My first swimsuit pattern was a vintage one + the choices we make

Confession: I am deeply affected by aesthetics.  I struggle with this concept, because I don't like to think of myself as a superficial person.  But I am emotionally and physically moved by beautiful things.  You know when something is so good it hurts?  So while I aim to be a person of greater substance, I'm aware of how visual appeal influences my choices.  In terms of sewing, I've observed this when it comes to pattern selection.  I find myself scrolling past designs that don't appeal to my personal style without giving them a second thought.  Later I'll see a stunning project using the very pattern I disregarded and am floored by how much vision the maker had.  It's a huge source of inspiration, but at the same time leaves me feeling a bit narrow-minded.  A true creative can look past styling or fabric choices that are different from their own and I really admire that.  So I'd like to say that today I'm sharing with you the progress I've made in this area, but I’m afraid not.  With the intent of self-reflection, today I’m taking you with me down a different path.

I've been subscribing to the "no fear" philosophy in sewing for a while now, so it was only a matter of time before I tackled my most recent challenge: swimwear!  Plans started to take shape during a routine trip to Joann's when I found what looked to me like swimsuit fabric.  It was stretchy and shiny in a really sleek dolphin grey, had a Nicole Miller label and was priced for clearance.  I was sold.  (An uninformed choice, based solely on appearance. I didn’t even check the exact content or percentage of stretch.  Bet you can guess how that went.). I picked up lining & elastic and started searching for a pattern.  My inspiration was the one-pieces in this year’s J. Crew collection but I hadn't seen too many pattern options.  I had just about settled on Laminaria by Tuesday Stitches (Seamstress Erin) when I decided to check out vintage patterns on Etsy.  I was completely swept away by the styling of the late 70’s & early 80's.  Some of my earliest memories are of my mom in a super shiny one-piece, glammed up in full hair and makeup (rouge + perm, natch) for a day at the pool.  So when I came across the gorgeous ladies illustrated on the envelope of Stretch & Sew's V-swimsuit from 1979, I wanted to be one of them.  Laminaria is similar in so many ways, it probably would have been the smarter choice.  It's hard to beat the detail of indie pattern instructions, plus it has a sew-along.  But I had fallen so in love with the image of those ladies so I clicked through to purchase.  Here's the rundown:

Pattern: Stretch & Sew V-swimsuit; version A

Fabric: Nicole Miller nylon/spandex from JoAnn, exact content & percentage of stretch unknown; nude power mesh also from JoAnn

Size: Graded between 34 at the bust to 38 at the hip (my measurements put me just under 36 and 40, so I went with the smaller size)

Changes: I followed the version A construction method for the most part.  Instead of soft halter ties I wrapped my ties in elastic and attached them to the back, straight down on either side.  I also chose to fully line the suit with power mesh and added a shelf bra because I’m not fancy-free like they were back then, if you know what I mean (wink, wink).

Verdict: This was my first attempt, so I consider the fact that it actually came together and fits as major wins.  It isn’t the most beautiful thing to look at when it’s just laying there, but once it’s on you really don’t notice the imperfections.  My biggest regret is the fabric.  My impulsive choice based on color was not the wisest.  The wrong side of the fabric is a lighter grey, so it shows through at the stress points-  most notably at the side seams. The questionable percentage of stretch must factor in here as well, or maybe I should have sized up.  For my next attempt I will 100% choose a fabric marketed for swimwear.  I can’t say with certainty if the power mesh as lining was a smart choice.  But I don’t think it was a bad one.  Regarding the pattern itself, I know it’s unlikely that you’ll try the same one.  Even so, I think it's a good one and the instructions were very clear and helpful.  I’d say vintage swimwear patterns are a viable option.

I admit the takeaway here is a bit feeble.  I chose a pattern because the illustrations were pretty and it worked out alright. Will I do that again? Probably.  But I hope my future self will remember this reflection and not limit her options solely based on aesthetics.  It can be a really positive thing to question why we make the choices that we do.

There are a ton of photos of this project.  So  even though this isn’t a tutorial, I hope they help other first-timers visualize the process.

 mee-yow =^_^=

mee-yow =^_^=

 3 front layers held together with wonder clips: main fabric, lining and shelf bra.  I used elastic the length of the front width minus 2 inches to create tension.

3 front layers held together with wonder clips: main fabric, lining and shelf bra.  I used elastic the length of the front width minus 2 inches to create tension.

 All sides serged together for handling.  Thanks to  Allie at Indie Sew  for the tips!

All sides serged together for handling.  Thanks to Allie at Indie Sew for the tips!

 The front ready to go.

The front ready to go.

 One side of the back, curved to go around the bum.  3D pattern pieces kind of blow my mind.

One side of the back, curved to go around the bum.  3D pattern pieces kind of blow my mind.

 The back ready to go.

The back ready to go.

 Crotch seam.

Crotch seam.

 Crotch lining is attached only to one side- at the crotch seam.  The sides are caught in the leg elastic and the other end stays open.

Crotch lining is attached only to one side- at the crotch seam.  The sides are caught in the leg elastic and the other end stays open.

 I love wonder clips.

I love wonder clips.

 Side seams serged together.

Side seams serged together.

 Elastic stabilizes the V-neck, the same measurement as the fabric.

Elastic stabilizes the V-neck, the same measurement as the fabric.

 Elastic add to the scoop back, 2/3 the measurement of the fabric.  I didn't get a photo of the leg elastic insertion, but it was cut the length of the leg circumference opening minus 2 inches.  On the front of the leg opening, the elastic was inserted at a 1:1 ratio, meaning no gathering.  The back of the leg opening is where those 2 inches were gathered, to create a tight fit around the bum.

Elastic add to the scoop back, 2/3 the measurement of the fabric.  I didn't get a photo of the leg elastic insertion, but it was cut the length of the leg circumference opening minus 2 inches.  On the front of the leg opening, the elastic was inserted at a 1:1 ratio, meaning no gathering.  The back of the leg opening is where those 2 inches were gathered, to create a tight fit around the bum.

 This resulted in some pretty extreme gathering around the back scoop, only slightly less so when the elastic is turned in.  I found this strange, but it does smooth out completely when worn.

This resulted in some pretty extreme gathering around the back scoop, only slightly less so when the elastic is turned in.  I found this strange, but it does smooth out completely when worn.

 The V-neck finish reminded me a lot of the continuous sleeve placket construction on the  Grainline Archer

The V-neck finish reminded me a lot of the continuous sleeve placket construction on the Grainline Archer

 The V-neck before turned under.

The V-neck before turned under.

 The V-neck turned under.

The V-neck turned under.

 Straps attached & all elastic turned under and top-stitched with a zig-zag.  Shelf bras really pull at the sides under the arm.  To remedy this I stitched the end of the strap to the shelf bra elastic on each side.  it's not pretty, but it looks 10x better from the outside.  

Straps attached & all elastic turned under and top-stitched with a zig-zag.  Shelf bras really pull at the sides under the arm.  To remedy this I stitched the end of the strap to the shelf bra elastic on each side.  it's not pretty, but it looks 10x better from the outside.  

 Ta-dah!  

Ta-dah!  

 Hard to get a flat lay of the back, what with the shelf bra pulling and all the elastic gathering.  But then again, my body is anything but flat!

Hard to get a flat lay of the back, what with the shelf bra pulling and all the elastic gathering.  But then again, my body is anything but flat!

If you’re still reading at this point you may be wondering where the photos of me actually wearing the swimsuit are.  Spoiler: there aren’t any.  Rest assured, my body image is fairly heathy and I’ll wear this swimsuit with pride.  It’s nothing more than a personal choice to limit how much of myself I share on the internet.  To see this one in action you’ll have to catch me on the sand or at the pool...if you can!  I’m usually hiding under an umbrella or in a caftan.  Stay protected, friends.  And if you make your own swimwear, tag it #nofearnewswimsuit so I can see!

xo

Photo Jun 07, 8 09 41 PM.jpg