The March 2019 meeting of the wonderful Costume and Textile Association in Norwich (1) was advertised as a presentation by Meredith Towne (2), where we would be transported back to 60’s fashion and sewing clothes of the era in ‘Sewing the Sixties’.
To me that meant Crimplene ! (3) I had several years previously bought a royal blue and a white Crimplene suit from a Vintage Shop for £10 as I loved the texture. It was a size 20 and so needed some adjustment to fit my size 10/12 frame.(4)
I had previously tweaked a blue faux suede belt and changed the buckle to a vintage white plastic to match the suit. I knew I needed to reduce the width of the white lapels. Then it languished in the drawer for a couple of years until I saw the presentation advertised when I decided I would complete the transformation and wear this for the afternoon.
I took the sides of the skirt in, this was not as easy as it sounds as I needed to match the horizontal ‘stripes’.
The best part of it was the fact that no neatening was needed as it was Crimplene. Once the skirted fitted, rather than fall down, the length was good.
Then I came to the jacket. The Crimplene is quite thin and so my way of making it fit my top half, was to pleat/ gather round the waist with the belt. This gave a nice profile and a sort of peplum effect. It gave shape where non existed before.
The lapels were massive, projecting 4.5 inches (using inches as it was the Sixties) more than can be seen on the finished suit. This area needed some seam unpicking, careful tacking and then stitching. I used a slight zigzag stitch as this would avoid puckering in the finished seam.
The jacket looked good when on my body duplicate. I discussed the suit with a friend and she immediately suggested that we swap the navy buttons down the front for white ones. This was a great idea and we spent about an hour searching through my button tins (note the ‘s’) and the buttons I liked best were 3 square ones which seemed more suitable than the ones there originally.
The left buttons are the original ones, the white were their replacement.
Then we needed to find a matching pair of buttons for the sleeve cuffs.
The sleeves were designed to turn back and be buttoned, but the overlocking at the base of the cuff showed. I decided that I would have the cuff ‘normal’ and not turned back. I could leave the buttons as navy or use the smaller black ones on the right of the picture above. I liked these as they had more character but were not perfect.
I decided to be bold and go for red for cuff buttons, I loved the detail of the surface of the button as this complimented the texture of the suit. I would then wear red patent shoes and take a red handbag.
I thought the jacket was finished before Sue and I met but now this was looking so much better.
However, there was a potential disaster, I noticed that there were 4 buttons on the front not 3 as I had thought. I only had 3 white ones. We had spent over an hour finding these and there certainly wasn’t another one. In a strange way I like these sort of challenges. The bottom line was I could take off the three white buttons and replace them with the navy ones again. I was not keen to do this as the white buttons were just right. I decided to make a bold move. I had another related red button, slightly larger, and I would put this on the front of the jacket as the first button, in pride of place and leave the 3 square white ones which I liked a lot.
However, after a couple of hours reflection this did not look quite right. I had 3 other red buttons so the obvious thing to do was add red buttons down the front, but two of these had been stitched on the cuffs with super strong good stitching!
I had seen a couple of lovely glass black buttons whilst searching for white ones, now I needed to look for these again as they would work on the cuffs, I hoped. I managed to find them. (Note to self, sort out all the buttons into colour coded containers, just as my yarn stash is sorted and it is easy to find what I want.)
Then it was time to remove the cuff buttons, which seemed to take an age; then to stitch on 5 more buttons. in all another hour did the trick.
This is the result.
I found some navy gloves of the period in my glove box and really felt great as I went to the meeting.
I will definitely wear this outfit again, complete with knitted red wool ear rings!
I learnt a lot, the main things are:
Don’t stop the revamping until you are ‘in love’ with the result
Organise the button collection by colour- it will save time in the future
...and I won’t include the obvious....concentrate on the detail....as this is probably rule one for me in sewing.
- The Costume and Textile Association (www.ctacostume.org.uk) promotes the unique costumes and textiles of our city, Norwich. It organises a great programme of talks, workshops and visits and it is a great place to meet fellow textile enthusiasts.
- Meredith Towne (www.meredithtowne.co.uk) is a dressmaker and costume historian who does brilliant talks accompanied by costumes and other related items of the period.
- Crimplene is a type of bulked polyester fibre, it could look thick but weighs little. It was patented in 1959 by a Cheshire Firm and mainly produced in Leek. The fabric was very popular in the 1960’s as at first it seemed the ideal synthetic fabric - no fraying when sewing, drip dry, no ironing, no creases. It was mainly a knit rather than woven fabric. It was popular for the decade and was replaced by lighter (still polyester) fabrics which had more breathability. Some of us still have Crimplene fabric from that period.
- A 1960’s size 20 suit which measured 39” across the bust and 44” across the hips. I am size 10 with hips perhaps a little larger!