So this is the Melbourne top. When I saw Iconic Patterns' Instagram post showing this design in beta stage, I was: "Lena. Please let me give you some money so I can buy this pattern" because it just looked like the ultimate black polo neck, with the long fitted sleeves and wide, loose (funnel not roll top) collar. A stylish skivvy! So I was quite thrilled to be asked to pattern test it, its going to be (has already been) perfect for cooler months to come.
The design of this is sound and shifts it sideways from a standard polo neck. Along with those sleeve & funnel collar details, the darts in the back are quite shallow, just enough to give some shape & avoid that poofie billowy bagging that can occur around the mid section. I'm all for sack days, when the mirror is not one's friend and only a sack will do, but these darts do good work. Shape, not bag. I want to look nice.
Hepburn shot when discussing polo necks
And absolutely key to this: shoulder pads. SHOULDER PADS! Yes! On a tshirt like top! Welcome back in from the cold, shoulder pads, sorry for all those years you languished on the $2 rail at Vinnies. See, if you're going to make a semi-fitted knit top which as said, can challenge one's self image - if one's self image is vulnerable to fault finding that day and that knit fabric is suddenly too snug - then these things are lookchangers. From suck-it-in & hope for the best, to Woman Is Doing it For Herself. So even on sack days, I can look all Parisian like I'm in Paris. With the rive gauche polo neck & an enigmatic sack.
BUT, even given all the sack talk above, I did straighten out the waist curve a bit when cutting out anyway, as alarming, unscheduled things have been happening around my waist as my lady body travels with real time (not my mind time, which is circa 26 years old, coincidentally the age I was when married) (yes I dont know what the psychology is at work there either) and I cant bear tight or too-fitted clothing. To my surprise and upon looking at the photo above, I've taken it in 1cm at the high waist since. I think this will be on a case by case basis according to fabric type. This is beautiful, heavy, high quality ponte from Tessuti & whilst it is ideal for the collar & shoulders to hold this soft but crisp (soft but crisp?) structural-ness, its a bit too stiff to fall in enough to suggest curve, even with the back darts. Turns out the pattern has been well drafted duh.
As its a typical tshirt construction - join shoulders/sew sleeves in/sew up the body to the arms in one continual seam - I was sent the pattern without instructions which was no problem, but I did have to enquire as to the 'thumb gusset' construction. I stared at it for ages but it didnt figure itself out for me. How to make that hem?? Lena then sent me a few photos & it was all ooooooh I seeeee and I learnt something, which is always a thrill. Lena's clever, cunning tutorial here. Theres another style of integrated hand mitt & how-to here, but the Melbourne Top's thumb gusset is the proper half glove; the sleeves are therefore slightly long without the gussets & I love that, so they're also perfect without.
I bought three pairs of shoulder pads, from 12mm high to 6mm and on me, 6mm was perfect. Lena suggests 10mm & this will entirely depend not only on individual body shape, but what level you're pitching your image at. Exactly how 80's are you prepared to go? Dare you raise the bar? Knits have changed for the better since the 80's and a ponte can bear the load without looking bizarre. Its a tailored, pulled together look.
For me, I jumped at this shoulder pad opportunity as I've been (self)competitive rowing for a couple of years now and its changed the pitch & breadth of me, so these are just awesome proportion balancing tricks for sloping shoulders. But you shoulda seen the 12mm! Glorious! And actually, as they're easy to change up, there could be a look differential here, where the size of the lift is in proportion to the aesthetic market forces of the day, so you could be having a Bear market (sack time) on Tuesdays and by Friday its all Bull at the gate and give me the 12mm's I'm ready to rock (feeling sassy).
When fitting the shoulder pads, do baste in the collar first because these features are so designed as to pull each other together; the fit is off until these go in, so start there & then adjust where required. So baste the collar in, slip the pads in & play around with positioning until it looks right.
Mine are slightly asymmetrical and both sit well forward of the shoulder seam. They should jut out a few millimetres over the sleeve head, and my left shoulder needs less jutting out than the right side does. When you're happy, pin through from the outside to hold them, take the top off gently & hand tack those babies onto the shoulder seams. Very easy, some pads come pre-installed with adhesive velcro even, isnt science amazing.
Since these photos I've also narrowed down the sleeves because I love tight sleeves & I've found that the proportions of most garments work better on me (and maybe lots of people) if the fit is good at the shoulders, bust and sleeve. I can do negative ease in skirts, pants, sleeves & underwears but I want good ease at the body of tops. So in this pattern I have found a very happy medium & this top has been worn so much over the last few weeks. It has worked in all social dress codes, from upscale day job meetings to coffee at the cafe up the road etc etc. I'm bloody loving the authority I feel with the shoulder pad assisted silhouette. I feel cool.
And all these things are all good reasons reason why sewing is liberating. Choice. And women have every right to make their own choices, like if its a sack day, or a voting a politician out of Government day. We have a right to wear sacks, should we so choose, and vote for whomever we want, especially if its a woman. And we need clothing designs made for our proper bodies which allow for those slight adjustments, sensitive to unique shapes and proportions, that can make us feel, getting dressed some cold morning, that we could be an arty intellectual Parisian, in Paris, and like our own woman. Get the pattern here.
The only question that remains: what other colours would look good in this? Maybe a print? Contrast collar? Check out VB's layering style; yes, I get it, but not on me
Please advise me because left to myself, its all just black...although the navy blue above with those pants is mighty fine looking. But you know what they say, you can take the student out of art college but you cant....make her wear anything but black