Sew Your Wardrobe Basics: Workwear – A Tale of a Jumpsuit

My jumpsuit 3

I was intrigued by Sea of Teal’s sew your basics theme of workwear for the month of August as it’s been a year of change regarding work habits.  As a result of the pandemic many people have been working from home and with that there has been a shift of emphasis regarding the term ‘workwear’ and how it is defined.

During the pandemic with so many people working from home there has been no need to dress smartly for the office and so people have been able to put their leisure wear on and sit in the comfort of their home office, kitchen, dining room or garden to work.  However what has been interesting is that many people who have engaged in zoom meetings have still felt the need to don traditional smart workwear on their visible top half probably over an unseen pair of joggers!  It seems that many people will now be working from home on a permanent or part-time basis for the foreseeable future and so the trend for workwear suitable for home working looks set to continue.

I left my traditional office job a few years’ ago and since then you could say I have been sort of ‘working from home’ but this has involved sitting at a sewing machine making items to sell at trading events, making costumes for clients and now producing large quantities of fabric masks.  My standard workwear is therefore already comfortable and usually comprises joggers and T shirt but I have been known on occasion to wear a dress while sewing.  The reason I mainly avoid wearing my best clothes is that scissors are fairly dangerous and I have managed to make holes in several items I have been wearing!

Over the last few months the weather has been a bit strange in the UK and despite often raining it has also been very humid.  I began to think I wanted something loose and comfortable to sit in whilst working at my sewing machine.  I’d seen my daughter throwing on a jersey jumpsuit and it seemed so easy and relaxed.  To be honest as much as I like how they look I wasn’t fancying a jumpsuit for myself mainly because of the palaver of going to the girls’ room especially if a back zip was involved!  But stretchy seemed the way to go.

Now you would think with all the jumpsuit patterns out there I would find the exact style I had in mind but no!  All zips, buttons, long sleeves, collars, narrow legs.  I was looking for a simple pull on jumpsuit with extended shoulders, a small v neck and wideish 3/4 legs.  I came across a few contenders.  Butterick See and Sew B6312 was one but this appeared to be out of stock everywhere (discontinued?).  The Zadie by Paper Theory Patterns was another which I do really like but at £14 a pattern perhaps for another day.  Then I stumbled on Butterick Fast and Easy B6224 which almost fitted the bill but I would need to widen and crop the leg.  However the only sizing I could find was 18W to 32W.  I scratched my head.  Did the W mean waist??  As I was impatient I decided it did and went ahead and ordered the 26W-32W size.  Obviously when the pattern arrived I realised I’d made a bit of a faux pas as that pattern must only be available in plus sizes.  My only excuse for this is that these days I very rarely use envelope patterns preferring my back catalogue of various sewing magazines and I’m a bit out of touch with the new sizing but it looks like the W refers to the word Women on the pattern envelope.

Back to the drawing board I decided I would probably have to frankenpattern and find a suitable style bodice and attach to an appropriate trouser pattern. I trawled my Burdastyle back catalogue and came up with a few possibilities but then a light bulb moment.  I remembered I had seen a jumpsuit in my copy of My Image Issue 20.  I dug out the magazine and was so pleased to find it was designed for stretch fabrics.  The dilemma was did I want the lapels or not.  As much as I liked them I wasn’t sure how flat they would lay in a stretch fabric and so I redrafted the wrap neck on the front bodice to be made as a simple collarless wrap thus creating the V neck I had originally intended.

My Image Jumpsuit

The tracing of patterns from My Image is different to Burdastyle who, although using the same colour, employ a different patterned line for each size so it is fairly easy to identify the size you need.  With My Image each line is the same solid colour and labelled with the size so you have to be really careful as you trace off the pattern pieces that you don’t digress to another size.  However the pattern sheets are manageable and large pieces like trouser legs are done as two parts.  I traced off my usual Burda size 38 although the My Image measurements for this size are slightly larger.

I already had a length of black jersey from the local market and perhaps I was being optimistic but the amount I bought was 1.5 metres.  The pattern is only four pieces comprising a back bodice, wrap front bodice, front trouser leg, back trouser leg plus a tie belt. However when laid the pattern out on the fabric it became apparent that it was going to be a squeeze to fit the pieces on if at all possible especially as the wrap bodice pieces needed more room and that’s when I regretted not buying 2 metres.  I left it alone but decided to revisit it the following day.  I got more fabric by uncurling and pinning all the edges of the jersey.  I wanted crop legs on the jumpsuit so measured and folded up the hem edge of the trousers.  I had managed to get some sort of layout but there was no room for 5/8th inch seams.  As I was overlocking the jumpsuit I decided I could just squeeze 1/4 inch seams out and went ahead and cut the fabric.  In fact this made the decision to add or not add the collar irrelevant as there would not have been enough fabric anyway.

It was at this stage that I decided the garment might end up being a ‘wearable toile’ as I knew the narrow seams would allow little room for fitting although I was hoping that the stretch fabric would be more forgiving than a woven.  Now although I consider myself an advanced dressmaker I am almost a novice when working with an overlocker and stretch fabrics.  I bought a second hand serger a few years’ ago mainly with the intention of giving a professional finish to outfits I was making for various clients.  However working more with knit and stretch fabrics was always an aim.  My previous efforts on a standard machine had been okay often sewing the seams with a small zig-zag stitch but now I felt I had the right machinery for the job. I still find all that rolling up of edges on stretch fabrics a bit frustrating but overall I was proud of how I threw myself into overlocking without pinning or with minimal pinning.  The only places where I took more care were the hems on the wrap, sleeve and trousers.  I tacked them up and took my time sewing them as I find the twin needle occasionally wants to make a run off the edge of the fabric if I lose concentration.

As I wasn’t making the lapels on the jumpsuit I had to decide how to finish off the edges of the wrap bodice.  I thought about binding them with either bought or home made bias binding although the latter became an impossibility because of the lack of fabric.  I remembered Sea of Teal had made a beautiful blue wrap ponte dress and so referring to her description of finishing the edges I did a simple turn back narrow hem overlocking the edge first and then twin needle stitching.  The tie belt has been pieced together with the remaining bits of fabric I had left and at 2 cm wide is half the intended size on the pattern.

mustard cropped

Despite my fears regarding the outcome of this project due to all the pitfalls and adaptions I had to make I am actually quite pleased with the end result.  The jumpsuit made up very quickly as there are no darts of shaped seams to contend with.  The only alteration I made was to the sleeve width as the original seemed to gape on me and so I narrowed them by quickly serging the seam a few inches higher.

As a result of this project I definitely feel more confident working with stretch fabrics and I will certainly be using this pattern again.  I think it would look great made up in a woven like linen with the addition, if needed, of a zip fastening in the side seam.  The only thing missing – side pockets.  I might have to add them to any future makes.  I now have an easy to wear jumpsuit that will be comfortable to sit in whilst working at my sewing machine but in reality it can be much more than that.  I think jumpsuits have a part to play as conventional workwear.  Worn with a smart jacket, heels and nice jewellery this would look more than appropriate for office wear.