Monday, July 30, 2012

Italian Tarantella Dancing Costumes

Now, for the ultimate in blogger procrastination--this was something I meant to post last year, when I first started my blog! Posting this project was actually my inspiration for starting this blog in the first place...

Well then, a year late, the Italian Tarantella Dancing Costume Project!

Now, how did this project come to be? Well in my junior year of high school my Italian teacher decided that for our school's annual International Festival in June, a performance of the Italian Tarantella Napoletana should be included. He was able to find music, and a group of students willing to dance (myself included), but still the largest challenge remained: what would the dancers wear?

At this point, around February 2011, I piped up "I can sew them!" (fastforward to the future: facepalm). The Italian club had a lot of money from recent bake sales, so the finances weren't an issue. I did some research and presented my designs to the Italian Club so they could all vote on a design.

On to the research process! My task was to make dancing costumes for 5 girls and 5 guys (although in the end the performance was suitable for only 4 pairs of dancers). All images via

I see a trend of white blouses, dirndl-like vests, white aprons, and colorful skirts with ribbon or lace trim near the hem. The Tarantella is a traditional dance of southern Italy.

With a game plan in mind, I set out to buy a pattern and fabric. I determined the skirts would just be panels 2 yards wide, gathered to a waistband, with a 1" elastic sewn in. The apron would be a hemmed rectangle, with a drawstring made from the selvages of the mysterious fabric of the blouses. The pattern I chose to make the bodices and the blouses was Butterick 6196.

Really da fuq is the girl on the right wearing?
Out of the $140 I was allotted for this project, I only spent $40 on fabric--crazy right? The rest was spent on notions and trims. I bought an endless expanse of mysterious sheer pink crepe, a nice black suiting, a green polyester damask for the skirts, a nice beige woven for the aprons (it had great texture!), and some plain red cotton for sashes for the boys. My fave fabric purchase of this whole project was the lining for the bodices: a cheery yellow, with a pattern of little white flowers that each had ditzy little red or green centers. Italian colors! And a cheeky vintage style print! The bodices are fully lined and boned, with olive green binding around the edges.

The boys' costumes were very simple: white button down shirts, black dress pants, and red sashes tied to their belt loops. They weren't too keen on a full costume. This year, however, I made larger, better sashes for the boys, and black cotton vests to complete the look.

All photos courtesy Justin Torraco
I love the drape of the sleeves and the curve of the bodices!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

DIY Sheer Button Down Shirt

I've been seeing sheer button down shirts cropping up everywhere from the runways to American Apparel. But, as a teen of limited means and a sewing machine, I knew what I had to do.

Make one of my own!

I dug out my pile of this synthetic pale pink crepe stuff, which I bought 10 yards of for $6 (unheard of, right? $1 a yard, plus 40% off!). I've been trying to use up this temperamental sheer fabric, and I felt this project would use up a good amount of it. I used a vintage McCall's from the '80's, so the pattern, although for a size extra small, was terrifyingly large once I cut it out. I took out 3 inches from each side seam and 2 inches from each sleeve, and the shirt still retains some bagginess to it. The buttons were a perfect match, 25 cents at Wal-Mart, but not enough to sew beneath the collar and on the cuffs. Oh well, they'll restock eventually, right?

Totally 80's...look at those perms!
Shirt in 3 lengths...I made it in the smallest length.

I liked the pleated shoulder detail of the shirt very much, as well as the little pleats of the sleeve into the cuff.

Of course it only made sense to wear a shiny sheer pink button up shirt with raspberry red corduroys and a studded belt...

See the little shoulder pleats? Aren't they darling? And I must say my collar is very crisp...

Blech that sheen just kills me...but the shirt is very versatile, neutral while a pop of color, formal while casual, and would be fun to layer under sweaters!

What's also very interesting about this strange synthetic fabric, besides that it frays beyond recognition, is that even after I washed the shirt, it held its pleats--and wrinkles--like it was its job! Seriously, how does that happen? The pleats were as crisp out of the wash as if they had just come from underneath my iron! Weird...

The purse is a vintage clutch of my Grandmother's, who "saved it for special occasions". Uhm, no. This purse is just too much my style to pack away at the bottom of my closet! It's one of those metal-link-thingy purses, and the gold and white detail on the flap is an elegant contrast.

I don't think it's as cute and versatile as mine!
 This is what I mean by metal-link-thingy, via