Category Archives: couture construction

Life Isn’t Perfect…

…but Your Outfit Can Be.  I took a picture last summer of this sign at a Western wear store in Pinedale, Wyoming (Cowboy Shop).   I loved the saying, but little did I know how often I would reflect on it this summer, which has had its difficulties.  

And even when my outfit, like Life, is far from perfect, which has been often, I know there is always Hope, and yes, that is hope with a capital H.  

*******

What a long hiatus it has been between my last musings about Trench coats and Dressmaker coats and pink gingham.  The final, finishing  stitch in my pink checked coat was in mid-June, and at this point I can hardly remember what I wanted to say about it.  

I purchased the pink silk gingham from Farmhouse Fabrics several years ago.

It does seem appropriate to start with the changes I made to the pattern, of which there were two major ones.  The first change was to the size of the collar.  In the 1970s long pointed collars were a trend.  Although I like a pointed collar, one with a more petite profile seemed to be a little more flattering and classic.  To achieve this desired look, I shortened the collar’s points by about an inch on either side.  

For comparison purposes, here is a good look at the original collar.

When I made this coat in 1974, I remember being a bit disappointed with the volume of the back of the coat.  I was using a cotton twill, so it was a heavier fabric than the silk taffeta in my new version, making the volume seem even more pronounced.  But even so, I thought I would be happier with a less full back.  I experimented around with my muslin/toile until I got the desired girth.  It turned out I eliminated a total of three inches from the back pattern pieces, 1 ½” from each side back panel.

Again, the image of the 1974 pattern illustrates the volume of the gathering in the original design.

In addition to these alterations, I had a slight construction change.  The instructions for the  gathering of the lining at the back waistline called for using elastic thread.  First of all, I didn’t have any elastic thread, nor did I think it would give the look I wanted even though it would not be very apparent on a lining.  Instead, I had some elastic cord, and I attached it by hand, using embroidery floss in a criss-cross stitch enclosing it the width of the back.  Worked like a charm, and I like the effect it made.

This is the wrong side of the lining, showing the criss cross I achieved with embroidery floss.
And here is what it looks like on the right side of the lining. The lining gathers beautifully with this thread channel for the elastic cord, as is apparent in the image below.

Once I had the coat partially assembled, I decided I would have liked it to be a bit longer than I planned with the muslin.  I was very tight with fabric, so I really could not have cut it longer and still been able to get the coat out of the fabric I had.  So, to gain another inch and a half, I decided to face the hem right to the point where the lining would be attached.    It certainly took extra effort, but I’m glad I did it as I much prefer the slightly longer length.  

The one thing I would change should I ever make this coat again (which I doubt) would be to add about an inch or so to the diameter of the cuffs.  I would like to keep them buttoned and be able to slip my hands through them.  As they are, they are too tight to do that.  This was something I could have determined had I made a muslin/toile with completed sleeves, which I did not.  All I did was check the length.  A good reminder to me to be more thorough in situations like this.  

When I was planning this coat, I intended to use this vintage silk fabric for the lining.

However, even though I underlined the fashion fabric with white cotton batiste, I felt there was a slight “see-through” of the black details in the print of the intended fabric.  In the meantime, I had ordered a piece of polished cotton in “Paris Pink” from Emma One Sock Fabrics.  Although not an exact match, the two fabrics – the pink checked taffeta and the polished cotton – made a pretty pair so I changed course, and the rest is history.

I am quite happy with this pink lining!

No report on this coat would be complete without mention of the buttons. Again, I went with vintage mother-of-pearl buttons. These have a carved detail in them, which I thought would pair nicely with the gingham.

I chose to do machine buttonholes on this silk coat.

This was an involved, lengthy project.  I was rather in awe of my 24-year-old self for attempting it “back in the day.”  But making it again brought back hidden memories (good ones) and new appreciation for all that I have learned over the ensuing years.  Wearing my new version of this Trench-inspired coat will, I believe, fall into the “nearly perfect“ category.  

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Christian Dior, Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker coats, Linings, Mid-Century style, Silk taffeta, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s

A Very Pink Coat, Part 3

Added Value….  There is a significant little entry in 101 Things I learned in Fashion School (Alfredo Cabrera with Matthew Frederick, Grand Central Publishing, New York, New York, 2010, page 40).  Although aimed at Ready-To-Wear customers and the designers who cater to them, it certainly is meaningful to those of us who sew our own fashions:  “Fashion customers often need to be convinced to buy a new garment that, in effect, they already own.  …  Value added details [my emphasis] are those that are inherently necessary to a garment but are executed in a novel or interesting way…”  thus making them attractive to potential customers.  

Well, not that I really need convincing to make another coat for myself, but I will freely admit it is the unique little details in a pattern (and gorgeous fabric, of course) which convince me I MUST make THIS coat, even though I might not really NEED it.  Such was the case with my very pink coat, which is now finished.  

Those details included 1) the three welt pockets with flaps, 2) the concealed front closure, 3) the  arrowhead detail accompanying the minimal top-stitching, 4) the sleeve tabs (okay, not really a necessary detail, but a very nice one!), and 5) the opportunity to add a little flash to the lining with edge-piping.

I’ll cover the sleeve tabs first since they were the detail in question in my last post. 

 As you can observe, I decided to leave them with the buttons facing forward.  Several comments left by readers (thank you – you know who you are and I am very appreciative!) got me thinking anew about the orientation of the tabs.  Then I had an aha moment when I realized that the one button which is visible on the front of the coat, at the neckline, might look a bit disconnected without its counterparts showing on the sleeves.  Decision made, with confidence!  However, I doubt I will ever look at a sleeve tab in quite the same way again. 

The three welt pockets with flaps are quite likely my favorite detail on this coat.  First of all, I like making them.  There is a certain feeling of empowerment, although slightly nerve-wracking, to cut those big slashes into the front of the coat and be confident it will all be okay. And this type of pocket is just so pretty when they are done.  In addition, while they are utilitarian, they also suggest refinement, elevating a simple car coat to a coat with some sophistication and flair. 

Here is the underside of one of those pockets, with the slash” clearly visible.
As you can see, I used lining fabric (Bemberg from Emma One Sock Fabrics) for the facing on the flaps. And here’s a fun fact – that small pocket on the right side is called a “ticket pocket,” small and shallow, perfect for a printed ticket. As printed tickets go the way of the dinosaurs, this little pocket may become obsolete – but I sincerely hope not. It adds so much to the visual pleasure of this coat and other similar garments.
A good view of the small “ticket pocket.”

I must have a certain penchant for concealed coat fronts.  This is the third one I have made and I can let you know there may be more to come (but not soon.)   As I mentioned in my last post, I was able to reduce the bulk of the closure by using my lining fabric for one layer of the buttonhole side of the front flap.  

I made three machine buttonholes for this part of the flap, which made everything lay flat and neat. 

The gray buttons – 6 of them, which is what I needed – were in my collection, so that was a happy find. They are 1950s’ vintage gray pearl, very appropriate indeed for this 1957 pattern.

Although this coat pattern called for some topstitching, it was minimal.  Just the sleeve tabs, the pocket flaps and the collar, plus the front detail on the right side.  I was unhappy with the machine topstitching I did at the front closure.  There was enough bulk from the wool and the facing and the fly front, that it interfered with the smoothness of the topstitching.  So I took it out.  Initially I was going to do without topstitching and the arrowhead detail, but it looked a bit plain and unfinished.  So I did my fallback to what I know works – topstitching by hand.  Because of the hand-worked arrowhead detail, I felt hand topstitching would not look out of place.  Of course, I had never done an embroidery arrowhead before, so I had to practice, practice practice  so it hopefully does not look amateurish.  

I purchased matching embroidery floss for the arrowhead detail and the hand top-stitching.

Finally, coat linings lend themselves so beautifully to that extra little treatment – a narrow edge piping.

  I deviated from my Vogue pattern to add this dressmaker detail, but I am sure they would have approved.  My Avoca wool scarf which is such a perfect complement to this coat inspired me to choose checked piping.  I “robbed” a small corner from some pink silk gingham (intended for a Spring coat, as mentioned previously here) to make my flat piping.  

I purchased the pink cashmere wool for this coat from Farmhouse Fabrics.

Well, there you have it.  My first major project of 2022 finished.  I am happy I chose pink for my theme this year as it has brightened up many a dark day in this troubled world of ours. 

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, car coats, Coats, couture construction, Dressmaker details, Mid-Century style, piping, Scarves, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, woolens

A Very Pink Coat, Part 2

The pattern for a very pink coat has many pieces.  

When I am getting ready to start a new project with a pattern new to me, I like to read through all the instructions just to get a feel for what is ahead.  That lets me know if I can mix things up a bit, deviate from the step-by-step instructions, prepare a component ahead of time (such as sleeves.  If I feel confident about the fit, I will often make the sleeves first and set them aside until I am ready for them).  During this initial study of the instruction sheet, all was straightforward except for one thing.  For the life of me, I could not figure out how the  concealed – or fly – opening on the front was constructed.  I have done this type of opening before (here and here), but this construction was different.  

Because I wanted to use my gray lining fabric for one layer of the buttonhole side of the opening (to reduce bulk) I needed to know if I could do that and be confident that the lining would not show.  So I REALLY needed to understand how this detail went together.  I decided I would have to do a trial run.  What better use of a well-marked muslin (toile) than to use it for this task?  Armed with pins, I proceeded to do a mock-up.  

Here are the two separate fly pieces, one attached to the facing and the other one attached to the right front coat piece.
Here are the attached fly pieces folded back from the front edge. This detail allowed me to use the lining fabric for one layer of the buttoned side.
Here the two sides are sandwiched together to show the concealed opening.

Instead of taking my mock-up apart, I decided to keep it for referral when I got to that point of the coat.  And I am so glad I did.  It helped me through many a confusing moment, giving me confidence that I was doing this correctly.  Wouldn’t it be nice if all of life gave one a trial run first before facing the real thing – and then stood by to offer reassurance?  Well, you will have to wait to see the finished opening in my next post, but it is all but complete.  And I must confess, I think it is going to be very lovely.

Now here is something to ponder.  A few days ago I walked into my sewing room and was startled to observe something that did not seem right on my up-to-that-point constructed coat.  I had it hanging on my dress form and almost had a panic attack when I looked at the to-be-buttoned tabs on the sleeves.  It certainly looked as though I had sewn them on backwards!  The buttonholes, and therefore the soon-to-be-attached buttons, were oriented toward the front of the sleeve, rather than the back.

Before completely losing it, I went to my pattern, and there, plain as day in the illustration, the tabs wrapped around to the front of the sleeve.  

I still could not quite believe it, so I went to the illustrations in the 1957 Vogue Pattern Book Magazine, shown in my last post.  Yep – the tabs were oriented the same way as mine.  Just to make sure, I checked the silk organza under-lining on the two-part sleeves to double check my markings which would tell me that the backs of the sleeves were truly in the back (although my common sense had already answered this question for me.  Of course, the sleeves would not have gone in as smoothly as they did if I had put them in incorrectly).  

After being reassured repeatedly that I had not made a BIG mistake, I started to question why the tabs were oriented that way.  I looked for other examples of buttoned sleeve tabs.  I found one or two in which the tab wraps around to the front, but most tabs were sewn into the inside seam, wrapped around the front and buttoned just past the center point of the sleeve (or seam, if there was a center seam as with my pattern), toward the back.  I wondered if this might one of those things which is distinctly feminine, such as the fact that buttonholes on womens’ apparel are on the right, whereas mens’ are on the left.  But no, I could not verify that.  

Here is one of the few examples I found showing the tab buttoning toward the front of the sleeves.
And here is an example of the more customary orientation of the buttoned tab. Both illustrations are from Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion, ibid.

Now I am left with a decision to make.  Somehow, I think I would like the tabs on my coat to button toward the back.  I had faced the tabs with my gray lining fabric, again to reduce bulk.  I think that gray lining would better stay undercover should the tabs button in the back. I also think a backward orientation will reduce the incidence of “catching” the tab on things.  Both of those considerations obviously figure into my thinking.  Do I take out the bottom part of the finished sleeves, with their pretty catch-stitched seams, remove the tabs and reorient them?   

This photo of the interior seam of one of the sleeves shows the end of the tab catch-stitched in place along with the seams. The clips you see are where the hem turns back.

Or do I leave well-enough alone and stay true to my vintage pattern? I must decide before the lining goes in the coat. Which brings me to the realization I have just 4 pattern pieces remaining, all for the lining.  Part 3 of this saga is just around the corner.  

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Filed under car coats, Coats, couture construction, Mid-Century style, Sleeves, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, woolens

A Return to Sewing

Did you think I had abandoned my cape?  After an unexpectedly long hiatus from sewing – due to busy holidays, travel, and things out of my control – I finally returned to my sewing room last week.  And although PINK is supposed to feature large in my 2022 sewing agenda, I first had “anything but pink” unfinished business from 2021.  Yes, that cape which I thought would be such an easy make…  I put the final stitches in it last week, only about 6 weeks after I imagined that would happen.

Hah… Those buttons are much more of a deep olive green in reality!
Can you tell it was freezing when I took these photos? This duo will be a good Fall ensemble, but it is not quite warm enough for the middle of Winter!

In all fairness, I should say whenever I must stop a project and then return to it weeks later, I always imagine that it has taken me much longer than it should have.  There is a “reacquaintance” factor in the time involved.  “Now, just where am I in this?  What’s the next step?  What did I do with the undercollar?  Is the lining already cut out?  If so, where is it?”  and on and on. Believe it or not, I tend to be rather organized about my sewing, leaving notes for myself – that sort of thing.  But still – the momentum needs to be rebooted, both for the project and for myself!

Enough of this babble. On to the cape – what worked, what didn’t, and what will I do differently, should I make this pattern again.  Regardless – the cape is ready to wear, and I am very pleased with how it turned out.  

I had to pay extensive attention to laying out the pattern and matching plaids as best I could, knowing that this uneven plaid was going to play some tricks on me.  For the most part, I think I was fairly successful; at least there aren’t any glaring mismatches.  

I must have sewn, torn out and resewn the collar at least five times until I realized those stripes were never going to perfectly align.
I chose an olive green silk charmeuse from Emma One Sock Fabrics for the lining.

The arm slits are just lovely, both outside and inside:

The welts are continuous with the front princess seam.
The lining is brought right up to the inner edge of the welt and slip-stitched in place.

I was a bit concerned about the size of the collar.  This is a pattern from the 1970s, when collars tended to be a bit oversized.  I certainly did not want this cape to scream 1970s, so I was ready to pare down those collar points if necessary.  But I think the collar is perfect just the way it is.

I under-stitched the collar to control the edges.
I think the size of this collar is just right.
I also under-stitched the front edges of the lining. The entire cape is underlined with silk organza, which gave me the perfect anchor upon which to attach those stitches invisibly.

The one component of this pattern I did have trouble with was the separate closing tab.  The pattern, surprisingly, did not specify bound buttonholes.  Rather it called for machine or hand-stitched buttonholes.  I usually like to make bound buttonholes on wool fabric (there are exceptions, of course, but I did not look at this as one of those).  So I dutifully went at it.  But the narrow width of the tab made turning it, with bound buttonholes applied, nearly impossible.  No, make that totally impossible.  It was lumpy, uneven, and unacceptable.  But I was not going to give up on my bound buttonholes.  I decided to redraw the tab, using “squared-off ends” rather than rounded ends.  I knew that would give me more space to manipulate all the interior buttonhole bulk.  I also oriented the buttonholes horizontally instead of on an angle as shown in the lower pattern piece below.

The lower figure is the original tab as taken from the pattern. The upper figure is my redrawn tab.

Voila!  It worked, and I think it might even be a better look than the tab with the rounded ends.  

Not sure why my olive green enameled buttons look almost mint green in these photos.

So – what would I change next time?  I think I might add an inch or two in length.  I think the cape pictured on the pattern envelope looks longer than the reality of it.  

I also think I would taper the back hem of the cape to a gentle extended curve so that the back of the cape is about one to one-and-a-half inches longer than the front.  When I visualize that, I like what I “see.”  

Making this cape has reinforced my opinions about this type of outer covering – it is graceful and quietly elegant in this unfussy form, even in plaid.  Finishing up this project was necessary, but also, as it turned out, a successful start to the new sewing year.  

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Filed under bound buttonholes, Capes, couture construction, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s, Vogue patterns, woolens

A Summer Dress

Summer is quickly slipping away, but before it does, I will share one quintessentially summer dress which I made back in July.  It ticks off a number of features which make it “Summer Seasonal”:  it is sleeveless, it is a bright color, and it is linen.  

I found this vintage piece of Moygashel linen a few years ago on eBay. Always a pushover for vintage Moygashel, I purchased it, not quite knowing what shade of green it would be. I was expecting a lime green, but when it arrived it was “lime green meets mint,” a color reminiscent of the early 1960s.  Actually, not just reminiscent – an actual survivor from that period of time.  The width of the fabric was only 35” which was a dead giveaway that this fabric is from the early part of that decade.  Shortly thereafter, Moygashel began to be woven in 45” widths.  Fortunately I had three yards, which compensated for the dearth of width.   

To keep with the early ‘60’s vibe, I decided to line it in pink.  Although I usually line linen with a cotton batiste or cotton/linen lightweight blend, I decided to treat this dress a little bit differently.  I do not often use Bemberg for lining, usually preferring silk, but this lovely, time-tested 100% rayon lining just seemed to be the right choice. (Why?  I knew the seam allowances of the bright green  linen would not show through the tightly woven Bemberg lining, AND it would be a comfortable, lightweight and slinky fabric with which to line a summer dress.)  I ordered what I thought would be a medium pink, but when it arrived, it was more of a very deep rose.  What to do?  I hemmed and hawed, I thought about ordering a different hue of pink, I even thought about abandoning the pink idea and just using a white crepe de chine I had on hand.  Why I was agonizing so much over the color of the lining had to do with my thought if the dress turned out well, I would enter it in the County Fair. I knew not everyone would “understand” such a deeply contrasted lining.  But not wanting to waste money and fabric – and time! – I finally decided just to go with the dark pink, shown a few pictures below.  

I used this sheath dress pattern again, as I am so fond of the double shaping darts in the bodice front and the real kick-pleat.  

The sheath dress pattern I like is the one on the right, underneath its matching plaid coat.
Not just a slit, but a real kick-pleat!
Here is the kick-pleat on the inside of the dress.

I underlined the dress in silk organza so that I could eliminate facings and have an invisible application of the lining.  (The silk organza underlining gives one a base upon which to tack and secure stitches which do not show on the fashion fabric.)

The neck and armhole edges are stay stitched by machine close to the seam line, then clipped and tacked in place by hand to the silk organza underlining.
Here is one of the side seams, clipped and then also tacked in place by catch-stitches.
A beautiful lining hides all those interior stitches and seams.

I surprisingly found a zipper which was almost a perfect match to the green linen, and I did a hand-picked lapped application.  

Once I had the lining fell-stitched in place around the neckline and the armholes, I under-stitched those areas in waxed and ironed white thread.  (I used white to quiet down the deep pink!) Using this technique keeps the lining in place.  The under-stitching is attached to the silk organza underlining only, not the fashion fabric, as explained above.

I used Hug Snug rayon tape to construct the strap holders.

To complete the early 1960s’ essence of this dress, I can pair it with a vintage ‘60s’ Guillemin scarf, also found on eBay.  The pink in the scarf doesn’t match the pink lining, but since the lining does not show, it only matters to me (and now all of you also know this little fact!)  

So how did I do with this dress as an entry in the County Fair?  It was awarded a Red Ribbon in the Adult Division, which was lovely.  The day was “saved” however, when dresses I made for my granddaughters each won Blue Ribbons (and one of them won Best of Division).

(Those of you who follow me on Instagram @fiftydresses have seen this picture already…)

Good Summer memories, all of them.    

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Filed under couture construction, Linen, Linings, Mid-Century style, Moygashel linen, Scarves, Sheath dresses, Uncategorized, underlinings, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

Too Late – or Too Early?

This sewing out of season is perplexing.  On the one hand, I am happy to have been able to complete this dress.  But on the other hand, the timing of its completion means it is too late in the season to even think about wearing it – or much too early.  Not that it will matter six months from now. 

After my successful use of a new sheath dress pattern earlier this winter, I was anxious to use it again.  And I just happened to have a piece of cashmere herringbone wool tucked away for such an occasion.  I had been on the hunt for a wool to coordinate with the Classic French Jacket shown, and I was quite excited when I found this selection at Farmhouse Fabrics.  The bonus was the fact that it is cashmere, and oh, so soft.  

Wool is quite possibly my favorite fabric on which to sew.  Christian Dior certainly had kind words to say about wool in his Little Dictionary of Fashion.  “Wool shares with silk the kingdom of textiles…  And like silk it has wonderful natural qualities.  Always before you cut woolen material it has to be shrunk to avoid disappointment afterward.” [I always steam wool fabric heavily before I cut into it for just this reason].  Dior continues, “Wool has the great advantage over all other materials in that it can be worked with a hot iron and molded.” (The Little Dictionary of Fashion, by Christian Dior, Abrams, New York, New York, c2007, Page 122.)  

Additionally, I have always loved the herringbone weave.  The chevron pattern in this particular fabric is achieved by the use of two contrasting colors, yellow and pumpkin, which produces the lovely and soft deep persimmon color.  

The two contrasting colors are apparent in this photo.

Making this sheath dress was very straightforward, its details identical to the sheath dress which preceded it:  lapped zipper, underlined with silk organza and lined with crepe de chine, under-stitched neckline and armscyes, and a real kick pleat.  

I chose this delicate crepe de chine for the lining. I purchased it from Emma One Sock, which has a beautiful assortment of silks suitable for linings.
Oh, how I love this kick pleat.

This jacket and skirt will be perfect for Fall – and I am delighted to have a dress to wear with my jacket which I completed two years ago.  

And now for those of you who like to see the sewing I do for my granddaughters, here are two more dresses which were definitely too early (although on time for Spring birthdays.)  Unseasonably cold Spring weather kept these dresses on their hangers apparently, but I do have pictures of them before they went on their journey across many, many miles to their final destination.

I found the fabric at Emma One Sock last Fall.  It looks and feels like Liberty Lawn but is not.  The bordered eyelet which I used for the collars is from Farmhouse Fabrics, as is the pattern, which I have used before.  (This is the last year for this pattern for my girls, as I used the [largest] size 12 for my very tall and slender eight-year-old!) 

This diagram helps to show the details of the pattern. Notice the narrow darts in the bodice, which gives such a nice degree of shaping. This is the type of detail found on well-engineered patterns, of which this is one.

The buttons are vintage Lady Washington Pearls.  The pale pink rickrack is also vintage – and 100% cotton – which makes it lay beautifully flat, molding itself with the cotton fabric.   

 

Beautiful vintage buttons like these are a good match for this timeless pattern.
Such lovely eyelet and just the perfect weight for gathering into a collar.

So quickly these weeks turn into months and then into seasons! Whatever the season from whence you are reading this, I wish you dresses which are just right!  One of these days, mine will be, too.

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Chanel-type jackets, Christian Dior, classic French jacket, couture construction, Eyelet, Sewing for children, Sheath dresses, Uncategorized, vintage buttons, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

A Dress That Was Meant to Be – in Vogue

Sometimes the sewing stars align to ensure success (and sometimes they don’t.)  But this story is a success story, although it played out differently than I originally planned.  

I wrote about this vintage Forstmann wool fabric in a previous post.

Having only 1.25 yards of this vintage wool restricted my options to either a simple sheath dress or a skirt.  I opted for the sheath, with all good intentions of using the princess-lined pattern I had recently used for a pink dress in vintage Linton wool.  In fact, one of the reasons I made the pink dress was to see if I would be able to successfully match plaids when I started on the red/green wool.  (The weave of the pink Linton has a plaid woven into it, which I knew would be helpful to me in determining the pattern’s useability for a multi-color plaid.)  Only one problem – when I laid out the pattern pieces on the Forstmann wool, I didn’t have enough fabric.  I should have realized that the 7-panel princess dress would take more fabric than I had – and this time there was no making it work.

SO – I had to find another pattern.  I have, over the years, made several sheath dresses using a newer Butterick pattern, but I really wanted to use a vintage pattern for this wool.  Now, I have a lot of vintage patterns in my collection – and I went through every single one looking for the right sheath dress.  At first I didn’t realize this pattern had the look I wanted.  

I had originally purchased this pattern for that gorgeous shawl collared coat.  But – BINGO – when I took another look, there was the perfect sheath looking right at me.  

Although the pattern was not dated, I knew it was from the early 1960s.  But of course, I thought it would be wonderful to know the year it first appeared.  A lengthy search through old Vogue Pattern Magazines proved to be successful – not only successful, but timely.  This pattern was included in the December 1962/January 1963 issue, and was the featured pattern for a Special Capsule Catalog included in the issue.  Not only that, the caption read: “110 IDEAS TO START THE NEW YEAR IN VOGUE.”  Yes, I thought, that’s what I want to do!  

What a glamorous look!
And here is the entry for this pattern in the capsule catalog.

Of course, starting with a pattern I had not before used meant I had to make a muslin (toile)  and fit it.  That little effort took two days.  But then I got started in earnest, cutting out the silk organza underlining and positioning it right where it needed to be on the fabric.

You will notice that this fabric has a center front, woven to provide a mirror image of the plaid on each side. Really a brilliant way to handle an uneven plaid.

There were two important considerations for placing my silk organza underlining “templates” on the plaid:  1) the orientation of the plaid vertically and 2) the correct placement of the hemline on the grid of the plaid and making this placement work with the position of the waistline and neckline.  

I thought the wider, darker part of each woven “block” on the plaid should be oriented to the bottom of the dress, which I believe is apparent above.  

I find, when working with plaid, it is very important to have the hemline determined before you cut out your fabric.  Visually it is more appealing if the hem does not cut a block of the plaid directly in half or, especially with smaller plaids, end right at the edge of a block.  I think it looks better if there is a bit of a “float” around the bottom of the dress to anchor the bottommost blocks. (Larger plaids have their own considerations. Look at the art on the pattern envelope above to observe this.)

The red “band” at the hemline serves as this “float.”

One of the design features of this dress is the kick pleat, which has its origin in the back seam starting at the bottom of the zipper.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to work the lining around this, but I also thought I could probably figure it out.

The instruction diagram shows the kick pleat quite well.
I angled the raw edges to finish the bottom edge of the seam.
Here is the finished kick pleat.

I loved that fact that this type of kick pleat made the perfect setting for a lapped zipper, shown below.  

The left side is pressed slightly to the middle to accommodate a lapped zipper.

You will notice this dress has two shaping darts on either side of the front panel, in addition to the bust darts.  The back has one shoulder dart and one shaping dart on either side.  

All these darts make for such a lovely fit. In addition, I used a trick I have learned from Susan Khalje. Instead of sewing the bust dart into the side seam, I allowed it to float free, stitching the seam above and below the dart. I did this for both the fashion fabric and the lining. Using this method provides more ease to the bust.

This photo shows what I did with the side seam at the bust dart.

I did lower the neckline by about ½ inch, and I cut the shoulders in by about an inch on either side.  These changes just seemed to look better on me, as determined by my muslin (toile).  

I lined the dress in black silk crepe de chine. (I find almost all my lining silk at Emma One Sock.)  When it came to the kick pleat, I found that a slanted seam below the end of the zipper was necessary to divide the lining between the two sides of the kick pleat. 

Black is so difficult to photograph, but hopefully the angle is apparent.

 I have no idea how to explain what I did to finish the lining in this area.  Just know that whatever I did – worked!  I ended up with no lumps and no restriction on the functionality of the pleat.  

How lovely to have a label for this vintage wool.

This dress was such a fun project.  I loved working with such a beautiful wool and such a beautiful pattern.  There will be more such sheath dresses in my future. 

I now would like to make a black jacket to wear with this dress; I do have a small amount of fabric remaining to use as trim in some way…

So now, how about you?  Have you started the new year in Vogue? I hope so!

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Filed under couture construction, fabric labels, Hems, Linings, Mid-Century style, Pattern Art, Sheath dresses, Uncategorized, underlinings, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

A Pink Wool Dress

There seems to be a recurring theme in my acquisition of fabric.  I either have more than enough – or – just barely enough.  In the case of this vintage pink Linton wool, I had plenty for its original use.  

Sometimes when I have lots of fabric left over, I just move on and don’t try to put the remaining yardage to any purpose.  But then there are times when I think it would be a travesty not to use it.  And so – this pink princess A-line dress was born. 

I had purchased this vintage Vogue pattern last year. 

 I particularly liked the cut-in armholes, and the princess lines which also incorporate a small Dior dart.  (I have traditionally thought a princess-line dress or coat generally gets it shaping simply from the seam lines, not from darts. Fairchild’s Dictionary gives this description:  “ Fitted dress with flared skirt, frequently made like a coat-dress, styled without a waistline seam and cut in panels fitted from shoulders to hem.” Page 376. No mention of darts, so maybe it doesn’t matter!) I wasn’t so sure about that long center shaping dart in the front of the dress.  However, I knew a muslin/toile would determine its fate as far as I was concerned.  (I also like the jacket included in the pattern.  It has lovely lines and I really need to make it sometime.) 

The line drawings on the back of the envelope show the lovely seaming details on the jacket.

As I suspected, I was able to eliminate the long center dart, which seemed to add more emphasis to the bust than I cared to have.  When I make this pattern again, I think I will make a dead dart where the shaping dart is supposed to be, which should take in a little bit of excess bagginess. Or, if that doesn’t work, then I will take the front side seams in a little bit. I only noticed the bagginess after I had taken a few photos.  Always tweaking – it never seems to end!  

A little baggy….

One of the pleasures of sewing with a plaid – in this case the plaid is strictly in the weave – is the preciseness with which dress parts can be joined.   I underlined all with white silk organza, which gave this loose weave just the body it needed.  Then to make sure I had everything lined up, I hand basted every seam before sewing by machine.  

A close-up of the Dior dart, and the front side seam.

I eliminated the facings and used the couture method of lining to the edge, using back stitching to secure the lining to the underlining around the neck and armholes.  Then I used a hand-sewn lapped application for the zipper.  

I enjoyed making this dress, and I will use this pattern again – I am already envisioning a dress and jacket ensemble, featuring the jacket included with the dress.  And I know just the fabric I will use.  But I am getting ahead of myself – first here a few pictures of this dress and jacket duo.

Dress and jacket together…
I have said this before, but it bears repeating – I love a center-placed lapped zipper.
The weave in this wool is just so pleasing.

And how much of the Linton fabric did I have remaining after making this dress?  Well, enough to make a coat for an American Girl Doll which my oldest granddaughter is getting for Christmas.  Doesn’t every doll need a Linton Tweeds coat?  

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Filed under couture construction, Dior darts, Sheath dresses, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, woolens

Unfinished Business

What happens when an unavoidable interruption takes you away from the depths of a sewing project for more than a couple weeks of time?  Well, if you are me, you forget exactly where you were in the process.  And, when you finally get back to work on it, you assume, incorrectly, certain fitting steps have already happened.  Recipe for disaster?  Well, not quite that bad, because this dress can be saved.  It is just going to take some time.

The dress in question is the one for which I used this colorful floral silk.

Although I was so certain in May I would finish this dress before we departed our home on the East Coast (USA) for our Summer home in Wyoming, it did not happen.  So I brought it with me to finish.  When I finally picked it up again, I needed to reacquaint myself with all the steps yet to be completed.  I had the hand-picked lapped zipper sewn and the sleeves inserted.

I love a hand-picked lapped zipper…

I was working on the narrow ruffle I had decided to add to the V-neck edge.  I consider this to be the focal point of the dress (in addition to the fabric).

I used the same vintage pattern for this dress as I did for a blue silk dress late in 2019. This fabric, to me, was begging for a narrow neck ruffle.

As luck would have it, the most recent issue of Threads Magazine included an article by Susan Khalje on Couture Gathering.  Now, I have done a lot of gathering of fabric in my life, but this article is illuminating in all the tips it offers for an excellent result.  It could not have been more timely.  As it turns out, there is lot more to gathering than I ever considered.

Among the concepts covered in the article are:  gathering ratio, fabric grain, underlining, stitch length, preparation of the piece to be ruffled, forming the gathers and attaching the gathered fabric to the body of the item.  As with so much of couture sewing, each step builds on the one before it.

Three of the tips in the article, so helpful to me in completing this detail, were:  1) cutting the piece to be gathered much wider than I would have thought was necessary.  This gives one much more control than with a narrower strip.  2) using three lines of gathering rather than the customary two, and 3) once the gathers are formed, using an iron to set them in place, stopping just short of pressing the ruffle.

I decided on a 5/8″ wide ruffle. I cut my piece to be gathered 5″ wide, folded to 2.5″. I used three rows of gathering stitches.

For those of you with subscriptions to Threads Magazine, I highly recommend this Essential Techniques article.  It has forever changed the way I will do gathering/ruffles.  And although not all features in Threads are as useful, it is offerings like this which make me a fan of this sewing magazine.  (These are my opinions;  I have no relationship with Threads.)

Well, back to where I left off.  After picking up work on this dress again, I proceeded to go through all the steps necessary to complete it.  When I thought this dress was finally finished, I put it on to take pictures, and to my surprise, it did not fit correctly.  It pulls across the bust and forms drag lines on the V-neck.  Ugh.

The pulling across the bust and at the V-neck is clearly noticeable in this photo.

I can only guess I thought I had tried it on for fit after the zipper was basted, but I must not have done that.  Unknowingly, I proceeded with the finishing of the interior – the facing of the V-neck, the hem, and the insertion of a green crepe de chine lining.

Normally with couture sewing, neck facings are eliminated and the lining is brought right up to the neck edge and then understitched to secure it. However, with a V-neck, a facing is necessary. I then cut the lining about 3/4″ below the neck edge and fell-stitched it into place.

I believe removing the zipper and taking some of the center back seam allowance to add to the width of the back will correct this glaring mis-fit. This is not a dress which I will have occasion to wear  this summer – so do I dig in and make the corrections now, or do I wait?  I have quite a bit in my summer sewing queue, and perhaps a tried and true project like a blouse will put me in a better frame of mind.  Regardless, this “unfinished business” will one day be finished, hopefully successfully.

 

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Filed under couture construction, hand-sewn zippers, Linings, Ruffles, Sheath dresses, silk, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

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.”

 

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