project: double apron painter’s smock

i used to work in the kitchen of a busy lunch place in a college town. we wore aprons. i loved my apron. it cradled my unbra-d breasts, it gave me a waist, it wrapped around my capacious hips. i looked great.

and i don’t look good in clothes. i only look good naked.

be that as it may, you can understand why my apron has been the model of many of my clothing styles ever since.

it’s practical. it keeps everything covered, it holds everything close to the body so you don’t dip anything into anything. it’s a sheath, like most elegant evening gowns, hugging tightly to every curve and giving way where room is needed.

so when i decided that in order to protect my sister’s expensive clothes (see my travel blog) i was going to need an artist’s smock to cover everything i could think of to wear during a breezy stormy residency in the west of ireland this fall.

i will be wearing a silk undershirt (mine), a t-shirt and cardigan and a sweater over that (my sister’s), and there’ll be a turf fire burning in the center of the cottage, and endless cups of hot tea, but an extra layer wrapped tight won’t be amiss.

i happened to find in the attic some fancy upholstery cotton. 2 yards. and i found somewhere else a similarly busy but smaller scale mess of quasi paisley brushed cotton of a not quite as heavy weight. also 2 yards. they both look brownish green when seen at a distance.

i envisioned an apron tied in back. and another apron, put on backwards and tied in front. but since i wanted protection for my shoulders and arms, i needed sleeves and a neckline.

i’d seen something in some historical costume picture book, a continuous yoke that went from wrist to wrist, making the sleeve. the neck was cut out of it, the body of the shirt was gathered into it. it was a powerfully simple idea.

so, this continuous yoke. and stitched onto that, the bib of the apron, back and front.

i made the yoke 16″ wide, because my fingers spread to 8″ and i doubled that.

i cut out an 8″ hole for the neck and put facing on that.

i made the bib 15″ wide, the distance across the top of my chest. i made it 15″ long, to the top of my hips (because i don’t like anything around my waist, i make my waistlines at my hips. just facing facts).

then i made the skirt another 25″, to mid calf, and wide enough to wrap around my hips and almost meet at back (and i think i misjudged that, because i had to do considerable messing around with the width of the skirt when i was piecing it together).

the bib has a triangle piece on each side that wraps around to the back. and there are pockets. and possibly cuffs. and ties.

so i figured out that i liked the idea of making a panel the width of the bib but the length of the whole bib-and-skirt. so 40″ by 15″. it suited the patterns of the fabrics. so i cut out a middle panel of both fabrics. and then the two sides of the skirt, and then the two triangles. and then i mixed them so that when i wrapped and tied the whole thing, the same fabric would be on the tie-ing part of the skirt, and the different fabric would be on the bib, a slimming thing.

and then i did a lot of pinning and measuring, as usual. and then i sewed everything together using wide seams and double-turned wide hems, hoping to avoid that rolling-hem problem i keep having with my clothes.

the hole in this entire idea is the fact that the sleeves don’t meet the bib. the shoulder yoke meets the bib, fine, it’s sewn right to the bib. but when i stitched the sleeves together i only closed the fabric to around the elbow.

the sleeve hangs open from the upper arm to the bib, about 6″.

what to do? if i close it to the underarm it will be way too tight to accommodate all the clothing i plan to have underneath the smock in october. i can’t attach it to the triangle of the bib because the bibs wrap around the body. the front is not joined to the back below the yoke.

so i may have to leave the hole. but i think that might be okay. it doesn’t gap or pouch when i have my arms down, and it makes the whole thing easy to get on, just reach my arms into the sleeves and pop my head thru and tie the ties.

there’s a question of pockets. the ties will cross any pockets that are on the bib front. and the pockets will mar the lovely line of the bib itself. i could put them on the edges of the skirts near the ties, and have them ride my hips. i’m still not sure.


here are my drawings and some preliminary measurements. you probably can’t see them very well.

update 12/7/10:  for the rest of the story, go here and here.


3 thoughts on “project: double apron painter’s smock

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