Forty years ago this month – October of 1976 – the first Diane von Furstenberg Vogue patterns were available for purchase. At the same time, Cohama (fabrics) produced Diane von Furstenberg-designed knits specifically for use with those patterns. Both were detailed in the September/October 1976 edition of Vogue Pattern Book Magazine:
One of the Diane von Furstenberg designs I long admired but never purchased when I was sewing for myself in the 1970s was this pattern:
I never quite believed that it could really be reversible; I just especially liked the front wrapped version. So when I had the opportunity to purchase this pattern a few years ago online, I jumped at it. Then not long after, one of my blog readers contacted me with some vintage Cohama DvF fabric for sale. She so kindly gave me first choice of what she had, and I purchased two lengths from her. The first piece of fabric I made into this dress:
The second piece was this “Birds” design, and I was fortunate enough to have over three yards available to me:
How I waited THIS LONG to make this dress, I’ll never know, but now it is reality!
DvF-designed Cohama knit fabric is a lovely cotton/rayon blend, very soft and surprisingly easy to sew. I am not a big fan – or any fan at all, really – of sewing with knits, so I appreciate that this fabric is so accommodating. One downside of sewing with knits that I can’t quite get around is the fact that it is almost impossible to make a muslin mock-up to try out the fit and sizing. Perhaps someone knows some trick that I don’t know, but I felt a little like I was flying blind when making adjustments to the pattern which I would need for the proper fit. These included 1) lengthening the bodice by about an inch (which I know needs to be done from other wrap dresses I have made), 2) shortening the sleeves to three-quarter length and adding a little bit of width to them so they could be pushed up comfortably, and 3) adding about an inch and a half to the diameter of the waistline. Even with the forgiving nature of a knit fabric, I am not comfortable making a dress without a proper muslin first – so I was a little bit nervous the whole way through the construction of this dress.
I followed the instructions carefully, and was fascinated to find that all the seams needed to be double-stitched, trimmed and pressed to one side. I discovered the reason for this after the dress was finished – it helps make the dress truly reversible, in some magical way.
I needed an iron-on interfacing suitable for use with knits and after some research came up with Heat-n-Bond Fusible tricot (purchased from Fabrics.com.) This is the perfect interfacing for use with knits as it stretches, but also stabilizes. I used it for the neck and front facings per the pattern instructions, and I also reinforced the hems in the sleeves. The pattern called for under-stitching the front and neck facing, and I could not help myself – I did it by hand rather than machine!
In the description of this pattern in the Vogue Pattern Book Magazine, it states: “Night & Day, Diane is the one! She wraps up both scenes in one pattern! Her wizard [my emphasis] wrap (that reverses front to back)… [for] day with plunge to front and …[for] night with plunge to back.”
Plunge is right! When I tried on the dress with the wrap to the front, I decided I was going to have to add a modesty panel or a very strong snap to keep the front closed. I opted for the snap, but I’m not entirely happy with the way it looks.
When I tried on the dress with the wrap to the back, I loved it, and I felt like it fit me better, especially across the shoulders.
Now the dilemma: I need the snap for the front V, but I don’t need it for the back V, nor can I reach it by myself in the back to fasten it. But one half of the snap shows when the V is in the back, which obviously will not do! If I take the snap off, I cannot wear the dress with the front V (which is a little more casual look.) If I leave the snap on, I cannot wear the dress with the back V (a little dressier look.) Maybe I should forgo the snap and make a modesty panel, which can fasten underneath and be removed when I wear the dress “backwards.” Any thoughts, anyone??
I guess I have the advantage of time on my side to figure this out, as I probably will not, at this point, be wearing this dress until next Spring. Despite this one little gaping issue, I think this dress is beautiful, versatile, comfortable and very feminine!
Hooray for Diane von Furstenberg, vintage Vogue Patterns and vintage Cohama fabrics – some styles never get old!
22 responses to “Classic Diane von Furstenberg”
Great dress! This pattern has not only a more sophisticated bodice but a flippier skirt as well. Did you do any special hem treatments? I too am interested in war stories about the battle of the daytime cleavage. On a thin jersey I once placed the nipple side of the snap behind the outer fabric, sewed it to the facing & worked it thru to the outside each of the few times I wore it. The other half of the snap faces the body & doesn’t show. I lost several battles with panels & dickies, always when rushed, by having the least bit too much panel really drab down an outfit and have to be removed and replaced with a pin at the last minute. Since you have time & the finished garment to pin it to I’m sure you’ll succeed. If the dress fabric fights you then perhaps a lace panel would do. This dress is too lovely to worry about back wrinkles: consider them reaching room.
I am so glad to know someone else has had the same cleavage battle. When I look at the models wearing these dresses, there doesn’t seem to be an issue, which has me scratching my head. It’s so interesting when I look at the photos, I think I like the front V better, but in person I like the back V better. Go figure!
This is glorious.
Would a small decorative red or white brooch work instead of a snap when the V is at the front? Also the instead snap nipple worked through the outer layer that Mery suggests sounds like a great option.
However, if it were me, I might just settle for the deep V back version.
Thank you, SE! I had thought about using a small brooch, and I actually tried it with a small red one that I have. The red isn’t the right red, but I am thinking that if I could find the right small brooch in white, it would be the perfect solution. Thanks so much for thinking this over for me!
Looks wonderful! I do remember my mother making this pattern and she used the same fabric. It truly is a timeless style.
Thank you, Mary. I certainly don’t feel “vintage” with this dress on – I agree, it’s timeless!
For a muslin, you can buy some cheaper knit fabric and sew it up in a muslin. It wont give you a perfect muslin, but definitely gives you an idea of how it all works. I do this for sweaters that I design. I cut the pieces out of sweatshirt fabric and stitch them together and play with the design, then I lay them out and write the pattern for knitting instructions. It has worked really well.
Thank you, Susan! I actually tried this method with a dress a few years ago, and it was not as successful as I had hoped. I always use my muslin pieces as my pattern, too, and with the stretch in the knit, the “translation” from muslin to pattern was a bit wonky. Glad to know it works so well for you with your knitting! I appreciate your sharing your ideas!
Beautiful dress! I would just wear a cotton jersey camisole underneath and that takes away all the worry of gaping. I have lots in various colors to deal with these situations. Or, if you’ve any left, you could also make one out of the dress fabric.
I do have some fabric left, but not enough for an entire camisole. Still thinking this through, but so appreciate hearing from you!
The camisole idea is good. Even if you have just a small piece of your fabric left you could sew it to the front of a camisole to wear underneath. It would be a fooler, no one would know
You are so right, Susan! I may end up making a “fooler”!! Thanks so much for your suggestion!
When a friend adapted another DvF knit pattern to use wovens the final trick that made it work was adding a tuck or two to waist front edge. I’d hoped one of your readers would offer such a simple tnt solution by now. It’s too lovely on you not to wear it more often as a day dress. Two panels that cross a little higher up wouldn’t change the design lines as abruptly as one straight across.
I agree – I hate to fool with the design line of the V. What I should have done was add about an inch more along that front edge and grade it up into the neck line before I cut it out!! We are too soon old and too late smart, as the old Pennsylvania German saying goes. I’ll get more use out of it as a more casual day dress, so I know I’ll get it figured out… Thanks, Mery!!
I wonder if shortening the front edge, at the waist seam would help. I did that with a student’s dress from a similar DVF pattern, and it resulted in making the front edges fall closer to the body, and not gape. Alternately, taking it up at the shoulder, but that seems like lots more work….Good luck, great dresses shouldn’t be a problem!!
Thank you, Wendy, for your thoughts on this. I love your comment – “great dresses shouldn’t be a problem!!” So true – and I am sure I will figure this out successfully!
All the possible solutions have already been offered I think! Just to say I love the dress and would make it again, perhaps taking some length out of the V or making it cross over a little higher. Super work, as every. You look dreamy.
Thank you, Kate. Your comment cheered me up on a bad day…..
It was early for the day to have already soured. May today be sweet.
It’s a lovely dress! Everyone has wonderful comments and suggestions. I think that a closer hug around the neck may have brought the sides of the wrap closer together. I’m thinking of patterns I have that seem to do that. But you don’t want to compromise the design too much. I have both the pattern and the magazine as I’ve always admired DVF. The back wrap look is quite chic though. My niece wore a DVF back wrap lace dress to a family wedding last year. Everyone commented on how it interesting a high front neck and 3/4 sleeve gave way to the low back when she turned around. Either way it’s very nice on you! I’d love to get my hand on some of that fabric!!
Another lovely dress! You might consider inserting a small magnet stitched in the seam allowance on either side of the V for a solution for your closure. It won’t show and it will easily keep things where you want them. =)
Knits definitely have their own set of good and bad qualities compared to wovens. (You can “cheat” a lot of fitting with a knit, but I’m not sure I like the idea of wearing a sleeve “backwards” by turning the dress around.) I know you’ve mentioned you only have a sewing machine, so I’m not surprised you favor wovens. I prefer sewing knits with a serger because it’s faster and also easier to remove the stitching if I need to redo something.
This is grreat