Archive for the ‘Dresses’ Category

No. 10 Ebony Dress

January 31st, 2022 4 comments

Clothing has taken a back seat around here for quite a while now, but there’s stash to be used up, and, someday, maybe, clothes will be needed again. I have been eyeing *Wool&’s Rowena merino dress for quite a while, but couldn’t convince myself to buy it: the neckline’s all wrong for me; everyone complains about the pockets; and there’s the whole agony and waste of online sizing.

But I want at least one merino dress along those lines — and it’s time to start thinking about making clothes again. Why not begin with something that will act like pajamas around the house, but go outside — if that’s ever possible — perfectly well? That was my thinking, so I grabbed some ponte, bought long ago from Fabric Mart, Closet Case’s Ebony Dress pattern No. 10, and went to work.

Read more…

Categories: 2022, Dresses Tags:

An Easy, but Meh, Dress

July 29th, 2021 No comments

This dress, sewn from Vogue 1250, started out as some kind of cycling garment — you know, bike-into-town with the idea of dressing “less cyclist” and more “townie”.

There’s a dime sewn into a tiny pocket
at the inner center front of the cowl —
a great trick that gives the cowl shape and form.

I guessed that I might not like it much, but thought that fabric was the questionable bit. That wasn’t quite right. Read more…

Categories: Dresses Tags:

ABdPM 40033: Tank Dress With Contrast Skirt

April 10th, 2012 10 comments

This is another pattern from the wonderful French company Au Bonheur des Petites Mains.  Here’s my dress:

And here’s ABdPM’s version (from their defunct website)::

This pattern didn’t come in the box-style case of my previous ABdPM patterns; instead there was a folder in a cello sleeve:

The folder isn’t as much fun as the box, but the folder is really a lot more practical, and probably a bunch cheaper to mail to North America than the previous packaging was.  The post on patterns from other continents tends to be terribly expensive, even for lightweight stuff.

I’d thought, from seeing it on the Au Bonheur website, that the skirt must be a balloon-type, but the pouf at the hem is made using a gore on the left side with a deep dart in it,  cutting the rest of the skirt asymmetrically,  then tucking up the lower edge.  There’s a button on the lower right that holds the lifted hem in place.  It’s the button to the right, above.

Here’s the back view (at an odd angle, sorry, but you can see the fullness of the skirt better this way):

Once I got oriented, this dress was actually simple to construct.  There’s a bodice, a mid-skirt, a lower skirt, and a triangular gore on the left side.    Assembly is pretty basic,  just attaching each layer to the next, so there really aren’t any serious sewing challenges here.

However, there are a few other oddities — like, what on earth is this side of the skirt supposed to do?

The bodice drops below the waist on one side in a sort of a prong shape; you join the front and back here, and then the mid section of the skirt. And then .  .  . major drooping.  It wasn’t interesting, it was just limp.  Is it me?  Is it the pattern?  I don’t know , but I’m very happy with the fix, which was to pull up the droop, form a tuck, and tack a button to hold it  in place:

I liked the result, and it looks a whole lot better worn than the peculiar droop — although maybe the “prong” would have worked if my lower skirt were a more stable woven?  (Which is actually what the pattern calls for, so this result is probably squarely on my fabric choice.)

I used a third strategic button.  This version was meant as a sort of a muslin (when will I learn?), and I assembled it entirely on my serger.   So I didn’t baste where many seams met at the side — and I hate mis-matched seams!  It was only off by a very little bit, but no way was I going to unpick the serging, though, so I disguised the problem with a button:

This is the triangular insert on the left side.

Directions are sketchy, even if you read French, and the trickiest part is figuring out which pieces you cut from which fabric.  ABdPM uses a knit for the top section, a “fantasie” woven contrast for the main part of the skirt, and a solid woven for the smaller/lower skirt pieces.

I used a lycra/rayon knit for both the top and the smaller/lower  pieces, and a chiffon for the draped panels, underlying it so that the skirt wouldn’t be transparent.

I still have no idea how ABdPM means to have the armholes and neck finished — at one point, the directions just say “finish the garment”!  — and I decided to use bias tape.  I’m not happy about it; next time I’ll line the bodice instead.  At one time I could do anything at all with bias tape, but with several permanently damaged fingers I don’t quite have the control I used to.  Bah!

The armhole is quite deep; too deep for me, and unfortunately I didn’t notice this in time to cut it correctly.  I wear humungo-bras instead of cute little French ones, so I ended up adding inserts to raise the edge of the dress.  It’s not something I would normally recommend, but I think I got away with it on this dress.

Another fit note:  Before the hem is tucked up, the dress is very long.  The longest point nearly touched the floor when the dress was on my dummy, which is just a little taller than I am.   I was highly dubious when I realized just how long it really was, though I love the final result.

ABdPM patterns are printed without seam allowances; I put a non-woven, sheer grid over the pattern and traced my seam allowances onto the grid, marking any additional information I needed about each pattern piece as I went.  I used the non-woven pattern pieces as a muslin, and then used them to cut out my fabric.

Anyone sews with Au Bonheur patterns will find  Shams’ glossary to be very helpful; she’s the go-to person for ABdPM info.  Read it through, and refer to it, and you’ll be able to figure out most of what you need to know; Google Translate is helpful, too, but you may need some background in French to work things out if you’re not a relatively experienced sewist.

Sadly, Au Bonheur apparently went out of business in 2011.  I’m glad that I bought a slew of their patterns as soon as they were available — that’s a good rule of thumb when buying from independent pattern companies whose lifespan may be short.

Categories: ABdPM, Dresses Tags:

Twister Dress

August 2nd, 2011 8 comments

OK, it’s completely wacky, but how could I resist?  It’s the BurdaStyle Twister Dress.  There is only one pattern piece; it’s placed on the fold of your fabric.  Here’s what the pattern looks like:

The angle at the extreme left is one armhole, and the curve at the top is the neckline.  If you orient to the neckline and the long sleeve, you can see that the top of the dress is, indeed, “twisted” and perpendicular to the skirt, instead of being attached in a linear fashion.

My version is hemmed all around, but if you chose not to finish this dress, you’d finish it in ten minutes, easy, on your serger.

I’m not so sure that stripes are the answer here, but this dress is so much fun!  ( I mean, did I need that swath across my backside???)  It’s also indecently short, and inclined to ride up, so I expect to be wearing it with leggings.  It may be more “top” than “dress”.  But hey, it’s just so easy!  Easy to make and easy to wear:  It pulls on just like a tee shirt.  A twisty tee shirt, but a tee shirt.  Here’s the back view (it’s maybe a little “toga”, but why not?):

Yeah, it really does look a bit carbuncular, but in person it flows much better than it seems to here.

The English version downloads with two sizes:  I think it goes up to Burda size 42 (in spite of what it says on the Burda site), but it’s altered by adding width along the fold line.  That’s easy, on the one hand, but potentially limited, you’ll be restricted by your fabric’s folded width.

Since there was no possibility of an FBA, I added a couple of inches to the width before cutting; some people might want to widen the long sleeve a bit, which is theoretically possible.

I added the strap.  I’m not a member of the “it’s OK to have the bra strap showing” school, so I tacked this on afterward.

Not only is this dress a whiz to make, but it takes just over a yard of fabric.  This print is a light, four-way stretch from JoMar; total cost for the dress was about five dollars.  Or is it a top?  Either way, the pattern is a lot of fun, and worth fooling around with a bit.

The pattern is a free download from the link below, and will use up about about 22 sheets of paper and about an hour of your time to tape them together and cut the thing out.   I’m not wild about this pattern-delivery model; if this one hadn’t been free, and if it hadn’t had only one pattern piece (22 8.5 by 11 inch pages!), I wouldn’t have bothered.

I can see, maybe, a print-on-demand pattern delivery model, where, for instance, you ordered one day, and it was printed to order and posted to you the next day.  But assembling 22 or more sheets of stiff standard paper is a pain; sewing from it is clumsy, ands is storing the bulky pattern afterward is awkward.

Of course, I may be a bit put out because I had some unexpected help:

When these guys saw me spreading all that paper out on the floor, they came running, yelling “Par-tay!  Par-tay!”

Download:  Twister Dress pattern from BurdaStyle

Categories: DIY, Dresses, Tops Tags:

Tunic/Tank Dress from BaseWear One Pattern 622

July 26th, 2011 No comments

I’d originally planned to make a wrap jacket as part of my Threads wardrobe plan, but changed my mind, and decided to make a couple of  sleeveless tunics instead, figuring that I’d get much more use out of them in a summer wardrobe.

I used  the same Christie Jonson pattern as the one I used for my reversible tank top; the only difference is that I lengthened the pattern to turn it into a dress (or tunic).   Here’s one version, with the vee neck worn to the front:

When this pattern is worn backside-to-front, you can see that the armholes are cut in a bit more; it’s a slightly more athletic look worn this way, as you can see here:

This was a very easy alteration to make; I just continued the lines down the side seams, making room for my hips.  The fit is very  nice, and, like the tank itself, the dress was quick and easy to sew.

I like wearing this print in a sleeveless tunic much more than I do in the dress I previously made.  The “less” of the tunic minimizes the “more” of the wild print, making the overall effect less overwhelming.

I’d originally intended to make both of these reversible, but that didn’t work out well.  The two fabrics I used for the solid version — one black, one blue — did not have compatible stretch.  The black side has what I’d consider to be typical spandex stretch — kind of loose, and equal in all four directions.  The blue side (which you can’t see in this post) has a slightly stiffer hand, not quite as much stretch crosswise, and a fair bit less stretch lengthwise, than the black.

Here’s the side with the vee neck:

Because the two fabrics would not lie compatibly, I ended up hacking off the skirt on the blue — the stiffer — side, which gave me a perfectly nice tunic, if not the versatile reversible dress for which I was hoping.  Turning the reverse into a bodice lining saved the garment, but not the reversibility.  Here’s the way it looks with the round-necked “back” worn to the front:

Each garment can still be worn two ways — with the vee neck in front, or the rounded neckline in front — but not by switching off the external and internal fabrics.  It’s two-way versatile, rather than four-way, now.

I didn’t even try to make the print reversible, but the light mesh I used for the lining turned out to have a worrisome tendency to roll toward the main fabric, even though I’d edgestitched carefully all around.   I added an elastic band at the bottom of the lining to keep it in place, rather like the ones used for shelf bras.

Honestly, I knew better than to try to use two incompatible fabrics in a reversible garment.  The blue I ended up discarding was chosen because the color really was perfect for my wardrobe plan.  Color, however, is not the only consideration.  I knew, even when I bought it, that the variation in stretch was likely to be a problem.  (And yet I forged ahead!)  Let this be a lesson to all and sundry!


Making a Reversible Tank

Threads Wardrobe Storyboard

Christine Jonson Princess Dress 1117

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Top 622

Christine Jonson Skirt 1219

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Leggings 622

Wardrobe Wrap-Up

Categories: Dresses, Tops Tags:

Making a Reversible Tank

July 6th, 2011 5 comments

Trena asked me to share my method for making reversible sleeveless tops like the ones in my wardrobe plan.  I’m glad she did, because when I sat down to make the one right after her request, I completely blanked on how to make this thing work!  So, as much for my sake as anyone else’s, here’s how it goes.  (These instructions are for knit fabrics; without a closure, you’ll need the stretch to get in and out of your garment.)  Here’s the first one I made:

To prepare:  Select a tank top (or dress) pattern and do any alterations needed.  If you use one like Christine Jonson’s BaseWear One Top 622, one reversible top will give you four looks, since the back and front can be reversed, as well as the inner and outer fabrics.  (Check to see if you need to make any alterations to the back to allow room for your bust first, though.)

But on with the instructions:

First, cut out two complete tanks, front and back.  No facings or bindings; just the fronts and backs.  You’re essentially lining your tank, so  you won’t need those extras.  (You could make a tank top or a tank dress using this method, but for simplicity’s sake, I’m just going to use the word “tank” to cover both.). You will need seam allowances, though, so if your pattern calls for binding, make sure you’ve added the seam allowance you prefer before cutting.

Sew only the side seams together. Here they are, both layers, with only the side seams stitched:

Arrange the tanks so that the right sides are together, one tank inside the other.  Stitch around both armholes and both necklines (front and back). DO NOT stitch the shoulder seams!  Here are the tanks with just the armholes and necklines stitched. They’re arranged so that you can see the black contrast, but the two tanks are now joined:

Beginning with the garment lying flat as in the picture above, take one shoulder strap, and pull it out of the garment so that you are looking at the right sides of that one strap.  You should have one strap that is wrong side out, some fabric bunched in the middle, and one strap right side out:

(Sorry, I’m all about the sewing, not so much about the photography.  What we’ve got here is the “wrong side out strap” on the left, the bunched tank fabric in the middle, and the “right side out strap” on the right.)

Update: Same view of another tank, same position:

Hold onto the “right side” strap and push it through INTO the “wrong side” strap.  Make sure the CORRECT strap pieces are meeting!  Don’t do any crossovers here .  .  .  keep those straps on the correct side of your garment.

Notice what just happened?  You’ve got “right-sides-to-right-sides” for one shoulder strap.  Just what you want!

Update: Here’s a view of a different top, from a different angle, looking down into the same strap as the one shown above, after the edges have been evened up:

Trim before you stitch; you’ll be glad you did.

Your straps will be open at the top of the armhole shoulders, and there will be a seam going from the bottom of the armhole to the hem of your garment.  If that seam’s not in the right place .  .  .  weeeelllll, then you’re probably joining a neckline instead of an armhole.  Don’t do that!

Make the edges of the straps even, matching the seams carefully, and making sure that your straps haven’t twisted, and that each fabric is right side to itself.  Both sides of my black fabric are right sides together; ditto for the blue sides.  Black to black, blue to blue. (Update:  Print to print, solid to solid.) You’ll see that you’ve made a small circle with the straps, and you can look down into the tube that will soon be the inside of your finished tank straps. (Update:  Exactly as in the updated image above.)

Baste, pin, or take your chances — your straps are now ready to stitch!

Stitch all around the tiny circle you’ve made with your “right sides together” straps.  Don’t be misled by the photo below:  DO NOT stitch across all four strap layers.  It looks as if that’s what I did here — NOT SO!  You should be stitching only TWO layers all around the top of your straps, forming a tube, NOT closing the tube by sewing it shut.

This is what the stitching looks like, finished and folded so that the two contrasting sides show:

Repeat for the second strap.

Then reach inside your tank, and turn it right side out.  Voilà!  All you have left to do is edge-stitch around the armholes and neckline and then hem all around.

A few tips:

  • I let my hems float freely; sometimes I cut one side longer, so that I have a stripe effect at the bottom of one side.  This eliminates the “how on earth do I get the hems to stay perfectly in line?” problem.
  • Putting lightweight, nylon snaps between layers at the side seams (or even along the hems, for a tank dress) can help keep floating hems aligned, yet let you separate the layers for faster drying.  (Great for travel!)
  • If you’re using a serger, change your outside needle’s thread to match one side of your tank, and then serge with that side facing up.  (I’m assuming the rest of your cone threads will be consonant with your second color.)  That way, if your seams flex, it’s more likely that any thread color showing will match the side being worn.
  • When edge-stitching, use one contrast in the bobbin, and one in the machine needle.  Check your tension carefully to be sure that your stitches are even, and that the opposing color isn’t showing through on the contrast side.
  • Better yet, choose either two prints for your tank, making sure that they share at least one color that you can use for stitching all over (hides a multitude of sins), or use one solid and one consonant print.  Either choice will be more forgiving when it comes to edge-stitching:  Use the solid color for edge-stitching, and it should disappear into the consonant print on the other side.
  • If you don’t want a reversible tank, you can use this method to line a tank with a lightweight mesh.  It’s faster than binding, and gives a really professional look to your finished garment.
  • If you’re into color-blocking, use a different color for each of the four sides of your tank.  Your backs and fronts won’t match, but you’ll have that many  more looks, and you might like the effect!

This whole process may seem counter-intuitive, and may be confusing the first time you try it, especially if you’re impatient!  But it’s actually very easy to do, and, once you understand it, very easy to repeat, especially if you bookmark this page!

Update 7/19/2011: Two additional photos to (hopefully) clarify things.

Categories: Dresses, Tips, Tops Tags:

Christine Jonson Princess Dress 1117

June 6th, 2011 6 comments

I looooove this dress!  When Carolyn posted about getting ready to make it (and about Christine’s pattern offer, which, alas, I assume is over), I finally was inspired to experiment with a CJ pattern.  I’m so glad Carolyn gave me the nudge!  Here’s the sketch from the pattern envelope:

After consulting the body measurements on the envelope, and checking my knit, I cut a size 8.  That’s the correct size for me based on high bust, waist and hip.  I narrowly escaped needing an FBA.  If my knit hadn’t had 100% stretch, I’d have had to do one.  The resulting bust fit is snug, but not indecent, so I’m pleased with this decision.

There aren’t any facings; the bodice is self-lined.  I loved this; it’s easy to construct (no finishing!), and I cut the lining first and used it as a muslin.  If your dress fabric is too heavy, there’s no reason you couldn’t use a compatible lighter stretch knit, or even a stretch mesh in a skin-tone or in compatible color for lining.  For this light lycra blend, self-fabric was fine.

The pattern drafting is a joy.  The center back seam follows the natural curves of my real, human, back, and adds to the flattering princess fit.  The skirt is so flirty and fun that I just don’t want to take this dress off; I think there will be many more of these in my future.

Construction couldn’t be simpler; it’s basically “sew the neckline” and then “hit the serger”.  The hem is just turned up a half-inch; I can’t remember if the instructions said to serge it first, but I did just to give it a little extra stability.  Then I topstitched (it could be twin-needled, but I didn’t want to bother), and ended up with a light, stable hem.

I did make a couple of changes:  The instructions call for iron-on interfacing around the neck line, but I won’t iron-on anything, so that was out.  I used standard interfacing, but chose one I wasn’t happy with, so I ended up cutting it off, just leaving the slightest reinforcement at the seam.  That worked well.  Twill tape reinforcement might have been an option, but I rejected it, because I think the bulk might make it difficult to keep the facing in place.  Interfacing, of the iron-on or another variety, might be desirable with a heavier fabric, but this dress seems fine without it.

I edge-stitched just inside the bodice facing line; that prevented any roll-out.   The only other change was shortening the sleeves.  I don’t really like wrist-length sleeves on my dresses.  (Though, go figure, I like extra-long ones on my shirts!)

The single feature I’m not certain about is the asymmetrical neckline; it just doesn’t do much for me (although check out how beautifully it lies in place!).  It seems sort of neither here nor there; next time I’ll re-draw the neck and consider a straight vee.  Also, huge floral prints don’t do much for my über-bust, but I’m just beyond caring now.  Let’s hear it for mad purples and aqua!

The pattern offers a long version and this short one.  I didn’t change the length of the short version:  For reference, I’m 5 feet 2 inches tall, so this dress will be quite short on a woman five or six inches taller than I am.


Making a Reversible Tank

Threads Wardrobe Storyboard

Christine Jonson Princess Dress 1117

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Top 622

Christine Jonson Skirt 1219

Christine Jonson BaseWear One Leggings 622

Tunic/Tank Dress from BaseWear One Pattern 622

Wardrobe Wrap-Up

Categories: Christine Jonson, Dresses Tags:

Vogue 1192

September 6th, 2010 9 comments

So I’m spending this year getting fit, and I’ve decided that I’m tired of wearing boxy, over-sized clothes that look good in theory, but pretty awful on actual bodies.  Now I want clothes that are shaped like me, not like inhuman geometry.

I began with Vogue 1192, an Anne Klein design.  I checked Vogue’s size table, and this is what I discovered:   My measurements are 37-28-36.  Size 14 in Vogue is 36-28-38.  Pretty close, right?  I realized I might need to take in the hip, but, on the other hand, maybe not, as the dress looked a little slim.  The critical measurement was the bust, so I cut my  muslin in a 14, realizing that the bust might need some tweaking.  (This dress is the muslin; matters went no further.)

And whoa, Mama, did it need tweaking!  I whipped up the muslin, and it looked like a sack.  Everywhere — bust, waist, hips.  You could have wrapped me in several layers of cotton wool, and it still wouldn’t have fit.

So I re-cut the sleeves and shoulder seams to a size 12.  Then I removed nearly 3 inches each from the waist and the bust!  Yep, the very same bust that was supposed to fit one an inch smaller than mine.   And that hip?  It lost two and a half inches, and there’s still plenty of ease.

This fit, nicely

and still with plenty of ease.

I realize that the dress is supposed to be lined, but this amount of ease is absurd for lining, isn’t it?  If I’d lined the dress, I still would have been swimming in the thing.

Not to mention that the size chart wasn’t the only issue with this pattern.  There’s something seriously strange about the left side bodice piece.  Part of the problem is the giant, one-size dart which is on the left bodice only.  One size, Vogue?  For women who wear Vogue sizes 8 to 14?  How on earth could all those busts get a proper fit with a one-size dart?

Not to mention that the complete lack of a taper leaves a cute, pointy little pocket.  If you’re wearing a Jane Russell bra, this might work, but, in my case, I was grateful for the busy print, which makes the ohh-la-la point a little difficult to see:

It’s only on the left side; there’s no dart on the right.  I couldn’t help but notice that the woman modeling the dress on the pattern envelope has no bust at all.  This would make fitting simple, as long as you 1) ignored the dart or 2) buried it completely under the pleats, and just hoped for the best.

The other part of the problem has to do with the cut of the left bodice.  It floats strangely; if I’d lined the dress, I would have had to anchor it to the lining.  It’s boxy where the dress, and  my body, aren’t.

The right crossover goes across the fullest part of my breast (if the Vogue’s model had one, it would go right across hers, too); and the left cross-under bunches weirdly under the bust.  In order to keep the bodice smooth, I had to tack the two layers together at the center front neckline.  It’s a fakeout, though, not a real solution.  I was waaaay too sick of this dress to even consider re-drafting the left bodice.

I added two small darts at the back neckline, but that probably wasn’t a Vogue problem — I may be a little round-shouldered.  A lifetime of wearing knits may have successfully obscured this.

The pleat actually falls nicely; I’m standing with my left leg forward for some reason.  Art?  Perhaps.  Also, I haven’t hemmed the skirt yet, and probably  never will (it’s just basted here).  Enough, already, with this dress.

There’s another little bit of deception on the pattern envelope:  The hem appears to fall mid-knee on the model.  I’m going to go out on a limb here, and guess that the model is not 5 feet, 3 inches tall; they never are.  This dress, cut in Vogue’s size 14, goes to my mid-knee.  Unhemmed.  I claim I’m 5-foot-3, but it’s not really true.  I’m 5 feet, 2.5 inches on a good day, which, you’ll understand, this wasn’t.  The size 14 length  hits just above mid-knee on me, and that’s with a 3/4ths inch hem!

Also, can anyone explain why there are different cutting lines for the front hem in all size versions, but only one cutting line for the back hem?   Is there a reason why you’d cut the front to a size 8 length, but then attach it to a size 14 length back?  Just asking, because, d’oh, that just makes no sense at all.

Auntie Allyn made this dress in a knit; the pattern calls for woven yardage.  Allyn’s version worked very well for her; maybe using a knit is part of the secret.  Hers looks fantastic; she didn’t line it either, and just finished the edges by turning and stitching.  I used bias tape to finish the neck and armholes on my woven fabric; it was quick and clean.

Pattern:  FAIL

Dress:  It’s just kind of meh.  I thought it would be a more chic version of the ubiquitous wrap dress, but it’s just kind of neither here nor there.  I will never, ever make it again.  Kludgey fixes do not make for good repeat projects.  And Vogue?  Favorite pattern-maker of my youth?  I’m not loving you so much these days.

Categories: Dresses Tags:

Vogue 1088 and Burda 7658

April 17th, 2010 2 comments

I love the look of Vogue 1088, but the back of the top, not so much.

That’s because there is no top at “back of the top”.  Although my hatred for bras exceeds nearly every other prejudice I hold, this is not a dress I could wear without a bra of some kind.  Strapless is not an option for me, so I decided to use the bodice from Burda 7658 instead:

It was nearly a perfect trade-off, facilitated quite a bit by the open front of the Vogue pattern, which has you simply turn the skirt edges back to  make a facing.  Lots of fudge room there.  Here it is, completed:

That belt’s all wrong, but I still can’t decide what to do about it.  I don’t really like the look of the Vogue belt (just not nuts about hemp around the waist), but I can’t deny that it looks better than the black ones I’ve tried so far.  I’ll have to give that some thought.

I cut a ten through the shoulders and waist of the bodice, and a twelve at the bust and for the skirt (I made modifications there as needed to fit the bodice).  Although I’m short (5 feet, 2.5 inches to be exact), I did not shorten the skirt, since I love this length.

I knew that the skirt would be a bit of an issue, since it has what looked like huge, draped pockets.  Here’s the secret to success with this pattern:  Those drapes aren’t pockets!

The instructions, and the pattern tissue, are full of references to something called a “belt”.  That’s what those drapes are — fabric “belts” that drape across and over hidden pockets.  Hard to visualize?  I pinned the skirt tissue together so that I’d have a look before cutting into the fabric:

Wonky, no?  And so exciting!  Angling off over toward the upper right is the facing edge of the skirt front. Attached to it is the skirt side, with what looks like a rounded, squarish piece bulging weirdly out from an otherwise fairly normal-looking pattern piece.  That’s the belt.  Eventually you’ll pick it up, attach it to the straight edge on the tissue over on the left, and it will drape nicely.

Construction is actually surprisingly simple, as long as you watch your notches and check each piece as you add one to the other.  The pockets are supposed to be welted, but I preferred zipper pockets, and I also deepened them so that they’d be more useful.

Here’s a view inside the belt. looking down toward the hem.  You won’t want to mistake the belt for a pocket; it’s completely open across the bottom edge:

You can just make out the zipper.  Yes, that is a light dusting of environmental fuzz.  I live with an angora cat.  I’m completely resigned; there’s really nothing that can be done about it.  At least I have no carpets; you have no idea how that helps.

The belts are just wrapped around and inserted into the back side seams.  Easy-peasy.  Here’s the way the belt looks as the dress is worn:

You  can’t see the pocket itself at all, and, much to  my surprise, the belt draped very nicely even in this unforgiving fabric.  In fact, mine looks virtually identical to the Vogue shot.

I loved being able to put in over-sized pockets; the skirt is so full that you can actually use them without anyone being the wiser.  The Vogue pockets are rectangles; if I make this again, I’ll make them a teardrop shape that follows the hip a bit better.  If you use the smaller Vogue pockets, that won’t matter.

There’s a huge amount of edge- and top- stitching, which I happen to love.  If you don’t, this may  not be the pattern for you, as it’s functional in some crucial areas.  Bliss!

The Burda bodice has the same feeling as Karan’s, but looks just a bit more vintage-y.  And, of course, it has that full back.  Here it is before I added buttonholes:

The bodice fit almost perfectly into the skirt, although I should have adjusted the curve at the waist facing to accommodate the bodice a bit better.  I had to make a quarter-inch adjustment in the circular rise on each side there.

At least that’s what I thought as I got close to the finish line.  However, something went seriously wrong with the back, and I nearly finished the dress without ever  noticing.  Fortunately,  Mr. Noile did, though, and described it to  me.  Although the armholes fit the way I wanted them to, and both the neck and waist did, too, halfway between the top of my shoulder and my armpit, on either side of the center  the back didn’t work at all.

I don’t really know how to describe what was wrong, but, trust me, it was very, very wrong.  I think my unfamiliarity with Miss Bedelia contributed to my failure to see this.  I may have been guilty of some misinterpretation of some of the lumps and bumps of her wire frame.

In any case, I took a day to consider what to do about it. Should I just chuck the whole thing?  But, ohhhh, I do love that skirt!  Should I just make the dress into a skirt, and call it an interesting separate?

In the end, feeling like a neophyte surgeon, I performed a whole-back-transplant.  Yep, I removed the whole back (and only the back) of the bodice, and replaced it with a newly-altered, newly-cut piece.  I hadn’t ever encountered this kind of fit issue before, so I winged the alterations.  The final result isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s much better, and certainly wearable.

This was my first Burda clothing pattern, and I wondered what I’d think of the bias-strip finish on the armholes.  I think it’s a “no” for me — there’s just way too much bulk when the trim is folded over; I’m worried that it won’t stay in place (on this slanting shoulder seam, anyway, which is longer than the average armhole) without more aggressive topstitching than I want on this dress.  I really like a nice, smooth facing. That’s what I’ll do next time.

I did continue the edge-stitching down along the facing edge to keep the edge crisp; Vogue doesn’t have you do that.

I strengthened the buttonholes by using heavy duty thread in my buttonhole foot; I’ll post about that later.

I’m a little a lot too squeamish fastidious to adopt Peter’s attitude toward thrift-store sheets, but I did make this from a (brand-new) cotton/poly sheet, so Peter’s example was not completely lost on me. A sheet was perfect since I didn’t want to spend a fortune on an experiment, and I knew it would it let me be wasteful with my cutting layout, if that were necessary.  Not to mention that I could cut the large skirt pieces, doubled, flat, without having to do each one individually.

Yes, this is a “wearable muslin”.  I hate to jump into the controversy about that term, but, for what it’s worth, here’s my take:  When I did proper tailoring, I made a proper muslin.  You have to; it’s part of the process.  A tailor’s muslin isn’t ever worn, or even “finished” (as Ann points out).   However, now that I sew things that are much less structured, I often make them up in a fabric I feel free to toss if it doesn’t work out — or to wear, if it does.  That’s what I call a “wearable muslin”.  Times change, terms change.  We can adjust.  Or defend your terms, as Ann does, very well and amusingly, in her post, which you should read!

Making this dress did remind me of how utterly awful cotton/poly blends are.  Gag.  The next sheet’s going to be 100% cotton.

Related:  I made a different belt for this dress — see Quick Belt

Categories: Dresses Tags:

Butterick 4790 Vintage Dress

April 1st, 2008 15 comments

I love bias binding. Yes, it’s nuts, but it’s true; I’ve always loved applying it and finishing off raw edges so neatly. You can see that this pattern’s appeal to me is obvious. And then there’s the construction — so flat! Just wrap around, close one clasp, button the front and off you go. This pattern is one of Butterick’s vintage collection. 1952, here I come!


Well, maybe not quite 1952 — the wacky print I chose is strictly modern, especially since it’s enhanced with my favorite ingredient: spandex. Love that stretch! As for the black trim? What can I say? I was going for drama.


The pattern’s great, truly easy-to-sew, and the dress makes up quickly. I loved it from the start, but my spouse didn’t. He pointed out that the neckline wasn’t really becoming on me. He was right. That’s not a neckline that looks good on everyone. It took several months before I decided what to do about it, and my decision was radical. I took the sweetheart neckline from this pattern:


and re-cut the front of my dress.


The result’s pretty nice, I think, and much more becoming on me.

I changed three other things as well: Instead of letting the wrap-around tabs meet end-to-end in the middle front, I overlapped them. I used two larger buttons instead of the three suggested.

Since I noticed that the under-sheath (the nearly-hidden front of the dress) tended to ride up when I wore the dress, I sewed the buttons to the bodice, and made buttonholes in both sides of the overlapping tabs on the skirt. This keeps everything in place nicely.

One last note: I made a narrow hem, faced with bias tape. I much prefer this type of hem when the skirt is this full and the fabric has some substance.

(The New Look pattern is 6723.)

Update 18 July 2008:  Vera, a reader from Portugal asked if I could provide more information about the way the dress is constructed.  Here’s the line drawing from the back of the pattern envelope:

The dress is made just like a sheath in front, with a slim, straight skirt.  This slim front skirt wraps around to the back and fastens at the center back waist. It ends up under the back skirt, which wraps over it.

The skirt that is attached to the back isn’t gathered — it’s almost a circle skirt.  This back piece wraps around to the front, over the sheath, and fastens at the center front waist.

I hope this helps, Vera, and I apologize for the delay in responding.  This has turned out to be an event-filled summer here, and I’m way behind on Noile dot Net and about a hundred other things, too.

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