20th Century, What I wear

Rodeo & Wrangle & Ramble in Style

Isn’t it wonderful when you get the excuse to make something that you’ve been hankering after for ages and ages?

Fifteen years ago I inherited Grandma’s stash, and I’ve been sewing with it and enjoying it ever since.  A few pieces of her stash I made up right away, because they were that special, and a few pieces were so, so special that I’ve been trying to decide what to do with for a decade and a half.

This fabric was one of those:

How  cute  is that? How utterly, absolutely, totally darling and  adorable  is that? And perfect for a Western challenge!

I would have loved a full dress of it, but I only had 2.1 metres, it’s only 90cm wide, and there was a lot of age damage. I considered blouses like  Simplicity 1868, but that didn’t seem to do the fabric justice.

The perfect solution?  Butterick 8044′s  not-quite-a-circle skirt! (yes, I am so in love with that pattern, and if it weren’t for my  True Love Story  outfit I wouldn’t have considered the skirt for this since I’m  not exactly a circle skirt fan). It was  just  the right amount of fabric. I managed to keep the worst of the age damage of the skirt, and still get the full width and length.

The skirt is really simple to put together.  I went with overlocked seams (with threads in shades of fuchsia, aqua & black, because I’m like that), and a bias turned hem.

Inspired by  the bow on my first Butterick 8044 skirt, I cut a sombrero from a scrap of the fabric and appliqued it to the back of the skirt yoke to mark the back.

It’s lovely and simple and quick but beautifully done, and I love it.

To go with the skirt, I unearthed one of the few pieces of knit fabrics in my stash — a delicious fuchsia viscose. For all that I’m perfectly comfortable sewing corsets and hand-sewn 1660s gowns, I’m pretty much a novice when it comes to knits. They are just so modern! So I used Steph at 3hourspast’s very  helpful list of knit resources, and her brilliant  Blank Canvas pattern  to develop my own hack with 40′s details. Using this knit for a Blank Canvas shirt has been on my to-do list since the day she launched the pattern.

For ’40s inspiration for the top, I used  Marian Martin 9254. I loved the neck cutout, and thought the flutter sleeves would create a nice 40s broad-shouldered aesthetic to a T-shirt.  I also had the idea that I could tie the neck with a bit of leather, for a cheeky nod at a lariat.

I developed the neck cutout myself, and used Steph’s  flutter sleeve hack tutorial  for the sleeves. I did the most flutter possible. For now I like the über-flutter craziness, and I can always tone it down later.

The best part? The cut-out opens up to be a fold-back collar, also very 1940s! I didn’t plan that — it was just a bonus extra.

I’ve done a two-part tutorial on how to ‘hack’ the Blank Canvas T pattern, and my construction techniques.  For now, enjoy the photos, and have a lovely weekend!

The title of this post comes from Connie Dover’s ‘Where Shall I Go (A Cowboy’s Hard Times)‘. It’s a rather sad song, but this dress and the ‘in style’ is as close as I’m likely to get to rodeos and wrangling (I do like to ramble – in writing and through the fields and woods).



  1. Lynne says

    youtube.comI enjoyed ‘Where Shall I Go?’, though it is rather sad, and the skirt and top are dreamy. What about ‘Cowboy Dreams’ by Jimmy Nail?

    What a charming fabric! It makes up so well in that skirt – shows it off to perfection. The little sombrero in the back of the yoke is a delight – just the right nonchalent angle, too.

    Favourite photo? The one of the brave cowgirl swinging out over the abyss. Well, over the agapanthus, anyway! 🙂

  2. That’s such a cute, yet practical outfit! (Photo proof attached, too.)
    And that Marian Martin pattern actually kind of matches the colours… and the knit matches the old fabric perfectly. It all came together nicely, didn’t it?
    Also, it’s a good proof that vintage patterns can easily be translated for modern wear. I wouldn’t have guessed the skirt pattern was vintage if you did not tell us!

    • Haha! Yes – pretty practical! Thank you! I was actually way more comfortable swinging off the tree than I was sitting on the cement steps. I was afraid my bottom would get dirty, or that the fabric would snag on the rough cement.

  3. Oooh, where are you taking those photos? Lovely spot 🙂 And I ADORE this outfit!! So in love with fuschia and aqua/turquoises together. So preeetty. Like you. 🙂

    • D’aww <3 Thank you! The photos were taken on the pathway to a friend of Shell's house - I was picking Shell up there for the photoshoot, and decided it was a good enough location of it's own (since cacti and split-rail fences are hard to come by in NZ).

  4. Demented Seamstress says

    What funny fabric! At first I thought the sombreros were flying saucers.

    The outfit is fabulous and the photo of you swinging from a tree is great.

    • Demented Seamstress says

      Yes! Finally my comment published!

      I’ve been trying to leave comments for over a week but I kept getting redirected to a page that talked about the address not working. I think it was because I was on a different computer, has this happened to anyone else?

      • I think it had, too me, a while ago. Leimomi tried to work around that; in the end it just kind of dissipated, I think (I don’t know what she did).

  5. Claire Payne says

    I love both top and skirt and adore your uber-flutter sleeves. I would wear this outfit. The 1940’s pattern is gorgeous.

    (By the way, the book I mentioned to you a while ago is “The Complete Book of Sewing” by Constance Talbot. If you do not already have a copy of this magnificent book from 1943, I will send you my spare copy Leimomi).

  6. What a pretty skirt. Love the little touch of the sombrero. I really must start marking the back of skirts and dresses. lol!

    You sew a lot of 40’s clothes. I’ve been worrying….What do you think makes a A-line skirt look 40’s rather than modern? Is it entirely in the length? The angle of the A? or something else? I want to draft a A-line skirt I can make from pillowcases but I want it to look 40’s I have a modern re issue of a 40’s pattern but I wonder if changes have been made to make it fit modern sensibilities?

    • Thank you! To me, three things make an half circle/A-line skirt look 1940s rather than modern: the length (it’s got to be mid-calf length), the fabric (use something very drapey – rayon is ideal, dress weight wools and draping velvets are great), and the size of the panels (this skirt is two panels which are each just under 1/4 of a circle).

      I personally don’t like modern re-issues. I just feel they never quite look accurate. And I’m not sure that pillowcases would be big enough to fit the width and length of a 40s skirt panel – perhaps if it was a four-panel skirt?

      • ooh, thanks for getting back to me. I think fabric choice might be why in the past my skirts haven’t looked that ‘authentic’. Yours always look like they are straight out of a old photo.

        The pillowcase skirt is for the PR refashioning contest. I thought in the spirit of make do and mend I’d try to do a floursack dress….but I don’t have a sack. So pillowcases were my next option. Either I’ll dye some old ones or buy some cheap ones to make it from. Its either that or I’ll attempt a top of some kind.

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