Do you ever get taken with a piece of fashion that up until a particular point in time, you’ve more or less ignored?
That happened to me this winter! I have some tried-and-true style combos that I love and turn to time and time again. But this fall and winter, I kept seeing jumpers. A lot of the modern takes on them didn’t grab me for obvious reasons, but I started poking around at photos and sewing patterns for vintage versions. And of course became a woman possessed. Why had I never thought I’d want to wear that style before? Because suddenly I had to make one get into my wardrobe, stat! Ironically I sewed it in a frenzy and then it sat on a hanger for 5 or so weeks before I got around to taking photos, but I knew if I started wearing it, I’d never photograph it!
So here is it. This is what I’m calling my Ultimate Sheath Jumper. And I freaking love it. Love it LOVE IT!
It’s a mashup of the Ultimate Pencil Skirt, paired with the bodice of repro Butterick B5748. Separately, I’ve sewn both pattern twice each, so I knew I had a solid foundation for both top and bottom. I find the Ultimate Pencil Skirt pattern truly my, well, ultimate pencil skirt. So I knew with a stretch bottomweight, it would be the right combination of fitted but comfortable. I had some turquoise stretch corduroy I’d been saving for cigarette pants but decided to use it for this dress instead. (More on that later in the post!)
But I needed to make a few very minor changes to both the bodice and the skirt to make them match up. The skirt was a lot easier: I’d already changed it to hit at my natural waist (detailed in this post), so all I had to do was move the front and back darts over to match the placement of the darts on the bodice. I figured if I had to pick ones to move, the skirt made sense. That worked out perfectly!
(Although seeing photos makes me think I need to lower the darts on the front a tad, I’ll have to check it out in person.)
For the bodice, to make it fit a little more comfortably as an actual jumper, I lowered the armholes 1/2″ to give myself a bit more room to fit sleeves underneath, and widened the shoulders about 1/4″. I raised the back neckline an additional 1 1/2″ from the 3/4″ I’d raised it before (in my Sweetheart cowgirl birthday dress), since I liked the scoop but didn’t want to show that much shirt underneath. I also lowered and changed the shape of the front neckline. And I gave myself a hair more room at the side seam on the bodice, to match the skirt. Which means it could nip in a bit more to give me a bit more waist definition, but it’s super comfy the way it is, and probably better suited for winter and layering that way.
My new favorite thing to do with sleeveless dresses is not to line the entire bodice, but to do an all-in-one facing instead (like I did for my Pops for champagne version of the Butterick dress), which I did for this dress, too. I used a relatively lightweight cotton so it didn’t add more bulk. In summer it cuts down on layers in sticky hot weather, but for this it meant less fabric to cause shifting and bunching with my shirt underneath. I could have lined the bodice with rayon bemberg, but I didn’t really think of that until I started typing this post. 😉
But I did use rayon lining to partially underline the skirt. This is a really cool thing. I never photographed my second Ultimate Pencil Skirt where I did this technique, but I borrowed it from a vintage pencil skirt of mine: you cut a lining piece for half the length of your back (a couple of inches above the vent or kick pleat), sew the darts or pleat them (I did pleats, gives a hair more ease), hem the raw lower edge (or serge it for less bulk), and then baste it to the back pieces and treat them as one with the back. It’s worth noting I always use fusible stay tape for my zippers, so I added that to the corduroy before basting the underlining.
Below is what that looked like, before I’d basted it all together. I think I may also have added a tiny bit of ease to the side seams, but can’t recall. Going by just the photo, I’d say yes.
It’s a fantastic little trick—thank you vintage sewing! While you use a stable woven for the underlining, putting it together with a stretch woven like I have done doesn’t limit your movement since it’s only half, and only in the back. But it does help the back from getting saggy baggy quickly. Because that’s not really an attractive look for a pencil skirt, right? Some people prefer full linings but I hate them. My experience is that I’m just too clutzy and uncouth. For example, I did a half lining of my original Ultimate Pencil Skirt and then took it to France and the UK last fall and broke both of my crochet thread chains within a day or so. And let’s not even discuss the ridiculousness of wearing a sheath style dress that has to be pulled up to use the bathroom, when there’s a half or full lining inside that’s not attached completely. Let’s leave it at that. Underlining the back all the way.
Anyway, because I used stretch corduroy, this thing is comfy, for such a sleek look!
I love that about it! Sheath dresses aren’t usually my thing—at least, they haven’t been, historically. But I have a vintage red velvet one that I wore a couple of times to fancy events in 2016 and I adore it, and it probably got me used to the idea of wearing and sewing one. I do kind of prefer this particular jumper with a belt, which is why I wore it with a great vintage copper and enameled belt.
I have a hard time finding belts I like and I am loathe to sew them myself. I know I should but when I’m done with a project I am done… maybe I should try making one first instead. Which probably means I’d never want to start it, ha ha. But, it gives me a good challenge to hunt for some interesting vintage belts, at least. And this vintage copper and enamel one certainly qualifies.
That’s something I’ve been enjoying lately, hunting for and daydreaming about modernist jewelry. I paired the belt with some vintage Matisse earrings and a mid-century cuff with an interesting provenance relating to my artist grandfather… too long to include in this already-lengthy post, but I wrote all about it in this Instagram photo as kind of micro-blog post.
Anyway, I’m very pleased at how the idea of this jumper turned out in the end. And it’s so similar to vintage sheath dress and jumper patterns!
Sources: Butterick 8060 / Vogue 8053
Sources: Butterick 8709 / Simplicity 2275
I’m somewhat sad that I used this fabric for the dress only because it means I now can’t make cigarette pants in this teal corduroy as it’s now sold out! And good colors of stretch corduroy have been damn near impossible to find for me this season. (I’ve find purchased some more blue, bit it’s a lighter color so I’m not sure I’ll wear it as much as pants.) I got the idea to try dyeing some myself. I bought enough ivory stretch corduroy to dye fabric for a sheath jumper as well as cigarette pants. I have iDye and iDye poly to mix together, since the fabric is mostly cotton but does have some lycra content to add stretch. I’ll keep you posted if it works out.
In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying this silhouette and contemplating future jumpers!