Folkwear 237: tango tango tango top


The pattern is Folkwear 237, published in 1986. 

This is not Eighties Does Twenties (although that does sound terribly entertaining), nor is a copy of an actual twenties dress. This is an original design, made in the 1980’s, but thoroughly researched to be evocative of the tango era. 

That’s pretty much what Folkwear is about. Evoking a time period. They’re worth checking out if you wanna get not just vintage, but historical. 


For example, above, research. Stuff about the tango! Wear it and know it!

I am the original owner of this pattern. It was pristine when I got it. I was pretty horrified when I opened it recently, to see the state I had left it in however many years ago. I had cut the paper at a size six. That is a couple sizes below my size. I’d also folded and taped out a bunch of the length through the bodice and had redrawn some lines. Like a maniac. I had used a stretch fabric (it was sheer black, with black polka dots), which I guess explains the sizing down, although not fully. I also remember that I looked awful in the dress, which confused me at the time, but now looking at the line-art I can see that this is not a style that would ever really work for me. 

One of the benefits of being older than you once were: the ability to look at line art and say “nope”. 

This dress would look great on a lady with broad shoulders and narrow hips, which, not coincidentally, was the fashionable body type of the time. 

Anyway, this time around I wasn’t sewing for me, I was sewing for a friend. Just for a nice surprise. After I finished this I stuffed it into a box and mailed it off to her. 



The pattern provides two back options, one with a deep V and a pair of streamers, the other plain. 

I thought the streamers were kind of dumb so I skipped those. 

And by dumb I mean unmotivated: they are sewn into the seam at the back neck. Just stuck right in there. They don’t appear to be the natural extension of anything, in the way that the bow in front is a natural extension of the collar. They look added on. I prefer my odd design elements to have a reason. I understand that the streamers are for dancing, and maybe in that contex they look organic, but I’m still not into them. 

I also made the back V much narrower and shallower than patterned. I wanted it to be a fun detail, not a struggle that involves bra decisions. 


The fabric is a bright lime colored silk for the tie, and a polka dot rayon for the body. Both the tie and the dress itself are patterned to be straight grain, so as a top this takes almost no yardage and is a great use of scraps like these. 

I really like these fabrics together. They are really bright and joyous, I’ve been pairing them up with potential projects for a while now and I’m glad they’ve landed together in this top, for my friend who is really bright and joyous. 


The ties are really long! 

For the size I guessed, while erring on the side of too big, while also making it very easy to take in. The armsceyes are finished with bias to the inside, with the side seams overlocked separately and sewn last of all. This way if she needs it taken in, it’s just a seam, no re-doing the bias. 

The shirt tail hem I drew. It’s not too far from the original lines of the bodice to skirt seam, just less angular. 

Sew It or Throw It:

Throw It! I made such a mess of this pattern, I never want to see it again. 

Good news though: making this top showed me how easy it is to make a tie-front on, like, anything. The last tie-front top I made was pretty involved, with a button front and facings and stuff. This one was simple. So simple I feel empowered to tie-front everything. Tie-fronts for all!!!!

And as far as throwing, there’s a perfectly good, untampered with knitting pattern in there, for the cardigan. So hopefully whoever picks this copy up next, knits. 

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14 thoughts on “Folkwear 237: tango tango tango top

  1. I’m a huge fan of Folkwear patterns having made a ‘fisherman’s shirt’ with handworked needle lace from Liberty fabric for a boyfy eons ago. I also the Kinsale cape pattern, had it made by a dressmaker in crushed maroon velvet for my nursing graduation! My kids wore that quite a lot for Harry Potter dress ups – possibly Folkwear missed a marketing opp. there!
    Love what you’ve done with this, not at all costume like, its fresh and groovy, I do hope the recipient gets lots of wear out of it.
    Is the tie at all shaped at the neckline? I’m curious because it looks like the neckline is fairly curvy and the green silk is following the line so beautifully, but perhaps it’s straight and the silk is just working it?!
    I can’t wear this style either and I DO have very broad shoulders and slim hips. My excessive chesticles cause an unfitted 20s style to look creepilly ‘maternity’!!

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    1. Oh that’s awesome that you know and love Folkwear, seems like they’re sort of lesser known in the sewing world so I always like to give them a mention when I can. They seem like a neat company.
      That graduation cape sounds amazeboobs.
      The neckband is completely straight and cut on straight grain, the neckline itself is a slightly rounded V. I think a lot of the pretty shape is the silk. Good old silk!
      And you’re totally right, I forgot to mention small bust, key to looking right in that twenties shapeless shape. Such a specific body type! We think of that time as liberating fashion wise, but it seems like it would’ve been such a hard look to achieve.

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  2. I have often wondered about these ‘folkwear’ patterns when I see them on etsy – love that earnest 80s educational angle on history of tango, fabulous. the lime green is so luscious with the polka dot – beautiful

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    1. I love the earnestness too. The other Folkwear pattern I’ve used is a for a cotton summer weight kimono, which came with a page about traditional indigo dyeing techniques, and my husband has a kilt pattern from Folkwear with a page about the history of tartan. There’s always some extra neat info, it’s kinda charming.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I always explain the 80s to my younger colleagues in work as ‘well it was an age of pre-irony’……have a few folk wear patterns on a wish list on etsy so will probably succumb sooner or later

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