Saturday, March 14, 2015

Colorful, Tiered, Peasant Smock

I'm over 50.  
I still feel young and vibrant and happy!
But finding cute, comfortable, appropriate, and affordable clothing that represents my style and outlook has become quite a challenge. 
Trendy, contemporary clothing is often too young, too short, too tight and quite frankly, just looks a bit sad on an older woman.  On the flip side - much of the clothing produced for the more mature woman is dowdy, frumpy, and way too conservative for my taste.
For years I settled on simple tops and basic jeans or slacks with an occasional blazer when I wanted to look a little more "fancy."

After years of shopping experiences that left me frustrated and underwhelmed, I decided I simply had to figure out a way to make my own clothing.  After an extensive search through countless pattern makers' selections I came up empty handed.

During a recent visit to a local fabric store I struck up a conversation with the woman behind the cutting table.  The subject of uninspiring clothing patterns for women my age came up and she said, "Why don't you just make your own pattern, I do it all the time.  It's much easier than you might think."

"Really?" I asked.  Then added, "I'm fairly skilled sewer, but I really haven't had much experience in making clothing.  I'm not really sure where to start.  What do you do?"

" I just make a pattern from a piece I already have," she said.  "I had this skirt that I just loved, so I created a pattern from that. I've made several from that one pattern."

"Hmmmm, you've got me thinking.  I might just give it a try,"  I replied.

With new found confidence, I purchased some inexpensive muslin fabric to work out my pattern then headed home.  

Lace Tunic by  Lady Noiz
Cotton V-Neck Tunic by Aller Simplement
On the drive I made a mental note of the tops in my closet that I wore most often, felt most comfortable in, and were easy to care for.  These would serve as inspiration for my pattern.


I began by laying one of my inspiration pieces on top of some newsprint paper.

I sketched out the basic bodice front and back and sleeves, adding an extra 1/2" to 5/8" seam allowance.  I then modified the neckline to one more simple and made some adjustments to the pattern to insure the pieces would line up and match - shoulders, sides, and sleeve.  I opted to make a tiered smock top. As an elementary school librarian, I want my clothing to be easy, comfortable, bright, fun, and playful; and I felt this option would lend itself best to achieve my desired result.

So with my three basic pattern pieces I began to cut and sew.

After my first prototype, I made some minor adjustments to my pattern pieces and then put my pattern to the test.

My first attempt turned out fairly well, but still needed a few minor adjustments.  I didn't like the fluted, bi-level sleeve piece and I wanted my bottom tier to be a bit longer.

 With my second go, I changed the sleeve from a fluted, bi-level tier to a simple fluted gathered tier.  In the bust I tried out a couple of darts in lieu of the gathered bust.  The most obvious modification was the use of three coordinating fabrics instead of one.

In round 3, I returned to the gathered bust option but continued with the simple gathered, fluted sleeve, this time opting to make the sleeve all one color.

Above you see the top just before I added the sleeves.  I think this sleeveless option is really cute, 


With each of my first four garments, I made minor alterations until I got it just right. Now my pattern is perfectly suited for me.

Here are the steps I followed to create my Colorful Peasant Tiered Smock:

Select 3 fabrics
1 1/2 yards of main fabric (bodice and sleeves)
1/2 yard of two coordinating fabrics (tiers)

From each coordinating fabric, cut two 8" strips.  Sew these together at sides to create one long 8" strip.  This allows you plenty of fabric for gathered tiers.

Pin and cut both front and back bodice pieces and sleeve from main fabric.  Remember to place straight edge of pattern (front bodice specifically) on a fold.  If you have a fabric with a symmetrical design, place fold on center of the design so the front of your top is symmetrical.  

From the main fabric, cut two 8" strips as directed above to create bottom tier.

With right sides together, sew front and back bodice pieces together at shoulders and sides using 1/2" to 5/8" seams.  Press seams open.

Create a rolled hem all around the neckline.  Fold neckline over 1/4" and press, then fold over 1/4" again and press.  Sew all around the neckline.  Press.

Next, gather bodice front center from 3 inches on each side.  The amount of gathering will depend on your bust.  Try the bodice on and mark where your gathering needs to be done.  You can use darts instead if you wish.

Next, lay out your first tier below your finished bodice.  Cut the length of the tier so it extends about 2" beyond each side of the bodice.  This will allow for gathering.  Sew the ends with right sides together.  This will create a big loop of your 8" fabric.

Baste all around the tier.  

Gather evenly until the tier and the bodice match.

Pin tier to bodice with right sides together.  

Stitch in place.  

Press seams up.  

Turn top right side out, and topstitch 1/4" above the seam.

Repeat this process with both the second and the final tier.

Create a rolled hem on the bottom.  Fold over 1/4" and press.  Fold over again 1/4" and press.  Sew hem and press.

At this point you have a sleeveless tiered smock top.  If you wish to keep it sleeveless, create a rolled hem on both armholes and your top is finished!

For a top with sleeves, sew sleeves together at sides.  Press seams open.  

With right sides together, ease sleeves into bodice armholes matching seams.  Pin in place.  Sew sleeves in place.  Turn right side out and press.

For a short sleeve, create a rolled hem on sleeve openings.

For a 3/4 gathered, fluted sleeve use leftover 8" strip from your main fabric tier. Cut sleeve flute tier about 2" longer than sleeve opening.  Gather so flute width matches the sleeve opening.  Pin and sew in place.  Create a rolled hem on bottom of each sleeve.
Options: create gathered sleeve flute tier from main fabric or from one of the coordinating fabric tiers.

Another option I'm considering:
Adding an additional tier to make an easy, breezy summer dress.  Pair it with some rustic cowboy boots for the perfect Texas summer party dress!

Consider creating a simple pin from your leftover scraps to wear as an accessory.

Or, in true junker fashion, create a unique spoon necklace that reveals a little of your unique personality! Directions for making your own spoon pendant can be found 

For me, a woman just over 50, the solution for finding fun, comfortable clothing didn't require settling for something plain, and uninspiring.  The solution was simply to make the visions I had in my head become real.  Sure it took a few tries, and the outcomes weren't always perfect, but with determination and focus, I finally achieved just what I was hoping for.  
And trust me, so can you!

All photographs taken by Paulette Rodriguez.

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