Butterick 3487: 70’s jeans. Is it her, or is it the pattern?

The pattern: Butterick 3487, MISSES’ JACKET, SKIRT, PANTS & SHORTS, no copyright date but it’s from sometime in the 1970’s. 

I love this cover art because it is such an excellent example of how body shape itself, not just clothing, is subject to trend. 

Look at that butt. Imagine if this pattern was re-released today. A round butt is what would happen now.

On a side note, it’s so weird to me that the physical body is subject to trend. How is that even possible? How can something we can’t change, trend? 

I mean, if the aspirational fashion body had always been the same throughout history, it would seem like there was some truth to it, something evolutionary, but to see the Butt Of Fashion change within such a brief time from the 70’s pancake to the rounded now, both of which exclude tons of people who just plain have to wait out the trend or dress carefully or find some other way to be fashionably correct for their time, it just seems like madness. And yet participating in this mass crazy is kind of unavoidable, for example, if this were a modern pattern I never would have bought it. I would’ve been afraid it would give me a flat butt. 

In fact, I made the jeans, (out of some brown cotton twill from a thrift shop) because I had to know: Did the illustrator draw that flat butt because that was what women wanted in the 70’s, or is that the actual shape created by the pants?  

Well here’s the answer:

It’s not the pattern! It’s just the drawing! Phew! 

I am rethinking those clogs with these pants. I wore them to reference the pattern, but they are looking a little cowgirl to me now. 

Ok, so all that stuff aside, these turned out pretty ok. 

I changed a couple of little things: 

-Made the pockets bigger and set them a little lower than as patterned. They seemed really high and tiny and I was afraid. The pocket top-stitching isn’t part of the pattern, I just decided to do something and that’s what happened. 

-Cut the waistband as two pieces, with a seam at the top edge, because I like that better. Most home sewing patterns have you cut the waistband on the fold, which means at the top you have two layers, while at the bottom of the waistband you have five layers, which is an inequity that encourages the waistband to roll and buckle and, just, I don’t like it. So this one has a seam along the top of the waistband, making it four layers thick to better match the five at the bottom. 

I also topstitched pretty much everything that could be, including the side seams through the front pocket area, to keep the seam allowance going toward the back. The front pockets kind of work their way upward, I wish they the kind that anchor into the front zip instead of the free ended kind. Something to remember for next time. 

I added a coin pocket, you can see it in the photo below. It seemed like a fun thing to do, although I think it’s adding to the pocket-riding-up thing. Might actually come in handy though for parking meters, I just have to remember it’s there. 

One really interesting patterning thing that got me thinking: the instructions for these jeans have you close the inseam as one long seam. I’m used to the crotch seam being closed last of all, as one continuous seam, and the inseam-as-one method only happening for leggings and stretch things. 

I patched my sister’s jeans recently, and they noticed they were inseam-as-one, but figured that was a skinny jeans thing, like maybe it’s because they have a Lycra content and are maybe cut more similar to leggings. But this pattern is made for sturdy non-stretch stuff, so why would it want me to treat it like leggings? 

So then I went and checked my own pair of jeans, which are old boring bootcut things with no Lycra, definitely not skinny jeans, I mostly keep them around for yard work, and they too had the inseam as one long continuous seam. 

So then I thought why? Is this inseam-as-one a throwback to when jeans were work clothes? Are they assuming I’ll be riding a horse? That I’ll need more, like, straddle mobility rather than stride mobility? 

And then I figured it out: it’s easier for the factory. If the factory closes the center back and center front, but keeps the fronts and back separate from each other until the very end, that means they can do all the front stuff (zipper, pockets, etc) and all the back stuff (yoke, pockets), separately, maybe even on separate floors or separate buildings, and then close it along the inseam and topstitch that seam since it gets the most wear, then close the outseams last. 

So, it’s not about riding a horse or panning for gold after all. I’m disappointed. 

Anyway, Sew It or Throw It?

Sew! These are good!


Butterick 4064: my new favorite skirt, and it’s not even for me. 

The pattern: is Butterick 4064, top, skirt, and pants, from sometime in the 1970’s. No date on the envelope, which is normal for vintage Butterick, and always a disappointment for me.

I love the artwork on this pattern. I think the girls’ faces are especially beautiful, the pointed chin on the girl in green and the calm smile on the girl in the apricot. I hadn’t really noticed the clothes before: the faces were so distracting and the envelope says moderate stretch only, which is not my favorite sewing thing. 

But, after making this plaid skirt for myself, I decided that it was such a nice quick project that I should make one for my sister too. But then I looked over at my boxes of untried patterns and thought, no way, I need to make her something from a new pattern, keep moving forward with the sewing/throwing. 

And I’m so glad I did because this is my new favorite skirt pattern. It’s better than the plaid. 

Here’s how it turned out:

Hahahaha just kidding. My son was home sick from school that day and kept bringing me scraps and saying Mama, sew this part right here, so I did. And that’s what he made. 

Here’s the real skirt:

It’s super simple. It’s meant to be straight grain with a center front and center back seam in addition to the side seams, but I cut it on the bias and got rid of the seams at front and back.

The fabric was a mystery. It had been discarded from the costume shop where I was working in 2003 or so, during a scrap-bin clean-out. I made a long narrow bias skirt for myself out of this, way back then, with a chevrons at the front back and sides, and a back slit. That skirt is long gone but I still had scraps enough to make this little skirt, with just a little piecing in the back. Can you see it? The back is in three Top Secret pieces. 

The fabric looks like wool or raw silk, or something big and slubby, and I remember back in 2003 being pretty sure I would pull a big ball of felt out of the dryer when I washed and dried the fabric the first time, but no, it was completely unaffected. I did a burn test while making this skirt for my sister, because after all this time I Had To Know, and after burning a bunch of scraps, I think it’s acrylic. Good old, totally durable, totally washable acrylic. 

It’s got a nice deep hem, finished off with two different colors of seam binding, because I like using up odd lengths of seam binding. 

The waistband (pieced in one spot), invisible zipper, and button here:

I assume my sister will wear a shirt with this, but that’s totally up to her. 

Here’s a view of the inside of the waistband, which I cut along the funny fuzzy selvedge, so the fuzzy part could make a fun inner finish. 

So that’s it! Simple little skirt pattern, took about four hours from cutting to putting on the button, nice stripey outcome. Also fun to confirm that this is yet another 70’s pattern that says it requires stretch fabric but doesn’t actually require stretch fabric.

I considered wrapping it up and making my sister wait until Christmas, just to torture her, but it turns out I’m not that mean. Who knew? She came over the other day (photo ready as always, but I was too lazy to set up the backdrop again) and tried it on and said it’s exactly what she had hoped for when I showed her the fabric in a “do you like this fabric” type text a couple days ago.

Sew It or Throw It: 

Sew It. Good lines, versatile, and I like seeing that pretty envelope on my shelf. 

Butterick 3794: two great things that aren’t great together

The pattern is Butterick 3794, top, skirt, and pants, from sometime in the 1970’s. No date on this pattern, but obviously 70’s. I mean, those shoes. 

I like the artwork on this pattern a lot. The model had a sweet face, her hair is simple, she looks more or less like a real, normal, not overly glamorous person. Maybe this is why she looks so sweet: her little neck scarf looks like an attempt at glamour, like a normal kid aspiring toward glamour, which is super endearing. 

I like how that giant black and white plaid shows us that the skirt is cut on the bias, rather than the envelope telling us with words. 

I like how the artwork shows that with just three fabrics, a turtleneck sweater, two pairs of shoes, one pair of socks, a scarf, and the patterns in this envelope, you can have this whole wardrobe of looks. It’s stylish yet efficient and kinda bare-bones in an appealing way. This artwork is tapping into why people like the idea of capsule wardrobes: it really seems like it’s gonna work, like that’s it, your clothing situation is all settled, the end, welcome to a whole new world of everything going with everything. 

I buy fabric without a use in mind. I just like it. It’s mostly second hand, I’m not being extravagant, so if I like it I buy it. Which means I end up with a collection of fabric that is mostly prints or interesting weaves or patterns. Solids don’t usually jump out as interesting, unless it’s a really special solid. Which means nothing really goes together, except in the sense that I like all of it, so it must be related in some way. I’m pretty sure that if I just keep making stuff, eventually everything will go with everything. As a factor of me liking all of it. 

Anyway, from this pattern I made the shirt in a brindled knit from deep in the bins at Michael Levine Loft, and the skirt from a pair of woolen-blend table-runners, some lace, and a peppermint delirium of a lining fabric. 

Here’s the shirt. 

Brindled is defined as brownish or tawny with stripes of other color, especially in reference to domestic animals, as in a brindled bulldog puppy, which is exactly why I bought this fabric. 

Good sleeves on this one. 

I made only one change from the original: I finished the neck, sleeves, and hem with this decorative elastic. Originally the sleeves were elastic in a casing, the hem was a drawstring, and the neckline was that weird 70’s obsession of finishing a knit garment with an interfaced (aka no longer stretchy) facing. I assume they did that because knits weren’t as stretchy back then (lower Lycra content), so stretching on a T-shirt style neckband would’ve been impossible. 

I did put a little interfaceing in front though, for that triangle shape at the center front neck that sweatshirts always have. 

Why do sweatshirts have that triangle? Reinforcement? Why would the front need more reinforcement than the back or sides? 

And here’s the skirt:

So, yeah, the plaid was two long skinny table runners, woven in the Carnegie tartan, from some alumni event of my husband’s. I put in a window of black lace with one scalloped edge, and behind that some crazy swirling lining fabric. I know this looks nuts, but there wasn’t enough of the wool. I had no choice in it, there was nothing else I could do. 

This is the first time I’ve used my appliqué scissors for actual appliqué. Usually I use them for hems. Trimming away around these scallops was very satisfying. 

Instead of matching the plaid when I was putting together the sections of table runner, I offset it for maximum crazy. You can see most clearly at the back, here:

This skirt is longer than the original: the pattern included a 2 1/2 inch hem, but I faced it instead. The only other change I made from the original was sidestepping the waistband. I stitched in a twill tape and the understitched it with the lining.

Lapped zipper though, just like the pattern told me to. Always happy to use up these old coil zippers. 

And here it is on a warmer day with different styling.

Sew It or Throw It:

Sew definitely. The shirt is great and the skirt is super simple. Same pattern piece for the front and back. Could probably be finished in one sitting. Except not this version, my skirt took eight and a half interesting and fun hours. The shirt took only four hours though, that’s practically instant fashion. 

Simplicity 5247: pants, dot dot dot

The pattern is Simplicity 5247 from 1972. Unlined “shirt-jacket” and pants. 

Please zoom in on the photo and observe the finest example of pattern-art humor I have ever seen in my entire life: 

The girl all in white? Who looks like she’s going on safari? Check out her belt buckle. SP. Simplicity Patterns! Hahhahahaha! Isn’t that amazing?! 

I made the pants, which are double darted at both front and back, a natural-height waist and a straight waistband, with a shaped bell-bottom leg, out of this fabric:

Really big dots, really uneven. 

I couldn’t find a repeat in the dot pattern. Usually I squint at the fabric and the repeat will jump out, but this one, just, not jumping out. Each dot is irregular in shape, and irregularly spaced. I tried folding, flipping, all kinds of realignments, no repeat. 

This fabric is actually a set of curtains, and it finally occurred to me that they must’ve been printed from one big screen-print. Like, there is no repeat, the pattern of dots was created, in a large format, and that’s the entire print. Each dot its own, no yardage, no repeat. I guess the fabric was printed with a break between each curtain-sized dot-array, where the factory would cut and hem? More convenient for a large order this way? Kind of funny to think about. I’m so used to endless, continuously printed yardage, designed in scale for a human, not a window. 

So, I knew I wanted this big dot stuff to be pants, and that the center front seam had to match. Or else. No mirroring or butterfly or open-book effect at the center front. That would be embarrassing. Other than that, I had to give up on any of the other seams pattern-matching. And they sure don’t. I considered running a solid stripe down the side seam to make the chopped up dots less crashing-into-each other, but decided not to: that would only make a crazy pair of pants look crazier. 

I was able to get the front to match by using the second curtain, which is identical, and having the pattern continue across the front. Which is a little weird in that the pattern appears to continue across my legs too, but hey, at least no butterflies.

These pants took 9 hours to make, three or four of that was messing around with pattern placement and then flatlining the pieces for better weight and opacity. 

I really like this picture above, with my boy at edge of frame. I like how both of us are completely into our own projects. Also, I made everything he’s wearing. 

Part of the reason I made these pants is beacause I actually need pants. I got through the winter last year with three pairs of pants. Which got me thinking about how many is enough, what’s the optimal number. 

I recognize that I am fortunate, in that I could theoretically have as many pairs of pants as I want. But how many is that?

Three is not enough, because they end up being worn on such a constant rotation that they wear out at the same rate and suddenly I go from having three pants to zero. So what is ideal. Seven? Is one pair of pants for every day of the week excessive? In addition to skirts and dresses and gym leggings etc etc? 

Maybe five is more reasonable? But if one of them is a little crazy looking, like with giant dots, does that pair become more of a second-tier pant? Less of a basic? 

I think this is why people live in jeans: they’re such a neutral, they blend from one day to the next, no one’s ever going to notice if you wear one pair several days in a row, you’re free to not think or to enjoy the comfort of a broken-in pair. 

After thinking over this for a while I remembered how I have a friend who owns seven tuxedos —like not just suits, tuxedos— and how in light of that, seven pairs of pants seems totally reasonable.

This fabric, by the way, is from the most annoying yard sale I have ever been to. Nothing had a price tag, which is the worst, so I had to ask the lady of the house how much everything cost, and each time I asked she would launch into the entire story of the thing in question, including how much she paid for it when it was brand new and how rare it was and all other details she could recall. Then she would name the price, which was high. For this set of two curtain, from IKEA, “These are designer! They don’t make them anymore! We barely even used them!”, she wanted ten dollars, which is completely against my belief that nothing at a yardsale should be more than a dollar, since I consider yardsales to be the last stop before donating to the thrift shop. 

Later my husband and I came up with the perfect yard sale pricing scheme: X is twenty dollars, but if you listen to my entire story, it’s free. 

But I totally bought the curtains. They provide a lot of yardage. And I felt a little sorry for her and maybe recognized myself in her, her belief in the worth of her possessions was a little heartbreaking, and apparently no one’s ever told her about eBay or Craigslist. Which is where you sell old things when you want real money for them. 


This pattern is a Sew It

Vogue Patterns 9690: trousers wowsers

The pattern is Vogue 9690, MISSES PANTS, undated but clearly 1970’s, described as straight-legged with some pocket and pleat options. 

I would usually stay far, far away from both pleated and high-waisted (technically these are not high-waisted though, they sit at the natural waist, but appear high to my I-was-a-teenager-in-the-90’s sensibilities), but I recently saw Annie Hall for the first time (as part of my Continued Pop-Cultural Education. I turned to my husband and said, “I see style references to Annie Hall all the time. I should probably understand them.”) and so we watched it and I loved it and was struck by one clothing moment where we see Annie singing in a club and I really couldn’t tell at first if she was wearing very full-legged pants, or a long skirt with a belted waist, and I was like Ohhhhhhhh, THAT is what pleated high-waisted pants are supposed to do! 

So then I busted out Vogue 9690. 

I love this pattern art. The women look not just stylish —a quality surprising often absent from pattern art— they look sexy. Which, like, is a vibe I pretty much never get from pattern art. And I like it. More sexy pattern art, please. 

I particularly like View A lady, with her open buttons. Reminds me of a line I can’t remember from All The King’s Men, (the book [Robert Penn Warren, 1946] not the movie, although I should probably put that movie on my Continued Education list too) that went something like, “She walked in, wearing a very mannish suit with some very un-mannish business going on underneath.” 

Which, there: that’s probably the most superficial thing anyone’s ever paraphrased from All The King’s Men. But it’s a neat reminder, that using menswear styling to highlight ones female attributes is a trick that’s been around for a long time. 

I made View C, the pompadour lady in the middle there, which is the only version with pockets. 

The tiny flap pocket in View A is fake! It’s just a flap! There’s no pocket under there! It’s a lie!

So drapey. Ooh lala. 

This copy of the pattern is a size smaller than I needed, the picture below shows how I graded up. Which was super easy. I drew a line on the pattern and wrote right on there how much to slide the pattern over or down, and the result was an added two inches total at the waist and two inches total in the crotch length. 

The pattern turned out to have about an inch of ease from the tops of the pants into the waistband in addition to the shaping provided by the pleats and the back darts. This is too much for me: makes the waist nip in uncomfortably tight. I think Vogue patterns might be proportioned (no matter what the size) for a small bust, even smaller waist, and medium hip. But not exactly a pear shape, more of a fashion body. 

I had these pants completely done before I figured this out though, and didn’t feel like recutting the waistband. So, if you care to notice, you can see that the belt loops are not symmetrical: I took the waistband off and used the front tab overlap to let out the waist another inch. 

Why does it have both an underlap tab and an overlap tab anyway? That’s just silly. So now mine only has the underlap. 

I used some grey silk for the pocket. It rolls out a little, but it feels so nice. 

I’ve never really understood the purpose of back welt pockets on trousers —I mean, I’m not going to put my keys back there, that would be all lumpy and terrible looking— but here below I can see it! Welt pockets are there to explain the horizontal pull that naturally happens! Aha! 

See? Those aren’t welts, but it would look a whole lot cooler if they were.

These pants took about 12 hours to complete including taking the waistband off and letting out the ease and putting it back on, but they felt like they took foreverrrrrrr. Like at least twice that. I looked back at my notes and saw that I’d broken this project up into 11 different sewing sessions. So, no wonder it felt like forever: I kept putting it down and picking it up again. Tedious! 

The fabric is from a yard sale, I think the lady selling had a home business. Lots of terrible 80’s men’s vest patterns! 

My only complaint with Vogue 9690 is the pockets. They are shallow. All I’m ever going to put in my pants pockets is my hands, and they don’t fit. Boooooo to that. 

Otherwise it’s a Sew It. These pants are great. Who knew pleated and belted was a thing I could be into. Not me for sure. 

Butterick 4067: the long and skirt of it.

the pattern:
Butterick 4067 MISSES’ SKIRT, no copyright date. 1970’s judging from hair and shoes.
I’ve had this pattern 4-evs and have always loved it but have never made it due to two important factors:

Factor 1: View D, my fave, requires a ton of yardage and I am usually working from whatever scraps.

Factor 2: That waistband.
It’s a straight-grain band-style waistband, otherwise known as The Least Forgiving Of All Waistbands Of All Time.
Seriously though.
All my best skirts have a faced waist or a contoured waistband. You gain a little weight, they ride higher. You lose a little weight, they settle lower.
Not a band-style waistband though. (Band? Stand? Like a stand collar? What do we call these things? Thank goodness for pictures so we don’t have to use words.)
Band waistband (that word-pairing looks ridiculous) forgives nothing.
You gain weight = fat rolls. You lose weight = waistband stands away from your body, making you look bigger than you are. What a jerk. Yeah I’m talking to you, Waistband. Whatever your name is.

the fabric:
While I was making this dress I kept thinking, “Wow, this fabric has such a nice drapey hand! I should make something long, to utilize the drapey quality! But what? Not pants, the fabric’s too thin. What’s long like pants but isn’t pants???” And then way-too-long later I thought, “Aha! Long skirt. I am a genius.”


I love this skirt.
I love walking in it. A long skirt demands that you walk strong. With purpose. There’s a lot of yardage by the time you get down to that hem, you need a smooth, powerful stride to move it.
In a long skirt, I make gestures I’m way too modern for: Swoop it up over the arm to step into the car. Smooth it to sit. Gather it in one hand to ascend stairs. Time Warp!
Plus, that Powerful Stride originates from the hips. So I’m walking, with purpose, which gets the hips swaying, feeling a whole new respect for the general hotness level of 1900’s fashions. Demure at a stand still but hotness in motion is what.
This skirt is 70’s in it’s center front seam and pockets, but I feel like it harkens back to some older times.


Oh, and speaking of stuff that’s olden, really check out the illustrations on this pattern, especially View D. Check out the body language and that look of appraisal she’s laying on us.
What is she doing?
What will she do next?
Grin? Walk over? Sneer? Turn away?
She’s a specific individual caught in a moment, and in that way this drawing has more in common with a costume sketch than a fashion illustration — the drawing is giving us an insight into a specific inner world and a back story and a whole personality and I want to know the rest of the story.
These old patterns are charming because the drawings are charming. The illustrations express so much character, more than a fashion photo or fashion drawing does. Patterns nowadays could really stand to improve their charm levels. Bring back the illustration! Plus it’s often easier to see the design lines in a drawing than in a photo.
Aaaaaaaanyway…here’s a ghost!


Sew It or Throw It:
Sew it.
Next time though, no pockets. I really like the pockets, but they create a pressure point on the hip, and the weight of the skirt pulls that point, and creates unflatterning indentations in the muffin-top region of the body that I’d super-love to avoid next time.
A firmer fabric could help with that, but at the expense of losing the fluidity at the hem. Probably best to just skip the pockets.
That waistband…I’m still not a fan.

Butterick 4887, what’s your motivation?

Whenever I work on a wedding dress for a friend, I ask the bride what her mom wore and if her mom has been saving the dress and if there’s any element of the mom’s dress we should work in to the new dress, and lately the answer I’ve been getting is “God No! I mean yes, she’s been saving it but it’s this awful 70’s polyester, like, Little House On The Prairie thing with a neck ruffle and these long puffy sleeves and a long skirt, like there’s just fabric everywhere, and what’s that thing where the waist is all weird and up high, plus the dress is like this big.” (bride holds up pinkie finger to demonstrate lack of bigness)
Basically they are describing this:    
the pattern
Butterick 4887 Misses’ Bridal and Bridesmaid Gowns
No copyright date. I’m saying late 1960’s early 1970’s.
I think this style of dress is super interesting, because to my modern eyes it is straight-up ugly. I wore nightgowns very similar to this when I was a kid, and they were ugly too, in plaid flannel.
But the bride who bought this pattern (and made it, the instruction page is missing and the pieces are cut) wasn’t trying to look ugly. She wasn’t thinking, “My bridal theme is wearing the world’s least comfortable nightgown while homesteading. Oh, and let’s Not show off my sweet 26 1/2″ waist, how about something in a nice empire.”
So what was she thinking?
I’ve got three ideas:
1. Rebellion—
against the tight-waisted full-skirted undergarment-requiring dresses of the generation before.
2. Romeo and Juliet—
Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet came out in 1968, the bodice of this dress is actually pretty similar in line to the one Juliet is busting out of on that movie poster. Speaking of bodices and Zeffirelli, a non-costume friend of mine once confessed that the only reason he knows the definition of the word bodice is because of that movie, because daaaaaaaamn, that there’s a bodice.
Also in support of this theory: View C is wearing a Juliet Cap.
3. That Pioneer Spirit—
The tv show of Little House On The Prairie came out in 1974. So maybe. But more likely that pioneer spirit as in let’s go live on a commune and build our own Little Cabin In The Big Woods and raise goats and babies.
Sort of a hippy home-made homage-to-simpler-times vibe, that, as it trickled down from edgy to mainstream fashion and then into affordable ready-to-wear, turned into my friends’ mothers’ polyester organza fantasy gowns.
When you look at it that way, it’s kind of a sweet and wonderful style.
Another thing: it’s easy to for us Modern Girls to forget that sexy wasn’t an adjective women of previous generations wished to evoke in their bridal gowns. Sounds like it was wildly popular back then to get married in an actual church (what??), where they have their own rules, such Cover Your Shoulders and Thou Shalt Not Flash Thy Cleavage About.
Sew It or Throw It?
I’m introducing a secret Third Category. Stow It. I’ll never make this (probably never) (I mean, can you imagine?), but wedding dresses are so interesting, culturally, they sum up so much about a particular moment in time, that I can’t get rid of them.