When I was in college, I finally came into my own with my sense of fashion. Not that it was a good sense, but it was my sense. I went to school a full 8 hours and 3 states away from the confines of my hometown, finally free to explore all the inner workings of my closeted fashionista without fear of judgement from my peers. That’s not to say that I didn’t make some pretty bizarre wardrobe choices in high school, but my outfits were generally tame; I lived in a mostly white neighborhood, so I didn’t intentionally try to stand out any more than necessary. In college, however, all bets were off. I was inspired by/obsessed with the girls in the Delia’s catalogs. I wanted to add sparkles and glitter to my body lotion to compliment my braces. I wanted to wear my hair wild and free in it’s naturally curly state instead of straightening it every week like I did in high school. I began to embrace an alternative look that seemed funky and cool, and very unlike the cookie cutter GAP riddled southern belles that I grew up with.
Okay, I never actually owned a pair of authentic JNCOs because I couldn’t afford them, but I definitely bought knock-offs simulating that wide legged shape. I loved the way guys looked in them with their requisite flavor-savors, hackey-sacks and pierced ears. I don’t say this with a sense of pride, but rather in hopeful solidarity with you readers….? Surely I am not the only teenager who fell into the JNCOs-adorned boy trap in the late 90’s. Right? I was so obsessed with the look that some of my earliest fashion-inspired sketches in my drawing diary featured boys and girls in those giant legged silhouettes. The only thing better looking to me than a slouchy, scruffy boy in a tight-fitting t shirt and sleeping bags for pants was ME in the same ensemble. My favorite “going out” outfit my sophomore year of college was my beloved pair of khaki colored JNCO wannabes, a belly-button grazing white cotton bandeau top with a ruffle on the edge, and my black Steve Madden chunky heeled ankle boots, big enough to make me several inches taller but small enough to stay inside the walls of my huge pants legs, giving me that coveted no feet look that permeated the early 2000’s. To top it off I would stuff my curly hair into Princess Leia-style buns, coat my eyelids in a some ice-blue shadow, and be ready to PARTY (fyi: for me at the time, party meant ALL dancing/NO alcohol/NO drugs. Interestingly, my idea of partying seems to have morphed into the direct inverse of this equation as I’ve gotten older. Go figure.)
I graduated from my JNCOs look pretty quickly- my junior year in college was comprised of mostly stretch knit leopard prints, feeble attempts at cleavage, and non-prescription eye glasses. By the time my senior year rolled around, I was taking so many dance and choreography courses that I pretty much lived in footless tights and leotards, and once I moved to NYC, my appreciation for a vintage aesthetic slowly started to form. But I guess my penchant for wide legged culottes never quite left me, because when I saw Erica B’s version of the culotte jumpsuit pattern by Vogue (9075) several months ago, I was entranced! It was JNCOs all grown up! A midi length to update the silhouette, beautiful flowy fabric to soften the look, and a fitted, structured bodice to balance out the wide legs. AHHH, PERFECTION! Dare I try this look on me, 15 years after the JNCOs promptly entered and exited their way through my life? I am notorious for nixing certain shapes and design features that I don’t think will work well on my frame, and normally this jumper would be one of them (I always worry that short, wide legs will overwhelm my frame), but I couldn’t get the garment out of my mind. Eventually I decided that it was worth a try to sew it up and see how it worked on me- if it was hideous I would only be out the price of a few yards of fabric and the time it took me to make it.
I bought a lovely navy viscose twill (not pictured in this post) from Michael Levine’s; it was my first time working with this type of fabric and I absolutely fell in love with it. It has a soft hand and beautiful drape while still giving the garment a bit of body. The end result of this fabric paired with this garment was not wonderful, though. And for some reason I forgot to buy fabric to line the jumper, so I used this cheap rayon stuff I had in my stash which was ALL WRONG ALL WRONG ALL WRONG. The colors were a terrible combo, it shed weird shimmery fibers all over my dark blue twill, and it had too much stretch so it got misshapen when paired with the bodice. All in all the design of the jumper had a lot of issues (on my body); the waistline was lower than I prefer, the crotch was WAY too high and giving me serious camel toe whenever I tried to sit down, the front middle of the bodice tugged down in this weird way, creating a tiny V that would extend below the belt I tried to wear with the jumper, the bodice was funky because the shaping didn’t really match my bust line, and the gold lining kept peeking out from underneath the bodice even though I understitched it. It wasn’t the best thing I had ever made, but, like any obsessed seamster, I was convinced it had GOOD BONES. After wearing my JNCOs Jumper to a dinner party and futzing with it all night long (and discovering that viscose twill wrinkles pretty easily), I decided that the garment would be my muslin and that it was definitely worth making again with some adjustments.
Since my birthday was coming up, I splurged on a double gauze by Cotton & Steele and bought enough to make the jumper and the lining from the same fabric. I shortened the bodice, bringing it up to my natural waist. I took in all the bodice seams about 1/4 inch, I dropped the crotch of the pants about half an inch (although the end result is somehow several inches below my crotch). I took in the front edge of the armhole so that it wouldn’t stick out as much as it did on the first make. After making it, I realized I forgot to lengthen the pattern pieces for the pocket to match the longer length of the pants, so the pockets are usable but definitely too short for my taste. I honestly never thought that much about pockets before, so this was a nice reminder of how everything is connected- if an adjustment happens somewhere in a pattern, I need to run a checklist to make sure it doesn’t affect any other parts of the piece.
My favorite thing about this garment is that it looks like a dress when I am standing still and then just kind of magically transforms into pants when I start walking. The cotton gauze is beautiful and soft, and it (sort of) survived a laundry mishap when Claire’s cheap basketball jersey bled dye all over it in the washing machine. I had to do an emergency dye-removal wash with that weird smelling powder stuff but it worked well enough- the fabric is no longer as vivid as it once was but it doesn’t have as many purple splotches on it anymore. The double gauze is a little thicker than fabric I would make for this pattern in the future, but it is still one of my favorite things to wear. I completed this jumper right in time for my birthday this past April, and it was the first time that I had dedicated time and effort into making myself a birthday outfit. I don’t know why it took me so long, because I LOVE birthday celebrations (especially my own); making a special outfit to celebrate in seems right up my alley.
I had a great time on my birthday- it was filled with surprises from the moment I was rudely (but purposefully) awakened at 6:30 am that morning til my wife and I took an uber home from The Museum of Natural History later that night, covered in sweat from dancing to DJ Anthony Valadez at First Friday. We were running late to the event and worried that the party was going to end before we got on the dance floor, so we walked right past the bar and immediately planted ourselves in front of the speakers, dancing non-stop until the last song finished playing. All dancing/NO alcohol/NO drugs. I guess everything really does come back in style eventually.