A retro playsuit – Butterick 6354

I’m back, with what might be my most spectacular creation so far! It’s a retro-style playsuit for my friend/pin-up, Becca BamBam. Her pinup character is so fabulous I felt it fitting to create something equally fabulous to suit.

Woman poses in front of a pink vintage car. She wears a retro playsuit, consisting of a bustier top and sarong skirt in a blue tropical print. She holds a parasol.

The pattern I used is Butterick 6354, a Gertie for Butterick pattern. I haven’t heard good things about her other patterns, but this wasn’t so bad, besides some inefficient construction techniques and an excessive amount of ease for the style (how is a bustier top and wrap going to stay up with 6cm ease?). I chose a smaller size based on flat pattern measurements and added an extra waist snap to the sarong for choice of fit, then it turned out Bec’s measurements I had on file were slightly off, so it ended up fitting perfectly.

Two women pose in retro costume.

The main fabric is a cotton voile from the Spotlight $2/m sale, if you’d believe – I’ve been sewing with these fabrics for at least 18 months and I’ve still got some left! I quickly realised it wouldn’t be supportive enough for a bustier top, so I bought a cheap sheet from the op shop in a lovely matching blue to underline it. I think I achieved this by just laying the fabrics out together and cutting as one, then smoothing out any kinks, machine basting, and trimming any unmatched edges.

Some notes on construction:

  • The pre-covered boning I used (from the op shop mostly I think) was very stiff and had rolled out of shape, so I soaked it in boiling water and pressed it in a magazine stack. The other boning I had from Spotlight was much more obliging, and easily fit into the bias tape casing I made.
  • This sounds obvious now, but I really should have sewn the bodice lining/bodice seam at the bust first, understitched, then sewn the waist seam. The lining wanted to roll out, and this method would have been a lot easier than understitching in a boned tube as I did! (This wasn’t in the instructions.)
  • I couldn’t get the zip facing to look neat by hand, so I finished the overlap side by machine and pulled the bodice right side out through the underlap opening.
  • It was very difficult to find an appropriate open-end zip – most were jacket weight. This is actually an invisible open-end zip, which cost NINE DOLLARS, and was a nightmare to sew in due to the inexplicably thick plastic sections at the base of the zip (I chose to sew it lapped to fit the retro look). My zip insertion is pretty craptacular as a result.
  • The band looks really odd to me – it’s eased onto the bodice and just doesn’t want to sit right. I tacked the band point at CF to help it roll a bit better.
  • Used big snaps rather than buttons for the detachable straps (not photographed), which I felt would keep the strap in place better and be slightly more comfortable.

I would recommend the pattern, with reservation – just make sure you check the finished measurements (printed on the pattern pieces) to make sure you get the size you want.

Several women pose in retro costume.

Bec wore the playsuit to the Ballarat Beat Rockabilly Festival, as you can see in some of these pictures. Doesn’t she and the other contestants look stunning!

Two women pose in retro costume in front of a cut-out of Elvis.
The bustier also works paired with a pink satin circle skirt and Elvis.

The deets:
Pattern: Butterick 6354, Misses’/Misses’ Petite Bolero, Bustier, Sarong and Shorts
Pattern details: “Self-lined bolero. Close-fitting, lined, boned bustier has front band and detachable (button) halter strap. Fitted, wrap skirt has pleated right-front, and tie ends. Purchased bias tape to finish waist. Shorts have waistband. C, D: Narrow hem.” Sizes 6-22.
Fabric: 2.5m x 138cm printed voile pretty floral, blue, from Spotlight, light blue polycotton sheet from op shop
Other materials: 12mm grey bias tape, covered and regular boning, both from stash. Birch open ended invisible zip, blue, 18cm, from Spotlight.
Mods:
– Chose slightly smaller size based on generous ease, moved waist snap in
– Underlined bodice
– Finished most of bodice by machine and tacked down CF band to help it lay better
– Used snaps, rather than buttons for strap

Author: Siobhan S

20 something, living in country Australia. Spoonie profile: ME/CFS, dysautonomia, anxiety. All about sewing, knitting and food. Unapologetic feminist and disability advocate.

12 thoughts on “A retro playsuit – Butterick 6354”

  1. I used to like reading Gertie’s blog, but I steer clear of her patterns [they’re not for my shape anyway]. This looks cute, well done for persevering. I think instead of faffing with an open end zip [they are always clunky at the bottom] I would have used hook and eye fastening strips. Thgose pinup looks are fab!

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  2. You did an awesome job and the dress looks fabulous! 😀 I might have just ended up punching the wall and balling the dress up and hiding it for several months (which is totally what I’ve done with my Sew Chic Patterns Tia dress, at least for now, it was breaking my heart. :P) You, on the other hand, stuck with it and did an absolutely amazing job! ❤ Yay!!!

    I have a few Gertie patterns but haven't attempted to make them yet, I'm a bit nervous to try especially after hearing how much extra ease there is! Ouch! I'll have to check my patterns and see if it would even be possible to just go down a size or so. Oh well, even if I can't, I bought them ridiculously cheap on sale at least!

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    1. Haha I’ve done that on many projects before! I think the ease varies from pattern to pattern and in different body areas (that is, bust waist and hip). The advantage of this pattern is that the finished garment measurements including ease were printed on the pattern pieces themselves, so it’s easy to compare to the ease you desire and choose a size accordingly (even if you have to grade between sizes).

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  3. Beautiful! I love the style of this, and what the other ladies were wearing at the fest too. But ouch at a 9 dollar zip, I can feel the frustrations you had with this one. Definitely worth it for the end result though! x

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It turned out so beautiful!
    You may have steered me away from Gertie’s patterns though! I love looking at them but with the small issues you mentioned I don’t think I could cope!

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