Wednesday, November 20, 2019

McCall's 7670 (1981): Denim Pants with Buttoned Cuffs, Slouchy Top and Silver Stretch Belt

In my last post, I tried to set up a “cliffhanger” involving McCall’s 7670:  I own this pattern from 1981, I’m fondly remembering Jean’s green knickers from 1984, and I’m willing to seriously entertain any fashion trend prior to 1989.   

Would this unique set of circumstances result in me sewing and wearing knickers in 2019?  

The answer to this question turned out to be No.  

I also took a pass on the jodhpurs, and settled on View B, which are the long pants with buttoned cuffs.

I had some really nice denim from Mood Fabrics that I was originally going to use for my white strapless jumpsuit.  I thought this would be perfect for my new puffy cuffed pants.

Putting these pants together was relatively painless.  I felt confident of the fit because of what I learned from the practice shorts I made in my last post.  The length of these pants as noted on the pattern envelope is 42 ¼ inches. The length did seem excessive, even if they were supposed to have blousing at the bottoms.

But, since I usually end up adding length to almost every pants pattern I make, I didn’t consider shortening the pants.  I would just see how they turned out.

They were, in fact, a bit long for my taste.  There was just too much fabric floating around my shins and ankles.  I ended up trimming about 2 inches off the bottoms after basting one cuff on and seeing how it looked. 

After they were done, I started to experiment with styling.  While making these pants, I envisioned them with a pair of vintage leather pumps, a white blouse and a tweed blazer.  Once the pants were made and on my body though, these pieces didn’t look right.

I had a slouchy top I had made a few years ago from Butterick 5753 (released in 2012).  

Before I made it,  I had stumbled on a review of this pattern on the excellent website, Pattern Review (such a great resource if you are shopping for current patterns!).  Diane from Blue Dot Patterns (if you are interested, you should really read her full review at Blue Dot Patterns where you can shop her wonderful original patterns and read her blog!) made this top in black with a center panel of pink and black stripes. It was SO 1980s and I loved it! It inspired me to copy her.  My shirt does have a striped center panel also, but the color palette isn’t as 80s as hers is.  

image of Diane in her Butterick 5753 appears here with her permission.  Thank you!

While cruising on Etsy several months ago, I stumbled on an Omega brand silver stretch belt at this shop.  I immediately got a flashback to my sister’s bedroom in the 1980s. I had a mental image of a belt just like this one amongst her things (in addition to her bermuda bag with wooden handles and the button-on cloth covers!)

I happened to have some green suede booties that matched the top, and voila--I had a new 80s casual outfit!

I love the silver stretch belt.  I omitted the belt loops the pattern called for (I was being lazy) and I was kicking myself when I realized I really WANTED to wear this belt with this outfit!  Luckily, the belt seems to stay where it should and I think it looks good where it is.

this back view shows the interesting notch finish on the right arm...
The other arm has a more standard finish

The cuffs are a bit on the tight side, and it is a minor struggle to get them buttoned.  I don’t think I made a construction error; perhaps my ankles are bigger than they were in the 80s.  I had my husband take a picture of how the cuffs look unbuttoned, and I think it looks OK. Which is good because I can see myself forgoing the buttons as I rush to get out the door in the morning!



My new pants are very comfy.  I like them buttoned and unbuttoned.  All in all, I’m glad I skipped the knickers and added these to my wardrobe instead!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Knock, Knock, it's Knickers: Revisiting 1980s Equestrian Chic

These co-eds are so fresh-faced, it’s as though not only their bodies but their actual souls have been washed clean with Ivory soap.

McCall’s 7670 contains knickers, jodhpurs and long pants patterns.  

pattern copyright 1981

Knickers had a major moment back in the 1980s.  My friend Jean owed a pair in green wide wale corduroy which I can still conjure in my mind to this day.   She wore them with argyle socks. We didn’t know it at the time, but Jean was channelling some 1920s golfer fashion:

Of all the trends in the 80s, knickers was kind of a weird one.  Knickers came fast on the heels of gauchos, which seemed to be more of a 70s thing:

Similar to culottes, gauchos are a lot like skirts but with the convenience and coverage of pants.  Knickers are a lot like pants, but end at your knees with buttoned cuffs. They remind me of Jean circa 1984 or cast members from the Broadway musical, “Newsies”

original photo taken by George Lucozzi

Perfect for hawking papers on street corners or a jaunty pony-ride, knickers seem best suited to younger folk.   Yet, knickers DID take off and there WERE brave souls over the age of consent who sported knickers in the 80s:

(both images from May/June 1982 Vogue Patterns magazine)

Yes, tight-fitting or blousey, knickers had their day.  But could a new day dawn for these spry little trousers?  Could I--SHOULD I--sew and wear knickers? Would I WANT to wear knickers?  Am I ready for the (real and/or imagined) pitying glances? Or would I set the fashion world on fire by creatively reviving a long, twice (or more) dead trend?  After all, 3 people follow my blog, plus my mom.  

How about going way out on a limb and making the jodphurs?  What forty-something woman DOESN’T want her pants to billow out at the hips and then come in real tight at the knees?   Hey, I wasn’t a “horsey” kind of girl (never once crossed my mind to ask my parents for a pony) but it’s never too late to dabble in equestrian chic.  Is it?

more from 1982 vogue patterns mag

Jodhpurs and knickers were originally functional garments meant for sports and horseback riding.  And stirrup pants! Like their name implies, stirrup pants were originally designed so that your pants wouldn’t bunch up when slipping into your riding boots.  The zeitgeist of the 80s quickly absorbed and appropriated all of this horsey apparell and soon horses had nothing to do with them:

So I decided:  I was going to make SOMETHING out of McCall’s 7670.  But first, I wanted to make sure they fit comfortably.  

I have noticed that these 1980s patterns in size 12 seem to fit me quite well.  However, I did notice that my last pair of 80s pants JUST fit. They are comfortable but I wanted a bit more ease in my next pair.

Ease, or pattern ease, is a BIG topic of discussion (and frustration) in the online sewing world.  Of course, if your waist is 27 inches you don’t want the waist of your pants to be EXACTLY 27 inches around.  You need a bit more fabric there so you can move about comfortably.

Currently the “Big 4” pattern companies (Vogue, Butterick, McCall’s and Simplicity) generally add a huge amount of “ease” in their patterns. (As is the way of most things these days, these companies have merged and are now all owned by the same parent company.)  You may innocently purchase a pattern, cut out your size according to your measurements and then be swimming in your new clothes.  

This "Open Letter to Vogue" from the blog Communing with Fabric expounds on this frustration, plus laments for the days when Vogue released many more interesting patterns for the home sewist.  Like many, this blogger has a long history with Vogue and she has seen some unwelcome changes in their patterns. It’s a very good read!

It seems to me that my vintage 80s patterns are just better drafted than many patterns made today.  And the ease included is NOT ridiculous. This has made sewing from these patterns even more enjoyable.  My measurements are basically a size 12 (give or take) and the 1980s size 12 FITS. Wow, what a concept!

Still, I wanted just a little more room at the waist than my last pair of 80s pants had. So I watched this video to learn how to enlarge the waist on a commercial pattern.  It was pretty easy.  

I added a 1 ½ to this waist of this pattern and sewed up a pair of shorts out of a small piece of corduroy I knew I wouldn’t use (it’s a lint magnet).  Turns out that they were too 1 ½ inches.  

So what I learned is that 1980s Vogue pants patterns fit OK and could use a little more ease, and 1980s McCalls patterns fit me great.  I should have intuited this from my prior makes with 1980s McCall’s patterns.  The pants on my white strapless jumpsuit fit like a dream.   

So what will it be?  Knickers? Jodhpurs? Pants with strange puffy bottoms?

What will become of me and McCall’s 7670?

Well, I actually have finished this project and all that remains is for me to corrall (ha) my husband and make him take pictures.

Tune in later this week to see!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis (1985)

Bret Easton Ellis was still a college student when his debut novel, Less than Zero, was published in 1985.

The novel's central character, Clay, is also a college student in New England.   He’s come home to Los Angeles for Christmas, where he reconnects with his high school friends. He falls back into a familiar routine of partying, going out to lunch, shopping in Beverly Hills and seeing movies. Everyone is very wealthy and does a lot of drugs. In between these pursuits, Clay has conversations with his ex-girlfriend Blair and others from their clique along these lines:

“Where are your parents?”
“My parents?’
“In Japan, I think.”
“What are they doing there?”
“Shopping.  They might be in Aspen.  Does it make any difference?”

Clay's friend Julian however, has parents who are a major problem. Julian's appetite for drugs, and therefore his spending, have gotten so out of control his parents have frozen his credit cards and checking account. So he asks Clay if he can borrow a rather large amount of money.

This debt, and how it’s repaid, leads to the very disturbing conclusion of Less Than Zero.  

I found this book difficult to enjoy and “get into,” especially at first.  The characters have a lot of non-sequitorial, vapid conversations. I understood that the author was trying to “show” the characters’ superficiality and non-connectedness.  And I saw that the author threw in disturbing tidbits here and there to show an unacknowledged moral crisis. But that very vapidity made it hard for me to keep following the story.  The book did become somewhat more engaging as it went on however, and I had no problem finishing it.  

So what was my reward for completing this book?  I suppose I got a glimpse of what I assume is Bret Easton Ellis’ impression of teenage L.A. in the mid-80s.  A kind of historical snapshot with some solid 80s flashbacks. Clay wears Wayfarers, refers specifically to the Elvis Costello “Trust” poster, and his younger sisters shop at Camp Beverly Hills. 

(Trust came out in 1981.  Elvis Costello’s song Less Than Zero is on an earlier album called My Aim Is True.)

(should I track this one down and make it?)

But did I really need to know that these kids are so dead on the inside they watch violent bootleg pornography in order to feel alive?   It’s a rhetorical question I’m not sure I ever wanted to ask. And that’s not even the worst thing these kids get up to, by the way.

Needless to say, this wasn’t an amusing book.  But there was one time, and one time only, when I laughed a little while reading it.   Blair and her father are discussing the next movie he’s producing:

“Daddy, you know I’ve been asking you to put Adam Ant or Sting in the movie,” Blair says.
“I know, I know, honey.  Clyde and I have been talking it over and if you really want it that bad, I think something can be arranged.  What do you think about Adam Ant or Sting in Star Raiders?” he asks Alana and Kim.
“I’d see it,” Kim says.
“I’d see it twice,” Alana says.
“I’d see it on videocassette,” Kim adds.
“I agree with Blair, “ Blair’s father says.  “I think we should seriously look into Adam Ant or String.”
“That’s Sting, daddy.”
“Yeah, Sting.”

You can’t really blame Blair’s father for getting Sting’s name wrong.  After all, Sting (or String as Blair’s father calls him) released his first solo album, The Dream of the Blue Turtles in June of 1985.  Probably at the exact same time that Less Than Zero was published.

(I owned this album--on cassette--in the 1980s and remember it fondly.)

Of course prior to going solo, Sting was in the mega popular English band the Police.  Not that everyone didn’t know who Sting was BEFORE he went solo. After all, the Police’s 1983 album, Synchronicity, contained the biggest hit of the year in both the US and the UK.  But in 1985 Sting probably hadn’t fully carved out his own identity apart from the Police quite yet.

1983's biggest hit

Do I recommend this book?  A better question might be, should I have watched the 1987 movie instead?  Robert Downey Jr. is supposed to give a riveting performance as Julian (perhaps a prescient one considering his real-life descent into drug addiction):

And the movie version has Andrew McCarthy as Clay and James Spader playing yet another character you love to hate.  Between these two (the yin and yang of 80s teenage cinema), Jami Gertz as Blair, and Robert Downey Jr. walking that line between acting/reality, the movie is bound to be an 80s flashback worth experiencing!

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