McCall’s 4501, copyright 1975 by The McCall Pattern Company.
This pattern includes a one piece halter suit, a halter bikini, a halter top (which could recombine nicely as the top half of a tankini), and some elastic waist bell-bottoms which I guess would be great for…the roller rink immediately post beach? I mean, I’d rather go home and change first, but these ladies look pretty secure with their outfit decisions.
I used a two-way stretch satin Lycra, in yellow and black hazard stripe. The pattern calls for knit, which would’ve also been a two-way stretch, (as in stretches side to side) but most knits have at least a tiny bit of give in the up/down direction, where as this satin Lycra has none-zo, so I made a center front seam and put it on the bias and added one inch seam allowance wherever possible and did A Lot of fitting to make sure the length was ok before trimming away the seam allowance and finishing it off.
The pattern is made to be reversible, which I find kind of bizarre, because 1) that means you have to insert all the elastic into casings instead of turning to the inside and 2) why would I reverse my suit. I would immediately choose a favorite side and never reverse it, forever, the end.
So instead of making it reversible, it’s flat-lined with a white four-way-stretch Lycra, all seams visible on the inside, all elastics stay-stitched, overlocked, turned to the inside, and coverstitched.
One big surprise and challenge with this pattern: the bust piece is Gone. Lost. Not Here.
But fine whatever, I borrowed from McCall’s M5400, published in 2007.
Top C is very similar to the shape I needed, just the center front point changed a little.
I like the cover art on M5400 a lot. I think of this as The McCall’s Face: the jawline, eyes, and mouth are always the same, despite a really great variety in skin tone and facial expression and attitude.
Baby Bohemian in the orange bikini is my favorite of this crew.
And here’s my suit:
Note on crazy color scheme: when I found this bathing suit pattern (in a box of rando I bought off eBay) I immediately pictured it in this exact yellow and black fabric with a chevron. But then I started reading yet another book of the French Women Are Better At Everything variety, and looked at my obnoxious fabric, and thought, “Oh no, a French woman would never,” and abandoned the project.
I love reading this type of book, in a perverse way. I fall under a sad sort of spell each time I finish one, and spend at least a week thinking, “It’s time to teach my child to make pastry. Do I even *own* a white shirt? Am I having enough arguments? Never eat again! Except beautiful homemade dinners. That are also educational moments for my child. And involve passionate arguments with friends about politics. Oh god, what is my signature perfume???”
And then the week passes and the spell is lifted and I go back to loud bathing suits.
Time and Construction:
This suit took 12 hours, which is fun to think about because if I paid myself $30 an hour this would be a $360 bathing suit. Without including the fabric (which was a remnant so actually free). That is the price of custom. Even at minimum wage, it would be like $120. I think the most expensive store-bought suit I’ve ever owned was $90, from JCrew. It was a black maillot. I loved that thing. I lost it. I miss it.
I changed a couple little construction things from the original 1975 pattern: a swimsuit hook instead of ties at the back neck, flatlined instead of clean-finish lining. The biggest change was stitching elastic along the underbust seam to keep it snug against the body. I was surprised that the instructions didn’t call for it in the first place. Even the modern, 2007 bikini top didn’t call for that, although come to think of it the modern one had a strap across the back to create the tension to hold that seam in place. So, ok.
I’m sad that the gathers under the bust don’t read as well as they do in the illustration. Those gathers are fun, I would add more next time so they are more glamorous and vavoom.
Sew It or Throw It:
Sew it. I love the low leg line. So retro-silly. I’m not sure if halter is my best look, so the fact that that piece is missing is fine, makes me make more likely to do something different next time. The high back creates some fun oportunities: could make it scoop but add a cross strap as per the bikini back with a closure, might look neat and provide a more secure fit.
Next up I’m going to try the bikini bottoms on both these patterns as underwear, so I can official Sew or Throw M5400 too. Things getting sewn and thrown! Progress!