From Ready-to-Wear to No-Wear

Is a dress really complete if one has nowhere to wear it?  Well, yes, I think it is. Otherwise, I fear, I never would have finished this dress.

Its inspiration came from a ready-to-wear dress I spied on the Halsbrook website.

My original intention was to make a wool dress using this vintage royal blue-and-black houndstooth boucle I found several years ago.

After deciding it was just a bit too hefty to use for a dress, I switched gears and ordered this boucle from Linton Tweeds in England.

It is a cotton, silk and viscose blend with a lovely hand and a beautiful luster to it.  The colors look like the woven manifestation of Spring, and once it arrived, I was feeling very grateful that I was moving on to some warmer weather sewing rather than being stuck in a Winter project.  Below is the vintage pattern I had chosen to recreate the look of the ready-to-wear dress.

I used this pattern once before and knew it would work beautifully for this purpose.

All was not so merry, however, once I had my silk organza underlining cut out.  While positioning it onto the boucle fabric, I had a rude realization that the boucle, despite its very even grid, was an uneven plaid, in regard to color.  There was no way I was going to be able to balance the colors evenly across the width of this dress.  I had to make a decision how I wanted to treat the center front seam (which helps with the shaping of the dress).  I also had to determine which of the colors was dominant in the grid and then try to fixate on getting that evenly spaced.

After much debate, I decided to use the yellow as the dominant color, and I decided to “railroad track” the center seam, disrupting the even windowpane grid in that spot.

This picture shows how I tried to balance the yellow on the front of the dress, which I was able to do by narrowing the windowpane in the center seam.

I guess I have looked at this dress just a bit too much, as I am still second-guessing myself.  Sometimes it looks okay to me and other times, all I see are the unevenly spaced pink and green grids.

I decided to line the dress in pale-ish yellow crepe de chine, ordered from Emma One Sock Fabrics.

When it came time to finish the inside neck edge with understitiching, I was completely out of matching yellow thread.  Of course, with all the non-essential stores closed (since when I ask, is a sewing supply store considered non-essential?), I had to choose another color for that task.  I went to my supply of vintage buttonhole twist and found coral pink, a nice substitute.

I machine-sewed strips of silk organza interfacings onto the edges of the sleeves and hem, so that I could fray them confidently.   Then I finished the interiors by hand.  Somehow, most vexingly, I lost my pictures of this process.

I actually used the reverse side of the fabric for the double-wide fringe several inches up from the hemline.  It gave me another “railroad track” detail which I thought would help make sense of that center front seam.

This is the reverse side of the fabric.

And here is the double-sided fringe attached to the skirt. The “railroad track” motif is visible in the center of the fringe.

Can you tell I was consumed by this uneven color scheme?  I think it is still playing games with my head, but the good news is, once I did the final try-on of the dress, I thought it looked okay!

I’m not looking back any more on this one!

Well, from Ready-to-Wear to No-Wear to currently No-Where to Wear anything pretty, the only way to go is towards the time, hopefully soon, when we can all be thinking,”So many places to go, so many new dresses to Wear.”



Filed under couture construction, Day dresses, Hem facings, Hems, Linings, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

45 responses to “From Ready-to-Wear to No-Wear

  1. Annette Lovoi

    I love your dresses. Which Diane von Furstenberg pattern for the wrap dress is the best (and/or the original?) Do you happen to have an extra for sale in size 12 or 14? Thanks! Annette LoVoi,
    phone: 512.633.3535

    • Hi Annette, I think the most famous DvF dress is the wrap with the pointed collar and the a-line skirt. I’m sorry to say I do not have an extra pattern for sale. You can occasionally find them on Etsy and eBay, but they are very pricey. Simplicity made a knock off pattern of that dress which, if you can find it, is usually less expensive. Good luck!

  2. sewdivine

    The dress is beautiful – I love the double folded boarder on the bottom and the fringe detail there and on the sleeves. Nicely done!

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

  3. deborinadel


  4. Karey

    It’s beautiful. Here’s to lots of opportunities to wear it in the future

  5. The fabric and lining just match perfectly. And the dress suits you so well!!!

  6. Marcia Elwood


  7. So beautiful. I love everything about this. You’ve made the best decision about balancing the plaid

  8. Mery

    I’m so glad you made this. And in my colors (more coral than raspberry). I guess we’ll have to start finishing our chores early so we can put on our afternoon dresses for conferencing. We won’t have time to cook much in the afternoon, so main meal at noon. Perhaps our tea service can show in the background. Oh, that’s it! We’ll all join online for tea. Might be fun once or twice but I wouldn’t want to have to dress for it every day. I’m enjoying my loungevwear too much. Best wishes to you and yours, including each of your readers.

    • Hopefully we won’t get too used to our loungewear and pajamas, and we will still have the need to dress nicely every once in a while! Right now I would love to go to a tea party… and I have just the dress to wear! Best to you, Mery!

  9. Cheryl

    i do love the colours in this dress. They make one feel so happy, ready for fun when you are finally able to step past the front door. Once again congratulations on taking your design idea through to a beautiful creation. Well worth the effort!

  10. You nailed it, Karen, that was the best possible outcome. As for where to wear it, I have heard that the ladies in Great Britain and dressing to the nines when they take the trash bins to the curb! We could try that.😉

  11. Beautiful. The colors are perfect for video meetings. Stay well.

  12. OHhhMY

    Exquisite workmanship!!!

  13. Karen

    It really is a lovely dress and I think you’ve done a superb job. Stop looking at it! 😂 I hope you’re keeping well on your side of the world. 😘

  14. Terri Holland

    What a lovely dress! Beautiful job- it looks so nice on you.

  15. Christine Taylor

    That dress looks just perfect, please don’t doubt it, I love everything about it, the fabric, colours an style.

  16. Karen, I love your design changes. Your skill with fabric selection and problem solving is fantastic.

  17. Diane

    Karen this is really just a breath of Springtime! Beautifully done.

  18. This dress is beautiful! Great colors too! Your details always inspire me to try something new! Thank you!

  19. mem

    It’s a very lovely dress . You should be very happy with it and the colours suit you very well.

  20. What a lovely dress. With a project like this, I think (from experience) that it’s all too easy to get fixated on what it looks like close to, and forget about the effect from a distance – which in this case is wonderful.

    • I was definitely fixated on the close-up inconsistencies in this dress, and I was pleasantly surprised when I actually realized they were not that apparent from afar. Thanks for your words of wisdom.

  21. Mrs T

    I love this and it reminds me very much of this Maxmara dress that I’d like to recreate. Thanks for the design ideas ( and in fact your whole blog which is so inspiring!)

  22. Heather Myers

    Lovely and springy dress!
    I wonder your definition of vintage fabric? I’ve just finished making a notebook inventory of my fabric to help me use it, and have pieces from 25 years ago😊. I thought of this when you wrote your wool challis “horse” fabric was not new at 3 months…. While I’ve been thinking new is any I’ve owned less than 2 years! Lol

    • I generally think vintage fabric is a minimum of 30 years old. And I agree that fabric which is up to 2 years old is really new. But if I have had fabric for more than a few months, I feel good when I use it as I have probably by that time put it in my fabric closet, where it can get “lost”! In contrast, something like the Linton Tweed I just finished – never was put away. It sat out as I had immediate plans for it. Fun to hear from you, as always!

  23. Jacquelin Ihsan

    Beautiful work and finish. I can remember 4.45 p m as my mother always left the kitchen to change her cloths before my father came home at 5.15.
    Regarding side zippers which you wrote about years ago, my mother told me to always put a silk scarf over my head to keep hair and makeup in disturbed when putting on an overhead dress. She probably got that little tip from her mother.

    • Hi Jacquelin, I realized I had never responded to your fun comment. It’s good to remember those “back in the day” times. Some of the things our mothers did would surely be scoffed at now, but I believe they had great wisdom about “taking care of life.” And I have been known to cover my head with a silk scarf when donning a side-seam dress! Thanks so much for commenting.

  24. Definitely a situation in which overthinking can lead you astray! I rather like the effect of the railroad of colours (indeed, most of the populace would not notice until you pointed it out, I’m sure) and think you chose well 🙂

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