Sweet November

The trickery, which defined my October sewing, finally floated away with the leaves and the goblins, leaving sweet November with her welcome reward, a new dress for Autumn and Winter.

Sweet November

So what made vintage Vogue 1395 such a tricky dress to make? I documented my efforts to get a workable muslin (toile) in a post from early October. Once I had my adjusted muslin pattern, I transferred it onto black silk organza to use as my cutting guide. It was then I realized that, because the design on the fabric, a silk and wool blend, was printed on it, not woven into it, I needed to work from the right side of the fabric in order to match the horizontal “lines.” This meant that I had to flip every piece that I cut out and then exchange the organza with its opposing side. (I hope this makes sense.) It added a bit of uncertainty to the process and I was fanatical with flipping and checking to make sure I kept the design in line. Something told me I should delay cutting out the sleeves until I had the body of the dress together – my sewing godmother at work, I guess – and I am glad I did, as I’ll detail in a bit.

I had made the decision at the beginning of the project to cover the dress’s two buttons in the plain gray “wrong” side of the fabric. But once I “semi-made” a covered button, and tried it out, it was DULL. It added nothing to the dress. I went to my button box and all I could find was a small gray pearl that was close in color. But I loved the iridescence of it and determined that gray pearl buttons were what I needed. I seem to have such good luck with buttons from Britex – even though I am ordering online – and found 1” gray pearl buttons with a rhinestone in their centers. Although I am not a rhinestone-y type of person, something about them spoke to me. I remembered what Susan Khalje said in one of the classes I have taken with her – that couture often has a bit of “whimsy” to it. Well, I ordered those buttons as as fast as I could! I think they are just what was needed!

Sweet November

I had also made the decision to make the “dickey” part of the dress out of the side of the fabric with the printed design – so that the horizontal line would be uninterrupted across the bodice. Here is what it looked like once I had it done:

Sweet November

There was not enough definition between the dress and dickey to make it interesting.

I cut some scraps to see what it would look like with a play gray insert – and it was so much better!

Sweet November

So – I took the dickey all apart and flipped it over so it would be out of the plain gray “wrong side.” By now I was enjoying the versatility of this fabric (which I bought online from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics) and appreciating the serendipity of having this fabric for this pattern, giving me options.

However, the fabric posed another challenge when I got to the point of finishing the front opening in the bodice. This fabric frays enough that I was not comfortable following the directions given in the pattern instructions:

The instructions directed me to just turn back the seam allowance, but because of the ravel-ly nature of the fabric, I was certain it would pull out with wear.

The instructions directed me to just turn back the seam allowance, but because of the ravel-ly nature of the fabric, I was certain it would pull out with wear.

Instead, I opted to make a “facing” for the opening out of black organza. It is situations like this that make me feel so fortunate to have enough “sewing sense” to be able to recognize potential difficulties and then have the ability to work out creative solutions to them.

Sweet November

Silk organza pinned in place.

And here it is sewn in place.

And here it is sewn in place.

I took some pictures at this point to show the inside of the body of the dress:

Yes, those are pockets hanging on the front.

Yes, those are pockets hanging on the front.

This shows those darts with their slanted orientation.

This shows those bust darts with their slanted orientation.

The zipper is inserted by hand, as usual! Once I had it basted in place, I tried the dress on for fit and determined I had to take it in a bit at the waistline.

Then I tackled the sleeves. I had quite a time determining how to place the sleeve patterns on the remaining fabric. Some of those horizontal lines of “paintbrush strokes” change color across the fabric! And my adapted sleeve pattern has two elbow darts, which changed the horizontal line. I had to make a decision about where I wanted the best match to be, as I determined I could not match it across and up and down as I would normally want to do. I opted for a match across the shoulders – and I now believe that was the best decision.


I also added a soft “cigarette” sleeve heading to each shoulder seam.

Next to the lining – and bless those vintage Vogue patterns – the lining for this dress included separate and distinct pattern pieces. I made the sizing and dart changes to the lining (in keeping with the dress) and it went together effortlessly. When I got to the point of inserting the lining by hand, I just could not resist adding silk piping to the inside neck edge. I know I am the only one who will ever see it, but it makes me happy!

Sweet November

I used a bias strip of lightweight silk for the piping.

I used a bias strip of lightweight silk for the piping.

How wonderful to have this dress completed!

Sweet November

The buttons really show in this picture.

The buttons really show in this picture.

Sweet November

Sweet November

Sweet November

There was one more aspect of serendipity to this project. Those of you who follow my blog know that part of my fascination with vintage Vogue patterns is making connections between the past and the present. I love to “place” a pattern in its correct year – and then wonder in amazement at how classic fashions are so enduring. It was my great good fortune to have this Vogue Pattern Fashion News from November 1964 in my collection of vintage fashion magazines:

Sweet November - flyer cover

Inside on page 3 is, yes, my dress!

Sweet November - flyer illustration

Just imagine – 51 years ago this month, this dress made its debut. Happy Sweet November Everyone!


Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, couture construction, Day dresses, hand-sewn zippers, Love of sewing, Mid-Century style, Uncategorized, underlinings, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

38 responses to “Sweet November

  1. Lovely dress and it fits you perfectly. Thanks for sharing all the inside details. I know what you mean about adding details only you will see; makes it very couture.

  2. Mery

    Not only is the style timeless but I would think it’ll be timeless in your wardrobe as well. That is, I can’t see this dress retiring in 3 years. Also, do you also expect a long season of wear? That is, although it’s part wool will you be able to wear lighter accessories such as your pink purse on cool spring days. Forgive me if that would be tacky, but I’m from the Southwest where it was 103 degrees in mid-Oct., so I’m not sure how your seasons work.

    • I do expect a long season of wear. Being a wool and silk blend makes it warm but not heavy. Often our Springs are quite chilly – so I think it will go well into Spring here in eastern Pennsylvania (especially paired with my deep pink handbag!)

  3. Mery

    Cute as a button and beautiful too! Loved the fabric at first sight and it’s even prettier on you. All your details and the fitting are just perfect. You gave that pattern a birthday when you gave it new life as your own modern classic. Thank you for sharing your challenges, thought processes, and, most of all, your inspiration with us that we enjoy vicariously.

  4. Stunning! Choosing the gray dickey was great insight!! Love this dress on you! Annie

  5. Beautiful! I love the grey insert and the pattern matching is go good, then there is the fit! Lovely job!

  6. Jessica

    What a beautiful dress. It is just stunning on you!

  7. Tricia Ross

    Classy, perfect fit.

  8. Trish

    What a beautiful dress. A true classic and always in ‘vogue’!

  9. Lovely lovely dress and thank you for the interior construction photos too. One day my little brain will manage to interpret it all ;).

    • I am always amazed at how funny the “insides” can look before the lining is put in – but all that inside stuff makes a big difference in how it looks on the outside! Thanks so much for your comment.

  10. I’m in awe of your patience. I need some! Love your beautiful dress – isn’t that Chanel fabric?
    The buttons and gray inset are just the right touch. Congratulations on a job well done !

    • Thanks, Sarah. I’m not sure if the fabric is Chanel or not. Someone told me they thought they had seen it “on the runway” – for whatever that is worth. I loved it when I saw it on Mendel Goldberg’s website. As far as patience goes – I seem to have infinite patience when it comes to sewing, to the detriment of other things that need doing! There has go to be a balance somewhere – but I am still trying to figure it out!

  11. Cissie

    Another timeless, beautifully made dress! Thank you for your detailed review and sharing your thinking process with us. I’ve been a fan of this fabric since I first saw it and adore your rendition.

  12. Marianne

    You’re certainly doing Lanvin justice! Beautiful, inside and out!

  13. Mary Lynn

    As always – beautifully planned and executed (that seems a harsh word for
    sewing, but can’t think of a better one). It looks so lovely on you. Love the grey insert!

  14. Everything about this dress is exquisite. And all the hand stitching, the piped linings, the painterly fabric – very chic. Thank you for sharing all the details, now we can look forward to seeing this dress “in action”! 🙂

  15. I think this is lovely and sharp!

  16. Marguerite

    Those fitting hours sure paid off! It fits perfectly! You are creating such a truly unique and beautiful collection of clothes. I just love looking at the photos and reading about the process involved in each and every one!

  17. Definitely love this dress with the grey dicky. And my, what a picture of elegance you are in this creation! It’s divine.

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