There’s no denying my love for a jumpsuit and boilersuits are no exception. Whilst I’ve never worn a ‘nice’ one before I’ve had an old oversized mechanic style one bought secondhand in Brick Lane for nearly 20 yrs ago that I use for painting. When I spotted the free pattern from The Rational Dress Society who offer it up as an ‘experiment in counter-fashion’ suggesting we ‘free ourselves from choice’ by filling our wardrobes with one item only. Although I will probably not be wearing only boilersuits from now I am fully onboard with the idea that clothing should adhere to the standards of durability, functionality and practicality. Luckily Olu (Needle and Ted) was onboard too.
The original Rational Dress Society (as I understand but am no expert) was formed 1881 in London to protest against constrictive fashion, advocating that clothing offered:
- Freedom of Movement.
- Absence of pressure over any part of the body.
- Not more weight than is necessary for warmth, and both weight and warmth evenly distributed.
- Grace and beauty combined with comfort and convenience.
- Not departing too conspicuously from the ordinary dress of the time.
Honestly those are pretty much all (not sure about grace?) the considerations I try to take into account when making my own clothes although I might have to reword the last one to something about reflecting my own taste.
Back to the jumpsuit/boilersuit- the pattern is FREE! and comes in a large range of varying size/shape/height combinations and in a fitted (bust darts) or unfitted (no bust darts) style. I chose the fitted I style called x-Ray which corresponded to 36-37.5″ chest measurement (mine is actually closer to 35), a 39-40.5″ hip measurement and 5’4″-5’6″ height. The first challenge was that the pattern didn’t want to print out for me in tiled pieces so I ended up having to import the large format pattern into illustrator and tile it myself.
For a free pattern the instructional video is very instructional and thorough and helpful if you like that sort of thing. I however, found it too thorough to be helpful. I tend to be a skim reader when it comes to pattern instructions and it’s not easy to skim read a video so I didn’t and just freestyled the construction.
Overall it came together nicely and the fit was pretty spot on, except that the bodice was too long so I had to take about an inch of the bottom of the bodice pieces. I used sandwashed tencel bought at The Fabric Room for the bargain price of £4.50 a metre. (The minimum order is 3 metres.) I felt the soft drape of the fabric might soften the utilitarian style in a way that made it more useful for me as everyday wear, which I think worked – certainly I’ve been wearing it a lot.
The only other thing I might change if I were to make it again is the sleeve. They ended up wider than I imagined, which I don’t mind as the fabric is drapey, but I would definitely address if using a stiffer fabric. This issue can be confirmed by Olu who did make the same pattern in a denim – you can read all about her make and changes she made here.
After I’d made my jumpsuit I found that there was a fair amount left from the original 3 metres so I got to work making another jumpsuit for the other fan of them in our house.
I used Chalk and Notch’s kids fringe dress pattern for the bodice grading from a 12 in height to an 8 in width. I had to widen the bodice at the back so that it would meet the trouser part and be possible to take it on an off. For the trousers I used my Graphite Trousers pattern again grading between a 12 and an 8. I kept the ties from the fringe dress to add a little definition at the back. Using up the leftover fabric is really practical but I’m not actually a big fan of wearing matchy matchy clothes with my kids. Luckily we look completely different in our jumpsuits though. Right?
Just when I’d finished these jumpsuits Barbara from Bobbinhood got in touch to ask if I’d help test their new boilersuit pattern. By this stage I already knew how much wear this one was getting so agreed but decided to make this one a little different, and by different I mean louder. I had a denim version in mind but Barbara asked if I could test in a drapey fabric so I used the same sandwashed tencel fabric as before but this time in pink.
As it was a test for Bobbinhood (who make and sell easy screenprinting kits) I felt compelled to add some screenprinting to my suit. Inspired by the embroidery I added to an upcycled cami top made last year I played around sketching some designs, settling on an abstract design in coral, mustard, white and black which I then added further detail to with embroider thread.
If I were to do it again, I’d probably make the design a little bit less busy, needless to say I didn’t do it again and sewed up the suit with the panel as it was. At the stage I tested the pattern the instruction booklet (which now looks great!) wasn’t finished so I can’t comment on it and again made up the construction adding hidden poppers to the front.
In the end they turned out to be quite similar suits, although I much prefer the fit of the arms on this version and the zip closure on the previous one.
So, if you’ve ever fancied making a boiler suit, there are lots of options around. Along with the two patterns I’ve mentioned above I’ve also spotted the following:
Intrepid Boiler Suit
So now’s the time….