When I, Caitlyn of Practice Makes Pretty, first decided to pay tribute to Erica Bunker, I thought I’d follow her lead and sew a trendy cold-shoulder or off-the-shoulder top, since she’s made several and even did a tutorial for an off-the-shoulder shirred dress recently. But the fabrics in my stash didn’t lend themselves to that plan, and I was dubious how much wear I’d get out of it anyway, so I cast backward into the dim past of 2015, and decided to go with a peplum top instead.
Does it count to pick something that used to be trendy? Probably not, I decided, so instead I chose to reflect the thoughtfulness that Erica puts into her sewing by taking my time, choosing the right techniques, and rejecting sloppy sewing.
The skirt is Simplicity 1465 View C, a straight skirt with a waist facing instead of a waistband, front and back darts, and a center back invisible zipper. I heavily modified it to peg the hem, attach a rayon bemberg lining to the waist facing, and add a back vent for walking ease.
I relied heavily on Sunni’s BurdaStyle tutorials for how to create a vent, draft a vented lining, and sew a vented lining. My only complaint with these instructions is that they create a vent that is lapped in the opposite direction than usually you see in ready-to-wear: normally the satin stitches that tack the top of the vent in place create the appearance of the number 1. In future iterations, I’ll reverse my left and right back pattern pieces and back lining pattern pieces.
To elevate the skirt above the basic finishing instructions provided by the pattern, I understitched the waist facing where it attaches to the skirt and to the lining (and French seamed the lining), interfaced the zipper area with one-inch-wide strips of fusible interfacing, and replaced the turned under hem with a ribbon hem blindstitched in place by hand. Erica is a huge proponent of interfacing—she believes the average sewist doesn’t use nearly enough it—so I was careful not to skip it, and my zipper definitely lies smoothly and feels more secure as a result.
The top is Simplicity 1425 View E, a sleeveless, princess-seamed top with a pleated peplum. Here I went off-piste again, replacing the recommended back closure of buttons and fabric loops with an exposed metal zipper. And once again, I was careful to stabilize the zipper area with one-inch-wide strips of fusible interfacing. I underestimated just how weighty a metal zipper is, and so I probably should have used a beefier interfacing, but something is surely better than nothing?
The neck and armholes have bias tape facings; because of the weight of the fabric I also used bias tape to finish the peplum instead of turning it under twice and stitching it down.
Ultimately these were the right choices design-wise—the whole outfit looks more formal without visible stitching—but holy bonkers, was that a lot handstitching! I actually enjoy the process of blindstitching, but this many feet…yards…of it severely tested my patience. If I make the top again, and I do think I’d like to, I want to look into creating an all-in-one facing for the neck and armholes.
Throughout the process, I made a conscious effort to think of my work as making clothes, not just sewing a pattern, which is why I chose a pair of separates instead of a single garment. By itself, the top was liable to feel like a kind of showcase piece, a thing to wear out only when I specifically wanted to wear handmade. But with the skirt also in my closet, I’m a lot more likely to mix them up with other clothes and then match them together again, treating them just like I would other garments. Thank you, Erica, for modeling how to combine sewing and fashion—you inspire me to fill up my closet with DIY style!