I found 1970s-era Simplicity 7100 at the thrift store and immediately thought that it would make a great cleaning dress. As a housewife-artist, a significant amount of my time every week is spent cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, baking, gardening, and doing messy tasks in the studio like gessoing new canvases, sanding panels, or washing brushes. I don't mind cleaning---in fact, I find that it helps me focus my mind and dissipate my anxiety. Bringing a little order to my surroundings can help me feel like I am bringing a little more order to my head and heart. But I get tired easily---I'm not sure if that is an effect of my depression or a different health problem, and I have to admit that there is something discouraging about the endlessness of cleaning. No sooner do I finish my mundane tasks than it feels like I must start them all over again. Routine can be calming, but it can also be stultifying and sometimes exhausting.
One way I've learned to deal with the harder aspects of cleaning is to dress up for it. This might sound counter-intuitive, since you don't want to get your nice clothes dirty, and cleaning is by nature a dirty task. But I've found that having a few items of clothing that I've made especially for cleaning out of durable materials like cotton, twill, and denim, and also setting aside some older dresses that I've retired from wearing outside the house, means that I can clean without feeling frumpy and messy and unattractive. Feeling at least moderately pretty and neat while I clean means that the large amount of time I spend doing it doesn't feel so burdensome. It also lifts my mood to wear something that I like, and a simple necklace or earrings, too. I don't have to worry about the way that I look if someone knocks on the door, and I feel more dignified in general, which is very helpful when doing tasks (like scrubbing out sinks) that can feel very undignified.
So when I see an interesting smock pattern, or in this case, jumper dress, I often consider its qualities as a cleaning outfit. This pattern looked like a great cleaning dress. And I already had about 5 yards or so of heavy dark brown cotton twill that I found at the thrift store for $9 last fall, that I thought would work perfectly with the simple lines of the flared A-line jumper. Twill would make my new jumper nice and durable for all kinds of indoor and outdoor tasks. The loose shape and the larger size (10, when I usually sew an 8) also meant that it would be very comfortable. The pattern is sized for maternity, but I asked my mom whether she thought it would work for a non-pregnant body, and she said she thought it would. Her experience sewing her own maternity clothes was that they were cut looser, but were otherwise not very different from regular patterns. So I bought the pattern for 50 cents, took it home and noticed that the only thing different about it was that there was a little extra length drafted into the center front of the dress, so I lined it up with the back and trimmed that extra amount off. I did add about two inches to the bottom of the dress when I was cutting it out because I wanted to make sure that it would hit my legs below my knees.
The rest of construction was easy: I was careful to finish all the seams with faux-flat fell stitching to keep them neat and from fraying (I've found in the past that twill tends to fray badly). I sewed in the zipper by hand and added a hook and eye at the top of the zipper to help keep the neckline closed. I folded and stitched a narrow machine-hem. The neckline facing is also folded and machine-stitched, and I top-stitched the neckline and arm-holes.
Because the dress is so loose, it sometimes slips a little backwards on my shoulders, which can make the hem look a little off from the side. But it is a minor issue for a dress that turned out the way I had hoped: perfect for cleaning, for tough jobs, for getting dirty, for being comfortable.
In these photos I'm wearing my new jumper with a very old t-shirt (my one and only, since I usually wear button-up shirts and blouses), my trusty old Lotta From Stockholm clogs, and a necklace that I made myself from leftover beads from other projects. And please pardon my unruly hair! It's getting to that length where sometimes it curls under and sometimes out, and I can never tell what it will do in the morning.
Do you ever sew anything with very specific tasks in mind? Have you ever made an outfit just for cleaning in?
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.