Swish and Swank in the Simplicity S8877 Caftan
Do you want to feel like a Persian princess? Or a Moroccan matriarch? Or do you need an outfit to go with that golden microphone on your home karaoke machine while you belt out 70s disco hits? Or maybe you just need to feel that extra lush lux to spice up your lockdown loungewear? Then look no further. The Simplicity S8877 caftan is the answer to all your delusions of grandeur and more. In fact, this vintage caftan pattern thrives on the "more is more" concept with the voluminous fabric producing maximum swish and swank.
To be frank, in my initial vision of this make, I was planning on a more subdued fabric to go with the sewing pattern. But when I saw this jaw-dropping viscose crepe gifted to me by Minerva on the website, I jumped on it. At that moment, I didn't make the connection to pair it up with the Simplicity S8877 pattern yet. It's just mighty difficult for me to resist a rainbow fabric. Even the diagonal stripes didn't faze me. Actually, I thought using this fabric would be the perfect rebuke to the "unsuitable for obvious diagonals" warnings that you see in most sewing patterns for their fabric recommendations. The best thing about it is that it is 100% viscose, which meant that it'll have incredible drape and smooth feel on the skin.
When the fabric arrived in the mail, and I soaked in the vibrant colours with my eyes, and luxuriated in the soft feel in my hands. In that moment, I knew it was destined to be a sumptuous caftan. It would be a sin not to go with the "more is more" concept of the S8877 design. Let's just turn the dial up to eleven on this caftan and make it wow-er than wow with this diagonal-striped rainbow gorgeousness.
This is a one-size-fits-all pattern. To be more precise, it fits XS-XL. The caftan comes in 2 views, and it's basically a short or long version of the same design. When deciding on the length of the caftan, if you choose to do the longer version, just remember that the hem at the side seams will hang about 1.5-2 inches longer than the hem at the centre front and back. If you are not wearing heels, then the hem at the side seams may be grazing the floor. For my 1.6m (or 63 inches) height, I shortened the length of View A by 5 1/8 inches, or lengthened the hem of View B by 4 1/4 inches.
The Simplicity S8877 is basically the newer version of a Simplicity 9608 vintage pattern. There are only 4 pattern pieces: the front, the back, the neckband and the pocket. This is potentially a great pattern for beginners since there are few pattern pieces and it mainly involves sewing (almost) rectangles together. But I would warn any real beginners to beware. The instructions, as expected from the Big 4 patterns are sparse. No hand-holding here. Few indications of when or how to finish the seams. I suggest to zig-zag, overlock-stitch or serge most of the seams first before attaching them together to get that task out of the way. The only seams that I left un-serged were the ones at the neckline.
It baffles me that when it does mention finishing the seams, it offers it as an option: "TIP - if you prefer, zigzag OR overlock-serge raw edges together". It makes me think that there's a whole universe out there that does NOT finish seams in garments, and only does it out of preference, not out of necessity. I find it very strange that raw edges are kept open. Perhaps these vintage patterns were released during a time when pinking shears were the preferred method of dealing with raw edges and it was assumed that all seams were just pinked, and there's no need to mention doing this task in the instructions.
Anyway, the sewing didn't turn out as straight-forward as I anticipated. On this first version, I chose not to insert the zipper in the centre front seam. I figured from looking at the large size of the neck opening and the neckband that the zipper would be unnecessary. Any head would be able to fit through the roomy opening without a zipper.
In addition, if I make another S8877 caftan in the future, I would definitely lose the pockets. It is rather ridiculous to have pockets at side seams that are placed so far away from the body on a such a billowy shape. The design of the pockets are completely non-functional, and in my opinion, does not add anything to the garment aesthetically.
I also went rogue and deviated from the neckband installation instructions since I made the decision to leave out the zipper. The pattern instructed to machine-stitch the raw edges of the neckband together first before attaching it to the neckline. This means that the whole inside of the neckline seam would have an exposed serged seam. I imagined this would produce a scratchy neckline that is sitting around the neck. So what I did was to machine-stitch only the edge of the outside-facing neckband to the neckline first, then turned the seam of the inward-facing edge under to enclose and hide most of the neckline seam from view. This was then hand-stitched all around the neck. The result is that the only exposed and serged seam is at the centre-front where the ends of the neckband meet. This is a better finish for me, but it involved an awkward manoeuvre of attaching the centre front seam after machine-stitching the outside-facing neckband. I also hand-stitched the left and right neckbands together (about 2.5 inches from the bottom edge of the neckband) so that the neckline is higher.
The contrast fabric at the neckline is a fuchsia viscose-linen from my scrap bin. It is left over from the time a I made a pink jumpsuit, and it always makes me so happy when I get to do some scrap-busting.
When I wear this caftan, I know some might mistake me as a Pride flag - but I am happy to be one in support of my LBGTQIA family and frineds. The caftan is definitely loud and proud, and now I have something ready to wear for Pride 2021. Another storm will start up tonight where we live, and I am so glad that I can flounce around glamorously at home in my new caftan when the rain starts pouring outside. I will be in a rainbow bubble when the dark clouds descend.