A handmade wardrobe in Mexico
My boyfriend Joel and I normally go on short holidays in Britain or to places that EasyJet flies to, as that's what budget and time allow. This year we decided to take a bigger trip further afield, and scored some cheap flights to Mexico City. I'm going to post some of the details of the actual trip in another post, but of course booking an oversees adventure prompted me not only to go into itinerary-planning mode, but into wardrobe planning mode too, so this post is about some of the clothing I made for the trip.
The full holiday was twelve days, and I wanted to pack pretty light, taking a mix of all-in-ones and separates. It was going to be hot, and we were going to spend half of it in Mexico City and half in Oaxaca, day tripping into villages and the countryside. I did some rough planning...
... and I partially followed the plan and partially didn't. I intended to make at least one jumpsuit, but in the end - even though jumpsuits are all the rage right now - no particular jumpsuit pattern/fabric combo spoke to me. I made three dresses instead. I really only started wearing dresses a couple of years ago and as I am so slow at sewing it's taken me a while to find my stride. With the three I made for Mexico, I feel I've really hit my dress sweet spot, and I think I'll wear and love these for as long as they live. First up, Vogue 8903.
Shirt dresses are firmly in my comfort zone, and I had already used this pattern to make my Sew Frosting entry. I found the arm holes to be a little too deep, so I compared the pattern pieces with the Grainline Studio Archer shirt - which is the ultimate fit for me - and basically transferred the Archer arm scythes to this pattern as best I could (by gluing tracing paper to this pattern and sketching new armholes). I snagged the last 1.5m of this terracotta viscose crepe from Fabric Godmother (this is the wrong side) and I got it discounted as it had a few of these bright red dots on it.
I decided to draft new sleeves for the dress, as the arm scythe had already changed and I wanted a short, wide sleeve. I used the Archer Shirt sleeve head as a base, drawing round it on newspaper, then I cut it up the middle and pivoted both pieces apart, with the pivot point at the shoulder seam.
As I had zero margin for error on the viscose crepe, I actually cut one sleeve from a different fabric to test out the fit.
I made up the whole dress then sewed the test sleeve in. I'm really glad I did as I made a few adjustments at that stage, before cutting the sleeves for real.
I also decided to add a channel at the waist (not sure what the technical term is!) to thread a tie through. I just cut a long strip of fabric, folded it in half and sewed the long edges together making a tube, pulled it the right way and pressed it flat. Then I stitched it to my dress. I made the actual tie in the same way. I stitched a little press stud underneath to close the dress at the waist - and yes, I stitched it on the wrong side first.
I loved wearing this dress in Mexico. It turned out to be my 'about town' dress, I tended to wear it on the days we were going to museums and galleries. It turned out to to blend in pretty well with the environment too.
Another adjustment I made was to draft a much shallower collar and shallower collar stand.
I went pretty extreme in the reduction of depth, and once I'd cut the pieces I worried I'd gone too far.
But I love how they came out.
This photo is taken right outside our AirBnB in Oaxaca. I made the Pattern Fantastique Sulis Hat especially for the trip, but I didn't really wear it. I love the hat and its a great pattern, but having never worn a hat in my life, I just need to learn to pick it up and put it on my head! Hopefully the Sulis will have its day on another trip.
More terracotta camouflage.
Next up, the Tessuti Patterns Claudia Dress - kind of. Again, I've already made the Claudia Dress and cursed myself afterwards for not making a toile as I had a lot of fit issues. I toiled the top part of the pattern, having reduced the width on both the front and the back piece by 2cm each (making a total reduction around the body of 8cm). That turned out to be a little too tight so I added a half cm back in to each piece.
I saw this hack on Instagram using the Tessuti Romy top, and thought I'd try something similar with the Claudia Dress. I just used it to make a top that cropped at about my waist, then added a giant rectangle of fabric gathered at the waist to make a skirt.
I love it! Although I fiddled with the fit quite a bit already, I think I should shorten the straps just a little to bring it up more at the armpits. Looking at the photos, I reckon the waistline could be a bit higher too. I will probably never make these alterations though.
I got this fabric at my local market (Queen's Market by Upton Park Station in London) and it cost £1.20 a metre. Ridiculously cheap. It flows really nicely and worked out to be a great dress to wear on really hot days. And for wandering around the Textile Museum in Oaxaca.
Really awkward pose here, but I love these irridescent green corrugated doors so much, they are everywhere. Want.
I made my third Mexico dress using New Look 6526, which is a pattern from the 90s. I hesitate to call it vintage, even though I know the 90s officially counts as vintage. Anyway, there is another New Look 6526, which is modern and not this one!
I posted the pattern cover on Instagram and asked what fabric I should use to make it, and the audience was split between a bold 80s style print and plain black. As 'fit and flare' isn't normally my thing, I decided to play it slightly safe and go for a 'radical nun' look. I had some money left on a Ray Stitch gift voucher from my very nice Mum and Dad, so I splashed out on some lovely black linen.
This pattern is impressively well designed and I highly recommend it. My measurements mostly came up between two sizes and I cut the smaller one (size 10). I shortened the bodice by an inch and made the waist ties about an inch deeper, and much longer too. They are actually sewn into the darts at the back, which I love.
This dress ended up being my star make. It's very comfy - the waist ties are actually kind of fake, they don't tie, they just sit through a loop at the centre front, so they aren't tight against your body at all - fun to wear, and the linen made it feel robust. This dress came with me on all sorts of day trips. It climbed 180 steps up an ancient Aztec pyramid, traipsed through mezcal distilleries as well as downtown Mexico City.
And I really appreciated that it has pockets.
Unfortunately even a magical dress cannot give you the strength to push a one tonne stone.
Here you can see the dress transitions very well from 'outdoor adventures' to 'eating a cheese sandwich in a cafe and watching telenovela.'
I made a couple of separates to take with me too. Firstly, this strappy top based on Julia from Contour Affairs tutorial.
I made the trousers based very loosely on the True Bias Lander Pants pattern, adding a lot of width to the legs and removing the fly completely. The fabric is a stretch plisse, so I could make them with in elasticated waistband.
I wore this combo in the mornings or evenings in Mexico City when we were pottering about locally buying food supplies, and I wore it on our adventure on the Aztec canals at Xochimilco.
Still not sure whether I love the top, but it looks pretty good next to a whole mango on a stick.
I also wanted a super practical bag with loads of pockets to take on the trip, so I could feel extremely organised and secure with it tucked under my arm. I made this using a lavender canvas (which I originally bought to make the Sulis Hat) and I made up the design.
I used a standard tote bag as a starting point, laying it on a piece of newspaper to sketch out the right height and width. This is the 'pattern' I created!
I made the lining from scraps of amazing Nani Iro fabric I had in my stash.
I added loads of pockets on the lining, including this one for my glasses case which I'm especially pleased with as it fits the glasses case like a glove.
I wasn't in love with the bag, but decided to add this 'R' patch to it. That meant I could put in a few sneaky hand stitches, to help secure the lining to the outer fabric between pockets, which was a bonus.
This bag is the one thing I made that came with my every single day, and we've become pretty good friends. From being completely fresh, it was really put through it's paces, and we have a pretty good relationship now.
Other homemade clothes I wore loads were my giant gingham Peak Tshirt, which I made last year using Wendy Ward's book 'A beginner's guide to sewing with knitted fabrics.' I love this Tshirt pattern, I think it may well be perfect. I also self-drafted a little vest which I made in a leftover scrap of House of Hackney tiger print silk jersey. I wore this whenever we were chilling at home, normally with a pair of black cotton Named Alexandria Shorts which I have had and worn for years. The photo on the left below is our first night arriving in Mexico City, and the one on the right is towards the end of our stay. I think you can see the transition from 'anxious anticipation' to 'holiday bliss.'
I got to wear my Named Beverly Twisted Bikini once as we stayed one night in a hotel with a pool. I totally forgot that you're supposed to twist the straps at the top (you'd think the name would be a good clue!) so I wore it as a halter neck, which also worked, ha ha!
And finally, my trusty Paper Theory Kabuki Tee sweater and black twill Lander Pants were my international travelling outfit - hardwearing and comfy.
Altogether I think I made ten things for my Mexico trip. I made and took two things that I didn't wear at all: the Seamwork Adria top in olive green and a pair of lavender shorts using a vintage pattern. I like them both, they just weren't really necessary. I possibly went a little overboard with 'Project Sew Mexico'!? Still, I had a few 'old and loved' makes in the suitcase that did me proud and I think next time I go on holiday to a hot place I won't be making loads of new things as my three Mexican dresses are 'forever' garments. For now, I feel I've possibly completed a year's worth of sewing in three months and I have absolutely no urge to take to my machine. Let's see how long it lasts...