The Belcarra blouse and Gabriola skirt … (or Bel and Gabby)

Being a tall lady is fraught with challenges when it comes to 1800s architecture and clothing oneself. Head bumps on doorways aside, finding pants that are long enough, sleeves that go beyond the wrist and waist lines that don’t end up underneath the boob line in ready to wear (RTW) clothing; these have been a challenging aspect of my adult life. I understand that it is also difficult for the petite lady at the other end of the spectrum, however it is far easier to shorten than to lengthen. For reference I’m 184cm tall, and when I wear heels, I tower. And speaking of numbers and sizing, my wardrobe goes from a size 1 to a 14. These numbers just don’t mean anything anymore.

I once worked at a store called Tall Lady around the year 2000 where pants were left un-hemed and long so they could be taken up for each individual, t-shirts had long arms, bodices hit the true waist line (of a tall lady) and jacket sleeves were lengthier and could be lengthened further. You see were I’m going. Oh, and the shop fit was also designed with the tall lady in mind. A desk that I didn’t have to bend over! Suddenly I no longer had to wear mens 501 jeans just to have my ankles covered. American jeans became my friend. I also recall having to listen to George Michael on repeat. One album, 8 hours. Not my favourite part.

Things in RTW have changed a little, but we still shop for clothes based on out-of-date sizings for body shapes that are perhaps suitable for 2% of our population. When I previously stumbled across a top whose fit was close to good enough, I’d often invest in 2-3 just so I could have something that was comfortable and didn’t display my belly to the world. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if it’s your style. It’s just not mine. Go the belly.

And in re-engaging with my seamstress ways, I find myself with the confidence (developed from reading other blogs and tutorials and trawling the Internets) to alter all of my patterns not just in length at the hem line, but by making proper and true adjustments of lengthening by 2.5cm at the waist line, extending shoulder seams and grading between sizes. It’s not quite couture, but my goodness it fits! And when something fits, one always feels a little bit more fabulous.

Enter the Bel and Gabby combination from Sewaholic.

The Belcarra blouse pattern can be found here and the Gabriola skirt pattern here. Also check out some of the other gorgeous versions that have been popping up around the Interwebs just over here.

the Alannah Hill Bel from #mmm2014

the Alannah Hill Bel from #mmm2014

I’m currently experimenting (fabric wise) on my 5th Bel blouse. It is such a well designed pattern, again specifically aimed towards the pear-shaped ladies so that removes one adjustment I normally need to make. My only alteration was to lengthen the bodice at the waistline by 2.5cm, and this blouse is the perfect fit. Past season Alannah Hill fabric win! This fabric also won my heart and is destined to be another Bel for Parjie, and a Saltwater Spring maxi for myself.

the skirt evolves into blouse

the skirt evolves into blouse

I was also recently talking to Jen from A Piece of Cloth, lamenting that my favourite skirt made from a 1920s silk cotton is no longer wearable due to my waistline no longer reflecting that of a 18 year old Pips. She suggested I make it into a top, and oh my delight when I discovered I could cut out both the front and back pieces without adding a seam, and then use silk crepe de chine for the raglan sleeves. I also managed to do a very questionable job of binding on the sleeves with very limited scraps.

the Bel goes to work

the Gabby goes to work

Happy days and a little dance. Possibly my most well worn skirt is now reincarnated into my favourite blouse. With matching head band of course.

the back of Bel

the back of Bel with bonus crinkly Gabby

The beige Gabby was my first toile, and for some reason I needed a serious size down from the size 8 I originally cut. (I’ve previously cut a size 8 in Sewaholic for dresses and tops, and I’m sure my measurements corresponded to the 8 at the time of cutting the skirt, but I don’t trust my memory at this stage. Not when I keep finding glad wrap in the fridge…..) so the seam matching isn’t great. For my next, I cut a size 6 pattern which is better sized for me. I also added 7cm to the hemline. I have obtained full swish factor 10. (I did try to lengthen at the “lengthen or shorten” line, however it threw out the lines to much, and I was happy to have a little extra volume at the hemline.). The skirt really hugs the hips and then does a gorgeous flare at about knee length resulting in wonderful volume. Kittens and small children could get lost under there.

vintage Japanese cotton Gabby

vintage Japanese cotton Gabby 7pm on Friday Night

I originally attached the waistband, but then I remembered waistbands had never really been my style and this was no exception, so I whipped it off and created a facing using the top yoke pieces, the result of which I was very happy. Attached, under-stitched and then hand-slip-stitched down, it is a neat and tidy finish that also sits a little lower on the hips, which I prefer.

always happy in a bay window

always happy in a bay window

I’ve also put together a lace Bel, flatlined with a lining, and sheer at the sleeves, with bonus threads! A vintage Japanese cotton Gabby, a floor sweeping black viscose Gabby that swirls and twirls like nothing else (I will blog this one later, along with the top I made). And there will be many more. The skirt is great for winter with tights underneath, and I’m looking forward to some summer versions in lighter cotton, to shade my pins from the sun.

that thread!!!! Embracing the zen.

that thread!!!! Embracing the zen. And white bra straps to finish the look…

Just for reference, I’ve managed to make the skirts out of 3m of fabric, I think the pattern recommends a little more.

the casual look

the casual look

Do you have a specific pattern crush at the moment?


Pips xxx

PS. as you would expect, there is much raising of the skirts when ascending and descending stairs, and I’m constantly stepping on my skirt when trying to stand up which results in me bobbing up and down and doing a strange dance to try and locate some fabric free floor. All completely worth it. And as such long skirts are not on trend at the moment, I get lots of remarks, and have had people ask if I was an opera singer based on my dress. If only they could here me sing…


4 thoughts on “The Belcarra blouse and Gabriola skirt … (or Bel and Gabby)

  1. Hello there fellow tall woman. Lovely to look you in they eye without having to slouch! I wish I could sew clothes to overcome the heightist nature of the fashion industry. x Heike

  2. Oh yes! I hear you on the RTW for girls of height. I am 182cm and I get so FRUSTRATED. I don’t sew, so I am very jealous of your bespoke fabulousness! You look GORGEOUS! All of the tops and skirts are gorge as well. I adore a long skirt but I always have to buy larger and hang them off my hips (to get the length right) which then involves traversing the remaining space with something long enough to cover my tum. I love your style. I don’t suppose you have a shop somewhere online Pips? Your sewing is exactly what tall girls everywhere neeeeeed!

    • I don’t have a shop Rachel, but I would love to get there one day. I’m having a play around with some skirt and top patterns to make them suitable for the lovely tall ladies out there. I’m also playing with screen printing on fabric as well. Perhaps an etsy store one day if I’m lucky. Thanks of rthe lovely comments! I love that I keep tripping over my skirt because it’s so long. It’s the little things that make me happy. x

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