Style Crisis: Jumpsuiting out of my comfort zone

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I’ve never been a wedding dreamer. Not for me, folders of clippings and designs of bridal gowns. I’m not trying to come over all ‘unholier than thou’ – it’s just that weddings have always seemed like expensive, highly stressful affairs with an impossible goals, shedloads of expectations and littered with innumerable pitfalls. I know they don’t all have to be like that – and I’m certainly more comfortable with the whole idea now that marriage is an option for anyone over the age of consent. Nor does my personal twitchiness mean that I don’t enjoy the idea of two people making a public commitment (I know – so gracious of me). Weddings just aren’t in my comfort zone – however much I might enjoy frock-watching and a good shimmy. Which brings me to my latest project.

Planning my wedding outfit

I’ve known about last weekend’s wedding for almost two years. Which of course is why I was still to be found sewing a hem two hours before the ceremony. Last-minute finishing aside, however, I’d been mulling over an appropriate outfit for the wedding for months. Fitted dress? 50s-style dress? Suit? Skirt with silk shirt? My head was going round in circles. Two thoughts prevailed. First, I didn’t want to make something that I thought I might never wear again – I wanted to feel like me. However I genuinely didn’t want to upset the applecart by wearing something inappropriate. What to do?

Then a couple of months ago, flipping through my usual round of fashion retail emails and monthly magazines over coffee, the prevalence of jumpsuits began to filter into my consciousness. I’d always discounted them previously as they all seemed to require a belt (yikes) plus I know that off-the-shelf jumpsuits are notorious for being difficult to fit. I fought one in a changing room a couple of years ago. It took me five minutes to get into it – and twice as long to get out of it again. I honestly thought I was going to end up calling the emergency services. When I finally fell out of the changing cubicle it was with a resolution never to fall into that trap again. As I leafed through my magazine though, two thoughts occurred. Regarding fitting – surely that’s what making your own clothes is all about? If ever there were a garment that would benefit from being custom-made, it would be a jumpsuit. And surely it must be possible to find a design that didn’t need a belt?

With that, I decided to give it a go.

Jumping in with both feet

The only time I’ve had a jumpsuit (or a boiler suit as they were called back in 1980) it was a purple button-up affair with rolled-up sleeves and a stand-up collar. I don’t have pictures of mine (the relief of not growing up in the age of Instagram)…

Sheena Easton in a jumpsuit
Sheena Easton in a boiler suit

 

The Nolans in boiler suits
Even The Nolans in boiler suits

…but if you were around at the time you’ll appreciate my nervousness about where I might be heading with this.

Courage, Alice. If it goes wrong then no-one need know. Why not just try out something quick, cheap and easy. I riffled through my box of freebie patterns and fished out this Cotton and Chalk pattern that had arrived with an issue of Simply Sewing.

Cotton-Chalk-Sewing-Pattern-No-11-Jenna-Jumpsuit
The ‘Jenna’ Jumpsuit from Cotton & Chalk

Now, this pattern has many elements designed specifically to make me shudder. I’ve mentioned previously that I really don’t get on with wrap dresses; not only was this a wrap-top jumpsuit but each of the pattern versions are belted – also they all had cropped trousers which I suspected were going to stick around my calves. No matter. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I fished out a roll of fabric I use for toiles and cut out a ‘medium’ of the the version on the right but with the straight trouser legs from the version on the left. A couple of hours later and…

Toile for jumpsuit
Might there be hope?

Leaving aside the fact that the pattern was clearly too big – might this actually work? I was taken aback by the potential elegance of that simple wrap top – and extraordinarily enough – when I used a length of the same fabric as a temporary belt, even that seemed to work. Good lord. Could it really be that easy? I experimented with a contrast belt and discovered that obviously didn’t work – it cut my torso in two. However using a sash in the same fabric created shape without turning me into two separate halves and was much more (dare I say it) elegant. My only real concern was how the dropped crotch might look – I know I’m lacking in the rear but this was perhaps a tad excessive. However on the up side, the trousers did have pockets. I wondered whether, with the right fabric, I could try and carry off a lounging and relaxed look. I resolved to size down and see how things went.

It’s a wrap!

Time was short and I needed to get this done. I was heartened enough by my toile to go straight into ‘production’ mode; now to choose a fabric. I decided to play up the draping qualities of the pattern and go for one of our fabulous draping triple crepe fabrics. I’d been a little disappointed by my restraint in terms of colour choice in my Italian travel wardrobe, so thought perhaps it was time for a bit of colour blocking. I knew that my sister-in-law (also the groom’s mother) was wearing vibrant purple, cerise and blue so something bold shouldn’t be completely out of keeping. Opinions were sought and I plumped for our latest ‘Allingham’ draping royal blue triple crepe fabric.

Royal blue crepe fabric for jumpsuit
‘Allingham’ draping royal blue triple crepe fabric

Making-up

This is an easy pattern to make up – albeit with a few cautionary notes. First of all – that diagonal wrap front needs stay-stitching otherwise it’s going to be baggy – especially in a crepe. I also decided that the continuous roll-hem finish up the front edges and around the neckline really wasn’t going to wash. I dug out a remnant of last year’s cobalt cupro and made up some bias binding. (Actually – quite a lot of bias binding. Let me know if you need any…)

Bias binding for jumpsuit
Bias binding overload

I used the binding not only to bind the armholes as per the pattern instructions, as well as to hem the front edge and neckline. The finish was much neater than the rolled hem, which on the toile had pulled at the shoulder seams. With the binding, the top sat better and felt lovely to wear.

Completed binding jumpsuit
Neckline and front finished with binding

My toile trouser length was a little short so especially since I was sizing down overall, I added a few inches onto the bottom of the legs. I wasn’t sure yet what shoes I would wear – and it’s much easier to cut length off if required than to add it on. Finally I made the sash much longer and also wider than the pattern suggested. I thought it might add some movement; if Amal Clooney can trail long lengths of fabric around at a wedding then who am I to argue?

Finishing touches

My jumpsuit was completed over a leisurely weekend with lots of other jobs fitted in. Even though I took the long route round on some of the finishing, it didn’t take long and I didn’t feel rushed at all.

The difficult bit was yet to come. Picking out shoes and accessories. Coral, watery chartreuse green, warm ivory – all these and more might have been options. In the event a pair of emergency shoes were sourced in a stony-grey colour – and I went for metallic accessories. I’d been informed that hats ‘weren’t happening’ so I didn’t have that to worry about. I did feel I was missing something in the head/hair department; I’d have worn earrings but I didn’t want to risk red ears. Perhaps a little flower tucked behind an ear? At this point I was heading out of my depth and reminded myself of Chanel’s maxim that one should always remove the last item added to an outfit, before walking out of the door. What would you have done? Do tell! For the record, this is how I ended up.

Jumpsuit completed 1
All jumped up!

Summer loving

And the wedding? It turned out to be just the loveliest occasion. Supremely relaxed and free of stiff ceremony, it was full of fun, personality and thoughtfulness. Frankly, it put my curmudgeonly tendencies to shame. Games, spacehoppers, popcorn and a photobooth with excellent accessories. Plus a dog that knew that her moment had arrived, starring in practically every group picture. And of course, Pimms, cake and even little blueberries floating in the sparking water. Hush now – if you listen quietly you can hear my comfort zone stretching….

Jumpsuit in photobooth
Hmmm. Eat your heart out, Sheena!

The amazing thing was, I felt as if my style comfort zone really did stretch with this make – and in a way that meant I still felt like me, even though I was dressed up for an occasion. I loved wearing my jumpsuit – it was comfortable and the fabric felt cool – even on a very hot day.

There were some wearing issues to be dealt with of course. I will confess, going to the loo requires some indignity and more than a little wriggling. Also the front wrap requires caution. It needs to open up for access as there’s no zip in this pattern. I went through the gamut of a concealed ribbon and even double-sided tape to hold my modesty together. Major fails, both. In the end I resorted to a well-placed safety pin which not only worked fantastically but which also felt like a familiar me-made wardrobe fix.

Have a go!

I’m definitely going to have another shot at a jumpsuit. There are lots of patterns around – I’ve gathered some of them together on our Jumpsuit sewing patterns Pinterest board. Some have sleeves, others don’t; they can fasten with zips at the front or back – or button up like a shirt dress.

I used one of our triple crepe fabrics and I was delighted with the results, especially for a dressier occasion such as the wedding I went to. We’ve lots of colours to choose from and we update our collection regularly – you can see them all here.

However for more casual wear, cotton poplins and draping viscose fabrics would also work – in patterns as well as plain fabrics and especially for a less fitted design such as this.

Advice welcome!

Chuffed though I was with my outfit (let’s face it – whatever you might think, this could have gone much, much worse…) there are still elements that I might have done differently. In particular I’d have liked to add a second colour somewhere – but I’m not sure where, or how, or whether it wasn’t necessary after all. Suggestions welcome as ever!

16 thoughts on “Style Crisis: Jumpsuiting out of my comfort zone

  1. Dulcie Lawes says:

    Alice ,you look absolutely wonderful ,the colour is great on you.And as usual your summery of the whole process is very entertaining .I so wish I was such a skilled dressmaker as you,I only atempt simple ,easy patterns as I have never had a sewing lesson,I really admire your skill.Great job,well done.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello there Dulcie – thank you so much for the compliments! My mother did see the jumpsuit in progress and her comment was ‘Oh – you’re wearing that colour?’ which was highly entertaining… 😂 But honestly – the pattern is such an easy one – I promise you. The fabric is lovely and carries the design well I think – but I’ve seen photos of your work and I have no doubt you’d cope just fine with it. I honestly don’t feel that accomplished but I was brought up by generations of sewing teachers so was very fortunate in that regard. However when I compare myself to ‘proper’ dressmakers I fade by comparison believe me – and if you put me on the Sewing Bee I’d be thrown out for swearing before Task 1 was complete… 😳

    • aliceclothspot says:

      That’s so kind of you Helen! Thank you very much – and do consider taking the plunge – it was far easier than I had anticipated.

  2. SarahKay says:

    Wow! I, too, have never cared for wrap dresses or jumpsuits, but yours looks amazing! So much so that I’m almost tempted to try making one myself. I really love the tie belt on yours, it really does do the whole add-shape-without-chopping-you-in-half thing.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Thank you very much indeed, Sarah! Amazing that I might have managed to convert someone else, let alone myself – who knew!? I shall definitely try another – probably a more casual one for everyday summer wear. Watch this space…

  3. Janice Hugh says:

    Look stunning! Love the colour, love the belt. Oh yes, going to the loo issues in a jumpsuit, definitely forward planning and plenty of wriggle room required in the loo AND a clean floor!!! Love jumpsuits, I had the same issue with the crossover front, and by judging in the mirror where was an acceptable level of reveal, I used a transparent press stud – the plastic kind. Worked a treat. I think the colour block was fine, I don’t think another colour was needed. As to accessories, I think I’d lean towards grey satin bag, shoes, and a silky grey tassel necklace and earrings, and maybe a metallic grey pashmina for the shoulders if needed when the temperature dropped. All in all your outfit is very elegant.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Thank you very much indeed, Janice – that’s so kind of you! The belt seemed such a daring step for me to take (I know, it sounds ridiculous but it’s true) – so to know it worked is very heartening. And yes – I hadn’t realised the importance of a clean floor – but I soon found out :-/ A transparent press-stud would be a much more accomplished finishing touch – thank you for the nudge and I shall attend to that before taking the jumpsuit out again. I think that had I made time to properly research my accessories, then your silky grey suggestions would have been lovely. As it was I left it far too late, hence the metallic necklace (and bag, too – which wasn’t in the picture). However I liked the grey shoes I found – and so continuing that theme would have been lovely. I shall now keep my eye out for contenders – thank you for those suggestions.

  4. Marion George says:

    It’s smashing! I love the colour and the style is just you. I think you were also right to change the legs and lengthen them and widen the sash. As to the ascessories, earrings would have finished it off. As you had already dismissed them,for good reason , I don’t think it the end. A bracelet would, however, just finished off your arms. Something complimentary to your necklace, perhaps?

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Thank you very much Marion! I know that if I was missing the mark then you wouldn’t hold back from letting me know – so consider me much relieved. You know you’re absolutely right – I should have thought about a bracelet. I left all that side of things so late that even the necklace felt like a bit of an achievement but I will certainly make sure I find something for at least one arm when it gets its next outing. Thank you again!

  5. Sarah Skinner says:

    Hi Alice – this looks wonderful and I love the colour and the long lines on you. The extra long tie belt emphasizes the long lines and works really well. I also think the minimal accessories and silver shoes are spot on. I think a hat would work if the occasion demanded it, but it would need to be minimal and sculptural ( maybe with a tall feather for the height ) so providing the right amount of balance to the outfit ( not big and flowery – though I’m pretty sure you would not have been thinking of that 😉). It would also need to be in the same blue, I think, to keep the long lines ( silver to match the shoes at a push ). I would not be tempted to add any additional colours to this outfit. Less is more, as they say ( which is similar to the Coco Channel idea which is a good one that I often try to employ with varying degrees of success). Earrings should be used to enhance the face and reflect light onto it – hence the popularity of pearls, plus they are a wonderful neutral, so they would be the only additional accessory option to consider, I think. But, I think it is an absolute win as you have styled it. And now you have got me thinking again…..

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Thank you for the reassurance, Sarah! I’m glad you can see what I was trying to do with the belt – and no – I promise you that had hattery (should that be millinery perhaps?) been required, then a feathered floral frisbee a la Camilla would not have been the way I would have gone…. Your suggestions of continuing the blue to achieve height and not topping myself off with another colour – I really hadn’t thought about that at all – but I can completely see your point. Consider it a lesson learned! I’d have loved to get some earrings but I knew they’d irritate my ears as it’s so long since I wore them…I will have to start wearing them again so I can take advantage of opportunities in the future. Thank you again for all the analysis – and good luck with Project Ascot!

  6. Jenny says:

    I loved your trousers last week Alice but I love this jumpsuit even more. It really doesn’t need anything else, the necklace you chose is perfect. As my Mum would have said, why gild the lily? If you wanted to make it more blingy you could add a diamanté trim across the shoulders (I’m basing this on my eldest granddaughter’s prom dress last year). My two younger granddaughters (9 and 13) both wore striped jumpsuits to an impromptu lunch last Sunday and looked fabulous. They were able to run about outside and have fun but still look good. The older one has a fabulous green one (matches her eyes) for her holiday in Vietnam and my daughter is looking at them for part of her holiday wardrobe. Not for travelling though, aeroplane toilets are bad enough. It’s a family wedding and they’re getting traditional wedding outfits made when they get out there as the bride is Vietnamese . I bet you can detect a note of jealousy in that last sentence. I’m very tempted by the pattern you used but I keep telling myself I have more than enough clothes. I’ve never attempted trousers but the fitting looks relatively forgiving on these and I like the top.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Hello Jenny – thank you for the vote of approval! It’s always reassuring to hear that one isn’t deluding oneself… My mum also uses the ‘don’t gild the lily’ phrase – I grew up with that one! I was concerned that the jumpsuit idea might not be sufficiently upmarket for a wedding but it seems as if they can be repurposed up- or down-market as required. But not, as you point out, for aeroplane toilets – the thought just struck horror into my heart and a vision I didn’t need on a Monday morning – or any time for that matter! 😣 A custom-made traditional Vietnamese outfit though – now that might just help with my wedding aversion! *sigh* I hope it all goes well!

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Thank you!! I will confess to being a little bit chuffed – and it’s made me feel much braver about trying other styles that I might not have thought about. Pleased you like the binding – it was very satisfying 🙂

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