Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sew Weekly Challenge: V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N In The Summertime Suit

Friends, this week has been AMAZING so far.  Sunday I GOT THE MOST EPIC SURPRISE EVER (Mikhaela is the Queen of Kindness and Goodness) and then yesterday I was featured on the front page of the Sew Weekly!  Rob got to hear me scream obnoxiously loud and jump around twice this week - isn't he the luckiest? :)

Seriously. Awesome. Week.

Ok, now onto the suit...

I used Mrs. Depew's 1950's Inspired One Piece Swimsuit Pattern and I can honestly say that I will definitely be making this again.  I made the halter strap version of the pattern, but there is also a strapless version - boning can be inserted into the side seams of the bodice pieces to hold the fabric up.  Yay for not using elastic!  Yay for also not needing a serger for this project.  Since I don't have my serger (yet), I am always excited to come across knit patterns that don't require my owning one. 

This suit is actually my muslin, as the pattern specifically tells you to make one.  I bought some horribly expensive forest green swimsuit material and lining at JoAnn's - I think I about keeled over at the register.  I haven't paid full price for fabric in a long time, and since it was so expensive, I was easily persuaded into making a muslin so my final fabric wouldn't be wasted.  And wouldn't you know it, I had some similar material leftover from my adventure in NYC.  Leave it to me to make a cocktail dress out of swimsuit material.  If I ever have to go dancing on a gym floor that opens into a swimming pool with a young Jimmy Stewart, I will be set! 

I definitely had some fitting issues with this suit.  Because it needs to be a close fit all over the body, it took me about ten hours to complete this project.  Since it looked so different on my dress form, most of the fittings needed to take place on my actual body.  I was having some serious body anxiety at first.  I haven't been running enough, why do my abs look like that, holycrapamIreallythatpasty??? Swimsuit season gives me anxiety every single year without fail.  Who stands in the Old Navy and bemoans their hips and weird birthmarks and breasts that won't fit into bikini tops?  Me.  Always me.  I have a horrible time finding a swimsuit to be comfortable in for the summer, and it's not as though we can get through the summer without a swimsuit - it is just too hot to not throw yourself in some water at some point.  

So I became determined that this swimsuit would work for me.  I knew that I would be comfortable in this style of suit if I could just finish it.  I love halters (I feel more "secure), the tops of my thighs are hidden (HOORAY!!!!), it's a one piece (less sunscreen - yay for cutting down on prep time), and there's a zipper (no worrying about splitting a seam trying to get into it).  For someone who has issues with swim suits every year, this is the perfect solution.

Since this is a muslin, I let things get a little crazy, and I made some mistakes, but I'm still happy with the results.  I strayed from the instructions at several points, which I don't recommend doing.  I initially tried to get out of putting in a zipper - I seriously thought I wouldn't need one since I've never had a swimsuit that had a zipper and I've survived pretty well without it.  Once I heard the magical sound of seams popping as I tried to wiggle into it, I decided maybe zippers weren't such bad things after all! I added two hooks and eyes to the top of the zipper to close the gap between the zipper and the top of the fabric and also for extra security.  I like knowing that I won't have any wardrobe malfunctions :)

For my first foray into making a swimsuit, I decided it was better to be safe than sorry and cut out the pieces with a little extra wiggle room factored in.  After much doctoring, I know that I could probably get away with cutting out two sizes smaller.  The gusset was especially large, leaving me with much sagging in the crotch and bottom area.  I'm already self conscious about my bottom when I get out a pool - I'd rather not add to it if I can help it.  I probably took three inches off of the gusset and the back panels, leaving me with a smoother bottom area.  I originally thought small pleats would help, but tapering in the back panels and shortening both the panels and gusset worked out perfectly.  The bottom isn't as pretty as I like it, but there really isn't going to be anyone examining my seam finishings there!  Or at least there shouldn't be...

I also made adjustments to the halter strap.  I wanted to feel extra secure, and so I encased the straps between the shell and lining pieces instead of attaching to the top of the shell as directed.  This was all well and good until I realized how loose the strap was and had already done all of my top stitching around the neckline.  I decided to go with making a box pleat the the back - let's just call it a design element - to take care of the excess fabric.  I would eliminate this in the final version, but it works well for now.  

The one major problem that really bugs me is the weird flaps of fabric that exist at the bottom of the side seams.  In order to secure the shell to the lining (which the pattern does not call for, I believe), I stitched from side to side around the back of the suit.  I had originally tried to do stitch until the center front seams, but the excess fabric that gathered there looked wretched.  Now I have wings on the side that cannot be tacked down (the fabric bubbles out and makes my hips look wider).  I could probably fix this in the final version, and while I hate it now, I know I won't fix it because I love the rest of the swimsuit and in my mind that means "finished."

I wish I had listened to the directions when they called for French seams at certain parts.  Because the front shell is not tacked down to the lining in the front crotch area, it can be seen if the shell lifts up too high.  This is why it should be a French seam and not the crazy double-stitched seam that I used on the rest of the suit.  You can see an example of the seam finishing I used on the side seam below - I used the stitching as a decorative element, but also to hold down the extra fabric in the seam allowances.  I know better now and this will be remedied in the final version for sure!

This suit, while it tested my ability to work without illustrated directions and also forced me to address body anxieties, is one of my favorite things I've made.  I love the cut and style, the color is pretty fantastic, and it's so comfortable!  I don't have to worry about anything popping out - hooray!  This will be perfect for the vacation I am leaving for on Friday - lots of coverage in a hot climate while surrounded by family.  

I would definitely recommend this pattern to someone who is looking to make their own version of vintage swimwear while avoiding the bikini look.  I know I'll make a version of this in green and probably a floral strapless version as well - this might be my go to swimsuit pattern from here on out!

Friends, have you ever made your own swimsuit?  What were your thoughts during the process?  Let me know in the comments below!

Have an excellent week, my dears! XOXO


  1. Wowzers, look at you! Your new suit is cute as can be! I've never sewn a swimsuit, since even when I buy them, I feel kinda meh about how I look and I hate the thought of sewing something and then feeling ugly in it. Swim season definitely reveals all our gross anxieties.... yuck! But yours is so lovely and you look adorable!

  2. sexy. mama.

    if you find a way to throw some black n white in there, i believe you'd have yourself a tardis swimsuit....

  3. That is so impressive! Seriously awesome sewing. And you look amazing in it. Congrats on Mikhaela's prize too - I can't wait to see the drawing!

  4. You deserve that top spot on The Sew Weekly! I just love your suit!!!!!

  5. So gorgeous! What an amazing swim suit; you will be the envy of all! Well done, Meg!

  6. Wowsers! I can't even imagine making my own swimsuit. This looks killer, awesome job! :D

  7. Behold the bombshell. You. Are. Gorgeous.

  8. Love your swimsuit. 40s pin-up maybe? You're brave, and have something great to show for it! Oh, just love the white button back blouse on you also. Doesn't even need a 3rd layer!

  9. Great swimsuit! You look really fantastic, very 'screen siren'. :) I've never made a swimsuit, or considred making one. Maybe one day! I love the halter style but it really doesn't suit me, sadly.

  10. I am actually about to dive into (ha ha ha) a swimsuit sewing project and have been freaking out about it a little, so it was sick to see someone's successful version! It looks great, and I am impressed as hell!

  11. I've made lots of swimsuits, but it has been 45 years since I've worn one with a zipper in it! My mother made it for me when I was 8. It was made of -- and lined with -- terrycloth. The bottoms had a metal zipper up the back. It absorbed pounds of water, took forever to dry, and made actual swimming difficult. Stretch and Sew patterns, and Kwik Sew, have the best patterns for one-piece suits. Easy easy easy to sew up a suit, even with the "wrong" kind of elastic in the leg openings and straps. Nowadays, I opt for a boy-leg bottom that goes all the way to my waist, and a camisole top with an attached shelf bra, in a sober and matronly navy blue. I do not look at myself in a mirror when I wear it.

  12. Captial OMG! You took like a total betty in your blue suit. I can't believe you were able to make a suit sans serger and that this is your muslin. Mad skills lady... you have mad skills!

  13. Meg this is SO GRAND! You look STUNNING! Well done on a fabulous bombshell suit!

  14. total BOMBSHELL!! i love the color, the style and the details. it's such a perfect Meg suit!! i have the fabric to make a suit or two this summer, but i haven't had the nerve to cut into it yet. and you are not the only one bemoaning EVERYTHING about trying on bath suits in a store... i can't understand why mirrors play such hideous tricks on unsuspecting prospective bathers in a store!! that said, this is seriously a stunner suit!

  15. It's an excellent swimsuit! Very stylish and I love the retro bombshell look! I have never tried a swimsuit, but have some fabric lying around that could work. Still waiting for the right inspiration, though.