You had me at 'contrast collar' - the Nina Lee Carmel jumpsuit

It's not often that I buy a pattern when it first comes out - from memory I've only done it twice. But Nina must have looked inside my brain and saw my obsession with contrast collars - so as soon as I saw version 4 of the Carmel Jumpsuit by Nina Lee I was utterly hooked. I do love a vintage vibe.


I printed it out straight away but from then on it's been slow going - everything from running out of sticky tape when assembling the pattern pieces through to general life-getting-in-the-way. So I find myself in October finishing off a summery make... ho hum. I don't mind though as it was worth it!


The things I love about this jumpsuit are the versatility, the fit (or lack of) and also the number of options. I've seen some great versions on Instagram where people have layered it over shirts or blouses for cooler weather but it's perfect for warmer days. The neckline has 4 different options - in general I'm not a strappy sort of girl but I like the wide strap option too as it is big enough to cover your bra strap. Incidentally, the version I made also sits nicely so your bra is not exposed at either your shoulder or under your arm.

The things I'm not keen on is that I can't wear it on my bike as those trousers are HUGE and will get swallowed up by the chain before I've set off. But I knew that when I made it and it's a 'swanning about' sort of a jumpsuit rather than a practical one.

Down to business then, what do I think of the pattern?? Overall, I enjoyed making it. I used the Lana linen/viscose mix (available in the shop) which has a lovely mix of stability because of the linen, but a soft drape due to the viscose. I used a white cotton remnant from my stash for the collar. I was a little surprised at the construction of the bodice as it is self-lined. Effectively you cut out two back and front pieces, which the collar is sandwiched between, and the inner lining is handstitched along the zip and waist seam to fully enclose. It makes for an incredibly neat finish, which I LOVE.

Fit-wise, the bodice part is absolutely spot on. I made no adjustments and cut a straight size 10, based on my bust size (which is size 36" and size 10 is drafted for 36.5"). The armhole is just the right depth for me and it fits perfectly. The jumpsuit is fitted up to the bust and then loose from there down. The trouser portion is ENORMOUS! I kid you not. My sewing friend came over the day after I'd made the trousers and asked me if I'd cut out the wrong size by accident. She couldn't work out how it was going to 'fit' me but lo and behold, with a bit of gathering they're not that ridiculous any more. (Well at least I hope they're not!)


I did take an additional 3.5cm off the hem length and made a deep hem which is more vintage. (I'm 5'3" and the pattern is based on for someone 5'6". Nina does say the trousers are cut long for maximum flexibility to adjust.) 

There were a couple of niggles with the pattern:

  • it isn't always clear when you need to overlock/ finish your raw edges and when you don't. Many raw edges become encased in the double-layer bodice but I was caught out where I didn't overlock the sides of my trousers until after I'd added the pockets. So I have a small area that isn't overlocked where the pocket bag joins the trouser. Not the end of the world but a little irritating.
  • the illustration for sewing the bodice side-seams was a little confusing. Perhaps I was tired and it was late. It took a bit of head-scratching until I got it.
  • I added a couple of strips of interfacing to the bodice where the zip attached, for extra stability. It isn't asked for in the pattern, but the zip tutorial on the Nina Lee website suggested it, and it was the right call.

Speaking of zips, I am SO PROUD OF THIS ZIP. It is by far the best zip I've ever inserted. And I feel I have achieved something as it was my New Year's Resolution to improve my zippering. (It's not a word but it is now.) So I'm going to do a tutorial blog post shortly explaining what I did differently and why it worked.


In conclusion, I can see me getting a lot of wear out of this once Spring comes around but in the meantime I'll layer up with a top underneath and do my best 'swanning around' in style!!

Happy sewing 

Tanya xx

October 07, 2022 — Tanya Brooman