especially across the shoulders, and I would leave a larger hem allowance, using this method by Sherry to turn up the pleated hem.




The dress turned out better than I expected, and will make a perfect winter uniform, because the fabric is a lightweight wool.

 

 

Edited to add: Linked to Justine's Sew & Tell Saturday Pin It Now!  

19 comments:

  1. Can a school uniform be chic? Yes!
    This is so cute. I hope your daughter loves it.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Karin, I love that you think it's chic! My daughter didn't like it last year when she tried it on unfinished, but for some reason this year, she loves it, and that was before she saw the belt.

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  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Nicole, she thinks she's the 'bees knees' in it, which you can probably tell from the last pose!

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  3. It's a great uniform! I love all the small details you added to make it special for your daughter.:)

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    Replies
    1. Cindy, thank you! I thought sewing uniforms would be boring, but the linings and details make it a lot of fun, and she loves having these hidden parts of the dress that no one else can see.

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  4. I remember wearing these, same color too, and I really disliked them. They were made of wool and we used to hitch them up above the belt when the teachers weren't looking. We also had to wear a tie and blazer. this was back in the mid to late 70's.

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  5. I hope the pictures didn't bring back too many bad memories! It's interesting that this style of uniform was popular for so long. Perhaps because it would fit so many different sizes. Thanks for stopping by and for your comment :-)

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  6. This is so cute, I love how you've taken the time to make a nice solid and cute uniform for her! I didn't know you could do that, good to know. :)

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  7. Hello Stephanie, thank you, I'm glad you like it. I started making her uniforms because I could only find polyester RTW uniforms and her school specifies a colour, but not a style or pattern.

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    1. That's so reassuring... We're sending Lila to school next year and I just hate the nasty polyester things they make the kids wear. :)

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    2. I went a bit over the top last year when my daughter started and sewed in organic cotton!! You probably have plenty ideas, but maybe check out the Oliver+S Flickr pool, there are examples of some of their patterns sewn as uniforms :-)

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  8. I love school uniforms, especially the old styles , French and Japanese ones. You did such a lovely job. I have to feature this Saturday! Does you child's school have a uniform rule in Ireland? My kids are at Catholic school but the required uniforms are boring.

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  9. Justine, thank you! I would love for you to feature the uniform :-) I enjoyed sewing all the details.

    Her school (also Catholic) does not have a strict uniform policy, just specifies a navy pinafore, which to us is a sleeveless dress. Some school have a much stricter policy and ask that the uniforms be bought in a particular shop. Generally uniforms are boring I suppose, adding the fun lining and ribbons made the sewing a lot more interesting, but my daughter adores these details too, which makes it a bit more exciting to wear!

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  10. This is adorable! I especially love the secret cats on the belt!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! It's my favourite part too :-)

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