Over the Summer I was invited to a 70s party with the brass band that I play in – and it was the perfect opportunity to make my first Hundred Years Wardrobe make. I had the idea for this project at the beginning of the year, but thought I wouldn’t have time to make anything so shelved it until I had the chance to make a 70s outfit. I wrote a post about 70s fashion quite a while ago so I knew there were loads of trends to choose from – hippy, disco, punk, flares being obligatory. I did what I usually do when faced with something like this – went to Pinterest and searched for some iconic 70s figures to get some inspiration. I was pretty close to doing a Bowie look (but which one?!) but then I happened upon this amazing Zandra Rhodes outfit worn by Freddie Mercury and my mind was made up – I’ve always loved queen and thought what better outfit than this!
This was made by Zandra Rhodes and I thought it looked relatively simple to make – I would just have to master pleats!
I started with this really big, thick piece of cardboard I got from work and thought it would work as a pleating board, but in fact it was too thick.
Waaaay too thick!
Instead, I used a piece of thick paper/thin card I already had and it worked much better. For a pleating board, you need something thin enough that the pleats will be sharp. I used this tutorial on YouTube, but I didn’t back it with fabric – which I would definitely recommend if you’re going to try pleating a lot of fabric as my board kept expanding when I put the fabric in. But I just about managed it.
Once I’d made the board, I tested it and it seemed to work – and the fabric seemed to hold the pleats once ironed. The fabric, which was actually much thicker than would have been ideal, was a viscose-something mix (I can’t actually remember) which I bought in my local fabric shop. It was super wide and the ladies assured me that it would hold pleats, which was the main characteristic I was interested in.
I bought 4 metres of the fabric and used about 1m for the trousers, which I didn’t really photograph, either while making them or while taking the final photos. I used the Gertie Cigarette Pants pattern from her book Gertie Sews Vintage Casual as a basis, adding triangles to each side of the leg to make the flares. This was the same pattern I used for my Dressmaker’s Ball dress and I made some tweaks here and there, but it was a good job the fabric has quite a bit of stretch as it made them a bit more forgiving fit-wise and more comfortable to wear!
With the rest of the fabric, which was luckily really wide, I cut it in half parallel to the selvage to make about 5.5m of fabric which needed to be pleated! I got into a rhythm after a while and managed to pleat it all over the course of 2 evenings – of course I left making this outfit until really late so I was in a hurry and working on it every spare hour I could find.
I used some paperclips to try to hold some of the pleats in place as I moved on further down the fabric as I was worried the weight of the fabric would mean the pleats would drop out.
With the majority of the fabric pleated, I used every other little scrap of fabric to make the yoke pieces. But first i cut them out of calico, to be the under-layer which would hold most of the weight of the pleated fabric – and it was heavy! If I made this again I would definitely use something lighter!
Here are the front york and 2 back york pieces sewn together at the shoulders – a lot of this was guess-work, and holding pieces of paper up to myself to figure out how big to make them, but I did use the facing from the Inari tee and dress as a basis for the length and shape of the neckline.
I’m pretty sure the original Zandra Rhodes outfit only had one seam in the pleated fabric, probably at the back, but I had to have 2 so I had one at the front and one at the back, so I stitched the front seam together before I started pinning it to the calico support structure.
I then pinned all of the pleated fabric onto the calico under yoke. In the original outfit, I think it looks like there was more fabric in the middle of the front and then it’s a tiny bit more spread out as you move up Freddie’s body and over the shoulders, but I didn’t have anywhere near enough fabric to make it look exactly like the original – I would love to know how much fabric is in the original, I think it could easily be twice as much as I had.
After sewing on the pleat to the calico, I then cut the front parts for the yoke to cover all the stitching and everything, from the main fabric. I added a seam allowance so I would be able to fold the edges in, like a patch pocket. I also overlocked the edges as the fabric frayed like crazy!
After lots and lots of thinking about how to construct the top – mostly when lying in bed trying to sleep – this was the only way I could come up with to make it. I figured it didn’t matter what it looked like on the inside as the outfit was for one party, but I would love to have a look at the original and see how it was constructed.
When pinning the front part on, I pinned the necklines together (which were the same size as I didn’t add seam allowance there), then worked from the middle out towards the shoulders, to try to make sure it was straight compared to the layer underneath.
At this point, I was pretty excited with how it was looking – and to be honest pretty pleased with how it was looking.
It seems that it was at this point that I stopped taking photos – I was stitching the top yokes on in the afternoon of the day of the party so I assume I was so rushing to finish that I didn’t document the rest of the process, but the back was pretty much the same as the front, which looked like this when it was all finished.
I then added a facing around the whole neckline, again using the Inari pattern as the basis. Then I added some eyelets to the back, to be able to lace it up (which facilitates being able to get in and out of it.
And now after all that writing and the in progress photos, I couldn’t resist trying to recreate the Freddie photos at the top of the post.
You can see in this photo, below, how there wasn’t anywhere near as much fabric in my version as in the original, but you get the idea and it was good enough for a one-off party.
Hopefully with my next Hundred Years Wardrobe make I won’t be in so much of a hurry (though who am I kidding, I love working last-minute to a crazy deadline!) so I’ll maybe have more than one post to write, about some new techniques I’ve discovered or some more inspiration images. But at least I’ve got the ball rolling!
Also I’m going to see Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddie Mercury biopic, for my birthday in a couple of weeks. Would it be too much to wear this outfit to the cinema?! 😉