The Last Dress of the Year Past

Little did I know when I found this “end-cut” earlier in the year at Mendel Goldberg Fabrics that “classic blue” would be chosen as Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2020.  But so it was, which makes my last dress of 2019 the perfect transition into the new year and the new decade.

This an Italian silk charmeuse, in a dotted and printed jacquard.

I am one of those people who rarely goes looking for a particular fabric.  I think fabrics find me and when this fabric found me, I really had no plan for what I would make out of it.  But as soon as it arrived, I knew immediately I wanted a sheath dress with three-quarter length sleeves and a V-neck.  I tucked it away, happy with the thought of making this dress, and knowing I had the perfect pattern to make it a reality.

View C, of course! And look at those lovely shaping darts.

This Vogue pattern is from the early 1960s, a little tattered and worn, but very versatile and beautifully engineered.

After finishing my granddaughters’ December dresses, and then my pink Parisian Jacket, and then some cute little flannel blouses for gifts for my little girls, I envisioned finishing this dress to wear to holiday parties.  What was I thinking?  First of all, after tweaking the pattern one last time (I had had the pattern fitted a couple of years ago while in a class with Susan Khalje), it took two full days – yes, TWO – to figure out how in the world to lay out my pattern pieces.  Truth be told, I really did not have enough fabric.  I should have reconsidered, but I am stubborn and tenacious when it comes to my sewing “visions.”  I finally decided that I could exactly match the print on the back center seam and make it sleeveless – OR I could have sleeves and not match the back.  I really, really wanted sleeves.  It had to have sleeves.  So I did the best I could with making the back seam look okay, and I got my sleeves.

Fortunately the all-over placement of the floral motifs lent itself to imprecise matching better than many fabrics would.

And what lovely sleeves they are!  When Susan fitted the pattern, she elongated the top curve of the sleeve to accommodate my prominent shoulders.  She also added a dart at the shoulder of the sleeve (actually slightly forward from the marked shoulder of the pattern to accommodate the roll of my shoulders).  I added a slight amount to the width of the sleeve, about 3/8”.  I have found these vintage patterns are often narrow in the sleeves.

The purple lines are the changes to the muslin.

The double elbow darts in the sleeves make a lovely fit and are placed precisely where they should be.

It’s a little difficult to see the double darts, but they are there!

When it came to the V-neck, I knew I would need to use a facing of some sort, but I did not have enough fabric to cut a full facing.  So – I cut a partial facing instead, just enough to be able to turn the V and have it stable.  (The first thing I did when I started sewing the dress, was to reinforce that neckline with a strip of silk organza selvedge.)  Well, this worked like a charm, much to my delight.

The partial facing extends up from the bottom of the V about 2.5 inches, and then the turned- back seam allowance takes over.

Then I brought the lining fabric right to the edge of the neckline and understitched it to secure it in place, just as you would expect a couture dress to be finished.

I chose a “mushroom” colored crepe de chine for my lining. Blues are very difficult to match as you know, so I decided a contrast color would be best. The lining fabric is from Emma One Sock Fabrics.

I used blue thread for the under stitching.

I used a lapped application for the hand-picked zipper.  The more I use the lapped insertion for zippers, the more I like it.  And I especially like it in a center back seam.

I’m feeling quite pleased with this dress!

There is not much more to say about this blue floral dress, except that it was not finished in time to wear to any holiday event.  Which was fine!  Once I realized this would be the case, I was able to really enjoy the process of making it.  It was a delightful way to end the year – and the decade, which has had such a profound effect on my sewing.



Filed under couture construction, hand-sewn zippers, Linings, Mid-Century style, Pantone Color of the Year, Polka dots, sewing in silk, Sheath dresses, Sleeves, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

37 responses to “The Last Dress of the Year Past

  1. Karen, This is the most gorgeous shade of blue ever and it is gorgeous on you! So glad you made a pretty dress with this great find.
    Happy New Year!

  2. That is a GREAT dress. LOVE the fabric and the pattern is a perfect fit. Well done!

  3. Ruth Winsor

    Just gorgeous. You do a beautiful job of taking the elegance from vintage style and leaving the gimmickyness (not a word but suits my purpose) behind. Ruth

    • Thank you, Ruth. It is necessary to “sort the wheat from the shaft” when using these vintage patterns. I love using them, but there are some necessary changes needed to make them look current.

  4. Karen, this is a glorious silk dress. It’s exquisite in its simple yet classic style and your skill with sewing makes it look wonderful with your pearl necklace.

  5. PatB

    Beautiful dress. All the the Best to You and Yours in 2020.

  6. Karen, this is a glorious silk dress. It’s lovely in its simplicity. It’s a classic style made more beautiful by your skill. Your pearl necklace is the perfect finishing touch. Well done!!!!

  7. Karen, your dress is absolutely lovely.

  8. Stunning dress. It’s sometimes nice to sew with no deadline and enjoy the process. Now you’re ahead on sewing for 2020.


    Very pretty and a nice treat for the winter.

  10. Patricia

    Karen, all the best for 2020. The colour suits you perfectly, the pattern is timeless and your sewing brilliant.

  11. Mery

    What a gem this pattern is with all its variations – sleeves, necklines, French darts, silhouette – and expertly fitted by Susan Khalje! Your dress is gorgeous and can be worn all year round. Perfect with pearls. So pretty and so fun.

    • Thank you, Mery! This fabric just lends itself to pearls, don’t you think? And my daughter said the same thing – “Mom, you can wear this dress all year long.”
      Needless to say, I’ll be using this pattern again – and again…

  12. Andrea Birkan

    This dress like everything you make is always spot on. The color is perfect on you. I look forward to seeing what you are going to be making in 2020.

    • Thank you, Andrea. We kind of have our formulas for ourselves when it comes to sewing, don’t we? That’s part of what makes it so much fun. I’m looking forward to lots of sewing (hopefully) in 2020. Happy New Year to you!

  13. Cheryl

    Hello Karen, wishing you a very happy year ahead with sewing opportunities for many heartwarming occasions. The simple designs I was told are when quality reveals itself, and that is certainly the case here. Your V neckline is a lesson in itself, and the mismatched back is just fine given the nature of the fabric pattern. It is a beautiful dress. Thank you once again for providing a masterclass for this happy follower.

  14. Aud Steier Griem

    What a lovely dress, Karen! Perfect design. I love the darts and had to buy this pattern! Fortunately I found it on Etsy in the correct size!

  15. Karen Mizzi

    This is such a lovely colour and cut on you.

  16. Marianne

    Another divine dress! I love this colour on you and the style is so timeless. Wishing you all the best for the next sewing decade!

  17. Jackie

    So pretty!! Your lovely shoes just set the dress!

  18. Black Tulip

    Another beautiful dress.I have a couple of patterns with those long shaping darts, so it is particularly interesting to see how they look in use.

  19. Hi Karen!

    A gorgeous couture dress — I love it!
    There are a few things that I especially appreciated about your post, one of which is the mention of the darts on this fabulous vintage 60’s pattern (my favourite era!). I have come to view and appreciate darts as an important foundation of the structure (even architecture) of a fine garment. I feel that darts are an art form to master, and it is quite an advantage if one can get to the point of understanding how to work the darts on a pattern, work these into specific design elements, and then translate these figure-ations on the body. Susan Khalje is certainly, to my view, a master at dart logic! And isn’t it amazing what a dart can do to a flat panel of fabric…!
    And the designers of the past along with their pattern designers are rarely matched with current pattern designs, so it’s great that we can find vintage patterns to work and learn from.
    When I do my pattern research, I have an idea in my head of what I’m wanting to create, and when I look at a pattern, I go straight to the line drawing (in my view the blueprint of the design) and just by reading those lines like the darts I will know whether I want to work with the shaping possibilities these lines evoke.
    The other thing you mention is the hand picked zipper done in a lapped application. I am going to be exploring the lapped zipper as well in my works this year, and love that you’ve shown this technique with this fabulous silk fabric.
    Well, you’ve certainly provoked a great deal of inspiring thought for me this morning — thank you!

    Enjoy your beautiful couture dress and Happy New Year!

    • I, too, go right to the line drawings on vintage patterns. These small works of art are usually very precise in detailing what you can expect in the actual pattern. Then I go to the instruction sheets, which I love to peruse. I totally agree that darts are a design element to be mastered, both in placement and in execution. My biggest complain with (most) current patterns is their lack of shaping darts. When did those essential back shoulder darts get eliminated? If I am working with a newer pattern, I now know that I have to add them. We are SO fortunate to have access to vintage patterns – and to have expert guidance from Susan and others. Happy New Year to you, too, Jacqueline!

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