Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Boxy Hibiscus Top: Simplicity 6742

Sometimes my sewing ideas charge ahead without regard for the facts, the constraints - the stuff I should know by now! Does that happen to you too - or are you a fast learner?

This time around, my idea was to pair a summery boxy top with a flared skirt - essentially a square capping a triangle - theoretically, the idea seemed a cracker! But unfortunately the whole idea is predicated on the existence of a narrow waist, somewhere around the apex of that theoretical triangle, and I ain't got one of those no more.  So this combination doesn't look nearly as good as I'd hoped - I know the photos prove it.

A boxy top with a flared midi skirt
You've already seen the skirt (posted here, and thank you for your lovely comments, I haven't finished replying to you but I will!), so I'll tell you now about the top I whipped up to go with it.

I still thought it was a good sewing idea!

I used a second hand sewing pattern - you can see it pictured below. I know it looks terribly '80s (and it's dated 1985), and I know many people hate '80s fashion, but if can you look past the flickback hairstyles and dated jewellery, there are gems out there in 80s fashion land!

This old sewing pattern is all about boxy 80s shapes, but I think they look fashionable again - the top looks quite modern, and I think the skirt could also be very appealing in an eyelet fabric (hmm yes, I *do* have one planned already, thank you for asking!). Actually the pants would probably look good too in a black crepe if you narrowed the leg width...

Simplicity 6742, a classic 1980s outfit pattern
The top is described succinctly as a "loose fitting waist length top". That's pretty accurate but doesn't tell you enough.

To me the top feels cropped - it is waist length, but because it's such a loose top there is a high potential for waist exposure. So it's not cropped but it might flash your midriff like a cropped top does. The pattern also has no bust darts, which helps keep it super boxy, but I think you'd need to add them if you were bigger than a B-cup and wanted the top to fall properly.

The sleeves look cut-on but are made from a separate pattern piece, and the neckline is not just a simple V-neck - it has two inset pieces that form the V and that attach to the V shape of the top as well as to the facings for the back neckline. Unfortunately these details don't come across on the pattern envelope. I've taken a couple of close-up photos of the front neckline, but I know it's hard to see details in this busy print - squinting at the hibisci (or is that hibiscuses?) reminds me of eye tests!

close up of the V-neck from the outside
close up of the V-neck, inside out


The fabric is a lightweight cotton; I bought about 3 metres of it at Lincraft last year when I was planning to make a summery shirt dress for the "Fall for Cotton" challenge. My plans changed when I realised I didn't love the fabric enough to spend a serious amount of time on it (you know, buttons and top stitching) - FYI I ended up maing this cotton dress from a vintage Vogue pattern instead.

Anyway, back on topic! I guess this is a quilting cotton? The fabric is a bit stiff, but seems to soften up with heavy-handed ironing. I still don't know how much I like the fabric - enough for a top, obviously, but if I say I'm tempted to make what's left into a skirt please stop me!

Back view, boxy summer top

Fitting and Pattern Adjustments

Fitting? Say what? This top really is very loose, so I didn't need to do any fitting!

I sewed the pattern exactly as the instructions told me, and now I WISH I'd made it slightly longer, the better to hide my midriff.

There's that lesson about measuring stuff again, isn't it - you'd think I'd have learnt it making the skirt, wouldn't you!

Is it a crop top?
There is one other thing I should have adjusted and which I did adjust when I made this top again last week.  The pattern tells you to cut out the inserts for the V-neck on the bias, then interface them before attaching them to the neckline. The fabric wanted to stretch out on the bias, naturally, and a bit of interfacing was not enough to stop it.  Is there any reason why the neckline pattern piece would need to be bias cut? All I can come up with is that it might look good to have your fabric print or weave angled against the straight grain bodice. Again, it may be hard to see this in the photos, but my bias-cut neckline does not want to lay flat, and to my eyes looks slightly warped. 

Second time around with this pattern I cut these neckline inset pieces on the straight grain and they behaved so much better! That second top is not yet photographed - stay tuned.

Likes / Dislikes

That V-neck was fiddly to construct, but I really like it, and the neckline construction steps in the instructions were clear and even clever. So that's a couple of definite likes! I also really like the general shape of the top and in particular the wide airy sleeves.  I reckon this boxy shape would look amazing in a thick fabric (scuba fabric, anyone?) though it would be quite challenging to make a neat version of this neckline with a thick fabric.

The length of the top, however, is something I don't like - well not on me. I do think it would look amazing on someone with a tiny waist, maybe paired with a pencil skirt, but on me it just accentuates a short waist and a generally thick area :(. And I am not about to cut down on chocolate.

Side view, this is how the top wants to fall

OK then, so that's a wrap! I'll be back soon with more summer sewing - still nothing too challenging I'm afraid - I'm having too much fun with squares and triangles! 

See you soon

- Gabrielle xx


  1. Would it work if you used some of the leftover fabric to make it into a longer tunic length, added an elastic or drawstring at the new waist, and wore it with clamdigger type trousers?

  2. I agree that there are some gem of patterns from the '80's and lets face it, those pants are everywhere in rayon. I think the top overwhelms you in the sleeve area. I like the look on the envelope (and on many patters I have to fight to resist) but I know my tiny shoulders, thick waist and big boobs would kill it.. funnily the length would probably be right! Resist any urge to make something with the extra fabric although I do like it against the pink of the skirt, I don't love it.... but I lived and wore (and made) things like this in the '80's so maybe that's it.

  3. I am also quite mad for this trend - I have a matching skirt/cropped tank combo cut out. I do also have the same issue as you - since having a baby, I'm not as tiny-waisted as before. And my hips are bigger. And chocolate is my friend. I do wonder if you cut down the volume in the top a little if that would look better? More of a woven shell top look?

  4. Wow, that v-neck is seriously perfect! I think the cropped/waist length top is hard to balance with bottoms, for ANY figure type. I keep going back to my basic rule and it seems to work - boxy/loose top + Skinny/pencil bottoms = a generally good outcome. Or vice versa of course. I agree with Rachel - maybe cut down the volume of the top to a shell top. The colours in the top are simply gorgeous!

  5. I often make things that are best left in my imagination! But life would be boring if we didn't try out new things. And I'm sure you'll find something that looks good with this top

  6. The top and the skirt will go well with other coordinates, if not together. The top will look great with a pencil skirt or pants. I like boxy tops too and I made one in a slinky floral fabric and it didn't work. Gonna try again using a solid jacquard cotton instead. I hope it wont end up looking like some uniform :)
    I like your skirt too, and it looks good on you, but you know, this skirt will not be friends with my tummy.

  7. Gabrielle Corbett27 November 2014 at 00:04

    Thanks Gail, I wish it did, but unfortunately the boxy top combination just accentuates my lack of a waist :(. I suspect it's a look best left to the super slim...

  8. Gabrielle Corbett27 November 2014 at 00:12

    Thank you! Oh that's terrific, now I can solve it! I knew I hadn't stuffed up the seam or the zip, so I thought it *should* be something to do with the shape of my lower back / bum :) - I am so, so glad to hear this issue happens to someone else (sorry though!). And yes, I think I get this with other fitted or skimming skirts too, unless they're stretchy...

  9. Gabrielle Corbett27 November 2014 at 00:14

    Ha! So true :). I think we're a lot kinder to each other about appearances over here! Thank you Kirsty.

  10. Gabrielle Corbett27 November 2014 at 00:19

    Thank you Ruthie, that is an excellent suggestion - I tried the top on again this morning holding it gathered around the waist, and I think it would make a really big difference to do exactly as you say. Unfortunately I don't think I love this top enough to work on it any more... I think I'll probably pass the top on to someone who suits it better...

  11. Gabrielle Corbett27 November 2014 at 00:25

    Yay, 80s!!! Yes, they are everywhere these days, aren't they!

    Thank you for being brave and telling me the truth: when I look at this again with a bit more distance I can see that the sleeves ARE too big on me - I think the width would be OK if they were shorter or nearly full length, but this is an awkward length with my small shoulders and short thick waist :(. Oh well. you live and learn! I think I need to use the rest of the fabric for my daughter or donate it...

  12. Gabrielle Corbett27 November 2014 at 00:33

    It's a bit frustrating that it's so hard to make the trend work, when it looks so lovely on all those professional model people - how can that be, lol ! Chocolate is a dear, dear friend :).

    I can't bring myself to work on this top any more but that is another excellent idea - a shell top! Sleeveless?

  13. Gabrielle Corbett27 November 2014 at 00:39

    Thanks Jillian, it's actually quite a naughty neckline, very keen on stretching and moving about! It does seem to be hard to get it to work... I think there must be a magic formula for the rare people that can do it! Your basic rule sounds so sensible, I need to try to keep it in mind next time I have a random sewing idea :).

  14. Gabrielle Corbett27 November 2014 at 00:40

    I'm glad I'm not the only one :). But yes, that's part of the fun of it, isn't it - trying out the random ideas - and if they work out, it's a brilliant feeling!

  15. Gabrielle Corbett27 November 2014 at 00:44

    Thank you Erin, the top feels like it's too short to wear with most of my skirts and pants, but you're right, I should try it with a pencil skirt or pants before I give up on it :). Oh dear, I'm sorry your boxy top didn't work out - but I'll look forward to seeing the jacquard version! Hopefully that one will be a winner!
    Tummies, grr ! They are difficult, aren't they!

  16. Yes, sleeveless - have a look at the Gorman online shop - they have some cullottes and midi skirts paired with cropped tops that are sleeveless.

  17. That skirt is so lovely! I like the top too & think it would look really nice with some slim/skinny jeans, maybe a vest underneath if you're worried about exposure? Your sewing has been on fire this year - so many gorgeous makes, I just want to raid your wardrobe!

  18. That is a killer retro skirt and top combo - you pull off the look so well!! Did you make the top also? Quite striking :) Seems you've got plenty of good advice already on the skirt issue, so I'll stay away from it (that's just a nice way of me saying I have no idea, really, :P )

  19. I know exactly wha tyou mean... my whole silhouette focus when getting dressed/sewing clothing is to emphasise the waist! I love the idea in theory too - I like the way the top and skirt go together here (and lets face it, clothing always looks best in real life when you can see it moving!) and think they look good; it would look even better with a fitted top. I love the inside close-up of your V-neckline - pretty!

  20. i do make styles that don't suit me, just to remind me 'not to do it again'. But I would have made your top because it's a lovely style for the Summer.
    You're v-neck sewing skills are awesome.

  21. Thanks Mel, I do have lots of good advice on skirt fitting now! Sadly no I didn't make the top :(. It would be an interesting little sew though; the design is quite clever with the front pieces able to move around to fit while the back pieces are much more fixed.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...