While there are certain staples every woman knows she must have in her wardrobe – a pair of jeans, a white button down and a plain tee – a kimono is not usually in that equation, especially a polka dotted one. But when I spotted these oversized, marigold polka dots at Jomar, I was suddenly all about getting wrapped up in a dotty, floor-length super shrug. No, it’s not a direct iteration of the ones from Asia, but it is very Rita Hayworth, and gives me enough reason to pop open whatever beverage on whatever given night for no good reason at all. So, Blanche Dubois.
A kimono has been on my to-make sewing list for quite a while. I embarrassingly admit that the amount vintage shops I follow on Instagram is almost as many as the amount of sewers I follow, which means a lot. Milly Vintage is one of my favs (shoutout to Mary!), Dalena Vintage is another and the crème de la crème of them all, at least in my opinion, is Gossamer Vintage. A chockablock of beaded, silk and lace garments, her feed is a constant inspiration for my sewing projects. Now, before I get to the particular garment that inspired this post, I must make my next point. While some sewers condemn buying vintage with the same arguments they use to condemn buying RTW, I’m not a part of that camp. I like giving vintage clothes a new life. My favorite dress is the one I remade and wore during my online bra making class. Purchased as a size 16, I recut and resewed it to my size.
Lately, Gossamer Vintage has uploaded gorgeous kimonos in blush tones that feature exquisite embroidery. I almost succumbed and purchased one, but the price was too steep for this seamstress to buy, especially considering patterning and construction are a cinch. Using Ralph Pink’s free kimono jacket pattern, I quickly made a muslin. The only correction I made was to shorten the body and neckband. Standing at 5’5”, I’m somewhat of a shortie.
The polka dots must have had an intoxicating effect because even though it is a poly, I purchased it without hesitation. I smacked myself later when sewing sans puckering wasn’t going so well. After a few test seams that rippled, I turned to the forums at patternreview.com for help. Thanks to the ladies who quickly responded, I had an arsenal of tips for dealing with petroleum-based fabrics:
-Polyester doesn’t shrink when washed or dried, so prewashing is not as important as with natural fibers.
-Use polyester thread, silk pins and a microtex #10 needle
-Iron on low to medium heat
-Cut on the crosgrain to prevent puckered seams (this tip comes via Sandra Betzina).
-Spray stabilizer and/or gelatin can also be used to prevent puckered seams
-If the above two fail, try using a slight zigzag stitch (rather than a straight stitch)
-Pull taught from the front and the back when sewing
-Reduce presser foot pressure
Despite their tips, I consider this project not one of my best. It’s not a complete failure, but it’s not a home run either. How is it that on the simplest projects, we make the most mistakes? The neckband, which was first machine sewn to the right side and then hand sewn to the wrong side (like a waistband), is not smooth, and at the hem shows directional sewing (it’s wavy). The only win on this project – other than the gold dots – was the hot pink understitch on the inside neckband. Now that’s a grand slam detail.
Despite the “mistakes,” this kimono has become very versatile. After I get out of the shower in the morning, but before I get dressed, I wear it with a me-made undie set like the one shown in the photos while blow drying my hair and doing all the other things we women do. I won’t get into those particulars – you know the routine. At night and to bed, I pair it with my Vera Aveline. Remember that DIY from eons ago? And on the weekends when I’m hanging around my house or running errands, I pair it with jeans and a tee/blouse like this.
How does this kimono fit into the 5 core silhouettes that I’ve been working to create and perfect this year (I mentioned this in my last post if you missed it)? While it will not be a part of my everyday core patterns, it will become a foundation pattern for the lingerie wardrobe I’m also creating. Because I am just as passionate about making lingerie as I am about making garments, it would be a shame if I left my lingerie wardrobe dangling in the wind while I spent so much time on my everyday wardrobe. Amber Rosalind has because my go-to lingerie pattern and I plan to expand it next year to include other silhouettes.
I originally intended for this post to be as much about the lingerie set as the kimono, but well, the post didn’t come out that way. For all pattern and construction details, check out this post. I apologize about posing nearly buck naked versus in an actual outfit, but if it’s any consolation, I was freezing!