Warning: Picture overload coming your way.
This week’s theme for Project Run & Play was to use your favorite children’s storybook as an inspiration. Since this was going to be for V, my first thought was to do something Princess in Black inspired. She adores those books. But they’re her favorite, not mine, and I would have ended up just creating some sort of costume. I thought of Charlotte’s Web but if I’m being completely honest, I’ve never even read it. And then, I remembered how I loved Beatrix Potter books. Especially The Tailor of Gloucester. If you look carefully, you’ll see the copy V is holding is in French. That was mine.
For those who don’t know, in the book, the tailor has three days to make a wedding coat and waistcoat for the mayor. When he cuts out the fabric, the leftovers are so small that they’re of no use. He leaves them for the mice. He’s missing just one skein of cherry colored twisted silk thread for the buttonholes when he goes home. He gives his cat money for food and the thread. While the cat is gone, the tailor frees the mice the cat had trapped under teacups. When the cat comes back, he sees the tailor has freed his dinner and hides the thread. The tailor gets sick and is bedridden. He moans about the wedding coat in his sleep. The mice, as a thank you for freeing them, make the mayor’s outfit. The cat sees this and feels guilty so he gives the tailor the thread he’d hidden. By then, the tailor is better but still weak and it’s the mayor’s wedding day. When he gets to his shop, he finds the whole outfit completed except for one buttonhole (the mice ran out of silk thread). He’s able to finish the outfit and from that day, the poor tailor became well known and quite rich.
I knew straightaway that I was going to make a cherry colored coat dress for V, like the mayor’s wedding coat. I found some not too expensive dupioni silk in just the right color and prewashed it to make sure I’d be able to wash the final coat dress. For the lining on the bodice, I chose some light yellow polyester habotai from Cali Fabrics, just like the mayor’s coat. For the coat’s skirt, I found a really pretty slightly stretchy cotton with a gorgeous blue flower print that calls back to the embroidered flowers on the mayor’s waistcoat. It has a bit of body and weight which helps give the slightly floppy silk more structure.
For the pattern, I started of with the Oliver + S Building Block Dress. I adore this book! I used the instructions to make a big puffed sleeve with cuff and to flare out the skirt. From there, I made my own changes. I created a curve at the front of the skirt to get a high low hem inspired by men’s coats from the 18th and 19th centuries. On the bodice, I moved the opening from back to front, extended the front to make it double breasted and created a V neck. In the book, there’s a mention of pocket flaps so I had to have teeny tiny pockets with a flap. Pockets just big enough for a pocket watch.
I made my first ever bound buttonholes on this project and in the future, please remind me not to make my first bound buttonholes on floppy silk. Even interfaced, it took me hours to get them just right. I actually made them about 1/4″ smaller than the instructions I found online said and the buttons fit perfectly. The buttons are only on the bodice. I thought of adding them to the skirt but it just didn’t look right. Instead, I added a couple hidden buttons: a snap at the neckline to make sure it wouldn’t flop open and a Peter Rabbit button at the top of the skirt. Just a little callback to the author’s best known character even though he isn’t actually in my story…
I found this shiny cord that matched the silk and used it to trim the neckline and the bottom of the skirt. It’s meant to represent that twisted silk thread from the story. Around the bottom of the skirt, I embroidered three tiny mice. They’re very subtle.
A coat dress can’t be worn on its own and this one has a rather deep V neck and short front. I used the coat’s skirt pattern to draft a simple elastic waist skirt. Basically, I kept the sweep but added width at the top. I added a plain waistband with elastic. The fabric is this cotton eyelet from Cali Fabrics. It’s meant to represent the tailor’s more modest means.
For the top, I made, uh, some sort of tunic/short nightgown thing. It’s based off of Jalie 2805. I used the front pattern piece for both front and back. I lengthened the whole thing and split it into three parts, sort of like princess seams. The neckline is squared off and flare is added to the side pieces. Before constructing it, I added three rows of crochet lace to the center front piece. This is what shows at the top of the coat dress. The other neckline edges are finished with white foldover elastic, soft and matte side out.
I know the whole outfit can seem like a lot on its own but I made it so each piece could be worn without the others. The top can be and has been worn as a nightgown (though it’s a bit short so I’ll be adding some lace at the bottom). The skirt can be worn on its own with any other top (but V wants me to add a yellow lining to make the eyelets look more like daisies). And finally, the coat dress can be worn over leggings and a simple tank top. I actually really love it over leggings. It gives it a bit of an equestrian vibe and you get to see that gorgeous lining better. And then, for special occasions, all three pieces can be worn together.
I am so proud of my work on this outfit. I had a vision and managed to get it exactly right. And I did some of my best sewing on it. This is the outfit that made me stay up way too late way too many times but it was worth it.