A little moonlight

When Morgan and I got tickets to see Janelle Monae in concert, I immediately started brainstorming outfits. If you know her music and her look, you know that Monae concerts are a place to look good and an opportunity to go all-out with the queer glitter and glam. The more I thought about it, the more I figured it would actually be a good opportunity to wear one of the lingerie-as-outerwear looks I rarely get to. This meant I actually didn’t need to make anything new — though of course I did.

A selfie of Shannon and Morgan. from the chest up, standing in front of the Fox Theater in Detroit. They're both smiling and Shannon is looking at Morgan, who is looking at the camera.

While spinning out potential outfit ideas is one of my favorite pastimes, it tends to be less exciting for Morgan, whose style is more pared down and less outlandish than mine. But they also were really interested in embracing the opportunity for something fabulous, and when we started brainstorming, I basically begged them to let me make them a button-front shirt with metallic details. I love the way Cotton & Steel quilting cotton washes up for shirts, and when I saw this metallic moon print I knew it was exactly what we needed.

A three-quarter-length photo of Morgan, standing in front of a leafy hedge. They wear a black button-front shirt with metallic moons printed on it, black pants, and a three-dimensional, geometric necklace. They're looking slightly away from the camera.

Morgan’s shirt is a take on the same pattern I’ve used for them before. This time, though, I wanted a standard collar instead of a camp collar, as well as short sleeves. Changing collars required some planning.

A three-quarter-length photo of Morgan standing outdoors in front of a hedge. They wear a black button-front shirt with metallic moons on it and a three-dimensional copper necklace. They're smiling and looking at the camera.

First, I needed to switch from a faced front to a button band. I chose to do an added button band (as a separate pattern piece) on the visible (left) side, with a foldover band on the invisible (right) side. You could also do both sides the same, either with an added band or with a foldover band. This entailed cutting the two front pieces separately, as they have different widths. It’s not hard to switch a shirt pattern with a different front treatment to a button band or vice-versa. Though I didn’t take many pictures, I’ll try to explain what I did here so you can follow these directions yourself.

A diagram of two shirt front pattern pieces with measurements marked out for a button band.

First, make sure your shirt front pattern piece has the center marked. This is the line where your buttons/buttonholes go. For a button band 1 1/4″ wide, cut the edge of the left side of your shirt 7/8″ from the center line and the edge of the right side at 1 7/8″ from the center. Also cut a strip 2″ wide and the length of the center front of your shirt, to become your button band.

A diagram of the right side of a shirt pattern piece, showing how to attach interfacing, press, and topstitch.

To make the right (hidden/button) side of your shirt, press the center edge in at 1/4″ then fold again at 1″. Interface the strip between the two pressed folds with a 1″ strip of fusible interfacing. Topstitch the folded edge down at a scant 1″ (stitch from the back to make sure you catch the fold).

A diagram of the left front shirt pattern piece, showing how to fold and attach the button band.

To make the left (visible/buttonhole) side of your shirt, take your 2″ strip and interface by placing a 1″ strip of fusible interfacing right down the center. Press 3/8″ in on both long sides, then align one long side with the center of your left front shirt piece, right side of the button band to the wrong side of the shirt. Stitch at 1/4″ (not at 3/8″, where your pressed line is).

A diagram of the left front shirt pattern piece, showing how to topstitch the button band.

After you’ve stitched, fold over and press the seam so that 1/8″ of the button hand overhangs the shirt front. Topstitch at 1/4 on both sides of the button band. Ta-da!

A close-up, off-center photo of Morgan, who looks down and to the side. Their face is illuminated, showing the coppery makeup on their eyes.

I also had to add a collar stand and collar. I borrowed the collar and stand pieces from the Kalle shirtdress pattern, because I liked the shape of those. I trimmed the height of the collar down by about 1/4″ because Morgan is petite and I think a smaller, sharper collar is more modern. My first measurements were off, and the collar was way too small. Even with my next try, it’s a little too tight — Morgan can only just button it. What I will do next time is cut the neck a little wider — 1/4″-3/8″ — and lengthen both the collar and collar stand pieces by about 1/2″ to give a little more breathing room.

An up-close and off-center image of Morgan, who looks at the camera. Their mouth is soft, not quite smiling, and the sun on their face makes them glow.

They look fucking gorgeous, and I will definitely be making more shirts for them (and for me) in this style. The button band is so satisfying to sew!

A full-length photo of Shannon standing outdoors, wearing a blue velvet crop top with a deep v-neck, matching high-waisted hot pants over black footless tights, a drapey cream-colored robe, a gold fanny pack, and a copper three-dimensional geometric crown.

My outfit didn’t really require any new sewing projects, but of course I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t do some anyway. I wore a velvet crop top and hot pants from Origami Customs and a wrap I’d made a few years ago. But when you’re wearing lingerie as outerwear, you don’t have pockets! I wanted a hands-free bag, so it was time to fully embrace the convenience of the fanny pack/bum bag.

A close-up of Shannon's gold fanny pack on a white surface. It has a snakeskin texture and a silver swivel clasp on one side.

A close up of the swivel clasp and d-ring on the gold fanny pack.

A close up of the unzipped inside of the gold fanny pack. A strip of the selvedge fabric says "Something magical is on the horizon."

The gold snakeskin fabric I already had, and I lined it with scraps from Morgan’s shirt. I just hand-drafted this pattern and experimented until it worked, so there’s no real tutorial. My belt and fasteners were limited by what I had on hand, as I did this very last minute on the Fourth of July so no stores were open! It adjusts with a square slider and fastens with a d-ring and swivel clip, all salvaged from worn-out bags/dog leashes/collars.

A three-quarter-length image of Shannon, who looks up and to one side of the camera. Shannon wears a blue velvet crop top, a cream wrap with small stars on it, and a geometric copper crown. The light falls across Shannon's face and chest.

The final touch is our jewelry! I made my crown and Morgan’s necklace from 1/4″ copper piping from the hardware store and medium-weight copper wire. They took a lot of experimentation — now that I’ve learned, if I make any more I can do them more cleanly! These were inspired by the headpieces and jewelry characters wear in Monae’s “emotion picture” Dirty Computer.

A selfie of Morgan and Shannon outside the theater. Shannon looks at the camera and Morgan looks at Shannon. They both are smiling.

The concert was glorious, but I maybe had the most fun planning these outfits out and getting all glammed up with Morgan beforehand. We met for the first time in person when they traveled to Minneapolis for a Janelle Monae concert five years ago, and this was such a moment to reflect on how our lives have changed and our love grown since then.

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5 thoughts on “A little moonlight

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  1. You both look absolutely amazing! I love your jewelry, such a magnificent touch to complete your copper looks. I often forget how beautiful copper can look when it glints in the sun, so it’s nice to be reminded by a few of your recent makes!

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