Saddle Up!

Western style (as in American cowgirl and cowboy) is not something that regularly occupies my mind – until I see something that is quintessentially Western fashion, and then it grabs my attention. I have often wondered if the styling on the pattern envelope for my color-blocked coat, featuring the model in a Western-style cowboy-inspired hat, may have been added to my great predilection for this coat!

Coats of certain length - 7

Because I knew I was going to be spending a good bit of my 2015 Summer in Wyoming (in the American West), I thought it might be fun to see if I could find Vogue patterns (or anything else) featured in any of my vintage Vogue Pattern Book Magazines, that were clearly Western style.  Well, there is no doubt about the Western theme of this decorator fabric pictured in an ad in the February/March issue of VPB Magazine:

What little cowboy - or cowgirl - in 1958 would not love curtains made of this fabric?

What little cowboy – or cowgirl – in 1958 would not love curtains made of this fabric?

And what could be more Western than cowboy and cowgirl shirts? The July/August 1974 issue of VPB Magazine clearly met my challenge:

Western style - shirts, no 1

Western style - shirts, no 2

Somehow, however, I just can’t see myself making a cowgirl shirt. Out here in Wyoming, it would look like it belongs. Wearing something like this at home in Pennsylvania might get heads turning for the wrong reason. So my search continued for something else that evoked the West without screaming it. Who would have ever thought I was going to find it in the same Vogue Pattern Book Magazine that featured Diane von Furstenberg on its cover?

Sure enough, this September/October 1976 issue featured a coat constructed out of an American-made blanket. (Anyone who reads my blog will perhaps remember the jumper I made from an Irish blanket last year. When one can’t find yardgoods, buy a blanket and see what happens!)

Western style - coat-1

Accompanying the picture in the magazine were these instructions for making a “blanket coat” using Vogue pattern 9329:

Western style - coat instructions

Forty years later the same thing is being done with Pendleton blankets. I never miss the opportunity to look at the handsome Western and Native American-inspired Pendleton blankets in the Pendleton Store in Jackson, Wyoming. Hanging on one of the clothing racks in the store was this custom-made coat:

This particular coat was made for a very large lady, which just goes to show that a twin size blanket is sufficient for all sizes of coats.

This particular coat was made for a very large lady, which just goes to show that a twin size blanket is sufficient for all sizes of coats.

The back of the coat.

The back of the coat.

Made, as stated above, from a twin-size blanket, the coat can be made in long, medium or short lengths, with hood or without hood, with pockets or without them – and it is reversible, too. Customers in the store pick out the blanket they like, measurements are taken: both are sent off to a coat-maker, with whom the store has a relationship, and returned about 6 weeks later. The construction is very much the same as what is detailed in the instructions above; however, the coat-maker removes the narrow wool binding from the blanket before cutting into it. Then she uses that binding for all the edges of the coat.

The lovely staff in the Pendleton store pulled out this blanket to tempt me:

The grey, white and periwinkle blue color way would definitely compliment me, I think.

The grey, white and periwinkle blue colorway would definitely compliment me, I think.

So far, however, I have resisted the urge to make a blanket coat, although it might be a fun project with just the right blanket – sometime. But for now I am saddling up to head East, home to beloved Pennsylvania, back to animals and pets I love, back to my by-now-overgrown gardens, and back to my snug little sewing machine who must be wondering where I have been!

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Filed under Coats, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, woolens

“Do What You Can…”

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Teddy Roosevelt

I had never seen nor read this quote before three weeks ago, seeing it for first time carved into the slats of this rustic bench:

DSC_0652

There is a lot of wisdom in those few words, especially meaningful to many people in many different walks of life, I am sure, but especially pertinent to those of us who sew. Why so, do you ask?

Do you, as I do, plan sewing projects which are transportable when you travel? Can you quite imagine being without needle and thread – or at the least, a book or magazine on sewing or fashion? What do you do when you can’t (gasp!) bring along your sewing machine when traveling far from home? Well, you do what you can, with what you have, where you are….

What I knew I could do before we left our home in Pennsylvania three weeks ago for a month in Wyoming – was plan to do hand-sewing on two or three projects. What I had for a “first-project-to-finish” before I departed home (sans sewing machine) – was the unfinished pink-flowered linen dress, started what seems like a lifetime ago.

Big, bright daisies with lavender centers.

Big, bright daisies with lavender centers.

And where I was going to be – had possibility and promise and “best plans” written all over it. The possibility and promise have come in bucketfuls, with days and weeks of family fun: hiking; wildlife-sightings; story times with little granddaughters; diaper changing and laundry; shopping a la Western style; cocktail hour every evening; magnificent mountain peaks, valleys, lakes and rivers; grocery shopping and more grocery shopping; and the list goes on and on. I realized a week into our stay that all my planning for some strategic hand-sewing tucked into these busy days was, well, quite simply, not going to happen – at least not while grown children and little grandchildren took loving precedence!

And then suddenly, all too soon, the house was much too quiet, the toys were put away, and while hiking and wildlife sightings are happily still commonplace, my sewing – and my pink linen “not-quite-a-dress-yet” dress – came out to give me a different type of focus.

I was scrambling before I left home to get it to the point where I had only the hand-sewn finishing to complete. The first challenge I had was with the layout of the sheath dress pattern on that large floral print. The linen is a piece of vintage Moygashel, dating to the late 1960s. By this date, Moygashel was being produced in 45” width, rather than 35”. I have found that it is not uncommon to find center crease lines in the linen from this era, where decades of storage have caused the fabric dye to rub off enough to leave a faint pale line.

The fold line - and subsequent faint white line showing dye loss is visible in this photograph.

The fold line – and subsequent faint white line showing dye loss is visible in this photograph.

This left me with only one option: I had to place the dress front and the two side backs on either side of the center line of fabric, to avoid that pale line. But I also had to think about the placement of those large daisies. I wanted to try to match the fabric design as much as possible along the center back seam. To accomplish both these goals, I had to line up the front of the dress and one of the side backs, one above the other. (I forgot to take a photo.)  It turned out I was a couple of inches short of the length I needed to do this. So – I knew I would need to face the hem.

I was fairly successful in matching the flower design along the back seam . . .

I was fairly successful in matching the flower design along the back seam . . .

Then on to the machine sewing of darts, seams, seam finishings. With those completed, I turned my attention to the lavender piping I wanted to put around the neck edge. I used the same cotton kitchen string I had used on my “ghost dress” to use as the filler for the piping. The heavier weight of the linen made the piping more substantial, which is exactly what I wanted.

I added piping only to the neck edge.

I added piping only to the neck edge.

With the piping sewn in place, I could proceed to the zipper. Even though I would be hand-picking the zipper, I wanted to complete it, to double-check the fit before I left on our journey. Then I realized that I had purchased the wrong length zipper! I had picked up a 20” zipper, forgetting that I was adding a V to the back neck. I needed a 16” zipper and had no time to make the trip to JoAnn’s to get a new one. In desperation I searched through my notions drawers and found every color and length of zipper under the sun except a 16” white one. (I’m exaggerating, of course.) Then I looked through a bag of zippers I had gotten from my mother, and lo and behold, there was a 16” white metal zipper, still in its original wrapper. Well, why not? A vintage metal zipper would be perfect for vintage linen. Crisis averted.

As it turns out, I found this ad for metal versus nylon coil zippers in a 1964 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine. If you read the copy, they recommend using metal zippers for fabrics like cotton and linen which require a hot iron. The quality of nylon coil zippers is now such that they can be used for these fabrics without a worry.

As it turns out, I found this ad for metal versus nylon coil zippers in a 1964 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine. If you read the copy (click on the photo for easier reading), they recommend using metal zippers for fabrics like cotton and linen which require a hot iron. The quality of nylon coil zippers is now such that they can be used for these fabrics without a worry.

Before I turned my attention to making the lining for the dress, I wanted to address that faced hem. With no time to think about making a facing from the lining fabric, I went back to my notions drawer. Once again, sewing hand-me-downs from my mother came to the rescue! I found this package of white cotton hem facing, which would be perfect for my needs.

Look at the price on this! Also, now I am quite sure the hem facing would be a cotton blend rather than 100% cotton.

Look at the price on this! Also, now I am quite sure purchased hem facing would be a cotton blend rather than 100% cotton.

The faced hem, plus a view of the seams which I finished with Hug Snug seam binding.

The faced hem, plus a view of the seams which I finished with Hug Snug seam binding.

Once the lining was sewn, I gathered all the tools and notions I would need to finish the dress by hand. Off it all flew to Wyoming, where finally I finished this flower-powered dress under the expansive Western skies.

The front of the dress. No time to get photos of me in it yet, unfortunately!

The front of the dress. No time to get photos of me in it yet, unfortunately!

This full photo of the back of the dress shows some more of the pattern matching.

This full photo of the back of the dress shows some more of the pattern matching.

I did what I could, with what I had, where I was.

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Filed under Linen, Moygashel linen, piping, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric

The Domino Effect

Being totally smitten with this bold floral linen, purchased within the past year, I have had my heart set on making it into a day dress this Summer.

Big, bright daisies with lavender centers.

Big, bright daisies with lavender centers.

Not long after I purchased it, this small article on “Signs of Spring 2015 On New York Runways” appeared in the September 10, 2014 Wall Street Journal.

"Memorable moments included bold floral daytime dresses from Carolina Herrara..."

“Memorable moments included bold floral daytime dresses from Carolina Herrera…”

And then in November of 2014, more of Carolina Herrera’s Spring/Resort collection for 2015 was featured in Town & Country magazine.

Perennial daises on two lovely Carolina Herrera dresses.

Perennial daises on two lovely Carolina Herrera dresses.

It seems this vintage Moygashel linen from the late 1960s, with its bold daisy design is very much in vogue currently, both for its size and its floral motif. (The bodice of my recent fancy dress also featured a “daisy” motif in the silk embroidered organza):

The Allure of silk, pt 1

Although I am of the mind that daisies are always in vogue, nevertheless, this seems like the perfect year to fashion a dress from this linen. Such a demonstrative print begs for a simply-styled dress, such as – you guessed it – a sheath dress.   The fabric will make this dress, not the pattern. How could I, I wondered, do something a little different and still keep it simple? The answer to that question began to take shape when I found a length of pale lavender Moygashel linen this past Spring. Suddenly I envisioned a V-back to a sheath dress with a rounded neck, detailed with piping made from this lavender linen.

Then it began to get complicated. With just a few inches over 3 yards of the 35” wide lavender fabric, I knew I would have to calculate carefully when I cut bias strips for the piping, if I wanted to fashion another garment out of the lavender. And of course, I do! Actually, when I looked at the lavender fabric, and paired it with any number of my other fabrics and/or dresses, it seemed the only thing to use it for was a “Spring” coat. But would I have enough fabric for both a coat and bias strips for piping?

Obviously, I would have to find a coat pattern and lay it out leaving enough space for bias strips, to see if I could manage this minor miracle. Of all my coat patterns, this Madame Gres design is the one I decided had the best chance of working, both for my limited yardage and for the pattern’s simple, uncluttered lines:

The short version of the coat is on the left.

The short version of the coat is on the left.

The fact that it is featured with below elbow length sleeves and in a shorter version – perfect for pairing with coordinating dresses – worked in my favor. The entire coat has only 5 pattern pieces: front, back, collar, undercollar, and front facing. First I positioned the tissue pattern pieces on my fabric, strewn out on the floor selvedge to selvedge. I was heartened enough by this exercise to go ahead and make a muslin, so I could have a “real” pattern to work from. All this time, the pink flowered daisy linen lay folded, awaiting her turn.

One of the most unusual features of the coat design is the front dart, which serves both as a bust dart and as a side-shaping dart. As is so often the case with these vintage patterns, the dart sewn as indicated on the pattern was too high for me. In addition, it pulled and stretched the kimono shoulder in all the wrong ways. I lowered the apex of the dart and re-sewed it, trying to preserve its curve, and suddenly it fit like a charm.

The newly drawn dart is in orange, while its original position is in red.

The newly drawn dart is in orange, while its original position is in red.

Now that I had a workable pattern, I knew I could just eke out the coat if I “pieced” the left front facing. I could live with that! And, just as important, I would have enough of the fabric to cut bias strips for piping for my daisy sheath. Whew!

This see-through ruler helped me find a corner from which to cut the bias strips for the piping.

This see-through ruler helped me find a corner from which to cut the bias strips for the piping.

So now, the pieces for the coat, with their silk organza underlinings pinned in place, are taking their turn waiting for further attention. One project started another and now both are lined up like a circle of dominoes, ready to go down in an orderly fashion, albeit in slo-o-o-w motion.

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Filed under kimono sleeves, Linen, Moygashel linen, piping, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue Designer patterns

Out and About in Los Angeles

One sure way to get me away from my sewing room is TRAVEL. Sometimes, however, there is a lot of sewing that happens before that travel commences. The impetus to the creation of my recent fancy dress was, indeed, a recent trip to Los Angeles, California, which was part business for my husband and pure pleasure for me. The lovely hotel where we were staying was actually in Beverly Hills, at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive. For those of you unfamiliar with Rodeo Drive, it is one of the most exclusive shopping areas for fashion and jewelry in the US. Although I am not much of a shopper at home – either window shopping or real shopping – it is quite a pleasure to do just that while on vacation.

Because I sew, I probably look at fashions with quite a different eye than most people.   My interest in the current influence of mid-century fashion and the use of beautiful, fine fabrics guided my approach, as both were on full view on Rodeo Drive. The first morning while my husband was in business meetings, I went out before most stores were open and snapped a few pictures of store windows. I was delighted to see this tailored Escada gown transformed into a totally feminine look with its voluminous bow:

Escada gown

The St. John Store featured this straight skirt and overblouse (with demure fur collar), with a flavor reminiscent of the 1960s:

The reflection of palm trees in the window obscures some of the fashions.

The reflection of palm trees in the window obscures some of the fashions, but I love this understated, but sophisticated look.

And what could be more classic than this jacket and blouse with a bow, also St. John.

St John jacket and blouse

How I loved this Little Black Dress by St. John, made with lace-embellished fabric:

A front view ...

A front view …

... and a back view.  The V-back is just lovely!

… and a back view. The V-back is just lovely!

Later in the day, I was captivated by some of the fashions I saw in some of the stores, especially Dolce and Gabbana and Hermes. Unfortunately photos were not allowed, so I cannot show you the classic princess lined coats and lace dresses in Dolce and Gabbana made from fabrics which were either identical to or close relatives to some pique and lace that Mendel Goldberg carries in their store in NYC. And Hermes had a color-blocked coat that looked right out of the early 1970s.

One excursion I wanted to make while we were in LA was to the museum of the Fashion Institute of Design and Marketing. I follow their blog, which regularly features items and fashion from their permanent collection, from all time periods. They have two small exhibit spaces which were currently featuring items from the Helen Larson Historic Fashion collection in one gallery and “Inspired Eye” in another gallery.

Inspired Eye is an exhibit of items from the Donald and Joan Damask Design Collection.  The exhibit  includes classic photographs as well as accessories and items of apparel.

Inspired Eye is an exhibit of items from the Donald and Joan Damask Design Collection. The exhibit includes classic photographs as well as accessories and items of apparel.

It was fun to see this Claire McCardell dress, circa 1950, looking every bit as fashionable now as then.

Claire McCardell dress

(Check out Julie’s recreation of a similar Claire McCardell dress on her blog, JetSetSewing)

Of course, for me, one thing I was looking forward to was the event to which I could wear my new fancy dress. As luck would have it, our camera was acting up for some unknown reason, so my husband had to resort to his iPhone for a couple of pictures of me wearing it.

LA fancy dress

One thing was certain – no one else at the party was wearing anything quite like it!

LA fancy dress

Our trip continued up to northern California, where we spent a few days with our son and his girlfriend, and which also included a trip to Britex Fabrics in San Francisco, where I picked up a few choice notions and buttons. Now we are home and a new project is strewn out in my sewing room, asking for attention before TRAVEL once again will wisk me away.

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Filed under Cocktail dresses, Little Black Dress, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized

The Allure of Silk, Part 3: Finishing Touches for a Fancy Frock

In planning for my ‘50s-inspired silk party dress, my original intention was to use a red sash, just as shown on the original dress which I first saw on Pinterest.

Blue taffeta:silk dress - originalWhen I sent off for swatches of silk taffeta from Emma One Sock Fabrics, however, I requested reds and yellows, just in case I might change my mind. When the swatch card arrived, there were clearly two obvious choices – the clear red and the vibrant yellow.Allure of silk - cummerbund picture

Then a funny thing happened. I ordered the red, which was out-of-stock temporarily. The owner of Emma One Sock (who, I might add, is one of the pleasantest and most helpful people from whom one will ever order fabric!), held up the order, at my request, while I thought about it some more. By the time I went to Baltimore to start my dress in Susan Khalje’s Couture Sewing School, I had just about decided to switch to yellow. With Susan’s hearty endorsement and the additional approval of my classmates, the decision was made: the sash would be yellow, not red.

When the yellow silk taffeta arrived, I knew the decision was the right one. All I had to do then was figure out how to make the sash. Easy, right? With lots of time to think about this while I finished the embroidered organza top and the sapphire blue skirt – and the dress lining – I gradually came up with a plan. I decided a more structured cummerbund and bow would be the best look. First I went in search of a cummerbund pattern, which I found in an early 1960s pattern in my collection:

Allure of silk - cummerbund picture-1

I decided to loosely pleat it instead of gathering it, so it would appear smoother around my waist. Because I had underlined it with silk organza, I had an anchor upon which to secure the soft pleats:

I used a loose catch-stitch to secure the pleats.

I used a loose catch-stitch to secure the pleats.

allure of silk final

And I folded in the two ends, ready for hooks and eyes.

Then I lined it with silk crepe de chine.

Allure of silk final

Now –  I really love a beautiful bow. And I knew just where to go to get the perfect bow pattern. I made this Butterick pattern in the early 1990s, and while I still like the dress I made (I’ll feature it sometime… it’s still in my closet!), I love the bow. I have used this bow pattern numerous times, always successfully.

Allure of silk - bow picture-2

Here is a close-up of the instruction sheet, showing the simple but effective construction of this bow.

Allure of silk - bow diagram-3

I increased the width and length a bit, as I knew it would need to be a focal point of the dress. I attached the bow to one end of the cummerbund, and used a snap to secure it in place on the other end.

All of this took more time than I could have ever imagined! The event for which I made this dress is next week, and I’ll get proper pbotos taken then. But here is a sneak peek, first of the shoes I found which really seem to be the perfect pairing for this dress:

allure of silk final

And here is the dress on my dress form:

Allure of silk final

Allure of silk final

I thought I'd include this photo of the dress lining for anyone interested in seeing it.

I thought I’d include this photo of the dress lining for anyone interested in seeing it.

I am very pleased that I decided to "V" the back of the outer bodice!

I am very pleased that I decided to “V” the back of the outer bodice!

A close-up of the bow.

A close-up of the bow.

One of my favorite fashion quotes is one from Madeleine Vionnet: “The dress must not hang on the body but follow its lines. It must accompany its wearer and when a woman smiles the dress must smile with her.” Will my dress put a smile on my face when I wear it? Yes, if only for the fact that it has been finished just in time!

Details:

Blue silk taffeta:  Britex Fabrics

White embroidered organza:  Waechter’s Fabrics (now out of business)

Yellow silk taffeta:  Emma One Sock Fabrics.

Under bodice and outer bodice pattern:  Vogue 8766

Cummerbund pattern:  Vogue 5234 (vintage)

Bow pattern:  Butterick 3582 (vintage)

Shoes:  Butter, sold by Simply Soles

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Filed under Cocktail dresses, couture construction, Mid-Century style, sewing in silk, Shoes to make an outfit complete, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, Vogue patterns

The Allure of Silk: Sewing with Susan Khalje, Part 2

Whoever knew there could be so many valuable tips to be learned about sewing with taffeta?   The second “part” of my dress, which I began under the tutelage of Susan Khalje in early June, was simple compared with the embroidered silk organza overlaid bodice. However, it proved to be an excellent opportunity to learn about some of the peculiarities inherent in silk taffeta.

The skirt pattern for which I had made a muslin (toile) in preparation for class was actually a full circle with 4 seams. I wasn’t so sure I wanted anything quite so full, and as I only had 3½ yards of 35” wide taffeta, I also wasn’t so sure I had enough fabric to make such a skirt. But what really put the kibosh to those plans was Susan’s observation that silk taffeta does not perform well with seams cut on the straight of grain (seams sewn thus, apparently do not lie flat and drape well.) She suggested a three-part skirt, with one panel centered on the front, and the other two joined to the sides of that front panel and then seamed together up the back. All cut edges would be on the bias, with the straight of grain being down the center of each panel. So we took one prepared muslin piece and made these changes to it:

This is one of the original 4 panels.  We redrew the side seams, adding enough to the waist to compensate for reducing the skirt to three panels, and by doing that, also reduced the width at the bottom of the panel.

This is one of the original 4 panels. We redrew the side seams, adding enough to the waist to compensate for reducing the skirt to three panels, and by doing that, also reduced the width at the bottom of the panel.

Here is a close-up, with the new straight of grain going up the middle rather than down the side.

Here is a close-up, with the new side seam lines and straight of grain going up the middle rather than down the side. Both are marked in black.

Once I had my new pattern piece, cutting it out was easy and took every inch of the sapphire blue taffeta I had brought with me. Here is what it looked like when the seams were stitched:

All the basting lines are still visible.

All the basting lines are still visible.

The next surprise I had was about the silk organza underlining. I am so used to catch-stitching seams to organza underlining in couture sewing. But with taffeta, it’s better not to do so. With the impressionable finish of taffeta, such catch-stitching could “shadow” on the front of the garment. So I left the seams unsecured on the wrong side:

Blue taffeta skirt

Ironing those seams also took special attention. Susan had me iron them over a seamroll, taking care to “spread” the seam so that the tight stitching actually would show in front of the point of the iron. This was to get a crisp seam. Once ironed, taffeta does not respond well to changes in your intent (like some people we all know), so it has to be done correctly the first time.

Because the center back zipper would be applied onto the bias, Susan had me use a little fusible interfacing to reinforce that seam. Luckily, Becky, a classmate, had a bag of all kinds of high quality fusible interfacings with her! (Thanks, Becky!)

The interfacing was sandwiched between the fashion fabric and the underlining.

The interfacing was sandwiched between the fashion fabric and the underlining.

I certainly did not get to the hem of the skirt before I left for home, but Susan gave me tips on how to sew that wide and curved expanse. I cut a 2½” strip of silk organza to use as a hem facing. I turned it up with a very narrow strip of blue taffeta exposed on the wrong side. Then I used a very short straight stitch to secure the organza facing to the organza underlining:

Blue taffeta skirt

I haven’t pressed the hem yet, but Susan has instructed me not to press the edge of the hem flat. It should have a little softness to it, which is the French way! I’m all for that.

The hemmed skirt

The hemmed skirt

The lining, which will be the full expanse of the skirt itself, will be out of silk crepe de chine and will hang loose.

In the past, I have always thought of taffeta as kind of stiff and a little too structured for my taste, but now I am a fan. I like the slight rustle to it, and when constructed properly, it drapes and moves beautifully. The secret is to work with very fine quality silk taffeta – and know the tricks! Thanks, Susan!

 

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Filed under couture construction, sewing in silk, Silk taffeta, Uncategorized

The Allure of Silk: Sewing with Susan Khalje, Part 1

Any week spent in one of Susan Khalje’s Couture Sewing School classes is a week filled with opportunity. This past class was my third one taken with Susan, and I have come to expect that I will learn unexpected things! My first class with her was the Classic French Jacket; the second class was when I started my color-blocked coat; and this class saw the beginning of a silk formal dress which I need for a black-tie event in early July.

She asks her students to come with a prepared muslin (toile), ready for fitting.  I have so many vintage patterns for long, lovely, fancy dresses, that it was difficult to focus on just one. As it turned out, I found myself drawn repeatedly to a dress which I had pinned to one of my Pinterest boards, and it is this dress which became my inspiration:

Blue taffeta:silk dress - originalI say “inspiration” as I knew I wanted to make certain changes. I decided I did not want to go completely strapless. Instead I envisioned a strapless underbodice, covered by a lacy, semi-transparent, sleeveless overbodice, both in white. I had already purchased a silk-embroidered organza (from Waechter’s Fabrics, before they closed their business), and I had also already purchased 3½ yards of sapphire-blue silk taffeta from Britex Fabrics. Those were my fabrics of choice for this project.

A Noisy Spring

I started with the strapless top and the sleeveless top from this current Vogue pattern:

Blue taffeta:silk dress - bodice pattern

Here’s what happened when Susan fitted the muslin on me:

The pattern for the strapless under bodice consisted of a front panel, two side princess panels, and two back panels.  However, Susan divided the side princess panels into two, giving me 7 bodice pieces rather than 5.

The pattern for the strapless under bodice consisted of a front panel, two side princess panels, and two back panels. However, Susan divided each side princess panel into two pieces, giving me 7 bodice pieces rather than 5.

The pattern for the over bodice needed major adjustments.  Here is the front . . .

The pattern for the over bodice needed major adjustments. Here is the front . . .

. . . and here is the back.  I wanted to make the back into a V-shape, which was a minor adjustment to the pattern i was using.

. . . and here is the back. I made the back into a V-shape, which was a minor adjustment to the pattern I was using.

One of the reasons I wanted to start this dress under Susan’s tutelage was for the opportunity to learn how to add boning to a structured bodice. I knew the fashion fabric for the strapless underbodice would be white silk crepe de chine. What I did not know is that the channels for the boning would be cleverly made out of two pieces of silk organza, with parallel stitching strategically placed every couple of inches – making the perfect slots for the pieces of boning.

Lotsa of seams!

Lots of seams!

Click on the photo to see the channels for the boning.

Click on the photo to see the channels for the boning.

With the boning inserted.

With the boning inserted.

Then the shocker came: in order to keep the boning from showing through to the right side, I needed to add another layer of … something. When Susan suggested white flannel – flannel! – I was skeptical, but trusting (I think!).  I kept thinking of the bulk that flannel was going to add to this very fitted underbodice, but Susan assured me it would work. She consoled me by telling me that we would be able to cut away the seam allowances of the flannel, reducing much of the added bulk. But the real surprise was the wonderful softness the flannel added to the finished underbodice. The flannel not only camouflages the boning on the right side, it also adds an amazing smoothness to the appearance of the underbodice.

Once the underbodice was complete, I set about to start the embroidered silk organza overbodice. We played around with the placement of the motifs, making sure that two big “daisies” would not be right on top of the bust.

The Allure of Silk, pt 1

 

Small daisies close to the bust seemed to be okay.

Small daisies close to the bust seemed to be okay.

The back of the over bodice

The back of the over bodice

And this is what the embroidered silk organza would look like over the strapless under bodice.

And I wanted to see what the embroidered silk organza would look like over the strapless under bodice.  So pretty!

Interior seams were finished by hand, and darts were left as is, with no additional finishing. The neck and armhole edges were another story, as they would need to be bound in bias-cut crepe de chine. I found this very tedious and time-consuming and appreciated Susan’s suggestions and tips to help make these delicate finished edges as even as possible. First I practiced, then I sewed, then I took out stitches and started over again, carefully clipping away noticeable bulk from the embroidery in that narrow edge.

Practice!

Practice!

Working on that narrow binding. . . .

Working on that narrow binding. . . .

Once both bodices were completed, I basted them together at the waist. The only other place they are joined is at the back seam where the zipper will be inserted.

It surprised me that no other joining of these two bodices would be needed, but once again, I have found that the unexpected often makes the most sense when it comes to couture sewing!

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Filed under couture construction, Mid-Century style, sewing in silk, Uncategorized, underlinings